Courtney Tew November 30 2023

Managing festive burnout

As we head into December and the festive season draws nearer, you may notice the supermarkets blasting Wham, or your neighbour’s decked out houses (is it just me, or is it getting earlier and earlier nowadays). For some people, it’s their favourite time of year full of celebrations – but for others, Christmas can feel extremely stressful. During this time demands at both work and home can be at a sky-high, whether it’s financial stress, navigating difficult family situations, looming work deadlines, or feeling burnt out from the past year.

From someone who has worked in the retail sector for many Christmases… I know all too well of the pressure to hit every target, work overtime to afford the presents, make time to see family and friends, and cook a great huge feast, all whilst having a great big smile on my face. The to-do list can feel never-ending… whether it’s keeping everybody happy and festive, or wrapping what seems like the millionth pair of socks. Navigating stress at home and work can feel exhausting and the threat of burnout can leave you feeling completely wrung out.

Thankfully, my memories of customer fistfights over heavily discounted vest tops whilst I nurse a Boxing Day hangover, now remain firmly in the rear-view mirror. After many Christmases with dread of what’s to come, stress of being the perfect employee, and complete burnout from not having a moment’s rest… I am paving my way to the first Christmas prioritising my mindset - and enjoying a Yorkshire pudding or three. This year (my first with a healthy amount of holiday either side of the festivities) I will be trying to keep active because I know that helps me feel better mentally, I will be utilising my time off with rest, and I will make sure to reach out to friends, family and colleagues who may be feeling the pressure this time of year.

In casual conversation, the words ‘burnout’ and ‘stress’ are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Stress is too much – too much energy coming in, too much adrenaline, too many demands. Burnout is that feeling of not enough – feeling empty, exhausted, and just beyond caring.

During my time at University, my particular course meant that my degree would be graded on my third year work alone. That final year of my studies is a complete blur to me. I went through a couple months of high levels of stress, feeling like I was only functioning from the adrenaline of stress and fear of slowing down and being behind on my work. Then I would enter a couple months of complete burnout, I was exhausted. Waking up, moving, eating, sleeping – basic human functions felt impossible because I was mentally and physically drained. This stress and burnout cycle would just repeat throughout the year until I recognised that I needed to break that cycle and prioritise my wellbeing. Years later, as a person with a High Control Facet5 profile, I recognise that my need for control is a main factor of my stress levels. It’s actually only since becoming a mother that I’ve learnt to prioritise exactly what is and is not in my control to worry about. The parenthood journey that is so famously branded as stressful, was the biggest lesson for me of how little I can actually control. Once I let go of that need to control every external aspect, I began to relax, feel healthier, happier and less on edge. Taking a moment to think, before letting your body’s automatic reaction kicks in, allows you to categorise and rationalise the problem at hand, and whether the outcome is worthy of taking on additional mental load.

Research shows that more than a third (36%) of Brits feel more stressed about the festive season this year when compared to last year, citing the cost-of-living crisis (79%), being able to afford Christmas presents (55%) and fear of new year redundancies (18%) as key reasons why. Employees are suffering from ‘Festive Fatigue’, a recent survey reveals that a staggering 67% of employees currently feel burnt out.

"The holidays shouldn't be a time to recharge. They should be a time to celebrate. If work is exhausting people to the point that they're using their time off to recover, you might have a burnout culture. A healthy organization doesn't leave people drained in the first place."

– Wharton School professor Adam Grant tells forbes


When you feel burnt out, focus on changing the things that are under your control. This might include:

  • Assessing your work-life balance

  • Leaving work on time

  • Setting boundaries on when you check your work email

  • Using your paid time off

  • Staying home when you’re sick

  • Knowing when to delegate

  • Asking for help when you need it


Ways to help your employees manage stress this Christmas:

  • Offer flexible working hours – putting trust into your employees can take an emotional load off their shoulders.

  • Encourage exercise – being active elevates your mood and lowers stress levels, whether it’s a lunchtime walk or taking the stairs over the elevator.

  • Maintain an inclusive workplace and culture – be mindful that not everyone will celebrate Christmas. Make an effort to hold inclusive activities without pressure to celebrate, the anticipation of feeling excluded or standing out can in itself feel stressful.

  • Utilise time and make meetings more effective – assign set times to discuss each topic and stick to them. Meetings can have the tendency to run longer than needed and can take people away from their work at hand, which they then may feel the need to work additional hours to complete.

  • Offer team bonding – ensure your team feel valued for their contributions. It can be easy to get focused on hitting targets and meeting deadlines at this time of year, so take the time to appreciate the hard work, after all we all want a thriving business to return to in the new year.

  • Lead by example – implement a healthy work-life balance, this will also help create an environment of psychological safety.

  • Check in with individual employees - 1-on-1 meetings typically focus on what a direct report is working on and how it's going, but they can also be an effective tool for managing burnout. These check-ins are an opportunity for managers to learn how employees are feeling on a personal level and look out for any behaviour changes.


Please take time over this festive period to check in on yourself, your colleagues, and friends. If you would like some further resources for stress management, please see below:

Subscribe to insights from our blog here:

Would you like to know more?

How would you like to start a conversation?