We are nearing the end of the year, and everyone is tired. We are all in a hurry to wrap up at work, attend to family needs, and focus on other life commitments before the year ends. Exacerbated by the stress of having to navigate life in a pandemic and having undefined work and life boundaries, we have been burning at both ends of the candle. This is not only tiring but is harmful to our wellbeing, and can lead to year-end fatigue.

Year-end fatigue manifests itself as physical, psychological, and emotional exhaustion and is often accompanied by self-doubt, helplessness, lack of motivation, being overwhelmed, and burnout.

Experiencing burnout has as much of a detrimental effect on your mental health as on your physical health. Physical ailments that are related to burnout are headaches, nausea, and body aches. In addition, burnout may affect our sleeping patterns and cause us to become easily irritable, have difficulties concentrating, and neglect those around us.

I remember the first time I experienced burnout; I felt very tense. I soon realized that it was due to the stress of having to complete all my tasks. As someone who enjoys multitasking, I have always kept my mind stimulated by working on various projects, taking on different tasks, while still being a student.

Being busy was all I had ever known. Resting was not always a part of my schedule until I experienced burnout. My mind was foggy. I was slow to think and had mild headaches. My body was pleading for rest. Since then, I have had to re-evaluate my relationship with productivity and work. Having to check in with my emotional and mental self often has helped improve my wellbeing.

For many, year-end fatigue is inevitable. However, by listening to what your body needs you can help minimize its impact. One of the things that we tend to overlook when it comes to taking care of ourselves is getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water. I have recently made it a rule for myself to never steal time from the new day. That means no sleeping past midnight, which has done wonders for my productivity. Now, I am a lot more vibrant during the day.

In addition, to combat fatigue, we need to consume food that is iron-rich. Women are especially prone to iron deficiency (Anaemia), which can lead to feeling fatigued. Including foods such as beans, peas, dark green leafy vegetables, and lean red meat in your diet will be beneficial in receiving the iron you need.

And, while caffeine may boost your energy levels, it can also cause fatigue. I used to be an avid coffee drinker and would have myself a warm cup of coffee every day with no fail. I’ve since cut down on caffeine as my body would later feel tired and my productivity would be affected in the long run. My tip is to remove caffeine gradually, reducing your intake over time.

Lastly, to regain your balance and feel more at ease, avoid overextending yourself with others. The end of the year is busy, and you can easily find yourself spreading yourself too thin. To avoid ending the year completely run-down, prioritize your tasks first and attend to others when you can. By doing so you show kindness and love to yourself.

So many times, we centralize work and productivity and equate it to our sense of purpose and fulfillment. The idea of putting productivity above ourselves can lead to fatigue, stress, and burnout. One way to fix this is by coming to terms with the idea that we should derive purpose from things outside of our jobs. Finding something you love outside of work allows you to grow and learn more about who you are. Through creating and exploring my talents I have been able to find purpose in my own journey. 

If you’re experiencing year-end fatigue, burnout, or stress, it is a sign that something of importance in your life is no longer serving its purpose. Take this time to re-evaluate your goals, slow down, and find out what it is that you are neglecting. It’s never a bad idea to check in with yourself, and the end of the year is a great time for reflection.

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  • Esihle Faltein is a Journalism and Media Studies Honours graduate, who is a lively and passionate writer, and has an appreciation for art, storytelling and photography. She believes in the power of spreading knowledge and awareness to others, through her writing. Esihle's pursuit is to share narratives African both on local and international platforms. When she is not engrossed in this goal, she enjoys attending art galleries, painting and listening to podcasts.