3 tips for a sane and stress free holiday season

by Laurel Pretorius
A guide to a sane and stress free holiday season
Reading Time: 3 minutes
The narrative around the festive season is always portrayed as one of joy, togetherness, and celebration, yet for many people, it can be a challenging and stressful time, writes Laurel Pretorius.

The pressure to create a perfect holiday experience, coupled with various demands and expectations, can lead to heightened anxiety, depression, and overall mental health struggles. This is particularly true for parents, new moms, and people who are struggling financially, as well as those with mental health issues or who have lost loved ones.

The “festive season” just doesn’t ring true for people who are facing challenges and why should it? Sometimes we simply need to let go of the norm (or family traditions) in exchange for self-preservation.

Let’s explore ways we can navigate our way through all the tinsel, Christmas carols and family pressures without have a mental breakdown during the holiday season.

Parent pressure

“The festive season can place an enormous amount of guilt and pressure on parents as they strive to make it a magical and memorable experience for their children,” says social worker Belinda Gruenbaum from the Family Life Centre . She adds, “Parents feel the need to get the perfect gifts and perfect decorations, and this can be quite stressful, never mind the financial burden it can place on them.”

The to-do list can seem never-ending. This pressure can leave parents, and especially moms, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Click for Finding your festive while pregnant

Here are 3 tips to help parents get through all the madness without burning out:

  1. Take care of yourself first

“Me time” has never been as important as it is during the silly season. Schedule time to relax and recharge. It could be as simple as a short walk, reading a book, or enjoying a warm bath (with a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door).

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate

Share responsibilities with your partner, children, or other family members. Encourage everyone to pitch in and help with decorating, cooking, and cleaning.

  1. Be realistic about your expectations

Understand that not everything has to be perfect. Embrace the flaws and focus on connecting with your family.

Why do we sometimes feel during a time of celebration?

In 2022, SADAG (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group) indicated that their helpline received around 3000 calls per day during the festive season, which is higher than at other times of the year.

Post Covid, people are struggling even more. High unemployment, grief from the loss of loved ones during the pandemic, and a general feeling that the world isn’t right, all play a negative role. We need to recognise that it’s okay to feel like this sometimes, and that we’re not alone.

These are the reasons why the holiday season can feel gloomy for some of us:

Social pressure

The pressure to socialise and maintain a cheerful facade can be extremely overwhelming.

Financial stress

The cost of gifts, decorations, and hosting holiday events can lead to incredible financial strain.

Family dynamics

The holiday season often brings families together, which can sometimes lead to conflicts and tension.


For those who are alone during the holidays, feelings of isolation can be especially challenging. And even more so for those who have lost loved over the past year or gotten divorced or faced break ups or immigrated.

How to heal during the festive season

Stress free holiday seasonNow that we have identified what makes us feel so gloomy during the festive season, here’s how we can navigate it without coming unhinged:

Practice mindfulness: Take a moment to breathe and be present. This can help you stay grounded and reduce anxiety. Do it daily.

Stay active: People often let go of their exercise routine when the holidays come around. The reason why we shouldn’t stop is because it releases mood-enhancing endorphins.

Connect with loved ones: Reach out to friends and family, even if it’s through video calls or messages. Social support is essential for mental well-being.

Volunteer: Giving back to others can be incredibly rewarding. Consider volunteering for a local charity or organisation to lift your spirits.

Set Boundaries: It’s okay to say no to commitments that will overwhelm you. Prioritize self-care and avoid overextending yourself.

What to avoid at this time

Social media: Take a hiatus from all social media during December. “The various platforms, including advertisements, play a significant role in increasing the pressure on society to be joyful during this time,” says Kgomotso Motaung, a social worker from the Family Life Centre.

Overcommitting: Avoid spreading yourself too thin by taking on too many responsibilities or attending too many events. Just say NO!

Perfectionism: No thanks to social media, the need to create the most perfect Christmas has become all-consuming. Let go of perfectionism. Embrace imperfections and enjoy the moment.

Isolation: Isolating yourself from others can worsen feelings of depression. Get support when you need it.

Excessive spending: When we feel down, we often turn to shopping as a form of therapy. Set a budget. Do not overspend during the holidays. Financial stress can exacerbate anxiety and depression.

By practicing self-care, setting realistic expectations, and seeking support, you can create a more peaceful and enjoyable festive season. Be good to yourself. Happy holidays!

Also read 8 tips to get you through the festive season

If you feel anxious or depressed, seek help immediately. The number for SADAG’s 24-hour Helpline is 0800 456 789.

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