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"Burnout" is a term often used to describe feelings of desperation, extreme stress, and the inability to continue with, or loss of interest in, scheduled activities. Sufferers of "holiday burnout" are often overwhelmed by the perceived extra demands and expectations associated with preparation for, and celebration of, the holiday season.  

Some cases of holiday burnout are likely related to episodes of depression, which can peak at holiday time. Others report feeling burned out simply because they have, either because of pressure from others or due to their own expectations, taken on too many responsibilities. An overloaded social schedule combined with the demands of entertaining, gift shopping, decorating, and other holiday traditions can evoke panic in even the most organized among us. Finally, family and other interpersonal conflicts often come to the surface at holiday time, due both to individual differences in expectations and increased overall stress levels.  

If you feel you are prone to experiencing holiday burnout, you can work to formulate an effective holiday stress management strategy by considering the following four keys to avoiding holiday burnout:    

Try to keep the whole experience in its proper perspective by remembering that the holiday season represents only a very short portion of the year, which will indeed soon be at its end. This need not be by definition the most important or meaningful time of the year; only you can decide what is meaningful for you. Consider that many, many others feel the same way as you and are also experiencing disillusion, stress, or anxiety. 

Preconceived Ideas 
Banish preconceived ideas of what the holiday season should be like. Admittedly, this can be a difficult task, but it can also be very liberating. Think about your holiday traditions and try to separate those you truly enjoy from those you feel you "have" to do because you've always done so or you are expected by others to do so. Consider doing something different to celebrate this year. It's equally important to banish preconceived notions about what you should be feeling at this time. Try to ignore merchandising and mass-media implications of how you should be feeling. In fact, it's extremely unrealistic to expect to feel an increase in love, harmony, forgiveness, and other virtues when you're stressed and overextended. 

Always think before committing to any responsibility or social event. Ideally, make no snap decisions and give yourself time to reflect on any proposed commitment or responsibility (say you have to check your calendar first). Decide what is the right level of social activity for you to feel your happiest and best - from a party every day to none at all - and plan accordingly. Remember that what sounds fun (or manageable) two months in advance might be the stuff of headaches when combined with other pressures at holiday time. If you're planning as part of a couple or family unit, talk over your feelings in advance and agree to make commitments only after discussion with the others involved. 

Finally, give yourself permission - to feel as you do and to make the choices you need. Do not judge or compare your feelings or actions with those of anyone else. You have the right to define for yourself the things that are important for you and how you choose to celebrate the holidays. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed or experiencing high levels of stress, it is important to talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you or someone you know needs help, visit the WECHU’s Where to Get Help page.

What can I do to improve my overall mental health?

Good mental health helps us to achieve balance and cope with stressful times. Turn page over to
find immediate resources for those struggling with their mental health.

Ten general tips for mental health

  1. build confidence identify your abilities and weaknesses together, accept them build on them and do the best with what you have
  2. eat right, keep fit a balanced diet, exercise and rest can help you to reduce stress and enjoy life.
  3. make time for family and friends these relationships need to be nurtured; if taken for granted they will not be there to share life's joys and sorrows.
  4. give and accept support friends and family relationships thrive when they are "put to the test"
  5. create a meaningful budget financial problems cause stress. Over-spending on our "wants" instead of our "needs" is often the culprit.
  6. volunteer being involved in community gives a sense of purpose and satisfaction that paid work cannot.
  7. manage stress we all have stressors in our lives but learning how to deal with them when they threaten to overwhelm us will maintain our mental health.
  8. find strength in numbers sharing a problem with others who have had similar experiences may help you find a solution and will make you feel less isolated.
  9. identify and deal with moods we all need to find safe and constructive ways to express our feelings of anger, sadness, joy and fear.
  10. learn to be at peace with yourself get to know who you are, what makes you really happy, and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.

From: Canadian Mental Health Association - National Office

Other mental fitness tips include:

  • Give yourself permission to take a break from your worries and concerns. Recognize that dedicating even a short time every day to your mental fitness will reap significant benefits in terms of feeling rejuvenated and more confident.
  • "Collect" positive emotional moments - Make a point of recalling times when you have experienced pleasure, comfort, tenderness, confidence or other positive things.
  • Do one thing at a time - Be "present" in the moment, whether out for a walk or spending time with friends, turn off your cell phone and your mental "to do" list.
  • Enjoy hobbies - Hobbies can bring balance to your life by allowing you to do something you enjoy because you want to do it.
  • Set personal goals - Goals don't have to be ambitious. They could be as simple as finishing a book, walking around the block every day, learning to play bridge, or calling your friends instead of waiting by the phone. Whatever goal you set, reaching it will build confidence and a sense of satisfaction.
  • Express yourself - Whether in a journal or talking to a wall, expressing yourself after a stressful day can help you gain perspective, release tension, and boost your body's resistance to illness.
  • Laugh - Laughter often really is the best medicine. Even better is sharing something that makes you smile or laugh with someone you know.

Adapted from: Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Fitness Tips.

Peace of Mind over the Holidays

Ways to Curb Holiday Stress and Stay out of Debt

Finances are known to be a leading source of stress, but not the only holiday stressor! Here are some things to consider before spending lots of money and especially before pulling out your credit card for holiday shopping or entertainment. Also included are additional links and resources to eliminate or at least reduce stress over the holidays and beyond.

Low Cost/No Cost Entertainment

Whether or not you have kids, doling out lots of cash for holiday entertainment can add unnecessary stress to your peace of mind but also your wallet. Remember, what goes on your credit card in December, comes back to haunt you in January! Below are some ideas and links to other sources. Please send your ideas to with the subject line: Holiday Stress Busters and we’ll add them to our list!

  • Take a walk in the neighbourhood or a drive to see the holiday lights. Bring some hot chocolate and a treat for yourself and the kids to make it more special
  • Take advantage of free skate and/or free swim programs that are generally offered and sponsored throughout the holidays
  • Have a family and or friend game night. If inviting friends over, have everyone bring a treat to share (you can provide some healthy options as well)

Simplify Gift Giving

If you have lots of time, but little money, or little time or money, there are some great ideas for holiday gifts for friends, teachers, colleagues. Remember DYI gifts can cost more to make than to buy, so be careful on this one. Be sure to keep in mind the reason for the gift and who it is for – make sure your gift-giving is in line with your values as well as your budget.  Also consider changing your gift-giving traditions

  • Soup mix (multi-bean is great for this) or cookie recipe with ingredients in the canning jar with some Holiday fabric under the lid, and a bow with a personalized recipe attached with a bow.

Bake cookies (dip an end in melted chocolate chips for extra flare) and package in holiday theme without breaking the bank. These ideas came from:

Lots of ideas for all budgets and interests – great starting point for ideas:

Know what your “unwritten rules” are when it comes to gift exchanges – food for thought:

General Holiday Stress Tips:

See Holiday Burnout article on under Healthy at Work webinar series. The following links also provide some helpful tips to consider:

From the Mayo Clinic:

However – if you are prone to, or think you may have a shopping addiction, this article may be helpful:

The following resource is reproduced in its entirety and with permission from the Canadian Mental Health Association – Windsor Essex County Branch

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Last modified: 
Thursday, July 7, 2022 - 8:44am