By Tamara Oberholster
End-of-year burnout is a thing, and it creeps in well before the school break and December holiday season. Hence the phrase “Novemberitis”.
You’re tired, the deadlines are piling up, you have family gatherings looming on the horizon, and every time you cross one thing off your to-do list, three more things are added to the bottom.
How do you make it to the end of the year with your sanity and health intact? Here’s a three-step plan to guide you through November.
1. Mindset matters
Having “an attitude of gratitude” has become a modern self-help cliché, but for good reason: it works! Intentionally developing a healthy mindset is the first step to coping with trying periods.
“Focus on what you can do and what you do have,” suggests Tracey Pinder, business and life coach, and founder of The School of Life. “You may only be unhappy because your mental focus of attention is on what you can’t do and what you don’t have.
“Develop a new mindset – it will keep you positive and happy, empowered, motivated and resourceful.”
2. ACE your day
Tracey advises using a tool called the ACE Log every day. ACE stands for achievement, closeness, and enjoyment, and aims to help people to maintain a healthy balance in their lives, daily.
For example, when you’re stressed, it’s easy to focus more on tasks that give you a sense of achievement, and to lose sight of those that promote other elements you need in your life, like fun or connection with people.
Tracey suggests trying to include a balance of daily activities that:
- Give you a sense of Achievement (e.g., completing a task successfully)
- Promote Closeness to others (e.g., spending quality time with a loved one)
- Will bring you Enjoyment (e.g., doing something that makes you feel good)
3. Keep active
When life gets busy, exercise is often the first thing that slips off the to-do list. And yet, it is an important part of physical and mental health. Tarryn Seagram and Cheryl Whelan, co-founders of TransformHers, have these tips to help you keep moving:
- Enlist a pro. Hire a personal trainer for two or three sessions a week. They will not only give you guidelines to exercise correctly and according to your strength, fitness and goals, but it will also keep you accountable. It’s much harder to have to cancel an appointment with someone else than to let exercising slide when you’re on your own.
- Use visual progress cues. Often, it’s hard to see progress and easy to feel like training has no effect. Tarryn and Cheryl suggest using visual cues to remind your brain of your progress. Using two small, glass jars, label one “to do” and the other “completed”. Decide on how many times a week you plan to exercise and multiply that by four weeks to give you the number of sessions per month. For example, if you want to exercise three times a week, place 12 paper clips in the “to do” jar. After each workout, move one paper clip from the “to do” jar to the “completed” jar. Keep these jars somewhere visible (e.g., next to your kettle or on your desk). “Moving paper clips from one jar to the other is a motivational visual cue to keep you on track and give you instant feedback on how you are doing at a glance,” says Tarryn.
- Book an event for December or January. By booking an event, such as a hike/fun run/swimming, running or cycle race in advance, you’ve given yourself a concrete goal to work towards, which helps you to stay focused and on track.
- Phone a friend. “A training buddy will keep you company, and it’s always harder to cancel a workout when there is someone waiting for you,” says Cheryl. “It’s also comforting and more enjoyable to know someone else is enduring the pain and suffering that you are too.”
- Just show up.“When motivation is low, tell yourself that you can’t cancel the workout session, but you only need to do half of it,” says Tarryn. “Go to the gym, fitness class, or training session, and if at halfway you no longer wish to continue, you can stop. However, chances are, that once you are dressed and already at your workout venue, the hard part is done. It’s a sneaky way to trick the mind.”
- Stay flexible on the job. Choose three stretches that you can hold twice daily while waiting for the coffee machine, while brushing your teeth or on a Zoom call (as long as the video is off!). Tarryn suggests stretching your calves, quads and triceps to start with, and holding these stretches for 30 seconds to one minute each. The Mayo Clinic has a list of basic stretches to get you going.
And if you feel like you’re not coping with the stresses of the year-end period, find out more about how to manage your mental health or access professional help in our blog post.