As Christmas fast approaches, many of us will have mixed feelings about the upcoming festivities. What brings happiness to most, can also prove stressful for others.

For someone living with a mental illness, the holiday season presents many challenges, an can be associated with stress, sadness and loneliness.

An article published by Forbes on maintaining mental wellness during the holidays, reveals the condition of 64 per cent of people living with a mental illness worsened over the holiday period.

Factors such as family tensions, excessive alcohol consumption, poor food choices, isolation and financial concerns are the major sources of holiday-related emotional upheaval.

In particular, family-time was identified as the leading cause of stress. As such, the anticipation of spending time with family members for some, can trigger a surge in cortisol and other stress-related hormones.

Long-term activation of the stress response system, and subsequent over-exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can harm every system of the body. In turn, this leads to a multitude of chronic health problems, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, sleep disorders, pain, anxiety and depression.

Yet despite the challenges the festive season may bring for some, there are ways to maintain one’s mental health and wellbeing over Christmas and the New Year.

Importantly, be sure to minimise your exposure to stressful situations. This can be achieved by turning off the television and disconnecting from devices for a few hours every day.

Secondly, if you are unable to avoid difficult family situations, then try to set boundaries – change the subject of conversation, sit with someone else at Christmas lunch, or politely refrain from engaging with certain people.

Thirdly, focus on mindful practices best suited to your lifestyle, such as meditation, yoga, writing, walking, or light exercise. By practicing mindfulness prior to a family gathering, or for 15 minutes a day over the Christmas period, you may be able to preserve your mental health and wellbeing.

Importantly however, these tips may not help everyone.

If you are struggling with your mental health this Christmas and New Year, be sure to reach out to, and talk with a friend, see a counsellor or visit your GP for professional advice.

And remember, you are not alone.