Welcome to the final stretch of 2022!!
If the thought alone exhausts you when contemplating about the countdown to Christmas, the amount of shopping to be done, the Christmas day food preparation or the additional social events that are slowly building up in your calendar….you are not alone.
If you’re finding it hard to concentrate, are more irritable, or have difficulties kick-starting your days, then you could well be dealing with end-of-year fatigue, a real phenomenon affecting many people during the months of November and December.
So what does end-of-year fatigue look like? Symptoms can include:
- Insomnia or Lack of sleep
- Generalised body aching
- Poor memory and concentration
As a human race, we are constantly finding new ways to increase productivity so we can squeeze a little more work into our days. We are over-stimulated, and our focus is impacted by a constant stream of notifications, alerts, beeps, buzzes and vibrations. Week on week, the pressure to meet work deadlines, get our kids to school and/or attend the youngest child’s dance competition whilst also getting your oldest to rugby practice starts to mount up and takes its toll. As life stressors increase, our bodies, which are ill-equipped to manage the compounding impacts, start short-circuiting and our ability to cope with the environment around us decreases.
It’s no surprise that by the time we hit November, our minds and bodies are tired and want to rest.
Year-end fatigue can be caused by either physical or mental fatigue or both.
Physical Fatigue: You start to feel tired as a result of physical tasks. This type of fatigue is commonly caused by physical activities such as walking to work, working in construction, lifting heavy objects, and being on your feet all day.
Mental Fatigue: Mental fatigue impacts your cognitive functions. Feeling this way makes it difficult to concentrate or focus on small things, generate fresh ideas, or find the motivation to complete tasks.
Fatigue And Our Brains
Recognising the feelings associated with fatigue is the easy bit, but do we understand what is happening neurologically?
Scientists believe they may be able to explain why you feel so tired after a long day concentrating at work, simply put, your brain has slowed down to manage the strain.
Dr Anna Kuppuswamy from the Institute of Neurology at University College London noted, “We know that during physical exercise, lactate accumulates in the muscles, leading to muscle fatigue. It is kind of intuitive that something similar happens in the brain, and this is good first evidence to suggest that.”
It’s believed that sustained mental activity leads to the build-up of a potentially toxic neurotransmitter (glutamate) in the prefrontal cortex, according to a published study in Current Biology. Researchers indicate the brain slows down its activity to manage the build-up, which offers an explanation as to why we feel tired. It’s thought the body clears away this access or accumulated glutamate during sleep. Which further explains the challenges our bodies face when getting deep restorative sleep is hard to come by.
These studies, although they are not conclusive, do start to give us a picture as to what our bodies are doing and why we feel fatigued. This gives great insight into what measures we can take to avoid elongated fatigue and support a healthy or more energised you at the end of the year.
So, with that in mind, and with the Christmas season around the corner, what can we do to reduce the impacts of the previous eight months, which will help prevent the end-of-year fatigue from turning into a full-out burnout?
Here we have listed our top tips on self-care
It can be challenging to make time for yourself, especially when your to-do-list is mounting up and when you’re being pulled in different directions to keep work, home life and relationships afloat. This makes adding self-care to that to-do list even more important. So scheduling time for yourself each day, adding to your to-do list something that restores and re-balances you. Be that reading a book or going for a walk, running a bath and listening to your favourite podcast or simply grabbing a coffee and sitting in your back garden.
There are many things you can do to relieve fatigue and pamper yourself:
- Get pampered and have a massage
- Flick through a magazine or read a book
- Get crafty
- Potter in the garden
- Spend the morning at the beach or lake
It doesn’t matter what the activity is; just make sure it’s scheduled and prioritised. Remember, the commitments you make to yourself are just as important as promises you make to other people.
Brainwave Entrainment is not a ‘treatment’ for fatigue, in the same way that running is not a ‘treatment’ for obesity. But it’s not to say that it cannot help. As brainwave entrainment supports your mental and emotional well-being by inducing calm brain states (which is exactly what happens during a meditation session, when enjoying a massage, or relaxing with a book), it can help with several mental wellness symptoms, including fatigue.
DeepWave Brainwave Entrainment focuses on inducing specific brain states, predominantly calm, sleepy, and relaxed states, by using a gently pulsing high-frequency LED light. It is non-invasive, requires no talking and leaves you with feelings that you might experience after a deep sleep, relaxing massage, a float tank or deep meditation session.
By targeting deep sleep states, we can mimic the detoxification process that we know helps clean out excess glutamate. This in itself is deeply restorative, but equally valuable is the relaxing 30 minutes of stimulation free time you get when enjoying the brainwave entrainment session itself. The effects of a single session can last up to 48 hours, but impacts or symptom reduction is accumulative if several sessions are completed. If self-care measures are the antidote to fatigue, then brainwave entrainment would be the gold standard or the 5-star resort of self-care measures.
Brainwave entrainment provides the space needed between you and your symptoms. It allows you to draw breath with a calmer state of mind, with fewer symptoms and triggers. It can be incredibly restorative, supports better sleep, improves your mood and generally will help you to feel more rejuvenated.
Foods that fuel you
Whilst it may feel good to reach for comfort foods when you are tired and stressed — chocolate, chips, mac & cheese, and coffee can wreak havoc on your stress and energy levels.
When your body is stressed, junk foods may actually increase stress hormone levels. Choose foods that combat stress. Eating nutritious and balanced meals can assist with fatigue.
Limit social media
People are always looking for the latest trends and news. Attempting to keep up or be distracted by each social media platform can be difficult and exhausting. This alone can significantly contribute to year-end fatigue.
With Christmas just around the corner, it is a great time to take a wee break from social media and be present with the people around you. So try a digital detox and see benefits to your sleep, relationships, and overall health.
The definition of self-care may vary from person to person, but I’m reasonably confident that getting a massage would make it onto almost everyone’s list in terms of pampering and self-care.
Deep tissue or Swedish massages are recommended for stress relief and muscle tension. Aside from stress relief, ongoing massage therapy can increase energy levels and reduce overall body aches and pains.
To perform optimally, the average adult needs to sleep at least eight hours per night. You will feel fatigued, irritable and sluggish if you sleep less. The same is true for too much sleep; for example, sleeping for 11 per night is excessive and could result in even greater tiredness throughout the day.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever with considerable benefits to your overall health. We know that endorphins are produced during heart-pumping activities, as well as the feel-good neurotransmitters responsible for that euphoric feeling. Exercise can also help you get a night of better sleep.
Make sure you exercise in moderation, giving your body a chance to recover between sessions. Otherwise, you will add more stress to your body rather than relieve it. Choose three or four days a week when you head to the gym or do a home workout. Exercise should be fun, so hiking or walking your dog also counts.
Having hectic weeks with no clue how everything will get done will significantly strain your body and increase your year-end fatigue symptoms. Try keeping a daily planner, divide your work into reasonable segments for each day, and ensure you complete that section of work for the day.
This will bring you one step closer to finishing your work and give you a sense of achievement.
Toward the end of the working year, pushing yourself over that finish line can feel like a mammoth effort.
If you don’t feel like you are up for a particular task or your workload is too much for you to take on, don’t be afraid to speak to your boss or the person in charge at work. Hopefully, they will be understanding and will help to find ways to make work less stressful and ultimately more enjoyable for you.
It is also the time of the year when social gatherings are more frequent, with the end-of-year drinks or Christmas functions for work being scheduled. If this all feels too overwhelming and you are finding you are sacrificing your time doing the things that you really enjoy doing and your ‘down time’, then say no.
Take Regular Breaks
It is really important to take breaks whenever possible. Refrain from working through your lunch or tea breaks. Enjoy the time you have to yourself on your breaks before going back to work. The same is true when you get home in the evenings. Take a few moments to relax, de-stress and unwind before beginning your evening routine.