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7 Smart Strategies to Avoid Holiday Burnout

7 ways to reduce holiday stress

It's supposed to the season of joy, but for those who go into the holidays already stressed out from their hectic and overscheduled lives, the holiday season can feel like piling on. Just when you think nothing else can possibly fit on your to-do list, the holiday season comes along and bursts its seams. With parties, shopping, house guests, and family get-togethers, the demands of the holidays turn some people into outright grinches.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to keep your holiday spirit alive.

1) Pick your priorities. Most people can't do everything they wish they could do during the holidays, so you need to examine your what is most important to you and let go of the rest. Take 15 to 20 minutes and make a list of what you'd like to do this season, then pare it down to what is most meaningful and important for you. Each person's list is going to be different and that's exactly the way it should be. As Crystal Paine writes in "3 Ideas to Streamline Your Holidays," "Maybe you love to make homemade gifts, but you really couldn’t care less about sending out cards. Perhaps you want to volunteer your time to bless those who are less fortunate, but you really don’t have any desire to attend a lot of parties with people you don’t know very well. Or, you really want to do fun and meaningful activities with your children, but you really don’t enjoy baking at all. Know what you want to invest your time and effort into this holiday season, then say no to opportunities and invitations that aren’t in line with your priorities."

2) Pace yourself. Holiday sales and blow-outs at this time of year make it tempting to run out and get those bargains, be sure to pace yourself. The most stressful thing you can do is to wait until the last minute to get all of your shopping done, but year after year, people do it. Don't be one of those people. Shop early to avoid the aggravation of parking, lines, and the overall rushed feeling that comes with last minute shopping.

3) Shop online. If the crowds stress you out, avoid them. In this day and age, there is no need to stress out standing in a line that goes around the building. Just open up your laptop in the comfort of your home and enjoy a nice cup of tea while searching for those perfect gifts. Not only can you shop any time during the day or night, you will circumvent the stress of crowds, lines, and parking problems. Plus, with free shipping alive and well during the holidays, it can sometimes cost less to shop online than in stores.

4. Don't overcommit yourself. Commit to attend some social events, but why push yourself to attend them all? Instead, schedule some time for yourself to wind down and relax. In fact, Sheila Roberts, author of On Strike for Christmas, recommends that you actually plan a silent night during the holidays by blocking out some down time in your calendar.

5. Delegate, delegate, delegate. I need to say it three times because a common weakness among high-achievers is that they don't delegate enough. They often do things better and faster than most people, so they are chronic do-it-yourselfers. However, doing everything yourself puts you on the fast track to burnout. So, especially during this hustling, bustling season, don't be shy about delegating. If you know a specific gift you want to get and you know a friend or family member will be near or in that particular store, ask that person to pick it up for you. The same applies to hosting holiday parties. Ask for help from family members in picking up some of the supplies or groceries you need. This will give you more time to slow down and prepare what you need to prepare inside the house without rushing around.

6. Be realistic in your expectations. High-achievers tend to be perfectionists, but when you expect perfection in your holiday preparations, expect a lot of added and unnecessary stress and fatigue as well. If you're planning to host a party, do you really need to prepare a major feast? How about trying an assortment of easy-to-make side dishes or appetizers? Or better yet, why not share the load by making the event a pot luck? Most holiday guests feel compelled to bring something anyway, so why not let them bring a dish?

7. Sleep. Obvious? Yes. Ignored in the lives of high-achievers? Chronically. It's a simple equation: sleep = more energy. If won't feel energized if you are tired. So don't let the craziness of the season cause you to sacrifice sleep. While it's normal during the holidays to have more on your to-do list than usual, that shouldn't result in sleep dropping off your to-do list. In fact, it should be at the top! The best way to combat fatigue is to maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Sleep is restorative. It's the time when your body replenishes itself at a cellular level and repairs itself from the damage of mental stress, physical strain, infection, sun exposure, and pollutants. Without enough sleep, your mind and body will not function as well as they could, which makes you less productive.

So, slow down. Take in all the lovely sights and sounds that are traditional for this time of year ... the lights, the carols, the sleigh rides, the cinammon, the chestnuts, the turkey and all of the other things that make the holidays special. Make sure to relax and share quality time with family and friends. If you give yourself the time to rejuvenate during the holidays, you'll be ready to take on the challenges of the new year with renewed energy.

© 2013 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved

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Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (Prometheus Books, 2011).

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