By Caroline Castrillon
Do you feel like you and everyone around you are affected by end-of-year burnout? While this time of year is often considered magical and heartwarming, it can also be stressful and anxiety-filled. Not only is the end of the year typically performance review season, but it’s also a time when we manage aggressive work deadlines and a busy social calendar. According to a survey from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 31% of Americans anticipate being more stressed this holiday season than last year—a 9% increase since 2021. And a recent LinkedIn poll revealed that 54% of respondents feel that stress levels in their lives increase during the holidays.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is an occupational phenomenon “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” End-of-year burnout is fatigue that manifests itself in the workplace, typically in November and December. It’s essentially a buildup of stress over time.
The good news is that you don’t need to surrender to it. Here are five healthy ways to cope with end-of-year burnout.
Take a break
According to a 2022 report by Zippia, 55% of American employees don’t use all of their PTO. Some of the reasons include a fear of being replaced, returning to a pile of work, or simply having trouble disconnecting. The reality is that taking vacation time could save your life. Time off is integral to well-being, sustained productivity and high performance. Some additional reasons to start planning your next getaway include that taking a break increases mindfulness and reduces stress. It also boosts the capacity to learn. “Neuroscience is so clear, through PET scans and MRIs, that the ‘aha’ moment comes when you’re in a relaxed state of mind,” says Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. That’s why you have your best ideas on a walk, in the shower or on vacation.
If burnout is caused by overworking, it’s time to prioritize your projects. Conduct an audit of your current workload and sort the items based on urgency and level of importance. If necessary, set up a meeting with your manager to determine which tasks need your immediate attention versus those you can complete later. When possible, break down large projects into smaller pieces. That way, they will seem more manageable and not so daunting. Another way to manage a full schedule is to delegate—whether it’s to someone internally or externally. It’s always better to ask for help than to risk missing a critical deadline or getting so bogged down that you can no longer function.
Put coping mechanisms in place
Lack of self-care is one of the biggest contributors to end-of-year burnout. So first, set aside mini relaxation breaks throughout the day. That could include yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to put your body into a state of restfulness. It’s also critical to prioritize sleep, exercise and healthy eating habits. Finally, if you find yourself having a stressful day, take time to go outside. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, spending time outdoors has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress-related hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
Reach out for help
If you feel unable to manage end-of-year burnout on your own, it’s time to seek additional help. Support can come from family, friends, colleagues, and your employer. Approach your manager or HR to find out what mental health benefits are available. Another option is to seek help from a coach or mentor. If you are an entrepreneur, you may be wearing too many hats. At that point, it’s probably time to delegate additional responsibilities so that you can relieve the pressure.
Set healthy boundaries
While having flexibility is great, remote workers, in particular, find it difficult to unplug after work hours. If you’re in the midst of end-of-year burnout, it’s time to set healthy boundaries. One example could be not checking work email in the evenings between certain hours so you can focus on spending time with loved ones. Another may be to let your boss know that you need advance notice of business travel so that you can plan your personal time off. Once you set boundaries, you need to communicate them to your team clearly and confidently. For example, if you want to avoid having team members contact you at all hours, tell them exactly when you will be available. If you don’t like to be contacted on vacation unless it is an emergency, clearly describe what constitutes an “urgent matter.” Then, when a boundary gets violated, address it right away.
Don’t settle for just hobbling across the finish line. By taking charge of end-of-year burnout and finding productive ways to take action, you’ll set yourself up for a new year filled with energy, excitement, and new beginnings.
Caroline Castrillon is a career and leadership coach who helps professional women navigate career change.
This article first appeared on the Forbes website