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Feeling stressed in the run up to Christmas? Here are some tips to avoid burnout

Between gift shopping and making the perfect dinner, burnout is easily felt this time of year.

Siobhan Murray Resilience/life coach and psychotherapist

CHRISTMAS CAN SOMETIMES seem like an audition for Ireland’s Fittest Family, but it should not be an endurance test. 

The level of personal and professional activity at this time of year has a tendency to go off the scales. 

Christmas parties, present shopping, work department lunches and dinner with friends are all things many people enjoy, but they can be a lot to take on. 

This doesn’t even include the joys of Christmas tree shopping, dreams of a fairytale evening decorating the tree with your family, planning a Christmas dinner and trying to figure out how to manage extended family dynamics. 

When I speak of burnout, I describe it as emotional, physical and mental exhaustion brought on by long periods of emotionally demanding situations.

If you’ve already been under pressure during the year, Christmas can quite literally be the icing on the cake.

If this sounds familiar, here are a few simple strategies to avoid burnout this holiday season. 

1. Make a plan 

Knowing exactly what you have to do reduces the potential for a stressful run up to Christmas. Simply put, make a plan. 

Right now, write down a list of all the work tasks you may still have to complete.

Beside that list, write down all the personal tasks you absolutely have to do, then divide both the personal and work tasks by five (or seven for personal). 

Share this work plan with colleagues if necessary and see point five further down to help with this.

If it’s relevant and appropriate, do the exact same with your personal list.

shutterstock_291509741 Plan what you need to do. Source: Shutterstock/kenary820

2. Learn to say no

Learning to say no is not always as easy as it seems, I get that.

However, when you have a clear plan set out, it makes it a lot easier to know your priorities and learn when to turn things down. 

This might come as a shock, but the word no can be a complete sentence in its own right and doesn’t require a follow-up explanation. 

3. Pace yourself  

With the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the shopping fever had already hit the public by the end of November.

If you still have a few presents to buy at this point, there seems to be a tendency to panic shop just for the sake of buying something. 

Panic shopping just adds to stress, so pace yourself, refer back to your plan and stick to it.

The same pace applies to excessive drinking. It’s a lot easier to start your night drinking soft drinks or water before switching to alcohol later on than to do the opposite. 

With plenty of really good non-alcoholic beverages out there, if might be good to decide now if you’re not going to drink on some nights and stick to that plan. 

4. Shop local

Don’t get me wrong, online shopping is a great way to avoid stress but places like Amazon and large corporations don’t need all of the money this Christmas. 

This year, if you still have time, make an effort to shop local. There are more and more food and craft markets popping up around the country, making this choice easier than ever.

Remember that every time you shop local you are supporting a person rather than a large corporation. 

Buy as many local presents as you can and try to support local restaurants with meal vouchers rather than buying presents for the sake of it. 

Alternatively, if there is someone close to you who could really do with a child-free night, cinema tickets and an offer to babysit could be the way to go.

This gift could make the world of difference to someone rather than another present they really don’t need.

shutterstock_1165332937 Try to shop locally for presents. Source: Shutterstock/Pixel-Shot

5. Delegate, delegate, delegate

A common factor in people who are prone to experiencing burnout and overwhelm is they don’t delegate enough (or at all).

They often believe that no one can do the job as good as themselves so they end up doing everything alone.

However, let’s be clear, doing everything yourself is a sure way to get to burnout. So if you’re not comfortable with delegating, start getting out of your comfort zone.

If you’re cooking Christmas dinner this year, allow people to help especially if it’s your first time.

You don’t have to create the perfect dinner. It’s really all about bringing people together rather than impressing them with the level of your stress overload. 

6. Be realistic in your expectations and maintain your perspective 

Christmas is not a time to strive for perfection. There are too many curve balls that can come hurtling towards you when you least expect them. 

It’s important to be very realistic in your expectations and, above all else, maintain a healthy and realistic perspective on the whole affair.

Plenty of things have gone wrong during my own Christmases – the oven that broke on Christmas Eve, the year I put the turkey in to roast but set the dial to grill, the year Santa didn’t bring what the eldest actually wanted, someone close getting ill, a family breakup – the list goes on.

Be kind to yourself and remember that this is just one day and not everything will be perfect.

7. Get some sleep

This is truly the mother of all self-kindness, self-care, or whatever you want to call it. 

Seven or eight hours sleep a night is not going to get the shopping done, but it is going to give you the energy needed to get through the month. 

Don’t let a week’s worth of social invitations get in the way of your sleep. December should be a month of kindness and gratitude, not an endurance test. 

shutterstock_265580447 Try not to let Christmas plans impact on your sleep. Source: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

8. Exercise

With the change in social activities this month, it can be easy to stop the routine of exercising if it clashes with nights out. Even if you don’t already exercise, this is a perfect opportunity to start.

I don’t mean hitting the gym for hours of bootcamp sessions, it can be as simple as having a quick 20 minute walk at lunchtime or in the evening. 

Exercise (regardless of what type) boosts your energy levels and elevates your mood.

Think of your days as being productive rather than busy. We can spend a huge amount of our days being busy and getting nothing done, rather than spending a few hours being productive and actually getting things done. 

It’s important to treat yourself with kindness this Christmas.

The end of a decade can churn up lots of emotions around achievements and the things you may not have done.

Remember that you’re doing well regardless of what you have, or have not, achieved.  

Siobhan Murray is a resilience/life coach and a psychotherapist. She is the author of The Burnout Solution, a book that offers a step-by-step guide to overcoming burnout. 

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About the author:

Siobhan Murray  / Resilience/life coach and psychotherapist

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