The most wonderful time of the year

Many look forward to the Christmas holidays, spending time with the family, attending social events with friends, sharing gifts with loved ones and indulging in festive treats, it's an exciting time of year. However, for some the Christmas period can be stressful. Whether it be hosting lots of guests, financial pressures, family tensions, calming the children's excitement or social anxiety caused by a packed festive calendar, it’s easy to risk burn-out at this time of year. Our experts have shared some top tips to help you and your family feel your best and make the most of the Christmas holidays.


Children

Children can experience high emotions at this time of year, a combination of the excitement as Santa's visit draws closer and the late nights from festive activities may mean they need some extra support to help them feel tip top.


Whilst it's hard to avoid the sugar-laden treats that fill the aisles of the supermarkets at Christmas, try to reduce the amount of processed foods they are consuming and encourage them to eat a rainbow of fruit and veg. Let them experiment in the kitchen during the Christmas break, cooking with them not only benefits their health but also their knowledge and lifelong nutritional beliefs. Allow them to be creative by suggesting their own recipes and best of all let them eat the nutritious fruits of their labour.

Encourage them to get outside , keeping their minds and bodies active. Connecting with nature and letting them dig about in the garden will expose them to all sorts of bacteria, which is just what their tummies need to help build natural immunity defences.

Delegate some suitable tasks, such as holding the wrapping paper in place whilst you stick the tape or laying the table on Christmas Day. Not only does this help your task load but it's a great way to keep them busy and feeling involved.


Adults

Whilst over the Christmas break you may find it tempting to survive on family size tubs of Quality Street yourself, it's just as important that you eat a rainbow of coloured fruit and vegetables. When we are stressed or anxious our bodies have an increased requirement for micro-nutrients, in particular the B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, eating the rainbow and switching to whole grains can help you increase your intake.


Even when just cooking for a couple of people, Christmas dinner can be a frenzy in the kitchen. To help reduce anxiety about getting everything ready on time, create a list of what can be prepared in advance and schedule in when you are going to make them. Some things such as Christmas cake and pudding actually taste better when made in advance. Other items, such as cranberry sauce, gravy, pastry and soups can be stored in the freezer and defrosted when needed. Alternatively, if you are playing host this year, why not suggest everyone brings a dish to help lighten your load.

Present buying can be a significant stress for many reasons. Suggest a family secret Santa this year, so everyone only has to buy one gift. Or even better, agree a ‘no present pact’ with some of your friends and family. Not only does this take the pressure of gift buying, it will help your refocus on what Christmas is really about, spending quality time with friends and family, rather than fuelling consumerism. 


It’s important to remember that Christmas isn’t about having elaborately wrapped presents, the best dressed tree, a spotless house that looks like it’s out of a catalogue, or the biggest spread of food. Your family and other guests would probably much rather you scaled things down, took a few short-cuts or asked for help, if it means they get to spend more time with you, in a relaxed atmosphere. Remember, no-one’s perfect so don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to be. 

The festive period can be an onslaught of parties and social events. Whilst these can be fun, they can lead to you burning the candle at both ends, and for those who suffer with social anxiety, the thought of making small talk with your boss or distant cousin twice removed can be stressful. Say no to those social events that may overload your schedule or add to your social anxiety. Try and keep at least a few days free, for relaxation time, between Christmas and New Year. Plan nothing, sleep in, get out for some winter walks and spend cosy evenings in front of the fire.


There is never a shortage of booze at Christmas, however overdoing it on the alcohol may be a bad idea, as it can cause blood sugar fluctuations and affect your mood. You don’t however have to feel like you are missing out. Lots of alcohol-free drinks are now widely available and actually taste pretty good. Alternatively kombucha is a slightly fizzy fermented drink that contains beneficial strains of bacteria and yeast to help support gut health, and contains only minimal alcohol.

Whilst Christmas often brings people together, for some, spending time with their family is high risk for confrontation. Put in place some strategies for remaining calm, for example, when you feel yourself being triggered, leave the room and count to 100, go for a walk, repeat a positive affirmation in your head or call a trusted friend who is happy to listen to you vent. Removing yourself from the situation, will help to take the body out of ‘fight or flight’ mode, and back into ‘rest and digest’


If you fancy creating something different this Christmas and need some recipe inspiration, why not check out our Bio-Kult Kitchen for our collection of festive recipes: bio-kult.com/bio-kult-kitchen-festive-alternatives