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Revive your energy, crush burnout

CNA – As the year draws to a close, the weight of impending deadlines and unfulfilled promises can become particularly burdensome. Your boss eagerly awaits that year-end report, while your parents anticipate the December cruise you pledged to arrange for the extended family.

Yet, the reality is that you’ve yet to make any progress on these commitments. Your digital to-do list stretches for miles in your Google Drive, but your cosy bed seems to exert an irresistible pull, urging you to linger just a little longer.

You find yourself negotiating for a mere five minutes of respite, even as your mind races through the daunting list of tasks awaiting your attention today.

Then, a sickening realisation strikes. It’s less than two months before the end of 2023. At your last performance review, you’d barely scratch 10 per cent of your KPIs. You might as well pencil in a talking-to with your supervisor right now; no need to wait for the next financial year.

Year-end burnout, fatigue or simply an impending sense of doom, call it what you will but it is a very real phenomenon that many of us face as we inch closer to singing Oh-no Lang Syne to 2023.

“Some of us may begin to feel fatigued, both physical and mental, by the cumulative stress experienced,” said John Shepherd Lim, the chief wellbeing officer at Singapore Counselling Centre.

“Additionally, the thought of the new year fast approaching can prompt individuals to reflect on their goals and achievements for the year thus far. The cumulative stress can cause the individual to feel pressured or burnt out, which in turn, results in lower motivation at work.”


How to deal with what you’re feeling at work

Mix anxiety, stress, lack of motivation, self-doubt and strained ties with your colleagues or boss, give it a year or so to marinade and you have a classic recipe that screams “I want to quit”. If that’s how you’ve been feeling – amplified by the year-end fatigue and pressure – here are some scenario-specific tips to tide you through.

Scenario 1: You’re feeling overwhelmed

The end of the year is often a busy period for many of us, said Asher Low, a social worker and the executive director of Limitless, as we wind down and finish up work for the year. So, it is inevitable to feel overwhelmed.

As a result, you may “notice increased irritability, difficulty concentrating and even experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches or falling ill easily”, said Low. The signs of not being able to cope may also include difficulty in sleeping, said Dr John Tan, the executive director of Care Singapore.

To help you make short work of your tasks, “break them into manageable, bite-sized pieces”, said Low. “Asking for help to alleviate stress is crucial. The quality of your work may suffer if you’re not feeling your best,” he said.

“While you practise the basics of prioritising tasks and breaking them into smaller steps, it can also help if you set boundaries and seek support from colleagues,” said Dr Tan. In his organisation, “we remind staff that it is normal to have ups and downs, and the feeling of being overwhelmed is a reminder from your body and mind that it is time to take a pause and recharge, so that you can bounce back higher and better when you are rested”.

Scenario 2: You don’t get paid enough

Rather than measuring your salary as whether it is “enough” or not, it might change your perspective if you replace it with the word “fair”, said Dr Tan. “Remember that words are often based on comparisons and perspectives.”

It helps to also weigh the other aspects of your job such as benefits, environment, culture, work-life balance and the people around you who will either make work enjoyable or insufferable, said Dr Tan.

If you must compare, look within yourself for your own barometers instead of holding yourself up against the standards set by others, he said. Look deep and ask yourself if what you feel is a good return on your time spent working.

If you need a more objective viewpoint other than your own, talk to a colleague whom you’re comfortable with, said Lim. “From there, you can decide if you would like to have a one-to-one conversation about your pay with your superior, or discuss and brainstorm the next steps you can take to get a pay increase.”


Scenario 3: You don’t feel valued

You’ve been working overtime and on weekends. When a colleague goes on maternity leave, you’re the one who picks up the slack. So it is understandable that you don’t feel valued if your boss doesn’t seem to “recognise your efforts or isn’t treating you the way you should be treated for the value that you’ve brought”, said Low.

“When that happens, you might start to feel frustrated or even in some cases, contempt for your employer,” he said, along with low mood and a lack of motivation to continue working or participating in work tasks and events.

“When the opportunity arises, have an open conversation with your supervisor about how you’re feeling,” said Low. “Often, we feel hesitant to express these feelings in a work setting, but morale is essential in the workplace. You deserve to feel valued, or at least understand why you or your employer might not be meeting each other’s expectations.”

If, after trying everything, you still feel undervalued, it’s okay to consider that you may have outgrown your current role or the company, said Low.

Scenario 4: You compare yourself to others

It’s human nature to compare performances, job satisfaction, salaries, benefits and progression opportunities with not just your colleagues, but also your peers, said Low.

While some people can motivate themselves through comparison, more often than not, it will either cause you to feel worse, or make you feel like you have to maintain an unsustainable pace to keep yourself ahead. “If you believe you have room for improvement and growth, seek solutions that can specifically address those areas,” said Low.

But if the constant comparing doesn’t serve any purpose, it may be a recurring pattern in your life that you might want to work on, he said. “This often comes at the cost of our mental well-being and may result in low self-esteem, jealousy and critical self-talk, which can lead to very low moods and self-criticism,” he said.

“What might help is to recognise your efforts and the things you have accomplished, no matter how small they may seem.”


Scenario 5: You don’t get along with a colleague

It is inevitable to have conflict in the workplace. “But concern arises when the conflict morphs into a recurring pattern, fostering sustained tension,” said Dr Tan, especially when there is inadequate communication among colleagues.

For instance, whenever you try to get your point across, the colleague whom you don’t get along with, always dismisses it and ensures that everyone agrees with him or her, said Lim. There are other signs, too, that can be observed, such as not engaging in small talk or not interacting with said colleague during work hours or after.

Dr Tan suggested having “open, honest communication with your colleague” or learn conflict-resolution skills from books, workshops or podcasts. “However, it’s important to note that active listening emerges as another key component in bolstering the efficacy of communication, ensuring that everyone feels seen and heard.”

However, if that’s a big step to take, you can start by learning about where your work values lie, said Lim. “For example, question your capability to tolerate an individual who constantly takes credit for your work as well as how you usually manage conflicts with others.

“You can talk it through with your family members and their experiences with their colleagues. From there, you can discover what works best for you when maintaining work relationships,” said Lim.