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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Avoiding Emotional Burnout This Winter

Jan 02, 2021 12:01AM ● By Deb Taylor

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Even after the pandemic began in March 2020, no one could have predicted just how much our lives would be affected and uprooted by the events of the year in ways unique to each of us. And though there is hopeful news of a vaccine, this winter will still see many of the same restrictions and high risk of infection, with the added stress a Minnesota winter brings. So, as we approach an extra stressful, socially-distanced winter season, it’s important to be mindful of the ways we can help combat the burnout it might bring.

Check in with family, friends and neighbors. Remember that social distancing does not apply to phone and video calls. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of unity and community. Experts agree social support is critical at this time. Identify your support systems and do not be afraid to reach out to them more often than normal.

In addition to your own emotional wellbeing, think of those in your life who may be especially isolated due to age, illness or any number of reasons. Now that we have all had a taste of isolation, we’ve seen just how disheartening and lonely it can be, and for many, this form of isolation was a reality even before the pandemic set in. Oftentimes it is the smallest points of connection that make a world of difference for someone struggling with loneliness, especially for those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Make sure your social distancing does not equal social isolation.

Use this time as an opportunity to embrace new tech to connect. The pandemic has forced many of us to adopt virtual communication technology faster than we ever expected. It has become apparent that these tools are not going anywhere anytime soon, so take this opportunity to embrace them as a resource for safely connecting with your loved ones. Take advantage of tools like FaceTime and Zoom, particularly on holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. And if you are someone who has become comfortable with these platforms, consider offering to guide others in your life through them as best you can. Remember that for many of us, social networking and video chatting tools have become somewhat second nature, but it is a language many of our loved ones just have not had the resources to learn. Often what we perceive as reluctance in older family and friends to adopt newer technology is really just inexperience and self-doubt.

Know that it is okay to have bad days. Whether it is the heartbreaking loss of life or isolation from the people and activities that bring us joy, all of us have felt the effects of this pandemic. It is understandable that we would feel a little more overwhelmed, fatigued, frustrated or just plain down. This is okay. If you are feeling negative, try to identify where it might be coming from in that moment. That mindfulness can make it much easier to reach out to your loved ones and talk it through as during this time, it is likely they will have felt the same at some point.

Beyond local community, there are hundreds of free online support groups offered from sites like SupportGroupsCentral.com and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.org/Support-Education/Support-Groups), including ones specific to COVID-19.

Go easy on yourself. It is important to remember we are living in extraordinary times. You cannot judge yourself against the same standards you normally would. Many of us have found that though we have seemingly more free time at home, we may end up doing less of the things that bring us a sense of accomplishment, like practicing a creative hobby, working on physical fitness or learning a new skill. This is completely normal and understandable. With societal anxiety and pandemic fatigue at an all-time high on top of our own complex struggles, 2020 was not the year to beat ourselves up for not meeting personal goals.

Be mindful of the ways you are speaking to yourself. Our conscious and unconscious inner dialogue goes a long way toward our daily mental health, especially when we are forced to spend more time alone. So, practice a little self-forgiveness and remind yourself that it is hard enough without adding more pressure to yourself. Approach this difficult winter season with compassion and humor. Be patient with yourself and others. Lean into the things that are keeping you sane and bringing you joy. Know that it is alright to be struggling as long as we can identify those struggles and find support. Let’s continue to take care of each other by making safe decisions without losing our connections to community and family.

Deb Taylor is the CEO of Senior Community Services, a local nonprofit that helps older adults and caregivers navigate aging to maintain independence and quality of life. To learn more, visit SeniorCommunity.org.
Read the full September 2021 Magazine