I’ve been reflecting these last few days about the festive periods I spent whilst in the depths of burnout, and also on the recent conversations I’ve been having with people who are currently experiencing burnout.
For many of us, Christmas and New Year is a treasured time, but not always an easy time. For someone with burnout, the pressure and expectations can very quickly become overwhelming.
If you have someone in your family or circle of friends who is experiencing burnout, then this blog is for you. To help manage your expectations and to offer some guidance as to how best to include and support your loved one without overwhelming them.
You might wonder first of all what burnout looks like. It’s likely that someone experiencing burnout will complain of relentless fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, being unable to cope with pressures that they used to manage, experiencing brain fog and poor memory and concentration. They won’t bounce back like they used to.
Unless someone has told you all these things, it can actually be hard to spot. They’ll likely be pushing on through and attempting to cope with the pressures of life just like the next person. But their resilience reserves will be low or non-existent and they will most likely be struggling to cope.
This free guide might be a useful read if you’re suspecting someone you care about has tipped from busy into burnout.
Burnout Can Make The Festive Expectations Insurmountable
As you can imagine, if you’re feeling like you’ve for absolutely nothing left in the tank, then the thought of all the festive preparations, parties and lots of social gatherings can be the last thing you want to do.
Whilst many can cram decorating the house, buying and wrapping gifts, writing and sending cards, and so on into their evenings and weekends, it’s very likely that someone with burnout will be using this time for nothing but recuperation. Their exhaustion will mean there’s no energy left to apply to these tasks, and so the pressure can build.
Many people experiencing burnout also experience a sense of isolation. They withdraw from their social scene because it becomes too overwhelming. They can’t easily explain what’s going on and so others don’t fully understand. It can drive a real sense of loneliness. During the festivities in December, this isolation can become exaggerated as everyone else is out having a seemingly jolly time.
In amidst the exhaustion and exasperation, they are probably also giving themselves a hard time about it all – it’s likely a good idea to avoid adding to that.
So what can you do to ensure you all have the best possible festive time?
8 Ways to Stay Connected and Support Someone With Burnout
- Tune-in to what they need – as with any form of ill-health, there’s always a fine line between leaving well alone and gently encouraging action that you believe will help them feel better. Be the master of observation and listening to be able to better respond to what will work for them.
- Ask what will help them – if what they are experiencing is out in the open and understood, simply asking in advance what they think will work for them, or what might be too much, can help lay the best plans and avoid any last-minute disappointments or guilt trips. If there’s no acknowledge of burnout, then it’s your turn to be the master of effective questioning! Avoid making assumptions about what they want or need.
- Offer practical help – whilst I’m not suggesting you impose yourself, I would encourage you to find fun ways to help them with some of the festive chores. Whether that be wrapping gifts together over a cuppa, or picking up their Christmas food shop – whatever works for them and helps to lighten the load.
- Understand what helps them relax – it’s common for a previous social butterfly to start disliking any form of party or gathering as it becomes too draining and overwhelming. Conversely, someone who enjoys their own company might have got completely fed-up of it because their social scene has taken a nose dive due to persistent tiredness. The key is that these people have time to relax and recharge as much as possible. Help them work out what kind of environments will do this.
- Demonstrate understanding and compassion – this goes without saying, but during the festivities there’s an even greater need for it. There’s an increased proportion of occasions that they might decline an invite to, back out of at the last minute, or need to leave early. Encourage them to listen to their own body and decide what’s right for them at the moment. The more they can rest during this period, the more it will aid their recovery.
- Stay connected – you may need to get creative about how you best spend time together, but take on that challenge. The answer often isn’t just to leave them well alone. They likely want to be with others, maybe just not in the way you normally expect.
- Don’t take anything personally – you may feel let down or disappointed that your friend or family member doesn’t want to do what you expect of them. It’s not personal. They simply can’t.
- Let them be, whilst letting them know you are by their side.
As you spend time together during this month, try and help them start to work through what might help them successfully emerge from their burnout. It is possible to recover, but requires a long hard look at things and the appetite to make changes.
If you enjoy reading and want an easy, practical guide to help you design a life where you can have it all without burning out, then my bestselling book might just be the ticket.
If your preference is for something more interactive, then I’ve taken all of my materials on understanding stress and building resilience into a power-packed 12-module online programme.
It’s in bite-size chunks to keep it manageable and helps you to write your very own resilience formula. Find out more here.
No matter what’s going on, the time can always be treasured. Here’s to a fabulous Christmas and New Year!