The Summer Blues: Why is Burnout Sticking Around? 

Mercedez Thompson, MA, CP APMP, Shipley BDC 

This month, I took an entire week off work—an entire week. I’m not talking about the sort of PTO where I check my emails every morning, contribute to Teams chats throughout the afternoon, and return a few of my boss’s texts at dinner. I’m talking off-the-grid, couldn’t-reach-me-if-you-wanted-to PTO. Naturally, upon my return, I was sunkissed, refreshed, and ready to win something big. Right? 


Instead of feeling fortified, I considered faking an illness (I was in multiple airports, after all) and crawling up in a ball in a dark room for another week.  

Is this yet another side effect of COVID? How is it that burnout is more resilient than ever? 

When I asked around, I found that I wasn’t the only one experiencing prolonged blues. In fact, many of my friends and colleagues reported uncharacteristic exhaustion and lack of motivation. Some echoed my own dirty little secret: mental fog. When I pressed further, I found that the contributors to these persistent stressors, though apparently varied, overlapped in interesting ways. 

First up was the endlessness of it all. Have you wondered aloud, “When will this pandemic ever end?” You’re not alone. What about politics and debilitating news headlines that have us groaning, “Not again, please not again.” Sustained stressors equal sustained fatigue. 

Next up was money. Several people I spoke with mentioned higher costs of living that they just couldn’t keep up with. It’s hard to feel energized when you’re wondering about skyrocketing rent or food and gas prices. And if those don’t scare you enough, ponder childcare or healthcare expenses for a bit. Financial insecurity weighs down the best of us. 

Lastly, it seems that our boundaries are blurrier than ever. We all know that work from home can quickly become work all the time. But more than the good habit of turning off our laptop at 5 P.M. is also the escalated guilt around unplugging. Remote workers often feel like they have to make up for the privilege of working from home by starting earlier, ending later, omitting breaks, eating lunch at their desk, etc. And now that everyone knows how Zoom works, is there really any hard line between home and work? Even when the pros outweigh the cons, the blending is going to take some getting used to. 

I’m not here with all the answers, but I’m also not merely reminding you of reasons to be drab. Instead, I want you to know you’re not alone and share some things that are helping me on my journey back to my usual kick-ass self. 

  1. Update your resume. No, not so you can job hop—actually, sort of the opposite. One way to bring back your enterprise is to remind yourself of all the great things you’ve already accomplished. Reignite your work by remembering how good at it you really are. 
  1. Make a mini-vision board. It makes a world of a difference to see what you’re working for and have those next goals right in front of you. I recommend going beyond career since oftentimes personal goals can be our most motivating. 
  1. Be human. One of my favorite things about being human is that I’m not a robot. It’s nice to be human and work with other humans. For me, this means small, simple things like sharing pictures of my vacation or asking a trendy colleague to help me find a wedding outfit. It’s easier to feel good about work when you feel good about the people at work. 

Exhaustion, lack of productivity, creativity shortages, and zapped motivation can be especially tough for those of us who work in a constant deadline environment. After all, we are successful proposal managers because we are go-getters with insane attention to detail. I’m curious to know what else you’re experiencing and how you might be combatting these relentless blues. 

About Mercedez:  

Mercedez Thompson finds and shares a firm’s unique stories to connect with clients and build business. As a Proposal Manager at Burns & McDonnell, Mercedez collaborates with business development and project management leadership to define distinctive value propositions and execute proposal win strategy within the Water practice. She has extensive experience in all phases of the proposal lifecycle including positioning, technical content development, proposal management, and shortlist interviewing.