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²gether NHS Foundation Trust is encouraging people to safeguard their mental health and wellbeing this festive season. The Trust, which provides specialist mental health and learning disability services in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, has shared its “Twelve Tips of Christmas” to help combat the stresses and strains of the festive season.

Jan Bagnall, Clinical Lead for the North Team of ²gether NHS Foundation Trust’s Let’s Talk service, said: “The festive season can be a particularly challenging time for our stress levels. Christmas is often thought of as being a time for enjoyment and getting together with family and friends.

“But it’s also a time when the pressure to be seen to be having a good time can feel overwhelming for some.

“Christmas can be a very demanding time. It brings with it lots of additional stresses and involves a lot of expectation, expense and organisation.

“Also, some people can find it a lonely and potentially sad time – particularly if they are far away from people they miss or their loved ones are no longer alive.

“We want people to enjoy their Christmas and spend the time relaxing and resting. We hope our tips for coping with the festive season might make that achievable.

“We also want to remind people that there is support available if you are struggling with your mental health.”

Let’s Talk’s 12 top tips are:

  • Be realistic about what can be achieved and afforded. Don’t aim for perfection – you are more likely to be disappointed.
  • Plan in advance. Making lists of the jobs to do, presents to buy and groceries you’ll need helps to organise your thoughts, prevents you forgetting something (or someone) and makes it easier to stick to a budget. Leaving all your preparations until the last minute can cause unnecessary stress, but planning ahead can save you time and money.
  • Share the work out. Don’t take on every responsibility, such as shopping, cooking and coordinating engagements just because you always do. Ask someone else to help you out – people are often grateful to be asked.
  • Make sure you get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Both are scientifically proven to improve mental health and wellbeing.
  • Don’t drink to excess. Alcohol is a depressant and drinking excessive amounts can cause low mood, irritability or potentially aggressive behaviour. By not exceeding the recommended number of safe units you will be better able to sustain good mental and physical wellbeing.
  • The festive period has become synonymous with over-indulgence. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can improve your mood and can work towards preventing symptoms of lethargy and irritability that many of us feel during the busy festive season and dark winter months.
  • Try not to spend too much money. Gifts are not the most important part of Christmas and you may be storing up problems for the future if you get yourself into debt.
  • Help other people. Helping and giving to others will benefit the recipient of the help as well as yourself. This could be as simple as visiting a lonely neighbour or volunteering.
  • Take a break. If the family is getting too much, take some time out. A spot of meditation or a walk in fresh air will help. Try not to let tensions mount.
  • Be sure to check up on family and friends, particularly the elderly and vulnerable. Loneliness can be a particular issue over Christmas, so try to make sure no one spends the whole time without visitors or company.
  • Get enough sleep. A good sleep pattern can help you maintain good mental health, make you feel more alert and able to cope better with stress.
  • Try to spend some time relaxing. Remember to rest, spend some time just ‘being’ and take a break from ‘doing’.

If you are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed leading up to, or after, the Christmas break you can contact Let’s Talk on 0800 073 2200, or visit www.talkghc.nhs.uk. If you have serious concerns about your mental health, speak to your GP.

The Samaritans anticipate an increase in calls around Christmas each year. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via 116 123. Do not hesitate to call them if you need support.