This is the second article in Leaving Busy's series on:
In the Christian community, Christmas is traditionally celebrated on December 25th as a religious holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. However, in the marketing world, preparing for celebrations is launched well before the Canadian Thanksgiving, Halloween, continuing past the US Thanksgiving through to Christmas Eve. All this results in a rush to buy presents for family and colleagues, send greeting cards, plan celebrations, decorate the house, trim the tree, wrap presents, clean the house in preparation for visitors and overnight guests, and hopefully make it all happen by Christmas Eve. It is necessary to take proactive measures to prevent burnout during the holiday season!
Once Christmas arrives, there is always the possibility that instead of being a joyous holiday celebrated with family and friends, it can turn out to be a disappointment. A family member can begin an argument, have too much to eat or drink or be selfish to the detriment of others. Parents can be overwhelmed trying to soothe crying children who are overtired or did not get the gift they wanted.
Those who attempt to take time to prioritize church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day may find themselves too tired to be mentally present during the corporate thanks for the blessing bestowed to the world on this day. They may, instead, be too busy thinking about last-minute preparations or comforting children who are anxious to go home and unwrap their gifts.
Everyday Life Goes On
These extra stressors are in addition to employment demands and maintaining the day to day duties and responsibilities of running a household. Trying to keep up with the ideal expectations of these activities can make it hard to remember the real reason for the season. Eventually, all of this can wreak havoc on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional health if we aren’t proactive to prevent burnout during the holiday season.
Gauge Energy and Conserve
During the final weeks between the US Thanksgiving and Christmas, it can become very difficult to maintain mental and physical health if one doesn’t take time to relax while preparing for the holiday season. If care isn’t taken to relax and take time out for oneself, there is danger of becoming physically and mentally exhausted and, eventually, physically sick.
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Mental Health Resources
As the administrator of a blog called, Living Through Grief After 60, I have written blogs on a variety of grief topics. I recently wrote 2 blogs specifically on burnout. They are based on Dr. Nisha Jackson’s book, Brilliant Burnout: How Successful, Driven Women Can Stay in the Game by Rewiring Their Bodies, Brains, and Hormones. It is easy enough to become burned out throughout the year just with the challenges of daily life never mind adding the extra stressors of the Christmas season. Dr. Jackson outlines the symptoms of burnout in all parts of the body and suggests different ways to prevent it, including rest and hormone therapy.
How to Prevent Burnout During the Busy Holiday Season?
If people, especially women, try to do everything at once without taking time to relax, then not only are they likely to feel sick physically, mentally, and emotionally, but they may not even enjoy the festivities. A person will not necessarily experience an increased appreciation of their loved ones because they spent more time trying to prepare for the holidays, making the perfect cookies, and searching many stores in search of the “perfect gift”. By the time Christmas Day arrives, it may feel more like a letdown than the joyous culmination of days, weeks and months of preparation. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, author of “Helping Yourself Heal When Someone Dies”, has suggestions that can be helpful to get through the Yuletide, including:
- Respect the messages being communicated by the body and mind
- Nurture yourself
- Get daily rest
- Eat balanced meals
- Lighten your schedule as much as possible
- Ask for support. Dr. Wolfelt suggests that people don’t try and go through the holidays alone, but rather reach out and accept support from friends, family, and colleagues. He advises that people find a support system of friends and relatives who are caring and will provide the support you need.
- Dr.Wolfelt also suggested that people should find someone who is encouraging and to whom they can acknowledge both sad and happy feelings. There is a good chance that people are experiencing the same challenges to remain mentally and physically well during the holiday season.
- Talk to a trusted friend by phone or text to just blow off steam instead of bottling emotions like frustrations, anger, and disappointment inside about everything that needs to be done before the holidays.
- Ask friends, family and colleagues for advice on what they do when they begin to feel overwhelmed by the holidays; they can give excellent suggestions on how they can maintain their mental (and physical) health between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
In addition to those suggestions, here are some of my own:
- Take a warm bath
- Read a good book
- Listen to Christmas music or other types of music that help you relax can help relieve holiday stress.
- Watch a favourite Christmas movie or TV show also can be helpful. The movie or TV show does not have to have to be holiday-themed to be enjoyable. Even if the movie is a comedy, fantasy, or whatever genre you prefer, if it helps maintain your mental health during the hectic and busy Yuletide season, relax and enjoy.
- Exercise is always a good way to improve mental health; even if it is a walk, it will help maintain a good mood.
- Get a normal night’s sleep. It is tempting to try and burn both ends of the candle by working a typical workday and then going shopping and fighting large crowds. If you don’t take the time to relax before going to bed and go to bed at the usual bedtime, then instead of feeling rested and refreshed to start the new day, you will feel groggy and maybe even more tired than before you went to bed.
- Perhaps the best advice that can be given is to simply take one day at a time, and don’t try to do so much at once. That can be a recipe for burnout at any time of the year, but especially during the holidays. Dr. Jackson points out that uncontrolled burnout harms all parts of the body. There is nothing that has the potential to compromise mental and physical health more than trying to do everything and not taking time to care for you physically and emotionally.
- Prepare early. Some people procrastinate until the very last minute to prepare. Indeed, it seems that the closer to Christmas, the more crowded the stores are. It can be said that the final week before Christmas rivals “Black Friday”, and, in recent years, Thanksgiving night as the time when the stores are most crowded, and shoppers are beginning to get more tired and irate, especially if they can’t find the right gift. That alone can be a primary reason for burnout, which eventually compromises mental and physical health. Instead of trying to do everything at the last minute, and possibly ruining the holidays, do one task at a time. Schedule times to buy presents (perhaps one or two gifts per day), write cards, trim the tree, wrap presents, clean the house, and plan and prepare dishes. If tasks are taken a little bit at a time during the weeks leading up to Christmas, a person is well-equipped to prevent burnout during the holiday season.
- Say “No”. Don’t hesitate to say “No” to party invitations or get-togethers if you don’t feel up to it physically or emotionally.
If these tips are taken to help prevent burnout during the holiday season, you will be able to wish your loved ones “Merry Christmas” and mean it instead of saying “Bah Humbug” by Yuletide’s end. You will truly be able to celebrate Jesus’ birth the way it was meant to be celebrated: the day Jesus was born. You will be able to remember that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” instead of an opportunity to “buy” someone’s love in the form of an expensive present that will be forgotten within months. You will be able to celebrate a joyous, festive season instead of not feeling well enough physically or mentally to enjoy the holiday.
Jacqueline Eberle is retired from her 20+ years of secretarial work for the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division's Day Treatment program. Currently, she keeps busy volunteering as a Volunteer Spiritual Care Screener at a hospital in West Allis, Wisconsin for the past six years. For five years, Jacqueline also volunteered at a hospice in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She was initially a grief support group co-facilitator and is presently a Grief Support caller who contacts families of patients who passed away at the hospice. She asks the grieving families how they are coping and offers support and resources as needed.
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