Emerging from a national state of disaster earlier this year, a carefree holiday season seems a distant memory for many of us. Relaxing and unwinding may feel like an unfamiliar practice after a frenetic 2022, on the back of a few stressful years of a world in pandemic mode and subsequent frenzied rebuilding efforts.
“The end of the year typically leaves people feeling tired, bordering on burnt out, and this year many of us are feeling it even more acutely because few people have been able to fully relax over the summer holiday period for the last several years amid global uncertainty, lockdown and other restrictions later, personal loss and especially difficult economic circumstances,” says Megan Hosking, Netcare Akeso’s marketing and crisis line manager.
“This year is the first time since 2019 that South Africa will be celebrating the festive season without the national state of disaster. It is important for our wellbeing in 2023 that we use time out to really relax, reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones, and refocus for the year ahead.
“The difficulty after such busy and anxious times over the past few years, is that many of us have forgotten the art of resting and may feel guilty or anxious about fully disconnecting from work. Others may feel so exhausted that they leave preparing for the festive season until the last minute, making what should be pleasurable tasks more stressful than they should be,” she warns.
“Taking time to rest over the festive period, even if you are working, can help set you up for better mental health and a positive start to the new year. Use the time you have at the end of the year to reflect, unwind, and give yourself a chance to recover from the cumulative burden of daily stressors, both mentally and physically.”
Seven tips for unwinding during the holidays
- Take a real break: If you are on leave, put on an ‘out of office’ email responder and avoid the habit of checking on work when you are not meant to be working. Be present during your time off and appreciate the break, it will make you more effective when you return to work. If you are working through the festive season, make the most of your time off duty to recharge by doing things that you love.
- Plan ahead: Avoid last minute stress by planning your shopping and other tasks ahead of time, if possible. The last minute rush for presents or going to busy shopping centres can feel overwhelming and trigger anxiety responses.
- Recognise your social limits: It may be tempting to accept every invitation you receive, but remember you also need some time to relax. Overextending yourself can make you feel more tired, so rather set boundaries, and say ‘no’ if you need to rest over the holiday period.
- Stick to your routine and focus on positive habits: Keeping your daily routine over the festive season can help you feel calmer and prevent overindulging or engaging in unhealthy habits at a time when we are often surrounded by temptation.
- Prioritise what’s best for you and take time out for self-care: Ask yourself what you need to feel relaxed and rested for the new year. This may be time spent outside, getting regular sleep, exercising, turning off your phone, or whatever else helps you to fulfil your wellbeing needs.
- Focus on what you can control: Over this period, many things can contribute to us feeling out of control. Our normal activities may be on hold, our usual social circle may be away, and we may need to accommodate the needs of others. By focusing on what you can control – such as how you react in situations or how you spend your own time – you can feel more empowered.
- Connect with your loved ones: This is a golden opportunity to make the most of uninterrupted time with the people you care about. Whether engaging in conversations or fun activities together, embrace the chance to surround yourself with your loved ones. You owe it to yourself and others to put away digital distractions such as social media and focus on being fully present in those precious moments.
Hurting in the holidays? Support is available.
“The festive season is an especially difficult time for some people. This is a time that is promoted as joyous and family centred, and this may feel unattainable. For some, this time of year may bring additional painful memories and emphasise loneliness, stress and uncertainty,” Hosking says.
“We all experience this time of year differently, often shaped by our previous experiences, and the losses or challenges we have faced over the years. Take stock of how you are feeling and take the time to care for yourself. If you are struggling during this time, there are still many resources available to support you.”
For information about accessing care or for professional help in a mental health crisis, Netcare Akeso is here to help. In the event of a psychological crisis, emergency support can be reached on 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year including all public holidays and Christmas Day. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is also available to assist and can be reached at www.sadag.org or by calling 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26.
“Take care of yourself and your mental health and make the most of this time to recharge so that you can start 2023 refreshed and focused,” Hosking concludes.
About Netcare Akeso
Netcare Akeso operates a network of private inpatient mental health facilities and is part of the Netcare Group. Netcare Akeso provides individual, integrated and family oriented treatment in specialised inpatient treatment facilities, as well as certain outpatient services, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and substance use conditions. Please visit www.akeso.co.za or contact [email protected] for further information.
In the event of a psychological crisis, call 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day for emergency support. Psychiatrist consultations can be made through Netcare appointmed™, online at www.netcareappointmed.co.za or by calling 0861 555 565.
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