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‘Tis the season to be jolly but for some people Christmas can be a stressful, or even depressing time of year.

While the festive season is meant to be a joyous time of parties, presents and spending time with loved ones, for those of us with financial difficulties, grief or family troubles, feelings of stress, loneliness and isolation can be exacerbated.

So if you are finding Christmas less merry than it should be, here are some tips to put the fun back into the silly season.

do it your own way  

Don’t try and keep up with the Jones’s – plan a Christmas that suits your circumstances, budget and mood. For example, if planning a big feast at home stresses you out or puts pressure on your budget, make it more casual this year by asking everyone to bring a plate. Or better yet, consider going outdoors for a picnic or beach barbeque.

Similarly, don’t put pressure on yourself to follow every tradition. If you don’t want to put-up a Christmas tree, don’t have time to decorate your house, or don’t fancy having certain friends around for Christmas drinks this year, don’t. And if you’re family doesn’t get along very well, it’s perfectly ok to go out to a restaurant to limit the time you have to spend together. It’s your celebration, so feel free to do it your way.

limit expectations

Just because it’s Christmas, doesn’t mean you’re suddenly transformed into Martha Stewart. So if your home doesn’t look like it comes out of an interior design magazine, or you burn the turkey, try not to worry about it.

Similarly, don’t expect too much of everyone else. Remember others may be under stress too so try to be as understanding as possible.

If you’re family has been feuding for some time, don’t expect it stop just because it’s Christmas. Instead try to stay calm, limit your alcohol intake and choose both who you talk to and your topics of conversation wisely. Another good idea to ease tension is to plan an activity like a board game or outdoor cricket.

look after yourself

It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed, lonely or depressed at this time of year but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.

Some good coping mechanisms are to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, eat healthily, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly and take time out to do things you enjoy. Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs to get you through.

If you’re feeling isolated or alone, consider getting more involved in your community. Volunteering can be a great way to help you feel more connected, while embracing the spirit of good will.

But if you’re finding it hard to cope with day-to-day things, seek professional help. You can find details of a counsellor in your local area in the beyondblue Directory of Medical and Allied Health Practitioners or your local doctor should also be able to suggest someone.

take care of loved ones

Be aware that Christmas can be a difficult time for some people and not everyone may be feeling quite as merry as you are. For example, they may feel overextended, miss love ones that have passed away, or be stressed out by rising debt. Those with family difficulties or who have just gone through a relationship break-may feel incredibly lonely and isolated.

Be sensitive to the people you care about and if someone isn’t coping, encourage them to seek help.

If you or someone you love needs some emotional support, Lifeline has counsellors available 24 hours a day, and the call does not show up on your phone bill. Call 13 11 14.

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