The dreaded end of year burnout, we’ve all been there. You know what it’s like when you’ve been working non-stop all year long, by the time Christmas rolls round you feel utterly desperate for those few days off to unwind.
But is it normal to feel so burnt out at the end of the year? While fairly common, according to Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and UrbanWorkSpace tenant Alex Hedger of Dynamic You, it shouldn’t be the norm. We sat down with Alex to pick his brain on ways to properly unwind and destress over the festive period to help reduce burnout, here’s what he had to say about it…
So, what does burnout feel like?
There isn’t a disorder or illness called ‘burnout’, however it’s a term we often use in everyday language. Therapists and psychologists will often interpret burnout to mean the consequences of being under chronic physical or emotional stress and reaching exhaustion. Because chronic stress can often have similar signs to problems such as depression it’s important to make sure you seek a professional opinion if you notice a combination of the following for longer than 2 weeks, or you’re struggling to cope:
– Changes to your sleep pattern (either sleeping more or less than usual)
– Changes to your appetite (eating more, less or more junky foods than usual)
– Increases in negative thinking processes (seeing the worst in everything, and struggling to think of solutions to problems)
– Decrease in motivation
– Increases in unpleasant physical sensations (aches, pains, stomach aches, headaches etc.)
– Increase in anxiety or anger/frustration
– Cracks and strains appearing in your close relationships
– Struggling to stay on top of commitments
These types of experiences can either be an early warning sign that you’ve reached ‘burnout’ and need to make some changes, or can also be a sign of a more serious psychological problem that needs addressing.
What steps can you take to unwind this festive season?
If you’re noticing these types of things, the festive period can be a good opportunity to ‘take stock’ and make some changes. Here are some ideas which can help reduce the effects of burnout:
1) Give yourself space
Take control of the number of appointments, visits, emails and texts you have for a while. It’s difficult to fully focus on your own wellbeing when you’re trying to field lots of communications and demands upon your time and energy.
Why not let people know that you will be ‘out of range’ for a few days? Remember, small changes like ensuring you’re not troubled with constant phone notifications can have a big impact on your mental wellbeing. Try not to overstretch yourself with family and friends visits during the holidays either.
2) Devise a ‘Do, Defer, Delegate’ system
Write a list of all of the things ‘hanging over’ you at the moment, that you think are leading you to feel burnt out.
If something will take less than a couple of minutes to do, then do it straight away. For other things build a schedule of when they will be completed and defer them. Take a critical look at your list and see if there are any tasks that can be delegated to someone else. Often, it’s the case that we end up doing things because it seems ‘quicker’ when there might be others who have more time, expertise or energy to complete the task.
3) Create Boundaries
The festive period might seem like a great time to catch up on work – it usually isn’t! Whilst it might be tempting to try and ‘clear the decks’ before you return to work in the new year, this usually just prevents you from being able to fully switch-off and relax during your leave.
The consequences are often that we’re not as fully rested and efficient when we do return to work. Why not explore some new, helpful, boundaries for the year ahead between different parts of your life?
4) Watch your alcohol intake.
One common way to de-stress is alcohol, especially at Christmas time. Whilst this usually has the short term benefit of helping us switch off, it’s also a depressant, which means that over time it’s likely to accentuate the symptoms of burnout that you’re already experiencing.
Why not search for online lists of pleasurable activities that you can do as alternatives in order to keep your alcohol levels in check. The same goes for caffeine – as a stimulant this can often increase feelings of anxiety if over-consumed.
So as you can see, if you’re feeling particularly worn out at this time of year, there’s plenty you can do to look after your wellbeing to get your mind fighting fit in time for the new year.
Alex Hedger has been a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist for 10 years. Alex and his team offer therapy sessions across the UK, and have a clinic at our Branston Court offices. Find out more about Alex and Dynamic You here.