Una Mullally: Pandemic burnout numbs us in return to ‘real life’

Government must reconsider values that propel policy in era of collective stress

Grafton Street: What are we ‘opening back up’ into? When ‘real life’ returns, how will people cope with its inadequacies or anti-climatic aspects? Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Grafton Street: What are we ‘opening back up’ into? When ‘real life’ returns, how will people cope with its inadequacies or anti-climatic aspects? Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Each phase of the pandemic has brought about a new collective emotional state. So where are we now? Why, when things are getting “better”, do many of us not feel hugely positive or optimistic? Feeling a bit numb or low is completely normal and rational after what we’ve been through. Last year, the Government launched a “stay and spend” scheme, which the chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation described as a “complete flop”. What boost could the Government give that would actually help us? I’d settle for two bank holidays a month, and the mass-issuing of vouchers for therapy. I’m only half-joking. People have endured knock after knock; tragic ones, financial ones and the low level white noise of the day-to-day difficulties that come with navigating this bizarre time.

 When the pandemic hit, a lot of people in Ireland who were overworked, burned out, and suffering from a low quality of life and high cost of living, found at least some solace in the sense of a pause, although that was also accompanied by personal financial devastation for many. But now, it feels as though there’s a pandemic burnout happening. It’s normal to feel ground down by this torrid time. Just because the experience of many will be relatively privileged in a country like Ireland doesn’t make it any less real.

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