Come Thursday, the holiday season will officially be upon us. And that means we’ll soon have a million and one things to do, from shopping for gifts to planning our winter break trips home, to somehow surviving finals and getting out of this semester alive.
So, while I’m thinking about our upcoming stress levels, let me share some survival tips to help you through the holidays, especially if you want to avoid holiday burnout.
Holiday burnout is a real thing, so let’s tackle it head on. I’m gonna give you a few tips to stay refreshed and relaxed this season.
Below, I’ve divided my tips into two sections — dealing with holiday parties (and family members), and general tips for surviving the holiday season.
Avoiding Holiday Burnout, Section 1: Tips for Surviving Holiday Parties
The following tips are all ones to use at or around parties (especially family get-togethers). I don’t know about you, but for me — and most college students I know — holiday parties and get togethers can be both fun AND a source of stress. So here are some ways to make them less stressful.
1. Plan ahead
This is so important, especially if you have a lot going on in the weeks leading up to winter break. (Hello, that’s all of us.) If you schedule out the time you can spend with your family, on assignments, and by yourself, it’ll be a much easier time.
- Get your homework done ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than realizing you have a big assignment due while you’re trying to relax with your friends. If you pay attention and keep up with deadlines as best you can, your future self will thank you. (See: How to Improve Your Time Management Skills.)
- Make yourself a list of things to bring. I can’t tell you how many times I’m in my car and ready to leave when I remember forgetting something. Although, this is mainly for those who may be bringing something to a get-together it never hurts to have a checklist.
- Be realistic about how much time you have for things like potlucks. Don’t volunteer to cook something that you know will take three hours the week before you have two papers and a project due. If your schedule is stressful, there is no shame in just buying something pre-made at the store. In fact, it will save you!
2. At family get-togethers, avoid doing tasks that are way outside of your comfort level
This one is super specific, so scroll on by if it doesn’t apply to you. I thought I’d include it, though, because it’s a stressor that comes up for me a lot at family get-togethers.
Sometimes, I’m asked to do something that’s way outside of my comfort zone. I want to make everyone happy so I say yes, only to find myself in over my head with something I really have no business doing.
For instance, if I tried to cook the turkey for my family’s Thanksgiving, I would probably mess it up completely and stress myself out by doing something I’m not really cut out to do. This is called “taking on too much,” and I’ve vowed to stop doing it. (Luckily, my family knows better than to ask me to cook the turkey.)
If you get assigned a task that you don’t really want to/know how to do, there are a few things you can do other than blindly saying “yes”:
- Ask the person who assigned you the task if you can do anything else. Be honest about your skills and abilities. If you explain to them that you’re not comfortable completing it, they’ll usually offer you a new role. It seems silly, but sometimes you have to be frank and say — “this isn’t something I know how to do, at all!” There is no shame in it!
- Ask for help. Especially if you know someone that usually does the task you were assigned. Assuming they aren’t too busy with other tasks, they can show you how to do it and maybe give you some insider tips along the way. This can be a fun way to learn and bond with a family member.
3. Know when to leave
I have a tendency to wear myself out at family gatherings. I don’t take a lot of time for myself while I’m there, and to be frank, all of the socializing is pretty draining for me. But this year I’m going to try and change that.
My best tip? Listen to yourself. You’ll know when you need to step back and recuperate.
Maybe you need to go spend a half hour or so alone then come back to the festivities. Or maybe you need to leave early and sleep off your turkey coma.
Either way, the only person who is going to know what you need is you. So take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to bow out gracefully when you need to.
4. Remain calm while talking to your relatives
I usually get asked the same five questions over and over at any family gathering, which can get more than a bit draining. (Who else can relate?)
This summer, I put together a specific guide for how to handle family gatherings and all the small talk that comes with them. If you find yourself getting a little annoyed by all the questions, I highly recommend looking at that for detailed tips.
Avoiding Holiday Burnout, Section 2: General Tips for the Holiday Season
These last few tips will help you to stay relaxed during the season as a whole.
5. Take some time for yourself
Yes, this sounds simple. But it can be hard to remember to do this. Especially if November and December are your busiest months, like they are for me.
It is vitally important to dedicate at least a little time to doing something you want to do or do something that helps you relax. You cannot function if you don’t recharge your batteries from time to time.
I know I’ve said it a dozen times, but I am a huge fan of naps. Maybe you relax by exercising, or playing an instrument, or updating your Youtube channel. Or maybe you just like doing a face mask while watching Netflix Christmas movies.
Whatever your self care method is, don’t forget to relax and treat yourself every once in a while, especially at this time of year when holiday burnout happens.
6. Don’t be afraid to say no
It can be hard to say no to friends and family, but I am here to tell you that it’s completely okay to say no.
Let me repeat that again: It’s okay to say no to things! It’s especially okay at this time of year, when you’re up to your ears in tasks and you can’t take on anything else.
If you explain why you can’t do something, in my experience, your friend or family member is going to be understanding. In the rare case that they aren’t and try to force something on you, you might want to take this as a sign that you need to take a break from them for a little while.
Don’t feel obligated to do anything just because someone close asked you to do it! And if you need extra help, here’s a guide to saying “no” to people you can’t say no to. Boundaries are a wonderful thing.
I have a hard time stepping back from a project once I’ve started it. (This is probably why I spend so much of my free time from November to December working on Christmas presents.)
As a result, I do need to remind myself from time to time that schoolwork takes priority over anything for the holidays.
It can be difficult to work on an assignment you may not enjoy, or to study when you’re feeling worn out. I know these feelings all too well. However, your life is going to be so much easier if you prioritize the things that truly need to get done over the things that would be nice to get done. Your future self will also thank you.
I want to hear from you! How do you avoid holiday burnout?
What are your holiday plans? Are there any other guides/tips you’d like to see? How do you keep yourself from getting burnt-out?