Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach Charlotte Lau explains how to manage Christmas stress

Tis the season to be jolly (fa la la la la la la la laaa!) but it’s also an incredibly busy time of year! Our diaries are bursting with work parties, deadlines, nativity plays, to-do lists, family visits and Christmas shopping; let’s face it, December is hectic! But that doesn’t mean it has to be a time of stress and anxiety. Taking time to prioritise yourself, look at what you are feeding your body – planning ahead and finding time to rest – means a less stressed, calmer and more enjoyable December.

Learn to… sleep more

The idea of this sounds wonderful but I’m sure many of you are thinking, how can I possibly do this in the busiest month of the year? Well, that is exactly the reason you should be prioritising your sleep this December. During sleep, the body and mind relax and recharge, giving us energy for the next day, as well as allowing time for maintenance and repair to take place in the brain and body. Having insufficient sleep can also impact your food choices the following day as more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, is produced and less leptin (the satiety hormone) which may lead to overeating and snacking. Reduce things that can hinder sleep, such as spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol and include foods that are high in tryptophan as they help promote sleep; protein rich sources such eggs, poultry, fish and cheese are all good choices. Minimise the use of electronics and try not to work before bed, as this can impact the quantity and quality of your sleep.

Step away from… doing it all

Delegate! You don’t have to tackle it all single-handed! Encourage those around you to take on some of the Christmas preparations. Sit down early and plan what needs doing and who is going to take responsibility for it. This is a great way to ensure everyone is involved and feels part of the preparations as well as building connection. Children love to be involved with the decorating, making mince pies or designing Christmas cards. Discuss with family members and guests who is happy to make a certain dish or contribute their favourite dessert to Christmas lunch. If work pressures and deadlines are looming, try making a list that includes tasks, events, meetings and include preparation time in your diary – be kind and don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Preparing a ‘back to work’ checklist for January, may help relieve some pressure over the Christmas break and allow you time to switch off.

Give it a go… eat for your mood

External pressures can often make us feel like we should be enjoying every second of the festive period but for many of us it can be a stressful, sad or lonely time. A healthy diet can do a lot to boost your mood and wellbeing and can lead to more positive thoughts, feelings, better energy and calmer moods. A diet that is high in salt, saturated fat and sugars can lead to low mood, poor memory and depression, so instead try to focus on fresh, seasonal produce and include unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds and oily fish. Try to be mindful of the amount of Christmas chocolates, sugary cocktails and high sugar desserts you consume this festive period, if you know you are prone to low mood. Serotonin, the happy hormone, has mood-stabilising qualities, so boost its production with foods that are high in tryptophan such as milk or tuna. Eating a protein rich breakfast such as eggs and veg is a great way to begin the day, keeping you off the blood sugar rollercoaster and leaving you happier and more energetic for longer.

Charlotte runs Plume Nutrition, where she offers support and advice for weight management, controlling cravings, sleeplessness, stress and increasing energy levels. Find out more at plumenutrition.com

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