Burnout is real, but it's not just a result of overworking. Stretching yourself too thin in any aspect of your life can lead to physical or mental exhaustion. Few times in our lives are more hectic than the holidays, meaning the threat of burnout lurks around every corner.
Here's how to tackle December head on without draining yourself before New Year's day:
Buy gifts and supplies online
Shopping from the comfort of your own home is immensely preferable to getting jostled by crowds, waiting in long lines and dropping all your bags as you fish for your wallet. You can get any holiday supplies you need online, not just gifts. If you're making a lavish dinner and need an uncommon cooking utensil - perhaps a mezzaluna or a mortar and pestle - head to the internet for access to more options than what your local department store has in stock. Additionally, certain stores and apps will also let you shop for groceries online. You can order ingredients for Christmas dinner in the morning, then have them delivered straight to your door or pick them up on your evening commute.
Schedule work blackout days
Work is one of the most common causes of burnout, especially in December. Not only are you swamped with end-of-year projects, but your company is in the midst of preparing for 2017. To keep life manageable, Inc. suggested blocking off a few days where you don't have any contact with the office - no emails, no calls, no teleconferencing. Mark these days on your work calendar so coworkers know you're unavailable, and write an out-of-office email that automatically responds to clients. Spend your free time focused on what you should be doing: having fun with your loved ones.
Get a good night's sleep
Researchers in Stockholm conducted a study that found not enough rest and poor sleep quality were significant risk factors for burnout. Your schedule is going to be packed this time of year, but still try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
If you can't add a few more hours of bedtime, the Sleep Foundation provided several helpful suggestions for getting a quality night's rest. Read, listen to music or do a light stretching routine to calm your brain. Turn off your phone, TV and bright lights - these keep your mind active and make it hard to fall asleep. In fact, now is a good time to take a survey of your room and see if it's optimal for sleep. Replace your mattress or pillows if either are uncomfortable and make sure the room is at a nice, cool temperature.
Make decisions...and stick to them firmly
There's no way you'll be able to attend every party, festival, parade, school nativity play or relative's house this season, and trying to do so will just stress you out. Prioritize the events you can't miss and politely decline invitations to others. Most people will be a little disappointed, but everyone understands the holidays are a busy time.
Some relatives - particularly parents and in-laws - might try to guilt you into spending time with them. Prioritize your mental health and stick with your decision, otherwise you'll agree to a bunch of commitments you can't keep. Tell these people you'll spend next year's holidays with them or plan to visit in January.
Give yourself time to escape
If you start to feel overwhelmed in the middle of a party or while cooking Christmas dinner, give yourself a few moments alone. Spend a minute or two practicing deep breathing exercises - simply inhale through your nose until your lungs are full, then exhale through your mouth until they are empty. This technique, Harvard Medical School pointed out, is a healthy way to respond to stress and offers benefits similar to medication and tai chi.