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Mental Health Information Centre - Southern Africa

Coping with the festive season and avoiding holiday stress

Holiday time and the festive season may seem like, and should be, the most wonderful time of the year, and for many it is. Relaxing, resting, connecting with family and friends should be a positive experience and something to look forward to.

However, for some, it is a stressful, depressing and lonely time. For those dealing with relationship issues like divorce, personal grief, loneliness, economic concerns, or illnesses, this period can be extremely taxing. Add to this unrealistic expectations and the commercialization of Christmas and we may well find that we just wish to get the holiday over and done with. Also, for those with depression this may be a particularly difficult time and symptoms may exacerbate especially if there is pressure to attend family gatherings that they do not feel up to.

Tips to help you cope:

  • Plan ahead: avoid last minute shopping.
  • Stick to routine: get enough sleep, eat healthy meals – avoid over-indulging, keep on exercising.
  • Know your limits: don’t spend beyond your limits, don’t accept too many invitations, accept support (allow family and friends to help).
  • Keep it simple: expect less, a wholesome meal served in relaxed circumstances is better than a meal with all the trimmings served by a highly stressed-out, tired hostess.
  • Dare to be different: give simple gifts with a loving heart, give to charities of your choice (children’s homes, animal welfare), avoid running with the mad commercial stream.
  • Take time-out and practice self-care: put your feet up and relax, quiet your mind.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common and may worsen during the festive season. Reach out, increase contact with positive understanding people. Try to avoid situations that may result in negative feelings. Make a greater effort over this period to connect with a family member that may be going through a hard time.



Mental Health Topics

In partnership with:


University of Stellenbosch
South African Medical Research Council
University of Cape Town