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Tips to overcome virtual fatigue and burnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Some symptoms of burnout include loss of sleep, difficulty shutting the brain off at the end of the day, feeling overwhelmed, and being impatient or irritable.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Virtual burnout is increasing among Americans amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to a survey by career website Monster. It found 69-percent of workers are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home. That's a 35-percent increase since early May. The survey also shows about 42-percent of workers who are still working from home are not planning to take time off or vacation time to decompress.

Some symptoms of burnout include loss of sleep, difficulty shutting the brain off at the end of the day, feeling overwhelmed, and being impatient or irritable. The World Health Organization describes burnout as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

There are several ways you can overcome virtual burnout, such as focusing on self-care, limiting screen time, and creating a well-balanced schedule. Some other tips include setting boundaries, making time for socially distant in-person hangouts, and being positive.

“We are in a virtual situation. When we add acceptance to it, it makes it more manageable,” said Shannon Englehorn, certified dialectical behavioral therapist and licensed clinical social worker with Novant Health Psychiatric Medicine in Kernersville. “If your brain is constantly plugged into a virtually environment, you're going to be exhausted. Just 5 minutes away for your eyes and your brain to rest at various points during the day can make a big difference in how fatigue you are at the end of that day.”

A recent Gallup poll shows 33-percent of U.S. workers are always working remotely, down from 51-percent in April amid the height of COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and schools. Nearly half of workers say they are concerned about contracting the virus at work, and most workers who have worked remotely during the pandemic want to continue doing so.

Whether you’re working from home or in-office, health experts say, burnout is still a possibility. If you’re experiencing burnout in the workplace, you should know when it’s time to reach out to a professional for help.

"Someone should reach out to a professional for help if they're feeling a sense of overwhelm, they're having low motivation, low interest in things that normally would bring them a sense of pleasure, difficulty with racing thoughts, and a feeling of daily monotony,” Englehorn said.

To learn more about overcoming burnout, visit the Novant Health website. If you’re in need of mental health services, you should talk to your primary care doctor or another health professional about mental health problems. 

If you do not have a health professional who is able to assist you, you can use the following resources to find help for yourself, your friends, your family, or your students:

  • Emergency Medical Services—911: If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate emergency assistance by calling 911, available 24 hours a day.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat: If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
  • SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727): Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.