Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

It’s the festive season and time to eat‚ drink and be merry. But the Christmas holidays leave some people wanting to drown their sorrows.

TimesLIVE spoke to Dessy Tzoneva from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) about why the festive season is difficult for some.

• No work or traffic chaos … to keep you away from troubled relationships

There is no distraction of work‚ school‚ chores and the usual routines to be a buffer between family members who may be having difficulties. Tzoneva says that vacations can highlight tensions that families or couples may have managed to avoid all year.

"If there are difficulties and these have not been addressed‚ at [holiday time] people are left without the distraction of work. They are left with nothing but each other."

• After the holiday‚ you need a holiday

Holidays can get busy and people get caught up in the Christmas pressure of consumerism and materialism. "There is so much happening and so much expectation‚" says Tzoneva. Shops are busy and people feel they have to make the perfect meal or find the perfect gifts. People get swept up in the wave of the festive season and may feel there is no time to take a break.

Says Tzoneva: "Depending on the person and on the family dynamics‚ there can be a sense of needing to compete. People also ask, ‘What are you doing for Christmas? Where are you going for New Year’s?’ There can be all this pressure and you can’t make it stop, and this can be anxiety-inducing."

• Have you put a ring on it?

Going home for the holidays can be tough‚ says Justene Smith‚ a disability expert from Progression‚ an HR company.

"Many people find themselves subjected to cultural pressures when they return to their communities during the festive season. These may include being put under pressure to get married or have children. In addition‚ many people who work in the cities are the main breadwinners and expected to fund holiday season festivities."

• Grief can be overwhelming

It can be very hard for people to experience their first Christmas without a loved one. Families may create a ritual or a way to remember those they have lost in the year‚ says Tzoneva, who suggests talking about the loved one.

• The fake perfection of Instagram

People tag themselves in holiday‚ family and New Year’s party shots and Facebook becomes a highlights reel. Remember‚ what you are seeing is not an accurate reflection of reality‚ just like Christmas movies are not‚ says Tzoneva.

"There’s 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."

For people who need to talk about holiday stress‚ Sadag’s helpline will run from 8am to 8pm every day: 0800 70 80 90

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