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We’re in sight of the year’s finish line, but we’re running on fumes. How will we possibly get there? The ramp up to the final few weeks of the year can be very confusing. While we can smell the scent of freedom (i.e., holidays) in the air, we know that we have several hurdles to leap before we get there. Question is: do we have enough “oomph” left in our reserves to make it?

Ask anyone you know, and they will probably agree that the years just seem to get faster, and the demands from work and life are acute. By this time in the year, the general energy in the air is pretty charged — the check-out person at the supermarket doesn’t have her usual smile on for you, some colleagues have a “disturb at your peril” aura around them, your kids may be having more frequent meltdowns, and you may find that your fuse is a lot shorter than usual.

Basically, grumpiness (more than usual), anxiety, short temper, laziness, confusion, and distraction are all symptoms of year-end fatigue, and even as the to-do pile is mounting on your desk, thoughts of lazing on the beach fill your mind, and you feel as though your brain and body are on a go-slow.

Those of us who are parents will be looking at the fridge calendar in dismay at all the school and extramural events, not to mention exams. These will probably require a lot of support on your part — steadying pre-exam jitters, and how is your memory of fractions these days? (Hint: Youtube videos — you can thank us later!)

If you’re an employer, you’re probably tearing your hair out with employees who just seem to be going through the motions. Unfortunately, the combination of high work volume and deadlines that need to be met before year-end and home life demands means that most of us are only just coping.

Reality check
Much as we’d probably all like to check out mentally now, we know that is simply not an option. The reality is that there is no cure for year-end fatigue except rest, but there are ways to get through this period without burning out or burning bridges.

  • Free up some time. Sometimes it’s really ok just say no. If the social event is not an important family gathering or vital from a career point of view, you can probably give it a miss. As hard as it may be, guard your free time jealously and try not to fill every weekend with activity — there’s plenty of time to socialise during the holidays. Spend it doing things that give you pleasure — reading a book, gardening, taking the kids and dog out for a walk.
  • Book that holiday. Many of us save our leave to catch up on all the things we don’t have time for in the year, understandably. But don’t forget that this time is meant for you to have some R&R. Ideally, try to take at least four days to get away. But if circumstances don’t allow that, get yourself out of your normal routine and surroundings — even if it’s only day trips — and spend time with family and friends.
  • Rest up. It’s important that you get a good night’s rest now. Try to get to sleep by latest 10pm, and get between seven and a half and eight hours a night.
  • Clear your head. Don’t make any important work decisions until you’ve had a chance to rest and recover over the holidays.
  • Try to keep up your usual exercise routine. If you’re having more late nights due to social engagements and can’t get to gym as usual, try to fit in a walk at lunchtime.
  • Cut down on tech time. If you’re having late nights, ditch TV and social media and go straight to bed when you get home. The blue light emitted by screens disturbs your circadian rhythms and tells your body it’s time to be awake, so you could end up with more insomnia if you indulge. If you really have to, install a sleep light app on your phone, iPad or laptop that signals your body to release the sleep-inducing hormone melotonin.

Eat right
At this time of year, social engagements mount up, and it’s likely that we will over-indulge. Putting on extras kilos is only going to increase your stress, so here are a few tips to keep you trim and healthy before your holiday:

  • Eat a healthy meal just before you head out to that party or event — that way you’ll be less tempted by all those sugar and carbohydrate-rich goodies.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate — try to drink a glass of water for every glass of alcoholic drink.

Apart from these coping strategies, our diet plays a big part in surviving this slump. Understand that foods high in sugar and carbs actually cause energy depletion. High-sugar energy drinks and other stimulants like coffee and alcohol may boost energy temporarily, but they cause an energy slump once they wear off.

Foods that can give us an energy boost include fresh fruit and vegetables, especially brightly coloured ones like blueberries, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, etc. Not only are they energy boosters, but they are also high in antioxidants, which also help to boost energy. WebMD tells us that, according to a 2009 study by scientists at Italy’s University of Siena, omega 3 oils may boost alertness. Volunteers who took a fish oil capsule for 21 days demonstrated faster mental reaction times. They also reported feeling more vigorous.

It’s important all year round, but particularly at year end… don’t skip breakfast! Once again, try to avoid a breakfast high in sugar and carbohydrates, but rather choose a high protein meal with fruit. Smoothies are a great idea for very busy people and can be crammed with all sorts of energy enhancing goodies.

Include brain-boosting foods in your diet. Fresh fish is high in omega 3’s, while whole grains, red meat, and lentils are high in vitamin B.

Keep snacking, but make sure they’re high protein or high-fat snacks such as nuts, biltong and seeds. Keep snacks in your car and in your bag to keep energy levels constant. If you’re struggling to eat healthily at this busy time, supplements that include things like vitamin B complex, ginseng and omega 3’s are helpful.

Are you deficient in vitamin D, iron or chromium? A nutrient deficiency is also a possibility if you’re chronically fatigued. It’s sometimes worth having a blood test to check these levels, and take corrective action.

Happy holidays!

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