Despite being “the most wonderful time of the year” for some, the festive season isn’t all Santa hats and glittery baubles; in fact, it can be a source of incredible stress and burnout for many.
According to research, the holiday season can leave many employees feeling burnt out, emotionally exhausted and financially depleted, all before the big day has even arrived.
Festive fatigue is a prevalent issue, with a UK study showing that half of the population experience significantly higher stress levels during December.
However, fortunately, there are some things you can do to take care of yourself during the festive period.
This article explores five ways to help you handle stress and avoid work burnout during the holiday season.
In the meantime, if you or a loved one are experiencing more stress than usual or are struggling to cope with the symptoms of burnout, our specialist team can help.
We provide various treatments to help you manage your stress effectively, allowing you to get to the root cause and avoid work burnout.
What is burnout?
Various descriptions exist for burnout.
Broadly speaking, burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion, often caused by chronic exposure to stress and overwhelming work expectations and demands.
Some experts describe burnout as “an occupational phenomenon where employees experience a mix of physical and psychological symptoms that result in decreased job satisfaction and productivity“. (Bridgeman, Bridgeman, and Barone, 2018.)
Burnout can harm your overall health and well-being, and affect your work performance, resulting in extreme exhaustion and disengagement at work and home.
Individuals suffering from work burnout may also experience resentment, decreased motivation, pessimism, and a reduced sense of accomplishment.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to manage work burnout and stress during the holiday season.
Let’s explore further!
Five ways to handle stress and avoid work burnout during the holiday season
Work burnout can profoundly impact your daily functioning, personally and professionally, and this can be further compounded during the festive period.
Below are some expert tips to handle stress and avoid work burnout this holiday season:
1. Learn to say no
This can often be easier said than done.
However, setting firm boundaries and learning to say no to unrealistic work demands or requests is a form of self-care and can help you avoid stress and burnout, particularly during the festive season when pressures are already so high!
Experts explain that recognising your limits and avoiding overcommitting to work tasks or projects by politely declining specific requests can help you take care of your well-being and prevent exhaustion and fatigue.
Many people struggle to set healthy boundaries at work but the effects of not setting limits can be far more detrimental to your health and well-being.
2. Set realistic goals for yourself
One way to manage stress and avoid work burnout is to set achievable, realistic goals, which can prevent overwhelm, allowing you to tackle each task or project with ease.
Moreover, researchers say it’s crucial to recognise what’s in your control and what isn’t.
For example, inflating your sense of responsibility over a particular task or project may contribute to your stress and misery, making you feel like nothing you do is good enough.
You don’t have agency over everything and you must recognise what is not yours to control and what is.
Setting realistic work goals allows you to identify your role in any given task or activity, which can significantly reduce stress and burnout.
To help ensure that your work goals are clear and achievable, you may find the SMART goals technique helpful.
3. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks
To avoid stress and work burnout, it is sometimes necessary to distribute tasks among your colleagues where feasible, particularly during the busy festive period.
A vital aspect of being a part of a professional team is the ability to ask for help when needed.
So, do not hesitate to ask your colleagues for support or for them to share some of the responsibilities from time to time.
The festive season is often littered with demands and pressures, and there is nothing shameful or wrong about asking others to help lighten the workload.
If your colleagues are not offering the support and help you need, particularly when it comes to completing projects or assignments, discuss your concerns with your manager or other trusted work colleague.
Getting your worries off your chest can reduce pent-up stress and anxiety and help you avoid work burnout in the long run.
4. Take regular breaks
Much research has shown the positive effects of taking regular, scheduled work breaks.
For example, taking short breaks from work can help improve your focus, restore your physical and mental energy, and prevent burnout.
Stepping away from your desk, shop counter, or other workstation can help refresh your mind, leading to enhanced work performance, motivation, and a significant improvement in your overall health and well-being.
Moreover, setting a timer every fifteen minutes can also remind you to take a well-deserved break and may even give you the time to do some last-minute festive shopping!
5. Make time to grieve
As well as work demands and pressures, the festive season can also bring up a lot of suppressed emotions for some people, particularly grief.
Researchers note that Christmas can be a tender time for grievers.
“There are so few people who aren’t experiencing in some way the pain of grief and yet we don’t make time for it. We often tell ourselves we are too busy or that it’s not productive to dwell.
Suppressed emotions manifest in the body and increase our stress. Acknowledging who and what we may be missing is a way to offer ourselves compassion when we need it most.” (7 Expert-backed ways to avoid festive burnout, BACP, 20 November 2023.)
In addition, speaking to a counsellor or therapist can help you manage your grief and any other emotional difficulties that may arise during the holiday season.
Grief can be a profoundly lonely and isolating experience, especially during the festive period when everyone else appears to be having fun and celebrating with their families and loved ones.
If you need a listening, attentive ear, our team at White River Manor is here to offer support.
Contact us today for further information and guidance.
Symptoms of burnout
Everyone experiences stress and burnout differently.
The severity of your symptoms may depend on various factors, including your background, health history, and severity of work stress and other stressors in your life.
However, common symptoms of burnout include the following:
- Chronic exhaustion or tiredness
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent headaches or other health complaints
- Sleep disturbances
- Constant flu or colds and being unable to recover fully from them
- Frequent gastrointestinal issues
- Chronic pessimism or negative attitude
- Paranoid (or suspicious) thoughts about colleagues or management
- Anger and frustration or other heightened emotional responses, including crying at work or extreme irritability
- Substance abuse to cope with complicated feelings and emotions or as a way to manage work stress
- Unwillingness to listen to colleagues, including rigid thinking patterns or inflexibility over projects or other work-related tasks
- Feeling cynical about your job
- Decreased work performance
Studies show that many people experience festive fatigue during the holiday season, and, unfortunately, this has been further exacerbated in recent years.
December, a time for festive cheer and celebration, has been dominated by the current economic climate, increasing employees’ stress levels and putting them at higher risk of burnout.
Exhausted and worried about the state of the economy, employees pose a significant challenge for businesses due to the potential impact on morale, motivation and performance.
Companies must continue cultivating conversations about fatigue and burnout, encouraging the use of workplace tools and resources to help manage their staff’s stress levels and well-being.
Furthermore, business owners must actively support employees in reducing work-related fatigue and burnout by cultivating away days, stress-management training, and ensuring that individuals take regular vacations from work.
As well as the above tips, researchers have identified several things you can do for yourself to avoid festive fatigue during the holiday season, including the following:
Checking in with yourself regularly
Being around colleagues and family during the holidays can be exhilarating but it can also be exhausting. Checking in with yourself regularly can help you stay grounded and reduce stress throughout the festive period.
For example, mindfulness, meditation, and breathwork practices can help calm the nervous system and teach you to stay in the present moment instead of focusing on things outside your control, which can help minimise stress and reduce your risk of burnout.
Getting enough sleep
Amongst other things, good quality sleep can help lower stress levels, leading to increased energy and focus. The festive period can be a massive energy drainer, and you must make sure you get adequate sleep to manage all the demands this season can often bring!
Watching your alcohol intake
Avoid that groggy, hangover feeling from drinking too much at the office Christmas party the night before by monitoring your alcohol consumption. Try alternating between your drink of choice and water, to keep yourself hydrated. It may not sound like a lot of fun; however, conserving your energy and well-being is crucial in helping you cope with all the inevitable festive pressures.
Getting enough exercise
Exercise can help you combat tiredness and reduce stress during the holiday season, particularly if you are already experiencing the effects of work burnout. Make the time to get out in the fresh air and exercise for 30 minutes a day, even if it’s just a gentle walk around your neighbourhood.
Treating burnout at White River Manor
The multidisciplinary team at White River Manor has extensive experience in treating stress and burnout, and understands the unique pressures experienced by high-level professionals.
Through a combination of talking therapies and consultations with dieticians and personal trainers, we can help to get to the root of the problem and help you to identify and then replace your harmful habits and coping mechanisms – especially around food, exercise, sleep and rest – with healthier ones.
If you would like more information and support on handling stress and avoiding work burnout during the holiday season, our friendly team in South Africa are here to help.
At White River Manor, we provide the ultimate exclusive luxury experience, prioritising your comfort to ensure that you are well-rested and taken care of – an essential element of burnout treatment.
We are here and ready to help.
- 7 Expert-backed ways to avoid festive burnout, BACP, 20 November 2023
- Festive Fatigue: December is the Most Stressful Month of 2022 for Half Your Workforce, Visier, 7 December 2022