Is Covid-19 Lockdown leading to Emotional Exhaustion?
Reports suggest that people are sleeping less, are more stressed and are working longer hours. Yes its “work from home” but far away from the advantages of working from home
When nature has taken over the ‘Earth’, the emotional burnout seems to have taken over the ‘humans’. Though we all are trying to cope with these uncertain times inflicted by Covid-19 and the ‘new normal’; there are more and more people who are experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion. Reports suggest that people are sleeping less, are more stressed and are working longer hours. Yes its “work from home” but far away from the advantages of working from home.
People (both women and men) are experiencing emotional exhaustion due to accumulated stress from personal or/and professional space. It seems like they have no power or control over what happens in life and feel ‘trapped’ in the situation. Such people are susceptible to work-life conflict, get frustrated, irritated and face problems of adjustment in relationships. These symptoms and emotions have intensified during the Covid-19 era and the accompanying lockout due to stress and insecurities. Though the phenomenon is true for both the genders, women due to our social structure and situations seem to be affected more.
Picture this scenario. Neha, who joined a new job last year was still struggling to find her place in the new set-up. Though financially stable, she was experiencing uncertainties at work. With the lockdown scenario, these fears have become monstrous. Remote working makes her feel ‘not in control’ of situation. Poor communication with top management leaves a lot to assumptions and she is constantly living in the fear that probably she is not needed at work anymore and could be replaced anytime. A non-communicative boss and lack of access to top management has just worsened the situation and it’s almost like each day she is expecting to see her termination notification. And that is not the only thing bothering Neha. Back home, she is struggling to manage household with no support system to come to her rescue. Besides attending to daily cleaning and washing chores she has to supervise her children’s online classes, leaving her physically drained out. Her husband is busy with his office tasks and feels that it is not his prime responsibility to share load at home. Neha is constantly trying to find the balance. She is annoyed when her kids interrupt her work-calls and then feels guilty about losing her cool. With the boundaries between personal and professional space blurring, Neha is stressed about her performance on both fronts.
Barkha on the other has been in a stable job for many years. She may not have the fear of losing her job but the lockdown and time away from work is making her anxious about her place at work. She never had a desire to be included in everything or be the center of action at work but since lockdown she is finding her excluded from many meetings (which she thought she should have been a part of) and suddenly things seem to be slipping away and ‘FOMO’ has taken over Barkha. She is unsure of what future holds for her. The fear of ‘unknown’ is making her work harder and for longer hours. Ofcourse, pressure of managing household, demands of elderly and kids is an added responsibility. Though everyone claims to be pitching in, Barkha knows that she is carrying the key burden of running the establishment (home). If this was not enough, pictures and recipes of great dishes and desserts just adds to the pressure of confirming to social expectations. It seems like everyone is using the lockdown time to display their culinary skills and be an ‘ideal’ homemaker.
Pandemic has left people, especially women emotionally drained out with overwhelming workload, work-life responsibilities, interpersonal conflicts, fears, uncertainties and hurt of even being mistreated and harassed. It has brought with it sorrow of the new normal which is characterized by inability to find personal and ‘me’ time and added concerns of physical, financial and economic well-being, isolation, social disconnect and loneliness; further exacerbating the stress and burnout.
While we cannot change the pandemic and external context, what we can surely do is to ensure our own peace and well-being and avoid this road to emotional drain-out. The same can be achieved by conserving emotional resources and replenishing them on continual basis.
Conserving the emotional resources:
Identifying the triggers and the situations that are causing the drain-out is important. Is it listening to news, reading the newspaper, discussing the lock-out situation with family/colleagues or as in Neha’s case, the callous attitude of the boss? Avoid those interactions and situations. Do not have negative conversations around the lockdown with the peers. It is ok not to follow the news for few days and it is good for Neha to confront her boss and let him know the impact of his closed & non-transparent communication on team’s performance and motivation. Sometimes, rather than brooding over others’ problems, it is better to confront and make it their problem and not yours!
It is important to operate with greater emotional efficiency by recognizing, acknowledging and accepting our own feelings, shortcomings, fears and also the strengths. Sometimes, when we operate from a distant frame, we realize that we are not the only one swimming this. We are perhaps better than many others! Feeling of gratitude and recognizing the things and people we took for granted helps us put things in perspective. Hardships then don’t seem to be personal and hence are less hurting. Holding on to our core values helps in retaining our sensibilities and maintaining balance and sanity.
Replenishing emotional resources
As we plug in emotional drainage, we also need to replenish positivity. This is not as easy because initially it would require us to step out of our comfort zones. Those who are already experiencing emotional exhaustion will find it even more difficult to gather energy to try something new or make extra efforts. But to replenish emotional reserves, it’s important to indulge in a hobby- painting, dancing, singing, cooking etc (but not due to peer pressure and show off). Exercise and mindfulness training help in finding physical and emotional balance.
Connecting with old friends, family, peers, colleagues in an informal context would can make one feel connected. For those who crave their ‘me’ time; probably a lone walk, good music or solace in book would be a great experience. We have to train the mind to find and hunt for ‘positives’- positive memories, incidences, people, blessings etc. We need to change the perspective and will find many reasons to be grateful and happy. Lastly, it is important to not feel guilty about finding time for oneself and do things that makes us happy because if we are not at peace inside; everything outside will seem to be in the state of catastrophe. And when we have no control over the context, what we can change is only ‘ourselves’ and our ‘thoughts’!
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