Holiday and Home{school} Burnout: How to Fill Your Cup this Christmas

As the holidays approach, moms find themselves in the throes of busy-ness: shopping for gifts, gift wrapping, holiday meal planning, baking, orchestrating gatherings,  coordinating events…it’s exhausting even typing these to-do’s! 

Nevermind the stamina required for teaching kids at home!

Exhaustion can be defined one of two ways:

  1. a state of extreme physical or mental fatigue.
  2. the action or state of using something up or of being used up completely.

Do either of these definitions resonate with you?

The phrase, You can’t pour from an empty cup is an adage we acknowledge, but often ignore. When you drain the liquid out of a cup, you empty it. There’s nothing left. How can we give to others when we have nothing left to give?

Holiday overwhelm is a real phenomenon, and when paired with an already demanding day of teaching our young ones, it can be a recipe for total burnout. The extra demands, expectations associated with preparing and celebrating the holidays can leave us feeling like we have left to give - and can even have us mindlessly moving through this season without appreciating it, or worse, coming to resent it.

So how do we cope so that we can enjoy our children, and this magical season AND homeschooling?

I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve.

Adjust your Expectations

“The key to happiness is having low expectations.” I used to laugh at this suggestion, knowing in my case, the higher the bar, the better the result. (hello, Martha). But that only led me to feel like a failure time and time again. Having unrealistic expectations of ourselves and our children isn’t fair to anyone, and a surefire way to burnout. I find myself much happier when I can set realistic goals for what I can achieve in a day, and at the end of the day, reflect on what we accomplished while still feeling good and whole. (aka: no yelling, no demands, just a calm and peaceful gratitude for we have managed). Releasing your expectations of others is equally important. Expectations of others only breeds resentment. I have found that the easier I am on others and the less demanding I am of them, the better things go.

Stop Comparing.

“Put your blinders on.” 

The moment I start comparing my life with the filtered images on Instagram, I am doomed. It’s a recipe for depression, feeling unworthy and less than. It’s one thing to seek inspiration, but totally defeating when we begin to ruminate over questions like:  “why don’t WE have traditions like that? Why aren’t WE doing all the baking/crafty things like that family? Why don’t WE have matching, coordinating Christmas PJ’s, and a perfectly decorated tree?”

My best advice: Stay in your own lane, keep your eyes on your own plate, and DO YOU! You know your child best, you know your limits. Get your kids’ input. Ask for their ideas on what is important to them over the holidays. Their answers may be simpler than you’re imagining. Limit your time on social media, particularly around the holidays as these feeds only serve as a distraction from life, and a direct route to compare and despair syndrome.

Instead, create fun manageable experiences that you and your children will enjoy. Don’t forget the fun factor for YOU TOO!  

Take a Break.

The beauty of a home education is its flexibility, shaped to the ebbs and flows of family life. In its busy season, it’s okay to shelf the curriculum and incorporate more “real-world” learning: grocery shopping, menu planning, charity and giving, gift wrapping, label making, and even etiquette training! 

Involving our children in these tasks will not only benefit them in their math, logic, reasoning and language, but will equip them with real-world skills they’ll need as they grow up!

This is also a good time to focus on the fun in a home education: The baking, the crafts the hobbies that fill your cup.

Make a List.

This may go without saying, but I find making a big “BRAIN DUMP” is one of the best ways to get everything out of my head onto paper.

Once I’ve unloaded everything I need to take care of over the holidays, I can then group, prioritize, schedule and get clarity. This exercise is always so helpful. I use a Bullet Journal, and literally dump everything on my mind in the following categories:

  • Learning
  • Home
  • Business
  • And, for the holidays I would add “Holiday”

Once I’ve created columns, I can do my brain dump. Seeing it on paper is always so much less daunting than having it swirling around in your head. And how do we eat an  elephant? One bite at a time! Now that you have your tasks on paper, you can chip away as time and energy permit. Are there items on your list that can be outsourced? (Groceries, prepared meals, wrapping gifts) or delegated to your kids (setting the holiday table, making place cards and gift tags, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting and vacuuming?) 

Post the to-do list somewhere visible, and assign jobs to the kids so that they too can check the items off and can feel a sense of accomplishment once completed.

Prioritize Yourself.

Self-care goes beyond Bordeaux and bubble baths. We work so hard as moms taking care of everything and everyone around us, it’s really hard to make self-care happen. Whatever the reason - lack of time, busyness with family life, guilt over prioritizing yourself - self-care is not often valued in our day-to-day life, and can almost feel like a luxury.

Finding pockets of time to prioritize ourselves - even 5-10 minutes a day - will have a big impact on how you think and feel, especially  around busy and overwhelming times like the holidays. This in turn, has an enormous effect on how we handle everything else in our lives. Use the self-care menu I’ve created to pick and choose simple self-care routines to sprinkle into your day, and grow from there. 

Cultivate Gratitude

What we focus on grows. A daily practice of gratitude has a profound impact on our attitude and outlook on life. Make it tangible by journalling each day, things you are grateful for. I do this practice each morning, and have a separate journal I use to reflect and write. It’s amazing how this simple shift from “Look at all the things I still have to do, things that I haven’t accomplished / challenges in my life” to “look at all the joys in my life / all the blessings / all the gifts / the big positive changes” brings about a personality change throughout my day. I become a happier, more vibrant and positive person.


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