Beating the Christmas blues: How to effectively deal with stress

Beating the Christmas blues: How to effectively deal with stress and depression

There are many reasons why holidays can be challenging - therefore the holiday season may not be a jolly time for all. A representative of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group says this may be due to - amongst other things - financial constraints, family conflict, and pressure to be the perfect host. Dessy Tsoneva speaks to Newswatch on how to effectively deal with such challenges.

Beating the Christmas blues: How to effectively deal with stress and depression
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The holidays can be challenging for a number of reasons - such as experiencing the first festive season after the loss of a loved one, feeling lonely or isolated, or feeling disappointed about the ending of the year. 

SADAG's  Dessy Tsoneva says there are a lot of expectations of how the festive season should be. 

"When you feel your life differs from that or you don't live up to the expectations, it can be difficult to manage. Sometimes, it can even be that you just don't feel festive, but like that's not allowed at this time of year, which can be alienating. Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean that difficulties disappear, no matter how much we pretend or others may want us to do so," she says.

According to Tseneva, signs of depression include experiencing the following for a few weeks:  


    -  feeling sad, empty or irritable for most of the day;

    -  changes in appetite/weight;

    -  altered sleep patterns;

    -  fatigue/lacking energy;

    -  losing interest in activities previously enjoyed;

    -  feeling guilty or worthless;

    -  struggling to concentrate or make decisions;

    -  and having thoughts of suicide.

ALSO READ: Undiagnosed or untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide: SADAG

Once having identified the cause, it's just as important to take those first steps towards finding a solution. Tseneva says you can reach out to a loved one for help, speak to your family doctor, or contact a mental health professional. 

Tips to combat stress during the holidays

Lean on your support system 

Take up friends and family on their invitations, or invite them out - instead of isolating yourself or worrying that you’re a burden to them. 


Ask for help and be specific 

Ask your mom to help you cook, or invite a friend along on shopping trips. People are usually happy to help if you tell them what you need.


Don't stay longer than you want to

Going to a party doesn't obligate you to stay until the end. You can drop by, explain you have other engagements, and only stay for a little while. This can really help ease your anxiety.


Forget about the perfect gift 

Don’t put pressure on yourself to find the best gift ever, or to overspend if you know you can’t afford it. 

Stick to a budget 

The cost of holiday shopping mounts quickly and can make people feel out of control and anxious. Draw up a budget before you start shopping, and stick to it.


Stay on schedule 

Try to stick with your normal routine during the holidays. Disrupting your schedule and losing out on sleep can cause your mood to deteriorate.

Don't rely on substances 

Remember that alcohol is a depressant and abusing it will leave you feeling worse. Be particularly careful if you are taking medication while consuming alcohol.


If you take medication, don't miss doses  

In the hustle of the holidays, it's easy to slack off and miss medication. Don't let that happen.  

Counsellors at SADAG are available at 0800 70 80 90 between 8am and 8pm from Monday through to Sunday, or send an SMS to 31393. To read more about depression, visit

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