2021 has got off to a shaky but not unexpected start, and earlier this week, parents across the UK were given 12 hours notice that they need to homeschool alongside their usual job. The first time around, more families had at least one parent furloughed, making it easier to juggle school/childcare with work. I’ve spoken to a number of parents who haven’t been so lucky over the past year. They’ve done their best to make sure that their children don’t miss out on their education, whilst keeping to their usual working hours. That’s meant catching up late into the evening or at the weekend, and no recovery time at all.
Aside from the short notice, this time seems more difficult. The winter weather doesn’t make it easy for children to play outside, and let’s face it, we’ve all had a year of high stress levels already. Some parents are also trying to recover from Covid, whilst homeschooling and working at the same time. This is a ticking timebomb, as we know that many major illnesses can start to manifest after a period of chronic stress. But this blog is more to do with the more immediate problem of burnout which is now affecting people from all walks of life.
What Is Burnout?
Whilst the WHO defines burnout as being purely work-related, my definition is somewhat different. To me, ‘burnout’ is where chronic stress has had such an impact upon a person that their systems can no longer function normally. It’s the physical equivalent of a nervous breakdown, and although the warning signs are often there, we’re usually too busy to notice them until it’s too late. By then the body has no choice but to force the brakes on in the form of overwhelming exhaustion, which can sometimes develop into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia. Coming back from these can be a very long and difficult journey, so it’s far better to know what to look for, and be more proactive in avoiding burnout wherever you can.
Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for:
- Feeling disproportionately tired.
- Disturbed sleep, especially being wide awake in the early hours.
- Craving caffeine, salt, or sugary foods.
- Catching more infections than usual.
- Mouth ulcers.
- Changes in mood, such as being more tearful than usual.
- Feeling ‘disconnected’ or apathetic.
- Feeling nauseous when you first wake up, or not wanting breakfast.
- Sharp pains between your shoulderblades.
- Water retention.
What To Do If You’re Noticing Signs Of Burnout
Put some corrective measures in place as quickly as possible! Without panicking or putting even more pressure on yourself, think about how you’re spending each day and whether any tasks can be delegated, done more efficiently, or dropped altogether. Look at ways of stepping up your self care, even if they’re relatively small, and ask those around you for moral support or practical help.
You can find Ten Easy Ways To Avoid Burnout in my next blog here.
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