5 ways to cope with COVID burnout and exhaustion

While you love your family and have relished the opportunity to work from home so you can be with them, we know that after 137 days of lockdown restrictions, and no end in sight, you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked and tired to the point where you think you’re going to crack. You’ve heard moms talk about “burnout” and “COVID fatigue”. But what’s the difference, how can you tell if this is what you’re feeling, and what can you do to cope?

ALSO SEE: Moms aren’t coping with the new normal – and that’s okay


Life coach and author, Judy Klipin says we get burnout when we push ourselves to do things that are wrong for us – we take on too much, we rest too little and pretend to be OKAY when we are anything but.

She adds that burnout is also a result of not having strong and clear boundaries, of wanting to please others at our own expense, of pushing ourselves to the brink in our quest to be noticed, appreciated and valued.

COVID fatigue

COVID fatigue, on the other hand, is a response to the ongoing anxiety, stress and overwhelm that’s triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s not something we have had any part in contracting, she says – “it’s a consequence of a situation that’s been imposed on us and that we have limited choice and control over.”

Ironically, while the underlying causes of our suffering may differ, Judy explains how we feel is very similar. For example:

  • What used to just irritate you, like the kids leaving their empty tea cups all over the house or your partner’s snoring, now makes your blood boil.
  • What used to just worry you, for example, your child complaining of a sore tummy, now turns to panic.
  • You struggle to concentrate or focus on one task at a time.
  • You crave sweet things, like chocolate, and caffeine.
  • You’ve withdrawn from your partner – you just can’t deal with his neediness, too.
  • You’re not sleeping well, or when you do, you don’t wake up refreshed.
  • You’re tired all the time and even getting up off the couch to feed the dog or to go to the shops is a major effort.

In other words, both burnout and COVID fatigue compromises us, affecting our ability to enjoy and feel satisfied with our lives. “What used to feel meaningful and exciting now feels pointless, and even boring,” says Judy.

In her book, Recover from Burnout, she describes burnout as an “existential emergency”. However, she’s points out that what we’re all experiencing as “COVID fatigue” is also an emergency.

“We’re questioning everything we’ve ever known or expected of the world, and ourselves. It’s stressful, frightening, exhausting and overwhelming, and it’s making us feel just like we do when we are experiencing burnout,” she says.

How to ease burnout and fatigue

Just like burnout, Judy underlines the importance of addressing COVID fatigue so that it doesn’t turn into more serious conditions in the future, including depression, diabetes, and even divorce. She says that while there’s not many silver linings in the dark cloud of this pandemic, what we know about burnout can be applied to managing and treating COVID fatigue.

Here are Judy’s top 5 tips to cope with COVID fatigue:

  • Ask for help whenever and wherever you can
  • Push yourself less and rest more
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Show compassion to others
  • Lower your expectations and celebrate that you’re surviving.

More about the expert:

Judy Klipin specializes in working with people who are exhausted and overwhelmed because they struggle with asking for help, feel responsible for everything and everyone around them, and tend to put themselves last. For more tools and tips from Judy, including details of her book and her COVID fatigue support coaching, click here.

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