How to Combat the Stress and Burnout of the Pandemic
Errol Buntuyan, M.D., FAAFP
With the end of the mask mandate and the Hawai‘i Safe Travels program, it seems much of life is back to a new normal. We are remaining vigilant of the news of rising COVID cases, aware of coming variants and mindful of the safety precautions of masking, vaccinations, testing and treatments (See box [below]] on a new oral treatment available on Maui). It seems many people are prepared and feeling secure in what to do if they have a COVID exposure or infection. After two years, many are confident they know the drill.
What remains after two years is a sense of exhaustion, weariness and burnout. Aside from the stress of the COVID pandemic, the recent news of the ongoing war in Europe, the rising gas and housing prices, the increased volume of people coming to our island, the demand on our local resources and the worries of an uncertain financial future are all weighing heavy on many of our hearts and minds. These ongoing issues in our world (COVID, politics, economy, etc.) are not going to be a ‘quick fix’ and will take many more months to resolve.
How do these stressors and burnout manifest in our lives? Poor quality of work at our jobs, low morale, absenteeism (calling in sick), turnover at work (quitting or resigning), health problems, depression and family problems are the most common signs and symptoms of stress and burnout we see in our community today.
How do we take care and nurture ourselves through this all? We must focus on the following individual strategies to combat this weariness and burnout.
IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES
Revisit what is important to you and integrate what you value most in your life.
Get rid of the myth of delayed gratification. We often hold off on a reward for ourselves until things get better in a week or month or longer. The truth is, as evidenced by the last two years of the pandemic, there is always something that comes up to potentially delay your goals and desires. Take that time off, spend time with your family and friends, get your rest.
Integrate and balance your personal and professional life. Many have poured all their energies into their jobs, doing double shifts, working overtime and not finding time for themselves. It is important to strike a balance.
IMPROVE THE MEANING IN YOUR WORK
Rediscover the meaning and purpose of your work. Many find the people they work with, the satisfaction of completing their daily tasks or the mission of their company are what brings value to their jobs.
INVEST IN PERSONAL WELLNESS ACTIVITIES
Notice the signs and symptoms of stress and burnout and admit to it. Many of us Filipinos are culturally taught to stay tough and deny we are overburdened. We often downplay the amount of stress we are truly under.
Practice self-care by exercising, getting sleep, eating healthy and receiving regular medical care.
Nurture your relationships by connecting with colleagues and seek friendships both new and old.
Develop your religious/spiritual practices.
Take time to pursue your personal interests and hobbies.
Utilize mindfulness. Use apps like Calm, Headspace or Wobot that are designed to help with this awareness.
As we emerge out of the pandemic into this new normal, we find ourselves exhausted and continuing to face more developing challenges. Because fixing our world problems takes time, using these individual strategies to combat our stress and burnout is something we can do today. Take a moment to honestly determine your own signs of stress or burnout and develop an action plan. We can almost immediately feel better by taking these actions today as we face the ongoing changes and uncertainties of tomorrow.
Errol Buntuyan, M.D. is a Family Medicine Practitioner and the Physician in Charge of Maui Primary Care at Kaiser Permanente. Born in Quezon City and raised in Southern California, he has been practicing medicine on Maui since 2007. Dr. Buntuyan promotes whole food, plant based nutrition, regular physical activity, stress mindfulness and sleep hygiene as keys to optimum health and wellness. He enjoys cooking, playing tennis and travel.