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Sharp Health News

3 ways to relieve holiday burnout

Dec. 8, 2021

Woman holding coffee cup while looking out the window

Popular culture often depicts the holidays as a joyful time, but with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more individuals have been experiencing burnout due to chronic stress and frustration. Upcoming holiday events — resulting in a busier schedule with additional demands and expectations — can worsen burnout symptoms.

“Many people are feeling emotionally and physically exhausted with having to already handle work, parenting, social obligations and the unpredictable future,” says Dr. Karrar Ali, an emergency medicine physician at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “The busyness of the holidays can be especially triggering on top of all that.”

Physical symptoms of burnout can include unexplained abdominal or joint pain. Other symptoms — such as chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness — can feel similar to symptoms of a heart attack, stroke or aneurysm, Dr. Ali says. Nonphysical symptoms can include emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment and questioning one’s own competence.

But the holidays don’t have to be a stressful time. Dr. Dara Schwartz, lead psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, offers three coping mechanisms to manage burnout symptoms.

  1. Take back control
    Many people experience burnout when they feel like they lack control. “It can feel like one responsibility is coming after another with no end,” says Dr. Schwartz.

    To help from feeling overwhelmed, Dr. Schwartz recommends that you keep in mind all the things you can control: your breath, your body, the activities you engage in, and how many times you check social media, which can negatively affect your mental health.

    Part of exercising control also entails saying no. If you lack energy, can’t commit or simply don’t want to participate in a certain holiday event, you do not need to feel guilty. Remove the added pressure on yourself and remember that you get to define what the holidays mean to you.
  2. Have a balanced perspective
    It is completely OK to acknowledge anxieties surrounding the current pandemic. You can also try to remember that the pandemic is affecting billions of people worldwide.

    “Try to have a zoomed-out perspective of this time, when health care and essential workers and folks around the world are coming together to show up in the face of danger,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Tap into common humanity and remember that we’re all in this together.”
  3. Seek help
    Dr. Ali says that if you’ve been experiencing persistent pain or bodily discomfort, make an appointment with a primary care doctor or visit the emergency room to ensure nothing is physically wrong.

    If your symptoms are so bad — to the point you can’t take care of yourself — Dr. Schwartz advises you to call a mental health professional. “Remember that it’s not a sign of weakness to get help, it’s a sign of courage,” she says.

Learn more about inpatient and outpatient mental health services at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Schwartz or Dr. Ali about relieving holiday burnout, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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