Mental surge capacity

How To Refresh After Your Mental Surge Capacity Is Depleted

Are you getting to “burnout” faster?  You may be underestimating how severe our collective anxiety is, especially since COVID-19 hit.

What is Mental Surge Capacity?

Have you ever experienced an event where you find yourself operating at a higher level than normal for an extended period of time?  Welcome to your “surge capacity” as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist, and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, calls it.

Mental surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems that humans draw on for short-term survival in stressful situations, such as a natural disaster or a car accident.  However, your surge capacity is not meant for the long-term, such as a global pandemic spanning over 2 years.  Surge capacity eventually crashes, leading to burnout.  The amount of time leading up to burnout varies per person, but it is evident your surge capacity is not something one can live off of.

What Other Factors Contribute To Faster Burnout?

COVID-19 has had many impacts on the people of the world, and it’s no different here.

Anxiety is considered one of the longer-term symptoms of Post-COVID Syndrome or PCS (AKA Long-COVID).  Research shows that between 23% and 26% of people have mental health challenges (including anxiety) after recovering from COVID-19.  It is especially prevalent in females.

There are even some studies that suggest that figure is higher, hovering around the 50% mark.

This stems from both fear of getting the virus and anxiety about re-entering society as “normal” or reopening.  We have naturally created the idea that we need extra space now, and some areas do not allow for that to be reasonable, which causes anxiety and stress.

Why Does It Cause Burnout Faster?

The suggestion of mental surge capacity getting you to burnout faster comes from human nature kicking in.  

When utilizing your surge capacity, you are essentially burning “extra fuel” in your body or the reserve fuel.  As your body starts to come down from the surge of a disaster or the beginnings of the pandemic, your body has burned through its normal, everyday activity and more consistently since March of 2020, so it starts to catch up with you.  

The problem is not the original burnout, but it is that our bodies take longer to get back to 100%.  While it may feel like you are fully ready to go and refreshed, in most cases, you are not at full relaxation and feeling your best.  It is natural to want to continue feeling “good enough” as we all know life goes on whether we are feeling well or not.

In the end, burnout comes faster as we don’t allow ourselves to get back to 100%, ultimately causing ourselves to get to the burnout phase in a shorter period of time.

How To Avoid Burnout

For starters, take time for yourself.  You are the only one living your life, so you should look out for yourself before anyone or anything else. Do things that make you happy, but also relax you.  Activities like yoga, meditation, seeing friends/family, exercising, journaling, or even just making sure your sleep schedule is consistent can change your mental outlook in a positive way.

Another great resource is support groups.  It is important to know you are not alone in this fight.  Here are some great online support groups:

You Are Never Alone.

It is important to remember that you don’t have to battle any of this by yourself.  There are people who would love to help and support you.  Continue to work on yourself and make yourself happy, but never be afraid to reach out to others for help. Join the ShearShare community and follow the Breakroom Blog for more helpful articles with tips to control anxiety, mental surge capacity, and burnout.