Fitness and health 22.12.2017 09:01 am

5 Ways to ease family holiday stress

5 Ways to ease family holiday stress

Do you dread spending Christmas with family? Maybe for you, the biggest cause of holiday stress is family.

Hollywood has created unreasonable expectations of the ideal family festive season, but most families don’t quite match up.

“There is 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.

“The reality is that family relationships are complicated and can be full of stress. But that’s not a reason to ignore the holidays completely.”

Take back some control

The festive season can make us feel at the mercy of our relatives, steamrollered by family traditions.

The key to surviving the holidays is to take back some control.

To learn how, join the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) Facebook Friday Q&A talk on 15 December.

 Psychiatrist Dr Marcelle Stastny will be facilitating the free online chat from 1pm to 2pm while the evening chat, from 7pm to 8pm, will be run by psychologist Nkateko-Ndala Magoro.

To join, like SADAG’s Facebook Page, ‘The South African Depression and Anxiety Group‘ or, if you would like to remain anonymous, send an email to and they will ask on your behalf.

Five ways to ease holiday stress

Here are five ways to help you avoid the holiday blues.

1. Be realistic

Too many people have a perfect vision of what the holidays should be like, instead of what they really are. By setting realistic expectations, you are less likely to land up being disappointed.

2. Seek professional help

Sometimes, the holidays are when we feel the most alone. Talking to someone can beneficial, whether it be a counsellor, family member, friend or even a church member to whom you can open up.

If the holiday blues are constant and you think there may be a bigger issue, you should seek the help of a psychologist, psychiatrist or call SADAG on 0800 21 22 23.

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

In an ideal world, we’d be friends with everyone and everyone would be friends with us. In the real world, we get into disagreements or sometimes huge arguments with others we care about.

In the spirit of the giving season, give something that is priceless – your compassion and forgiveness (even if only temporary) to those in your life you feel have hurt you in some way.

4. Give yourself a break

While rushing around in the holidays, we often put ourselves last on the ‘to-do’ list. We also feel guilty when we indulge in things we wouldn’t ordinarily indulge in (”Another piece of pie? Why, thank you!”). Give yourself a break this season, forgive your transgressions, and be kind to yourself.

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

One of the people we often leave out of our holiday plans is our significant other. Not physically, but often emotionally.

Check in with your partner and see what his or her expectations for the holiday are, and share yours with them. You might be surprised to learn something you didn’t know.

 While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.

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