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Keep up your energy levels
Carbohydrate-rich foods provide energy, so don’t be tempted to ditch carbs as a weight control tactic. You’ll only end up feeling listless, and if you reach for food as a pick-me-up,
you may overeat. Instead, rid your diet of processed products such as cakes, biscuits
and soft drinks, all of which score highly on the glycaemic index, giving an energy surge that quickly fades. For sustained energy you need to opt for healthy snacks such as a handful of nuts, piece of fruit or tub of yoghurt.
Chat over a cuppa
Hanging out with your girlfriends for a cuppa at a cafe is a fun way to debrief about any pre-Chrissie blahs. According to US research, feeling emotionally close to a friend boosts levels of the hormone progesterone, which reduces feelings of anxiety and stress. So text your besties asap, hit a cafe and order a pot of Earl Grey. While coffee triggers adrenalin release, tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has calming properties.
Putting on a spritz
Breathing in the scent of something lovely and familiar – like your favourite perfume – can help keep you calm. Keep it close by for a feel-good spritz or stock up on essential oils. One in particular, rose oil, has been shown to ease stress and sadness, according to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Some others to try: lemon, neroli or ylang ylang.
Even taking a deep breath or two can help. “When rushed and stressed people often take in more than 10 to 12 breaths per minute, this increases their anxiety,” explains Dr Andrew Page, Winthrop Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia. “This can lead to an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide (often indicated by yawning), which can increase anxiety and stress symptoms like dizziness.” For a quick de-stress, “Breathe in for a count of three seconds and out for three seconds,” Page suggests.
Fill up on water
Instead of diving straight into the alcohol at lunch (or having one too many at a champagne brekkie!), sip on water to stay hydrated. Add a twist of lemon or lime to your H20 or throw together non-alcoholic mocktails.
Take five with closed eyes
All those Christmas lights and carols getting to you? Give yourself permission to take five. Find a quiet place and lie down with an eye mask or silky scarf across your face and close your eyes. Enjoy the stillness as you rest, reboot and revive.
Stock a healthy pantry
When you’re caught up in the Christmas rush – late-night shopping, wrapping gifts or driving all over town to visit family – you may be tempted by a quick takeaway. For a healthier, more affordable solution, stock up on ingredients for quick and easy homemade meals. Eggs, canned beans and frozen veg are great standbys. A really simple 10-minute dinner you can easily whip up is an omelette or fried rice using microwave rice.
Wise up to party food
Use these four smart strategies to avoid overindulging:
1. Hold onto your glass and napkin With your hands full, it’ll be harder to keep dipping into those tempting bowls of nuts and chips.
2. Practise the one-in-three rule Take only one canape for every three you’re offered.
3. Set a healthy limit Decide what you’re going to eat from the buffet before you start grazing. This approach lets you eat the food you love in a sensible way.
4. Help your host Grab a platter and mingle – you can’t eat and serve at the same time!
Eat to stay calm
The right foods can lift your brain’s levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you sleep better and keep calmer. All protein rich foods do this, so include lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds in your diet. Carbohydrates also bump up this helpful brain chemical, giving you yet another reason not to ban them.
The mineral magnesium promotes feelings of calm and improves sleep. It also relaxes muscles and prevents irregular heartbeat. Keep your mood on an even keel with rich sources of this nutrient such as brown rice, green vegies and seafood.
Make a song and dance of it
Make a feel-good playlist, crank it up and sing along when wrapping gifts or whipping up dessert to take to a Chrissie barbecue. Studies show that singing boosts your release of endorphins, natural painkillers that make you feel calmer and happier. It also lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Singing in a group causes an even bigger feel-good spike, UK research shows. So start an impromptu sing-along with friends or family.
Take a complaint break
Stuck in a traffic jam or a queue at the bank? Don’t tense up or spit the dummy. It takes more energy to get upset than it does to relax. Count the cars, spot the colour blue, do some pelvic floor exercises or clean out your wallet and turn the delay into a pleasant or constructive break.
Turn it off
Eliminate some of the racket vying for your attention. Turn off the car radio, don’t answer the telephone at home, take a lunch break away from your office – and your mobile phone.
Start the day right
Eat well at brekkie and you’ll be less likely to seek a quick-fix snack or overindulge in festive treats. Go for that wholemeal toast with eggs and a slice of avocado and you’ll be set for the day.
Pretty as a picture
Take out old Christmas photos and laugh at how cute you or your kids were when little.
Share other fun memories from Christmases past – you can even make decorations using
old pictures. Just reminiscing over old photos on Facebook is a potent mood booster, research from Portsmith University in the UK shows.
Choose your drinks wisely
Fuelling up on cups of caffeine can make sleep more elusive and leave you feeling edgy at an already stressful time of year. Swap coffee, tea and soft drinks for herbal teas or sparkling water. Also, don’t forget that large quantities of alcohol not only disrupt normal sleep patterns but also deliver a large number of kilojoules. Your body needs a couple of alcohol-free days a week, and the festive season is no exception.
Apply some (positive) pressure
Using acupressure can help with energy levels. The points to counter fatigue and encourage calm can be found in the crease of the wrist in line with the space between your ring and pinkie finger or the fleshy area between the index finger and thumb. Hold the point for 30 seconds, then wait for at least 10 seconds before re-applying pressure. Repeat several times on each hand.
Move a little
Rather than drifting off into a post festive lunch food coma, do some gentle activity. You could go for a family stroll or head to the park for a game of cricket. Even doing the dishes and clearing dirty plates counts – just get moving!