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Avoiding Holiday Burnout: Techniques to Sustain Vitality and Wellness Amidst the Festive Rush

Post written by BFH Staff Writer on December 14, 2023
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Preventing Burnout During The Holiday Rush
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Julie, 32, and Peter, 35, recently tied the knot and are gearing up to host their first family dinner at their home on December 26. With 20 people invited, the couple is feeling the pressure of planning the menu, organizing party games, shopping for gifts and decorations, and, most notably, the fear of being judged by their new family.

Introducing Melissa, 45, who has been the sole caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s disease for the past few years. Managing her caregiving responsibilities alongside her job and holiday preparations, such as shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and party planning, has always been a source of stress for her during this season. 

Meet Michelle and Robert, proud parents of two children aged 7 and 10. With a new house mortgage and average salaries, they initially planned for a modest holiday dinner this year. However, their extended family surprised them with a visit, unexpectedly pushing them to exceed their planned budget. The couple has been facing financial stress in recent days. 

Many of us can relate to experiences like these at some point in our lives. Holiday burnout and stress are common occurrences, especially in countries like the USA, where the period from October to December is a time of widespread celebration.

Studies widely acknowledge that the holiday season can be a stressful time for one-fourth of the US adult population. Factors such as financial pressures, increased social obligations, and the emotional strain of managing family dynamics during the holidays can contribute to feelings of burnout. Additionally, caregivers who shoulder the responsibility of caring for loved ones, including those with Alzheimer’s, may experience heightened stress and burnout during this time.

That is why it is crucial to recognize the potential for burnout during this time and take proactive steps to manage stress and prioritize self-care.

What is Holiday Burnout?

Holiday burnout occurs when individuals experience chronic physical and emotional exhaustion during the holiday season, often accompanied by feelings of cynicism and detachment. The heightened expectations and demands of this time of year can worsen stress levels and contribute to burnout if individuals do not effectively manage it. Taking the first step towards prevention involves recognizing the signs of burnout.

Common symptoms of burnout include:

  • persisting fatigue
  • decreased performance
  • increased irritability
  • feeling detached from one’s responsibilities

During the holiday rush, these symptoms can be further intensified by the pressure to meet societal expectations of joy.

How To Avoid Holiday Burnout?

Julie is feeling unsure about how to handle the pressure. She reached out to her mom for advice, and she was told to hire a caterer for the main day. Julie needs to call each invitee, inquire about their food preferences, and then communicate those preferences to the caterer, who can curate a delicious and inclusive menu for everyone. Sharing her gratitude for her mom’s idea, Julie says, “It’s a lifesaver! Cooking for so many people is a challenge for me since I have always lived alone. I won’t be hard on myself and will seek professional help wherever I can.”

Similarly, Melissa wants to enjoy her holiday with her colleagues this year. She has invited her siblings to come over and help her with caregiving for a day. After five years, she can finally enjoy her office party.

Identifying a convenient solution is crucial for managing stress. The first step is to identify and acknowledge the problem, followed by searching for a solution. The sooner you undertake this process, the better it will be for you.

What can you do to have a burnout-free holiday?

Prioritize Self-Care

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Taking care of yourself is not a luxury but a necessity for overall well-being. Adequate sleep, balanced nutrition, and regular exercise are foundational elements of self-care that can bolster resilience in the face of stress.

Allocate time each day for activities that bring joy and relaxation. Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, or practicing mindfulness, these moments of self-care can serve as anchors, grounding individuals amidst the chaos of the holiday rush.

“Self-care is essential during the holiday season to reduce stress and preserve our mental and physical well-being. It allows us to recharge and refocus, leading to a more enjoyable and meaningful holiday experience. Prioritizing self-care not only benefits us individually but also improves our ability to engage and connect with loved ones during this special time of year,” says Dr. Meagan A. Houston, a family physician. 

Set Realistic Expectations

One of the primary contributors to holiday burnout is the unrealistic expectations individuals place on themselves. The desire to create perfect celebrations, find the ideal gifts, and attend every social gathering can lead to feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion.

Setting realistic expectations involves acknowledging one’s limitations and recognizing that perfection is unattainable. Embrace the imperfections of the holiday season and focus on creating meaningful moments rather than flawless ones. This shift in perspective can reduce the pressure to meet unrealistic standards and foster a sense of contentment.

Learn to Say No

The holiday season often brings a barrage of invitations and requests, from social events to additional work responsibilities. While it may be tempting to say yes to everything, learning to say no is a powerful tool for preventing burnout.

Prioritize commitments based on importance and feasibility. Politely decline invitations or delegate tasks to help create a more manageable schedule. By setting boundaries, individuals can preserve their energy and prioritize activities that align with their well-being.

Plan and Prioritize Tasks

A well-thought-out plan can be a game-changer in managing the holiday rush. Create a realistic schedule that includes time for both obligations and relaxation. 

Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Consider delegating responsibilities when possible, whether it’s sharing meal preparation duties or gift wrapping. Effective planning can prevent last-minute stress and create a more enjoyable holiday experience.

Embrace Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques

Incorporating mindfulness and stress reduction techniques into daily routines can be particularly beneficial during the holiday rush. Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can calm the mind and reduce stress levels.

Foster Meaningful Connections

Nurture meaningful connections with loved ones. Quality time spent with family and friends can be a source of support and comfort. Share responsibilities and collaborate on tasks to create a sense of camaraderie.

Open communication about individual needs and expectations can prevent misunderstandings and reduce potential sources of stress. 

Reevaluate Traditions

Traditions are an integral part of the holiday season, providing a sense of continuity and connection. However, it’s essential to periodically reevaluate traditions to ensure they align with current priorities and values.

Consider adjusting traditions that add unnecessary stress. The goal is to create traditions that bring joy and meaning rather than contribute to burnout. 

Seek Professional Support

Try to hire decorators, event managers, cleaners, and caterers if you cannot handle things yourself. However, if stress continues, then do not hesitate to reach out for professional support. Mental health professionals can provide guidance and coping strategies to navigate stress and prevent burnout.

Putting Your Well-Being First This Holiday

A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that individuals who prioritize self-care and well-being during the holiday season experience higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

Putting your well-being first during the holidays can also improve your productivity and ability to cope with challenges, ultimately leading to a more successful and fulfilling holiday season. The end of the holiday season doesn’t mark the end of self-care and well-being. Carry the lessons learned into the new year, fostering a sustainable approach to managing stress and preventing burnout in all aspects of life.

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