How to Survive and Thrive through the Festive Season

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While the occasional celebratory indulgence can be good for the soul, it’s a slippery slope to tossing our physical and mental health and wellbeing goals to the kerb. Here Aleney de Winter shares her top tips to surviving and thriving throughout the festive season.

‘Tis the season…. for rich festive food, lots of raising alcohol-filled glasses and way, way more stress than we can handle as we play calendar Tetris. And, let’s be honest, as this pandemic-fuelled dumpster fire of a year comes to an end, many of us are starting the season carrying high stress loads, and, as we welcome in 2022, the celebrations for the new year may be a little merrier than usual. Here are our top tips to not only surviving throughout the festive season but thriving.…

Christmas calories do count

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Santa isn’t slipping a magical cure for calories into your Christmas stocking, in fact a 2019 Shape of Australia survey found that 40 per cent of Australians gained weight over Christmas. That’s not to say you shouldn’t dig into a hearty Christmas dinner, just make better choices, like lean protein (you don’t have to forgo the turkey, just skip the skin), seafood, salad, seasonal stone fruits and berries.

Beware of leftovers

If you are hosting Christmas, you’re likely to end up with a fridge full of temptation after the event. Package up leftovers in parcels and send a little home with every guest, to gently spread the calorie love over a few extra bodies.

Make it about maintenance

If you’re on a weight loss journey, you might need to take a wee detour to maintenance land during the holidays. It’s not possible to eat perfectly all the time, especially during the silly season, and a one-off celebration meal is okay and there’s no need to deny yourself. But in saying that there’s also no need to binge. Find a middle ground. And simply resume regular programming in the new year.

Water yourself

Summer in Australia can get hot and if we don’t adequately hydrate, it can lead to hunger and sluggishness, which in turn leads to snacking and skipping out of exercise. Drink water frequently throughout the day to keep your body happily hydrated.

Here’s to healthy cheers

Not only is alcohol high in calories, it increases our appetite and reduces our inhibitions, which can lead to us tossing all our healthy practices out the window. But not every festive event needs to involve alcohol. Put your hand up to be the designated driver and raise a glass of mineral water or one of the tasty alcohol free drink options available. If you really want to get merry, have that glass of wine but alternate any alcoholic beverages with water, or perhaps choose just one or two events where you will drink.

Don’t burn the candle at both ends

While your calendar may be packed with events, and you have what seems like a million things to do to prepare for family festivities, don’t skimp on sleep. A restful night’s sleep doesn’t just make us feel good, it’s vital for good health and it sets you up to get things done. A good night’s sleep is also essential for maintaining a good mood, which can come in extra handy over the holidays.

Just say no

There are parties, school activities, Christmas concerts, lunches, dinners and more parties squeezed one after the other. But you don’t have to say yes to them all. Forget FOMO and say no occasionally. Sure, you might miss out on a few fun flings, but the reduced stress levels will see you enjoying the events you do attend that much more.

Keep it simple

Real Christmas’ don’t look like the shiny, sumptuous scenes we see in the movies, so don’t put yourself through the emotional ringer of trying to make everything look picture perfect. The stress of trying to achieve perfection can make you seriously sick, so accept that good enough is really good enough and your efforts will be appreciated no matter how big or small.

Be kind to yourself

As the in-laws descend, you tick off the gift lists and shop for and prepare lunch for a cast of thousands, you might be pulling out your hair. This year, make a commitment to prioritising your own physical and mental wellbeing. Grab a massage, take yourself to lunch and don’t be afraid to ask for help when it all gets too much.

Manage your mental health

While for many, Christmas is a joyous day filled with friends and family, for others it’s filled with underlying tension and unresolved disagreements, crippling social pressure or overwhelming feelings of loneliness. All of which can trigger anxiety, depression and mood disorders. With many services closed over the holidays it’s important to set yourself a mental health strategy. Start by acknowledging your feelings, setting boundaries, and knowing your triggers, limit alcohol intake and remember that support is just a phone call away.

Lifeline: 12 11 14 and Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Keep moving

Exercise is not only great for our physical health, even a little activity can help release feel-good hormones that are wonderful for our mental wellbeing. No matter how busy things get, make time for fresh air and exercise, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information only, and does not constitute health or medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your mental or physical health, seek immediate medical attention.