We hate to break it to you, but Christmas is on its way! Only six weeks to go until most of us will eat their own bodyweight in cheese, gingerbread and Christmas ham, washed down with mulled wine and G&T – only to fall into the inevitable food coma, followed closely by a bad conscience and a Santa Claus sized sack of regrets.

Worse still, Christmas can mean being thrown into a pressure cooker of emotions, with estranged siblings, in-laws, overbearing parents and spoiled yet bored-to-their-teeth children all adding to the brewing concoction. And let’s not even get us started on the commerce that comes with Christmas: last minute shopping frenzies in overcrowded shopping malls, too much money spent on gifts that we have left too late and the feeling that, once again, Uncle Sven will not be happy with a striped tie and a pair of woolly socks.

The good news in all this is that it doesn’t have to be like this. We often feel that we don’t have any control on the family dynamics, traditions and customs – and sometimes we truly don’t. As much as we’d like to renounce it all and spend the better part of December in an ashram in India, most likely that’s not going to happen for the majority of us. BUT, there are ways to deal with the Christmas craziness that will help to keep your sanity and, if you’re lucky, even your regular jeans size: 

Be healthy now

Cutting down on booze and all things fried in the run-up to Christmas will not only make it easier to come out of the succession of Christmas dinners unscathed, hopefully by the time it’s time to attack the turkey, you will have developed healthier habits and find it easier to stick to them. The government recommendation says seven portions of fruit and veg today (with only two of those portions being fruit), a total of about 500g. You don’t have to become a juicing vegan to achieve this goal though. A handful of berries on your porridge, a banana as a snack, soup with veg for lunch, two carrots hidden in your spag bol and a generous side salad is all you need to make it work.

Between two and four portions of fish and seafood every week

Again, don’t stress: salmon on toast for dinner (don’t forget your cucumber salad with it!), oven baked fish filets (you can get those frozen for extra ease – just wrap them in foil with a sprig of dill, some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon), tinned beans and tuna salad with fresh salad leaves and tomatoes as a packed lunch – it doesn’t have to be complicated. Eating enough seafood and fish has a scientifically proven effect on our mood. Good to know in times that can be a bit stressful. Vegetarians might opt for Omega 3 supplements from algae and add plenty of linseed and/or chia seed to their diet. 

Spend time in nature

Time for a long walk? Good for you! No time to spare at all? Five minutes a day is all you need to get started. Research links spending time outside to lower levels of anxiety and depression, both closely related to stress. Take the long walk home, get to your local park, or have that cup of tea in your back garden. Get close to a tree, touch the bark, become aware of the smell of winter in the air. Done.

Minimise sugar

While sugar per se isn’t evil – it occurs naturally in lots of foods and even in our blood – too much sugar can send us into a vicious circle of crashing and craving. Too much sugar has a proven negative effect on our mood, so next time you are reaching for the candy, ask yourself if you are not

  • hungry: eating slow releasing carbs like wholemeal bread, oats, beans and pulses will release energy slower and keep you fuller for longer
  • bored: looking for a crunch and a sweet kick? Try a date and a handful of nuts instead
  • thirsty: have a large glass of water and see how you’re feeling after

Meditate

Ten minutes a day would be ideal to start, but if this feels like a daunting prospect, start with five. Set your alarm five minutes earlier or meditate just before you go to bed. Don’t know where to start? Try an app like Headspace that will guide you through the first steps and further as you go on in your meditation journey.

Yoga

Flexibility and strength are just two of the many benefits that a regular yoga practice will give you. Here are ten more reasons to get you going: 10 good reasons to keep up with your yoga practice.

And now: be merry and enjoy the pre-Christmas chaos 🙂