Christmas is supposed to be the 'most magical time of the year'; but it's often stressful what with family overload, presents to buy, travelling, and eating habits that tend to be chaotic at best.
So, whether you're in charge of the cooking this year, having a mad last minute dash around the shops or if your in -laws are pushing you to the brink of a Yuletide meltdown, try these tips for a more relaxing and enjoyable Christmas.
Maybe it sounds cheesy to some but it's supported by hard science. It's been shown that people who are grateful, tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful can help you cope with stress and even be more motivated to exercise. In a time of material excess, I think it also helps to me mindful of the good things we already have in our lives.
Here's an activity you can try to boost positivity and lower stress:
Write down 3 things that went well today, 3 things you are looking forward to and 3 things you like about yourself. It's a simple exercise, but surprisingly effective. Make it a daily habit to get the best benefits.
Perfection is one of the biggest fallacies in human existence. Some of us get into thinking that if things aren't perfect then we're a failure, but things are very rarely so black and white. An easy way to change perfectionism is try and see things from another's' point of view, for example, if you are stressed about cooking Christmas dinner, imagine that someone you love is doing the cooking. Maybe it's not completely perfect - is that such a big deal? Wouldn't you much rather they relaxed and enjoyed themselves? Maybe, because they did their best and they made it, it is perfect, in it's imperfectness. Sometimes seeing things from another's perfective can really help us to see things differently and go easier on ourselves.
Thirdly, eating habits.
They are very likely to go haywire at Christmas; it's an inevitability, nay, it's your prerogative. Cheese will be eaten, booze will be drunk, salty snacks and chocolate Santas will be mindlessly consumed in front of re-runs of the Royal Family. But it doesn't have to mean inevitable weight gain and the self flagellation and starvation come January. I say rather than deprivation aim for damage limitation.
To do this, always include protein with every meal or snack- protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, so we are likely to eat less. It also helps control blood sugar levels so you are less likely to store carbohydrate as fat.
Here is some tasty ways to add more protein to your diet; Have eggs or a protein shake for breakfast or add nuts to your morning porridge. Try to have beans, lentils, quinoa, meat or fish with every main meal. Snacks could include hummus and veg sticks, Greek yoghurt (contains the most protein of all yogs), or try adding a boiled egg or some cottage cheese. Take a look at your plate at each mealtime and ask yourself; where is my protein?
Finally, we've all heard that breathing can help you relax, but this routine specifically can produce a sense of calmness and control.
Try some 7,11 breathing. This ratio of breathing has been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system - that's basically the 'rest and digest' mode, rather than fight or flight. So, breathe in for a count of 7, breathing right into the belly and feeling your belly expanding, then out for a count of 11 and feeling your belly starting to flatten. You could shorten it to 4, 7 breathing if you prefer, the effect is the same. Do this for a few minutes to help to you to feel calmer before tackling the turkey or braving the crowds on Oxford Street.
Wishing you a calm and happy Christmas!