It’s the most wonderful time of the year, sure, but is it also the most exhausting one? With the holidays and the end of the year just around the corner and work diaries full to the brim, finding a moment of respite amongst overfilled social calendars makes Santa’s delivery schedule look like a walk in the park. Add to it long, dark and cold nights, rising costs, an energy crisis and societal disruptions in response to the cost-of-living crisis and you get a festive cocktail threatening to take the merry out of even the most cheerful of all.
But we also have a responsibility to ourselves. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to staying healthy both mentally and physically and this time of year always sees people constantly juggle this exact problem compounded by the pressures of looming work deadlines at a time when everything seemingly needs to be completed before the end of the year.
While we may have found it easier to spot the tell-tale symptoms of stress during the pandemic through mental health campaigns in the media and at work, we could be inclined to ignore the signs nowadays despite figures showing that mental health issues have increased this year due to the pressures of the cost of living, with 3 in 10 adults saying theirs has deteriorated since the beginning of 2022.
The signs of burnout at work
Burnout Red Flag #1: Avoiding Work
Is your inbox piling up? Are you letting phone calls ring through to voicemail? Have you caught yourself procrastinating? Often, when we’re feeling burned out at work, we suddenly want to do everything… except work.
Burnout Red Flag #2: Declining Performance
Have you been consistently arriving late to meetings? Is the quality of your work declining? If you make a mistake, do you try to blame others? In the early stages of burnout, our brains are constantly in a state of stress, which switches them into “survival mode,” meaning we’re not a focused as normal.
Burnout Red Flag #3: Apathy or Exhaustion
Do feel a lack of pride about your accomplishments? Have you been neglecting your usual self-care habits? Are you staying silent during meetings and conversations? Is it difficult for you to focus or be patient with others? In general, if you’re feeling bitter or you just don’t care about things that you usually do, you might be heading towards burnout.
Burnout Red Flag #4: Inability to Disconnect
Are you consistently working more than your contracted number of hours? Do you respond to work-related calls or messages during personal time? Is the first and last thing that you look at every day your phone or work device? Too much of a good thing can be bad, including work.
Ways to prevent burnouts
Burnout Buster #1: Set Office Hours
Human brains like structure, and December tends to shake up our usual routine quite a bit with office parties, gathering and late-night shopping excursions on top of deadlines piling up on our desks making for longer days. The key is to try to keep a balance between. Implement your own office hours by silencing notifications or turning on your out-of-office when logging off. This way your brain knows that it’s time for you to relax.
Burnout Buster #2: Prioritise
Humans are cyclical, and subconsciously we force ourselves to believe that most things need to get wrapped up before the end of the year, presents and work projects. But it is more than likely that not everything on your to-do list has a strict expiration date of this month, and therefore it is important to prioritise tasks based on their urgency. When assigning work within teams, or when requesting something from a colleague, try to be mindful of their workload and make it clear whether you need something today, this month or “next year”.
Burnout Buster #3: Take Time Off
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Time off work can make all the difference for burnout. And as much as we like the holidays, Christmas eve, day, boxing day and New Year’s Eve tend to be short on resting opportunities, so if you can try to grab some extra days off before or after. Whether you spend that time doing activities or doing nothing at all, it’s important to make sure you ‘disconnect’. Turn off your phone and try not to think about work at all. After a few days, you’ll feel recharged and ready for action.
Burnout Buster #4: Tell Someone
Hiding your concerns might only make them worse. If you’re feeling burned out – talk to someone about it. Talk to you manager, your team, your HR department, or, if you prefer to speak to someone external to your work place, your GP or the NHS to work together to find a solution that works for everyone. Do not wait, as carrying your burnout throughout the holidays and into the new year will make it that much more difficult to enjoy the festivities and come back with a fresh mindset in January.