'Tis the season to be lonely and stressed

As Christmas cheer fades and the next lot of party prepping begins for New Year's Eve, spare a thought for the people who find all the festivities a bit too much.

Many, like Lara Demito, manage to juggle with ease their work, kids and everything that comes with Christmas.

"I go to work and then come home to my real job," the Bulli mum joked yesterday.

Grocery shopping with her four children - and one extra child she's babysitting - is like a walk in the park, even during Christmas.

But there are others who find this time of year extremely difficult, prompting mental health experts to warn people to be on the lookout for loved ones suffering in silence.

Lifeline Illawarra marketing manager Clare Leslie said people need to remember celebrations "don't have to be perfect".

"We all think Christmas needs to be this happy and festive time but it can be very difficult for a lot of people," Ms Leslie said.

"This time of year doesn't have to be perfect to be enjoyable. You are not responsible to ensure everybody's happiness."

Ms Leslie said many people had difficult reactions to the festive season and sought emotional support from Lifeline.

A large percentage of calls come from people with relationship issues - not just between couples, but with siblings anxious about being in the same room with difficult relatives for family gatherings.

"Loneliness and feelings of isolation also rate highly and that's when those sad feelings can really surface".

Ms Leslie urged people to take care of themselves and each other as they welcome 2013.

"Take time for yourself. Don't over drink, do something that you enjoy, even if its reading a book or gardening, whatever it is that makes you relax.

"It doesn't have to be what you're expected to do."

Minister for Mental Health Kevin Humphries reminded people to remember friends and family who may be sad, stressed or spending the holidays alone.

"We all lead very busy lives and with so much happening over the holiday season it can be easy to forget about those who might not be coping," Mr Humphries said.

The festive period can make existing problems seem even bigger and many people find it hard to cope with the demands of the season.

Mr Humphries said social pressure, financial stress, raised holiday expectations, increased feelings of loneliness and family interaction top the list as catalysts for holiday-related stress and anxiety.

"Some people grapple with family and relationship issues, others may be privately struggling with feelings of loneliness, depression or mental illness. Christmas time can also remind people of the loss of a loved one," he said.

Call Lifeline's 24-hour crisis telephone line on 13 11 14.

Pictured: Lara Demito, third from right, with her children Jai, Taj and Maliah, with nephew Zac Chimiak holding Jaxxs, at Corrimal. Photo: ADAM McLEAN

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