How to prevent and deal with emotional burnout in 2021

So, how are we feeling? Scared? Optimistic? Tired? No matter how we answer the question, I’m sure we can all agree that we are ready to move on from 2020. But moving on isn’t always easy; the ringing in of the new year does not wipe our emotional slates clean. Trauma is said to be like a wound; it has to be cared for to heal. So the next question is, how do we best care for ourselves heading into 2021? With help, help from our friends, our family, our mental health professionals and, a little help from ourselves. We had the opportunity to speak with one such mental health expert, LA-based licensed psychologist and university professor Erlanger A. Turner, PH.D., to find out how to prevent and deal with emotional burnout in 2021.

Although it may seem naive, how can we Maintain a Healthy level of positivity Heading into 2021?

It is important to identify positive coping mechanisms and maintain optimism in order to stay mentally healthy. Although it is essential to maintain a healthy balance of positivity, heading into 2021, you should be realistic about the challenges you may face //and also be proactive by developing a plan to help reduce stress. This plan should include a combination of social connection, emotional wellness, and having a regular self-care routine. 

Is it Healthy to Assume the worst and hope for the best?

Hope and optimism are significant for our physical and mental health. I think that when people assume the worst or tend to be pessimistic, it can be detrimental to their emotional health. According to psychological research, individuals who exhibit more optimism are more likely to have positive social relationships. The research on optimism also indicates that higher levels of optimism are associated with reduced stress and depression symptoms after experiencing negative life events. Given what we know about hope and optimism, it is important to avoid overly negative thinking or pessimism.

This year has been challenging for us Financially, Physically and Emotionally; in what ways can we Prevent/deal with our Emotional Burnout? 

Taking care of yourself emotionally is always important. However, preventing emotional burnout is even more critical now, given the limited ability for many of us to engage in our usual outlets, as a means to de-stress during the pandemic. There are a few things to consider when attempting to prevent and manage emotional burnout.

  • Identify a Self-Care Plan:
     There are different types of self-care practices, including emotional, social, spiritual, and physical. You should identify which practices are most helpful for you and try to engage in practicing self-care daily. This is very important for reducing stress and improving emotional wellness.

    For more tips, listen to my podcast, The Breakdown with Dr. Earl: A Mental Health Podcast. In the second episode of season 3, I talk with Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Robyn Gobin about how to practice self-care.
  • Use daily positive affirmations: 
    As a psychologist, I understand and teach people the connections between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. The way that you think has a powerful influence on your mood and behaviour. Using positive affirmations or positive self-talk can help maintain a positive outlook and mood. Using simple statements like, “today will be a good day” or “you have the ability to get through this” can help reduce emotional burnout.
  • Try mindfulness: 
    There is a lot of research on the benefits of mindfulness and how it can help reduce stress. Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present and bring awareness to your senses. There are books and apps available to help learn mindfulness strategies and guide individuals by practicing these skills. For example, one common app created by the US Department of Veteran Affairs is the Mindfulness Coach. You can search the app store on your phone for other options.
  • Seek therapy:
     Therapists can be a helpful tool for identifying sources of stress and emotional burnout. If you find yourself struggling, many psychologists and therapists are now offering telehealth or therapy online. Licensed mental health professionals can work with you to identify your areas of growth and strengths.

2020 saw citizens of 193 countries across seven continents become one global community. For better or for worse, we were unified because we were fighting one common enemy, Covid-19. A pandemic that forced us apart has inextricably bonded us through shared pain, frustration, loss and laughter. There’s no indication that 2021 will be easy, but we have a toolkit full of resources and support to make it easier to manage. As we move into this new year, we can feel comforted knowing that we do not have to deal with life’s challenges alone. Please stay safe and take care of yourself; you deserve it.