Go from festive fear to festive cheer

by Laurel Pretorius
Go from festive fear to festive cheer
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Does the upcoming festive season fill you with dread? Find out how you can enjoy a stress-free festive season. By Laurel Pretorius.

The festive season is nigh and before we get into the endless cycle of overspending, overstressing and generally overthinking every single thing that comes with making it THE PERFECT HOLIDAY, perhaps we should take some advice from Chrissy Teigen, who said in an article I once read about how celebrities do the silly season: “Christmas Day is more of like order McDonald’s and go to the movies. It’s a very lazy day.”

Okay, so perhaps not McDonald’s for me but why not a braai, some watermelon with vanilla ice cream, a dip in the pool (if you’re lucky enough to have one), a family movie and a perfectly lazy day? Now, that’s my idea of a holiday – zero pressure and loads of time to connect with your loved ones.

My husband and I started doing this about 4 years ago. We said no to the pressure of extended family traditions and made our own, with our girls, and now Christmas Day has become a low-key celebration we look forward to… a lot!

Why should we face all the challenges life has to throw at us during the only time of the year we get to take a decent break with our family? Why does it have to be a big celebration? Why can’t joy be found in whichever way we choose to do the festive season?

Social worker Kgomotso Motaung, from the Family Life Centre, says “There are social and cultural expectations that put a lot of pressure on society as the festive season is usually celebrated with loved ones. Plus, there is family and peer expectation, too, as one is expected to be involved in certain activities that require money.”

So, we can often find ourselves in awkward situations with family members. Perhaps we’re single and alone and dread the looming festivities. Then there are some of us who simply don’t believe in celebrating Christmas, and others who may just be trying to keep their sanity.

How do we handle these difficult situations with grace while still finding moments of happiness and connection during the holidays?

Read Heartache during the festive season

Handling family conflicts

Family gatherings can sometimes be fraught with tension, especially when certain family members don’t get along. Here’s how to handle these situations:

Stay neutral: Avoid taking sides in family feuds. Stay neutral and try keep the peace.

Limit exposure: Create physical and emotional distance when conflicts arise. Take a walk or seek solace from another neutral family member when needed.

Focus on the positive: Instead of dwelling on the negative, find common ground and shared interests to connect over.

Dealing with awkward questions

During holiday gatherings, it’s common to face intrusive questions, like “why are you still single?” or “why haven’t you fallen pregnant yet?”. Here’s how to deal with them gracefully:

Set boundaries: Politely but firmly communicate your boundaries by saying, “I’d rather not discuss that right now.”

Redirect the conversation: Shift the focus by asking about the other person’s life, their interests, or just change the subject completely.

Practice self-compassion: Remember that it’s okay to protect your privacy and answer personal questions only when you want to.

New moms and the festive season

New moms face unique challenges during the holiday season. Sleepless nights, changed routines, and the added pressure to create a magical experience for their newborns, can be overwhelming.

Belinda Gruenbaum who is a counsellor at the Family Life Centre and a new mom herself has this advice for:

Rest and sleep: Get as much rest and sleep as possible. To get this right, you may need to ask family and friends for their help to do your shopping and other chores.

Just say no: Establish boundaries and say no to things that are not within your mental capacity at the time, including visits at your own home.

Get help: If you are feeling down and showing signs of postpartum depression, consider seeking professional help.

Click for Maintain your mental health

Being alone during the festive season

Dealing with loneliness this festive seasonMany people find themselves alone during the holidays. Here’s how to navigate this situation:

Plan ahead: Make a plan for the holiday season that includes activities you enjoy, such as volunteering, attending events, or pursuing other interests.

Reach out: Connect with friends or support networks to avoid isolation. Create a Christmas lunch or dinner for others who may be alone and at home during the holidays.

Self-care: Treat yourself with kindness and engage in self-care routines. Consider this time as an opportunity for relaxation and personal growth.

Dealing with mental health issues

The holiday season can exacerbate mental health challenges. Here’s how to prioritize your well-being:

Communicate: Share your feelings with trusted friends and family members who can provide emotional support.

Create a supportive environment: Set clear boundaries for yourself and communicate your needs, such as alone time, to those around you.

Seek professional help: Reach out to a mental health professional if needed.

Since my own family and I have gone back to basics for Christmas, we have learnt that we are well within our rights to do what brings us relaxation and joy during this crucial break. Don’t be dictated to by others. Rather, dictate your own wants and needs during this holiday season, and have a happy one.

Read 8 tips to get you through the festive season

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