Christmas is hopefully a time to relax, rejoice and reconnect with loved ones, but the festive season can be fraught with feelings of fatigue and angst, more often than not caused by an excess of all the trimmings. If you don’t prioritise well-being, combining an already busy schedule with demanding festive feats that fill up your calendar, can be all-consuming, leaving you utterly exhausted for the year ahead.
So how do we find a healthy balance for our mind and body?
1. Leave the Heavy Load to Rudolph
Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of year. Often we’re working right up until Christmas Eve; the in-laws are on a plane bound directly for your house, your tree looks dismal without any gifts wrapped while your shopping list grows longer by the second. First things first, take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
Only buy gifts for those who really are on your ‘nice’ list. Don’t get caught up trying to please everyone who’s ever crossed your path or liked your Facebook page.
Too frantic to get to the shops and would frankly rather avoid them? These days it’s easy to shop online and have your gifts delivered right to your front door.
Dreading making Christmas lunch? Order in and save yourself the hassle. There are plenty of places with festive menus for every budget. Otherwise, rally in the troops and ask everyone to contribute.
If you can manage, plan ahead…there’s no reason Christmas preparations can’t start early. Remember to use any tools available to keep you feeling festive, not frazzled!
2. Sleep in Heavenly Peace
It’s tempting to mingle during festive season shenanigans, but if you’ve got work the next day, you’ll pay the price.
Getting good quality sleep is key to physical and mental health. Studies show people who get less than seven hours a night are at increased risk of high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. Even setting the alarm for an early morning workout can be detrimental if it means your sleep is diminished. Sleep allows the body to repair itself, so skimping on it can affect the body’s capacity to heal.
The festive season makes it easy to overindulge in alcohol, which plays a key role in sleep quality. Drinking too much causes blood sugar levels to fall, so we are more prone to waking in the middle of the night, as well as being dehydrated. So instead of feeling burnt out, make sleep a priority and power through the holidays.
3. Don’t Be the Sole Stocking Stuffer
Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re supposed to enjoy Christmas. You get so caught up in making it a magical moment for the kids, ensuring the office party is perfect or getting a project ticked off before the holiday, you forget to savour the spirit of the season.
Slow down before Santa comes to town. Do those work appointments really need to be scheduled for Christmas Eve? Do you need to make those extra rum balls at midnight? Do those presents all need gigantic bows tied perfectly? Lower expectations and try to remember this is not Santa’s workshop! Take an hour out to clear your head. It’ll leave you feeling more focused and ready to tackle that list. Don’t be afraid to be selfish and unsociable, even just for a day.
4. Say No to the Trimmings
This applies to all facets of festive season, even the party buffet.
It’s normal to give into Christmas cravings but adopt the ‘less is more’ rule and refrain from binge eating. That third Christmas mince pie won’t do you any favours, nor will one last martini. Alternating alcohol with glasses of water really can eliminate a crushing hangover.
This is a time invites tend to come thick and fast so if you find yourself inundated, prioritise those most important to you. You don’t have to attend every shindig.
It can feel like your home has a revolving door. It’s ok to say no to unwanted house guests. If everyone wants to pop in for a Christmas drink, suggest meeting at the pub up the road instead.
If your budget doesn’t permit lavish gifts for every family member, suggest pitching in for one present or just getting the kids gifts.
5. Unplug Everything But the Christmas Lights
Most of us are attached to our mobiles and laptops 24/7. A Time Mobility Poll found that 84 per cent of us claim we’d struggle without our phones for a single day. Make the festive season technology-free, at least some of the time. Avoid the temptation to check emails or social media on Christmas Day. We are all too easily caught up in FOMO or the ‘fear of missing out’. Powering down gives you the space to focus on the people you’re with and give your brain the break it deserves.
6. Give Yourself a Christmas Gift
It may seem indulgent, but shelling out for a massage can ease stress levels.
Most of us know its benefits in reducing muscle pain, but studies indicate that it can also improve mood, sleep quality and reduce stress. Research conducted at Umea University in Sweden concluded that massage treatments activate a region called the perennial anterior cingulate cortex in the brain which is linked to sensations of happiness. So if Christmas is a time when you’d rather climb under a blanket and hibernate, perhaps a little R&R can help you stay focused on feeling festive.
7. There’s Only One Big Man in the Red Suit
You’ve been training like a person possessed in the lead-up to the festive season, determined to look your best in Christmas snaps, but during party season it’s easy to convince yourself you’ve crossed the finish line and let your exercise schedule slide like Santa’s sleigh.
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that the average gain over the holidays is one pound but that adds up, year after year, and becomes much harder to lose. As well as keeping your body in check, experts say, keeping exercise a priority means you’ll be primed to cope better with those late nights and overindulgences.
Plus you’ll sleep better once your head actually hits the pillow, as people who exercise regularly are generally happier and less stressed.
Exercise is also a great antidepressant so if Christmas is a tough time, put down that glass of mulled wine and hightail it to your favourite fitness haunt.
8. Gift of Time
Life today is more fast-paced and demanding than ever before. After an action-packed year, the festive season is the perfect time to rejuvenate.
Make the most of the fact that things are winding down. If you have a stressful job and work on weekends, take some time out to spend with loved ones. If your budget permits, escape somewhere that’s far removed and switch off. Dutch researchers investigating the effects of holidays report that short trips (four to five days) can have equally positive effects on health and well- being as longer getaways.
9. Don’t Rain on Your Own Parade
Overspending during the festive season can make you hot under the collar. It’s easy to get carried away when the shops are aglow with sale signs and pretty packages. Make a budget and stick to it. Have fancy parties that need attending? Forego the temptation to buy a new look for every occasion. Going on holiday? Book ahead to get the best deals. Leaving it until the last minute will mean your wallet takes a hefty hit. Plan ahead and to ensure you can cover the cost of your yuletide celebrations.
10. Send Positive Tidings
Christmas can be a time when emotions run high. Negative thinking can trigger your body’s stress, or ‘fight or flight’ response. Focus on what really makes you happy. If you’re single, remember it’s only another day; try volunteering or rounding up others who are unattached.
If someone close to you has passed away, acknowledge your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be jolly, but a family gathering may give you reason to smile through tough times.
An optimistic outlook will help you cope with challenges (including difficult family members) that come your way!