Exhausted? Here’s how to navigate end of year burnout
It’s not uncommon to experience burnout as the end-of-year calendar and ample to-do list approaches. These mindful strategies will help you stress-less during the holiday season helping you put your mental health first.
As the countdown to the end of the calendar year begins, and the to-do lists draw out, it’s not uncommon for many individuals to experience end-of-year burnout.
However, by practising mindfulness, you can navigate this challenging period.
Understanding end-of-year burnout
End-of-year burnout, sometimes called “holiday burnout” or “end-of-year fatigue,” is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that often occurs as the year draws close. It can manifest in various ways, including increased stress levels, decreased motivation, and overwhelmed feelings.
Common symptoms of end-of-year burnout include:
Fatigue: Feeling physically and mentally drained, even after a full night’s sleep.
Irritability: Becoming easily agitated or frustrated, often over minor issues.
Reduced productivity: Finding it difficult to concentrate or complete tasks efficiently and feeling like you’re not progressing because there’s always more.
Emotional strain: Experiencing heightened emotions, such as anxiety, sadness, or anger.
Physical symptoms: Developing physical ailments like headaches, digestive issues, insomnia or muscle tension.
Using substances to cope: Drinking more than usual, relying on pain medication without medical advice.
Withdrawing from loved ones: Not doing things that bring us joy, not attending to our hobbies, nor spending time with friends.
Feeling easily overwhelmed by life in general: Feeling like life micromanages us rather than vice versa.
Causes of end-of-year burnout
Several factors contribute to end-of-year burnout:
1. Increased responsibilities
The holiday season often brings additional responsibilities, such as gift shopping, holiday meal preparations, event planning and hosting family.
Parents supporting their children through the HSC or IB year can feel additional pressure after a year or two of supporting and approaching another change in the family system. Balancing these tasks with existing commitments can be overwhelming, and we can often feel underappreciated.
2. Work pressure
Many professionals face the pressure of meeting end-of-year work targets and closing projects, leading to long hours and high stress levels.
3. Financial stress
The expenses associated with gift-giving and holiday celebrations can strain finances, causing anxiety.
4. Social obligations
While holiday gatherings are joyous occasions, they can also be draining for introverts or individuals with social anxiety. There’s the arbitrary deadline of Christmas – ‘let’s get together before Christmas’, attending Christmas gatherings at work, through school, and then there’s neighbours and friends. The pressure can feel endless.
Strategies to improve your mental health
Prioritising your mental health during the end-of-year rush is crucial for your overall well-being. Here are effective strategies to help you combat burnout and embrace a healthier mindset:
1. Set realistic expectations
Start by managing your expectations. Understand that it’s okay not to achieve perfection in every aspect of your life during this season. Recognise your limits and be willing to adjust your goals accordingly.
2. Embrace mindfulness and self-care
Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help you stay grounded and manage stress. Don’t forget to prioritise self-care activities that rejuvenate your mind and body.
3. Set boundaries
Learn to say “no” when necessary. It’s essential to set boundaries to protect your time and energy. Politely decline invitations or commitments that you genuinely can’t accommodate.
We often attend functions out of duty, not because we really want to but because we don’t want to miss out. A polite ‘no’ can save us time, money and further exhaustion. Following this ‘no’ with a commitment to meet in January after the Christmas rush is often more relaxed and enjoyable.
4. Delegate and seek support
Don’t hesitate to ask for help or delegate tasks when possible. Whether it’s involving family members in holiday preparations or seeking assistance at work, sharing the load can reduce your stress levels. If you’re feeling really overwhelmed, reach out for professional support. Sharing your feelings and talking about your challenges can provide relief and fresh perspectives.
5. Disconnect from technology
Take breaks from screens, especially from work-related emails or social media. Unplugging can help you recharge and reduce the constant stimulation that contributes to stress.
6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Nourish your body with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Proper nutrition and physical activity can significantly impact your mood and energy levels. Remember that seeking professional help, if needed, is an essential and proactive step toward better mental wellbeing.
Diane Young is an addiction and trauma specialist, and therapist at South Pacific Private, Australia’s leading treatment centre for trauma, addiction and mental health conditions.