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COVID-19 burnout: when the “new normal” is getting old

Seems like every time you turn around these days, there are new regulations on where and when to wear masks, which businesses and restaurants will be open, and what kinds of social distancing are mandatory. People get cranky if you stand too close in the checkout line. Folks harangue each other when someone enters a store without a mask. Many people fail to wear masks properly, turning them into an ineffective “chin diaper” and defeating the purpose of wearing a mask. Plus, one can only stomach so many trips to the drive-through. And all of this combines to create stress; over time this compounded stress manifests itself as burnout.

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COVID-19 is here to stay, at least for a while, and it is predicted to surge again as we enter the late fall/winter months. On top of that, we’re entering flu season, and it can be hard to tell the difference between the two in terms of their symptoms – so now more than ever, it’s important to continue observing hygienic protocols so that we do not face another surge in cases. And of course, get a flu shot.

The pandemic also has many Americans further stressed out by worries over keeping their jobs and avoiding COVID-19 at work. As a result, people who were fairly well balanced before the pandemic may now exhibit symptoms including insomnia, irritability, and mood swings. Not to mention a vitamin D deficiency from time spent indoors.

What can I do to cope?

Start with your home and workspace – if they’re cluttered or need sprucing up, this will go a long way toward giving you a sense of accomplishment. And if you’re working from home, this is a great way to make your space more comfortable and functional.

Exploring something new or revisiting a favorite pastime is another positive way to lift your spirits. Whether it’s learning a foreign language, trying new recipes, or dusting off a long-neglected musical instrument, now that you finally have the time to get it done, why wait? Same goes for freshening up your exercise routine.

One of the worst things about quarantine is the loneliness self-isolation can create. That is why so many people are adopting pets to help fill the void. And besides the companionship, walking a dog is a great way to get up off the couch and get some fresh air and exercise. Another way to feel more connected is as close as your phone – now is the time to call those far-away friends and relatives and brighten their days.

Who can help?

Because of fears of contamination, many people are also cancelling or delaying doctor visits. This all has a cumulative effect on our mental and physical health as a nation, and unchecked it can lead to dire consequences. So go ahead and keep your doctor appointments. With telehealth as an option and the COVID-19 protocols to screen patients and visitors and to disinfect and sanitize healthcare facilities, your provider’s office is taking extra steps to keep you safe. And if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or hypertension, your doctor can help you adjust your “New Normal” routine to get you on a healthier path.

If you’re experiencing mental health symptoms (i.e., insomnia, irritability, or mood swings), your doctor can help you deal with that as well. They can provide options and refer you to a professional who specializes in mental health. And if you’re feeling lonely, getting online with friends across the country or across the street can make you feel less out of touch, even during quarantine. The CDC has a plethora of resources to help you cope with pandemic-induced mental stress of all kinds, and they’re all just a mouseclick away.

Get in the holiday spirit.

The holiday season is fast approaching, and this one promises to look different in many ways. Gatherings with your family may be smaller or may have to occur virtually. There will likely only be virtual company celebrations this year. However, this is a perfect opportunity to get in the holiday spirit and be part of the solution by practicing random acts of kindness to others. You’re guaranteed to make somebody’s day and rack up some karma points. You never know whose day or year you’re going to make!

Remember, as we head toward the winter season, continue to practice social distancing, to not gather in large groups, to wear masks whenever you’re interacting with people who do not belong to your household, and to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. While it is normal to feel tired of following these important procedures, these procedures are what you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from both COVID-19 and the flu.

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