We’ve heard the term burnout used very often especially during the Pandemic when the boundaries between our professional and personal lives started getting blurred. According to Ms. Priyanka Varma, a practising Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor as well as Psychotherapist and Founder, The Thought Co., burnout is a phenomenon individuals experience when they are repeatedly exposed to chronic stress without any resolution. Burnout may show itself in feelings of cynicism towards our jobs, physical and mental exhaustion as well as reduced professional efficacy.
Why does coronavirus burnout happen?
Research suggests that individuals in helping professions experience higher levels of burnout because of their work conditions. Stress-inducing factors in our personal, as well as professional lives, can contribute to burnout, therefore the experience of burnout can be very varied. For groups experiencing similar stressors, the levels of burnout can be similar.
Why burnout is more in women?
Women who tend to share similar lived experiences because of their gender might experience burnout differently than men. Housework and caregiving are still largely seen as female responsibility. A report on burnout among female physicians stated that “Women employed full time spend 8.5 additional hours per week on child care and other domestic activities, including care for elderly parents. On average, women who are employed and whose partners also work perform an additional 2 hours of work at home per day, men in these circumstances note that their domestic work only increases by an average of 40 minutes.”
New moms and pandemic fatigue
A one-sided load of such responsibilities in addition to their professional responsibilities might lead to increased stress and lack of opportunities for self-care. It is possible that individuals with children may experience higher burnout than those who don’t have children, however even in this case, there may be a disparity in the experience of it. The expectations placed on new mothers who have just returned from their maternity leaves but are still dealing with the stress of taking care of a newborn baby might push them into overworking themselves. Even the anxiety associated with what a maternity leave might mean for their career can cause an increase in stress and therefore subsequent burnout.
The recent concept of #ShareTheLoad did send out a message- we should all be helping, cleaning, cooking the women in the house. What we don't take into account is the planning and the stress of it all. This also includes asking people to help, to clean and to cook, and getting them to do the housework in the first place. It might be great to share the activities- but what about the mental load of it all?
There is gender disparity even in burnout. We might all face stress, maybe work, maybe home but put 2 and 2 together and it’s the women who might take up more burden on themselves. Being aware of this might be a step to solving the problem at hand. Even if that’s delegating and planning housework together or giving the women a break once in a while.
How to manage coronavirus burnout?
Burnout presents itself as fatigue, lethargy and feelings of sadness. The key to managing burnout is working on your perception of your process. Very often individuals who experience burnout dislike their process and view it as stress-inducing. If your process does not give you the joy you have it is important for you to step away, and disengage (permanently). However, it is important to note that life is going to keep throwing curveballs our way, and thus our process should give us joy and should almost feel like play. This perception and mindset shift is crucial in avoiding burnout or at least coping with it better.
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