High expectations, money woes, and other holiday hazards can spell trouble for anyone, but especially those prone to depression. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), one of SACAP’s fieldwork placement organisations, estimates that around 20% of South Africans are affected by holiday depression.
Balancing the demands of shopping, gift wrapping, family obligations, visitors and financial expenses may leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and prone to stress responses like headaches, excessive drinking or overeating, or insomnia. SADAG warns that signs of depression or serious stress should not be written off as mere holiday blues in the hope that they’ll disappear in January. ‘It can be dangerous to ignore depression symptoms for weeks or months,’ says the organisation’s Counselling Manager Cassey Amoore. ‘If you’re worried or unsure how to handle holiday depression, rather call us.
‘The festive season can make people feel out of control,’ continues Amoore. ‘We may feel at the mercy of our relatives, steamrolled by family tradition. But you do have a say and the key to surviving the holidays is to take some control instead of letting them control you.’
If you’re prone to festive depression, the organisation advises considering the following survival tips:
1. Lean on your support systems when things get tough, including your network of close friends and family members who are willing to listen. Ask for help with festive cooking, shopping and other must-dos (don’t do it alone).
2. Stay at parties and family functions only as long as you want to; don’t feel obligated to stay until the end.
3. Forget about finding the perfect gift; any gift from the heart will be appreciated.
4. Stick to your festive budget; overspending can easily make you feel out of control and anxious.
5. Try keep to your regular schedule as much as possible; frequent late nights mean less sleep, which can affect your mood and make you feel more down.
6. Don’t rely on substances; alcohol is a depressant and abusing it will leave you feeling worse.
7. If you take medication, don’t miss doses. It’s easy to forget to take your meds in the chaos of the holidays. Set the alarm on your cellphone if you need a physical reminder to take your pills.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group has counsellors on duty seven days a week from 8am to 8pm – Christmas, Boxing and New Years Day included. A call to 011 262 6396 or their toll-free suicide line 0800 12 13 14 offers a friendly, compassionate ear, support and advice during this time of year.