While the pandemic has been extremely hard for everyone for the most part, it has come with some unexpected upsides. People who were previously always busy have been forced to slow down a bit more, and find peace and joy in life’s smaller moments - the ones that used to go by unnoticed. Many have been able to spend a little more time reflecting, and putting self-care first.
Now, with things reopening and people’s social calendars filling up, there might be new pressures to suddenly be ‘busy’ again. So how can you make sure you’re not burning out? Let’s explore what post-lockdown burnout might look like and how to avoid it.
What Exactly Is Post-Lockdown Burnout?
Think about the last time you dieted and then allowed yourself to have a cheat day. It was probably a non-stop binge in which you felt entitled to eat anything you wanted because you had been depriving yourself for so long.
That same principle applies to the pandemic. We’ve been cut off for so long from so many people and trapped in essentially one place -- our homes. Now, as the vaccinations roll out, the world is starting to slowly open back up. That’s a great thing, but it may become overwhelming after such a long period of isolation.
You may feel like binging on social events. You might feel the need to do something every night, or see a different place or friend every day. But that can leave you stressed, overstimulated, and running on empty. In short, it might lead to burnout, which is feeling mentally, physically, or emotionally drained or exhausted.
Signs of Post-Lockdown Burnout
The first thing many people will feel is anxiety. Even if they are excited about the prospect of returning to a more normal world, they still might worry about it. You might have the following questions:
- Will I be safe, even though I am vaccinated?
- Are other people around me already vaccinated?
- Are my favorite pre-pandemic locations safe now to visit?
- Will I still fit in with the same people?
In addition to anxiety, signs of post-lockdown burnout can include:
- Exhaustion: You might be unable to sleep because you’re out too much or find it hard to unwind after all the overstimulation you’re facing. Plus, you might be skimping on sleep intentionally to have a little quiet time after always socializing.
- Feeling overwhelmed: You might always be on the go. That may sound fun after a long period of lockdown, but it can be frustrating to try to do too much at once.
- Weight changes: Just as the pandemic caused weight gain for some of us, over socializing can too. With more opportunities for eating out and having drinks with friends, our eating habits could take a hit. And if you’re feeling anxious, you might be piling the comfort foods on your plate.
- Feeling pressure to go out: Friends and family will want to see you. That’s understandable. But it’s also okay to say no if you need a night to yourself. Some people, however, will put other’s wants above their needs and will go out even if they would benefit more from some alone time.
- Feeling stressed: The stress can be from agreeing to too many time commitments, or even financial stress from feeling pressured by friends and family to go places and spend money.
What You Can Do To Avoid Burnout
If anxiety is your issue, take steps to alleviate the source of your anxiety. Are you worried that you may still get coronavirus even though you were vaccinated? Then continue to take appropriate precautions while outside the home, such as wearing your mask and carrying hand sanitizer with you wherever you go. Socially distance as much as you can while you’re out.
Here are some other ways to protect your mental health and prevent burnout as you enter society once again.
- Expect a little awkwardness: Unless you’re a social butterfly, it’s normal to feel a little strange at first once you’re away from the cocoon -- your house -- that you’ve been in for the past year.
- Take your time: Start slowly before booking get-togethers every night of the week to give yourself time to adjust. If you’re the type who gets anxious in social situations, commit to popping by an event for a few minutes and then leave.
- Build in some decompression time: Keep at least a night or two free every week to spend at your home. That will feel normal to you, and it will prevent you from feeling frazzled from overscheduling your time.
- Don’t compare your situation to other people’s situations: Maybe your friends and family will talk incessantly about how they crushed their social lockdown, and you feel like you did something wrong if you didn’t learn a new language or work out every day. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad about how you spent your isolation, and don’t be fooled into thinking that anybody loved every bit of their time on their own. Everyone likely struggled with some aspect of it.
- Don’t be afraid to say no: If you don’t feel like going somewhere, don’t feel bad about skipping it. You can call your friend and explain that you’ve been overscheduling your time or that you’re adjusting still to your newfound freedoms. Promise to catch up with them soon. Any true friend will understand that.
- Pay attention to yourself: Learn to recognize the signs that you might be experiencing burnout, and take action if you suspect that you are. There’s no harm in canceling plans or stepping back to have some quiet alone time.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is the foundation for good physical and mental health. Make sleep a priority, even if you have a packed social calendar. If you have anxiety, consider trying a weighted blanket to help calm down.
Burnout is Real
As we head back to some sort of ‘normality,’ we’re likely to experience a few hiccups along the way. There’s no shame in adjusting our course as we come back from this.
Some people might sail through this transition, while others might struggle a bit. Acknowledge that this is an adjustment, and don’t beat yourself up if you need to take some extra care with yourself during this tricky time.