4 Ways to Move Through Pandemic Exhaustion Burnout, the Freeze Response, and How to Cope…..

As I write this, we are more than thirteen months into pandemic life. Even as more and more people are getting vaccinated, and society is showing signs of opening back up, many of us feel more exhausted and more depleted now than we have from the start.

The term ‘burnout’ has been popping up often in conversations, commentary, and social media posts. The World Health Organization defines burnout as an occupational hazard that is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Check, check, check, am I right? But WHO also makes explicit that burnout refers exclusively to employment and should not be applied to other experiences. Surely, I can’t be the only one who fits these criteria in other parts of my life, as well? Everything feels harder; it all takes so much more effort. Whether I am working, or parenting, or trying to engage with other people, I am going through the motions with a distinct lack of joy, excitement, and — most significantly — energy.

When it comes to our work we may be burned out, but when it comes to the rest of our lives, something else is going on.

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“Breathing In, I Know I’m Alive. Breathing Out, I Smile To My Eyes.” ……

The below excerpt beautifully explains the workings of the mind when we are going through a difficult time in our lives and the chips are down.

Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of how the mind goes in this negative loop and gets carried away, which in turn intensifies the pain. We start creating situations in our mind that haven’t even happened, so there is a need to release our mind from this negative loop and live in the moment.

There is a Buddhist teaching found in the Sallatha Sutta, known as The Arrow. It says if an arrow hits you, you will feel pain in that part of your body where the arrow hit; and then if a second arrow comes and strikes exactly at the same spot, the pain will not be only double, it will become at least ten times more intense.

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