Mitigating Pandemic Burnout

​We've all been weathering the impact of a two-year pandemic that continues to affect our lives and requires constant adaptations. Childcare, eldercare, social connections, travel, conferences, and our general way of life has changed. Even the most resilient individuals working in healthcare and education are struggling with some level of burnout. The intensity of caring for patients during a pandemic, the demands often exceeding the staffing resources, constant changes, the unexpected deaths related to COVID, and level of emotional exhaustion is real. Although the professional dedication, commitment, and ability to perform is high, there is a fatigue that we all feel.

According to Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter in Reversing Burnout, mitigating or reversing the impact of burnout and "rekindling" our passion for our work requires both a personal and systematic strategy. We must identify workplace frustrations and on a personal level, implement strategies for intentional self-care.

Here are 4 tips to keep in mind as we continue down this path:

  1. Engage in conversations with coworkers. Acknowledging the emotional impact and normalizing discussions about mental health and well-being are essential to help us get through this period.
  2. Learn about resources when colleagues are struggling. While some are struggling with depression, grief, and anxiety, others are languishing.
  3. Look for the good. We have evidenced great resilience in our adaptations and hopefully, we can experience posttraumatic growth from this journey.
  4. Participate in activities that help you refresh. Walking, structured exercise, listening to music, sports, connecting with others, mindfulness, or whatever helps you recharge and re-energize.

"Beating burnout is not just a matter of reducing the number of negatives," notes Maslach and Lietner. "Instead, it is often more useful to think about increasing the number of positives, and of building the opposite of burnout, engagement. When burnout is counteracted with engagement, exhaustion is replaced with enthusiasm, bitterness with compassion, and anxiety with efficacy."

The Workgroup Dynamics services of Work/Life Connections-EAP can assist your department or workgroup with facilitating discussions, acknowledging the emotional impact, encouraging self-care, learning strategies for coping, & educating Vanderbilt employees about enhancing their well-being as well as mitigating the impact of burnout. Call 615-936-1327 to consult about an intervention.

Reference: Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2005). Reversing Burnout. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 3(4), 43–49.