Burnout in the Era of COVID-19

I have struggled with pacing myself my entire life. Pushing myself and attempting to use every last drop of my available energy has been my default for a really long time. In part, this is because I saw other people putting a fraction of the effort in and getting good enough results and I thought that if I gave it my all, I could achieve something extraordinary. But it was also because ever since I became an adult, life has seemed like one crisis after another that I needed to manage by pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into or risk having my entire life fall apart.

Turns out, those periods of rest that I saw others engage in wasn’t just wasted time that could be used to better one’s life. They were extremely important measures to conserve energy and prevent burnout.

Burnout, if you haven’t experienced it, is a deeply insidious mental health condition that feels like being stuck in tar. Everything is exhausting. You lose the ability to work hard for more than 3-4 hours on a good day and some days you just stare at the computer screen, hoping that work will take care of itself. Communication is hard and feels like dragging weights when you just want to say hello to someone. You lose interest in your hobbies and resting itself feels like exhausting work. Putting new knowledge in your brain, no matter how trivial, seems impossible, so you’re largely stuck with the knowledge that you currently have. It often feels like there is no way out of this cycle.

While my burnout started years ago at this point, the current COVID-19 crisis has definitely caused some interesting changes in this condition for me. On the one hand, I’m under a lot more stress than I was previously in a lot of ways. Learning how to coordinate resources over several households and maintain some semblance of safety while doing so requires a lot of energy that I simply don’t have. I’ve had a couple of breakdowns because of this which has forced me to get better at asking for help and has helped me to shift my focus towards community efforts over individual efforts. However, now that so much of the rest of the world is also in crisis, there’s an ever-increasing call to slow down the pace of life and business. No longer does it feel like I’m clinging on for dear life while everyone else just goes about their business. Suddenly, everyone is interested in remote and flexible work policies and the scream for a return to a slower pace of life is building.

I don’t know where we’re going to go from here. I’m hoping that when this current crisis is over, the slow life movement will have built up enough steam to make some major changes to society. Or at the very least, I hope that everyone else being under increased pressure will force the collective action needed to make spaces in society safer for people like me who are just utterly burnt out. I hope the gardens persist and the rent and labor strikes continue. I certainly intend to keep working on slowing down myself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s