Mental health experts share top tips for avoiding 'festive fatigue'

Woman who appears to be suffering from festive fatigue. (Getty Images)
The festive fatigue is real. (Getty Images)

It's the most wonderful time of the year, apparently. But while there sure is a lot of fun to be had during the festive season, trying to make Christmas magical can also be pretty stressful.

From decorating our two trees, to ticking off the presents on the must-buy list, doing the big Christmas shop to sorting the Secret Santa, it's little wonder that many of us will be feeling as frazzled as Father Christmas himself come 25th December.

Throw in the pressure of juggling a busier than usual social calendar while meeting end-end-of-year deadlines and trying to cram an entire month's worth of work into only two weeks (or less) and you've got got the perfect recipe for festive fatigue.

Thankfully there are some measures you can take now to prevent the festive frazzle setting in and protect your mental health and wellbeing in the busy weeks ahead.

Start prepping now

If you're feeling the weight of pressure due to excessive demands, it's time to reassess and reorganise your priorities, particularly at work.

"Start by reviewing your existing workload, and then categorise your tasks based on their urgency," suggests Gosia Bowling, mental health national lead at Nuffield Health.

When your schedule is overwhelmingly full, embrace the power of delegation.

"Whether you outsource tasks to colleagues or externally, seeking assistance is far superior to risking missed deadlines or becoming so overwhelmed that your productivity suffers."

Consider scheduling a meeting with your manager to determine which assignments demand your immediate attention and which ones can be postponed for a more suitable time.

"Additionally, when facing large and intimidating projects, it's often helpful to break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks," Bowling adds.

You can adopt the same plan of action with your social workload too.

Christmas can be stressful. (Getty Images)
Christmas can be stressful. (Getty Images)

Set boundaries

If you sometimes lean towards being a people pleaser, it might be tempting to start saying ‘yes’ to additional work or duties at this time of year, but Bowling says we need to get comfortable with say 'no'.

"Remind yourself that it is okay to say no to taking on extra responsibilities and try to set firm boundaries with yourself," she says.

Don’t just set boundaries while you're at work either.

"One example could be agreeing with yourself not to check work emails in the evenings between certain hours so you can focus on spending time with loved ones," Bowling suggests.

Prioritise self-care

Lack of self-care is one of the biggest contributors to festive fatigue. According to Nuffield's 2023 Healthier Nation Index, only 15% of us take time to focus on self-care, when trying to support our mental health.

Bowling suggests setting aside regular breaks during the day and including five minutes of meditation or deep breathing exercises to put your body into a state of calm.

"Psychological research has shown that moving, changing your environment and the stimuli around you improves problem-solving skills and mental focus, which can help to manage workloads and healthy boundaries," she explains.

Being outside can also expose you to more vitamin D, which is essential for many bodily functions including supporting the immune system.

"Physical activity also releases anxiety-reducing endorphins, which help improve mood and reduce stress," she continues.

"Go for a walk when you can and use your garden if you have one. While you are inside, sit near a window and open it every now and again."

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Be kind to yourself

Practising kindness to ourselves is crucial, as mounting personal and professional pressures at this time of year can cause us to hold us to an impossible standards and set an insurmountable to-do list.

"Remember that you can only do your best to get everything done without compromising your emotional wellbeing, and being compassionate and empathetic with yourself is essential," Bowling says.

"By treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, we not only reduce the risk of burning out but also enhance our ability to be present, enjoy festive moments, and engage more meaningfully with our work and personal life."

Breathe yourself calmer this festive season. (Getty Images)
Breathe yourself calmer this festive season. (Getty Images)

Set out your Christmas intentions

Ask yourself what type of Christmas do you want to have, how you want to feel during the season and when you come out of it, suggests Natalie Costa, founder of Power Thoughts and confidence coach.

"We often spend time on autopilot - just going ahead with all that comes our way, packing our diaries full, saying ‘yes’ to invites - then when it comes to Christmas day, we’re feeling stressed, tired and maybe even resentful."

She recommends taking a moment to think about how you’d like to feel over this period, and what memories you’d like to create.

"By taking some time to reflect on how you’d like this Christmas to feel, you can begin to make more intentional decisions - perhaps say ‘no’ to certain invitations, create more space during your days and lower the expectations upon yourself."

Watch: Farm with 20,000 Christmas trees is getting ready for the festive rush

Perform a 'brain dump'

Another top tip for helping to manage the pre Christmas overwhelm, according to Kristy Lomas, meditation teacher and founder of The Ki Retreat, is to carry out a "brain dump".

"We are faced with endless lists of what we need to buy, people we need to see and people are feeling the pressure build up and stress and anxiety creep in," she explains. "A brain dump can help release some of the mental pressure by creating a bullet point list of everything that's on your mind. This may be things we need to do, worries or things completely unrelated."

Be more mindful in the lead-up

When it comes to finding harmony over Christmas Lee Chambers, psychologist and wellbeing consultant, says bringing ourselves into the moment can help de-stimulate our nervous system.

"Utilising our breath, and literally taking a moment to breathe slowly and deeply can help to centre us, reduce physical distress and give us the space to focus," he explains.