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Holiday stress affects 80% of South Africans

Eight in 10 South Africans admit to being 'stressed out' by the holidays, according to a just-released national year-end survey by a leading pharmaceutical company.

Pharma Dynamics commissioned a poll among 500 South Africans across various walks of life, age and gender groups. The survey was conducted by market research specialists Leelyn Management, and sought to identify the most common sources of stress during the holidays.

The survey revealed that seasonal expenses are by far the biggest source of holiday stress for 92% of people, and that women are more likely than men to worry about finances.

Securing the house before going away on holiday was rated as the second most stressful activity by 85% of respondents and 72% cited memories of loved ones who passed away as the third most common source of stress.

Interestingly, 90% of those polled, listed having sex as the least stressful activity, which supports the notion that more sex means less stress.

Mariska Fouche, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, says various clinical studies have shown that when holding your partner's hand, couples show a significantly reduced stress response in the brain.

"Kissing and hugging also alleviates daily anxiety. Cuddling couples report much lower stress and depression levels than their unaffectionate counterparts, and pairs who smooch a lot are eight times less likely to be tense or depressed," says Fouche.

Other major contributors to stress:

  • pressure of hosting and accommodating family - 46%
  • Christmas shopping - 42%

Most stress-free activities:

  • Spending downtime with friends and family - 69%
  • enjoying the great outdoors - 68%

"People who regularly have high levels of overall stress are most likely to feel stress specific to the holidays," says Fouche. "Being aware of stressors and taking steps towards managing them is essential to making the holiday season less stressful."

Fouche offers the following advice:

  1. Be realistic about what you can and cannot afford. Decide on a budget and stick to it.
  2. Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Social expectations are a huge source of stress for many people.
  3. Don't over-commit and take on more than you can comfortably handle - you don't have to be superman or superwoman.
  4. Keep things in perspective - try to consider stressful moments in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Also teach your kids how to keep things in perspective, including what type of and number of gifts they receive.
  5. Try something new - celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  6. Exercise for stress relief - it will increase your overall health and sense of well-being.
  7. Don't turn to food, drink or drugs for relief if you're suffering from increased stress levels during the holidays. Rather find healthier coping strategies.
  8. Spend time with supportive and caring people - view the holidays as a time to re-connect with the special people in your life.
  9. Do something for someone else. There is something so comforting and rewarding about donating your time to helping someone else, and now is a great time to do so.
  10. Get some rest and relaxation. Make time for yourself and let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.

"My advice to both men and women is to pay attention to what causes their stress and to find healthy ways of managing it. Everyone has the power to reduce the impact of stress. With practice, you can learn to spot stressors and stay in control when the pressure builds," concludes Fouche.

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