How to Avoid Holiday Burnout: Tips for Managing Stress

December 17, 2018 9:00 am Published by

“The holidays.”  Those two words are packed with memories, fleeting media images and mixed emotional reactions.  The Hannukah-Christmas-New Year’s holiday season has begun, and if you are like me, with them comes a rapid succession of excitement, anticipation, anxiety, wonder, and a sense of tiredness (and I haven’t even done anything yet). Family gatherings, shopping, managing our finances, holiday parties and concerts to attend, traveling, and so forth — the Christmas season and New Year’s tend to create more stress for us.

Practical advice and some you (probably) don’t usually hear.

Stress is essentially the experience of having more demands in your life than the resources you have to meet those demands.  More stuff to do (make food, travel to relatives) with the same (or less) time = stress.  Experiencing more people and relationships than the emotional energy needed to carry on all those conversations = stress.

Stress over the short-term is generally okay; it maybe isn’t pleasant, but we can deal with it.  But stress over the long haul leads to burnout.  It is like the difference between spending more money than you earn for one week (survivable) versus spending more money than you earn repeatedly over months (this creates more serious problems).

Over the long holiday season, if we consistently, week after week, expend more than the resources we have (time, physical strength, emotional or relational energy) – then we wear ourselves out.  And then we get tired, irritable, “stressed”, physically ill, and possibly depressed.

Stress = PERCEIVED Demands vs. PERCEIVED Resources.

Keep this equation about perceived demands and resources in your head. It can really help you figure out why you are feeling so stressed.

You may have heard, perception is everything. In the case of stress, this is absolutely true. What you perceive (or believe) to be the demand is what drives you—for example, how clean the house needs to be when company comes to visit depends on whether it is your best friend, your boss, or your mother-in-law!

Similarly, what resources you believe you have is also related to perception. You may think you have to clean the house. But you actually could hire someone to do it (yes, there are people who do it on a one-time basis), but your own personal values may keep you from making this choice. So, in essence, you are choosing not to access a resource that could help you meet the demands in your life. Result -> stress.

Practical ways of dealing with stress during the coming holidays.

  1. Sleep. We all tend to feel more stressed when we are tired. And we live in a chronically sleep deprived society. Most of us don’t get as much sleep as we need and it creates a lot of problems in our lives.

So, do yourself (and your friends, family, and employer) a favor. Go to bed. Turn off the TV. Choose to go lie in bed and not stay up to watch a movie. Shut off the computer and quit searching the internet.

  1. Say NO to yourself, to your friends, to your family. I am a high-energy, stimulation-seeking person. And I love a party. As a result, a constant concern I have had was that someone was having fun somewhere and I was not there to be a part of it. I used to wear myself out going places, being with people, seeking fun and then I would get sick (as well as being stressed and irritable even if I wasn’t sick).

So, I have had to learn to say no largely to myself. I don’t have to go to the XYZ concert, or go see the lighting of the Christmas tree downtown, or go to the Smith’s (and the Johnson’s, and the Jones’) Christmas parties, although it might be fun to do so. The fact is: we can’t do everything that is out there and available.

For some people, saying no to others is the more difficult task.  Telling your friends that you can’t go out tonight to see a movie, or watch the big game on TV, or go to a great concert is very difficult.

For many, saying no to family (especially mom and dad, if they live close by) is the hardest. Sometimes this takes the form of setting limits on how long you will stay over the holidays, or whether you will come visit at all (if they live out of town). Other times, it may be saying that you will pass on a family tradition that really isn’t that important to you anymore (driving around and looking at Christmas lights, or going on your annual Christmas shopping trip).

Just because you did ABC in the past, or just because Sue and John want you to go with them, doesn’t mean you have to this year. Choose what you want to do (and don’t do the rest).  I would strongly encourage you, right now, to pick out some things you are not going to do this year.

There are other steps we can take to reduce our stress during the holidays, but let’s start here:

*Get some sleep.

*Say no to doing some of the extra activities available to you.

Then you will enjoy the holidays!

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December 17, 2018 9:00 am

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