With the hope that this Christmas provides more normality than last year, people are hurriedly preparing for the festivities ahead. However, given the toll that the last year (and almost two) has taken on people's energy levels, patience and stress levels, just surviving and getting through Christmas and all that it brings (often fun and stress in equal measures), can be challenging for many. So here are some top tips to get you through the Christmas season relatively unscathed.
Keeping Stress under Control:
Even if you love Christmas, there are inevitable stressors associated with it that can really raise the blood pressure and stress hormone levels. Whether that be panic buying, food preparation, present wrapping or remembering you have forgotten to invite a relative, there are things you can do to try and reduce your stress.
Avoid the caffeine - Caffeine is a drug that is a stimulant and stimulants are not what you need when you and your body are feeling stressed. Caffeine consumption affects a number of hormones in the body and its effects can last for a few hours, so don’t reach for the coffee when your blood pressure is already high with stress!
Don’t use alcohol as a crutch - Although the consumption of alcohol, in small amounts, can indeed induce feelings of relaxation and have a sedative effect, it is also a depressant. One glass of wine for example could well be beneficial for calming nerves, but if this is relied upon then the body can build up a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol and then more is needed to have the same effects. So of course have a festive drink, just don’t use it as a crutch at times of stress, enjoy it socially when you are feeling relaxed!
Eat your sprouts - This green vegetable may get a lot of flak at Christmas as it’s not known for its popularity, but love them or hate them there is no denying they are rich in nutrients, one of which is magnesium, which helps induce relaxation and reduce stress. Magnesium has a massive part to play in the release and uptake of serotonin, the body’s happy hormone, and so can help stabilize our mood. Magnesium is often referred to as the ‘calming mineral’ due to the positive, calming influence it can have on our nervous systems. Many studies have actually shown that when we are under stress, especially prolonged stress, magnesium stores in our body become depleted. In other words, the more stress our body is under, the more magnesium we use up. So when you see these appear on your plate this year think of them as friends not foes!
Step Outside – As the saying goes ‘If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’ and there is bound to be a time during the holidays when your limit has been reached and you need to escape for your own sanity. When this happens, go outside and take a little walk. Research now shows the huge link between being outside in nature and improved mood and stress reduction. One study in ‘Mind’ showed that 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from stressed, depressed and anxious to more calm and balanced.
Beating the Christmas Bloat
Christmas is a time when many people over indulge. That can be in terms of the amount that is eaten, but also the types of food that are eaten (or drunk!!), but this overindulgence can lead to bloated bellies and unfamiliar bowel movements, both of which can leave its toll on how we feel, which is usually sluggish! So, make sure you have a little consideration for your stomach this year by helping it along as follows:
Spices – There are many spices associated with the traditional Christmas, such as cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and some of these can be very friendly for your digestive system too. Cloves have anti-flatulent properties and are often thought of as the most effective herbal remedy to reduce bloating and gas, as well as being helpful in alleviating nausea. It is also one of the main herbal remedies used to alleviate hangover symptoms so definitely a first aid essential over the Christmas period. Cinnamon is not just good for hanging on the tree or burning in a candle, it can be very helpful for speeding up a sluggish digestive system, so can help resolve bloating caused by this. Some research has shown it is also good at helping to maintain blood sugar levels. You can easily add it to drinks and sip it throughout the day.
Herbs – Fennel is known for its anti-flatulent properties, so excellent in reducing gas, which can affect many during the Christmas period, especially after all those sprouts and gassy alcoholic beverages!! Fennels seeds can be steeped in hot water for 20 minutes, to make a delicious tea which can be drunk to help alleviate gas (do not consume the seeds though, just the infused water).
Remember to chew – This may sound a silly and obvious thing to say when it comes to eating, but many people eat too quickly, which is not beneficial for health. Eating quickly can cause a lot of air to be taken in with the food, which can lead to stomach bloating and excess gas, two main symptoms that many people suffer with and which can cause a lot of discomfort. Acid reflux is also shown to increase when food is eaten quickly, so slowing down your eating should help to reduce the incidence of reflux too. Slowing down your eating and giving your digestive tract a little more time to process the foods can be a helpful strategy at any time, but especially at Christmas when a lot of food is often consumed over a short period of time.
With the late nights, hangovers and food excesses usually common at Christmas, our energy levels can often take a big dive, so knowing how to reduce these feelings of lethargy and sluggishness can be another helpful tactic in surviving Christmas.
Portion size – You may be one of the millions of people planning to start a new healthy eating regime come the New Year, however why not start a bit early and reduce your Christmas food portion sizes. This will not only help your waistline, but will also make you feel less lethargic and sluggish too. On average we are now eating 20-25% more calories than we did in 1970 and this is mainly down to portion sizes which have grown hugely since that time. One easy strategy to reduce portion size is to eat your meal off a smaller side plate and not a large dinner plate. The mind is an amazing thing and having a full plate of food, all be it a smaller side plate, will still psychologically result in you thinking you have had a big meal, yet your portion sizes will be far more controlled and you won’t feel as sleepy afterwards. Just don’t create a food tower instead.
Remember to drink – I am not talking alcohol here, but water!! Dehydration is one of the main causes of fatigue and tiredness and the busyness of Christmas and all the rushing around can cause us to forget to keep up our liquid intake. Even 5% dehydration in the body negatively impacts our energy levels. Drinking a glass of water about twenty minutes before a meal will also help you feel fuller, so you will also consume less food and not suffer with postprandial somnolence (otherwise known as sleepiness after eating or a food coma!!).
you are celebrating Christmas this year, using the above top tips may just help
you survive it that little bit better and make it a less stressful, less
bloated and more energised event!