Pandemic Perspectives: People Under pressure
Overstretched, beyond capacity, burnout – these may be terms that were not part of your vocabulary before COVID19 and the beginning of the pandemic, however they may well be part of your everyday speech or thought now.
As we approach the year anniversary of the first lockdown many people are feeling completely different now as they were to those early days. In Lockdown1 it was all new, we thought that a short sharp lockdown would solve all our problems, there was lots of new and a certain amount of novelty albeit mixed in with restricted living. But we got on with it, we dusted off that Great British stoic attitude and made the best of it.
Fast forward 12 months, 2 more lockdowns, an ever-increasing death rate as well as the prospect of the long-term economic challenges people are feeling emotionally broken by it all – burnout.
Perhaps you started this lockdown feeling relatively resilient, you were able to maintain a sense of hope and purpose, you could rationalise what was happening and why, you had a perspective of the challenges and solutions to where we found ourselves. Many people felt this, I know for myself, lockdown began much like this. Yes I was affected by it all, but I felt as if I had enough in my emotional tank to get me through all that we faced.
As we have journeyed through the past 12 months each one of us has lost the opportunities to refill our tanks, to do those activities that rejuvenate us or connect with those people that bring light, hope and joy to our lives. This has meant that we have lost many of our main coping strategies, we have been starved of many of the regular ways that we would ‘top ourselves up’ which would give us the ability to cope with pressures at home, work, on family or anything else that comes our way. Our ability to stay positive or maintain a general sense of wellbeing has eroded.
In a recent survey by Ipsos Mori, it reported that 60% or people saying they had found it harder to stay positive in this third lockdown, working with young people, this too has been shared. In fact, nearly 70% of young people have expressed that this recent lockdown has been the toughest (young minds). In short, it is tough, many of us are feeling the pain and struggle of all the pandemic has thrown at us.
The big question is, how do we restore ourselves, how do we move beyond a sense of burnout and into a life that feels whole and balanced?
1 - Understand what fills and empties you
As I said, many of the ways you may have topped your sense of joy and peace up may not be possible right now. But the first step is to know what fills and empties your emotional tank. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper, on one side write what fills you, makes you happy and content, on the other side what empties your tank. You may have to be creative about what you can do under the current restrictions, be open to ideas.
From here, make sure you are doing more of what fills you each day. Prioritise it, make time for it, rebalance the scales.
2 - Have a grateful heart
Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day write down 3 things that have made you smile, that you have been grateful for. This small act can begin to change our outlook, our mood and our mindset. Shawn Achor delivers an excellent TED Talk on the power of gratitude called the Happy Secret (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLJsdqxnZb0).
3 - Know what is in your control
Often we want to control everything, however this is impossible. In fact, the things that can cause us the most stress and anxiety can often be those that we can not control. Being aware of what is in and out of your control can be a liberating and releasing experience. Create a list of all the things on your mind, the cares, concerns, all of it. Then separate them into two piles – the things you can control and what you can’t. As you look at these two groups remind yourself to focus time and energy on what you can control and try to let go of what is beyond your control.
The final way to help get beyond burnout is talk to someone, a friend, a colleague or professional. Expressing how you feel and all that is going on can help to ease the burden, release some of the emotions and give you some capacity to be able to start the journey back to wellness.
Kieran is the Director of Phase - a charity working in Hertfordshire with young people from local schools, and their families, to promote wellbeing and resilience.
Need to take some time to reflect and renew as we come out of this lockdown and contemplate starting to return to more normal patterns of living?
Renew is a FREE online resource, offered by Phase - a series of short development sessions that you can do when and how best suits you. Each session covers a theme that can help to renew or retire you and others, along with practices you can apply and try to help you in this season. Covering resilience, coping with change, connecting, sleep and gratitude, it’s a great opportunity to pause and reflect in this moment - whether on your own, with your family or in a small online group. Check it out - https://phase-hitchin.org/blog/renew
Kieran Murphy, 16/03/2021