How to cope with the end-of-year burn-out


You feel tired, overwhelmed and fearful for the last eight weeks of the year. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate on your life, exercise programme and work.

Many of us are thinking ahead to next year – and feeling even more overwhelmed and anxious.

This end-of-year syndrome is a reality, often characterised by exhaustion, especially during November and December, says Dr Hermann Liebenberg, a Centurion-based psychologist.

Remember that the pressure won’t last forever and that most people will have a break and a holiday in the not-too-distant future, he adds.

“But be prepared for the holidays as it isn’t unusual for people to get sick towards the end of the year,” he says.

This phenomenon is well-documented and is characterised by headaches, migraines, digestive problems and other conditions when people go from a high-pressure situation (work exhaustion) to a low-pressure rest period, Dr Liebenberg says.

It’s important not to try to fight the system (whether it’s work, school or university) by wanting to do less than usual, Dr Liebenberg warns. “The race of the year is completed only after you’ve done your best.”

Depend on your support systems and make sure you support others, he advises. By supporting others you make it possible for them to support you until the end of the year.

If you have to consult a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist, make sure you make an appointment early as this time of year is busy for those in the health care sector. Consider what you’ve achieved this year and how much progress you’ve made. Often we deny the successes of a year and concentrate on the negatives and disappointments, which has an unfavourable effect on our psyches and emotional health. The choice of what you focus on often determines the mood you’ll be in when you take your well-deserved holiday. Be loving and kind to yourself. You can do this by focussing on three key areas: body, mind and spirit, says Dana Tadmor, a Cape Town-based counsellor.


  • Take regular exercise and enjoyable walks on the beachfront or in the mountains. Remember to enjoy your exercise, as it shouldn't be a chore.
  • Eat healthily as this keeps your energy levels up and your mind focused. Don't beat yourself over the occasional chocolate or treat.
  • Drink enough fluids ( at least 1,5 litres of water a day).
  • Get enough sleep (at least 7 hours a night), and try go to sleep at the same time every night.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol and caffeine. Smoking and drugs go without saying. Recovering from a binge is exhausting and wastes precious time. Be wary of office Christmas parties.


  • At work, do as much as you can so that you don't have to stress about it over the weekends or at night.
  • Work regular working hours and try not exceed nine hours a day.
  • Take a lunch hour as this will assist in making you more productive during the second half of the day.
  • Address issues with work colleagues, friends, partners and family as resentments are severely damaging to your mindset.
  • Prioritise your work, family and social expectations.
  • Make a list of the five most important tasks that you would like to complete by the end of the year and tick them off one by one.
  • Take one day at a time and don’t worry about tomorrow or next year while you’re working on tasks for today.
  • Approach the festive season with realistic expectations regarding  your finances and family responsibilities.
  • Set appropriate boundaries with work colleagues, family and friends.  By doing this you will avoid becoming angry, resentful and having feelings of being disrespected. If you don’t set boundaries regarding money, time or energy you must share between everyone, they will set the boundaries for you.


  • Spice up your sex life. Be adventurous with your partner.
  • Find time to quieten your mind. Yoga and meditation are great ways to achieve this.
  • Appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Take a walk in the park, swim in the sea or climb a mountain.
  • Be generous to those less fortunate than you, spend time with the aged or help out in an animal shelter.
  • Reconnect with an “old” friend you haven't spoken with in a long time.
  • Try live in the present and enjoy each day.
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