CAPE Town – Tis the season to be jolly when families get together around a table enjoying a huge Christmas lunch, sharing gifts and love. Or so the movies want us to believe. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said movies play a big role in creating unreasonable expectations for this time of the year.
Psychologist Christo van der Westehuizen said movies create expectations of the ideal family, which may make people resentful or heighten the tension or conflicts between family members if their families don’t quite match up.
“There’s this vision and movie idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be all fun and stress-free,” he said. “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.”
Last week, the organisation held a question-and-answer session on Facebook that allowed people to ask questions on how to cope during the festive season.
Psychiatrist Dr Marcelle Stastny was one of the experts on call and said the session went well, with people calling for a number of reasons. “Some of my patients are genuinely sad and lonely and become even more so over the holidays when they ruminate over their losses. Even when happy, some of us also have a deep melancholy for lost loved ones or broken ideals, such as with divorce. The relentless tinsel pressure to have fun when we are sad is exhausting.”
Clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde, who specialises in stress management, defined stress as occurring when our “perceived demands are greater than our coping skills and resources”, which is a feeling that threatens well-being.
She also explained that there were different types of stress, for example, chronic stress, like an illness, which remains constant over time; perennial stress, like Christmas, which occurs periodically; and hassles, little things that when compounded can be even worse than a single, main issue.
“The holidays, luckily some would say, only come once a year and last for a few short weeks. But you have to take the first step and be cautious during the next few weeks to keep these tips close at hand. Follow even just a few of them, and you’ll find yourself having a happier Christmas.”
Sadag said one should be realistic and do away with the notion of an ideal Christmas and not be afraid to seek professional help.
Shaheema Mcleod, the chief executive of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, said the time was particularly difficult for the women and children. “We put it on our budget to cater for a nice family lunch for those that are not able to be with their family,” she said.
Sadag is able to provide telephone support, counselling and referrals to appropriate mental health-care workers. Call 0800 70 80 90 to speak to a counsellor from 8am-8pm or visit
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015