2020 was a pretty rough year. Covid-19 hit and everything changed. Unfortunately, 2021 has not been much better as the pandemic continues to control the way we live our lives. So how do we get through the final quarter of the year unscathed by the added pressures and stresses of life as we know it? Reporter David Beck spoke to the experts.
There are plenty of reasons Good George Brewing has gins named "F*ck Off 2020" and "For F*ck's Sake 2021".
It has been a tough couple of years for many.
While New Zealand has arguably handled the Covid-19 pandemic better than many countries, it has brought with it change and pressure which can lead to extra anxiety and stress.
However, there are tools that can be used to combat this sense of dread and avoid burnout or total exhaustion in the final quarter of the year.
"We need to accept that we do have limits to our capacity."
Tauranga psychologist Kate Ferris says we live in a culture obsessed with being busy and productive. The consequences of the pandemic only added more stress on top of that.
"As humans, we're not designed to live in these states of chronic stress," she says.
"Our bodies get to the point of giving out. What I see clinically is more and more people presenting with issues around chronic stress and overwhelm."
Ferris said the first step in combatting these stress factors was to set reasonable expectations.
"Culturally there's an idea that we should be doing everything to an incredible degree. We need to accept that we do have limits to our capacity.
"We also look at prioritising rest and restoration and looking at that as an important part of productivity. You need to do tank-filling or energy-filling activities that actually give you the resources to continue to engage in those things in life that are demanding or require energy."
It was important to step back and look at ways of doing things differently to lighten the load, she said.
"Sometimes we have fixed commitments that we can't creatively resolve and therefore having an outlet to share with, to validate it and have someone express empathy is really valuable.
"Talking about it can normalise these issues. The issues are really pervasive so we want to give each other permission to talk about work overwhelm, talk about the challenges we have balancing home life and work commitments, or being a great parent, a great spouse, and a busy professional.
"These discussions are really important."
Make a plan but be ready to pivot
Rotorua life coach Annie Canning says she has made some interesting observations in relation to the pandemic and how people are living their lives.
"People are playing it safe. They are not comfortable taking risks at the moment, given the high level of uncertainty," she says.
"That whole environment, that uncertainty, feeds people's inhibitions. People are operating from that place of fear.
"The other area is the polar opposite of that. People are reaching out and recognising that it's time to make changes at a personal level."
Canning says the uncertainty of the last two years has created higher levels of anxiety, stress and overwhelm.
"I've had a number of people contact me because they recognise that they're coming up to the end of the year and they're not where they wanted to be.
"They want to get a plan in place and be a bit more intentional with where they want to be next year. It's interesting, though, because you couple that with the uncertainty of what's to come.
"But if they have a plan they have a sense that they might have more control over what's coming. It sounds counter-intuitive but it's really important to have a plan and live with a degree of intention because it gives you control back.
"If you have a plan and know what you want to achieve, you might have to take a different pathway to get there but that's what life is about, resilience and being able to pivot. And that's what Covid has shown so many people."
She said there was "absolutely" a risk of burnout as the end of the year approached.
"This year has been one of significant challenges and changes. The pandemic has impacted everyone differently, and what people don't recognise is when we are forced with sudden change we have to adapt quite quickly, and that takes a lot of energy.
"Coming up to what is usually a busy time of year anyway, they've already dealt with this emotional upheaval over the last couple of years. That really has put them in a space where they are more susceptible to burnout."
Canning encourages clients to make a plan and not be a martyr - ask for help, prioritise sleep, exercise regularly, eat well and reduce screen time.
"You need to take a critical look and apply the four Ds - do you do it, delegate it, delay it or dump it? Don't be afraid to ask for help, you are not here to be everything to everyone."
Anxiety and stress can affect physical health
Mount Maunganui GP Dr Tony Farrell says this year there were "increased factors for burnout".
"Examples are uncertainty with jobs, business and finances, less ability to take holidays, and health concerns, as well as public health limitations on normal life," he says.
"People have had to make a lot of adjustments, for example, working from home or different hours. There is a loss of connection socially, especially in older people.
"Even wearing a mask daily can be tiring. Housing and the rising prices of the cost of living also add to this as the impact of Covid-19 affects the supply of goods into New Zealand."
Farrell says stress and anxiety can have a negative effect on physical health.
"If people are unable to unwind, this can lead to sleep disturbance, unhealthy eating and exercise patterns, and overuse of alcohol and nicotine.
"Their mood can drop, and people can end up feeling exhausted. Physical symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing and lightheadedness are common.
"Blood pressure and resting pulse can increase and the long-term effects of stress can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis."
He says the best way to combat this and avoid an end-of-year burnout is to come up with a self-care plan.
"Exercise regularly and cut down on alcohol and other drugs. Allow time for rest and recreation.
"With burnout, finding a passionate activity that you enjoy is beneficial. Spend time with family and friends. Reach out if you feel you are struggling, and see a health professional if you are unable to manage.
"Burnout is always worse if there is inadequate support, so talk to your boss and loved ones if you are feeling overwhelmed."
Dealing with "crazy season"
Pāpāmoa mindfulness and meditation coach Annaliese Arnold, who runs the online community Kickass Mummas and the Kickass Co, says heading into the last quarter of the year people often feel things started to "ramp up".
"It's what people typically call the crazy season. Throw in a few lockdowns and things like that and people are definitely feeling it," she says.
"One of the key things people can do to support themselves is plan and prepare. Now is the perfect time to sit down, either with your family or your partner, whatever your situation is, and actually look at the next three months.
"See what commitments you have coming up, put them in a calendar, and have a clear plan. That helps ease the overwhelm - when we know what's coming. Then when any unintentional situations or surprises pop up we're better equipped to adapt and deal with it."
Arnold says communication is also one of the most important tools for avoiding burnout.
"A lot of issues can arise when there is either a lack of communication or miscommunication. That can mean people are not sure what is expected of them and that can lead to frustration.
"That can be at work or at home. Sharing your feelings, whether it's day-to-day or week-to-week, and actually be OK with it. For some people it's a really stressful time and we shouldn't deny that. It's when we bottle it up that problems arise. Accept it, sit with it and release it."
She says many people, especially parents, are guilty of neglecting self-care.
"It doesn't need to be grand gestures or time-consuming, it's just the idea of checking in with yourself daily, acknowledging your emotions and being okay with them."
10 tips for avoiding burnout during the last quarter of 2021
1. Focus on sleep and restoration
As much as you may feel like there's no time to sleep or relax, it can actually be more productive to do so. A lack of sleep can lead to the body breaking down further down the track. Take a break before you are forced to do so.
2. Have a plan
When feeling overwhelmed and stressed it can be useful to sit down and come up with a plan. We have learned in the last two years that many things are uncertain, but a base plan ensures that we are at least better placed to adapt and pivot.
Bottling up your emotions can lead to burnout, so tell people how you are feeling. There is no shame in telling someone you are struggling and their empathy can help you cope.
4. Don't be a martyr
You do not have to do everything yourself. Look at what needs to be done and consider Annie Canning's four Ds; do it, delegate it, delay it, or dump it.
5. Eat well
A poor diet can enhance feelings of tiredness and burnout. Eat natural whole foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and avoid stimulants such as too much caffeine, sugar or alcohol.
Regular exercise will help the body's detoxification process and reduce stress levels. Even a 10-minute walk in the middle of the day can clear your mind and prepare you to tackle the afternoon's work.
7. Reduce screen time
Staring at computer, phone and television screens can add to the feelings of stress and tiredness. It can also upset your circadian rhythm, and using your phone before bed will make it harder to get to sleep.
8. Find an activity you enjoy
Break up the day or week with something you look forward to. From reading a book to going for a walk or catching up friends for a coffee. It may seem selfish or unproductive but the clarity and energy you get from it will make you more productive in the long run.
9. Accept that you can't be everything to all people
Often people find themselves worn out simply from trying to please everyone. Sometimes you have to take stock and accept that you need time for yourself as well - otherwise you'll burn out and be no use to anyone. Be honest, communicate about what you're capable of, and prioritise.
10. Don't be ashamed to admit you're overwhelmed
Feeling stressed or overwhelmed is perfectly normal. Often just telling someone you are feeling that way can make all the difference. It also gives people the opportunity to help and support you - often they will have a solution you had not thought of.