Beating Holiday Burnout
The holiday season is a time of joy and good cheer. It can also be the most stressful time of the year, due to unrealistic expectations, frenzied schedules and financial pressure.
"Holiday burnout" is the common term for the heightened level of seasonal stress that often sets in at this time of year. It can be caused by frenzied schedules, additional obligations, unrealistic expectations of the 'perfect' holiday, or financial pressures.
Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, says one key to lowering holiday stress is to learn to appreciate the present moment.
"When somebody hands you a present, actually feel it and look at it," says Brantley. "See more deeply the effort and the generosity behind it. If you take a sip of eggnog or a bite of turkey, actually pause long enough to taste it, to feel it and enjoy it."
Brantley says holiday stress-management strategy can begin with something as basic as breathing.
"A particular technique that's very helpful is to just pay attention to a breath," he says. "Take a deep breath. Take two or three deep breaths. Let yourself feel that breath coming and going. You will notice immediately that you are more collected in the present moment and that it's easier to receive and experience what's going on.
"Everyone has within themselves what it takes to do this," he continued. "The first step is to recognize that it's important to slow down and pay attention in this moment to what we're feeling and sensing and tasting and even thinking."
Brantley, who is co-author of Calming Your Anxious Mind (Harbinger, 2003), said learning to manage holiday anxieties can not only help during the holiday but can lead to a reduction in many stress-related health problems.
"There are many very good sets of practical advice about slowing down the momentum of the holiday season," says Brantley. "But it's all in the service of helping us return to the sense of spaciousness and connection with the life that's unfolding in front of us. And that is where we feel the joy of the holiday season."