Do you have end-of-year burnout?
Posted on 1 December 2022
Suddenly feeling the weight of the year on your shoulders? A psychologist at Mediclinic Denmar Mental Health Services explains why end-of-year burnout and depression are so common and what to do about them.
If you’re feeling anything but festive as December approaches, here’s the good news: you don’t have to feel guilty about it and you’re certainly not alone. Dr Pieter du Plessis is a clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Denmar Mental Health Services, a hospital that specialises in psychiatric care. “In my practice, I see numerous people who present with depression and anxiety. Towards the end of the year, the signs of burnout play a significant role in the presenting mood disorders,” he says.
Dr Du Plessis attributes this to excessive and prolonged stress as a result of work overload and the pressure to get things done before the end of the year. “People might feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet increasing as well as constant demands,” he says.
Signs of burnout
Burnout can show up in unexpected ways – physically, emotionally and in your behaviour. Sometimes these signs can be subtle, says Dr Du Plessis.
- Feeling tired and drained most of the time
- Getting ill often
- Muscle pain
- Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns.
- Loss of motivation
- Cynical or negative outlook
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Feeling helpless or trapped in the work situation or other demands.
- Procrastinating (even with small tasks)
- Taking longer than usual to get things done
- Getting irritated easily
- Excessive use of alcohol or painkillers.
What to do if you’re suffering from burnout
Be kind to yourself. If you ticked off a worrying number of items on the lists above, your first step is to cut yourself some slack, says Dr Du Plessis. “Realise you’re only human. You can only do what you can in the time frame between now and the end of the year.” He recommends talking to your manager, supervisor, or colleagues about realistic expectations and your ability to meet demands.
Take a break. You may feel like you should be using every available second to get work done, but Dr Du Plessis recommends the opposite. “Try to take time off, like on weekends – maybe a short breakaway. It boils down to the principle of ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ meaning ‘if I don’t take time off, I may lose productivity and work harder with less outcomes’.” He also advises setting boundaries where possible.
Talk about it. “Talk to people you can trust. Even if they can’t fix the problem, they can at least support you emotionally. If necessary, talk to your healthcare provider and comply with any advice or treatment,” says Dr Du Plessis
Make lifestyle changes. If you’re feeling depressed, practising healthy habits can help, says Dr Du Plessis. “Get enough sleep, follow a healthy diet, get some exercise, interact socially, take short breaks between tasks if possible, and expose your legs and arms to sunlight for Vitamin D for about 20 minutes daily.”
Know your triggers – and avoid them. Whether it’s dark thoughts that suck you into a spiral of negativity, family issues or negative people, it make sense to remove or distract yourself when necessary. Planning your end-of-year holiday can be a positive distraction, while an app like Mindfulness Coach can help ground you in the present so you don’t get caught up fixating on past or future problems.
As for next year, beat burnout before it starts. Plan for a better work-life balance by setting aside time for hobbies, breakaways, holidays and time with loved ones. Be sure to make exercise and mindfulness practices part of your routine.
- If you feel you need extra support, visit mediclinic.co.za to find a psychologist in your area.