Tired of Being Tired? Here's What To Do About It

If you're limping towards Christmas, here's how you can tackle your exhaustion.
Bojan Vlahovic via Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s nearly Christmas and the end of the year and we’re all feeling a little exhausted. It goes without saying that the past two years have been difficult, and we’re still feeling the impacts of being in a pandemic. And just when we thought life was finally getting back to normal, the Omicron variant decided to take over. Now, new rules have been enforced with the introduction of Plan B and life is just feeling a bit overwhelming.

Outside of the pandemic, this time of the year tends to be stressful anyway, as deadlines multiply and are pushed forward, coffee catch-ups and nights out with friends fill the calendar, and there’s an overwhelming pressure to get everything done by December 25, says wellness coach and Head Plan founder Denise Kenny Byrne.

“Workloads, financial constraints, and the pressure to have the perfect Christmas are just some of the common stressors,” she tells HuffPost UK. “But let’s not forget a big stressor for us all the last two years, the pandemic and the uncertainty it brings has a huge part to play with how we are feeling.”

How has the pandemic affected burnout?

With so many of us now working from home again, blurred boundaries between personal and professional are the main reason for increased burnout, says Byrne. And if you have children that have been sent home from school to self-isolate, that adds extra pressure.

“It is so much harder to switch off and we have an always-on status,” she says.

“It’s unsurprising when you consider how many of us are juggling busy work schedules, video calls, home-schooling and household chores everyday and many of the activities we did for that stress release like – that planned annual leave, gym classes, freely socialising are no longer an option for many of us. Quite simply – we are not relaxing or taking downtime like before and we just don’t know how in these covid times.”

Isa Welly, who is a nutritional therapist and wellness coach, says the pandemic has meant that most of us are living in perpetual stress.

“We’re living in fear and the unknown of tomorrow. And our body responds to this sense of danger by going into a fight and flight response,” she says. “But when we stay in that fight and flight mode for a long period of time it really takes a toll on our mental and physical health. And I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been there and we are now feeling completely drained by it all.”

What are signs that we’re burnt out/exhausted?

Byrne says signs of burnout can include:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Frequent headaches or muscle pain
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated
  • Loss of motivation
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done.

Welly adds that you may notice physical changes to your body. “Burnout can also manifest in the body with our overall metabolism being slower,” she says. “The digestive system could be slower, hormones out of balance an overall sluggish feeling.”

What can we do when we’re experiencing burnout?

Byrne gives HuffPost UK five ways we can tackle burnout this year.

1 Write everything down

“And I mean everything… that hair appointment you’ve squeezed in, the last-minute shopping trip, that looming deadline. Planning in this way is scientifically proven to reduce stress. It’s a process known as ‘proactive coping,’” she says.

When we schedule events that we perceive as being potentially stressful, it can actually trigger feelings of anticipation instead of overwhelm, Byrne adds.

“And guess what happens next? The anticipation of the event, be it a work meeting or a big deadline, can spark increased productivity and performance that can make it more likely you’ll achieve your goals – and all you did was write it down and make it happen,” she says.

2. Control the Controllables

When you’re burned out and overwhelmed it can feel like so much is outside of your control – so focus on the things you can influence.

“The secret to staying cool, calm, and collected this December? Looking after the basics: that means getting plenty of sleep, nourishing yourself with food and water, and making sure to move your body,” says Byrne. “This may feel like another bullet point on the never-ending to-do list, but these ‘prep steps’ will make all those other daily tasks and actions easier to do.”

3. Put rituals in place

Daily rituals are the activities that allow you to bring your best self to each day. It could be writing in your gratitude journal, starting the morning with meditation, or repeating affirmations.

“When you prioritise your wellbeing in this way, it can sharpen your mindset, protect your energy, and give you a healthy dose of perspective that ensures you can deal with stress in a more positive way,” says Byrne.

4. Learn to say ‘no’

“The word has just two letters, but it’s loaded with negative connotations and saying it often comes with a side order of guilt, shame and embarrassment,” says Byrne. “After all, none of us likes to feel like we’re letting others down. But here’s the thing: when we say yes when we really want to say no, what we’re really saying is ‘my time and energy don’t matter’.”

If ‘no’ gives you a serious case of ‘the fear’, try practising on your friends and family first. You might feel more comfortable adding an explanation too. If that’s the case, Byrne recommends trying phrases like: “That sounds lovely, but I have a lot on my plate at the moment and want to preserve my energy” or “I’d love to help, but I’m feeling very overstretched right now.”

5. Be kind to yourself

“Every Christmas people around the world put up a tree in their homes. They take great care putting pretty ornaments on the tree, untangling twinkling lights, and placing a shiny gold star on the top of the tree. But as life ramps up on December 1st, do you take such good care of yourself?” asks Byrne.

“Just like that Christmas tree, our schedules in the lead up to Christmas inevitably come with a few extra embellishments and they can be a source of stress instead of celebration. You’ve made it through a full year of ups and downs, navigated nearly 12 months of trials and tribulations and come out the other end the better for it. There are just a few extra weeks standing between you and the year’s end and just like you’ve survived everything the previous 11 months have had to offer, you’ll make it through this moment too.”