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Look after your mental health at Christmas

The festive period can be a very stressful and challenging time. For some people the extra pressures of worrying about preparations, finances, relationships with family and friends added to everyday worries, can become overwhelming. Many experience symptoms of anxiety and stress such as irritability and problems sleeping, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and feelings of panic.

One in four people experience mental health problems and their difficulties may become heightened over the Christmas and New Year period. It is really important to take time to look after yourself at this busy time of year. Also, if you know of someone else who may be suffering, take the time to drop in on them or give them a call to talk or just listen. The support of friends is really helpful for people experiencing mental illness, so please make the effort to stay in touch.

Here are some top tips for staying mentally healthy and happy throughout the holidays –

Money

In the current economic climate many people are experiencing financial difficulties and worries. Try not to add to this by overspending and getting into debt. Gifts don't have to cost a lot of money. A more modest gift or something you have made yourself will be appreciated just as much, if not more so for the extra thought that has gone into it.

Family and Friends

If you are aware of relationship problems with someone you will be seeing at Christmas, try to resolve them in advance. Ask if you can get together to talk through the issues.

If you are feeling lonely why not become a volunteer. You will meet like-minded people and be kept active. For information on volunteering see our volunteering pages on the website.

Talk about your anxieties with someone else, a friend, relative or a group such as the Samaritans. Talking about the things that are worrying you can make a big difference.

Food and Drink

Try not to overindulge. Everyone deserves a treat but remember to include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet so you feel better, are healthier and have more energy.

Be aware of your alcohol consumption. Do not use alcohol as a way to relax or 'numb the pain'. Drinking excessively is never a good idea. Not only is it detrimental to your body, but it can disturb sleeping patterns leading to irritability and fatigue. Be aware that alcohol will affect any medication that you are taking. Enjoy a festive tipple, but try to have some alcohol free days.

Be active

Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on mental as well as physical health. A small amount of activity is better than none. You do not need to go to the gym, a simple walk or exercising to a DVD will make you feel more energized and boost your mood.

Relax

Take some time to yourself. Some simple breathing exercises can help or just 10-15 minutes away from everything reading a book, going for a walk or having a bath.

Try to get a decent night's sleep; there is mounting evidence that this has a positive effect on mental wellbeing. Better quality sleep can be achieved by keeping to a regular sleep routine, consuming less alcohol, exercising and relaxing before bedtime.

If you find yourself unwell or are worried about someone else please see your GP or contact NHS direct on 0845 4647 who will be able to refer you to local services, or contact The Samaritans on 08457 909090.