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How can I get through the holidays without getting burnt out?

Dec 18, 2023

How do I find the balance between taking care of my responsibilities and not overdoing it, especially with the holiday season?

This is such a great question.

And I think it’s one of those questions that I’m going to give like a frustrating therapist answer to because the thing about burnout is the only way to recover from burnout is to rest until you are no longer burned out.

And most of us do not have lives that give us the luxury of resting to the point that we are no longer burned out.

And so we end up in this cycle of never-ending burnout because we are never given enough spaciousness to actually fully rest and recover.

We are only given enough time to kind of patch things over enough to get going again, and that makes it really, really, really hard to ever get out of the cycle of burnout.

So in terms of this question of like balancing burnout and your responsibilities and taking care of yourself particularly during holiday seasons, I think the biggest tip that I would give is like do way less.

I think a lot of us have either familial stories or particular individual stories or cultural stories about what are our lives and our activities and everything is supposed to look like during the season and none of it is real and we can do as little of it as we feel like doing.

If decorating your whole house up in seasonal stuff is really enjoyable for you and makes you feel really good and happy to do it, awesome.

Do it.

If it’s really stressful for you and you feel terrible after doing it then like don’t.

Either let somebody else who enjoys it do it or just don’t do it.

Don’t decorate.

If cooking the big holiday meal is something that you really love doing and it feels great for you, awesome.

If it’s going to feel stressful, don’t.

I think that particularly those around my generation, the millennial generation, we are really starting this process of very deeply unpacking what the stories are about, how things are supposed to be, who we are supposed to be, how we are supposed to be within family dynamics, within cultural dynamics, and I think part of that process is being willing to just let stuff go and not do it.

And maybe that means that some people think of or see us as lazy or slackers or letting other people down or not following the tradition, but the thing about traditions is that they’re not necessarily good and if they’re causing you a lot of stress and harm and they’re impacting you in a negative way, maybe you don’t need it anymore.

Traditions are supposed to be there to give us a sense of connection to our culture, our community, some aspects of who we are over long periods of time.

That’s the purpose of a tradition is to connect you with those who came before in a way that it’s about preserving those connections.

Those who came before you, I would hope, don’t want you to suffer for the sake of a specific way of keeping that tradition.

And so, if the tradition is you’re supposed to cook a giant thing for whatever holiday and you don’t feel like doing it, don’t do it.

Order something in.

Do a simple meal.

Do a potluck.

Whatever it is that will make things simpler for you, just go with that.

And are there going to be people who are upset with you for not doing the thing you’re supposed to do because it’s tradition, because it’s like the obligation you have, yeah, probably there are going to be people who are upset about it.

And also, you get to say no.

Even if the entire family wants you to do a specific thing, you still get to say no.

Even if all of your friends really want to do a thing, you still get to say no.

It might impact the relationships in some way, and healthy relationships ideally are about making sure that the things that people do for us as part of that spirit of giving within relationships are things that they do at their own expense.

If part of being in relationship with me is cooking me a lavish dinner and the only way that you can do that is by hurting yourself, I don’t want you to do that for me because that’s not a healthy way to be in relationship.

You having to harm yourself in order for this relationship to continue, in order for this tradition to continue, that’s not healthy or helpful.

So just do less.

Say no more.

If you have any feeling like something is going to be too much for you or too hard, just don’t do it.

Just like say your no and move forward.

Captain Awkward has a lot of really great scripts for this kind of thing if you’re someone who enjoys scripts, so I would recommend going to Captain Awkward in searching for like family stuff, boundary stuff, really great stuff on there.

And also, just like really pay attention to yourself, right?

The thing is, you can’t be a good person in relationship, person in family, person in community if you are so completely burned out.

So don’t do the things that are going to keep you in burnout, right?

If people are giving you flak for saying no to something, remind them that you’re not saying no just to be a jerk.

You are saying no because saying yes would hurt you, and you know that they don’t want you to hurt yourself just for this other thing.

I think that this is a great time for all of us to work at reminding each other that we are in relationship with each other not for some sense of transaction for what that other person is going to give to us but because we care about each other at least ideally, right?

And if we care about someone, I would hope that we don’t want them to hurt themselves for our comfort, our pleasure, our enjoyment, our happiness.

And so, let’s just all practice giving each other more slack.

Let’s take our expectations way, way, way down.

figure out what is actually necessary to be done because I think a lot of times we have this idea that some things are necessary when really, they’re just not that necessary and the world will not end if we don’t do them.

So do less.

Say no more.

Set clearer boundaries.

Lower expectations all around.

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