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Why am I not motivated to work? How do I deal with burnout and fatigue?

It’s especially prevalent at this time of the year when things are coming to an end. Your boss is expecting that round-up report any time now. Your parents are looking forward to the December cruise that you’d promised to book for the whole extended family – except, of course, you haven’t gotten round to doing it yet.

There’s a mile-long to-do list sitting in your Google drive but your bed is adamant that you linger longer. Okay, maybe five minutes, you say to yourself as your mind races through every single item you have to get through for the day.  

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.


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“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.”


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 wanna 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.


Like a cosmic black hole, negative thoughts suck you into a dimension of pessimism and despair. The more you ruminate, the deeper you fall. Here’s how you can get yourself out with help from Singapore Counselling Centre’s chief wellbeing officer John Shepherd Lim:

1. Identify your thought pattern

Ask yourself whether a thought is helpful or not – and the reality of your thoughts in relation to the situation. Also, take the opportunity to reflect on the stressors you may be experiencing at work.

For instance, consider the relationships with your colleagues or the amount of your workload, and understand what is driving you to keep working. Is it your children or family, or to achieve financial freedom?”

2. Change up your routine for a sense of novelty

This can include introducing new morning rituals or trying out new activities with family and friends.

3. Take micro-breaks during your work day

Get up from your seat and take a short walk or get a coffee break. These micro-breaks can keep you focused and energised throughout the work day.

4. Practise mindfulness

Recognise when your thoughts are turning to work and do your best to be present in the moment by engaging in some deep-breathing exercises. Try the 4-2-6 deep breathing technique, where you breathe in for four counts, hold for two counts and breathe out for six counts.

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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 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 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.


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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.

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