I’ve been thinking a lot about the obligatory Christmas post! I started off with top tips for staying healthy through the season, how to stick to our good habits, etc but it didn’t feel just quite what I wanted to say.
So what I came to after a bit of mulling (without the wine!) was that people have celebrated the turn of the season for as long as we know with feasting and celebrations, and actually I think that’s more important than whether we can still fit into our jeans on Boxing Day!
In terms of longevity, the Blue Zones researchers found that having close family and social networks was one of the common denominators of the world’s longest living populations so although it may mean several different gatherings, from lunches to full-on parties, let’s connect with the people we care about over the season and know that it’s doing us good, even if we do have a mince pie or glass of wine too many.
My recommendations for feasting are:
- to deny ourselves nothing, but to be a bit careful about how much. Have a little taste of everything but not a bellyful. Have a glass of bubbly but not a bottle. It’s just no fun to feel bloated, sick or headachey when Boxing Day dawns.
- get some veggies in there – they can get their glad-rags on for Christmas too, maple-roast parsnips anyone? You’ll be grateful you had some fibre!
- stay hydrated, especially if we’re drinking
- don’t make the whole Christmas season a free-for-all. Between events, we can give our bellies the gift of some light, easily-digestible food. The classic is probably Ayurvedic kitchadi (traditionally made with yellow mung dal which you can buy in health food shops, though I suspect it would work just fine with any kind of lentils), but vegetable soup or soup made with home-made turkey stock would also be ideal. ‘Bone broth’ seems to be having a moment, but it’s always been traditional to make stock from the bones. I had to laugh recently at a recipe for ‘vegan’ bone broth – ermmm, isn’t that just vegetable stock!
Movement is another key element to feeling well so if we have some time off during the holidays and the weather is kind, a good, long walk with friends is something to aim for. I think Christmas Day can be one where too much sitting about can leave us feeling stiff and sore, so I’m planning to get out for a walk and some fresh air sometime between present opening and cooking the feast. There’s nothing nicer than wrapping up really well on a bright, frosty morning and getting outside – let’s hope that’s what we get and not grey drizzle! If the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful – maybe some yoga or a dance round the kitchen instead.
My final thoughts are around stress. Getting ready for Christmas can be frantic, despite our annual vow to pare it back this year. So here are some survival strategies that have served me well:
- Make lists. Even if you’re not usually a list maker. And especially if you think you don’t have time to make a list! Getting it all out of our heads and onto paper takes away that low grade anxiety that we’re going to forget something important, and of course, makes it less likely that we will. It also makes it easier to see which things we can batch together – no more ‘why didn’t I pick up [insert forgotten item] when I was in town anyway!’
- Donate to charity instead of giving physical gifts. Of course we will probably always want to give our very nearest and dearest a present or two to open on Christmas morning, but other than that donating to charity on behalf of someone else gives both you and them a warm, fuzzy glow.
- Build in time margins – if you need to be somewhere for 10am and it takes half an hour to get there, give yourself 40 minutes. If you think something will take you 15 minutes, give yourself half an hour. If you need to be out the door at 2pm, don’t try to squeeze in one more task at 1.55. You get the idea – packing the schedule too full will make you feel stressed just thinking about it, and being late is stressful too – not to mention disrespectful of other people’s time (sorry, that came from 20-odd years of clients turning up late for their appointments!). If you get somewhere too early, great! Have a coffee. Sit in the car and listen to a podcast, audiobook or the radio. Read your book or browse a magazine in the waiting room. I read somewhere recently that we don’t actually have more to do or less time to do it in than previous generations, but culturally we’ve bought into the story that we do, and it may be that we put too much pressure on ourselves by underestimating how much can reasonably be done in any 24-hour period.
- And finally don’t you dare feel guilty for putting your feet up in front of a Christmas movie any time you get the chance over the season! This is the equivalent of putting your own air mask on first when the plane’s going down. Christmas depends on your sanity!
Wishing you a wonderful Christmas