How to Avoid Burnout this Winter

It’s not even mid-November as I write this; but already things are ramping up for Christmas. I’ve talked to people who have something on every weekend right up til the big day, on-top of the daily grind. And even as things are speeding up, there is also a lot of exhaustion. The return-to-office transition is taking its toll on people, after 20 difficult months of working-from-home. So how can you avoid total burnout this winter? Here are some of my top tips.

  1. Plan Ahead: rather than rushing headlong into the silly season, pause first and plan. Don’t overschedule yourself; plan in some easy weekends to do nothing. If you’re planning on spending Christmas with extended family, elderly or vulnerable, then you need to schedule in some quiet, reduced-social-activity time for a week or two beforehand to reduce risk to anyone.
  2. Be selective: Just because we can socialise again doesn’t mean you have to. Tune in to your own needs and those of your closest family. If you’re still feeling anxious about being in crowds, don’t put yourself in that situation just yet. If you’re tired, rest. You don’t have to see everyone over the next few weeks, be intentional about who you want to spend time with.
  3. Focus on Needs, not Wants: we all have needs, and if our needs are not met, we go into stress or distress. Rather than focusing on what you want, or what other people want (or even on what you think other people want) – focus on what you need. What do I need right now in this moment? Look after your needs on a daily basis – nurturing food, restful sleep (and enough of it), fresh air and exercise, connection with others, time to do nothing, time for fun. This alone can help us stay well. It’s the little things you do on a day-to-day basis that really count.
  4. Get support: we keep hearing that these are ‘unprecedented times’. That means you’re not expected to cope on your own; it’s normal to be struggling. So go easy on yourself, reach out if you need help, don’t try to do it all alone. Build a support system – trusted friends & family, GP, therapist, coach, mentor…let someone know you’re struggling and need some support. It often comes from an unexpected place. But you have to ask.
  5. Remember to remember! Looking back at the past 20 months, what did you like about lockdowns? What did you learn about yourself, about what you really need? Be careful about getting caught up at warp speed again; slow down. Remember what you promised yourself during those lockdowns, and try to integrate some of those learnings into your life as it is now.
  6. Be Kind: If you’re struggling, you deserve compassion. Be kind to yourself first and foremost, go gentle, look after yourself and then everyone around you benefits from that too. If you feel like you’re on a slippery slope, stop what you’re doing, get help, take some time out if necessary. Better to take time to recoup and recover now rather than waiting til things get really serious, and being forced to take it then.

In summary; intentionally make time to do the things you like to do, with the people you like, at a pace that feels right for how you are right now. Slow down and look after yourself on a day-to-day basis. And by doing this you’ll be better placed to truly enjoy the silly season ahead.