Are you exhausted? Would you feel better to know it’s not just you?

Come to find out that a good majority of my female peers feel the same. I’m sure there are plenty of males who do, too, but my conversations weren’t with them.

Let me tell you, it’s normal. Listening to friends recently, the stories – mine included – are all the same: a tidal wave of trials at work and home, juggled simultaneously with incredible worry while mustering the energy to deal with it all over again the next day. Indeed, many women pick up the majority of the homelife and family slack even when working full time.

This is compounded by the uncertainty of the future. Are we really through the worst of this pandemic or gearing up for a third wave? Would we be able to ride out another one? Can school get back on track? Will my kid get it back together? Can we sustain all these price increases?

I appreciate the camaraderie. So many of us – especially women – are in this together even if the particulars are unique. In March the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 55% of women and 38% of men have had a negative mental health impact due to the stress of COVID-19. I’m sure that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Burnout is more than mental fatigue and experts say it can lead to depression and anxiety. A number of recent articles say that new mental health concerns are emerging as a pandemic within this pandemic. The long-term consequences are huge.

Internist and primary-care doctor Lucy McBride wrote in The Atlantic on June 30 that “the symptoms of burnout have become medical. The work of living through a pandemic has been making us sick. As a primary-care doctor, I’m witnessing the physical-health toll of collective trauma – high blood pressure, headaches, herniated discs.”

And don’t tell me that some of the big social and political issues aren’t exacerbated by our collective mental state, continuously simmering at boiling point.

Health leaders are calling on more and better access to mental health care. Locally, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute recently announced a new center to support mental health and fight the stigma of mental illness in our region.

The stigma is a big barrier to positive headway. Dr. McBride says from the pandemic “anxiety is to be expected and that accumulated stress will have physical manifestations. Normalizing these attitudes can help remove the shame and self-stigma of feeling unwell.”

McBride says step one is to name the feeling and acknowledge your emotional state.

Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the Olympic competition last week comes to mind. While her issues may not be based on burnout, it’s mental health all the same. Going public with the overwhelming pressuring of letting the world down requires tremendous courage.

The next step is taking charge of your well-being. While this includes seeking the mental support you need, it’s also about living with healthier habits – exercise, good sleep and eating well – especially when we need energy and motivation the most, like during a pandemic or other stressful event. Not to mention your health is the biggest defense against COVID-19 outside of the vaccine.

Ironically, though, this is exactly what’s left behind when things get tough. Sleep? Exercise? Cooking? Who’s got time for that!

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