Holiday Burnout When Living With Chronic Illness

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but pain. And fatigue. And holiday burnout. Follow these tips to celebrate the holidays the way that feels best for you.

Based on an original article posted Here, written by Courtney Smith

Does the Christmas season tend to leave you feeling overwhelmed and both physically or emotionally exhausted? There’s a word for that, and it’s called holiday burnout.

The holidays are supposed to be a time for joy, celebration, and reconnecting with loved ones. For others, it can evoke a range of uncomfortable feelings. And sometimes even if you are a Christmas person it can sometimes be too much.

What Is Holiday Burnout?

Holiday burnout is a term referring to the overwhelming emotional feeling one feels from expectations and pressures during the holiday season. It can be influenced by multiple factors – from adjustments in daily schedules, family or interpersonal conflicts, familiar and friendship expectations, even mental health concerns and more.. For those living with chronic illnesses such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, & MS, the pressure to keep up can feel even more overwhelming.

In an attempt to create memories and maintain traditions and customs, one may ignore their mental health or one may even feel their mental well-being is ignored by others during this time of year. This can cause the holiday season to be more stressful than joyful.

Common Symptoms

You could be exhibiting signs of holiday burnout if you feel any of the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed or anxious
  • Prolonged stress
  • Losing interest in things
  • Lack of motivation to do even the fun things
  • Feeling drained after socializing
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Procrastination of Christmas traditions one usually gets joy from
  • A disrupted digestive system
  • Frustration due to the holiday chores or activities

Manage Holiday Burnout When Living With Chronic Illness

1. Make plans in advance

Before committing to any social events or responsibilities during the holidays, be sure to plan ahead and make sure you want to attend the event. Don’t overbook. Whether it’s a party, cooking a large meal, or preparing gifts for family and friends, check to see what feels best for you and your body and plan accordingly. Consider creating a schedule with small and large tasks spaced out to prevent being overwhelmed, exhausted and other detrimental feelings.

Remember, what sounds fun in the moment may not feel manageable in a few weeks’ time.

2. Prioritize self-care

Self-care is essential for all aspects of ones mental and physical well-being, but with all the holiday hoopla, I can gets lost. In the midst of familial obligations, gift-buying, and holiday traveling, it can be easy to lose your sense of well-being resulting in feeling of burnout.

Prioritizing self-care during the holiday season doesn’t have to be glamorous or expensive. It’s all about maintaining your healthy routine with respect to your chronic health condition.

Practicing self-care can be as simple as:

  • Light physical activity like yoga or walking
  • Stay hydrated
  • Listen to your body.
  • Read a book
  • Talk with a friend
  • Colour, paint, draw, crafting
  • Write in your journal
  • Listen to music
  • Brush your teeth
  • Shower
  • Eat healthy, nutrient-dense meals
  • Maintain your sleep schedule
  • Pace yourself & take breaks

3. Set boundaries

With expectations from gift-giving to expected attendance at events with travel time, it can feel uncomfortable to say no to friends & family.

If saying yes makes you feel anxious or overwhelmed, or puts your health at risk, you can say no. Setting and enforcing personal boundaries is a health form of self care. Give yourself permission to say no is empowering. Being mindful of your mental and physical capabilities safeguards your health, avoids feelings of holiday burnout, and allows you to choose to spend the holidays in the way that feels best for you. Rather than pleasing everyone and overcommitting yourself, learn to say a polite no this holiday season.

4. Keep track of your medications

With everything that could be on your plate, it could be very easy to lose track of time and stay on top of the medications you take to manage your chronic illness. To avoid any lapses in care, and ward off feelings of holiday burnout, try setting medication reminders on your digital devices (phone / smartwatch).

Pill organizers can be very helpful as it sets out your medications for each day so they won’t be forgotten. Some pharmacies will provide this service free of charge.

5. Enjoy yourself!!!

With all this talk of burnout and all that could go wrong, remember that the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun for everyone. Don’t forget to have some! 

Whether it’s watching your favourite holiday film, cooking a nostalgic dish, or driving around to look at lights, choose to celebrate the holidays with special activities that are just for you and give yourself a break from all other distractions and pressures.

How Do I Avoid Christmas Burn Out?

  1. Try to start shopping early. On year I started on Boxing day.
  2. Cheat with my baking. I make several different types of cookies each year, but mixing up that many different types can be a little much. Some of my dough is premade. Some of my dough, I will premake & freeze.
  3. Organize gifts. But either the same item or purchase from the same store. One year I bought hoodies for my sister’s family all from the same animal rescue. This year I’m going to an outlet store with the plan to get everyone’s gifts.
  4. Drop certain activities. Sometimes doing Christmas cards just feels too much, so I will either limit cards to a special few or even drop them completely..
  5. Go to the gym. Not necessarily to workout. Sometimes I just got for a hot tub to relax.
  6. Extra self care. Despite how much I enjoy the holiday season, I do tend to stress out. So I make sure I get some extra self-care in and keep an eye on my mental health.

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