Burnout is making it harder to do the things we need to do to save and restore our democracy. Burnout is the condition of being unable to cope with prolonged stress. We’ve all been stressed since 2016 and particularly stressed since the start of the pandemic.
Burnout is all around us. It is like we’re living in a forest right after the forest fire. All we see are the blackened husks of trees. All we hear is the crunch of ash beneath our feet. All we smell is the residual smoke. All we feel is the numbed pain of grief for what once was.
And that is the funny thing, isn’t it? We aren’t collectively grieving the almost one million official deaths from #COVID19. Thanks MAGA. Keeping us divided over the mitigation efforts of vaxxing, masking, and distancing keeps prevents us from collectively grieving because we aren’t collectively doing anything but fighting. Even though, Biden started off his administration by holding a national memorial service for the 500,000 dead up to that point. There was a moment there when it felt like we might, just might, come together as a country, but oops the GQP noped out on that one, too.
We’re burned out about #COVID19, the fight over mask and vaxx mandates by governments or workplaces. We’re burned out on trying to get Biden’s agenda passed. We’re burned out about the accusations and bogus counter accusations used to just muddy the water and keep us from moving forward. We’re burned out by the fight over the Big Lie. We’re burned out by the struggle for voting rights. We’re burned out about abortion, guns, LGBTQ+ rights, mass shootings, the 6 January Insurrection, and everything else big and small plaguing the country.
Let me know in the comments what’s got you burned out, especially if I’ve missed it in the list.
What is Burnout?
Let’s see who among us is burned out by answering these three simple questions:
- Do you feel depleted or exhausted or just lacking energy in one or more areas of your life?
- Are you attempting to distance yourself from one or more issues in your life, especially by using sarcasm and cynicism or just feeling negative about it or them?
- Are you feeling like it is difficult or impossible to achieve your goals or desired outcomes in these areas of your life?
Seriously, are you feeling hopeless about #COVID19, politics, the elections, climate change, war with Russia, investigations, and everything else we seem to disagree on in the country? Well, then brother and sisters, you are not alone. You are one of the many because according to the APA’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey, 60% of those surveyed reported a lack of motivation, interest, energy, or effort at work. Forty-four percent reported feeling physical fatigue and a third reported feeling cognitive weariness and emotional exhaustion. These are all up substantially from 2019.
We can see the same effects in other polls, too. In January the results of the Global Strategy Group/GBAO/ Navigator Research survey were released. They found that 52% of Americans were frustrated by politics. This reaction broke down by political affiliation with 78% of Republicans, 55% of independents, and 29% of Democrats reporting feeling frustrated by politics.
Frankly, I’m shocked that it is only a third of Democrats and four-fifths of Republicans. I woulda thought it the other way round what with all the Republican success in gutting abortion rights, rolling back LGBTQ+ rights, stymying Biden’s legislative agenda, and attacking school boards and local health authorities. I guess, it only goes to show that the Republican propaganda machine is being very successful in keeping the base feeling frustrated and ornery.
Reacting to Burnout
A common reaction to burnout is to give up and quit. Why not? One cause of burnout is feeling like the situation is hopeless or there’s nothing you can do to change it. You’re having emotions that, for whatever reason, you cannot process adequately. A perfectly reasonable thing to do under those circumstances is quit.
Unfortunately, burnout adds a bit of drama to a lot of quitting, right? Everyone remembers Steven Slater. You don’t? I bet you remember the flight attendant who announced over the intercom that he quit as the flight rolled to a stop, grabbed a few cans of beer, popped the emergency exit, and slid down to the tarmac, though right?
That guy was burned out. Had he realized it sooner, he might coulda quit in a way that didn’t make his career nearly impossible to resurrect.
Right now, we’re all Steven Slater. The GQP is piling on the stressors. They’re guaranteeing that the pandemic won’t be ending this year by continuing their disinformation campaign about all things #COVID19. They are continuing to propagate the Big Lie and using it to pass voter suppression and nullification legislation. They’re acting on their voter nullification legislation. MAGA is becoming increasingly unhinged and acting out in public over every little slight that Tucker Carlson et al. imagines that they’ve endured. The Congressional Republicans have noped child poverty into doubling and have thwarted all legislation. The list is endless, because they want us to feel like we’re drowning.
Coping with Burnout
So, here’s what you need to do to survive our extraordinary times without giving up and continuing not only to fight for our democracy, but also, probably chalk up one in the win column:
- TAKE TIME OUT. Pace yourself. Schedule vacations from political news and social media. The political world is continue to turn whether you post that meme with the sick burn in it or not. You don’t need to know about every little thing that Laura Ingraham says and does on her show. Screaming at Josh Rogan isn’t going to actually stop him from keeping MAGA agitated. You’re important. We need you in the fight, but it’s a marathon, so pace yourself.
- BECOME A HELPER. Remember Mr. Roger’s advice to look for the helpers? The corollary is to look for ways to be a helper. A good way to cut your stress is to do something for someone else. Make it a habit to smile at people during the day. It will help you feel better, and them, too. Open the door for someone. Help them carry something heavy or awkward. If you have the time in your schedule, volunteer for an organization that addresses a cause you believe in.
- BLOG ABOUT IT. Probably better to write a journal, really, but either way, one of the causes of burnout is sitting on a heap of unprocessed pent up emotion. So unpent it. Let it out. A really safe way to do that is to start writing. Kick it old school and start a blog. Or go real old school and get a paper journal and pen. Seriously. It’s gotten me through some of my worst times.
- FIND SOME BALANCE. Let something go. If you’re stressed out, you’re probably doing too much. Find some way to lighten the load. Get some balance back in your life. Given the way my weeks and days go, scheduling has been a godsend. I am now doing my laundry twice a week, and I reward myself by watching a TV show while the washer runs. I write blog posts during smaller blocks of time, and schedule them for posting when they’re done. I even schedule when I check and respond to email. My life is much better now, and I’m a hopeless procrastinator.
- EXERCISE. Nothing burns cortisol, the stress hormone, like exercise. I know, something else to schedule, but so worth it. Just walking will help. And, bonus, if you exercise with your spouse, you’ll feel closer together and it will improve your relationship. If you exercise with a friend, you’ll have a much stronger friendship.
- CONTRIBUTE TO OUR POLITICAL SITUATION in some way other than meming on social media. Write a letter to the editor. Make a regular contribution to a political organization or politician. Volunteer for a campaign or political organization. Join an Indivisible group. Doing something effective to help the situation will help you feel like you’re more in control.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do to help you cope with our horrific national situation, so please feel free to add to it in the comments! Let us know what you’re doing to cope with all the crazy shit that is going on around us… in the comments. It’s good for you. It’ll help you feel less stressed, you know.
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Categories: Cognitive Psychology