Dr Michelle O'Driscoll: Feeling burned out or blessed during this lockdown?

People are experiencing different responses to the latest lockdown, as Dr Michelle O'Driscoll explains
Dr Michelle O'Driscoll: Feeling burned out or blessed during this lockdown?

Make your physical and mental health a priority regardless of where you find yourself, this January, says Dr Michelle O'Driscoll. Picture: Stock

DEJA-VU brought to a whole new level, except this time, the evenings are dark and the weather is dreary. Lockdown 3.0, not so nice to see you!

If you told us last March that come January we would be back to this situation, we possibly wouldn’t have been able to find a way to keep ploughing through. There’s a reason we’re not able to see into the future! Thankfully, this sense of being right back where we started is somewhat combatted by the hope provided by vaccinations, the light at the end of the tunnel.

Although we’re fighting a common enemy, we’re not all experiencing the fight in the same way.

Every experience is different, and the things we’re struggling with within our family bubbles, or within our own minds vary greatly. Needless to say, this lockdown is taking its toll on the nation’s spirit. The types of responses that are being experienced can be categorised into the 4 B’s. Which one are you feeling right now?

Boredom – This is the person with the itch, the urge to break out from the shackles of lockdown, go wild and get a meal out or something equally radical! That’s not to say they’ll do any such thing, but the part they’re finding most difficult is the lack of engagement, purpose or routine. They’ve run out of house projects to take on, and Netflix is seeming very mundane. For these people, they know what they’ve got to do, but are struggling to fil their spare time sufficiently. 

Connection is what they crave the most, longing for nights of conversation and making of memories.

Some people are feeling the effects of juggling it all for so long now, says Michelle.
Some people are feeling the effects of juggling it all for so long now, says Michelle.

Burnout – some are really now experiencing the effects of juggling it all for so long. They possibly never went back down to their baseline level of stress after the previous lockdowns, and had a continuous low level of excess adrenaline running in the background. 

This lockdown is only serving to heighten this to levels that are leading to feeling frustrated, being unable to concentrate, anxiety and low mood. 

Like a car with low petrol levels, being burnt out can feel like running on fumes.

Breakdown – for many, the things being asked of them right now are beyond anything that would be considered reasonable in an ordinary world. But where we’re currently at, everybody is being pushed to their limits, some more so than others. 

For some, it can all come to a head, and cause feelings of overwhelm, acute stress, and even physical illness. 

It’s normal, natural, to be expected, considering the circumstance it’s vital that help is sought.

Blessed – For a select few, there is a feeling of gratitude and appreciation through all this, that they’re lucky enough to be safe, healthy and well, and so are their families. It can be difficult to witness the struggles of others if this is the case for you. Many have voiced feelings of guilt for feeling sheltered from the storm, and for not being as badly impacted as others they know.

Like all emotions, these categories shift, flux, alternate. They can lurk in the background or flatten you when you least expect it. 

Sometimes, there can be a combination of B’s — burnout leading to breakdown, burnout but blessed, blessed but bored.

The better you understand how you’re feeling during this lockdown, the more likely you’re going to be able to be to handle it.

Bored? Take on a new challenge relating to fitness or health. Spend time calling or texting others. Burnt out? Review your schedule and what you’re expecting of yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Breakdown? Reach out ASAP. Don’t wait for somebody to discover how bad things have become for you. And blessed? Continue to be so, without guilt for feeling this way. You being blessed does not change the bigger picture. If anything, you’ll be in a better headspace to reach out and offer help to others.

Make your physical and mental health a priority regardless of where you find yourself, and trust that there will once more be life after lockdown — until then, we must continue to look after ourselves and one another.

Hang in there!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr Michelle O’Driscoll is a pharmacist, researcher and founder of InTuition, a health and wellness education company. Her research lies in the area of mental health education, and through her company InTuition she delivers health promotion workshops to corporate and academic organisations nationally. See www.intuition.ie and @intuitionhealthandwellness

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