Author: Derek A. Murray | Director of Professional Services

The holiday season is upon us. With all of the celebrations with family and friends and the demanding work schedules required by hospitals, it can be easy to feel exhausted and unmotivated on the job. But the work still needs to be done and quality can’t suffer—patient safety depends on it. 

Holiday burnout is a real risk this time of year, but you don’t have to fall victim to it. By taking proactive steps to maintain and restore balance to your life, you can avoid burnout and stay motivated at work. Here’s what you should know:

What Is Burnout?

Mayo Clinic defines burnout as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” It can surface as constant cynicism or irritability at work, lack of motivation evidenced by procrastinating and avoiding tasks you might normally enjoy, difficulty concentrating, and an overall lack of satisfaction in your work. Burnout can also lead to physical symptoms, like headaches, digestive issues, or disordered sleeping habits.

Burnout can be caused by a variety of things, but some of the more common causes are a dysfunctional workplace, unclear job expectations, a lack of control over one’s job and responsibilities, and work-life imbalance where work dominates the employee’s life.

Hospital employees still have to work during the holiday season. That can understandably lead to feeling like their jobs are out of their control or that work has taken over their lives. The chances of burnout are up there with the chances your neighbor has a decorated tree in their living room. But what can you do about it?

5 Tips to Avoid Burnout This Holiday Season

  1. Practice Gratitude

Take your first cue from Thanksgiving and make gratitude part of your daily life. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the hours you’re working and the holiday engagements you’ve committed to, step back and acknowledge what you’re thankful for. What’s gone well at work this week, month, or year? Who do you enjoy working with and why? Before you go to bed each night, try writing down three things you’re thankful for from that day. Do this throughout the holiday season to keep your perspective fresh and positive.

  1. Make Rest a Priority

It may seem like everyone you know is hosting a holiday party—but you don’t have to attend every gathering. Instead of saying “yes” to every invitation, prioritize the gatherings that will be most meaningful and schedule yourself some downtime. Use this time to relax, sleep, or reflect on work and life.

  1. Celebrate at Work

Does your department have a potluck or gift exchange planned? Is the hospital playing Secret Santa all December long? Join in the fun. The holidays are a great time of year to grow closer to your coworkers by doing things that aren’t strictly work. Whether it’s a department dinner or caroling through the halls with your coworkers, celebrating at work can help you enjoy the holiday season while you’re on the clock.

  1. Spend Time Doing What You Enjoy

Maintain some work-life balance by not allowing your time outside of work to be dominated by holiday plans. Along with rest (#2), set aside time for activities that bring you peace and joy. Go lift at the gym or play the piano or cook a favorite meal. Don’t give all of your free time to the hustle and bustle.

  1. Reflect on This Year’s Achievements

As 2019 draws to a close, take the time to recognize this year’s milestones—both in and outside of work. Did you get a promotion? Improve the efficiency of an SPD process? Make it to more of your kids’ soccer games? Reflect on what you’re proud of from this year and help those around you do the same. It’s a simple way to spread joy and provide perspective during this hectic time of year.

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¹ Blanchard, K. (2010). Leading at a higher level. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

²Axelrod, E. M., & Axelrod, R. H. (1998). The conference model: Engagement in action. Organization Development Journal, 16(4), 21. Retrieved from