Research has shown 60 per cent of people in the UK find elements of Christmas stressful or depressing.

The Mental Health Foundation has launched a top ten countdown to avoid stress at Christmas. It aims to put relaxation at the top of everyone's Christmas list.

Ten: Avoid debt. Forecasts show this year we will spend £862 each on presents.

People can reduce the burden and stress of spending and debt at Christmas by making a budget and sticking to it.

If you use credit cards, pay off your balance in the two or three months following Christmas. If you restrict payments to the minimum, you will end up paying lots of interest.

Nine: Shop, don't drop. On average, people spend 15 hours looking for gifts over five trips, walking 20 miles of high street and spending two hours queuing. If you don't want to get retail rage this year, start shopping early and plan ahead.

Eight: Christmas spirits.

Alcohol is a major depressant and a risk factor for a range of physical and mental health problems.

This year, try and monitor how much you drink and stick to sensible drinking guidelines, which are 21 units a week for a man and 14 units for a woman.

Drink a glass of water after every glass of alcohol, and sip rather than gulp your Christmas tipple. Try to have at least one alcohol free day each week.

Seven: Don't be lonely.

Research shows one-in-ten people will be lonely at Christmas. If you don't want to be alone, try to contact someone who is also on their own and plan to meet up.

You can also arrange to do some volunteering at Christmas. You'll meet people while giving up your time for a good cause.

Six: If you're fed up with the commercial nature of Christmas, why not pop down to your local place of worship for an uplifting spiritual event. If you are not religious, find a local carol concert because it can be good fun to have a sing-along at Christmas.

Five: Family relationships.

Seeing family at Christmas can be a special occasion but for some families tension and stress is never too far beneath the surface. You can play non-competitive but fun and humorous games or watch a comedy programme that everyone enjoys. Don't feel responsible for everyone else's enjoyment, however.

Four: Over-indulgence.

Everyone is tempted to overeat at Christmas so it is a good time to start taking some exercise. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant - try a Boxing Day walk for starters.

Three: At number three is television tantrums. Either everyone wants to watch different programmes or someone wants the TV off.

The television at Christmas is a mine of entertainment gems but can also cause tension.

Try and plan what people want to watch and have the video and a spare tape ready for any disagreements.

Two: Get out of the kitchen.

Don't get saddled with all the work this year. Invite family members into the kitchen to bake the mince pies or Christmas cake - it can be a fun social activity. It might be wise to plan ahead and make Christmas foods in advance and freeze them so you can enjoy Christmas day outside the kitchen.

One: Make time for yourself.

Christmas is a time of giving so give yourself some time off from worry and stress. Research has shown complementary therapies such as massage, essential oils and acupuncture are great at inducing relaxation.

If you want something cheap and effective to ease your worries, try meditation:

Take yourself off to a quiet room, sit down on the floor, close your eyes, breath deeply and on every out breath say the word "relax".

Meditating can help keep you stress-free, happy and full of energy for the festive season.

For more details and
advice, contact the Mental Health Foundation on 0207 802 0304 or go to website