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How to reduce overwhelm and burnout this holiday season?

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

The end of the year can bring a lot of stress and anxiety to many people. The expectations, the holidays, the gifting and caring. We try to wrap up end-of-year work projects and goals. We try to find gifts for everyone on the list. We have social events and obligations to go to.

If you are already stressed during the year, this time can bring more anxiety rather than joy and celebration. It can be a season of stress, health wise and financial wise.

Here are 3 practical tips to help you stay well and reduce the overwhelm this holiday season:

Tip 1: Find out your love languages, and your loved ones’ love language

Holidays are the season of showing love. The love languages refer to five simple ways that we want love to be shown to us and the way that we show others love. Here are the 5 love language:

  1. Words of affirmation

  2. Act of service

  3. Gifts

  4. Quality time

  5. Physical touch

You can take the quiz HERE.

Chances are, you are already showing love in your primary love language everyday, and it is the way you want to show love this holiday season too.

For me, I discovered my primary love languages are “act of service” and “quality time”, so I prioritize these two for the holiday season, rather than focusing on the American tradition of gift giving. I of course appreciate receiving gifts and giving gifts to others whose love language is gift giving, but finding out my love language helps me prioritize what is important to me.

Tip 2: Do less of the “should” because “everyone does that”.

It is tiring and exhausting to keep up with other people's expectations. When we find ourselves stretched thin, it often means we are doing too much of what doesn’t matter to us.

It is very easy to compare yourself to others these days with social media. It is easy to feel you are not enough when you compare yourself with someone who has a perfectly decorated houses, takes perfectly looking family pictures, happy dressed up children, Christmas trees full of gifts, a table full of food or someone who travels to an exciting place overseas.

People often only share the best part of their day. Behind the camera might be an exhausting mom staying up until dawn to wrap gifts, respond to work emails, clean the house and cook the perfect holiday meal. Behind the camera might be an exhausted family at the airport whose flight got delayed. Behind the camera might be screaming children who fight against the perfect outfits for holiday pictures. Behind the camera are often the moms who are exhausted, overwhelmed and stretched thin.

So instead of comparing yourself to others’ perfect looking pictures, ask yourself - what is the most important to you out the holiday list?

  • Gift: giving and receiving

  • Decorations

  • Food: cooking and cleaning

  • Time spent together

  • Traveling

  • Traditions

  • Entertainment

  • Perfect looking pictures

  • Your energy

Figure out what really matters to you, and do less of what doesn’t matter.

For me, because my primary love languages are “act of service” and “time together”, I prioritize cooking a delicious family meal, and I prioritize my energy for our time spent together. Because I don’t prioritize others, I am okay with them not being very few or none at all.

Tip 3: Say no

“If it is not a hell yes, it is a no.” Derek Sivers

It can be hard to say no because we think we would hurt other people’s feelings. Many of us are taught to be “good girls” who don’t do anything to upset others. Because of that belief, we might feel exhausted and overwhelmed because we don’t set any boundaries for our time, our sleep and our health. More about being nice in this post.

Practicing setting boundaries to the social events and obligations you don’t feel hell yes. It is okay to say no now and say yes to your much needed sleep or rest, so when you have the energy, it can be a hell yes at a later time.

Our Christmas traditions the last 2 years:

This was how Christmas looked like for us the past 2 years. We decided not to travel to see family overseas with two young children and given the pandemic. We got one gift for each kid. Our Christmas tree has just standard decorations. There were no decorations outside our house, just a couple dead plants from the fall. I had a full night 8 hour sleep on Christmas Eve because I decided to rest and cook on Christmas Day instead.

The morning of Christmas was peaceful. The kids woke up and saw their gifts under the tree. I asked my daughter if she would like to open her gift, or if she would like a walk with just mama. To my surprise, she was excited to choose a walk with just mama. We walked around the silently quiet neighborhood, smelling the crisp cold air, enjoying the sunshine and watching the birds on empty branches.

We later open gifts and called family and friends to catch up. In the afternoon, I made a yummy simple early dinner with 2 dishes and a simple dessert. We did another neighborhood walk and stopped by our favorite neighbor's house. We went to a close by playground. No one was there. Perhaps everyone was too busy with playing with their new toys, cleaning up for traveling to places far away.

It was simply the best holiday we could ask for, because we prioritize what matters to us. It was exactly the tradition that I want to pass on to my children - the simple act of spending time together without distractions.

Closing notes

Both my husband and I grew up overseas and we didn't grow up celebrating Christmas. But it is the biggest holiday in the US and we wanted to celebrate and create memories for our children growing up in the U.S. Our Christmas tradition might look very different to any American, any Vietnamese or any Turkish household and it is okay.

It is easy to get caught up in the idea of creating the “perfect childhood memories” by comparing ourselves to others. The perfectionist me in the past would have gone above and beyond to replicate 100% of the American Christmas tradition to my children. The recovering perfectionist me today connects to myself, sets boundaries and prioritizes what is truly important.

I hope these tips and our story inspire you for a less stressful and more joyful holiday season ahead. Let me know in the comment what your love languages are.

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, and is not intended as medical advice.

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