The following is taken from Nicky Ferry's mental heath and wellbeing column from this week's SNJ (Nov 28).

The approach of Christmas can stir up a complex range of feelings, some of which can be very conflicting.

The Christmas sparkle can make us feel cosy and nostalgic, reminding us of childhood innocence.

Yet running alongside this festive joy can be serious financial concerns about paying for gifts, extra food and travel.

While some people welcome spending time with their family, many do not and are filled with dread at the thought.

And what about those who don’t have a family to share Christmas with, those who are bereaved, separated or estranged from their families?

The expectations we hold individually, within our families and culturally about Christmas can be very high.

On top of this, the commercial aspect of Christmas is fun for many and yet overwhelming for others.

With increased awareness of global issues such as temperature change, the increasing pollution of our planet and our western attitude of entitlement, more and more people are seriously concerned about how over-indulgent Christmas can be.

What can we do to ease these stresses?

Given I work for a counselling organisation, I am bound to say that talking through your feelings with a professional is going to be helpful.

There is a great deal of evidence supporting the benefits of counselling, the main element of which is the very simple fact that we all love to be listened to, especially when the person listening has no agenda and provides us with their undivided attention.

Talking things over with a good friend can of course meet this need, provided the friend can really hear our concerns and you don’t feel a burden.

Other helpful tips I have come across include:

1. Lower your expectations, let go of perfection.

2. Give more experiences and charity donations, less gifts.

3. Make time for yourself.

4. Give yourself permission to say no.

5. Be kind to yourself - take the pressure off.

6. Use relaxation techniques, get fresh air and take exercise.

Nicky Ferry is a training development manager at the Gloucestershire Counselling Service in Stroud.

Contact GCS on 01453 766310 or see