Alberta just marked one year since the first case of COVID-19 in the province, and it’s safe to say life hasn’t been the same since.
How do we cope as the health crisis drags on?
Being tired vs. burnout
There is a difference between being tired and burnt out.
“When we think about burnout, this is the mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that we are experiencing now,” Dr. Rumeet Billan told Global News on Sunday.
“It’s not about, ‘I’m tired and I need some rest.’ It’s about, ‘I’ve got an adequate rest and I’m still tired.'”
Causes of burnout include pandemic fatigue and an unmanageable workload.
“When we think about pandemic fatigue, it’s understanding that this relates to the motivation and mental effort that’s required to complete new tasks. What’s happened over the past year is that there have been so many new things, so much change that we’ve had to adjust to, and so we’re experiencing the cost of that mental effort,” Billan explained.
“No. 2, it’s the unmanageable workloads. We’re having to divide our attention between home tasks and work tasks, and those tasks are actually interfering with each other.”
Normalize not feeling OK
As has been said many times before, it’s OK not to be OK. Now, the issue is normalizing that feeling.
“We’re comparing ourselves to these old definitions of productivity and happiness and success — these definitions and ideas that we created before the pandemic,” Billan said.
“But the world changed and our definitions did not, and we’re still comparing ourselves to these outdated ideas of productivity. It’s OK not to feel OK. This is a normal stress response to what it is that we are experiencing, so normalizing that and managing that stigma is critical.”
Strategies to make a difference
Coping strategies to beat burnout involve adjusting workloads, managing stigma and having clear boundaries.
“It’s focusing on priority management versus time management. The thing is we’ve had to adjust workloads before the pandemic. The pandemic has actually highlighted the importance of this. The other thing is to manage stigma, whether this is for an organization or for individuals,” Billan said.
“We need to create that psychological safety among our co-workers, among our friends, our family so that they feel safe and comfortable to share what it is that they might be experiencing.
“Creating boundaries around our time, around our technology, around our sleep — this is incredibly important as well in order to be proactive against burnout.”
A message for employers
Now presents an opportunity for bosses to earn the trust of their colleagues and subordinates, Billan said.
“When we are able to earn trust, then that’s what helps to create that psychological safety,” she said.
“I want to know that my employer has my back as it relates to mental health, as it relates to what it is that I might be going through during this time, and so employers absolutely can and I’d argue should step up in order to earn that trust and create that space for their employees.”