Cooking, cleaning and Christmas present shopping for the kids was too much, I need a holiday to Lanzarote to recover

Cooking, cleaning and Christmas present shopping for the kids was too much, I need a holiday to Lanzarote to recover

12/13/2021

FESTIVE burnout affects parents up and down the nation every year – from panic attacks and fainting to depression.

Whether it is the pressure of cooking a fabulous festive lunch, entertaining the relatives or making sure everything runs smoothly, mums often take on the lion’s share of stress.


A third of adults are worn out by the time the big day comes around, with 51 per cent admitting they would prefer a relaxed Christmas because it would leave them rested and rejuvenated for the new year ahead.

The survey, by bedding firm Slumber Cloud, also found people will spend an exhausting 38 hours — nearly two full days — preparing for their festive celebrations.

Single mum Jessica Hayes, 43, from Clifton, Beds, says burning the candle at both ends over the Christmas period in 2019 led to her fainting on Boxing Day.

The nursery teacher — mum to Stanley 13, Jay, 11, and Josie, six — says: “After my divorce, I became a single mum and at Christmas everything was down to me. I did all the shopping, the cooking, cleaning, wrapping and organising for my kids and extended family.

“In between working full-time, I ferried the kids to school, attended plays and events, made sure the house looked great and that all presents were bought, as well as looking after my mum Jo and my dad John. It was just like a 24-hour-a-day job.

“Even on Christmas Day I wasn’t eating because I was serving and worried about everyone else. Then on Boxing Day I was clearing everything away and I fainted while walking up the stairs.

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“I was rushing, then everything went blurry. Thankfully, bags of decorations broke my fall.

“My body was saying, ‘Enough already!’ I was a stressed mess and was told I needed time out when I had my blood pressure checked.”

Psychologist Jo Hemmings believes festive burnout is common.

She says: “Many of us know what festive fatigue feels like — that lengthy build-up, including all the preparation to have a ‘perfect’ Christmas, ends with us being exhausted by the day itself.

"No one feels this more than mums. Even when chores are often shared in a household, there is still a tradition that mums are the ones who plan and prepare the meal, send out the cards, choose, buy and wrap presents and decorate the tree and the house.

“Women often have increased workloads at work in the run-up to Christmas, plus they face pressure to attend festive social events.

“Seeing other people on social media relaxing and enjoying themselves adds to their stress.

“They make Christmas special for everybody without much regard for their own self-care. It’s no wonder they feel pretty done-in by the big day — stressed, overwhelmed and worn out.

"The recent switch to working from home means there is no distinction between home and work life.

"And with Covid rules constantly changing, it has made planning difficult for mums, which adds to their burden.”

Thankfully, Jessica listened to her body and took the rest she needed after fainting.

Signs you’re suffering

  • Tired and drained
  • Can’t focus
  • Overwhelmed
  • Feeling detached
  • Lost motivation
  • Self-doubt

AND HOW TO SWERVE IT…

  • Ask for help with tasks
  • Cut down on social events
  • Exercise to boost energy
  • Get outdoors to clear mind
  • Get early nights
  • Take vitamins

She says: “I booked a cheap five-night break away in Lanzarote at a hotel, which had a wellness centre and spa.

“It gave me the chance to sleep and relax. Since then I have a much more structured approach to Christmas. In fact, this year, I’m going to Devon the day after Boxing Day for a week of ‘me’ time.”

Mother-of-four Nina Spencer, 41, suffered a panic attack on Christmas Day a few years ago after trying to make everything perfect for her family.

She says: “I was obsessed with scrolling through Instagram and looking at influencers’ festive arrangements. I had in my head an ideal of what our big day would look like.

“There’d be gingerbread houses, a perfectly decorated tree, children dressed in matching, stain-free pyjamas and laughing, happy family members.”

But the pressure was too much.

Nina, a public speaker from Tuxford, Notts, who lives with husband Chris, 51, a chief security officer, and their two sets of twins — Jake and Melody, ten, and Mason and Jessica, four — broke down on Christmas Day.

She says: “I was sitting alone on the toilet with tears streaming down my face. My body shook violently as my heart raced and arms tingled.

“I was convinced I was going to die and leave my kids motherless. I felt so overwhelmed.

I’d been so focused on doing things ‘perfectly’ — being the ideal mum, wife, host, daughter-in-law, daughter and friend — I’d exhausted myself

“It was a panic attack. But the feeling that everything was out of control and I was burnt out lingered into the New Year.

“After that, I couldn’t stop asking my mum and husband, ‘Am I all right? Will I die?’ I was terrified I was losing grip on my mental health and spent some of our savings on a therapist. Diagnosed with stress and burnout, I began to recover over time.

“I realised one of the major factors which had triggered my meltdown was my desire to have a perfect festive season at whatever cost.

"I’d been so focused on doing things ‘perfectly’ — being the ideal mum, wife, host, daughter-in-law, daughter and friend — I’d exhausted myself.”

Motherhood coach Dr Ivana Poku explains that mums can even push themselves into a depression thanks to a fraught Christmas.

She says: “Some mums want to do everything perfectly and put unnecessary pressure on themselves by juggling more than they can handle, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or even depression.”

Last Christmas, Merran Lawrence, 44, who lives in Yatton, near Bristol, with husband Kevin, 42, a bathroom and kitchen fitter, and kids Alex, nine, twins Hannah and Joey, six, felt overwhelmed.

The Railway Inn landlady says: “I always feel stressed about Christmas. But last year, with the pub closed due to Covid and the uncertainty over the pandemic, it was another level.

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“I decided to throw myself into Christmas to keep my mind off all the negative things going on.

“But getting everything ready — decorating, wrapping presents and ordering food and drinks — took its toll on me.

“I was staying up late and getting up early to get everything done and make things perfect for the kids.

“My mum Cherry and my aunt Val were in our bubble and they were coming over for dinner and I’d planned to cook. But the oven blew up and we had to use the pub kitchen downstairs.

A third of adults are worn out by the time the big day comes around, with 51 per cent admitting they would prefer a relaxed Christmas

“Preparing Christmas dinner for seven people got to me, so I asked Kevin to help and let him do the rest.

“Afterwards, when everyone was still busy celebrating, I sat on the floor surrounded by discarded wrapping paper and cried. I was totally fed up.

“After Christmas, I didn’t go out until the kids went back to school because I felt depressed with all the pressure and stress.

“I’m used to having a pub packed with people happy and celebrating.

“This year I’ve taken the pressure off by asking family members if we can skip giving presents and concentrate on the pub again.

“Running a busy pub and dealing with drunk customers is so much easier than planning Christmas.”



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