In the past couple of weeks, many of us may have been hit with major pandemic fatigue. We’re burnt out. We were expected to be productive at work or to parent (often both) in very difficult and restrictive circumstances. The winter has been bleak, and even though the vaccines are bringing us some much-needed hope, our feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness seem to be swallowing many of our positive emotions.
It’s normal for burnout to occur after a period of chronic stress and uncertainty. Emotional endurance dwindles over time, and given the nature of the pandemic, we don’t have the same sense of security we could fall back on during pre-pandemic times. The traditional outlets — the gym, holidays, going out with friends, visiting family — have not been realistic options. Most of us have had to learn new ways to cope with everyday stress since our usual coping skills may not be working.
As we emerge (slowly!) from this social hibernation, it may be useful for some of us to set new goals or objectives. It’s true that goals may not be for everyone… For some people the mere word puts them off or causes feelings of pressure or failure. So other words that might resonate better include Wants, Strivings, Aspirations, Aims, Desires, Dreams, Hopes, Objectives…
These can be short-term or longer term, and the best way of establishing goals is by writing them down.
Firstly, try and identify 3 goals by asking yourself, ‘what would you like to be different in the future from how things are now?’. Goals should be future focused; positively framed; realistic; safe and achievable. Areas to focus on can be:
- School or Work
- Any Other (i.e. financial security, home/community)
Which one would you like to tackle first or feel is the most relevant or important?
Next, evaluate your goals. Rate the goals on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest, to indicate how much you currently feel you have achieved the goal.
The next step means putting the goals into action, preferably within the next 3 days. You might want to take small steps initially. Go for attainable, short-term rewards that give you a sense of achievement.
Monitor your progress. You should ideally do this on a weekly basis.
Also at this point, it is helpful to involve a supportive friend or someone you trust who you can share your goals, plans, actions and achievements with. This person can also help you develop strategies for attaining your goals. (This is where working with a counsellor can be helpful.)
Finally, make progress reports.
Be flexible with yourself. Goals can be modified, removed or added to, but this does not mean you are failing to achieve them. Look back to how you scaled your goal at the start, and update the rating now, a few weeks on.
When working with goals it is important you do them for yourself and NOT other people. For instance, ‘I want to be happier.’ Rather than ‘I want a particular person to like me.’
And don’t forget to reward yourself at the end…