Feeling more frazzled than festive? Read Lucy’s latest blog where she shares her down-to-earth tips for staying fit, healthy and sane at this super hectic time of the year.
If you love the whole twinkly build-up to Christmas but feel like you have so much to do that you can’t even stop to take a breath, I wrote this blog for you because that’s exactly how I feel every December. Excited but overwhelmed and completely out of my normal, strictly-scheduled, healthy routine. I’ve discovered the hard way that if I don’t set some personal wellness priorities and stick with them I end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed and unwell by the end of the year.
So just how can you enjoy all the preparations and accept all those exciting invitations while maintaining your wellness lifestyle? The short answer is you can’t. Not in it’s usual form anyway. Christmas comes with a lot of surprises but a few extra hours in the day isn’t one of them. However, there are plenty of things you can do – mainly sticking to those wellness basics – moving daily, keeping hydrated, getting enough sleep – to help you maintain as much balance and sense of perspective as possible. It’s unrealistic to think we’re going to be eating healthily all month long and fit in every one of our usual yoga classes or workouts, but we don’t have to let go of our healthy lifestyle entirely.
Here are some things I’m doing right now to carve out a little time for self-care and keep my energy up. I hope you find them helpful and you enjoy this very special if very hectic time of year.
Counterbalance the treats
Suddenly we are eating out a lot, drinking more than usual and indulging in seasonal treats at all hours of the day. Festive nibbles and feasts are there to be enjoyed not to feel guilty about so choose carefully and select foods that are special to Christmas rather than mindlessly munching on high-calorific foods you can have at any time of the year. To keep on top of things, I make sure I am drinking plenty of water throughout the day, I eat a super healthy breakfast to get me off to a nutritious start, then opt for a veggie-heavy soup for lunch and snack on healthy treats like nuts, olives and clementines.
Create to-do lists for everything
It sounds obvious but making lists really does reduce anxiety. Whenever I feel like I have way too many tasks on deck, sitting down and listing out chores, cards to write, presents still to buy and other to-dos calms me in an instant. Creating lists, and consequently ticking them off, helps me prioritize, tackle, and feel much more in control. I also write myself little wellness checklists and pop them round the house on post-its – take vitamins, have an aromatherapy bath, remember to do your wind-down, bedtime yoga stretches.
Keep your stress levels in check
At the same time, as our daily schedule changes, we also have the added pressure of shopping and family obligations. As a result of this added stress, our blood pressure and heart rate can go up, and our motivation to exercise and look after ourselves can go down or simply get swallowed up in the anxiety. Ironically, one of the best ways to control stress is to exercise (see below). I also find taking a time-out for a little mindful relaxation works wonders - five or ten minutes in Legs Up The Wall pose with an eye pillow or deep breathing with eyes closed in a simple seated cross legged position does the trick every time. And make sure you get enough sleep – balance out the partying and late nights up spent wrapping with an early night the following day.
You might not think you have any time to exercise at this time of year but there are ways to sneak in a workout here or there. The main thing is to keep active – walk or cycle everywhere to beat the traffic, go ice skating with friends, wrap up and power walk to collect the kids from school, do an online yoga class if you can’t get to the studio or get those endorphins flowing with a home workout. Even in the run up to Christmas, I make sure to move everyday – even if its walking to unravel my mind and get my circulation flowing. I also rely on HIIT bodyweight workouts which are super challenging but are very easy to squeeze in as they only take 30 minutes and can easily be done at home.
Cherish the Rituals
Self-care is important at Christmas, I definitely encourage you to eat well, move daily, and sleep enough but don't forget that this is a special, unique time of year that is best shared with loved ones. It will be busy, you will probably eat too much, spend too much and get stressed, however well you plan so be sure to cherish the time you spend with the people you love. Every Christmas we do the same things in my family - I carry the Christmas tree home from Columbia Road with the kids and then decorate it together while drinking hot chocolate, we have a lovely evening wondering around the magical Christmas at Kew and go ice skating at beautiful Sommerset House. Enjoy your Christmas, however, it turns out - it only comes around once a year after all!