Can you believe we are in the last quarter? We are on the verge of saying goodbye to 2019 and welcoming 2020. This is it, the final stretch, but many people (including myself) are dragging themselves toward the finish line. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, fatigue is a noun defined as ‘weariness or exhaustion from labour, exertion, or stress’ does this sound like you? There is a phenomenon known as ‘end-of-year-fatigue’ where many people have described a feeling of lethargy and a lack of focus as the year comes to a close.
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post on mental health, “We need a break, it’s both of us (but more you than me)”, and I revisited it when writing this post because exhaustion does not suddenly happen, it is usually a slow build-up, a tower of anxieties built on a foundation of stress before your mind and your body tell you ‘enough is enough’. I thought that I was suffering alone until, in typical Kim style, I took to Twitter to share a few funny gifs about my lack of energy and to my surprise, many other academics and students related. Fatigue can be especially tricky as a postgraduate student as we often work throughout the year with little to no breaks, we do not have set semesters or holidays and often work over weekends and during the evening. So, although many people feel this ‘end-of-year-fatigue’ toward November, mine kicked in toward the end of August.
There are many articles which outline how to deal with this fatigue and survive the final push, here are a few of the top tips!
Focus on how far you’ve come
Sometimes in the rush to achieve all our goals, we tend to forget how much we have already accomplished. Everything that has been marked off a checklist is a small victory! Take stock of your year and all you have achieved, you may be surprised at how productive you truly were. This is a good reminder of your progress and helps to motivate you to continue crossing items off your ‘To do’ list
Create a schedule and manage your time
If you are anything like me, you start the year off as the most organized person and then slowly but surely that turns to chaos somewhere around the middle of the year. This is a good time to fix that, create a schedule and make use of your calendar, set aside time for your work and include breaks as well. Time management is crucial to your success as a postgraduate student and can often help avoid burning out. There are many great apps that can help with this as well, my personal favourite is Trello which helps me keep tabs on what I have done, what I’m currently doing and what I still have to do.
Revisit your goals and set targets for the last push
At the start of the year, we are often ambitious but as I have discovered, life happens and many unexpected obstacles arise. This may have thrown off your initial set of goals and targets, some may have been put on the back burner and some may have been discarded. This is a great time to reassess your goals and targets, be mindful of your time and what you would still like to achieve for the year, there is no shame in shifting things around! We tend to think we are superhuman and that we have to do it all before the clock strikes midnight on 31 December, this often creates even more anxiety.
Take care of your health
Exercising and eating well can sometimes go out the window when you are tired and have UberEats. I am guilty of this too, I am often tired and do not want to cook a healthy meal, instead, I want to eat several chocolates and lay in my bed. This can contribute to your feelings of lethargy, get up and move about, even if it is a short walk or a 30-minute yoga session, it will help you clear your mind and often makes you feel energized.
Create healthy habits
Do you check your emails at midnight? Do you work every weekend? These are all unhealthy habits that contribute to that feeling of being consistently busy and in the end, result in fatigue. Be firm with your time. I will repeat that. Be firm with your time. We all love what we are doing but your time is precious, you cannot and should not devote every waking hour to working! It takes a long time but start breaking these bad habits and replace them with healthier ones. Stick to your working hours, no matter what they are.
Allocate ‘me’ time
This does not need much of an explanation, self-maintenance is important! Take some time to do something for yourself, this could be a day of Netflix in bed or a laptop free day. Allocate time, put it in your calendar so that you do not feel bad because it is a scheduled appointment but with yourself!
Visualise your break!
My wonderful editor added this one in and I am so glad she did! Plan and schedule when your holidays will begin and every now and then look at photos, or make some plans. This might give you something to look forward to and boost your spirits to get you through the last stretch. Please, leave your laptop at home when the day finally comes- do not feel guilted into working on your break!
Seek help if it is needed
If your fatigue is overwhelming and you feel like you are drowning and struggling to come up for air, please seek help. There are many services offered by universities to support student mental health. There is a list of health care providers on the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) that is particularly useful!
It is okay to be tired after a long and productive year, you are not alone and you are not lazy. Sometimes that’s all you need to hear to make the finish line seem just a little closer. You can do it, we will do it together.