The way to avoid festive burnout? Just say ‘no’


For all of its fun, the festive period can be incredibly stressful too. Hoping to escape burnout this holiday season? Try saying ‘no’, writes Jennifer Wallis


‘No’. It’s a simple word. A small word. In fact, it’s one of the shortest, but it’s one that many of us struggle to say.

Have you ever found yourself having to turn down taking on extra work or an invitation to an event, but quite literally having to force that two-letter word from your lips?

Even just uttering it can leave us feeling uncomfortable, and as if we’re letting people down.

Rather than going through the angst of saying no, many of us would rather say yes to things we really, really don’t want to do – especially during the festive period, which for all the fun can also bring an assortment of social pressures.

When it comes to the festive period, fear of letting people down by turning things down could lead to taking on too much, leaving us exhausted and overwhelmed, and hurtling towards burnout.

There are many factors that can trigger festive burnout; money and the perceived need to buy numerous presents; seeing family and the inevitable fallouts; office parties, travel, and the traffic (oh, the traffic).

You may also have impending work deadlines to meet before taking time off, and, if you have young children, they’ll likely be off school – potentially running riot around the house.


Plus, if you usually enjoy a glass of fizz (or two), it’s a time when the tipple is plentiful and glasses are constantly overflowing.

But why do we put such pressure on ourselves to give to others at the expense of our own sanity when it comes to the winter holidays?

“Setting unrealistic expectations, what we’ve been taught or experienced growing up and the influence of [social] media about how [we’re] supposed to celebrate” along with “societal pressures and family dynamics” at this time of year are just some of the reasons we can force the festive fun, Vitality’s Lead Mental Health and Wellbeing Coach Yetunde Bankole explains.

This pursuit of perfectionism is a people pleaser’s worst nightmare and will ultimately lead to us feeling exhausted, stressed and burnt out.

So, how can we avoid this?

Prioritise. Prioritise. Prioritise.

This can be applied to what we actually need to do on the day itself if we’re celebrating, the preparation in the lead up to it and also to our own self-care.

Realising that we don't need to do it all by ourselves and relinquishing control can bring sweet relief. “I like to feel in control, but usually, this just leaves me feeling overwhelmed by all the things I have to do by myself”, writes Gemma Hartley for Headspace, a Vitality partner.

“By asking my husband for help wrapping presents or requesting a night of babysitting from my in-laws, I’m giving myself a little extra mental space so I can focus on the most important tasks.”

Yetunde agrees: “Ask for help and delegate tasks. This can give you time to decompress. Prioritising what the holidays mean to you, rather than what other people think they should be like, will really help alleviate the pressure.”

Mind your alcohol

Something else that plays a big role in the party season is alcohol. The booze is free flowing and turning up hungover to work is normalised in many workplaces.

The effects of drinking too much can be quite profound on our mental health and wellbeing – from the anxiety to the lack of sleep, to adding expense to what can already be a costly time of year.

Yetunde says that a “mindful approach to alcohol can help you strike that balance between enjoying the festive period and prioritising your self-care”.

Here are her tips for staying sober over the festive period:

  • Let friends, family, and the people you’ll be spending time with know that you’re not drinking. You can avoid people offering you drinks, and it helps to build a support network of people that understand your choice.
  • Plan what your Christmas will look like and the events you are happy to attend. This can help you resist the need to drink to enjoy these events, avoid places that will make you feel uncomfortable and spend time doing things you’ll enjoy.

If you’re drinking and want to do this mindfully then:

  • Keep track of what you’re drinking, drink slowly, take sips: not gulps. This can help to avoid drinking more than you intend to.
  • Drink water in between alcoholic drinks, to help to keep hydrated.
  • Say no to peer pressure ‘have another one, it’s Christmas’ it is ok to say no in a polite manner, spend time practising this and don’t feel guilty for communicating this need that is important to your self-care.

Supporting self-care

Prioritising self-care during these colder months is easier said than done when the sheer scale of our to-do lists, coupled with darker mornings and nights and the colder temperatures, can make us feel less motivated to get up and go for a run, or give ourselves an extra 10 minutes in the morning to meditate.

Because who wouldn’t want to use those 10 minutes to hit snooze and snuggle under the duvet? But keeping on top of our wellbeing routines is imperative for avoiding festive burnout.

This could look like “regular movement or exercise, eating a nutritionally balanced diet, sleeping at the right time, quality social connections, taking breaks and making time for meditation and the things you enjoy” are some of the things Yetunde recommends.

She suggests trying out a simple, yet effective, mindfulness practice such as the one shared by fellow Vitality Mental Health and Wellbeing Coach Silvia Cordoba Quintero, which focuses on finding warmth in winter.

Move to feel good

Keeping up with our exercise routine can be tricky when time isn’t on our side, but there are small adjustments we can make to minimise the barriers to keeping fit and feeling well during the holidays.

Yetunde recommends looking at portion sizes when it comes to food and ensuring that we are eating a balanced diet where possible.

When it comes to exercise, we could use digital workout platforms if we’re not feeling up to venturing out in the cold and sticking to sleep practices such as winding down and avoiding screen time.

“By making these small adjustments we can ensure we maintain our self-care routines throughout this period,” she says. And Yetunde’s top tip for combating festive burnout?

“Be flexible in how you approach this time. Some people may prefer shorter frequent breaks, listening to music or going for a walk, completing a mindfulness exercise, or taking a longer break. Do what works for you.”

At Vitality, we’re all about encouraging our members to make small positive lifestyle choices that can make a big impact to their lives.

That’s why we offer partner benefits and rewards with a range of big brands when you get healthy.

Log into Member Zone or visit to find out more.

Related: 8 ways to enjoy the festive season without falling into a financial rut

Share This Article