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The end to a not-so-perfect year: how to prevent burnout this Christmas

By Matilda Head

With the queues for take-away Christmas coffees growing ever longer, the nights getting darker, and the unmistakable LED glow of Christmas lights lining the streets, there is no doubt about it: the festive period is upon us.

However, as we reach the culmination of one of the most challenging years many of us have endured, the Christmas bells are ringing a bit hollow. Many of us are already running-on-empty after returning to uni or balancing life with work-from-home situations. It’s understandable that conjuring up that festive spirit might be more difficult than usual. Indeed, lots of people might agree that they’d rather see the back of 2020 as soon as possible.

Appreciate the small things, and celebrate the little wins

In different circumstances, I would be excitedly counting down the days until the 25th, but this year it just doesn’t hold so much significance. It doesn’t feel right knowing that half of my family cannot be around the table for Christmas dinner this year due to shielding, or that we can be celebrating as if there is not a pandemic continuing around us.

Perhaps then, 2020 is a year in which to celebrate the little things- showing gratitude for what you have and praising yourself for each small achievement. This December, the same message should prevail: beating yourself up for not sending out Christmas cards, or being behind on present buying isn’t going to help. This has been an extremely tough year, just getting through it is an achievement.

Limit your Social Media intake

It seems that all the banana-bread making, 5K running people who made us feel unproductive throughout lockdown now serve to make us feel inadequately ‘festive.’ With professional decorators and elaborate balloon garlands, many Instagram influencers have taken the festive theme to the extreme this year. I can’t blame them, after all this year has thrown at us, it would certainly be a mood-booster!

Yet, the constant barrage of Christmas content can leave you feeling like you’re not doing enough, as though the very idea of not DIY-ing your own wreaths, and blasting festive tunes like your life depends on it means you haven’t done Christmas ‘right.’ Whilst social media can provide a Christmassy boost, too much comparison to others will only act to make you more stressed during an already tumultuous period.

Never has it been more relevant to accept that you might not have the picture-perfect Instagram Christmas. But is that such a bad thing? A year of rising mental health issues and consistently increasing stress has made many disillusioned with the perfect Instagram façade. This year take the chance to spend Christmas living in the moment and stop comparing yourself to others. Do your own thing and embrace what you want out of the festive season, rather than using influencers as a benchmark for what must be done or risk ‘failing’ Christmas.

Stay connected, but remember to take time for yourself

It is unfortunately the case that some may not be able to be with their family on the 25th. Whatever the reason, this will inevitably be a different Christmas than what you’re used to. Where possible, try and give yourself at least a semblance of festivity – an isolated or lonely Christmas may feel even sadder without a small tree or bit of tinsel. Reach out to friends and family, ask if they could drop off/deliver a Christmas dinner if you are busy working, or see if you can join theirs with our trusty friend Zoom. Personal connection is of the utmost importance.

On the other hand, lots of people returning home for Christmas may find themselves stuck in a stressful family environment, and the festive season presents a whole new level of family obligations and pressures. So, whilst Christmas can be a wonderful time to enjoy at home with your loved ones, check- in with yourself every now and then. Whatever type of self-care you practice: watching your favourite show, meditation or just enjoying personal space, make sure to prioritise yourself if you start to feel the wear and tear of home stresses.

As we gladly wave goodbye to 2020, we must make sure to look after ourselves; if this year has proven anything, it’s that you never know what to expect from the New Year. Looking after yourself is crucial to stop burnout this festive season, and help you to welcome 2021 with a renewed appreciation for self-care.

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