7 sure ways to beat that burned-out feeling this festive season
And no, we’re not talking about the turkey!
I sprinted into the office on January 2. I’d never been more relieved to get to work. Three weeks earlier, I’d clocked off from my job.
I was suffering from burnout after a difficult, stressful year. I was looking forward to a peaceful staycation — unputdownable books, fascinating conversations, lots of laughter, sumptuous food, and great weather.
I figured I’d return to work relaxed, rested, and reinvigorated (maybe even with a tan), ready to grab the new year by the scruff of its neck.
The reality, I realised, as I dragged my weary body back to the office, was, well, different.
I was happy to go to work, not because I’d had a relaxing holiday, but because I hadn’t. The holiday had taken me by the scruff of the neck.
Big, noisy crowds, poor weather, expensive meals, unexpected expenses, a friend who came to stay for “a couple of days” and never left, bickering children, barking dogs, and cousin Frank’s vaccine conspiracies. Returning to work was going to be my holiday from my holiday.
As this year’s holiday season approaches, and after another difficult and demanding year, I decided that this time I was really going to have a stress-free holiday.
I realised that for that to happen I needed to make some changes.
I spoke to clinical psychologist Dr Jean Luyt, who doubles up as my wife. She told me that many people struggle with the holidays.
It can be a difficult time for all sorts of reasons. People are alone, have recently lost a loved one, or have to negotiate difficult family dynamics and unrealistic expectations.
We sat down together and plotted a way to survive the festive season.
On the first night of Hanukkah, my true love sent to me… her password to Gumtree
Pace yourself. It can be very stressful waiting until the last minute to get all your shopping done. Shop early to avoid crowds, long lines, and the feeling of being rushed and overwhelmed that comes with last-minute shopping. Pro tip: Shop online.
On the second night of Hanukkah, my true love sent to me… two pearls of wisdom
Get real and reassess. Look at your expectations versus reality. If you expect perfection, you’re just adding unnecessary stress.
Think of how the holidays will actually go and plan a realistic holiday. Also, work out a budget. Again, be realistic. Re-evaluate what works for everybody so that the family can enjoy spending quality time together.
On the third night of Hanukkah, my true love sent to me… three French pens
You won’t be able to do everything you want to do during the holidays, so identify what’s worth your time and energy. Take a step back from the demands pulling you in multiple directions and make a list (that’s what the pens are for).
A useful time-management tool is to list tasks based on their importance and urgency in a quadrant: Do the tasks that are important and urgent.
If a task is important but not urgent, schedule it for later. If it’s urgent but not important, perhaps delegate someone else to do it. You don’t have to do everything yourself. If it’s not urgent and not important, scratch it off your to-do list.
On the fourth night of Hanukkah, my true love sent to me… four treats just for me
Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Go for a walk. Work in the garden. In other words, prioritise you.
Schedule time each day to do the things you enjoy and keep you sane. Be specific about the relaxing activities you want to do and when you want to do them.
Remember to include some form of exercise. Establish your non-negotiables ahead of the holiday season. Another pro tip: Maintain your boundaries.
On the fifth day of Hanukkah, my true love sent to me… five new traditions
You can shake things up by establishing new traditions. Traditions and rituals are a valuable part of family life and an important part of building relationships and connections.
They don’t have to be expensive. Play games, watch a favourite movie, or go on a hike. Focus on spending time with each other.
On the sixth night of Hanukkah, my true love sent to me… six words of warning
“Remember, do not mention the war!” The world is a stressful place, swirling with anxiety and uncertainty. If you want a relaxing holiday, lower the temperatures.
If someone says something provocative (I’m looking at you, cousin Frank), state your views in a non-aggressive way and consider interacting with someone else. Not every battle is worth having.
Having a prepared response can help you navigate unpleasant topics. Pro tip: Don’t invite cousin Frank. Besides, he’s not actually your cousin.
On the seventh night of Hanukkah, my true love sent to me… (actually she took something away. My computer, which gave me the best gift of all. Peace)
Slowly, step away from your computer. Turn on an out-of-office automatic reply. You are on holiday, so be on holiday.