The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and relaxation. But for all too many, the shopping, presents, cooking, parties and family get-togethers can easily become too much. If you find yourself struggling to cope, here are some top tips for helping to manage stress and prevent burnout during the holiday period.
Ask for Help
It’s very common for one person in the household to take charge of the lion’s share of holiday-related work. People’s expectations about who does what get reinforced year after year, and it can be hard to break established patterns. And if you’re a high achiever or a perfectionist it can be particularly hard to relinquish control. But this is a must if you want to avoid holiday burnout.
While you may still want to keep control when it comes to planning, scheduling, and decision-making, this doesn’t mean you can’t recruit the support of those around you to help implement your plans and relieve some of the burden. Ask family members to put in orders, pick up items, make calls, do the shopping, or lend a hand with household chores.
Also, don’t be afraid to opt for the easier route if it exists, even if this means going against tradition. Make the most of the technology we have available to order your groceries or buy presents online. It takes half the time, is often cheaper, and means you skip the crowds, queues, parking problems and all the resulting stress.
Schedule in Downtime
Carving out time to relax, recharge and gain perspective during the holiday period is a guaranteed way to infuse a sense of calm into proceedings. This is especially important for all the introverts out there. With so much socializing crammed into a relatively short period – from office parties and Christmas drinks, to keeping family members entertained – it’s all too easy for the more sensitive among us to start to fade. The holidays are full of so many get-togethers which can spark intense emotions, that even the most extroverted of revelers can benefit from some time alone to reboot.
You may feel guilty for claiming some time to yourself – after all the holidays are a time for being surrounded by family and friends. But by creating space to unwind and recharge before the next engagement, you’re putting yourself in a more positive state of mind that will enable you to give the best of yourself to others. So take a solitary hike, or spend an afternoon alone on the couch with a book and hot drink. When you return to your loved ones you’ll be fully refreshed and ready to appreciate things to the full again.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
This can be a tough one because we all know that the holidays are a time for indulgence – and rightfully so. We all need and deserve treats every now and then, and if not at Christmas then when else! Still, it’s important to realize that whatever we’re putting in our bodies is going to have an impact on how we feel, function and think. Most people want to be at their very best during the festive period so they can enjoy it to the full. Paying attention to your diet is a great way to maintain your health, emotional balance and ultimately prevent burnout.
Treat yourself, but don’t over-do it. Eating too much, especially late in the day, often results in digestive issues and negatively impacts the quality of your sleep. It’s better to pace yourself, eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day, rather than having one or two big blowouts that will wreak havoc with your blood sugar balance and mood. Be especially careful with caffeine and alcohol which disrupt sleep. Instead, opt for water, herbal teas or a festive healthy drink as a way to stay hydrated. To keep your energy levels at an all-time high, make sure you maintain a regular sleep and exercise routine, and be sure to eat plenty of greens alongside the indulgences.
Have Realistic Expectations
The holidays are a time when expectations can easily run array. As early as October, we receive messages from the media, advertisements, the shops, and those around us, that this is an amazing time of year where everything will be perfect. We quickly forget about the lessons from past holidays and believe that this year everything will go right – the food will be amazing, there won’t be any arguments, you’ll take the kids out to special events, and certainly won’t run out of time or forget anything important.
Happiness equals reality minus expectations, so keeping your hopes in check is a great way to prevent stress building up. Adopt a more realistic attitude, without resorting to pessimism or cynicism. This way you won’t feel so let down when things do inevitably go awry, and you’ll also be more likely to appreciate all the things that turn out well.
Another important aspect of managing expectations is to avoid taking on too many things. Prioritize the activities and events that are most important to you, whether that be making homemade gifts, attending parties, cooking elaborate meals for family and friends, or volunteering for a good cause. Don’t feel like you need to do everything, everywhere and with everyone. Focus instead on doing just a handful of meaningful things really well and you’ll enjoy the experience much more.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the thought this year’s holiday period, another option is simply to escape it all! While you probably wouldn’t want to do it every year, taking a vacation and celebrating Christmas abroad can be a great way to instantly eliminate all that pressure and work, and return refreshed ready to take on the new year. Preventing holiday burnout comes down to delegation, managing expectations, finding time to relax, and looking after your body. If you do these four things, you will have a much easier time enjoying the upcoming months.