The festive season approaches, annual leave (chosen or forced) is just around the corner, and we realize that yet another year is almost under the belt.
However, emotions are flat, outlooks are bleak, energy levels are at their lowest, and motivation is dwindling by the day.
“Just hang in there,” we tell ourselves.
Technically, there is so much to look forward to but it is hard to truly feel this when the end of year hump is upon us and we are running on metaphorical petrol fumes.
I often get asked, “Why do I feel so burnt out at the end of each year?”
Here are four reasons that I have observed both in my life and work with clients.
ONE: “It is psychological!” – Knowing that this cycle will end soon
Knowing that a cycle (be it real or manmade) is coming to an end has a profound impact on our energy levels.
Imminent endings catch us every time – regardless of the length of the cycle (e.g. work weeks, seasons, academic years, tax years, and calendar years).
We tend to run on adrenalin and abundant energy for the first part of each cycle, and then find ourselves reaching into our energy reserves for the final part – in a bid to just make it.
Lo and behold, we tend to feel refreshed as soon as the New Year rolls over.
This is the same New Year that is right next to the previous year end which appeared to have us in the clutches of exhaustion and hopelessness just a few days before.
TWO: Taking stock of achievements and progress on life goals
As humans, we tend to reflect.
Endings of cycles often include reflection on one’s progress, achievements, and overall performance. This is the stuff of school report cards, professional performance appraisals, and tax audits.
In the working world the practice of reflection is formalized by performance appraisals, while in our personal lives we tend to take a far less structured inventory of “where we are at.”
While personal appraisal is a crucial self-development tool, a problem arises when we do this in an unstructured way during periods of exhaustion.
We are then more likely to see the world and ourselves in a negative light and to produce a skewed report regarding our progress.
When one’s spirit is low it is especially important to lean on a structured method of review – where positive and negative aspects of development are noted, and we ask ourselves what we have learnt from our mistakes.
Being supportive of oneself is more helpful than being critical – especially when one’s morale is at its lowest.
THREE: Festive season and the expectation of happiness
Happy-happy-joy-joy, I’ve heard it said about one’s festive season game face.
Many people feel that the right way to celebrate the end of year is in the style of Hollywood family movies.
The reality is that life on the ground is far more complex and textured than on the silver screen – peppered with perfect hair, make-up, wardrobe, seamless wealth, great sex and other happy endings.
We feel lacking and at fault when falling prey to the shoulds and musts of how our holidays ought to look.
The truth is that the festive season is perhaps one of the most stressful times of the year when it comes to family relationships. Here are three anticipated stressors related to family gatherings:
- parents revert to treating their adult children as if they are minors
- sibling rivalries persist into adult, and
- the absence of loved ones (out of town or deceased) cuts deep emotionally for those left behind.
You are better off dealing with the relevant family concerns at hand (or even accepting them) rather than trying your damnedest to emulate a Brady Bunch Christmas special and (more than likely) coming up short.
FOUR: Assumption of being in it alone
Finally, believing that it is “just me” experiencing these end of year thoughts and feelings can leave one feeling even more isolated, at fault, ashamed and hopeless.
In an effort to normalize these feelings and to offer relief, I often advise my clients to open up to trusted colleagues and friends about their end of year fears and feelings and to assess whether it is also the case for those they are checking in with.
Invariably, my clients find that they are not alone! In the same way, you are not alone either!
It is always good to hear from you. What is most difficult for you as we approach the end of the year? What tips and tricks do you use to ‘hang in there’?