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5 Tips to Avoid Burnout at Home or in the Office during the Holidays

How individuals and employers can ease stress, create a healthy balance, and make the holiday season even more enjoyable

Christmas was easier when I was younger. All I had to do was count down impatiently until the magic day when there would be family, food, and, most importantly, presents! If you were like me you never thought about the time and effort that went into a holiday like Christmas, the present buying, the food shopping, the wrapping, the card writing, the decoration, and even the agonizing over whether a real or fake tree has a lower carbon footprint. Do not get me wrong this time of year is great, but for some, it’s a lot of effort.

Add into that the fact that many of us are doing all of this around work then it becomes a real rush, especially if it is the end of the financial year and the pressure is on to hit those targets. If you work in the retail sector then this is the busiest shopping season, or in the health sector when winter bugs are ticking the workload up and taking the available workers down!

Perhaps you are preparing for the holidays fighting a winter illness yourself, while also trying to make sure you attend your child’s holiday performance at school and somehow also find time to take your elderly relative shopping. “Thank goodness for online” you say at some unearthly hour of the morning when you are shopping instead of sleeping. Is it no surprise so many of us go down with colds and flu during the holidays! Some of this may be due to getting too close to colleagues and overdoing it at the office holiday party, but for many, it is the body finally relaxing at the end of a hectic time.

There is debate about what “burnout” actually means and what causes it, but there is no debate about the debilitating effects it has on physical and mental health.

While this is not necessarily burnout, continuing to work at this pace throughout the year, with no time for recovery and relaxation can result in burnout. There is debate about what “burnout” actually means (when does stress become burnout?) and there is much debate about what causes it – emotionally demanding work, the “always switched on” culture, personal resilience, unreasonable workload, “Type A” personalities, and the impact of the recession. There is no debate, however, about the debilitating effects of burnout on physical and mental health – if you have suffered from it or know somebody that has, then you will recognize the total depletion and exhaustion it has on motivation and mood – potentially long term.

So what can you do, as an individual or as an employer to keep Christmas on the right side of fun and not let it be the final straw in a hectic life that tips you over the edge and into burnout?

1. Relax!

I know you really don’t have time for this, but this is a key part of maintaining our wellbeing that few of us make time for. The BBC presenter and GP, Dr. Chatterje places relaxation in his four pillars of a healthy life along with eating well, moving, and sleeping. Try mindfulness (there are so many apps out there), yoga or just sitting still and breathing deeply for a few minutes a day. Give your mind a chance to reboot.

2. Sleep

We know it’s important, but we are heading into a sleep deprivation epidemic. Our busy lives, blue screens, alcohol, and caffeine are all reducing the amount and quality of our sleep which reduces our ability to function as well as impacting our immune health. At this time of year, we need to get out during morning daylight to reset our internal clocks, help us sleep, and improve our mood.

Try mindfulness, yoga or just sitting still and breathing deeply for a few minutes a day and give your mind a chance to reboot.

3. Eat Well

This concept isn’t quite so achievable with holiday parties and dinners, try and make sure you grab some fruit in between the desserts. Strawberries, kiwi, and oranges all boost your vitamin C; add in one of Rudolph’s carrots too, and you are on your way to getting your five a day.

4. Manage Your Expectations of Yourself and Your Staff

If you can’t find that perfect present or if your napkins don’t match your holiday table cloth, does it really matter? Write yourself a list and then divide it into the “have to haves” and the “nice to haves”. Similarly with the work to-do list, yes it would be great to get all of those things out of the door on time, but choose what has to go out and what could wait… it could be a nice little job to do when it’s a bit quieter in January?

If you are an employer, where is there flexibility in the objectives you have set for your staff? If you are demanding that they pull out all the stops to hit the end-of-year target, do you really need to demand they do all the staff reviews in the same month too? Can you change that timetable to ease the pressure?


5. Look for Flexibility

Finally, look for flexibility, or provide it if you are an employer.

Flexibility is highly valued by employees – it is very hard to leave an organization that enables you to organize your schedule to make it to that school performance for one that doesn’t. It has also been found to support healthy behaviors and employee engagement, so if reorganizing your working day is possible and will make a difference to your ability to cope with the holiday rush, don’t be afraid to ask. After all, not every employer is Mr. Scrooge.

Wishing you a healthy and relaxing holiday from all at SHL!

To learn more about ways to create an engaging employee experience, contact us today!

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Penny Baker

Penny Baker is a Managing Consultant and Chartered Occupational Psychologist working with SHL in the UK. Penny has extensive experience in supporting organizations with their Talent Management across the employee life cycle from leadership selection to succession planning. Penny remains fascinated with how personality drives behavior and how this manifests itself across role and organizational challenges. She has a particular interest in diversity, inclusion, resilience, and health.

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