7 Tips to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout During the Holidays

“There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” – Henry Kissinger

Whether we’re chasing our dream or just trying to stay afloat at our day job, we all have busy seasons.

For many people the holiday season is one of these hectic times.

With end of year projects, gift shopping, festive decorating, and family reunions, we can find ourselves with a plethora of added tasks and worries accompanying our usual balance of work and life.

Considering that job pressure and money are two of the top stressors in the U.S. according to StatBrain, we can expect an onslaught of added stress during the holidays.

And if we aren’t prepared to manage it we can experience burnout.

Are you burning out?

Here are some questions to assess your current emotional health.

  • Are you feeling tired even when you’ve had adequate sleep?
  • Are you often dissatisfied and irritated with you work?
  • Are you unusually snapping at people and losing patience easily?
  • Is your job performance not up to par?
  • Do you find yourself tired and not wanting to do what needs to be done?
  • Are you struggling to concentrate because you have racing thoughts?

If you answered yes to most of these questions it’s time to use the tips below to create a stress management plan during the holidays. 

1. Organize your life

With added obligations during the holiday it’s even more important to organize our time.

The 1,440 minutes you get each day just won’t be enough if you’re trying to keep your normal busy routine while just throwing in a laundry list of extra activities.

Organize your time by prioritizing and creating deadlines. This means intentionally and proactively making space and time for your additional holiday schedule.

First prioritize by urgency and get clear on what needs to be done by when. This will help you avoid competing commitments and get clear on the deadlines you’ll be up against.

Next, invest 15 minutes to an hour to plan out your day, week, and month. Calendar everything. Your social engagements, shopping, adding work responsibilities, decorating, and even time for relaxation. This will help you stay in control of your time.

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”– Sydney J. Harris

2. The power of giving

Use the holiday to fill your emotional bank account through giving and putting others first.

Studies attest to the benefits of giving—not just for the recipients but for the givers’ health and happiness.

Consider volunteering or donating to the needy. Put thought into the gifts you give. Make it meaningful. Don’t just give out of duty. Give out of generosity and gratitude for the relationships you have.

Soak in the positive vibes that get spread during this time of year. Don’t take if for granted.

Your perspective about what the holiday season means to you is the difference between staying merry and being a scrooge.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James

3. Joke to cope

Humor is a great antidote to stress. Laughing can actually help rally our immune system and lower the presence of stress hormones like cortisol. So, try yukking it up more this month.

Take a break at work and watch a funny video, (here’s a great one) or hang out with funny people.

Watch a classic holiday comedy movie while you work around the house. Get creative about how to add humor in your life.

“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” – Aesop Fables

4. Snooze to lose stress

Sleep is often one of the first things we neglect when we have more to do and less time to do it. However, depriving yourself of sleep will only make things worse.

Even as you get busy this holiday remember to prioritize your sleep and health. Without sleep you’re left whipped, weary, and grouchy. Focus on health essentials to maintain your energy and mood.

Sleep at least 7 hours per night, and honor when your body and brain needs rest. If you’re taking on more than you can handle it’s your responsibility to relax. Kick your feet up, have a nice cup of tea, and let go of stress for a moment.

5. Set boundaries 

During the holiday season you may feel like you’re being pulled in 10 different directions.

We can stretch ourselves thin if we don’t set boundaries. So be realistic about what you can do and communicate this with family, friends, and professional relationships.

This might mean lightening your load by saying “no” to invitations and obligations that aren’t connected to your core values.

It also might require being more vigilant with your time at work by guarding against interruptions and not taking on the additional workload.

Each domain of our life overlaps, so remember every time you say “yes” to something you’re increasing the chances of competing commitments in other areas.

“Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.” – Robert Eliot

6. Choose less over stress

Instead of crossing your fingers and waiting for a holiday bonus to arrive like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, consider how you can make the holiday more minimalist and simple when it comes to gift and spending money.

Creating a budget for the holiday is ideal, but if you didn’t save ahead of time this year, it’s a little late for this.

Don’t worry though, there’s still ways to be frugal during the holiday.

Forget comparing yourself to the Joneses. If you can’t afford something don’t get it. Don’t spend more than you can afford. 

Get creative with gifts. How can you make something or put together an inexpensive experience to share with someone. This is often more meaningful and will keep costs down.

Cap the cost on gifts or choose not to exchange gifts with certain people this year. You can also consider something more fun and creative like a White Elephant gift exchange.

Opt out of your work gift exchange. Many jobs have secret Santa or some of other gift exchange. You have the right to politely decline and share that your budget doesn’t allot for this.

“If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you’ll die a lot of times.” – Dean Smith

7. Go with the flow

Maybe you’re traveling during the holiday or you’re busy running around trying to find that perfect gift.

These are moments when we can mindlessly lament through our frenzied stress, or we can practice mindfulness and be present during the gale.

It’s important to go with the flow and have grace during stressful times. Things don’t always go as planned and you’re not perfect.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Just do one thing at a time. Don’t worry about three weeks form now, be present. If you feel overwhelmed try to concentrate on your breathing fully and deeply. 

Lastly, if you need additional support, don’t forget that you can reach out for professional support and talk with a therapist.

Photo credit: mitchell haindfield