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As we go deeper into Dezemba, it’s easy to feel the pressure of the season build-up! Navigating the pressure express might just be the best gift you give yourself, or someone you care about this year:


Global (10 December 2023) — Merry, bright and filled with delight. That’s what the festive season should be about (at least, according to Hallmark movies and our friends so jovial they wear Christmas jerseys despite the heat of South Africa’s summer). But, for many, as we go deeper into Dezemba, the ‘pressure express’ screeches only louder and louder.

Gifts when groceries alone seem to cost a house downpayment. Commitments to events we don’t have time for as year-end pressure at work accumulates. Family politics. Realisations of loneliness or loss. And of course, the big feelings that come with end-of-year reflections as the ghosts of resolutions past come back to haunt us.

These are just a few of the platter of worries many of us experience when the festive season rolls around. Here’s the good news: you’re actually not alone, and you don’t suck because pressure is raining on your parade. Here’s the better news: the best gift you’ll give to yourself is learning how to navigate it all.

Coping with the Pressure Express

While the above are just general examples and everyone has their own brand of pressure, there are broad coping techniques that’ll make routing the pressure express a helluva lot smoother.

You won’t feel like a Grinch, and you might just be able to take these tiny gifts of action with you into any situation where the pressure is boiling!

1. Tis the Season to Communicate Well

Communication is something we do all the time. But, that doesn’t mean we do it well.

Voicing circumstances needs to be done in a way that provides clarity for the other person. This means not assuming someone else can read between the lines, avoiding dropping hints, and most importantly, saying how you feel instead of expecting someone else to simply know.

Everyone is the main character in their own world, and so, sees it through their own frame of reference. They might not remember that the festive season is a triggering time for you. They might also put you in their shoes and imagine what they would do if they were you.

Your only job when communicating something that isn’t easy (for example, if money has been tight this year and gift-giving isn’t an option), is to get your point across with comprehension in mind. Ie: In a way they will understand, not how you would understand it. Psychology hack: tackle the issue and not the person!

Mention the circumstances in enough detail and convey how it makes you feel. Don’t delay or procrastinate the tough conversations, because this leads to more anxiety!

2. Boundaries are Best Served Early

Like a good ham fresh out of the oven, boundaries are best served early. This means, that as soon as you realise you need to set them, you need to actually set them.

This applies to identifying what is in your capacity (your boundary) and what isn’t.

The purpose of setting boundaries applies far beyond the festive season and matters because it helps you stand up for yourself without being susceptible to being manipulated. It also helps you be assertive without being aggressive.

When you set a boundary and someone crosses it, you have already made clear that you were not okay with something before the fact, not after.

Maybe you need to tell your boss that you can’t be on call whilst on leave. Maybe you need your partner to come to the party a little more. Set the boundaries of what is in your capacity, make clear what is outside of it, and watch as you free yourself from the additional pressure that comes with being on call for everyone.

3. Make a Wish List for Your Needs

If it’s been a heck of a year and you’re more burnt out than your aunt’s roast, it’s time to let yourself know what you need. Make a list of obligations and needs and allocate them according to priority.

This will help you figure out what you have room for versus what you don’t, whilst getting in the much-needed rest to fuel you for the year to come.

4. Be Prepared for Any Triggers Disguised as Tinsel

Not everyone has a nuclear family who sits around the braai in festive spirits. For many, it’s a time of complicated dynamics or notes of loss and loneliness. If you know there are triggering occasions, prepare yourself by being your own Santa.

This could mean planning a quiet moment to feel the loss of someone you loved. Allowing that to be present, and then comforting yourself with anything wholesome that you know can pick you up. Prepare a care package for yourself. Allow the feelings to be felt, unashamedly and without interruption.

Or, it could mean making a backup plan if you choose to fulfil an obligation that you know won’t be easy. Being prepared affords your mind solutions to the ‘What ifs’ and ‘most likelys’ that can plague your festive experience.

And no, you’re not a pessimist for making these kinds of plans. If anything, you’re optimistic that you can still turn any messy feelings or circumstances into better moments.

5. Make a Gratitude Advent Calendar

For every day of the season, try to write down something you were grateful for. This is like a little surprise from life reminding you that no matter what’s going on around you, there are still small treasures worth noting.

Gratitude as a consistent practice has been dubbed a mental health game-changer for the big reason that it helps your brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) actively seek information of the like. Ie: The more you actively find gratitude, the more your mind will actively seek out things to be grateful for!

Sources: GTG
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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