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Financial depression is very real in South Africa over Christmas: expert

The festive season can be a taxing time for many people financially and with it comes an increased risk of depression.

Dessy Tzoneva, a spokesperson for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), said although there are no specific local statistics situational stressors, such as financial challenges, are a large contributor to mental stress.

“Over the festive season, finances are highlighted as many people go on leave, host family, buy gifts, and want to be able to spoil themselves and their loved ones. This has the potential to emphasise financial problems more than at other time of the year,” she said.

African Bank’s group executive: Human Capital, Lindiwe Miyambu, agreed saying many people over-extend themselves financially during the period.

“Sadly, people don’t plan properly for the festive season and end up overspending and having to take on unnecessary debt which can be crippling as the new year expenses start rolling in. She says the most effective way of avoiding financial anxiety is through prevention.”

Both Miyambu and Tzoneva believe that setting a realistic budget for the holidays and sticking to it is key.

“Try keep a broader perspective at this time and remember while the whole world seems consumed by the holidays they will soon be over,” said Tzoneva.

“Remind yourself of what the festive season is truly about and not what advertising and materialism tells us it should be. We do not have to keep up with the Joneses. And the image that is portrayed on TV is not the reality for many of us, who have far humbler yet love-filled holidays,” she said.

She adds that it can also be a fun challenge to explore cost-free/low-cost activities such as going for a walk in the park, hosting a picnic in the back yard, baking something you’ve never made before, having a board games evening at home, etc.

But what if you find yourself slipping into the darkness of financial depression? Miyambu says it’s important to try and work out a financial plan with someone experienced you know and trust.

“Often just having a plan in place makes you feel better and more in control of your finances. You might find that considering a consolidated loan option could be the answer for you or stopping all transactions on your credit card until you have repaid certain debt. Speaking to someone could make all the difference,” she said.

If you continue to feel down or overwhelmed, Tzoneva says SADAG is there to help.

Miyambu believes it’s never too late to get on top of your finances. “As the festive season kicks off, remember that you have options. Keep it simple, create a budget, manage expectations and get help if you need it,” she encourages.

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