Burnout During the Holidays When Life Falls Apart
Are holidays a BIG deal at your home like they are at mine? It’s completely normal to want to provide experiences, smells and yummy food that will hopefully become treasured memories for our loved ones. Traditions can seem sacred and even like they aren’t optional. The problem comes in that: When life falls apart, it’s easy for people to fall apart as well.
I do believe that we all have superhero capacity, and even superheroes need to figure out how to prioritize during the holidays. Otherwise, traditions can feel more like dragging an elephant than the joyful bliss that we imagine. What happens when that load becomes too much to bear? I will speak for myself and say that I become irritable, overwhelmed, and find myself in a mixed conundrum of overworking and crashing hard.
A Personal Victory When Life Fell Apart
Last Thanksgiving, I took a victory lap around our dining room table. Before I share my personal success, let me paint a normal Thanksgiving at our home.
According to unofficial rule number 568, our family hosts Thanksgiving. Every year, for 20+ years. We have had up to 3 turkeys on our counter, homemade everything (rolls, stuffing, pies, super creamy mashed potatoes- I’ll share the recipe below, etc.) I usually crash hard after this event and it can take a few days to get my home back in order.
Last year was different. I had learned about a relapse from my spouse and a family member had a mental health crisis that required a hospital stay. I was worn out, mentally spent and my reserves were low. Thankfully, I had worked step 3 enough to recognize that I needed to surrender. Surrender under those circumstances looked like canceling hosting Thanksgiving and doing the unthinkable: Taking my family to an all-you-can eat buffet.
Oh yes, I did. And you know what? They liked it! My children still talk about that out-of-the-box food extravaganza where they had so many delightful choices and some didn’t even choose to taste turkey that day. Or mashed potatoes. Or even pie.
I did need to remind myself that my child eating spaghetti instead of turkey was not an actual sin. Now that’s surrender.
Things To Surrender About the Holidays When Life Falls Apart:
We don’t have to sacrifice every tradition in order to take care of ourselves. Also, we can look at some things to take off of our overflowing plates. There is no right or wrong way to practice surrender during the holidays, and it takes self-awareness to know our own capacity. Here are a few ideas about things to surrender about the holidays when life falls apart:
- Perfection is probably the first load that we can practice surrendering. For some, perfection looks like decorating the house to the nines, 24 days of daily traditions (I am exhausted thinking about this), or elegantly wrapped presents. Just to suggest that it might be alright to attend church without perfectly coordinated outfits this year.
- It’s also ok to skip creating and delivering Christmas cards that usually include a lovely family update. When life falls apart, it can be confusing and painful when we need to decide what to share and what not to share.
- Party invitations that might have provided joyful anticipation in years past can feel distressing when life falls apart. Our nervous systems can become easily flooded, and it can be upsetting to wonder what to share and what information to keep out of public earshot. It’s ok to leave events early or to simply say, “no thank you,” when life falls apart.
- We may want everyone to feel comfortable and emotionally well during the holidays, leading us to caretake others more than is healthy. This people pleasing dilemma can cause anxiety and might come out in controlling behaviors. An affirmation that I can repeat when I am tempted to step into rescuing someone from their emotions is as follows. I can surrender that ________ (name of person) can choose if they will use tools to handle their emotions in healthy ways and I can choose to not rescue them.
- China dishes are definitely fancy and people feel special when using them. Also, they create a lot of work when it’s time to clean up. Introducing the possibility of paper plates when life falls apart. Twenty dollars worth of paper plates provides many easy to clear tables and less need to fill up a dishwasher.
- Social media can also be a source of great stress. We might drool over pictures of our cousin’s gorgeous tree or our college roommate’s professionally decorated cookies and think that we “should” do those things as well. Surrendering comparisons and keeping God at our center can help us remember that we are more than enough as we are and that our sanity is worth handling gently. Also, it’s ok to take Facebook and Instagram off our phones for a holiday break when needed.
- Our wallets might be lighter than usual when life falls apart. Surrender might look like finding ways of simplifying gift giving and minimizing, replacing or canceling expensive traditions.
What I Learned By Surrendering Our Thanksgiving Tradition When Life Fell Apart
Do you know what I learned when I took my family to an all-you-can-eat buffet for Thanksgiving last year? I learned that life didn’t fall apart and my children were ok to break with tradition. However, if they weren’t ok with breaking with tradition, I could have surrendered that. Because working 12-steps really does work and my serenity really is worth protecting. The best tool that I know of to protect serenity is surrender.
Recovery is a long game and thorough healing really does preclude shortcuts. It benefits everyone when we meet our needs when life falls apart by slowing down, and carefully protecting our well-being by surrendering the things that we cannot change.
You are worth it friend, and so am I.
May your holidays be filled with love and peace, even if that means that your holidays look different than in years past. These days I often remind myself that it will be ok in the long run.
Your Sister In Recovery,
WARNING! This not-so-healthy Creamy Mashed Potato recipe is probably not the best fit for those needing to surrender the holidays. However, if you are set on making mashed potatoes, you can’t go wrong with this delicious mashed potato recipe.
You might also like this classic post from a few years ago.