Stress less this Christmas

Don’t panic! Our expert tips will help to keep seasonal stress at bay

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but often Christmas can feel like a big old stress-fest. With presents to buy, food to prepare and friends and family to entertain, many of us will feel our stress and anxiety levels rising. Here are our 12 steps to keep calm during the festive season.

1 Don’t be tempted to snack!
“It can be tempting to snack on foods high in sugar when the weather is colder and we want a quick energy boost,” says nutritional therapist Claire Barnes from Bio-Kult (www.bio-kult.com). “If you feel hungry between meals, reach for healthy snacks such as homemade energy balls, houmous and vegetable sticks or simply some dried fruits and nuts. Slow cooking food is great for a warming and easy to digest meal, ready in time for your return from a late-night Christmas shop.”

2 Watch the booze
“Many tend to overindulge on alcohol at this time of year, which increases the body’s toxic load,” says Claire. “Try to keep alcohol levels moderate, drink water in between and ideally alongside eating a meal, which will reduce some of the negative effects that alcohol has on our gut flora and digestive tract. Increasing the amount of antioxidants in your diet in the run up to the party season will also be beneficial. Ideally we should be eating seven portions of fruits and vegetables each day from a rainbow of different colours. Leafy greens, onions, garlic and berries are all high in antioxidants.”

3 Banish the coffee
“Swap your usual morning coffee for a strong green tea,” says nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner (www.mylondonnutritionist.com). “Many people do not realise how much caffeine there is in green tea, making it a perfect drink to perk you up first thing in the morning. It is full of very potent antioxidants and will help your liver to get rid of accumulated alcohol.”

4 Eat plenty of protein
“Eat protein (such as eggs, meat, fish) with every meal,” advises Kamilla. “Also eat plenty of healthy fats and masses of vegetables. Your body needs all the nutrients it can get to counteract unhealthy food cravings as a result of raised cortisol levels (the stress hormone).”

5 Balance your blood sugar
“If your stress is accompanied by feelings of demotivation and depression, it’s important to balance your blood sugar levels to ensure your energy is consistent,” says Kamilla. “Eat less sugar and refined carbs, lessen coffee and alcohol consumption and try and exercise regularly as it stimulates the thyroid gland.”

6 Boost your gut flora
“Stress, along with late nights, drinking alcohol and eating high sugar foods have all been shown to have a detrimental effect on the gut flora,” says Claire. “Supplementing your diet with live bacteria can help to restore the balance of the gut flora and improve immune function. Studies have shown many benefits in taking live bacteria supplements, including reduced incidence, symptoms and duration of colds and flu, reduced cravings for sugary foods and improved mood.”

7 Avoid taking on too much
“If you’re feeling like you need to rest, simply say no to some invitations, ditch those last few niggling jobs until after the new year and stop searching for presents when you feel you have done enough,” says Claire. “Likewise, if certain people or places make you feel stressed, opt instead to be around those that make you feel happy and use the internet as a calmer shopping experience!”

8 Watch your finances
“It’s really important to control your finances and not let your finances control you,” says Tam Johnston, a Mindologist from Fresh Insight Coaching (www.freshinsightcoaching.com). “If we feel out of control of any aspect of our life it’s often a catalyst for anxiety. Become pro-active with them ahead of time rather than only reacting when you find yourself struggling. Define what’s realistic for you in the upcoming Christmas period as well as over the longer term and put what you do have to good use, rather than worrying about what you can’t afford.”

9 Manage your expectations
“When we are given something or someone does something for us, we innately feel drawn to reciprocate in a similar fashion as it niggles at our inherent sense of fairness,” says Tam. “It’s evolution at its (unhelpful) best! So knock it on the head by managing expectations in advance so that everyone is on the same page. If they choose to spend above and beyond what you’ve specified anyway, then just enjoy their generosity. There will be a time you can repay in other ways should the need be too great to ignore.”

10 Ask for help
“There is one thing you should certainly say yes to at Christmas time: help!” says Alison Cullen, A.Vogel’s nutritional therapist (www.avogel.co.uk). “Be it from family or friends, say yes! Let the children hang up cards even if they won’t do them neatly and let partners/family take on chores if they should offer, even if they won’t be done perfectly. It’s all giving you smidgeons of time to recover.”

11 Learn to say no!
“Here’s a concept, especially for busy women,” says Alison. “Decline to take on any more projects. Limit your time and get as much help as possible if helping with the school play. Turn down those extra invitations. Refuse extra responsibility: now is not the time to take on running the allotment group, however much a secretary is needed. Each thing may seem small on its own, but you’ll have heard of the straw that broke the camel’s back? Offload as many straws as you can and see how much better you feel. Take Confidence Essence to help you say no if it’s not a word currently in your vocabulary.”

12 Try a natural stress-buster
If you can feel your stress levels rising, the soothing power of aromatherapy can be very effective in bringing about a sense of calm. Try the following blend devised by Andrea Butje:

Frankincense’s “My Body Is a Temple” body oil

  • 1 oz (30 ml) jojoba
  • 5 drops spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
  • 3 drops neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
  • 8 drops frankincense (Boswellia carterii)

Directions:
Make the blend in a 1oz (30 ml) glass bottle. Pour the jojoba into the bottle and add the essential oils.

Extracted from The Heart of Aromatherapy by Andrea Butje, Hay House UK, £14.99

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