Surprising sources of stress


It's the holiays and you’re finally getting a bit of a break. Scattered days of no work and quality time with your family – it's the time of year to de-stress.

Except there are the kids to entertain and hungry pets to feed. And the family who are come over for lunch expect great food and perfect desserts. And  you’re faced with tons of chocolate and ice cream that wreak havoc with your diet. You simply can’t say no to anything because you’re on holiday and you just can’t deal with that guilt on a break, right? Okay, so perhaps you’re rather frothing at the mouth than taking relaxing frothy bubble baths right now – and chances are you’re not even sure why. Apart from the obvious ones such as money, work, relationships other sources of stress which may come as a surprise to you. We look at 10 things that could be wringing you out.


Ironic, isn’t it? The one thing that’s supposed to give us a break from stress can be a great source of tension. Parents with small kids can tell you packing is easily a daylong affair alone. Then there’s worrying about how to keep them busy, whether you’ve packed enough of everything and how to keep them occupied in the car or on the plane. And although arriving at your destinations can give you that much-needed release you may still be worrying if the house is safe, if the animals are okay and the plants will survive until you’re back. BEAT IT! The simplest way to take the stress out of holidays is to plan properly.

  • Make a list ahead of time of exactly what needs to be taken  along and tick things off as you’re packing.
  • Keep all travel documents in an envelope or file and check several days before you leave if everything’s in order.
  • Make arrangements with your security company or neighbours to keep an eye on your property while you’re away. Give them your contact numbers in case of an emergency so you can be reached if something happens.
  • If you’re driving have your car serviced and tyres checked weeks before your trip. Make

    a playlist with you and your partner’s favourite songs (but nothing one of you may hate) to lighten the mood along the way.

  • If you’re travelling with kids pack a bag of toys ahead of time that they’re not allowed to play with before you leave. And plan meals properly – preferably finger foods that won’t end in a  gooey mess all over the car.
  • If possible go on holiday with another couple who have kids, or your parents so you can take turns having a break.


Catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror can be a positive, affirming experience for some. But for many others it’s an opportunity to criticise themselves about their looks. BEAT IT! It’s normal to sometimes feel unhappy with your appearance – but if you constantly feel unhappy about it address the issue, life coach Amanda de Lange says. If you can’t make peace with the way you look consult a psychologist who can help you deal with your self-esteem issues. 3. MEALS Big family lunches on weekends can be a time to unwind and bond. But the rush to get weekday meals sorted can sometimes grate the nerves. This is especially the case when trying to eat healthy meals. It’s stressful to make delicious salads and vegetable dishes to keep fussy eaters happy – and stay within an achievable budget. BEAT IT! Plan a menu for the whole week so you can do all your shopping in one go, says Dr Nelmarie Boshoff, a  counselling psychologist of Johannesburg. Try to make dishes that incorporate similar items so ingredients can be used in more than one meal to cut down on waste. And if possible make enough so you can have it for lunch the next day. Look online for healthy recipes that won’t break the bank –  think lots of leafy, green vegetables and nourishing soups for colder days (there are plenty for you to choose from here).


Remember that feeling as you watched the Springboks crash out of the World Cup? Chances are the lead-up to that moment was a major stress-filled stretch. We may not realise it but getting caught up in the progress of our favourite team or children’s school matches can be an intense experience.
Sport intensifies your emotions, both good and bad
It’s not only stressful – it can be depressing if things don’t go our team’s way. BEAT IT! “Sport intensifies your emotions, both good and bad,” Joburg counselling psychologist  Brian Blem says. “It’s an escape from reality but we must retain perspective and remember it’s just a game and there must unfortunately be a winner and a loser.” So if you’re feeling particularly stressed on the day of a match, feel free to give yourself permission to sit it out and watch only the highlights. 5. PETS Yes, Fluffy is the cutest cat in the world and Brutus is the most beautiful dog. But they also cost money, need constant attention and can be as demanding as kids. BEAT IT! “Make sure you have the resources, time and space to keep pets,” Johannesburg counsellor Tamra Barenbrug says. Share your free time with your pet. You could go walking or jogging with your dog or read while your cat purrs away in your lap. This energises and relaxes you while bonding with them.


Hands-up everyone who’s yelled at a phone after being put on hold! There are few things as infuriating as phoning a call centre or being shunted from pillar to post when you desperately need something sorted out. The same goes for an automated response when you send an email about something you can’t figure out yourself. BEAT IT! It’s not necessary to get everything sorted immediately, Blem says. Teach yourself to wait. If you can’t wait, try to find a more patient friend or family member to do it for you.


Psychologists often recommend a venting session with a good friend when you’re upset, but this isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes talking about a problem makes us more aware of it, stressing us out even more. BEAT IT! It’s important to blow off steam with the right person, someone who can give you  objective but comforting advice, Barenbrug says. Don’t complain to someone who’s cynical or pessimistic.


Are you feeling bad about being a working mom, not spending enough time with your partner/kids/self or not giving your all to your job? Guilt and a sometimes misplaced sense of duty means we don’t say no often enough. So not only do we feel stressed about everything we have to do, we also feel resentful about it afterwards –which is in itself a source of stress. BEAT IT! Ask yourself why you want to please others, De Lange says. “Are you afraid of rejection, failure or of something that ight happen if you don’t fulfil the requests of others?” Find a compromise and be honest. “Say you can’t do something because you have other obligations. If it’s important and you have to do it, ask if you can do it tomorrow or later.”


Practically every productivity expert advises you to make a list at some point or another. But starting the day with a list of general tasks can be more daunting than helpful. When we realise we won’t get through the list, it can easily become  overwhelming and cause panic. BEAT IT! Don’t make lists if they make you tense. Figure out what works for you and don’t try to follow someone else’s recipe for success, De Lange says. “Choose ways that suit your schedule, daily tasks and personality.”


Stressing over our problems is bad enough but stress itself can cause tension because we know it’s bad for our health, makes us unfriendly and inhibits problem-solving and creative thoughts. BEAT IT! If your stress is so bad it’s making your miserable and endangering your health consider professional help, clinical psychologist Elizabeth Cambanis says. Take a moment to determine what things are causing you stress and how much of an

impact it’s having on you. Sometimes the cause of severe stress is deep-seated, such as an anxiety disorder, and you need professional help to deal with it. But if they’re things like the 10 we’ve just listed you can start to make small changes to lead to a more stress-free life.

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