Christmas wellbeing: How to stay healthy over the silly season

Here are some tips on staying happy and well during the holidays.

Here are some tips on staying happy and well during the holidays. Photo: Getty

The Christmas holidays are almost upon us and we have more than earned a decent break after another year in the pandemic.

The festive season generally involves copious amounts of food and booze, along with twinkling lights, gifts and laughter.

But it also seems to leave us feeling a little worse for wear.

A very busy month followed by a week of overindulging in food and alcohol can lead to a crash in January.

“No one can be blamed for wanting to let their hair down, relax and overindulge this Christmas,” accredited dietitian Geraldine Georgeou told The New Daily. 

But there are ways to join in the festivities without sacrificing your health, she said.

Here are Ms Georgeou’s top five tips

  1. Stay hydrated: A hot summer day with celebratory bubbles over the festive season could mean our bodies need more water than usual. Staying hydrated can help you to increase your energy levels and regulate your body temperature so you don’t overheat or dehydrate
  2. Start the day with fibre: Fibre-rich foods help you to feel fuller for longer, meaning you’re less likely to over-snack throughout the day or overindulge in a Christmas lunch. Start the day with high-fibre foods, such as fibre breakfast cereal or wholegrain toast
  3. Switch up your trimmings: Swap calorie-dense Christmas trimmings for healthier options like potatoes and sugary desserts for a fresh fruit salad. Simple and easy swaps like these allow you to enjoy your meal without the guilt
  4. Use small plates: With all the delicious food on offer over Christmas, our eyes can often be bigger than our bellies. Research from the University of Cambridge shows using smaller plates will decrease your intake by 16 per cent. You won’t even notice you are eating less
  5. Prioritise sleep: Christmas time tends to be jam-packed, but it is important we don’t skimp on sleep throughout this period. Sleep helps our body rest, restore and recover. Eating well, taking exercise, and moderating alcohol intake can help with sleep.

Ms Georgeou said following these tips don’t need to ruin your holiday, as they can easily be applied to your daily routine.

“Small changes like these, which some may consider as sacrifices, can mean we stay energised throughout the festive season,” she said.

Food for thought

President of the Australian Psychological Society Tamara Cavenett told The New Daily being extra busy can also make this a stressful time of year.

Our routines often fall by the wayside in favour of more night-time events and additional work leading up to the holidays.

We tend to reduce the things we need to do, like exercise and eating well, as we start to get busier and become more stressed, she said.

But this is the time where we need predictability the most.

“Grab your diary, look at the month and make sure that you’re still getting adequate sleep and time to prepare your food, make sure you’ve got exercise in there and have booked in some downtime as well,” she said.

Here is Ms Cavenett’s advice for the silly season

  1. Take care of yourself: Practise the basic healthy habits that support good mental health. Focus on sleep, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness
  2. Moderation: Whether it’s alcohol or activities, take a step back and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. It’s OK to prioritise downtime instead of saying ‘yes’ just because you were asked
  3. Watch expectations: We have an image of what Christmas should look like, helped by social media, but things don’t always go to plan. Reduce those expectations of a perfect family with a perfect tree on a perfect Christmas Day
  4. Acknowledge it has been a tough year: Acknowledging stress is an important step towards reducing it. We are fatigued, lockdowns have been hard on many of us, and some won’t feel like socialising as much
  5. Stay connected: Most people find this holiday overwhelming. Remember you’re not alone and don’t be afraid to lean on friends for support. And put aside your differences. Politics can wait until January
  6. Set boundaries: Have an exit plan and go over some safe talking points before attending an event to help minimise social anxiety.

If things are particularly difficult, don’t be afraid to seek help.

This article refers specifically to Christmas, but applies to other holiday traditions too. The key is to practise self care while you celebrate. 

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