Time to give yourself a gift…

December 1, 2023

As we head into the festive season, it can be all to easy to get overwhelmed and overloaded, resulting in you feeling exhausted, stressed and low. With endless media adverts of smiling families all cheering over the perfectly cooked Christmas dinner. They never burn the gravy, forget to cook the sprouts or have a family row over who sits next to the in laws at the table.

In reality, it is rarely picture perfect and it is important to remember that real life is not what you see in the latest department store advert or indeed, on your best friend’s Facebook page. It is important to be realistic, set boundaries and call in help when you need it.

It might not be easy to stay calm and well, but in the season of gifting, it is time to give a little something back to yourself. Here are just a few simple ways you can help get through what for many, is the most stressful time of the year.

There is no simple way to eliminate the stresses and strains of everyday life, however you can help yourself cope more effectively. Christmas, as with any celebration can be a sad time for many, maybe you are missing someone or it reminds you of happier times. It is important to allow yourself to remember and it is okay to be a little sad, but if you feel it is taking over everything and you are becoming anxious or depressed, there is help available. Maybe a chat with a trusted friend, your GP or organisations like the Samaritans and MIND. For more information about dealing with mental health issues at Christmas, MIND have a lot of information here.

Charities such as MIND and the Samaritans have plenty of advice and support to help you through the festive period if you find it hard to cope with.

Your physical wellbeing is important too. If you do get the chance of an extra few days off, you don’t want to be stuck in bed with the latest bug. Coughs and colds are all part of this time of year, but maintaining good hygiene and good health, can make a difference.

Wash your hands frequently, this is still one of the best ways to avoid spreading the common cold. Especially after travelling on public transport, handling shopping and money, for example.

Good nutrition is the foundation of keeping your immune system in good condition. At this time of year, a lot of food is high sugar and high fat, lots of treats and extra snacks. These types of foods are often not a good source of nutrients, so it is important to try and maximise healthy foods where you can. Having a good breakfast is a great way to start the day, it can provide you with energy, fill you up so you don’t get hungry and reach for sugary snacks and is an ideal way to eat nutrient rich foods. For example, a bowl of porridge topped with seeds and nuts, fresh or dried fruit can up the vitamins and minerals present. Oats are a good source of fibre and the insoluble fibre in oat bran has been shown to help manage cholesterol levels.

Easy soups with lots of vegetables, beans and pulses are filling and nutritious. They are easy to prepare and freeze for planning meals. Another advantage is that soups can be economical to make and a great way of using up what is left in the fridge. If you are heading out for an evening of partying, a filling breakfast and a tasty soup for lunch can help set you up for what you might have in the evening.

Eat breakfast. Not only a good way to start the day, but something filling and nutritious can help your body prepare the excesses of later in the day.

Keep hydrated too, either water, herbal teas, coconut water, are all ideal sources of hydration. If you are planning to drink alcohol, you will find your body copes more effectively if you are adequately hydrated. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water or a fruit juice is a good idea.

It is easy to find you are feeling stressed with lots of planning and organising, financial pressures, time pressures and just trying to find a parking place can all add to the impact on the immune system. Certain nutrients such as the B vitamins and the mineral magnesium contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system. Look for wholefoods such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, seed and nuts, yeast extract, beans and pulses as sources. You can also take supplements to provide these nutrients. Magnesium also plays a role in supporting our psychological health too.

The media overload of picture perfect Christmas dinner tables is a long stretch from the reality for many. Don’t get into the mindset of having to be that ‘perfect picture’.

Does your digestive system give you trouble when you eat a lot of foods that you don’t normally consume? While you are tucking into mince pies and sweets, give some support to your gut microbiome with foods rich in good bacteria such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. These foods all support the healthy bacteria in the gut. A healthy gut helps you digest food better and it is also worth noting that around 70 of our immune system dependent on a healthy gut microbiome. If you are not a fan of fermented foods, you can take a friendly bacteria supplement.

Nutrients that are important for the immune system include vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin D. Eating a balanced and varied diet is a good way of getting these nutrients, try to include a salad with a main meal or fresh fruit as a snack. You can also take supplements either as a multi vitamin and mineral or for more specific doses by taking individual supplements.

In all the planning and rushing around, try to take a moment to give yourself a break. Maybe a walk in the fresh air, a quite sit down with a cup of tea or a quick snooze. If you don’t celebrate and find it hard work to switch off from the media overload, again, take time out and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle to relax and refresh your senses.

Remember to take time for you, whether a walk in the fresh air or a relaxing ten minutes with a cup of tea, give yourself a break.

Take time to give yourself the gift of a little bit of self care and remind those around you to do the same. It might just be the best gift you give this year. Don’t panic if it is not picture perfect, the tree is wonky or there is a bit of dust on the lampshade, instead make the most of time spent with friends and family and allow yourself you enjoy the moment. Remember it is okay to not ‘feel’ all the festive vibes, it’s not for everyone.

How ever you celebrate, or if you choose not to, we wish you well.

Useful Numbers:

MIND Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm). Website: www.mind.org.uk

Samaritans. Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline) Website: www.samaritans.org.uk

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