Managing End of Year Burnout

A man sitting at his desk at work, resting his head on his hands experiencing burnout

What is burnout?

Experiencing stress is a normal part of life. Stress occurs in response to demanding situations and can provide us with the extra boost we need to meet the demands of a situation. Prolonged or chronic stress may lead to Burnout.

Burnout is a feeling of extreme exhaustion that can impact people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. While burnout is most often associated with prolonged or chronic workplace stress, it can also come from other sources of prolonged or excessive stress which may occur in the context of our personal lives.

End of year burnout

It is common to feel stressed and tired as we hurtle towards the end of the year. For some people, the risk of developing burnout towards the end of the year increases. Below are some reasons why we may be more prone to developing burnout towards the end of the year:

Significant increases in workload – many industries and sectors experience an increase in their workload leading up to Christmas. Clients may demand reports be submitted prior to the Christmas break, or the closedown period necessitates work to be shifted onto the available working days in December. There is no doubt that for many, December requires extra hours at work.

Financial stress – for many, the holiday period provides an opportunity to rest and reconnect with family. Particularly in the current climate of rising costs and inflation, the added financial pressures associated with buying presents, travelling, or hosting family may create additional stress for people around this time of year.

Family – for lots of people, spending time with family over the Christmas period is something positive to look forward to. However, there are many who experience mixed emotions at the prospect of spending time with family over the Christmas period. For others, this time of year may be a reminder about family they no longer have in their lives.

Length of time between breaks – saving annual leave to use at the end of the year is fairly common, particularly in workplaces with shutdown periods over the Christmas break. This may mean that for many, this is the first substantial period of leave in 12 months. If the year has been a particularly stressful one, this accumulation of stress without adequate rest throughout the year may make people more prone to burnout.

Signs you may be experiencing burnout

Below are some signs that you may be experiencing more than just stress at the end of the year:

  • Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns.
  • Illness, fatigue or frequent aches/pains, e.g. headaches, stomach problems.
  • Exaggerated feelings of helplessness, failure, or self-doubt.
  • Lack of motivation or satisfaction in work or regular activities.
  • Feelings of detachment or isolation.
  • Irritability, frustration, or uncharacteristic outbursts.

If these symptoms persist or get in the way of being able to do the things you can normally do, it may be helpful to seek support.

Tips for managing burnout

When noticing signs of burnout this close to the end of the year, it may be tempting to just push through until holiday time. However, this may lead to increased feelings of burnout and more time using the break to recover rather than for enjoyment. Below are some tips which may be helpful to manage your energy in the lead up to the end of the year:

  • Prioritise brain breaks – Those in high performing roles, often respond to the decreases in performance associated with burnout by working even harder. This may result in further decreases to their performance and increased feelings of burnout. They may consider rest or breaks as a cost to their performance. Instead, it may be helpful to reframe rest as an investment in our performance. After all, rest is essential for our brains to perform at optimum levels.
  • Habit stacking – rather than “finding” extra time in your day to engage in self-care, it may be helpful to look at ways to build self-care into something you already do regularly throughout the day. For example, the act of filling up your water bottle may act as a cue to practice a breathing or mindfulness exercise.
  • Know what is important  – Identify up to 3 priorities both at home and work to focus on throughout the month of December. Make a conscious choice about those things at home and work which you can pause or reduce your commitment to during the month of December. Give yourself permission to hit pause on these commitments or to let them take more of a back seat during December.

If you think you may be experiencing burnout and require support from a Psychologist or a Coach to manage these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out.


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