While our society grapples with a global pandemic, it does so against the backdrop of a continually growing burnout epidemic. The immense cost of COVID-19 to the economy translates into job losses, pay cuts and even greater job insecurity across the board, creating a perfect breeding ground for the factors that contribute to burnout.
Almost everyone I know is affected – companies are firing employees and slashing working hours as they look to cut costs. Freelancers have seen income streams dry up completely as clients cancel projects or turn in-house for everything they possibly can. With the global economy forecast to shrink by around 3% due to COVID 19, those of us who are employees, freelancers or small business owners are more vulnerable to burnout than ever.
The prevalence of burnout was well documented pre-COVID, but we are now further than ever from stopping the spread. And as long as society and its governments continue to support corporations over people (as evidenced repeatedly in decisions regarding bailouts and stimulus packages primarily directed at corporations, not families or individuals), burnout is not going anywhere. In fact, as the long-term impact of COVID-19 starts to emerge, burnout will likely only grow.
As someone who survived and thrived after a burnout and is currently researching a book to help others do the same, I’m feeling pretty fucking disheartened. The scale of this thing – of burnout in every sector imaginable – is overwhelming. I’m afraid it will become normalized and we will simply accept it as part of modern life. I’m afraid many already do, and that many others are not aware that what they are going through is known as burnout. They just trudge on until they literally no longer physically can.
I’m afraid of how far this could go, how deeply this might permeate society until we just give up and accept burnout as our reality. This morning as I researched the symptoms of burnout for my book, I realized that almost every friend I’ve spoken to recently is showing at least one. Symptoms can include:
You feel unmotivated
You feel frustrated or cynical about work
You’re under a lot of stress
You’re struggling to concentrate
You’re not performing at work as well as you used to
You’re experiencing more tension and conflict with other people
You’re not taking good care of yourself
You’ve been under continuous stress for a long time
You are almost constantly preoccupied by work and find it hard to switch off
Recently, you get sick more often
You’re more anxious than ever before
You’ve lost confidence in yourself
If you’re showing symptoms of burnout, what should you do?
Unfortunately, waiting for government or corporations to step in and change the structural causes of burnout is not a realistic short-term option – for now, dealing with burnout has to happen at an individual level. That’s you. The good thing is I know from experience that you can get through burnout and thrive.
Let me say that again: you can get through burnout and thrive.
The first and most important step is to talk to someone. A stigma lingers around burnout and mental health issues generally which compromises our willingness to discuss them openly. But if you’re on the path to burning out, not talking about burnout will only make you burn faster.
Do not try to solve burnout alone. It takes a team. Start enlisting your team of trusted confidants and advisors now. Some will need to be professional – but start by telling a friend or family member today. If you could use the support of a life coach reach out to me. I’ve got you, and you’ve got this.