Say goodbye to year-end fatigue- The New Indian Express


Express News Service

Anvesha Borah moved from Assam to Mumbai last year to be a fashion writer. Deadlines and marathon meetings became usual as she expertly managed her work-life balance. For the past few weeks, however, Anvesha has struggled to keep up with her fast-paced routine. “I now lack motivation to complete my tasks. The usual daily chores look overbearing and perpetual,” she says. Borah isn’t alone feeling drained at this time of the year. Considered a time of celebration by most, it is stressful and anxiety-filled for an unfortunate minority. Nearing the end of the calendar year, most people are in a rush to wrap up work and meet personal commitments; trying to get through everything that has been allowed to pile up over the year. The result is year-end fatigue or end-of-the-year burnout leaves people tired, irritable and overwhelmed.

According to Maslach, Jackson and Leiter (1996), burnout is characterised by a triad of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and decreased sense of accomplishment in one’s occupation. Dr Virinchi Sharma, Director at Manasa Hospitals, Hyderabad, explains, “End-of-the-year fatigue can manifest as physical, emotional and psychological exhaustion. It is a feeling of helplessness, accompanied by reduced motivation to work on our daily activities, especially during the last months of a calendar year.”

Decoding the phenomenon, he continues, “On the biological front, the shorter days towards the end of year affect the brain negatively by producing less serotonin and dopamine which are essential for motivation. Psychologically, the inability to achieve targets, often unrealistic ones, set by the individual at the beginning of the year can start affecting self-esteem and coping mechanisms of the individual, consequently reducing productivity. On the social front, comparing themselves with others planning vacations reduce motivation levels further. The above-said situations lead to a pileup of cortisol, which adversely affects higher mental abilities like attention, focus and concentration.”

As the adage goes if there’s a problem, there will always be a solution. Mansi Poddar, psychotherapist and founder of Heal•Grow•Thrive Foundation, says, “Year-end fatigue is a subjective experience and not a formal diagnosis. For some people, there is exhaustion, burnout and a sense of regret or shame around non-achieved goals and broken dreams over a hard year. According to Canadian physician Gabor Mate, how we perceive and interpret situations and events is more impactful on our mental health than the situation and events themselves.

Many working individuals will take December as a month of renewal, and engage in the pleasures of life. It’s a matter of perspective and how one chooses to deal with it.” Any interpretation that makes us feel low, unhappy or anxious will take a toll on the body because the mind and body are one organism. We can’t separate the two. It is crucial to prioritise sleep, diet and physical exercise. Practice physical relaxation and mind-calming exercises to keep stress hormones under check.

Divya Suhaney, an internationally certified health and wellness coach, and nutritional therapist, acknowledges that year-end fatigue is an extremely common phenomenon. “Most of our clients have overwhelming weight-loss targets while dreaming of getting the perfect holiday body. They make impulsive decisions based on temporary emotions and  trends. The best approach is to pause and reflect. Observe,  and listen to your body and trust its intelligence to guide you,” she advises. She warns people against dietary mood swings such as binge eating and emotional nibbling.

Making small lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep, restricting drugs and alcohol, cutting down on caffeine, scheduling self-care activities, yoga and meditation, outing in nature are antidotes to the year-end phenomenon. Nature sets a great example, according to Poddar who explains, “Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and carry on living the same lives they lived in summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis and transformation to get them through. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible. This can be applied to all of us. If we get in tune with ourselves and gain more self-insight, we can build days that feel more meaningful versus only productive. If we hold the intention to be more self-aware and attuned, chances of us burning out are automatically minimised.”

Life isn’t a marathon, and the year-end is not a metaphorical ‘finish line’. Maybe life is a slow, lazy stroll along the beach, eating ice cream. It’s time to find the right metaphor.

Beat burnout with these prompts

What large and small victories can I celebrate?

What did the past 12 months teach me?

Where did I grow over the year that’s ending and what could I have done less of?

What can I say no to to preserve energy?

What must happen over the year ahead for me to be more rested, inspired and less stressed? 

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