12 days of Christmas health tips

Forget turtledoves, French hens, or even golden rings; the best gift you can give yourself and your true love this Christmas is the gift of good health. Jean Hailes is making this even easier with 12 simple tips to help you survive the silly season with your health intact.

1. Stress
Organisation and planning can help to keep you calm and take some of the pressure off. Make a list (and check it twice!) for things like present and food shopping, Christmas cards, and other ‘to-do’ items. Decide what’s really important, and what’s contributing unnecessarily to your stress. Delegate wherever possible – you don’t have to do it all on your own!

2. What to eat
Canapés and finger food at parties are often high in fat and kilojoules, and while drinking, chatting and socialising, we tend to forget how many we’ve had! Try to choose healthier options where possible such as chicken skewers, sushi, prawns, smoked salmon, vegetable crudités and fresh fruit. Avoid fried foods, cakes and pastries.

3. What to drink
If you choose to drink alcohol, try to be aware of how much you’re consuming. A standard drink is 10g of alcohol, which equates to 100ml wine (much less than we usually pour ourselves!), 30ml spirits, 60ml fortified wine e.g. port, sherry, 425ml light beer or 285ml full strength beer. Be wary of cocktails or punches at parties as the alcoholic content may be much higher than you realise (not to mention the added kilojoules from fruit juices and other ingredients).

4. When to eat
Try to enjoy festive fare in moderation and only indulge in the foods that you really enjoy, not the ones that you eat ‘just because they’re there’. Simple tricks like waiting until Christmas Eve to eat a mince pie, or having a small piece of shortbread with your cup of tea but passing on the chocolates (which we eat all year round) mean that you won’t feel like you’re missing out.

5. Financial strain
The best way to avoid financial stress is to budget throughout the year and not spend more than you can afford. If you have a large group of family and friends to buy presents for, consider agreeing on a price limit per person, or arrange a Kris Kringle where each member of the group buys a present for one other member only.

6. Avoiding alcohol
At this time of year, there seems to be a party, dinner or get-together every other night. To limit your alcohol intake, try substituting a good mineral water for wine and drink it out of your favourite wine glass. If you do decide to drink alcohol, be sure to alternate with non-alcohol drinks (preferably water) to keep yourself hydrated.

7. Weight gain prevention
According to Nutrition Australia, Australians gain on average between 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period, and this weight can be difficult to shift. Try to prevent weight gain by enjoying festive food in moderation at celebrations and eating mostly healthy foods when you’re at home. Maintain your regular exercise routine where possible or swap it for other activities such as playing games and sports with your family or going for a walk together after dinner.

8. Dealing with family conflict
If you have a strained relationship during the year with some family members, try not to expect miracles; chances are you’re not going to get along at Christmas time either. Some people may turn to alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs as a means of coping with family conflict, however these will not alleviate stress and in fact will probably increase problems on the day, and perpetuate difficulties in the long run. Instead, try to identify triggers for conflict and avoid these topics or behaviours.

9. Sleep
The ‘silly season’ can wreak havoc with sleeping schedules as our social calendars become increasingly busy. Regular routines go out the window and we may also adopt habits that interfere with our sleep such as drinking alcohol late at night. Then there is the effect of stress, which can make it difficult to relax and unwind. When you’re on holidays, try to go to bed and get up at a reasonable hour; resist the long sleep-in or you may find it difficult to get to sleep the following night.

10. Physical activity
The holiday break often leads to a break in our regular exercise regimes. Your usual exercise classes or sporting games may be cancelled, or perhaps it’s too warm to exercise outside at your usual time. Adaptation is the key – beat the heat by exercising first thing in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler. If your regular workout is cancelled over the Christmas holidays, make plans with a friend to meet up for a bike ride or a swim at the beach.

11. Bereavement
If you have lost a loved one, your feelings of grief and loss may be worse at Christmas time. Remember that everyone grieves differently and family members may want to acknowledge the loss in different ways. Some find sticking to traditions comforting, while others find a change in the routine helps them to cope. Some family members may want to reminisce, while others prefer to remember the lost family member privately in their own way. It’s important to respect these differences and accommodate each other’s reactions as much as possible.

12. Loneliness
For some people, Christmas can be a very lonely and depressing time of year. Find out if anyone else in your social circle is spending Christmas alone and organise to spend the day together, or consider volunteering at a charity, homeless shelter or nursing home on Christmas Day. Participating in local community events like Carols by Candlelight can also offer a sense of belonging.

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
www.jeanhailes.org.au or call toll free 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)