Surviving the holiday blues


The holidays are a joyous time filled with family, friends and laughter, but what if you suffer from the holiday blues?  For many of you, the holidays may be a reminder of loss of a family member, your financial woes or your impending school results.

Images of happy families around dinner tables are projected in magazines, billboards and films and these may heighten the unrealistic expectations you may have about what the holidays are supposed to look like.

“There’s this vision and movie idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be all fun and stress-free,” says Johannesburg-based psychologist Christo van der Westhuizen.

In reality, family can bring as much stress as they do love. However, this should not be a reason for you to ignore the holiday season. Yes, you probably don’t want to see your aunt who will be bragging about how all her children live overseas and have gained their master’s degrees while you’re still struggling to grasp the concepts of first year courses, but the key to surviving the holidays is to take back some control instead of keeping quiet when holiday plans are being made.

Also read: Is Christmas fever leaving you out breath and out of pocket?

SADAG can help

SADAG is able to provide telephone support, counselling and referrals to the public. Call 0800 70 8090 and a friendly counsellor will be able to give you the information you need. Their telephone counsellors are available 7 days a week all year round from 08:00-20:00.

SADAG’s Facebook page: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group. For those that would like to stay anonymous, email and they will ask all your questions on your behalf.

5 ways to avoid the holiday blues:

1. Be realistic and take the ‘ideal’ Christmas out of your head

Forget about the ‘perfect’ festive season, instead set realistic expectations. This way, you’re less likely to be disappointed when things don’t go your way.

2. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help

At times, the holiday stress can intensify your mental health issues. If this is the case, please seek professional help or call SADAG. Talking to a mental health professional can ease some of the dark emotions that may start to arise during this time of the year.

3. Take a time-out from family arguments and unhappy relationships

Ideally we would all love to take part in the family fun, but realistically families also have their fair share of arguments and disagreements. As this is a time of giving, allow yourself or your family members that are going through depression and anxiety the space they deserve. This will be more beneficial to them than spending every waking moment of the holidays with you.

4. Give yourself a break

We can all be wrapped up in achieving this idea of what the festive season should be that we put an awful amount of stress and pressure on ourselves. Parents tend to feel guilty about not finding the perfect gift for their children, and children may want to go post the perfect shots on their social media pages to show their friends and classmates what a great time they are having. Take a deep a breath and be kind to yourself – being a bit selfish can be good for you.

5. Connect with your significant other on the things that matter most

While you are running around trying to buy the perfect gifts and cook the best feast for the family, you can tend to neglect your significant other. Check in with them and to find out how they are doing and what they want to get out of the festive season. Try and find a common ground and maybe you won’t have to carry the task of trying to achieve the ‘ideal festive season’.

The festive season and holidays do not have to be a dreadful time for you – remember the holidays are about family and loved ones which means you can turn to your support system when things get too much to handle. 

Source: South African Depression and Anxiety Group

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