The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted routines and thrown the lives of many into disarray. Frontline workers and those in essential services have to put in longer hours at work and adapt to ever-changing policies, while exposing themselves to greater risks of infection. Meanwhile, those with young children, sick relatives or elderly loved ones to care for have additional responsibilities to juggle.
This increased stress from work, caregiving, financial strain, uncertainty over the future and social isolation puts all of us at a higher risk of burnout.
1. What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion caused by persistent stress from work or caregiving activities over time. It is characterised by emotional exhaustion, cynicism and a decreased sense of accomplishment, which leads to a loss of purpose.
Feeling overworked, unappreciated, socially isolated as well as certain personality traits like perfectionism are some factors that can contribute to burnout.
Burnout is not a medical condition. However, it can adversely affect your physical and mental health, causing you to fall ill more frequently or feel depressed and anxious.
2. How to cope with burnout?
If you constantly feel exhausted, unappreciated and find no meaning in your work and family, you may be suffering from burnout.
This is an alarm bell. It is a signal that you need to take time out to rest, reflect and re-evaluate your goals, values and priorities in life. View this time of reflection positively, as an opportunity for personal growth and a change in outlook and direction in your life. It is also a reminder not to overstretch yourself, and to set aside time for relaxation and self-care.
View this time of reflection positively, as an opportunity for personal growth and a change in outlook and direction in your life.
Here are some self-care tips to improve your emotional and physical health:
Physical well-being: Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Eat regular, balanced meals
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly (at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week)
- Avoid unhealthy behaviours such as smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
Emotional well-being: Build a positive and resilient mind-set
Our minds naturally tend to focus on the negative. However, if you train your mind to actively look out for the positive or focus on things to be grateful for, you can build a more resilient mindset.
- Each day, think of three good things that went well and why this happened to you. This simple exercise can train your mind to focus on the positive.
- Be kind and compassionate to yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, frustrated and have self-critical thoughts such as “I’m not good enough”, pause and acknowledge that this is a difficult time. Think about how you can comfort and care for yourself in that moment.
Social well-being: Connect with others
- Make the time spent at home with your family positive and enjoyable by engaging in meaningful activities together.
- Reach out and stay connected with friends through social media and virtual meeting applications. This will remind you that you are not alone in facing various challenges during this difficult time.
- If you are religious, staying in touch with your spiritual community can also renew your sense of purpose and create meaning in your life during difficult times.
- Make an effort to express appreciation to others for the little things they do. This helps you focus your mind on good things and improves relationships.
3. Where to seek help
If you have problems managing stress or are experiencing symptoms of burnout such as depressed mood and anxiety, you can call the National Care Hotline at 1800-202-6868. Professional volunteers will offer you emotional support and direct you to appropriate resources for further help if necessary.
You can also consult a general practitioner who will be able to assess, manage, and if necessary, direct you to appropriate sources of help such as community-based counselling services or mental health professionals.
The contributor is a Consultant and Programme Director of the Health Wellness Programme at Changi General Hospital.