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5 ways to manage stress at Christmas

Simple tips for great energy and mood over the festive season

Christmas can be an amazing time of year that brings family and friends together but it can also be a really stressful and busy period. Not just with the usual festive jobs and activities but also the new ‘Covid Christmas’ we’re having to get used to. I think as parents we can also put a ridiculous amount of pressure on ourselves to give our children and loved ones the best time, but that can come at a price as we rush about and gradually run ourselves down.

This is where my 5 tips come in. These are simple recommendations that can easily be included in your daily routine and help manage any festive stress.

Tip 1 : Protein with each meal.

This is a simple but very effective way at managing stress.  Why? It helps control our blood sugar because when we are rushing around, feeling overwhelmed or worrying about something it becomes unbalanced, rising too high too quickly then dropping too low.  This can lead to more cortisol being released and a stronger stress response. I think it’s especially important to get protein into breakfast as it starts the day right so add nuts and seeds to porridge, have some eggs with your toast, or natural yoghurt with your fruit. Keeping blood sugar levels stable means good energy and happy mood which is something we’d all like to put on our Christmas list.

Tip 2 : Mindful Eating

It’s so easy when we’re busy to rush our meals, eat on the go and not even taste, appreciate or enjoy our food.  Our digestion can suffer and we can experience symptoms like acid reflux, indigestion and bloating.  Eating when busy means we’re not digesting our food properly and therefore we’re not getting the nutrients we need from it.  Mindless eating can also mean we over eat which for some leads to negative emotions and further stress.  

Some simply ways to start eating more mindfully include:

Be present - let go of technology

Eat slowly – enjoy what you eat and not rush

Chew thoroughly – savour the taste of each mouthful

Check in on your hunger levels – stop when you’re full.

Enjoy your meal, whatever it is, without judgment

Tip 3: Get Outside

Spending time outdoors can give your mental health a boost and reduce stress levels. Some studies have shown that even just 20 minutes of being in nature each day can reduce stress levels.   Natural light can also boost out mood and create a feeling of wellbeing, so it can be the perfect antidote after a hard day at work or busy day of Christmas shopping.   So, wrap up and head out somewhere green.

Tip 4: Keep Hydrated

This sounds too easy doesn’t it but there is a link between reducing stress and hydration. Drinking water wont magically make our stress go away but if we are well hydrated it means our body has one less stress to deal with.  Our bodies need water to function properly so if your body is dehydrated it isn’t running well.  If you already stressed (aka rushing about all the time) you’re likely to be more dehydrated as your heart rate is up and you’re breathing quicker - losing more fluid.  You’re also more likely to forget to drink and get enough fluids making the hydration situation worse and your body then responds to that stress, producing more cortisol.

Remembering to drink more isn’t always the easiest habit to master.  What I find helps is to have cues so you don’t have to remember.   Here’s a few hydration tips you may find useful to increase your water intake:

have a large glass of water at the ready for when you wake up, it could be by your bedside table or next to the kettle in the kitchen

take water with you when you’re out and about so you always have it at hand. If its next to you, it’s a reminder and accessible so you can drink more.

flavour your water to make it more enjoyable so you are inclined to drink more - add slices of lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, mint, berries.

every time you have a meal, have a glass of water with it – associate eating with drinking water.

swap a cup of tea or coffee for a more hydrating herbal tea or hot water and lemon instead.

Tip 5: Eat a Rainbow

Stress can often reduce our beneficial bacteria in our gut which play an important role in not just our digestive health but overall health.   One simple way to nourish the microbiome is to Include a variety of different coloured, plant-based foods.   They contain plant compounds called polyphenols which our gut bacteria love and create an environment in which they will thrive.   They also provide key nutrients and antioxidants our body needs to function properly and cope with stressors.    So, load up on the veg at Christmas dinner, it’s not about taking anything away but adding in.


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