Home Lifestyle Anxious about the festive season? You aren’t the only one

Anxious about the festive season? You aren’t the only one

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While many people will be stressed financially this year, experts say the route of unhappiness won’t be limited to finances; some people are just unhappy during this time.

Some people are also feeling anxious about this year’s holiday. Picture: AnthonyTran / Unsplash

IF YOU find yourself feeling more stressed out than usual about the holiday season, you’re not alone.

Some people are also feeling anxious about this year’s holiday. The new coronavirus has destroyed some of the traditions and made people fearful that they or their loved ones will contract the virus.

This added to spending too much cash and nibbling on too many festive cookies, can negatively impact our mental health, leaving us with feelings of stress, guilt, loneliness or anxiety.

Our finances have also been affected by the pandemic and downscaling on the traditional celebration families and children are expecting this year is bound to create anxiety among parents, says Sharon Moller, a financial planning coach at Old Mutual.

“Talking about why there is less money this year can trigger our deeply ingrained fears of not having enough and not being able to give our loved ones what they want,” says Moller.

She says parents shouldn’t try to hide their anxiety from their children.

“It’s perfectly okay to admit to your children that you are feeling anxious, provided you take responsibility for your own emotions. Doing this won’t break your children. On the contrary, it will build a connection and trust between you and teach them emotional awareness, too.”

A 2020 survey by the American Psychological Association concluded that 91% of children know when their parents are experiencing stress. Thirty percent of youths say they are worried about their family not having enough money, but only 18% of parents believe money is a source of stress for their children.

“Leaving things unsaid, on the other hand, increases the likelihood of lashing out or sending children ‘mixed signals’. Resentment about racking up bad debt can result in shame-fuelled outbursts that break down trust and erode your relationship with your child, which can cause irreparable damage over the long term.”

While many people will be stressed financially this year, experts say the route of unhappiness won’t be limited to finances; some people are just unhappy during this time.

“Unhappiness during the festive period usually comes from two main sources,” says Tony de Gouveia, a clinical psychologist at Akeso Alberton. “On a physical level, due to the use of alcohol, lots of unhealthy food, long-distance travelling and too much exposure to the sun, your body may be at risk for the rest of the year.

“On a psychological level, you may be exposed to the annual round of toxic relationships as families come together to celebrate. Many can probably relate to the uncle, aunt or in-law who literally spoils the entire holiday experience thanks to their nasty way of interacting. The manipulation and abuse may be mental, physical, sexual, verbal or emotional.”

While there is no clear increase in rates or intensity of depression or suicide around national holidays, participating in holiday traditions may be difficult for people with mental illness, De Gouveia says.

However, we believe you can feel more joyful and less stressed by learning to prioritise your mental well-being over the holiday season.

Survival tips

De Gouveia suggests several ways in which you can make the most of the holidays:

  • Make a list of everything you need to do and when you need to do it.Avoid too many commitments. Remember, you can’t be everywhere at the same time, so be honest and reasonable about what you can handle, and speak up if it’s too much.Set a holiday budget. Take some time to think about all your expenses and decide exactly how much you will spend.Ask friends or family for help. If you start feeling the pressure, consider enlisting some friends or family to help you out.Avoid family conflict. We all have family members who push our buttons. Try avoiding certain topics. Remove yourself from the conversation if things go south.Don’t overeat. And remember to exercise.Have plenty of downtime. Make time to enjoy the things you love. Read a book, watch your favourite TV show, or just slow down.

Remember to prioritise your mental health, you need to start putting yourself first. Sure, the holidays are all about your loved ones. But that doesn’t mean you have to stress yourself out trying to make sure everyone is happy and everything is perfect. Remember that no matter how hard you try to plan the “perfect” holiday, there will always be someone who finds something wrong.

If you will be spending this time alone, be sure to contact friends and family to avoid feelings of loneliness.

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