Holidays can be tricky if you’re burned out or have someone going through burnout in your family. In this article, you’ll find tips on how to survive the holidays as a burned-out person or their partner.
I. Why can holidays be hard if you are burned out?
It’s counterintuitive that feelings of exhaustion may intensify during vacations that are supposed to be happy and restorative.
But it’s surprisingly common.
While taking time off helps to recharge, it’s expected that burned-out people aren’t able to enjoy the time off or are simply afraid of it.
Among others, it’s because:
their thoughts are stuck on unfinished tasks and the backlog that awaits after the break,
they fear someone will discover their incompetence, delays, or mistakes while away,
the free time forces them to stop and feel their complex emotions,
spending free time with the family they neglected due to work-related stress creates feelings of guilt,
they feel hopeless and unable to put the broken pieces together.
Also, family obligations are stressful for many by themselves:
having to stay around people during preparations sounds exhausting,
sitting through countless hours of talks about daily problems, politics, and other topics that often lead to conflicts and fights, answering questions like:
➰ “so, how is work?”
➰ “why are you looking so stressed out all the time? Just relax.”
➰ or personal questions related to kids or marital plans.
Also, they’re expecting comments about their inability to “properly” enjoy family time, being detached, “always moody and just hard to satisfy, spoiling the good time for everyone.”
So, what could you do to make it easier for everyone?
II. For burned-out people:
If you are burned out and not looking forward to all the hassle related to family meetings, let your family know what’s happening.
It can be the last thing you want to do, but it’s necessary.
They probably notice that you’re stressed or exhausted, so it’s better to be open about it than let them worry, as it’ll likely end with them trying to squeeze the information out of you, causing a fight.
I’d suggest doing the following instead:
1. Let your family know you love them and enjoy being in their company, even if you’re not the most talkative today.
2. If they insist on your participation in group activities, staying in the same room would probably be enough to keep everyone happy and comfortable while giving you some space.
3. If repeatedly asked about being silent or not like yourself, you may tell them that you’re just lost in thoughts, enjoying the holiday atmosphere, and resting from work.
4. Feel free to take a breather outside or in another room if you need a break. You don’t have to be present 24/7 with your guests to make them feel invited and appreciated.
5. Try to understand that other people don’t go through what you’re going through at the moment and may say or do things deemed sensitively from your perspective.
Give them some slack, as they probably give you quite a lot.
6. Set an alcohol limit for yourself for the day, and stick to it.
It’s easy to lose count when we’re exhausted, as we react to alcohol differently than when in shape. And family, stress, complex topics, and alcohol are not the greatest combination.
If you’re uncomfortable sharing information about your burnout, that’s all your extended family may need to know about your mental state to ensure peaceful holidays.
Regarding your spouse, I encourage you to have an open and honest conversation about this topic with them, as your silence will blow up in your face sooner or later.
You may start by reading the article that explains why and how to do it: The Hidden Costs of Burnout – Why You Should Talk to Your Spouse Now.
III. For family members:
If your partner or family member goes through burnout, holiday time may be challenging.
They’re lost in thoughts, easily irritable, seemingly uninterested in family life, and you just can’t tell them anything.
Two things can help everyone survive holidays in peace: respect and tolerance.
And they’re often hard to achieve among loved ones.
If you have a family member who is burned out, I suggest the following:
– don’t pay attention to their lack of enthusiasm or keeping silent,
– don’t try to entertain them and be the party’s center,
– don’t try to cheer them up if they’re not feeling it (it usually backfires),
– don’t have The Talk.
Instead, let them:
– spend the holidays as they please, extending invitations to join group activities without the pressure to participate,
– know they’re a valuable family member just as they are,
– know they’re not disappointing you by feeling worse than usual.
Try not to let the situation become the event on the day. Concentrate on enjoying your favorite activities and the holiday spirit instead, even without them.
It can be tough to make it through holidays with patience and tolerance.
Especially if we have expectations on how holiday celebrations may look and count on our partner or family member to be there for us and “at least make some effort today.”
And you do deserve to be supported.
Sometimes, burned-out people cannot give you that, and it’s up to you if you want to be understanding about their state.
Most of the clients I talk to blame themselves for unpleasant behavior towards their families that they cannot change now, so it may be the same with your spouse or parent.
And you may choose to be gracious about it this holiday.
It won’t be easy, but it may help you reestablish the trust that will allow you to be open and discuss the problem soon.