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In our high-octane, turbo-charged culture, end-of-year ‘burnout' is a common ailment
We all have moments when we feel like this matchstick. But at least we can rejuvenate ourselves and have another go. The poor matchstick only gets one chance of being fabulous. And even that can be ruined if there's a strong breeze.
In our high-octane, turbo-charged culture, end-of-year ‘burnout' is a common ailment. After eleven months of work or study, it's not uncommon for people to feel tired, drained and in desperate need of a restorative break.
It's important to make the distinction between this regular end-of-year tiredness, and true burnout, which is a much more serious beast that can't be tamed with a couple of weeks off. True burnout usually forms over a much longer period of time and is characterised by long-term stress, feelings of hopelessness, deep exhaustion and being overwhelmed. There are often physical symptoms as well such as heart palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath. Needless to say, there's no quick fix for this kind of burnout, and can often require medical or psychological intervention.
So what about the rest of us who are more acquainted with burnout's milder, but still inconvenient cousin? Usually, just taking time away from our regular duties is enough to restore our energy levels and equilibrium. But the holidays are still weeks away, and we're feeling over it now! What can we do to make the remainder of the journey as smooth and pleasant as possible?
They may be invisible, but our thoughts are far more powerful than we realise. Negative thought patterns and inner dialogue will hijack our minds and infect our whole attitude, usually without us even being aware of it. The simplest way to short-circuit this is to remain as present as possible. Being "in the moment" makes it difficult for those negative mind tricks to get a look in. It takes practice, and a fair amount of self-awareness, but it's something that's totally within the control of each of us.
It's so easy to overload our plates by accommodating every little (and not-so-little) request that's made of us. Whether it's our kids, other family members, colleagues, friends or bosses, always saying "yes" is an express train to feeling overwhelmed. Learning how to say "no", and saying it comfortably, may feel counter-intuitive for many of us, but it can also be quite liberating and is a good way of easing that sense of being snowed-under with demands.
There's a reason we keep hearing about the benefits of exercise – because they're real. Decent physical activity, even if it's just a brisk walk once a day, can do wonders for our stress levels. And the "feel good" chemical dopamine that's released by the body is a great way to eradicate some of that tension the body tends to hold onto.
Getting a good night's sleep is often given a much lower priority by many people than it deserves. Sleep is like a daily (or nightly) little holiday – it refreshes and rejuvenates the mind, body and spirit like nothing else. Aim for eight hours every night. The beneficial effects of getting a good night's sleep are generally undisputed and well documented.
All of these strategies are well within your power and needn't cost a cent. The rest of the year will be an easier ride and you'll enjoy your holidays so much more. This in turn means you'll be able to start the new year with new-found enthusiasm and ready to burn bright all over again.
Don't be like the matchstick.