Christmas comes but once a year and it’s a time for fun, reflection on the past 12 months and an opportunity to wind down. But, for some, Christmas Day and the lead up to it can be extremely stressful. Then it’s all over in the blink of an eye. But with a bit of planning, you can have an enjoyable and stress-free festive season.
Here are some suggestions for making sure your pre-Christmas preparation goes smoothly. All these are naturopathically focused, to help you feel relaxed and in control of having and organising a great celebration.
- Make sure you have your Christmas cards, at least three weeks beforehand. If time is tight due to working commitments, order them online. You could take a family photo for the front of your Christmas card, to simplify things.
- Consider buying the stamps beforehand this saves a lot of time and pre-empts any disappointment with the post office running out of stamps. You can write and post them immediately. One thing out of the way!
- If you have children, get them to write out their Santa lists three weeks before Christmas. This way, you can organise buying presents to avoid any disappointment, or reserve them and get them delivered straight to work so kids don’t get a chance to find them hidden at home. If delivered at home, make sure you don’t take them out of their boxes until kids are at school. Then wrap them up and hide them somewhere safe or in the loft.
- If you’re planning a traditional turkey dinner, it’s a good idea to place your order now from your local butchers or store and picking it up on the 24th of December. This way it’s fresh and it won’t take up any space in your fridge/freezer. More space for other Christmas goodies. If you decide to order a frozen turkey, it normally takes 72 hours to thaw so make sure you incorporate this time into your preparation.
- Your Christmas food shopping for those who like to shop: consider buying things at least a week or two before the Christmas rush. Things such as turkey stuffing, after dinner mints and drinks. You may even pick up some bargain prices if you buy a few weeks before the big day. In the days leading up to Christmas, go through your shopping list to make sure you’ve not missed anything out. The more you prepare the less stress you will endure, plus you will feel organised and in control. These two things equal no stress. If you have someone in the family who is artistic, get them to make some table decorations. You can get materials in places like Hobbycraft. Get them to buy all the items they need a few weeks before Christmas, another task crossed off your list.
- If you find yourself feeling a little anxious, close your eyes, take three or four deep breaths. When you inhale make sure that your abdomen gently fills with air and not the chest, then hold for three seconds and exhale as deeply as you can and hold for three seconds and so on. This will calm you both physically and mentally to enable you to re-focus.
- Make a list of foods you need for Christmas, this way you won’t forget anything.
- Internet shopping can be very useful when you don’t have a lot of time to go to the high street or simply don’t like facing the Christmas crowds. Try booking your delivery slot first thing in the morning, to get better delivery options. Here is a template I found, which may be helpful and time saving. https://bit.ly/2Byrbfd
Foods that can help with stress
Here are some foods that aid stress. As a naturopath and stress management consultant, I would recommend these foods.
- Linseeds: a major source of lignans (probiotic) that may influence hormone function. A controlled study found that adding 30 grams per day of freshly ground linseed reduces the blood pressure elevating effect of mental stress and reduced stress-related changes in fibrinogen, a blood component associated with increased risk of heart disease. (ref: 1. Spence JD, Thornton T, Muir AD, Westcott ND. The effect of flax seed cultivars with differing content of alpha-linolenic acid and lignans on responses to mental stress. J Am Coll Nutr 2003;22:494-501.)
- Oily Fish and unrefined sunflower seeds, pumpkin and hemp seeds: These all work to lower an inflammatory response triggered by stress.
- Herbal teas: Liquorice tea will help support adrenal function. It contains an active ingredient that stimulate the adrenal gland, this helps promotes a healthy level of cortisol in the body (Note: those with blood pressure issues should consult their doctors before taking liquorice). There are other teas such as camomile and valerian tea, that also help with stress and promote calmness.
- Turkey: Why do you think people feel sleeping after their Christmas lunch? This meat contains an amino acid called tryptophan, this induces a sleepy calm sensation.
- Stress breaks protein down quickly: Eating a good level of protein at breakfast and lunch helps you maintain balanced blood sugar levels, as high levels of stress hormones, drive blood sugar levels up. Other supportive foods are, eggs, lean organic meat, fish, quinoa, lentils, amaranth, tofu, cheese, beans and pulses are good options.
- Oats: These are rich in B vitamins which aid calmness. I sometime recommend gluten free oats, if someone is suffering from lack of focus and fatigue.
Healthier options for Christmas
- Prepare the veggies: on the 24th, start cutting and peeling, get your partner, friend(s) to help you, this is a great team building exercise, and great for family bonding time.
- Trimmings time: prepare the stuffing on the 24th along with the veggies. As this blog is written by a naturopath, here is my alternative to using sausage meat. Why not try a chestnut or fruit-based version of the stuffing? When you’re cutting up roasties, cut them large. Potatoes absorb less fat during roasting as it has a smaller combined surface, this applies for other veggies i.e. parsnips.
- Serving bread sauce? Try making it with semi-skimmed milk and add a clove of minced-up garlic for extra flavour.
- When making gravy, skim off all the extra fat with a baster.
- Instead of cream, why not use Greek yogurt with your dessert. You can add some cinnamon or a little honey for sweetness or blend some fruit and add it into the yogurt.
By the end, you will feel that you’ve accomplished a successful healthy stress-free pre and post-Christmas. The great thing will be that you’ll enjoy it and feel relaxed with loved ones. If you’d like to catch up with me during the New Year to discuss project work, please feel free to drop me a line, I’d be happy to discuss workshops/health talks for your company, to start 2019 healthy, wealthy and wise.
On behalf of Future Health Management – Christina Martin would like to wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.