The COVID-19 pandemic has been a rollercoaster of a ride – a truly dangerous one that no one willingly got in line for and one with no end in sight. Now back in homeschooling mode and in the midst of the fifth wave (or “tsunami”), it’s hard to stay strong and hopeful.
The first thing we can do to alleviate this emotionally and physically straining situation is to talk about it openly! We at Little Steps would like to contribute to this important conversation by offering useful terminology and sharing some strategies for alleviating pandemic burnout.
Here are some steps you can take to counter covid fatigue and parental burnout, reboot, and find gratitude and joy – or at least stay afloat – in the grip of a pandemic. Remember that you are not alone, that the heaviness you may feel is valid, and that small steps can make a huge difference if you leave expectations at the door and invite in patience, vulnerability, and trust in your own power, however dormant it may seem right now.
Want some top resources?
VIDEO: COVID Fatigue Tips From A Therapist
THERAPY FOR KIDS: Click here
THERAPY FOR MOM/DADS: Click here
ONLINE YOGA CLASSES: Click here
JOURNALING: Best Journals In HK
Let's start with a couple of useful terms – yes, there are words for the overwhelmedness you may be feeling! When we talk about Covid fatigue, we’re not talking about long Covid. WHO defines pandemic fatigue as demotivation to follow recommended protective behaviors and a sense of complacency, alienation, and hopelessness. The accumulated frustration and fatigue can push you deeper into a defeated mindset.
When all this was new to us, we could rely on our short-term survival skills and fear to keep us motivated. This long into the pandemic, it is not unusual at all for these motivating factors that kept us going (and, if we were lucky, even brought us closer and taught us a bunch) to give way to exhaustion and complacency.
Along those same lines, extraordinary circumstances are supposed to be temporary. Homeschooling in these circumstances, for example, is not something most of us get better at with more practice – the longer it goes on, the harder it is because parental burnout sets in. And this is normal and to be expected – burnout happens when we run out of personal resources. If you are not at a capacity to really be there for your kids or can feel yourself modelling behaviors, mindsets, or giving off vibes that you aren’t super proud of, it can lead to feelings of guilt and failure.
This immediately brings us to support. We are supposed to have a healthy balance between family time, work time, alone time, and time with friends – it is a recipe to be adjusted to personal preference, but the ingredients are more or less the same for everyone. Even if you overwhelmingly prefer family time over friends or alone time, being forced into putting so much effort into your family life can be exhausting.
If your closest social circle understands you and makes you feel good about yourself, strengthen ties with your most important relationships as this will not take up much of your emotional resources and might just fill you up in unexpected ways! Pressure is easier to deal with when it is more evenly distributed, when it is counterbalanced with healthy stimuli, or when you give it a framework that makes it easier to see the bigger picture.
In addition to providing you with a framework for all your obligations and needs, routine alleviates the stress of the uncertainty by making your days as predictable as possible for your body and mind (remember that predictable, especially in a global health crisis, doesn’t imply boring!). Experts recommend prioritizing those routines that are necessary for maintaining your wellbeing, as well as primary needs like eating well and getting good sleep. Though secondary, routines like exercising and socializing are also incredibly important – remember that just 10 minutes of exercise or a short but supportive phone call can make all the difference.
Sometimes, and you yourself know it best, you need to put yourself first in order to be the person you want to be for others. Self-care can be as simple as dedicating a chosen amount of time in your routine to alone time (remember that just a couple of minutes can do wonders, but also know that you deserve to treat yourself when you can).
Self-care and alone time are about healthy habits, building confidence and resilience, teaching your own self that you are safe, that you are home, that you are loved and taken care of – by yourself first and foremost. That said, routinely using your alone time to scroll through your phone or risk developing addictive/escapist behaviors might make you feel even worse than before, and though understandable, these are not what self-care is about.
Some of the most beneficial self-care activities are exercise and a mindfulness practice. Besides the obvious health benefits, exercise builds your body’s and brain’s resilience – a much needed ability in hard, cyclical circumstances. It lets you explore your limits, teaches you how to gently expand them, and trust the process. Mindfulness teaches you how to pay attention to the present moment; it is a (life-long) practice, something that you probably won’t immediately figure out if you are a beginner, but joys can be found in every step of the way.
We will keep repeating this because it is a life-saving truth – a couple of minutes a day (for exercise, journaling, meditation, face massages, dancing like no one is watching, what have you) can make a huge difference – don’t discourage yourself by setting overly ambitious goals; ease into it and be super proud of every instance of showing up for yourself.
Finally, know that you are not alone! If you notice that your burnout or anxiety are affecting your daily functioning or you feel that you have lost the motivation to protect your and your family’s health, don’t hesitate to ask for help or seek it out. This can be emotional support or something practical, whether from your friends, partner, mental health professionals, or an online community – or all of it! Recognize your limits and don’t push yourself over the edge – no one, much less your own self, will benefit from your sacrifice in the long term.
Little Steps Asia knows what families need.
Sign up for our email newsletters to get the most out of Asia!