DRAFT 6 practical steps to quash festive stress havoc, put the joy back into Christmas, instead of dreading it.
It’s meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ but the pressure of the the lead in to Christmas and the festive season itself can often mean a stress overload. Here’s six tips to help you take back control.
Though you look forward to it all year, when Christmas arrives the experience can be pretty overwhelming. Trying to get everything ready in time can be incredibly stressful. And small wonder. Money worries, family tensions, pressure to socialise. If you struggle to stay at your happy weight or often turn to food as a way of coping or rewarding yourself, being surrounded by treats and snacks over the holidays is a nightmare.
Managing stress levels is important for your health in the long term because stress is implicated in so many different chronic diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems.
If you’re thinking you don’t fall into the ‘I’m not stressed enough to be making myself ill’ category, don’t be fooled. The drip-drip-drip of everyday stress can be as damaging as major life incident-related stress (such as death and divorce), so don’t wait to take action. It’s also worth considering that stress makes it very hard to lose weight, and you’re much more likely to store it around the middle. This is because the human body hasn’t evolved much since caveman times, when the extra energy was stored where it was most easily accessed, so it could be used to run away from the saber-toothed tiger.
It's time to halt the Christmas struggle. Here are my top 6 ways to keep stress under control in the run up to Christmas and the festive holidays:
The 10-minute mind trick:
Set aside 3 slots of 10 minutes each daily to practice a mindful activity such as meditation. If you’re new to meditation or need more support, use a guided meditation app or meditation videos on Youtube to lead you through the process.
Love your body with food and hydrate:
Erratic eating times and skipping meals can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels, which leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s difficult when routines go out the window, but try to stick to three meals (with two, optional snacks-with-benefits) a day and your digestion will thank you for it. Base your meals around sufficient protein, fibre, healthy fats, fibre rich vegetables, beans, berries and wholegrains, sprouted food, fermented foods like sauerkraut. A good guide is the 80% healthy and 20% less nutritious foods.
It's about eating real food which is not a juice cleanse, just good quality, honest food as outlined above and limit or remove sugars, white bread/pasta/rice and alcohol.
Keep a handle on how many cups of tea and coffee you have, watch the fizzy drinks (diet or otherwise).
Check out my blog "why you must love your menopausal body with food" for more tips.
Be mindful to hydrate sufficiently for your needs. Your body will thank you for it.
Cut back on alcohol and caffeine:
I know it’s hard, especially at Christmas when socialising revolves around drinking, but try ditching (or significantly reducing) your alcohol and caffeine intake. Caffeine causes a release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands - the last thing you want if you are already stressed! At first, alcohol might help to relax you when you’re stressed out (by promoting the release of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter), but it is quickly metabolised to sugar that can lead to a restless sleep, which leads me onto my next tip.
Get into a sleep routine that includes relaxing practices such as taking a warm bath with Magnesium salts, light reading or stretching. Introduce a digital free zone at least an hour before bed (that means no phones, no TV, no laptops or computer tablets), so as not to disrupt melatonin production (the sleep hormone). A light snack such as an oatcake with almond butter may help to support undisturbed sleep.
Eat magnesium-rich meals:
Magnesium relaxes the nervous system and muscles so eating foods rich in this mineral, such as leafy greens, avocados, sesame seeds and spinach can help with stress.
- Get to the cause: Look at the root cause to any stress in your life, and think about how you respond to it in a more resilient way. Seek professional help if you need it.
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