Burnout during 2020 Pandemic - zwavelstreamclinic.co.za
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If you’re feeling exhausted these days, you’re not alone. In the event of too much stress stimuli with little recovery, burnout occurs. During any pandemic, an overload of stress occurs which overwhelms your body’s central nervous system and limits the capacity for recovery. Cases of burnout can be seen clearly in healthcare workers who are battling the pandemic on the frontlines.

Our brains thrive of clarity, certainty and structure. In the event of prolonged grief or uncertainty, the body physically and mentally gets exhausted. All of which has some physical symptoms attached to burnout such as headaches or stomach aches. It is the combination of balancing work obligations, homeschooling children or caring for sick relatives that anxiety starts manifesting in our bodies.

The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that is difficult to successfully manage” and it is characterized by three traits namely: feeling exhausted, depleted of energy and reduced professional efficacy. Burnout usually occurs when people’s needs are not being met and in particular the psychological need to feel competent in one’s work or one’s social needs.

Burnout is a rational response that can be prevented by adopting a few simple techniques and routines that will protect your mental health during the global Covid-19 pandemic. In this article we will be discussing burnout and give you some tips on how to prevent it, so you can restore your mental health during the lockdown.

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Various stages of burnout

It is important to note that burnout can occur in anyone at any time. However, burnout is more frequently seen in the age groups of 25 to 44 from both males and females. The symptoms affect each individual differently, but there are 5 collective stages that are commonly observed and linked to burnout. They include the following:

Stage 1: The honeymoon phase

With the start of lockdown, many of us decided to take up a new skill or hobby. This is met with high job/self-satisfaction, commitment and loads of energy. In the honeymoon phase, you may experience predicted stress therefore it is necessary to adopt coping strategies early on. Some theorize that if you could find solid coping mechanisms early on, the honeymoon phase never fades.

Symptoms of the honeymoon phase include:

  • Commitment towards the task at hand
  • A compulsion to prove oneself
  • Loads of creative ideas or creativity in general
  • High productivity levels
  • Optimism

Stage 2: Onset of stress

In the second phase of burnout, you will become aware that some day’s get more and more difficult. It is common for one’s optimism to start fading and you will become aware of common stress symptoms which may affect you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Symptoms of onset stress include:

  • Anxiety
  • Change in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability
  • Lower productivity
  • Heart palpitations
  • Higher blood pressure

Stage 3: Chronic stress

The third stage leads to chronic stress. You will notice a definite increase in your stress levels and on a frequent basis.

Symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Apathy
  • Anger
  • Cynical attitude
  • Denial (problems at work or at home)
  • Lack of interest
  • Missing meetings/deadlines at work
  • Physical illness

Stage 4: Burnout

Entering stage 4 is where things become much more serious. At this point continuing as if nothing is wrong with you is often close to impossible. If you ever find yourself in stage 4 of burnout we suggest you seek medical intervention.

Symptoms can include:

  • Noticeable behavioural changes
  • Chronic headaches
  • Feelings of wanting to escape
  • An Empty feeling
  • Development of a pessimistic outlook on life or work
  • Self-doubt

Stage 5: Habitual burnout

This stage of burnout means that stress and anxiety are so embedded in your life that is likely that you will experience a significant physical or emotional problem.

When you reach this stage the symptoms include the following:

  • Chronic stress and frequent headaches
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Mental fatigue
  • Physical fatigue
  • Burnout syndrome

Luckily there are some appropriate measures we can take to prevent burnout from occurring. Below is a list of options available for you to try. Everyone will have different ways that support recovery but even the smallest of steps will go a long way in restoring your balance, energy and love for life.


Create a healthy routine

Because we aren’t used to COVID routines it is crucial to create a routine that comes close to your pre-lockdown routine. Ensuring that you go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time goes a long way in establishing a routine that works best for you. Experts also suggest that you create time for pleasurable activities as well as time for educational activities. This has been known to alleviate some of the depression symptoms that go along with the current situation at hand.

Get to know yourself a little better

For many, this is the first encounter with a global pandemic or lockdown which means that everyone will have a different response to what is currently going on. Cultivate a strong relationship with yourself by “checking in” on yourself every now and again, which simply helps to create a little self-awareness. Pay attention to your stress triggers and establish where your limits are.

Self-compassion goes a long way

Compulsively being hard on yourself will add a greater deal of stress, so give yourself some space for extra thoughts or emotions. Mistakes are inevitable, showing yourself some kindness during this time is a necessity. Carve time out for yourself, like taking a warm bath or a phone call with a good friend.

Prioritize mindfulness and rest

Getting enough rest is crucial to prevent burnout. Taking frequent breaks in your day builds strong resilience and they can be short and sweet. When you start feeling overwhelmed, take some deep breaths to calm the central nervous system. Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can create profoundly relaxing environments. It reduces stress and anxiety, lifts your mood and increases your well-being significantly.

Get some exercise

When you engage in physical activities your body releases natural feel-good endorphins that help to manage stress levels and fatigue. Make some time during your day for exercise, you don’t need an overly excessive gym schedule to reap the benefits of these physical activities. Take a walk, do some yoga or whatever you prefer.

Connect or disconnect from others

As humans, we are wired for a human to human connection. These days we utilize every available tool to remain in touch with family and friends. Although virtual social encounters are not the same, they still help in managing stress or burnout. If you happen to have friends or family that tend to drain your energy, it’s OK for you to protect yourself by setting some boundaries.

Mindfulness exercises to try when you are overstressed

One of the easiest ways of practising to be mindful is to simply start focusing on your breathing. This will feed your brain with some much-needed oxygen and keep your mind focused on one activity.

Some techniques include:

  • Find a quiet space in your home where you can sit for a few minutes and close your eyes to prevent distractions
  • Relax your body as much as possible, releasing tension in your shoulders. Focus on your breathing, breathing in and out mindfully
  • If you find your mind wandering off you can bring yourself back by repeating “I breathe in, I breathe out” focusing on finding your calm space when you breathe in and letting go of your stress when you breathe out
  • If your thoughts distract you, simply observe them and return your attention on your breathing exercise

The power of power naps

If you find yourself with a spare twenty minutes, consider taking a power nap that will boost your energy and efficiency on the job. Find yourself a quiet spot in your house, set the alarm and try your best to silence your mind and simply start focusing on your breathing. This should do the trick in slowing down your heartbeat and getting you as comfortable as can be to rejuvenate your energy levels.

The best time to take a quick powernap is in the early afternoon when your concentration and focus starts to drop. Over-napping will leave you even more tired and exhausted than you already were so stick to 20 minutes.


The world is a scary and stressful place right now. Some days feel more difficult than others. However, there are certain actions you could take to prevent burnout. Hopefully, after reading this you will have some more insight on how to prevent burnout and the signs and symptoms thereof. If you feel that you need professional help, contact us today. Zwavelstream clinic will give you the power to preserve your mental health in the long run. Here you will be met by our warm and friendly team of professionals. We offer you patient & family-centred support where we are fully committed to helping you on your path to restoration.

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