The Married Couple’s Ultimate Guide to Beating Holiday Burnout (Part 1)

By December 6, 2017February 23rd, 2018Time

Are you and your spouse looking forward to the holidays this year—or are you dreading them? Do you find yourselves struggling to enjoy a season that’s supposed to be happy and fulfilling? This time of year is fast-paced and crammed with activities, and if we’re not careful, we can end up getting burned out and exhausted instead of truly allowing ourselves to savor every moment together.

If the two of you are anticipating burnout—or are already stressed to the max, even before the holidays arrive—that’s okay. Every couple experiences holiday burnout at one time or another, but you can work together to make this time of year relaxing and enjoyable again. It will take teamwork, compromise, and the right mix of activities and downtime, but you and your spouse can fully experience this season without getting stressed or stretched too thin. In today’s post (and next week’s, too!), we’re sharing ideas for taking back your sanity during this year’s festivities.

Give yourself permission to rest

For some couples, the holidays are the only time of year when both spouses have (at the very least) a few days off work together and an opportunity to rest. Taking quiet time together is crucial to the health of your relationship, but during the holidays, it’s easy to get stressed because there’s so much to do. To avoid holiday burnout, set aside some time dedicated specifically to resting.

Here are a few ideas to help you work in some extra rest this Christmas:

  • Take an afternoon nap together
  • Turn in early at least one night
  • Enjoy quiet activities like reading, looking through photographs, or doing artwork
  • Sleep in as late as you can
  • Spend the day in your pajamas
  • Grab a cozy blanket, have a mug of hot cocoa, and watch your favorite Christmas movies

Of course, we know it’s not always possible to do less during the holidays; if you and your spouse have several places to be this year and you’re determined not to miss anything, try to build in some time to rest and rejuvenate between celebrations. But if you find yourselves feeling worn thin and burned out…

Remember you don’t have to be everywhere at once

It’s hard to say no to invitations and family traditions during the holidays. Not only are they enjoyable activities for you and your family; they also tend to carry a lot of weight for us and our extended families. But because they carry so much weight, they also tend to create stress for us—especially when we have multiple, equally important gatherings and traditions to consider.

If you’re especially anxious or exhausted when you think about everything you have to do this holiday season, consider picking and choosing which family obligations you’re going to fulfill this year. This is a time of year that’s supposed to be happy and joyful, but if you’re overworking and overstretching yourself in multiple directions, your ability to experience that joy fully is going to be compromised. And that’s the last thing you want to do to yourself when what you really want is to savor this time with your spouse and family.

So how do you know whether you need to pare down your list of traditions this year? If upholding every obligation exhausts you and takes the joy out of the season, or if guilt is your driving force behind showing up to an event or gathering, it might be time to consider picking and choosing a few things you want to do this year—and sticking to those. Talk with your spouse, and work to reach a consensus on what your holiday priorities should be going forward.

If your sense of burnout comes more from the number of gatherings you try to make every year, talk with your spouse about starting a holiday rotation. Maybe instead of going to everything, every year, the two of you might decide to rotate every other year. You might want to attend your spouse’s family gatherings one year, then go to your side of the family the next. Whatever you decide, work to create a fair compromise that works for you both.

Holidays are all about family and togetherness, but it’s important to realize that you can’t keep everyone happy—and sometimes that means deciding that you don’t need to be everywhere at once.

Outsource holiday tasks to lighten your load

The holidays bring their own special (read: extra) workload that piles up quickly on top of everything else you’ve got going on in your lives—jobs, kids, activities, church, and more. Sometimes all that extra work can really burn you and your spouse out. If that sounds like you two this year, maybe you and your spouse can talk about outsourcing some of those holiday tasks, like:

  • Gift wrapping
  • Cooking
  • Putting up or taking down decorations
  • Keeping small children occupied or babysitting while you Christmas shop
  • Christmas shopping

If your kids are old enough to help you in ways that lighten your load, get them in on the act. Otherwise, consider hiring a high school- or college-age student (maybe from your church youth group) to help you out. It’s a win-win situation: they’ll get a little pocket money for their own Christmas shopping, and you’ll have a few fewer tasks to worry about (and maybe a little extra time to relax!).

In next week’s post, we’ll continue our two-part series on beating holiday burnout. See you then!

Have you and your spouse experienced burnout or stress during the holidays? What did you do to reduce it? Add your ideas and stories to the comments section below.


  • Stacey Robinson says:

    Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, this was some great advice and for the first time ever, I am really going to take some time out mentally this Holiday Season and use some the suggestions you have provided! My hubby and I normally are running full steam ahead this time of year with events and engagements every weekend in December and settling down for some quiet time is just what we need. This will also bring into perspective the reason for the season and that is Christ Jesus!

  • Melodee MacKinnon says:

    Do few things well. Focus together on the few, most enjoyably aspects of the holiday for your family. Don’t hold your family hostage to your holiday dreams. ( this is particularly applicable to me!). Allow time to just be together. Don’t overdo anything. Have restraint and enjoy life more.

  • Sara says:

    Unfortunately, our holiday season burnouts is due to the fact that my husband works for UPS. His hours more than double and he has little time for anything other than work and sleep. That leaves the workload square on my shoulders. We don’t really take anything out on each other but by the time the new year rolls around, it’s time too reintroduce ourselves to each other.

    To anyone not in this situation, please savor the season and the time with family for this of us who can’t. And for those who live life this year round, you have my prayers.

  • Amy O'Byrne says:

    Great post but I’m not sure how my husband and I would be able to snuggle up with a cup of cocoa or take an afternoon nap when we have a toddler running around the place. And then there is the cost of babysitters. Also a hubby that works shifts meaning night shifts and then sleeping in the AM over Christmas, in an apartment, with a toddler running around. So, whilst I love the idea of your suggestions, the reality isn’t as easy.

  • Carol Berg says:

    Reading over the list of suggestions: Sleeping in, taking time doing relaxing things, staying in your pj’s, taking a nap~ were all things we did over Thanksgiving. We stayed in our PJ’s till 3PM, followed by getting dressed up and reading love letters to one another. It was a a rare occasion to cook dinner together (ham, scalloped potatoes, string beans) followed hours later baking a fresh, pumpkin pie. We were both super relaxed and enjoyed the day! We shared it together, just us two. Christmas we’ll be including our 2 adult daughters and a visit to see my mom who has Alzheimer’s, followed by a 3 day trip to visit his folks. We’ll still fit in times to relax, sometimes independently and other times in unison. Every season of life has it’s challenges. We’ve only been married 4 yrs and still haven’t lived a full 12 mos together~ due to my needing to go to care for my folks. We’re learning time together is precious, whether we’re interacting, or taking some solo time; just being home together is a blessing!

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