Great Britain

North-East feeling pandemic burnout despite end in sight

AS the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown approaches, people are feeling frazzled and burnt out despite vaccines and an end to lockdown on the horizon.

Burnout occurs after a prolonged stressful situation, with many in the North-East feeling beat-down by the pandemic and extra demands it has brought.

If you are feeling frazzled and struggling to sleep, depressed and exhausted, or all of the above, you may be experiencing burnout.

One County Durham woman, who did not want to be named, feels like she had no choice but to quit her decades-long career in a school when she began caring for her mum who had been critically ill in hospital.

While her brother lives with her mum and is able to help around the home, the woman must take care of her mum's personal needs after being advised not to hire help due to the risk of Covid.

She said: "I'm leaving because of the pandemic. I have been a teaching assistant for 30 years and at the same school for 22, but I'm exhausted and concerned about the risk to my mum.

"I'm not just in a room with 33 children but I'm in a room with 33 families. I'm not an anxious person, if there is a problem I find a solution, but I'm more anxious now than ever.

"I have a full time job, a family and care for my mum. My daughter has MS and has just had her second child. There comes a point you have to stop. I was even feeling unwell, these things have a physical manifestation as well as mental.

"I do think children should be in school but when you are in a situation like I am, my job was having a negative effect. It's upsetting giving up my career but it has been so hard. I also feel like I'm letting the children down."

The woman, who says she is not yet ready to retire, has found a new job with flexible hours so she can work from home and care for her mum.

Dawn Dunn, who would be alone if not for her son returning from London while working from home, found herself working from dawn to dusk and staring out of the window for extended periods of time through the day.

She said: "I was working until it was time for bed but wasn't being as productive. I felt like I couldn't come away from my desk because there was no reason why I couldn't answer the next person's Zoom call.

"My job is really social but Zoom can never replace real conversations. I'm fatigued by video chat."

Ms Dunn, a keen runner, has had little respite from lockdown due to an injury causing her pain "around the house nevermind when exercising".

She is also concerned for life after lockdown, fearing the pandemic has caused permanent damage to both high streets and the way people interact with each other.

It comes after last month's research by trade union Unison that revealed huge strain on women working during the Covid crisis, with nearly two thirds not sleeping well, more than half (54 per cent) not taking regular breaks and a significant number (56 per cent) feeling stressed most of the time.

Simon Davidson, chief executive of mental health charity Darlington Mind says it is also the uncertainly that leads to helplessness and burnout.

He said: "If we know something is finite, we can deal with it. But there's an extended uncertainly about jobs, home schooling and fear of losing loved ones. It's like Groundhog Day. This pushes a lot of people the limits.

"But the best things to do are not new things, they are the same things you should be doing to keep healthy - eat and sleep well, exercise, have human interaction."

Mr Davidson urges people to join a befriending scheme or do something to help others, adding: "This give you a boost and you'll probably be talking about something other than the pandemic or work."

The first phase of Covid restrictions easing begins next week, March 8, while all are expected to have been lifted by June 21.

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