People with mental illnesses should take care not to get stressed out over the festive season, the SA Depression and Anxiety Group said on Wednesday.
The Christmas holidays could be stressful for anyone, the organisation said in a statement.
But for people with illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder, it could lead to a worsening of symptoms.
People with illness should know their limits in the face of large crowds and huge family gatherings.
"Remember that your health comes first and if crowds and huge get-togethers aren’t your thing, opt to go to the smaller gatherings instead," the organisation said.
If large gatherings were unavoidable, sufferers should always have an exit strategy.
"Be prepared with an excuse beforehand - when you’re feeling out-of-sorts or in the midst of a melt-down, making up excuses isn’t really possible," it said.
It also warned that alcohol often interfered with medication, and could set people with mental illness on a roller-coaster of emotions.
"A few hours of pleasure aren't worth a week of pain."
People uncomfortable in crowds should do shopping online, or get friends to run errands.
They should also not forget to take their medication, and should be prepared to ask for professional help at the first sign of stress. - (SAPA, December 2009)