Coping With Covid Stress and Burnout
posted: Dec. 08, 2020.
Coping With COVID Stress and Burn Out
by Brittany Webb, LMFT
Daybreak Counseling Center
Long Beach | Brea | Online, CA.
It’s strange, at first glance, to consider that nine months of staying home would contribute to this sense of exhaustion that seems to be so prevalent. One would think that staying home, a place of comfort and relaxation, would lead to a sense of relief from the pressures of daily commutes, morning routines, and surface level niceties. The reality is that home has become cluttered with other spaces and mindsets. Now you use your bed, kitchen table, and living room sofa as an office space. Work seeps out past normal business hours, with virtual office spaces and classrooms. Those who do go into work do so with faces covered and contact minimized. There are no concerts to see, restaurants have bubbles of enforced physical space, if they are open at all, and contactless drop off makes it easier than ever to go a full day without talking to anyone. Schedules have become more flexible over the course of this year, and boundaries continue to be pushed. Without the structure of what life used to look like, there is an increase in a sense of helplessness and depression. This situation highlights a problem that has been creeping closer for decades, which is the distinct lack of leisure time, and obsession with productivity. With structured self-care and leisure activities (i.e. Gyms, concerts, festivals, ect.) closed, we find ourselves wholly responsible for meeting our social and leisure needs.
What is self-care? It is a word that has been thrown around so often, that it has begun to lose its meaning. Self-care is less an activity, and more a mindset. You could have the most beautiful, exclusive spa day or purchase an item you have been dreaming about for months, and have the initial kick of excitement followed by the crushing disappointment of reintegrating into your day. Self-care is the commitment to putting yourself first for the duration of an activity or time frame. While this removes some physical barriers, it places focus and responsibility on us to work on confronting those parts of ourselves that tell us we aren’t worth the effort. Self care is setting external and internal boundaries for yourself. Choosing to move work out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, shutting down devices and logging off email at 6pm, or simply making a practice of a 20-minute solo walk everyday are some examples of external boundaries. Internal boundaries are much more difficult to define and maintain. These might be choosing to disengage from a draining relationship or even working on your relationship with yourself. Internal boundaries are meant to gently redirect yourself from the internal critic that has been with you since you can remember. It can be a long, and difficult process. Often, there is a task completion oriented mindset with self care. “If I take this bath, I’ll feel better and stop procrastinating.” You are not a chore to be done away with and checked off a list. You are a patch of soil, meant to be planted, nurtured, and maintained through the seasons and storms of life.
So, what do we do now that we acknowledge that face-masks and pedicures aren’t the end-all-be-all of mental health? Try this: Sit comfortably in your chair, feet flat and back flush against the seat. Take a moment to notice your body starting at your toes and working your way up. What are you noticing? Maybe that your shoulders are by your ears, your head is aching from clenching your jaw, or you can’t remember the last time you drank plain water. Maybe that you feel relaxed, you can release your shoulders, or that you just ate an excellent meal. Sit in this moment, and apricate take it in. What do you need right now? Once you know that, it’s the challenge of accepting that you are worth taking care of.