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Why We May Feel Burnout Instead of Relief Post-COVID-19

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Here we are, post-COVID-19, and although many of us think that our anxiety should begin to subside, what if it isn’t? What if you’re not as relieved as you thought you would be? What if you are not doing the metaphorical happy dance as we begin to gain hope of returning to “normal,” whatever that really means?

It’s been a long 15 months. We have been trying to protect ourselves, our children, our parents and our grandparents from a virus that has an effect that ranges from a cold to not being able to breathe. It’s a frightening virus that has created a level of panic that has permeated and impacted our daily life and mental health immensely. And just like that, we are supposed to let go of all of these safety precautions? I’m not ready. It’s OK. Acknowledge what parts you are not comfortable with and understand that you don’t need to make sudden changes to your routines if you are not ready.

I’m burned out

I, including many parents, am feeling burned out by all the thoughts and thinking, and planning we have been doing for over one year. One year. Thinking about numbers, vaccines, toilet paper, masks, hand sanitizer, indoors or outdoors, how many people … and the list goes on and on and on. Between the decisions and the intense emotions, you likely are feeling burned out. Given the high mental and emotional demand, you may find yourself feeling physically exhausted on top of it all. Make sure to give yourself downtime and time apart from your family, in isolation, so you are able to decompress.

My anxiety is through the roof

Although the expectation is that we should be relieved, it’s OK if you’re not. With the mask mandate indoors (if you are vaccinated) being lifted, it’s OK if you are actually feeling awkward. I didn’t realize that I’ve become accustomed to only seeing eyes. Right now, it may feel like you’re “naked” or that you’re forgetting something. You may actually feel panicked. You may find that you are actively processing and re-interpreting that it’s OK not to wear a mask.

Don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to become OK with not wearing a mask or seeing other people without masks. It’s OK to see someone approaching you in a store or during your walk and to not naturally gravitate to the other side of the street. It’s OK if you’re not ready to jump into the no mask, non-socially distanced life just yet.

Create your own guidelines

Although our leaders may state it’s now safe, we don’t really have set guidelines or a plan that delineates how we will gradually lift the safety precautions based on the data. It seems that just as quickly as our world shut down in March 2020, it just as quickly is opening up and you may feel that you are being forced to move faster than you would like. If you need to, create a list that consists of the types of activities and contact with others that you are willing to have from least anxiety-provoking to most. Then, wait for the data and gradually move through your list. For example, you may wish to get together with one other family outdoors without masks but not share a meal together. So, you will start here and expand on your limitations as you feel comfortable.

You can still wear a mask even if you don’t have to

In some states, it is illegal for a school to require masks. For many parents and their children, this is too much too fast. If that’s the case, you and your child can continue to wear masks and socially distance yourself from others if you wish.  Just because the safety precautions have lifted, it doesn’t mean you have to follow them.

The COVID-19 pandemic came in quickly and suddenly and shook up our lives. Many of us and our children continue to struggle with anxiety, depression, isolation, and grief. Our mental health as parents and that of our children has been so very negatively impacted. Avoid adding to your stress and decide what you and your family are comfortable with and create your own guidelines during a time when we have very few guidelines about how to return to “normal,” whatever that really means.      

Photo credit: Chansom Pantip/Getty Images

Originally published: June 9, 2021
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