Peace on Earth: Our Best Tips to Prevent Holiday Burn-out

We love all of our special holiday gift packs, but there is a good reason so many people are ordering our Holiday Self-Healing Gift Pack, with its soothing audio programs, Peaceful Mind Candle and Little Heartbeat Pillow. We are also experiencing increased interest in our Healthful Sleep and all the audio programs dedicated to relieving stress and soothing the psyche during this hectic time.

While there are no hard statistics on the number of people who experience holiday burn-out, or the extent of the symptoms they experience, it is a fact that extreme stress from the additional burden of holiday chores alone is enough to send most people into a state of burn-out. Holiday burn-out is characterized by feelings of desperation, frustration, mental and physical exhaustion, even anxiety and depression, brought on by an inability to keep up with a frantic pace.  Additional responsibilities that complicate already overloaded schedules and impossibly high expectations often create an overwhelming sense of disappointment, rather than the joyous holiday spirit the season promises.

Each year, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, virtually every community in the nation experiences record numbers of incidents involving people who are pushed beyond their limits. For example, incidents of domestic disturbances, which include everything from family squabbles to domestic violence, are at least three times higher during the holidays, DUI offenses increase significantly, as well as reports of robbery, burglary and shoplifting, and the number of emergency admissions to mental health facilities (often due to drug or alcohol abuse) is sharply increased.

By contrast, the rate of suicidal incidents (including attempted suicide) is lowest during the holiday season, according to the CDC, but the rates spike in January and peak in the spring. Many researchers speculate that this is because family members, friends and agencies reach out to depressed and disadvantaged people during the holiday season, and there is a psychological let-down when the holidays are over.
Winter blahs are largely attributed to the loss of sunlight during winter months, but for many people, depression during January and February is the result of a similar psychological let-down, the loss of holiday euphoria or the failure to realize holiday expectations.  The situation is often compounded by additional debt from over-spending on gifts, weight gain from holiday munching, insufficient sleep, failure to maintain a fitness regimen and a return to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, over-eating  and binge drinking, which might have been curtailed before additional stress and the temptations of holiday celebrations resurrected them.

The good news is that you don’t have to submit to the holiday spoilers. There is much you can do to enjoy the magical holiday season, even benefit from its simple promise of peace and joy, and carry that spirit with you throughout the year. In our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide there is an article titled BR’s Tips to De-Stress the Holidays. Though many of you might have read them, we can’t think of anything that is more deserving of being repeated, and we can’t come up with an idea for a better gift to you than to help you find and preserve the wondrous holiday spirit of love, peace and joy. So here they are: BR’s best tips. Enjoy your holidays!

BR’s Tips to De-Stress the Holidays

1. Take Care of Your Body
Try to do all those things you know are good for your physical wellbeing: get regular exercise; take it easy on the caffeine, sugar and alcohol; get enough sleep; eat healthy food – you know this stuff. This is the baseline of stress reduction.

2. Track Your Physical Comfort
Take time to check in and see how your body is feeling. Once you notice, you can make small corrections to relieve discomfort before it takes over. Breathe into tight places; stretch and move when your back or neck feels stiff; look out the window when your eyes are straining at the computer screen; massage your neck and press the acupoints when a headache is lurking. But you have to notice what’s amiss first.

3. Learn to Relax at Will
Develop a regular practice to ground and relax you. If possible, start and end the day with guided imagery, yoga, meditation, relaxation, deep breathing, petting the cat in a rocking chair or listening to soothing music. Even five minutes, twice a day, will give you some protective ballast against the day’s stresses. And if you can’t manage this daily, do it whenever you can.

4. Take a Mini-break When You’re Getting Crazed
When you find yourself starting to lose it, or butting up against your own rigidity or circular thinking, take a quick break. Step away. Go outside for a walk, do some guided imagery, snuggle your favorite toddler, play some music, call a loving friend or do a couple of yoga stretches. Five minutes of conscious AWOL can clear your mind and give you back your perspective, flexibility and common sense.

5. Dose Your Day with Humor
Humor, by its nature, provides instant distance, balance and perspective, if even for a moment. As long as it’s not aimed at mocking others, it allows us to step back and take everything, including ourselves, less seriously. So practice the art of finding the ludicrous, paradoxical and nonsensical in daily events. And laughing itself is priceless. A belly laugh changes biochemistry and clears out emotional gunk like little else.

6. Be Realistic & Know Your Limits
It’s a wonderful thing to know what you can and cannot do. Wrestle your perfectionism to the ground and don’t let idealized expectations press you into doing more than you can realistically manage. Say no. Set limits. Work smart. This is especially important around holiday time, when trying too hard to do too much creates the exact opposite of the holiday feeling you’re striving for, and you morph into the cranky, resentful, martyred, overworked nightmare you swore you’d never be.

7. Manage Your Time
A corollary is to try not to over-commit. If you do, make a list and prioritize. (Just getting things out of your head and onto a piece of paper will reduce some stress.) If the list is out of control, look it over and assess what has to go – and then cancel, with apologies. Then tackle things you can finish, one at a time if at all possible. Work mindfully at it, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with getting it done. Procrastination can be a terrible stressor – we’re always aware of what we should be doing while we’re not doing it, and it’s a real joy-killer and energy-sapper. Do a piece of it and check that sucker off!

8. When Scheduling, Give Yourself Room to Breathe
If you find yourself scheduling yourself with back to back meetings, consider the possibility that you’re an adrenaline junkie, running from appointment to appointment to feed your addiction. Leave time between things, to catch your breath, reflect on what’s next. Acquaint yourself with a calmer class of neurohormones that return you to equilibrium. Once you get out of the habit of racing, you won’t be so eager to go back to it, I promise.

9. Throw Something Out Every Day
Useless clutter is another low level, subliminal stress-producer. And we all know how quickly a
clean surface can attract overwhelming piles of stuff.  If you commit to throwing out one or two things a day, it really helps. And if you’re one of those people who need to see your papers spread around you as you work (I am), just contain the surface area you allot to this!

10. Keep Asking Yourself if You’d Rather Be Happy or Right
A lot of stress is generated – for ourselves and others – by our need to be right, show we’re right,  prove we’re right. And really, so what if we establish we’re right? We cleanse our psychic palate and de-gunk our day by letting go of an issue and moving on. Mind you, this is not the same as being a chump. It’s about taking care of ourselves, and therein lies right relationship, clear focus and, yes, happiness.

11. Don’t Be Proud – Get Support When the Chips are Down
Sometimes talking things out with someone you trust will allow you to safely acknowledge your feelings, let off some steam, get you away from circular thinking and rearrange your mislaid perspective. Sometimes, friends even have helpful advice to give. Sometimes, they actually stop us from doing something really dumb.
12. Practice Staying in the Moment
By mindfully going about your day, putting your awareness into what you are doing at the
moment, you will be using even mundane, everyday activities as the focus of meditation, and simple as it sounds, you will regain peace and balance. Yes, peeling potatoes can be a route to spiritual attainment and inner peace!

13. Notice Little Moments of Beauty and Sweetness
This sounds hokey but it works. Notice beauty around you and take a moment to breathe it in... same with a smile, a gracious act, a loving gesture. Practicing gratitude for these lovely bits and pieces of daily life is a potent way to de-stress, and it’s contagious, too.

Health Journeys Elves’ 12 Days of Guided Imagery
to Combat Holiday Burn-out

  1. Relaxation & Wellness - Belleruth Naparstek
  2. Relieve Stress - Belleruth Naparstek
  3. Guided Self-Hypnosis to Free Yourself from Procrastination - Traci Stein
  4. Relaxation & Recovery - Chris Theriault
  5. General Wellness - Belleruth Naparstek
  6. Healthful Sleep - Belleruth Naparstek
  7. Breathe to Beat the Blues - Amy Weintraub
  8. Gifts of Presence - Lynn Newman
  9. Healthy Self Esteem - Traci Stein
  10. Guided Meditations for Busy People - Bodhipaksa
  11. The Joy of Eating Well - Andrew Weil & Carolyn Ross
  12. Alcohol and Other Drugs - Belleruth Naparstek

And a partridge in a pear tree.