Updated 03 December 2014

10 festive season traps

It's one month to Christmas. All you want to do is chill out. Avoid these traps between now and the 25th of December.


The holiday looms, and so does Christmas. All you want to do is chill out. But that's not always the easiest thing to do – you know the bit about life being ‘the thing that happens while you're making other plans’...?

For some, chilling may mean booking a camping site 20km from the nearest village a year in advance. Or going into a Trappist monastery until the festive season is over.

But most people will have a more sociable time – either at home, visiting relatives, or at the seaside somewhere. In order to get the most out of your break, try and avoid the following festive season stressors.

Guests galore. You have a big house, and over Christmas it fills up. Instead of looking after four people, you are now entertainment committee, caterer, conflict resolution specialist, and cleaner for 12 people. Put together a duty roster for the cooking and the cleaning. Don't feel you have to be a tour guide. Let the guests entertain themselves.

Feeding frenzy. Food, food, food. It's all over during the holiday season. And, after all, you're on holiday. So why not? That's fine, but just don't get into a new habit. Most people end the festive season with quite a few kilos that were not there in November. Don't become a festive season fatty.

Booze bonanza. From the office party to friends' homes, to family barbecues – booze is no stranger to the festive season. And often, other people are paying for it. By all means have a beer or two, if you're not driving, but don't binge. Drinking too much carries its own punishment, a bit like eating a second helping of hot Indian curry. Fall down drunk, or insult one of the other guests, and you can be sure it's not just your own bad mood you'll be dealing with.

I'm so lonely. Some people wish everything could be a little quieter. Others wish for a break from the peace and quiet and they dream of the phone ringing or a horde of guests arriving. The secret is to arrange a few things in advance. Invite people for supper, get a friend to go with you to a movie, or organise a day or two away in a different place. Don't wait until the festive season is upon you before doing something about your social calendar. It's not going to happen by itself.

Exercise inertia. Most people give their exercise regimes a break during the festive season. That's the fastest way to weight gain, and misery in the New Year. Do diffferent things. Go for a walk with the family, run along the beach, play volleyball.

Credit card crisis. The last of the Big Spenders. If that describes you in the shopping centre with your Christmas bonus and your credit card, you're obviously a sucker for all those Christmas ads. And you're going to be stony broke in January, and depressed in February when the credit card statements start arriving. Point is that you can probably buy just as nice a present for R100 as you can for R200, or R400. You just need to plan it well. It's the thought that counts, not the size of invoice.

Sunburn stress. The sun in the southern hemisphere is vicious – and skin cancer is a real danger. And remember that the damage is cumulative. Burning yourself to a crisp or having a whimpering and sunburnt child on your hands, is no way to spend Christmas. Speak to your pharmacist and get a high-factor sunblock before you head for the beach. And speaking of the beach – watch out for bluebottles or pieces of broken glass in the sand.

Crowd control. Spare yourself the crush. Do your gift shopping in November, and a bulk grocery shop before 15 December. Milling crowds can be exhausting, and elicit everything but the Christmas spirit in you.

Gift of the grab. Frantic last-minute gift-buying is a killer – not only don't you get what you are looking for, you also spend a fortune on it. Rather than give unwanted and expensive presents, go for gift vouchers – at least people will appreciate them, even if they are not the most personal of offerings.

Family fest. Family. You get them, you don't choose them. And never is it more obvious than at Christmas time. Family get-togethers seldom do much for your self-esteem. Just repeat the mantra, "It will soon be over for another year."

Read more:
Festive season slimmer's guide
Survive the silly season


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