Lockdowns, isolation, surging cases, variants, and cancelled plans — words we’ve become all too familiar with over the course of the pandemic.
But this current wave of COVID-19, fuelled by a more transmissible variant and following another restricted holiday season and vaccination efforts, is making the feeling of burnout more intense for many.
“I think we thought we were burned out months ago, we thought we were burned out a couple weeks ago and now it’s like, oh, the feeling of burnout is getting more and more intense,” Conexus Counselling therapist Carolyn Klassen told Global News.
“Burnout is the experience of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by everything you have to do, and yet somehow still feel like you aren’t doing nearly enough.”
Klassen says there are three main characteristics of burnout. The first, she says, is emotional exhaustion and feeling like you don’t have the energy to deal with life. The second is irritability and a lost sense of compassion or understanding.
“We certainly see that now with each new announcement or each new press release, people are asking questions in a very angry sort of tone,” Klassen said.
“People are just not able to hear things in a way that has people move forward well. People’s responses tend to be quite critical.”
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Klassen says the third characteristic of burnout is a decreased sense of accomplishment.
“Sometimes it’s actual, sometimes it’s perceived as, ‘I feel like I’m working really hard and I’m just not getting as much done as I like to, I can’t concentrate as well, I’m just not as productive,'” she explained.
“Sometimes people are still getting as much done and they’re just hard on themselves. Sometimes people are actually getting less done. And so all of those are that sense of burnout.”
Klassen says while burnout can be triggered by an excessive workload, it can also arise from feeling a loss of control — something many are likely feeling right now.
“There’s this perceived lack of control — where people have been doing so much for so long, and then Omicron says you have to do more, or as much as you tried to get on top of it, you’re probably still going to get it anyways. That feeling of discouragement that feels like no matter how hard you worked to get on top of things, you’re still not in control,” Klassen said.
Marian Goldstone, with the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, says while burnout and depression are not the same things, they can have very similar characteristics and burnout could potentially trigger the slide into depression.
“I often say to people, ‘Do you think if the pandemic went away you’d feel better?’ And for the most part people say, “Yeah it would! Please!'” Goldstone said.
“And that’s the difference, because with depression, there is a biochemical process (and) we’re often genetically predetermined to be affected. It’s a clinical disorder. That just doesn’t go away when you change something, but you still feel those, ‘I’m wilting here, what’s going on,’ symptoms.”
Goldstone says it’s important to try to control smaller things within your control, including taking mental breaks, setting boundaries and staying connected with friends and family, even if it has to be virtually.
“Be mindful, try to be in that present moment if we can be. Find something to be grateful about. It really does help,” Goldstone said.
“As long as we’re choosing how we react, there’s where our empowerment is and that may just be the little golden nugget that can help us through.”