Feeling burned out by the pandemic? Resilience expert offers tips
VANCOUVER -- The COVID-19 pandemic has upended people's lives and left many people – children and adults alike – feeling understandably worn out and exhausted.
While some students have struggled to navigate new ways of learning, some employees have found their office hours bleeding into their personal time as they adjust to working from home.
Dr. Rumeet Billan, a resilience expert and researcher, said there eventually comes a point when exhaustion turns into burnout. Tell-tale signs include irritability and excessive tiredness that persists even after a good night's rest.
"Also, feeling inadequate or unproductive and having trouble concentrating," Billan told CTV Morning Live on Thursday. "So we want to be on the lookout for these symptoms."
As people face new forms of stress, they're also cut off from some of the usual outlets for that stress, including vacations and most forms of socializing. On Thursday, British Columbians learned there is still no end in sight for the province's tough pandemic restrictions.
Billan said that makes it extra important to address root causes of burnout, including unmanageable workloads. That can require adjusting one's own definition of productivity, she said.
"The world changed but our definitions did not, and so we're comparing ourselves to these outdated definitions," she said. "We need to redefine what productivity looks like in the world today."
Employees also need to set clear boundaries for their personal time and treat it as vital to their mental health, according to the researcher. It can also help to "have boundaries around screens, have boundaries around technology," Billan said.
For their part, employers can help prevent burnout by reducing the stigma around mental health issues – fostering a work environment where employees feel comfortable speaking openly about how they're feeling, Billan said.
Parents looking to help their children with possible burnout should make routines that are consistent, but which have "embedded flexibility," Billan said. She also recommended children and adults should both make time for physical activity.
Finally, the researcher said people should need to get used to the idea that "it's OK to not be OK."
"It's OK to have moments, or a day, when you're not feeling your best, because that's a natural stress response to what it is that we're experiencing," she said.