The festive season is usually a time for enjoyment, socialising and having fun. But it can be difficult for people in Leicestershire who struggle to keep themselves feeling upbeat.
So as part of their New Start, New You campaign West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is encouraging people to take steps to help themselves stay positive at this potentially lonely time.
Dr Peter Cannon, a Loughborough GP and Board member of West Leicestershire CCG, said: “While everyone knows winter increases the risk of many common illnesses, it is not so widely known that it can also affect people’s emotional wellbeing.
“People’s sense of loneliness and isolation is increased by the knowledge that so many others are enjoying the support and company of their families and friends. It can lead to an emotional and mental health crisis.
“We encourage people to not wait until the new year to make resolutions about a new start and to make positive changes to their life which will help keep them feeling upbeat throughout the festive period.”
Staying active is a great way to fend off the winter blues. There is evidence that as little as 20 minutes of gentle walking every day can help improve your mood, and getting out and socialising is a great way to keep yourself feeling good. Sometimes when you’re feeling down it can feel a struggle to do everyday things such as visiting friends and even just leaving the house can feel too much of a challenge. It’s important to try your best to face these fears and try to overcome them – it often gets easier the more you do it.
It can be easy to slip out of your normal routine over Christmas and if you’re already feeling low, this can help you get into poor sleep patterns such as staying up late and sleeping during the day. Even if your social or work routines change, you should still try to get up at your normal time and make sure to keep having regular meals. The Christmas period also offers many opportunities to drink alcohol, and if you’re already feeling low, it could be tempting to overindulge. But the reality is that alcohol can often make people feel more depressed. So although it’s great to get out and have fun, if you are using drinking as a way of coping, masking your emotions or to fill your time, it’s important to try and cut down and if possible stop completely.
You are not alone
Although these changes and tips can help make a difference, West Leicestershire CCG advises that if someone is feeling low, there is help available from the NHS and voluntary organisations which offer timely friendly support.
Dr Cannon added: “It’s a common misconception that everything is closed over Christmas apart from A&E. But for people who feel unwell and need urgent but not emergency help, there is the Urgent Care Centre at Loughborough Hospital, as well as the one at Leicester Royal Infirmary. They are open all day every day.”
People with medical health needs – as well as those with emotional or mental health needs – can also call the NHS free helpline, 111. However, people who have felt suicidal or have self-harmed really should attend A&E.
Other organisations provide round-the-clock support, including Silver Line, a support team for the elderly, whose 24/7 helpline is 0800 4 70 80 90. Their motto is: No problem too big. No problem too small. No need to be alone.
You can also ring SANEline, a specialist mental health helpline on 0845 767 8000 between 6pm and 11pm each evening. Or you can ring the Samaritans any time of the day or night on 08457 90 90 90. They offer a listening service.