Mental Health

Avoiding Burnout During the Holidays

To avoid burnout during the holidays, I need to prioritize filling my cup so my reservoir is full and ready for what lies ahead.

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Originally published December 20, 2019. Updated December 1, 2023.

Content Warning: the holidays, burnout

The other day I was talking with a dog trainer and she brought up the cup analogy. “You work in mental health,” she said, “so you probably know about filling and keeping a ‘full cup’?” (confession: I didn’t.)

She went on to explain how dogs are similar to people: some things fill their cups and some things deplete them.

Generally speaking, dogs will have different triggers or things that “drain” them, but their cups all tend to be filled the same way (i.e. having the freedom to carry out their natural doggy behaviours). This means the more freedom they have to “be dogs” the less acting out or behavioural issues they tend to engage in.

With people, on the other hand, the things that both drain and fill our cups tend to vary from person to person.

Assessing My Holiday “Cup”

The holidays are right around the corner, and while many of the things draining my cup right now aren’t holiday-related, I know that this time of year has a collection of things that drain me.

This is why to avoid burnout during the holidays, more than any other time of the year, I need to prioritize filling my cup so my reservoir is full and ready for what lies ahead.

At any given moment, I believe any of us could come up with a list of things–big and small–that are currently draining our cup: work stuff, family stuff, relationship stuff, health stuff, and life in general. But can we list ten things that can help fill it? I know earlier today I couldn’t.

Related: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay During the Holidays

Discovering What Fills My Cup

When I began thinking of the things that fill my cup, I immediately jumped to a traditional “self-care” list (think baths, painting, etc).

What I realized, though, is while these traditional ‘self-care’ practices may at times help top things up, the things that really keep my cup full over time are a bit different.

For example, waking up early and having time to myself each morning makes a huge difference in how I feel, not just that day, but ongoing. There’s something about being in a sleeping rhythm and having quiet time before I start the day that helps prepare me for what’s ahead.

Another thing that has been helping a lot lately is baking. I don’t know why (and I’m sure not going to question it!) but baking is the only hobby I’ve taken up that hasn’t been hijacked by my perfectionism.

Spending the day making and decorating cupcakes relaxes me and brings me so much joy. Moreover, looking for more opportunities to bake and taking the time to do it–even if there are other more pressing things to get done–reminds me to prioritize what I need in the present so I am better prepared for the future.

It’s strange; I’ve never really thought of waking up at 6:45 or baking cookies as “self-care.” In reality, though, that’s exactly what they are.

Some more things on my “cup-filling” list are:

  • Starbucks work dates
  • Physical activity
  • Spontaneous cuddles with my dog
  • Uplifting podcasts
  • Honouring my body’s needs
  • Therapy
  • Quality time with friends
  • Moments of stillness

What’s On Your “Fill Your Cup” List?

I’ve shared my list, now I encourage you to explore what’s on yours.

Make sure you are focusing on the things that are truly helpful for you, not the things that you think *should* be helpful.

Despite how much simpler it would be if we were more like our four-legged friends, we are each unique and ‘filling our cups’ is more individual than simply chasing a stick or chewing a bone.

Closing Thoughts

When I woke up this morning, I felt depleted. I certainly didn’t have it in me to write an article. But after going to my regular counselling session and then spending some quiet time snuggling Zoey and enjoying the Christmas tree, my cup got a little bit fuller.

Now, I am going to finish up this article and then make a batch of cookies. What about you?

Lauren Bersaglio

Lauren is the Founder of Libero Magazine. She started Libero in April 2010, when she shared her story about her struggles with an eating disorder and depression. Now, Lauren uses her writing and videos to advocate for mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing cozy video games, and taking selfies with her 65lb goldendoodle, Zoey.

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