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Episode 14 - Avoiding Holiday Burnout

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

Maybe it doesn't quite feel like "the most wonderful time of year" to you - it's the beginning of December, and you might already be approaching holiday BURNOUT. Listen to this episode and learn six steps to avoiding total holiday burnout (or at least taming it a bit!) and have a more peaceful, grace-filled Christmas this year!

Helpful info:

1.Take care of your body 2. Check expectations 3. Find YOUR why 4. Communicate your desires 5. Seek info from those close to you 6. Give yourself grace


Hi and welcome to episode 14 of Grace In Progress. My name is Briana Leach. I'm a wife, a mom of three and a licensed counselor who loves Christmas shopping on Amazon and frosted brownies...and I truly believe that if you woke up this morning, then you have a purpose. If you're new to this podcast, the goal here is to create a safe space for you to learn more about yourself, take small steps to become the person you were created to be and give yourself lots of grace along the way. If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and if you would take the time to leave a review of whatever you're getting out of this time together or maybe you have questions and would like to contact me on social media. I would love to hear from you. You can follow me @brianaleachlpc on both Instagram and Facebook and also at There you can find more information about the podcast, about other counseling services that I provide and learn a little bit more about me. Thank you for those of you who have shared this podcast with friends. If you haven't already, you can always share my social media posts or just text a friend and say you need to look up the Grace in Progress podcast and I would love for you to do that. All right, let's jump into today's topic. As I record this episode, we are in the first week of December, so last week was Thanksgiving. We are now fully in the Christmas season and it is everywhere. So I thought an appropriate topic for today would be how to avoid holiday burnout. And yes, you can burnout at any time of the year in any season, but there's a very special nuance about burnout this time of year. I mean there's a song and there's signs everywhere about how this is the most wonderful time of the year and if you disagree with that because it's cold and really busy, then something must be wrong with you. But there is that unspoken or actually quite blatant pressure to make everything magical and enjoy every moment when in reality it might be the exact opposite and all of the entertaining and parties and all of that might be contributing to burnout in your life. And I know it's a little early in the month, but if that's you or you think it might be you, you are not alone. I was reading an article on, it was New York post, but it was talking about research on this topic. It was fascinating how one in three Americans get holiday burnout before Christmas and some of them even before December begins. The biggest contributors to the burnout were shopping crowds, long lines, constant commercials, hearing the holiday music, and again, not to sound like Grinch, but it's a lot crammed into one month, or a two month span for those of you who start early. And Christmas, as wonderful as it is, can be very stressful for some people. And my goal today is to help you break it down a little bit, take some actionable steps towards avoiding burnout in what is a very wonderful season. Doesn't have to be the most wonderful, but a fantastic time of year to pause and think about what Christmas is really about. So before we jump into active ways to combat burnout, I want to define it for you because some of you may be thinking, Oh, it's stress on one end or maybe the other end you're thinking it's depression, but really burnout has similarities to depression but also its own unique characteristics. And I rely on the World Health Organization's definition of burnout, which is that it is a state of chronic stress that can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. So this is more than just, "Oh, I have a party coming up, I'm stressed, I have a lot of planning to do" that kind of stuff, or that kind of stress. This is something that's affecting your daily life. I always say one of the keys to burnout is that things that used to bring you joy no longer bring you joy or things that didn't used to stress you out now really stress you out to the point that you don't even want to try. You don't even want to bother because it's going to be too much work. That can be a pretty good indicator of burnout and in this situation, "holiday burnout" know, basically burnout with fancy twinkle lights just to make it more festive in all areas of counseling that I do in speaking engagements that I do. Honestly, the premise is that awareness and appreciation are needed in order to take action. You need to be aware of how you work and appreciate how uniquely you were created in order to take those steps. So speaking of those steps, I want to give you six steps to help avoid holiday burnout. Number one, take care of your body. This is "burnout 101." This is includes getting sleep at night. You need to be getting regular sleep, drink and eat, and I'm talking about water and good food. Taking care of yourself needs to be priority - it is foundational to any of the other steps. If you're not doing number one, which is getting enough rest, getting enough healthy food and water, and exercising when possible - walking, being able to actually go to the gym, any kind of physical movement - those three things are needed before you can do any of the other steps. And just by implementing the first one, you might be surprised how some of the burnout lifts when you start taking care of yourself. Okay. Number two, check your expectations. Where do some of these traditions come from? Where does some of these pressures come from? Is it something that you grew up doing? Is it something that your spouse grew up doing or your friends or something that your kids really want you to do and put this pressure on you? Sometimes we get so caught up in the season that we don't really slow down enough to ask ourselves why we do the things we do or where the expectation might be coming from. You have to identify the source of your pressure before you can even start taking steps to combat it. So number two is check your expectations. Are you setting unrealistic expectations for your holidays based on what you see on TV in magazines, or maybe you've been asked by a family member to do something that completely puts you out of your comfort zone. For example, like being the host home for everyone for Christmas or cooking the entire meal and the stress and the thought of it, and the anticipation is causing you to approach burnout. Knowing where the stress is coming from is going to help you deal with it. And that leads into step number three. Find your why. You may know why other people like to do their traditions, what they're doing, the agenda that they set for December, but why do you do the things that you do? Piggybacking on number two of checking your expectations - are the things you're doing coming from other people? That would very quickly lead to burnout because it's not even something you want to do. There's no heart behind it. Finding your why...why you want to do things to celebrate this season. Why do you want to go Christmas caroling? Why do you want to go to Christmas Eve candlelight service? Why do you want a houseful of family members or people or why do you only want to celebrate with friends? I can't quite remember when exactly it started, but in my life I've had the desire every Christmas to go caroling at a nursing home. I think my why is twofold: One, I miss my grandparents and two, I don't think anyone should be alone on Christmas, especially near the end of your life. And every time we go, especially now with kids, it's one of those experiences that is hard to describe how wonderful and heartfelt it is. To see the joy on the residents' faces that might not have otherwise had a visitor for Christmas, which I just think is wrong. So I'm advocating for everyone to add that to their list. Not to add to your burnout, but if you get a free moment, go caroling at a nursing home, you will not regret it. But all that to say, finding your why is going to help you do number four, which is communicate your desires. Part of overcoming or avoiding burnout is to voice your desires. During a busy season like Christmas - as much as I would love to say, you can flip a switch and it's not a busy season - it is what it is and all we can do is cope with it and to communicate our desires to those that are around us. This may be difficult because you might be breaking a tradition or you might be changing plans that you've always done, but deep down, if you know that continuing to fill your calendar or do things that other people expect of you that you have no desire to do and it only adds to stress in this holiday season, communicating that is going to be essential to avoiding burnout. Number five is gather info from those who love you most. So far steps one through four have been very introspective and self-driven and sometimes when you're approaching burnout, you have zero motivation to make changes to voice your opinion. Anything like that can sound exhausting when you're approaching burnout, but you can take this moment and check in with those people that are closest to you. It might be a best friend. It might be a sibling, it might be a parent, might be a spouse, but check in with those who really know you and can maybe give you insight of, "Hey, I see that you're over committing yourself," or "Hey, you've done this in the past and it seemed to work for you." Or maybe they'll help you brainstorm a new way to celebrate that can be fun, but also take a load off your plate. There is zero shame in outsourcing whenever you're trying to find out ways to avoid burnout. You are doing that right this second - and I'm proud of you! But being able to talk to other people, maybe ask what's worked for you? Is there anything we should cut from our family traditions? Cut sounds so mean, but maybe shelve temporarily. Press pause so that maybe we'll revisit in the future, but for now not going to let it affect our mental health. Not every tradition or routine or expectation is beneficial or even necessary. Think about it. The true reason we even celebrate anything in this season, the theme song for it is silent night. I highly doubt that Mary and Joseph in any capacity would have expected what our Western culture has created in the celebration of Christmas - the craziness, the hustle and bustle, the arguing and fighting over gifts. All of that is what can lead to holiday burnout. And of course, you know my number six is going to be give yourself grace. As you look at these steps, as you look at these past five - going through taking care of your body and basic needs as number one. Number two was checking your expectations, identifying the sources of the pressure so you can take action. The next one at number three was finding your why. Why do you want to do the things you do? What matters to you in this season? Number five is communicating those desires once you figured them out, and then of course finally at number six is giving yourself grace. As you take all of these steps, there's a huge learning curve in taking care of yourself and avoiding burnout. Sometimes it happens, sometimes you get overwhelmed at how many commitments you've made or what you've put on your plate, and that's okay. Take a deep breath, realize that you're doing the best you can. You cannot make everyone happy. You can't always make yourself happy, but if you can focus on why we're even celebrating this season before it all passes you by, that's the most important part. I will make this list available in the show notes and on social media, and I know you can do this and of course I am cheering you on always. Thanks so much for listening.

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