Am I having Pandemic Burnout? Signs of Covid-19 Fatigue and How to Recover When the Crisis Isn’t Over

Health professionals have long talked about the risks of burnout at work and how chronic on-the-job stress can impact our emotional and physical health. But, since the pandemic began, we have all experienced a different kind of burnout. Pandemic Burnout. That said, how is Covid fatigue different from regular burnout? How can we deal with it while the crisis is still going on?

First, let’s consider what burnout really is. Burnout is the emotional or physical reaction to long-term chronic stress, normally job-related. It can be characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and even feelings of reduced ability.

It’s clear that the pandemic is now considered a long-term event as we enter our second year of quarantines, shut-downs, and restrictions around the world. We’re all feeling it.

For those of us who’ve always worked in high-stress jobs to begin with, the feeling of Covid fatigue is a familiar one. We know how it feels to push ourselves to the limit, to give more than we have, and keep giving more after that.

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Clearly, with the pandemic comes added risk of pulling double duty by working from home and helping kids with their homework is clear. Add to that a heavier workload brought on by having to re-learn a job or move to virtual delivery of a classroom or service. Now, sprinkle in an unhealthy lifestyle spurred on by constant food deliveries, Netflix binging, and a lack of exercise.

Never mind that many of us type-As already struggle with a high intensity personality that tends to be unforgiving to ourselves. Now, you’ve got yourself some proper pandemic burnout.

In normal times, burnout can be a symptom of an unhealthy workplace complicated by things like poor communication with your supervisor or boss, dealing with unreasonable time pressures, not having enough clarity in your role, or having an unmanageable workload.

When several of these things are present, your ability to cope can become compromised and cracks can begin to show in your productivity. For most of us, these are uncertain times career-wise. The pressure is real. The anxiety of not knowing what comes next, is even more so.

Signs and symptoms of burnout

Let’s look deeper into what it looks and feels like to experience a burnout. Here are eleven common signs:

  • You always feel exhausted
  • You start to feel less capable or productive
  • You dread going to work
  • You don’t feel any satisfaction from what you’re doing
  • You start to hate your job
  • Your job is taking a toll on your health and your life
  • You feel alienated from your normal activities
  • You start to have physical symptoms like headaches or stomach issues
  • You feel drained, unable to cope emotionally, or have no energy
  • You have difficulty concentrating
  • You feel negative about the work you need to do

Are you feeling any of these? The main reason burnout develops over time is that our bodies and minds are exposed to prolonged periods of stress. And, clearly the pandemic has been stressful for everyone and is well… prolonged.

But, more than that, the way we see the world and think about ourselves also plays a big role in how we cope with stress. Our personality traits and thought patterns can work against us as we put too much pressure on ourselves to perform or be perfect. This is especially true in times of added pressure. Our outlook can affect the way we see the eventual outcome, and even the present moment.

In fact, perfectionism isn’t your friend. It’s the reason you take on too much and end up exhausted or drained. What’s more, pessimism can also trigger burnout. When you see the world in a negative light, it may be difficult to feel gratitude and remain optimistic in the face of high stress and unusually busy work times.

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This is when burnout creeps up on you.

The five stages of burnout

There are essentially five stages of burnout. Consider these as highly relevant to Covid fatigue as well.

Stage 1: You feel stressed out but satisfied about the work you do. You take on the responsibility willingly, and feel optimistic.

Stage 2: You feel more stressed then usual, and there some physical, mental, or emotional symptoms are appearing, such as difficulty focusing, irritability, dissatisfaction in your job, lack of sleep, lack of appetite, grinding teeth at night, headaches, or heart palpitations.

Stage 3: You feel chronically stressed, have a general lack motivation and often feel the following: lack of interest in your hobbies, missed deadlines, always tired, always feeling sick, often procrastinating, feeling resentful, socially withdrawn, feeling panic or anxiety, increased used of alcohol or drugs and caffeine.

Stage 4: You find it difficult to cope most days, have low tolerance for stressful situations, you feel empty and pessimistic, you have self-doubt and begin to socially isolate. You feel like dropping out of society, you neglect your personal needs.

Stage 5: You become habitually burned-out and have chronic sadness, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. You don’t feel able to manage any of these symptoms or feelings any more.

How can I recover from burnout?

To help you deal with Covid burnout, here are a few ways you can start the recovery process. And if you’re not sure if you’re there yet, these tips can help prevent it.

  • Be authentic and honest with yourself about how you feel and how you’re coping.
  • Take a break or time off from work to restore balance. Just do it!
  • Disconnect from tech like emails and cell phones. Avoid information overload.
  • Rethink your values and goals: What do you want out of life? Out of your job?
  • Focus on self care activities like eating well, hydrating, sleeping, and exercising.
  • Say no when you need to and set boundaries (at work and at home).
  • Get help: ask for counseling, support from friends and family, talk to your Dr.
  • Shift your mindset: take responsibility for your choices, take action on your future. Make that change you’ve been putting off.
  • Consider all of your options: Are you thinking about a new career? Ready to talk about a change in work conditions? Interested in a new role or schedule? Write it out.

Pandemic Fatigue is new, but burnout isn’t. The best way to start healing from chronic stress and overwhelm is to first acknowledge your feelings. It’s okay to admit when you’ve had enough of something and you need a change or a break. If you feel you can’t share this at work, reach out for help outside of it. Find a counselor or therapist. Ask a friend or family member to talk. Do what you need to do to survive this.

Have empathy and compassion for yourself. Despite the pressure you may be putting on yourself or others may be placing on you, you are not a robot. You deserve to be treated with respect and if you’re not getting what you need from your employer, it may be time to discuss it or consider your options. Either way, give yourself the kindness others may not be giving you. Take a moment for you and put yourself first for a chance.

Reframe your thinking. In normal times, you may be able to handle a lot but this is pandemic time. Recognize that the pressure on families right now is huge. Take breaks when needed. Use the time to take care of you. Try to have fun and use humour when you can. The important thing is to admit that you may be at your limit and that’s okay.

Find gratitude in what you have. The best way to start feeling like you have a lot is to acknowledge what you already have rather than focusing on what you don’t. Make a list of the things you’re grateful for and review it every morning before you start work.

Stay flexible – things change quickly. Be open to unexpected changes in life, especially right now. One of the ways you can do that is by being in the moment, and living one day at a time. Today, you’ll get through it. Tomorrow, you’ll see how you feel.

Copyright Michelle Thompson 2021. Copyright Authentic World Inc 2021.


My name is Michelle. I have over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator, zen meditator, and public educator. I’ve helped thousands of people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated dozens of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work and learned how to get out of my own way and create an authentic meaningful life for myself. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for learning these important life skills.


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Published by Coach Michelle

Founder, Authentic World Inc

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