1. Breathe deeply

With so many social functions and family commitments in your schedule, you can often feel overwhelmed at this time of the year. When you’re stressed, your breathing can become shallow and, consequently, your anxiety levels can rise. Controlling your breath can help manage stress-related conditions.

If you feel frazzled, find a quiet spot and take a few moments to practise this deep breathing exercise. Breathe deeply in through your nose and hold your breath for at least 15 seconds, if possible. Now exhale slowly through your mouth for as long as you can. Repeat this for a few minutes and you’ll soon find that it’ll restore your inner calm.

2. Enjoy some 'me' time

The pressure to socialise goes into overdrive during the silly season and it can leave you feeling drained, exhausted and with very little left in the tank. So make sure you schedule in some ‘me’ time and that you’re looking after yourself as well as others. It might be simply enjoying that hour of Pilates or yoga or sitting somewhere quiet and reading a book. By switching off and dedicating some time for yourself, you’ll feel refreshed, energised and ready to mingle.

3. Delegate, delegate! 

Buying presents, arranging parties, cooking meals...

Organising Christmas without any support is overwhelming to say the least, so learn to delegate.

Share tasks between the household or family members and assign everyone something so you can feel less stressed overall. Remember, you don’t need to take on everything – and, this way, you won’t get the blame if a certain task goes wrong!

4. Learn to say no

One thing that’s important during the festive season is exerting your right to say no. Whether it’s politely declining another wine from friends, saying no to that extra portion of potatoes your mother-in-law is piling on your plate, or simply turning down that friend’s party invitation you really don’t feel like going to, it’s okay to say no. “The spirit of the holidays is gratitude and giving,” says Patti Breitman, co-author of How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty.

“But the conflict arises when you continually agree to things that please everyone but yourself or when you commit to tasks for which you have no time or desire.” So put yourself first from time to time and embrace your new-found freedom.

5. Keep exercising

You’re running around all day, so exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. But sticking to your workout schedule isn’t only important for your physical health, but your mental wellbeing, too. If you have too much on your plate, get up a little earlier to start your session.

Studies show that women who work out first thing in the morning move more throughout the day and are less likely to succumb to tempting foods.

Strapped for time? A quick run or spin on the exercise bike will do. “Even just 15 minutes can help you maintain your fitness level,” says Dr Tim Church, a leading physician in exercise and obesity research.

6. Opt for healthy swaps

That tray of canapés looks enticing, but it could end up on your hips. So choose wisely: ditch the crackers and cheese and chips and go for vegie sticks with hummus instead or raw nuts in place of salted.

If you’re cooking the Christmas lunch, use a wholegrain, such as quinoa or buckwheat, to stuff the turkey rather than breadcrumbs, and serve with low-GI root vegies such as sweet potato or pumpkin instead of carrots and potatoes.

For salads, avoid creamy store-bought dressings with hidden sugars and opt for a squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil instead. When serving up dessert, swap ice-cream for frozen yoghurt and choose 80 per cent dark chocolate over milk chocolate to save on kilojoules. Festive drinks can also be a mine field of unwanted kJs. Rather than swigging down a sugar-laden mojito, go for a healthier vodka lime and soda.

7. Get a good night's sleep 

With all the late-night chin-chins, your normal sleep schedule is bound to get out of whack, which can affect your mood, energy and weight. Aim to still get in your eight hours of sleep at night and avoid drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.

Research shows that, despite a tipple or two making you feel sleepy, booze reduces REM sleep, meaning the quality of your shut-eye is affected. “Alcohol may seem to be helping you go to bed, as it helps induce sleep, but, overall, it’s more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says sleep researcher Dr Irshaad Ebrahim.

8. Practise mindful eating

Christmas time and overindulgence go hand in hand, but there’s a way to snap the link. Studies show that when you practise mindful eating, you tend to listen to your hunger cues and consume less. If overeating is a problem, try chewing some gum 15 minutes before you sit down to eat.

“Chewing gum tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating, so you actually consume less,” explains Dr Susan Albers, author of Eating Mindfully. You can also try sucking on a mint in between courses. “It gives your body time to get a read on whether you’re full or not,” Susan adds. Why not make a deal with yourself that you can have seconds if you’re still hungry by the time the mint dissolves in your mouth?

9. Remember to laugh

Sometimes people can get so swept up with their hosting duties that they forget to have fun. Try to let go of that ‘perfect family dinner’ image in your head and simply enjoy each and every moment as it unfolds – even if the food gets burnt or you drop a glass. Studies show that laughter not only makes you feel good, but it also helps overcome stress and releases the natural feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine.

10. Boost your energy levels 

Woken up still feeling exhausted? Give yourself an energy hit with a vitamin-packed freshly squeezed juice. Try beetroot, carrot, orange and ginger – the first three are rich in vitamins A and C, while the ginger is a great immune booster. To sustain your energy through the festive season, also load up on vitamin B-rich foods, such as fish, eggs and dark leafy green veg.

11. Stay hydrated 

It’s important to keep up your water intake during this time, especially since you tend to drink more alcohol than usual. One way to avoid getting dehydrated is to have a glass of water before and after an alcoholic drink. It’ll also mean you’ll be less likely to overindulge on the booze. Plus, have a bottle of water handy wherever you sit so you can keep sipping throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling dizzy and tired, so it’s essential to have your H2O levels front of mind throughout this busy period

12. Be flexible 

Don’t be too hard on yourself throughout the holiday season. It’s a time of joy and celebration and so it’s important to find a balance between your usual healthy habits and pleasure.

At parties, celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson suggests you focus on maintaining one healthy rule. “I zero in on a single healthy practice,” he says. “It can be anything from not drinking alcohol to skipping the appetisers or desserts. If you give yourself one thing, you’re likely to stick with it.”

© Prevention Australia
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