Seasonal colds, a diet of mulled wine and mince pies, constant social plans that mean you haven’t seen a full eight hours sleep since November - Christmas is the perfect storm for your body to shut down.
Not to mention our immune system seems to think that when we book leave off work, this is an invitation for it to take some time off as well.
“For many people the excitement of Christmas, and the chance to recharge, is overshadowed by stress, illness and exhaustion”, says Mary Jane Gunn, support manager at wellbeing charity, CABA.
But no one wants their holidays to be ruined by their physical or mental health, so it is important to find ways to avoid reaching the point of burnout.
Do Keep Some Routine
We know that Christmas is an exciting time of year, when there are opportunities to do lots of things you don’t normally do, but it is important to keep some normality among the social madness.
Chloe Botheridge, anxiety expert at Calmer You, says: “Take time for the simple things that we all know are good but often forget. Whether you head out for a quick run, stick with your 10 minute meditation app or continue to drink your bedtime tea - doing so will make it easier to stay in balance.”
Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
Part of maintaining a routine will probably mean having to turn down certain things so instead of going out for the fifth night in a row, go home and do some life admin or go to the gym.
Cal Strode, at the Mental Health Foundation, says: “Balance your sense of social obligations against your need for self-care and ask yourself if there are any things you might need to give a miss this Christmas. It’s okay to say no to things. Giving yourself permission to say no, and practicing saying it can be good self-care, helping you to avoid self-abandonment.”
This also includes saying no to those things that you didn’t really want to do but were doing because of social obligation. “Just because you’ve always done something, doesn’t mean you have to do it again if it’s not good for your mental health,” he says.
Don’t Neglect Sleep
Another element of saying no and keeping routine is that it will help you to ensure you are getting a lot of sleep - something that quickly spirals you into exhaustion if you are not careful.
Gunn says: “Alcohol and caffeine (commonly binged on at Christmas) are both stimulants that can affect the quality of sleep, making us more likely to wake up during the night after consuming them. No matter what’s going on, something as important and simple as a good night’s sleep can help us cope better.”
Don’t Ignore Fruit And Vegetables
Yes, pigs in blankets are tastier than carrots, but there is only so much saturated fat and sugar your body can tolerate before it’s not going to happy about it. So instead of spending the whole Christmas period in a food coma of regret, keep some variety in your diet.
Nutrition consultant Charlotte Stirling Reed says: “Christmas is always going to be a time when there is plenty of food around. But focus on all the seasonal, delicious foods that are available and not just the sweets and cakes – chestnuts, tangerines, cranberries and a wealth of veggies are all in season and at their best around Christmas time.”
Not to mention, it will make getting ‘back on the wagon’ a lot easier in January.
Do Drink In Moderation
The damage Christmas drinking does to your body, even in the short term, does not make for comfortable reading. So while you’re trying to get your five a day into your diet, remember that mulled wine doesn’t count as a fruit.
Helena from the British Nutrition Foundation says: “If you are drinking alcohol then try to opt for smaller wine glasses, switch from pints to half pints and measure rather than pour spirits, and alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water or no added sugars soft drinks.
“If you do drink too much then drink plenty of water before you go to bed and keep more by your bedside, to help rehydrate and reduce some of the effects of a hangover.”
Do Get Some Fresh Air
For lots of people the Christmas or Boxing Day walk is a family tradition, and if it isn’t in your household, then it might be worth considering at least a short walk. Getting fresh air and stretching your legs is invaluable for clearing your mind and blowing away the cobwebs.
Gunn, says: “We all know it’s cold and going for a walk is less appealing than coiffing a glass of prosecco, but getting 30 minutes of exercise five times a week during the Christmas period will make a difference in how we handle the stress and how affected we are by it.”