Oh, the joy of Christmas Stress. Wait... What did I just write?
Sometimes it feels like to be able to get into the Christmas Spirit first you need a little bit of Christmas Stress. You know that everyday lingering discomfort in your gut telling you that you´ re probably not going to make that deadline without overtime & sleep-deprivation? Well, the time leading up to Christmas can often feel like multiplying that everyday-feeling of scarcity with a million added to the feeling that you´ re probably not going to master the turkey this year. Being productive enough can be hard enough on a regular Wednesday, let alone during Christmas time where everything, (including your boss, your spouse, your friends, your mom, society) is on complete overload.
In the midst of all that, it can be difficult to stay calm and just breathe.
Our success is often measured in our productivity: if you´ re productive enough then you´ re good enough. And there is always room for improvement. We can always do just a little bit better, both at work as well as on the home front. Right?
Well, according to the "10 Guideposts to Whole-Hearted Living" by researcher and author Brené Brown, cultivating play & rest as well as cultivating calm & stillness are important factors to living a fuller and happier life. We should be careful with using our productivity as a measure of self worth as well as letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol.
So how can we enjoy the Holidays without risking that stressful "running-on-an-empty-tank" situation?
# 1 Prioritize
Find a calm moment where you can sit down and write an overview of work and family-related duties ahead. What needs to be done and what does not? Prioritize things that you know NEED to be done and then things you would like or LOVE to do and do just them. Skip the rest.
You don´ t need to attend seven different Holiday parties and host three-course-meals every week for your friends leading up to Christmas.
Prioritize according to your wants & needs (and your time) and stick with it!
# 2 Create boundaries
Being a people-pleasing perfectionist looks good on the outside but rarely feels good on the inside. Striving for success should not be confused with perfection or unrealistic expectations. Healthy striving helps you reach your goals and makes you happy with your achievements and choices. Striving for perfection is a recipe for failure and ultimately you will be the one suffering.
See if you can try to let go of your tendency to perfect by telling yourself that you are good enough and that you are doing the best you can. We´ re all trying to find that balance where we feel that we are appreciated, loved and fulfilled. Approaching yourself with kindness and self-compassion is the first step towards that balance and having boundaries is an important step.
My kids come home almost every day before Christmas with invitations for different parties or events that require that I bake a cake or bring juice or make something else or the other. I also get bombarded with requests to make healthy snacks or foods for events leading up to Christmas. I prioritize according to my time, wants & needs (and the needs & wants of my children) and say no to those parties & events that I feel I don´ t have time to do.
It makes me happy that I can contribute and help out with the ones that I chose to do and not resentful towards ALL events because I didn´t set boundaries and was people-pleasing my way through it all.
# 3 Keep it balanced
Good nutrition helps you feel balanced and more energetic. Let´s face it, you are going to need that balance and energy during the Holidays.
Try to keep your intake of carbohydrates, protein and fat balanced. As an example make sure that your plate contains some protein (e.g. turkey breast), a bit of fat (e.g. peppercorn mushroom sauce) and easily digestible carbohydrates (e.g. steamed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts or broccoli) along with some fresh spinach leaves, avocado slices and shredded red cabbage.
That balance will keep you fuller for a longer time as well as providing you with good energy, keeping you from snacking too much between meals.
To increase the chances of having a healthy and balanced day try the "Green Glow Smoothie" in the morning for a nutrient-dense & energy-boosting breakfast. Choose a light lunch such as the "Butternut Squash Soup with Cashews & Cilantro" if you know that your dinner is going to be on the heavier side. With a little proactive thinking and preparation there is no need to allow Christmas and all its´ glory take over your health.
#4 Keep it nutrient-dense
A nutritious diet will help with balancing a healthy weight, make you feel energetic and affect the amount of food you consume. The more nutrient dense your food is the sooner you will feel full (your body stocks up on the nutrients it needs more quickly than if your diet is low in nutrients).
See if you can follow one day according to my FREE GUIDE Healthy Holiday Habits - A day of Nutritious Eating and notice how you feel. All the recipes are nutrient-dense and will nourish you from the inside out. You will notice a difference in your digestion, your mood as well as the appearance of your skin since the foods help balance your blood sugar and stabilize your blood sugar.
Add blue-green algae to your diet such as spirulina for an extra boost in nutrition intake and energy.
#5 Digestion & Release
A healthy digestion and release can absolutely measure a person´ s health status. Nobody likes to talk about something as uncomfortable as release of stools (still, it´ s something that we all do!)
So, how do we keep our digestion in check and make sure we have healthy releases?
Keep your diet balanced and nutrient-dense. Make sure that you include juicy & fibre-rich foods such as vegetable & fruit since your body more easily absorbs water from foods than just drinking water alone.
Stick to complex, high-quality carbohydrates and steer clear from added sugars as much as you can.
Animal proteins can be harder to digest than plant proteins so keep your meals balanced. Too much protein can induce digestive problems, leaving you gassy and bloated.
Pick your fats carefully and include avocados, nuts & seeds in your diet. Remember your omega-3´s during the (stressful) holiday season. Amongst their many health benefits they can make digestion more comfortable and decrease inflammation. Add omega-3 rich krill oil, cod liver oil and sacha inchi oil to your daily intake of fats. Probiotics will also help with healthy bacteria in the gut and they create a better pH balance that will aid in gut-health, healthy digestion and optimal release.
Take the time to sit down, focus on your meal (instead of eating it in front of the computer or TV) and chew your food properly. Digestion starts in the mouth after all.
are experiencing bloating or digestive problems try adding some organic, raw
apple-cider vinegar to your daily routine. Add a tablespoon to a glass of warm
water and drink after a meal or before bed.
# 6 Sleep zzz...
One of the coursnerstones of your health and wellbeing is the quality and amount of sleep you get. Sleep can reduce the production of stress hormones and help you feel more balanced and healthy overall. You will also probably make better decisions following a good night´ s sleep than when you´ re sleep deprived (read: caffeine bingeing & sugar-loading).
See if you can stick to a regular sleep pattern, aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
# 7 Be active - everything counts!
Physical exercise can increase your energy level, improve your mood (dopamine levels increase with physical exercise) and bring your stress levels down. If possible, get moving in an oxygen-filled environment (outside).
If your schedule is tight and you don´ t have time for a full workout, search for fitness applications such as 7-minute Workout "Seven" or "Workout Trainer" that all have short videos focused on high results in a short amount of time. You can do them in the office or in your living room.
Try to fit in at least 10 minutes everyday - get creative. Build a snowman, do jumping jacks with your kids in the garden, jump for joy. Whatever feeds you and keeps you happy.
#8 Keep an eye on alcohol consumption
A glass of wine here and there probably won´ t cause you harm but it is important to stick to a certain set of rules if you want your Christmas to be merry (and hangover-free):
* Drink 1x 10 ounce (300 ml) glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume. It decreases the dehydrating effects of alcohol to some extent and help you feel better the morning after.
* Stick to "clean" wines such as red wine or cocktails like gin & tonic or vodka & soda water. Sugary cocktails can really affect your blood sugar, they have no nutritional value but are high in calories.
* Eat something before you have a drink of alcohol. Alcohol on an empty stomach is not what you need.
*In general, stick to water during the day, avoid booze-filled lunches and afternoon doses of sugary/carbonated drinks. Keep it balanced.
#9 Take care of your skin
The skin is the body´ s largest organ.
Stress & strain, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, bad skincare habits and lousy nutrition will show on your skin quite quickly.
You know how it goes; late night out, too many glasses of wine (no water), TOO TIRED to clean your make-up off and you´ re off to bed. With a full face of make-up and the remains of today´ s city pollution you bury your face in your pillow knowing that you have to be up in 4 hours to carry out another 9-hour workday. You wake up, fix what needs fixing (mascara, rouge, lip gloss), grab a cup of flat white & a croissant on your way to work and so it goes for another 24 hours.
Trying to stick to the above-mentioned factors as well as sticking to a simple but effective skincare your skin should regain its health & glow within days.
# 10 Be Mindful & Breathe
Breathing is something we take for granted. It´ s an automatic function that basically happens without us noticing it.
However, being deliberate with our breathing and mindful of how we breathe can really affect our wellbeing. Using breathing as a stress-relief is a proven technique that can ease our moods both momentarily as well as for the long-term. Read further here, here & here.
Look for applications for your smart phone such as "Headspace" or similar that uses guided breathing exercises and other mindfulness practices to help with maintaining a clear mind and a mindful attitude towards yourself and others. By practising mindfulness, self-compassion and deliberate breathing exercises you can ease an unruly head, manage a stressful body & mind and increase your wellness by implementing simple practices into your life.
Blissful & happy Christmas, here I come!
Edited version published on Skyn Iceland´s website December 15th 2015
"Striving for success should not be confused with perfection or unrealistic expectations. Healthy striving helps you reach your goals and makes you happy with your achievements and choices. Striving for perfection is a recipe for failure and ultimately you will be the one suffering."
"Take the time to sit down, focus on your meal (instead of eating it in front of the computer or TV) and chew your food properly."
"Stress & strain, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, bad skincare habits and lousy nutrition will show on your skin quite quickly."
"Being deliberate with our breathing and mindful of how we breathe can really affect our wellbeing. Using breathing as a stress-relief is a proven technique that can ease our moods both momentarily as well as for the long-term."