Tag Archives: coronavirus

Burnout and self care

Many people find that their mental health and mood dip through winter. The darker days and nights, less hours of light, gloomy weather and isolation can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.

 This year that impact is worse than usual, as so many of us have been stressed or isolated with lockdown, restricted time with family and friends, and the pressure of working through a pandemic or of losing work because of the virus.

 Self-care is never the first priority for many of us, but it’s more important than ever before that we find ways to care for our own needs, to protect our health and emotional wellbeing, but also to enable us to have reserves to continue supporting others.

What I am seeing a lot of, from clients, friends, family, from everyone to some extent – is burnout.

What is burnout?

 Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. (From HelpGuide)

In other words, burnout is what happens when you have been fighting for months to stay safe and keep your loved ones safe, to work in unusual circumstances, to pay bills with reduced income, to feed your family through a pandemic, to maintain happiness and health whilst home-schooling, working, social distancing, being isolated, separated from support networks – burnout is what happens when you live through a pandemic, economic collapse, political upheaval and the constant threat of harm.

Burnout is what you’re very likely experiencing when you stare at your to-do list and have no idea where or how to start, and are kicking yourself for not being able to achieve as much as usual.

This is normal – at least, it’s normal as a response to this very far from normal year you’ve lived through. It’s common, it’s expected, and it’s okay. You aren’t alone, and you need to reframe your expectations.

Managing burnout.

 The first thing to accept is that this is not normal – this year, this experience. So expecting a normal level of productivity, of activity, and of output is simply impossible.

Your body and mind aren’t in a productive mode; you aren’t in a place where creativity, action and future planning are really possible.

When you are under the kind of stress and pressure that we have all been experiencing, your mind is in defence mode. Your body and brain are finding ways to protect you, to survive, and to simply get through the day – not to achieve anything beyond simply surviving.

When your subconscious mind is working so hard on survival, there is little energy left for creativity or productivity. When your body is in survival mode, any focus you may ordinarily have for training, exercising, working towards goals, is almost impossible to tap into; your body doesn’t have the energy to fight, survive and keep you going and commit to new goals or targets – so if you’ve struggled to work towards any long-term health or exercise goals this year, that’s okay; it’s normal. Your body and mind simply can’t right now. So don’t be angry with yourself, or disappointed; forgive yourself for where you are, due to a situation that is completely outside of your control, and focus instead on what you can control; forgiveness, kindness and survival.

Steps to take

 Recognise and acknowledge the signs

  • Set smaller goals
  • Structure and routine in your day
  • Wind-down time
  • Self-care
  • Support network
  • Ask for help

 Recognise and acknowledge

 We are all great at berating ourselves and criticising ourselves for what we fail to achieve – but when did you last listen to your body, and acknowledge where you are and how you feel right now?

 Acknowledging the signs of burnout is the first and most important step in overcoming it.

Set smaller goals

 So perhaps you haven’t achieved what you dreamed of this year, but look at what you have achieved – and focus on the small wins. You have been subjected to enormous and very complex changes, completely outside of your control. The pandemic has robbed you of many freedoms and opportunities – but it hasn’t completely stalled every thing you are and do. So list the things you’ve achieved – and count even the smallest things as a success. Getting out of bed and dressed is the most you can do sometimes – so take that little win.

Structure and routine

 If you have lost your work or the activities you usually participate in, it’s easy to slip into a rut and to live in your pyjamas, with no shape to your day and time.

Create some structure; set an alarm and try to stick to a regular sleeping and waking schedule, get washed and dressed, keep meals at the same times each day, and start to add in more things over time – getting out for a walk, calling someone, applying for jobs, reading a book, anything which you feel is a proactive and positive use of time.

Wind down time

 Without structure and with less need to leave the house many fall into a habit of distraction; watching tv or films, gaming, scrolling through social media – but often these mindless blue screen activities keep your subconscious brain stimulated and agitated – so ensure that you get some time each day – at least a couple of hours – away from these devices, reading or outdoors in nature, meditating or finding another way to relax.

Self Care

 Personal hygiene, time doing something you enjoy, soaking in the bath, exercising, grooming, styling your hair, picking out an activity which you love to do – whatever it is that give you small moments of joy and which gives your mind and body some healthy nourishment is vital. Even small things – washing your hair, changing your bedding, replacing one pair of pyjamas with a fresh clean set – can make you feel better in small ways.

Support Network

 The isolation of lockdown and social distancing has made many of us very lonely. It’s a painful and frightening experience, so please do take time to reach out to your support network. Call family and friends, make time to video call when you can, and where you’re able to get out of your house to meet others again.

Ask for help

 None of us need to be alone. Nobody needs to fight on, without help and support, struggling and battling burnout and overwhelm; you deserve to be supported and find help, no matter what has happened in your life, and no matter how lost you feel.

If you think that having someone you can speak with in confidence could help, and you would like support in processing the trauma and stress you’ve experienced – whether that’s as a direct result of the pandemic or there’s other experiences you are struggling with – call me to arrange a 10 minute assessment call, where we can have a chat about what you need and whether I’m the right person to help you.

Call me on 07749 499783 or email amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can message me via Facebook or this website. You can also speak to me on video call via WhatsApp, which is how most of my sessions have been carried out through the pandemic. You don’t need to struggle alone any more.

Anxious about the new term, and life outside of lockdown

This has been a very peculiar year, hasn’t it?

Families across the world have been impacted, and have had to deal with all kinds of changes, challenges and routines which are so far from what we are used to – and I know that most of us are still processing all of those changes. Now it’s time to start processing some more, as children across the UK return to school, students back to colleges and universities, and those who have been working from home for the last six months make plans to return to offices.

Don’t think that you’re alone in being anxious about these changes, and about the safety and well-being of your families and loved ones as they go back out into the world and mix with their peers again.

Whilst there are many practical steps being taken in all of these environments to protect people (increased cleaning, social distancing, one way systems, hand sanitising stations) and we can reassure ourselves with these practical acts – which we know are going to do a lot to protect many people from any risk of infection or harm – I know that anxiety doesn’t always care about practicalities or facts.

Those little voices that whisper at the back of our mind about the dangers, the risks, the fears we are carrying, don’t go quiet simply because we have facts to shout back at them!

So what can we do to challenge those anxieties, and to support our own mental well-being and that of our loved ones and families as life moves into the next phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, and how we function through it?

Reminding ourselves of those practical steps is a good first step. For example; “I am worried about my child being in a class with other children” can be challenged with “but they will be in one seat at a sterilised, safe desk, distanced from others; the will have their own hand sanitiser and know how to properly wash their hands.”

“I am worried about travelling to work on public transport” can be met with “but I have my own mask, I can maintain a physical distance between myself and others and, where that is difficult, our masks will reduce the risk. I have sanitiser in my pocket and contactless payment for my journey.”

When anxiety builds and you begin to feel panic or overwhelm, try to find coping techniques to get you through that moment:

  • Breathing exercises can calm your heart rate
  • Grounding techniques can stop your mind spiralling into negative thoughts
  • Remove yourself from any crowded or busy public space for a few minutes
  • Wear headphones to reduce external sensory input
  • Wear a mask in public areas
  • Carry your own wipes and alcohol gel so that you can protect yourself from germs
  • Remind yourself that you have remained safe so far, and will remain safe because you have taken the right steps

Many people are finding that they coped well during lockdown, because they had the focus of their family and were busy throughout. Now that life is returning to some semblance of ‘normal’ and we are under less pressure, the need to ‘cope’ well is reduced – and we are actually struggling more without that constant need.

This is entirely normal, and very common; crisis brings crisis management techniques, and only once the crisis has passed do we feel the fear and overwhelm of the situation we just lived through.

This is a great time to reach out to your support networks; family and friends, occupational health, your GP and professional counselling, which can help you to process that trauma in a healthy way and move through the stages of what is, essentially, grief and fear.

Small acts of self care can help you to re-centre and reduce anxiety, and give you some inner reserves to get through the next weeks. Never underestimate the power of small kindnesses – for yourself or for those you love.

I can help you with the anxieties of moving back into the world, and I can help you to find coping methods for those moments of overwhelm. I can also  give you tools to support those you love with their own worries, without harming yourself by taking on the weight of other people’s emotional well-being and need.

Contact me through this website, on the phone on 07849 037095 (as a call, a text or via WhatsApp) or by email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com – you don’t need to struggle alone with your worries; I can help.

 

Grief vs Loss

Grief and loss – particularly now – need to be treated as equals.

Often the words grief and loss are used interchangeably – people use both when they speak about the grief of losing a loved one, a family member, a friend and even a pet – but there are some differences between the two which mean they should be approached differently.

Grief is what we feel when there is a bereavement – when someone or something dies, and we are left reeling with a sequence of different emotions and reactions, varying states, which take us from the initial shock through to, eventually, acceptance, and the state where we are able to continue with our lives bearing the scars of this grief.

Loss is different – and applies to far more than reacting to a death. Loss is a similar sequence of emotions, of reactions, of processes – but for different events.

One clear example currently is the loss of our freedom and social lives, as we are all encouraged to remain at home during the Coronavirus situation.

The impact of this ‘lockdown’ means that we are, as a nation – as a world population – facing significant losses. Of work, of income, of routine, of social interaction and confidence in our lives. Of education and training. Of comfort and security.

We are seeing overwhelming news reports, feeling fear and anxiety, and limited to interacting only with the people within our homes – which, for a great many, is just them alone – or, for some, is with people who are controlling or abusive – meaning that they have also lost their opportunities to escape those dangers or recover outside of the home from the traumatic environment.

Where ‘loss’ is disregarded is when people begin to compare their loss with those of others. For some, the loss of routine means they can relax, sit back and indulge in whatever whim takes their fancy. For others, the loss of routine creates enormous anxiety and pain.

For some, the loss of freedom to leave the house is merely inconvenient, and for others it means they are incredibly isolated, or even in danger.

Loss – no matter what it is you are losing – is not something which can be compared. Pain and loss aren’t weighed on a scale – and if we always compare, there will always be someone who has experienced something ‘worse’ or who hasn’t experienced a reality as damaging as ours – which is why we ought never to dismiss the responses to loss that another feels.

The truth of pain is that the worst pain you have ever experienced is the worst pain you have ever experienced. The greatest loss that has impacted you is your greatest loss. These are not things we should ever compare to those of others – because dismissing or disregarding other people’s pain, or allowing people to do the same to ours, prevents us from being able to find coping mechanisms in a healthy way.

Loss – whether on a global scale, or of a small, domestic routine which brings you peace – is painful – and the only way that we are able to move through it, process it, and take the steps through the stages of emotional response is by voicing our struggles, supporting one another in difficult times, and reaching out for support when we need it.

Grief is what we experience in response to a death – but loss is no less significant, and the pain we feel in response to loss can be overwhelming and can impact the shape of our lives permanently, particularly if we somehow believe that our pain is insignificant, or if it is belittled by others.

Remember that now is not a time to increase the pressure on yourself to do or be anything more than who you are; a global pandemic is a time to give yourself space to just be – to survive, to focus on your needs – physically and emotionally – without worrying about achieving more, setting goals, growing or creating.

Now is a time to simply meet your basic needs, and to let other concerns take a back seat: this graphic is a great reminder.

If you are struggling with the losses I’ve discussed here, or are in need of a safe place to speak about worries and fears, or the current situation has brought previous trauma to the surface, please don’t suffer alone.

You can speak to me any time – simply fill in the contact form or send me a message on Facebook or via call or text on 07849 037095; I am doing all of my counselling sessions via WhatsApp video calls, so that you can still speak ‘face to face’ and receive support, and don’t have to sit with your head full of concerns you have nowhere to voice.