More than a year-and-a-half into the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout seems to be on everyones lips. Many of us didnt realise what had hit us when we scrambled to adjust to the sudden upheaval of the workplace, switching to remote work with little or no preparation, or deemed an essential worker and asked to continue business-as-usual in highly unusual circumstances. The frequent start-stop nature of restrictions did not help.
But what is burnout? The word was coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He coined it to describe the fall-out from the severe stress and high ideals in what we call the helping professions. Our doctors and nurses, for example, who sacrifice themselves for others, often end up being burned out exhausted, listless, and unable to cope.