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How to avoid burnout as we approach the holidays

How to avoid burnout as we approach the holidays

Women lying on bed

Tips from a therapist and entrepreneur

If you feel like 2021 just began, and you can’t believe the holidays are right around the corner, you are not alone. 

Other than the fluctuating COVID restrictions, which are as varied as the current weather patterns were are experiencing, little has changed. Sure we experienced some new forms of anxiety such as work from home paranoia and Zoom fatigue, but we are still in the middle of a pandemic. So it is not surprising that many are feeling the effects of BURNOUT.

Before we dive too deeply into how to deal with burnout and how to avoid it as we approach the holidays, let’s reflect on and remember that if you are feeling just a little bit (or a lot a bit) off this year, that is absolutely normal, there is nothing wrong with you, and we will get through this.

Let’s talk through a few things we can do to work through our burnout, together:

1. Boundaries

Boundaries are your best friend this year. Whether it’s work boundaries—or setting specific times, places and increments that you will specifically be working and specifically NOT be working—or boundaries with people in your life—maximizing the amount of time you’re spending with people who lift you up and setting limits on the amount of time and attention you are giving to people who wear you down—boundaries are powerful. By exercising boundaries, you are taking your power back from this unpredictable world that can otherwise feel so groundless and, well, powerless.

2. Set realistic expectations

Regardless of your circumstances, whether you will be celebrating away from family for the first time in a long time, or whether you are anticipating seeing family for the first time in a long time, or anywhere in between, this year is likely different than years past.

Sometimes, we get into a fantasy in our head of all of the things we WANT from the holiday season. We want to feel connected and loved, and sometimes, this can create a future in our mind that is a little bit rosier than what may be realistic. If the future reality turns out to be less ideal than the reality we have dreamed, we will feel hurt, disappointed, or rejected.

Try to dream of a future that is optimistic and continues to be full of love and connection, but is rooted in a sense of reality that you can realistically see playing out. How have your family members interacted in the past? What have been highs and lows that you have experienced in the past, and how might those present themselves in new shapes and sizes in these new circumstances?

3. Weave joy into the mundane

With so much outside of our control, weave joy every day into the things that ARE in your control.

Some suggestions, which you can edit to make your own:

  • Choose a flavor of coffee that has you looking forward to the mornings.
  • Allocate 3-60 minutes of your morning or evening toward reconnecting with your body through physical or breathing exercises.
  • Text a friend who you know is likely to make you laugh.
  • Send a love note to a friend who you imagine may be going through a hard time.
  • Dress in colors and fabrics that help you feel confident, comfortable and strong.
  • Prioritize sleep and comfort. The environment in which you sleep is hugely important to creating the right headspace to fully rest and recharge. For me, I sleep with an eye mask, both for the cooling sensation of the fabric on my face, and to take more control of the light I do or do not let in. I also have specific clothing that I sleep in, which is soft, light and sexy. I wear these for me and only me. My sleepwear shifts my headspace from “on” to “off,” from “work” to “rest.” Plus, investing in sleep gear is one way in which I prioritize taking care of me in addition to all the work I do to take care of others.

4. Work with a therapist

Sometimes, especially now, holiday stress is more than we can handle on our own. Heck, it doesn’t have to be the holidays for stress to feel like it’s bubbling over.

I have been working with a therapist for years and I cannot fully describe in words the invaluable ways in which my thoughts, behavior and circumstances have changed for the better. Prior to therapy, I would lay awake before bed with thoughts racing around in my mind. Even if I fell asleep alright, I’d wake feeling as though I had dreams in which I was running around all night, leaving me unrested and more tired than when I’d gone to sleep originally. Now, I rest soundly and I wake just before my alarm, feeling well-rested. I have better boundaries between work and life and I am more connected to my values, and integrate those values into my day-to-day.

Therapy is a safe space, just for you, where you can learn about all that is going on in your past, present, and future, how they interact, what patterns emerge and what you will or won’t choose to carry with you moving forward.

If you are interested in therapy but have struggled to find the right therapist fit, we at MyWellbeing are happy to help match you to 3 therapists who are likely to be a good fit for you. And if you are just learning about therapy and aren’t sure what type of therapy is right for you (yes, we promise it isn’t just about inkblots and couches) take our short quiz.

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5. Seek the silver lining 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this time is different than many others. 

However, different does not mean bad.

It is possible that there are circumstances you’re now in that present a new and unique learning experience. If you’re quarantined alone, perhaps this is a moment in time where you can learn more about yourself than ever before. Perhaps if you are single, you are just a few months or years away from being partnered, and in the future, you’ll look back fondly on this time of acquainting with and prioritizing yourself. If you are partnered, perhaps you have newfound distraction-free time with your partner. If you are a young parent, perhaps in years past, you had so many responsibilities out of the home that you did not have as much face time with your children as you now do. The list goes on.

Think about what is new for you this year, and are there gains hidden in there? What blessings can we find and appreciate this year, together?

I hope today’s reflection is helpful for you in relieving some of your holiday stress or holiday burnout. Ending how we started, if nothing else, please say these few things aloud:

  • How I am feeling is totally normal and okay
  • There is nothing wrong with me
  • I deserve love
  • I am not alone
  • I will survive — the best is yet to come

About the Author

Alyssa Petersel, LMSW is Founder and CEO of MyWellbeing, where she and her team connect people with the *right* therapist, while helping therapists build and manage their business and professional community. Alyssa, also a writer and therapist, released her award-winning debut book, Somehow I Am Different, in 2016. Named Forbes 30 Under 30 2021, one of Crain’s New York Business Notable Women in Healthcare 2019, and one of Built in NYC’s 50 Startups to Watch in 2020, Alyssa and her team have helped over 100,000 people and have been featured in prominent publications like Forbes, Allure, HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and more. A native New Yorker, in her off-hours, Alyssa enjoys spending time with her friends and family, social justice, and learning more about others’ cultures and world views.

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