10 Tips for Managing Holiday Burnout

Woman looking depressed at Christmas time

By: Kayla Bell-Consolver, LMHC

The holidays can be a time of happiness; filled with social gatherings, activities, and rejoicing. But for some, it can be a period of painful loneliness, recognizing grief and loss, anxiety, or depression. It is often a time of high emotion and demands and a time when family and other interpersonal conflicts often surface.  Even people who love the holidays can experience sadness.

Feeling overwhelmed because of pressure from others or one’s own expectations associated with the holiday season is often referred to as “holiday burnout”. Holiday burnout can be influenced by the stress and overwhelm throughout the year, adjustments in your schedule around the holidays, family or interpersonal conflicts, and other previous mental health concerns. People with a prior mental health condition are more likely to experience holiday burnout or depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with an existing mental illness report that the holidays make their condition worse. Holiday burnout may look like exhaustion from the tasks associated with preparation, giving/volunteering, and even spending time with family.

Managing Holiday Burnout

If you feel you are prone to experiencing holiday burnout, consider the following ten tips to help manage your stress and emotions this holiday season:   

1. Acknowledge your feelings. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out comrade. Lean on friends, family, religious or other community groups.

3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect. Families, traditions, and rituals often grow and change. Be open to finding new ways to celebrate.

4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, and try to be compassionate to any holiday stress or depression they may be experiencing as well.

5. Make a budget. Decide how much money you can afford to spend, then stick to your budget. Happiness cannot be bought.

6. Make a Plan. Map out specific days for shopping, baking, and other holiday activities. Find ways to create efficiencies – make shopping lists now, save time by shopping online, divide responsibilities etc. This will help prevent stressful last minute scrambling.

7. Give yourself permission to say no. If saying yes will leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed, give yourself permission to say no.

8. Make time for your health. Don't let the holidays become an excuse to neglect yourself. Make time for exercise, sleep, and activities that contribute to your physical and mental health.

9. Take a break. Find calm. Try spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm.

10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad, anxious, or hopeless. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

We're Here to Help

If you need support with your mental health during the holidays, Broadlawns Medical Center is here to help. Broadlawns offers the most comprehensive delivery system for mental health services in Central Iowa. Our professionals are dedicated to excellence, compassion, and personalized care. Individual therapy is available in-person and virtually for patients of all ages. To schedule an appointment call (515) 282-5695.

Kayla Bell-Consolver (she/her/hers) is the Director of the Drake University Counseling Center. Kayla has worked in the mental health field since 2016. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Drake University in 2016 and received her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Drake University in 2019. She has training in EMDR Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems Therapy, and Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but utilizes person-centered therapy to remain present with the individual and determine which treatment approach feels most helpful for them. Kayla specializes in trauma informed practices, especially as it relates to LGBTQ+ and BIPOC experiences.