Get Through the Holidays Without Burning Out

Updated: Feb 16

This end of year entanglement runs the risk of resulting in personal and professional burnout. And we don’t want that.




Christmas lights can burn out, you should not.


The holiday season is a whirlwind of gift wrap and deadlines. Holiday engagements on top of a loaded work agenda may have you wide eyed when you should be sleeping. This end of year entanglement runs the risk of resulting in personal and professional burnout. And we don’t want that.


Burnout really is a response to stress. It's a response to frustration. It's a response to a demand that an individual may make upon themself in terms of a requirement for perfectionism or drive,” Herbert Freudenberger, the psychologist who coined the term burnout, said in an audio clip via NPR’s All Things Considered. As your desk becomes ornamented with to-do lists, check in with yourself for budding symptoms of burnout.


Mayo Clinic suggests asking yourself a series of questions. “Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements? Have your sleep habits changed? Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?” If you’re shouting yes, consider rescheduling the virtual gift wrapping rendezvous for a little you time.


The benefits of gifting yourself time off are invaluable. Recognizing that personal renewal is essential for sustained productivity opens the door to doubling down on caring about ourselves as a way of handling redoubled work loads,” Brett Steenbarger, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Studies at SUNY Upstate Medical College, writes for Forbes.


With these easy to manage steps, you’ll wrap up the holiday season with a big, shiny bow instead of forging ahead until you swear off email entirely in the new year.


Assess your stress


Self reflection is required to identify key stressors. Monique Valcour, an executive coach, writes for Harvard Business Review, “using your analysis of time spent and associated mood/energy level and value of activity as a guide, jettison low value/high frustration activities to the extent possible.” If baking batches of cookies ignites anxiety, don’t sugar coat your frustration. Step away from the stand mixer.


Catch up on sleep


Lack of sleep enables a negative mindset. That dark, hovering haze can make a work day feel like a work week. Dig yourself out of a suffocating pile of wrapping paper, and call it a night. In order to avoid burnout, Valcour encourages “prioritize good sleep habits.” The more rested you feel, the more caroling you can accomplish. So silence the 6am alarm and scribble “sleep” into your to-do list.


Engage in mindful activities


The holiday season is a blur of engagements. Coordinating company wide gift giving, orchestrating the family holiday picture, granting wish lists. All of that may have you empathizing with the Grinch. Before your heart shrinks two sizes, take some mid-day personal time to join a yoga class or catch up on non-holiday related TV shows.


Schedule short breaks


Work days can feel like a continuous tunnel, the light at the end tucked far out of sight, during the holiday season. It doesn’t have to be like that. Keep it merry and bright by scheduling a 3-hour break from the desk a week. Live stream a concert in your living room or catch up on those language lessons so you can order from your favorite French bistro fluently. Sorbet has a bevy of creative recommendations that will make you want to set your OOO ASAP.


Find your support


Burnout can feel isolating. “If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services,” Mayo Clinic suggests. Reach out to co-workers you trust to provide comfort. Take an extra long walk on an extended lunch break to recharge before concluding reports due EOD.


Sweat it out


The suspension of creativity is at the hands of burnout. “It is rare that saturated professionals can muster the perspective to generate fresh ideas and perspectives. Their energy is spent in coping; little is left over for exploration and innovation,” Steenbarger writes. Don’t sweat the 4pm catch up call. Slip into sneakers and head to a rejuvenating exercise class instead. You’ll meet that following 9am call with an array of inspired ideas.


If burnout is creeping in on you, take a step back. Like any IT professional might advise; shut down, pause for ten seconds (or three hours) and re-start.


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