All of us lose steam as the end-of-year approaches. Doctors agree that it’s not unusual to struggle both physically and mentally during this time. There are easy, practical steps you can take to make sure you get done what you need to without burning yourself out.
“It is a real thing,” confirms Dr Mason Stevenson, a GP based along Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
The rush to wrap up work results in more patients who experience excessive work and stress loads walking into doctors’ rooms around the end of the year.
The effects are physical, mental or often both.
Megan Hosking, a South African psychiatric intake clinician, agrees with Stevenson that most people feel more tired and overwhelmed around year-end but stresses that it shouldn’t necessarily be confused with burnout or other non-seasonal mood disorders.
There are workable ways of managing and beating your end-of-year fatigue, remain productive and close those deals you set your sights on.
What are the signs of end-of-year fatigue?
Unusually difficult to concentrate
You just can’t seem to focus the way you’re used to. Whether it’s on work, your personal life or even your hobbies, you’re finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on any task at hand.
Lack of energy
You’ve noticed that waking up is more of a struggle. Your usual hard-working self finds days to be too long. Daytime sleepiness is eating away at your motivation and productivity.
Disrupted sleeping patterns
This mid-day drowsiness could partly be ascribed to a lack of satisfying sleep. You’re not getting your full night anymore and perhaps having bizarre dreams which leaves you with a sense of discomfort.
Your thoughts are constantly switching between the unmet goals of this year and the things that need to be achieved in the next. Remaining indecisive about which of the two should be prioritised as ‘the main thing to worry about’, leaves you overwhelmed and anxious.
Unexpected health issues
You were pretty proud about not getting sick all winter and now you’re suddenly struggling with a bunch of annoying ailments.
Emotional roller coaster
The end of the year is exciting, things have been accomplished, you are experiencing a sense of satisfaction. But, if all or some of these other signs are present, you’re most likely also uncharacteristically irritable and grumpy at times.
6 ways to beat end-of-year fatigue
1. Recognise the time of year
Even though the experience of fatigue might strike you as unusual, it is not unusual to be tired after an extended period of work. Do not become anxious about the fact that you’re struggling, recognise what is happening:
As you’re trying to close a deal or write up a final report, you’re likely also planning family holidays or moving apartments, your kids are no longer engaged in school activities and competing for your time, and you’re being invited to more year-end activities than the year has days left.
2. Keep communicating, keep encouraging
Fatigue and the frustrations that come with it, if not managed, drowns out productivity and innovation. It either makes us run faster in no specific direction or it leaves us staring at our computer screens, waiting for Christmas. It can be isolating.
Communication is the antidote. Stay connected to and present with the people around you. Tell them about your progress (or the lack thereof) and allow them to help you carry the burden. Do the same for them. Encourage each other, keep each other accountable, make each other laugh.
3. Remember achievements
Sometimes, a little reminder about ‘how brilliantly you did that’ or ‘how good it felt to accomplish that difficult task’ is all the spark you need to push through and do it one more time.
Remembering achievements also helps you step away and see your year in perspective again. It puts the current tasks and anxieties into context, freeing your mind to think more creatively. If it hasn’t been the greatest year ever, step away even further and remember your journey and achievements leading up to this year.
4. Prioritise tasks, reassign jobs
Identify the most essential tasks that must be completed within the next month. If these tasks involve colleagues or employees, delegate it accordingly, thereby creating a common goal and vision for your team.
Once you’ve decided which tasks aren’t worth the little time you have left, let them wait until the new year and reassign responsibilities to utilise all hands on deck, making sure common goals are reached.
5. Do, and don’t interrupt
Make it as easy as possible for yourself and others to execute that which has been prioritised. Once the final planning has been done and all necessary resources has been made available, act. Make these decisions with careful thought and get to work.
Steer clear of obstacles that take away from the job at hand. Do not second guess the make-up of your priority task list the whole time, do not call for unnecessary meetings, resist the temptation to micromanage your employees.
6. Maintain balance, stick to healthy habits
The greatest mistake we make when end-of-year fatigue hits and the sound of deadlines creeping up becomes ever louder, is trying to devote every breathing moment to ‘getting the job done’. You already find yourself in an overworked state and must not neglect those activities you usually draw energy from.
Disrupting your usual rhythm will simply add more stress and anxiety. Take time out to exercise or relax, continue eating healthy meals at normal times, get proper sleep, and be intentional about spending time with friends and family. You need these distractions from work, now more than usual.
Remember to control what you can, to continue cultivating healthy habits and to remain as committed to proper rest as you are to hard work. Here’s to a productive final stretch, a holiday of happy rest, and an active new year!