Christmas and New Year can be challenging time for many people living with mental health issues.  Below are some tips and suggestions on how to get through this time.

1. Plan Quiet Time
If you know that you are going to be around more people than usual over the Christmas period plan in some times when you have some quiet time to recharge.  Socialising can be exhausting, especially if it's not something you are used to doing or you are going to around people you would not normally see.  Having some time out, even if its just 10 or 15 minutes here or there can be a lifeline and allow you time to catch your breath.  Some examples of activities that allow this quiet space include dog walking, washing up after a meal, taking a bath or shower, reading a good book or magazine, meditation or prayer, puzzles and jigsaws and watching a film or TV programme.

2. Limit Alcohol Intake
It's tempting, especially when it's a celebration, to drink a little more than usual.  The difficulty with this is that alcohol can intensify emotions, so if you are feeling sad then you may feel worse.  It can also lower inhibitions so be mindful of the people you are socialising with and watch that you don't say more than you would like.  If you decide to drink a little more try to avoid drinking on an empty stomach and consider alternating alcoholic drinks with non alcoholic drinks.  Also if you are prescribed medication check out how it interacts with alcohol.  Ideally ask your doctor or the pharmacist at your local chemist.  Medications should also come with some guidance notes with contraindications and this can also guide you as to the suitability of mixing alcohol with medication.

3. Check Medication
If you take regular medication check that you have enough to last you through this period and put in any repeat prescription in plenty of time.  Many surgeries and pharmacies take about 3 working days to process prescriptions but giving yourself a full week will give you some leeway in case there are any issues that need ironing out.  Also if you have a medication that you just take during difficult times check that you have enough and that it hasn't expired.  Your pharmacist should be able to help you if you are not sure.

4. Aim for Authenticity with Emotions
It's not always possible or appropriate to be completely honest about your feelings but try to avoid completely masking your emotions.  This can lead to feeling under pressure and can make the act of socialising feel false and like you are acting a part.  You may not feel safe enough with the people you are with to be completely yourself so sticking with vague and general comments about your health and mood maybe better.  They will allow you to feel truthful without feeling too vulnerable or exposed.

5.  Maintain Social Contacts
If you are someone who has less social contacts and is likely to be alone over the festive holidays then look for other ways you can reduce any feelings of loneliness or isolation.  Try and get out of the house every day over the holiday period, even if you are just going for a short walk around your local area or walking in your local park.  On Christmas Day going for a post Christmas meal walk is a popular way to fight the feelings of lethargy that can come after eating a big meal so timing your walk around that time will offer you the best opportunity to see other people.  Also many voluntary organisations such as night shelter and animal charities welcome extra assistance over this period.  If this is something you think you would like to do make sure you contact any agencies in advance to find out if you need to complete any paperwork or attend a volunteer induction prior to helping out.  If you identify with a faith group then places of worship can also provide some opportunities for socialising and seeing people.  Social media and online forums offer another option for socialising and staying in touch with friends and family.

6. Keep Occupied
If you are expecting to spend the holiday period alone this year then try to plan in activities to keep you occupied over the festive period.  Hobbies like gardening, caring for pets, creative hobbies and sporting or exercise based activities will all help to keep you occupied.  Also check the useful links part of this site for links to other websites that may help you to fill your time.

7. Reach Out for Help if Needed
Although most statutory organisations close for part of the Christmas and New Year there will still be many voluntary services and emergency services still available.  Organisations like the Samaritans open 24hrs every day of the year.  Other services like Sane, No Panic, Combat Stress and Silverline will also be open for at least part of every day over the period.  To find your nearest A & E unit, out of hours clinics and emergency services click on the link for the NHS website.  Check their websites for more information or their exact opening hours and the types of support they offer.  Also check the worksheets section for a contact sheet that you can print out and keep to hand.