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November 11, 2020

Lockdown Burnout And How to Avoid It – Mind Tools Minute Video

Lucy Bishop

At the height of lockdown, my routine went something like this:

3 a.m. – Woken up by one or both children. Attempt to soothe them back to sleep (sometimes this works, often it doesn't – many hours of sssh-ing).

6 a.m. – Woken up by the kids again. They're serious this time. Stumble out of bed, make everyone breakfast, get coffee.

9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Log in to work while also attempting to homeschool children. Try to follow proper printed out timetable with core subjects on it, but often resort to a less ambitious one. Attempt virtual meetings, during which kids often decide to fight with each other or loudly announce they need to go to the toilet in front of colleagues (try to hit "mute" button in time… often fail).

12 p.m. to 1 p.m. – Lunch and a walk. My favorite part of the day. We actually get to leave the house! Slightly scared when we see other humans, but also really happy to see other humans.

1 p.m to 5.15 p.m.(ish) – More work and "homeschooling." By this point, kids have lost all interest in learning. Chaos, shouting and mess ensues. All of the puzzles are now out of their boxes and often find pieces later under the sofa. Try to ignore said mess and get on with work.

5.15 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Put my laptop away. At least now I can just concentrate on the kids. We play, have dinner, attempt tidying up. Someone upends all Lego pieces on the floor, which is painful to clear up in more ways than one. Counting down the minutes to bedtime.

9 p.m. – Clean up and collapse. Log back onto work guiltily trying to catch up with stuff I didn't do earlier. Finally give up when words start to blur. Close the laptop, watch some Netflix and fall asleep.

Tackling Lockdown Burnout

The truth of the matter was that by Week Eight of lockdown, with no end in sight, I was suffering from what some have dubbed "lockdown burnout."

Work felt like a slog. I counted down the minutes to the end of each day, thinking that at least then I could just play with the kids. But when the end of the day came around, I would often collapse on the sofa, completely exhausted.

Our Latest Mind Tools Minute Video

Burnout is a serious condition and one that I'm sure has affected many of us this year. Among other symptoms, it can cause:

  • Exhaustion.
  • Having a negative or critical attitude toward work.
  • Feelings of emptiness.
  • Being irritated easily by others.
  • Having low energy, but an inability to fall asleep.
  • Pulling away emotionally from others.

In our latest Mind Tools Minute video we look at some of the other symptoms of burnout, as well things you can do to avoid it.

Suffering Lockdown Burnout

Lockdown burnout is a specific type of burnout that I'm sure has affected many of us this year. And it's not just parents struggling to balance work and kids that it's affected. 2020 has brought a whole host of new worries into our everyday lives.

Will my job be safe? I just touched the gatepost, do I need to sanitize my hands? Is it even safe to leave the house? These are questions I find myself asking every day now. Along with all the general humdrum questions that fill my day, such as what to feed the kids or what deadlines I need to meet at work.

All of this day-to-day decision-making has led to what some experts are dubbing "decision paralysis." And it's causing a lot of symptoms similar to burnout, such as a loss of energy and focus, as well as fatigue.

Add to this other stressors, such as the constant uncertainty and weariness of going into and out of lockdown, and it's unsurprising that many of us reach a state where we feel like we could just snap.

Recovering From Burnout

Admittedly, things did get better for me once lockdown measures eased.

We were finally allowed to drive to the park again. I gave up on homeschooling. I told myself I'd replaced it with "outdoor learning," like collecting pine cones, spotting birds and naming flowers. Looking back, those trips to the park were what turned things around. We actually gave each other a break for once. No more "lessons," no work. We just switched it all off for a few hours.

I found that when I returned to my laptop, work, too, was less onerous. I began enjoying it again. It felt like the burnout had lifted.

As we face our second lockdown, I know that at least I'm going into it with some experience under my belt. I know now that, when it's all getting a bit much, there are some things I can do to help, whether that be yoga, dancing, or simply a walk in the rain. It's winter now after all, so there's always puddle splashing or maybe even a snow fight!

Mind Tools Minutes Video Series

If you're feeling stressed, check out our new series of Mind Tools Minutes videos, each of which deal with different techniques you can use to manage stress better.

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