Staying Well at Christmas – Top Tips!

It’s nearly here and more than likely your ‘to-do’ list has drastically expanded in size, the pressures on your finances has intensified and every relationship issue in your life has been brought sharply into focus.  Happy Christmas eh!

If you are feeling the pressure to present the ‘perfect Christmas’ and #creatememories, these tips can support you in maintaining your wellness during the Christmas period: 

1 – Pay attention to your sleep

If you consistently get under 7 hours sleep a night, you are classified as sleep deprived.  And although we sometimes attach some bold status to ‘surviving on 5 hours sleep’, it has a devasting impact on our health if we are chronically sleep deprived. 

In 1942, 8% of the population were sleep deprived. Now, it is over 50% and this is a serious health issue. Sleep deprivation is linked to obesity, dementia, depression, lowered immune system…to name a few of the negative consequences! 

You are 4.3 times more likely to crash your car if you have had under 5 hours of sleep, 11.5 times more likely if under 4 hours, such is the impact of sleep on our ability to function well – sleep is the foundation of good health.

So, despite the busyness of the Christmas period, I’d ask you to take this opportunity to evaluate how you prioritise your sleep and take the time to set some goals for 2020 (and it is worthwhile saying that having a lie-in a couple of times over the Christmas period will NOT have long-term impact, sleep needs to be consistently good):

  • Do you consistently get under 7 hours sleep a night?
  • If so, what steps can you take to use sleep to renew your energy?

The best book I have read on this topic is here and will give you detailed analysis of how to get better sleep and what happens if you don’t!  Using the Christmas break to set your sleep up for 2020 could be a life changer for your health. 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-We-Sleep-Science-Dreams/dp/0241269067

If you prefer a podcast, Matthew Walker has been on many podcasts and this one is great:

https://drchatterjee.com/episode-26-sleep-matthew-walker-part-1/

https://drchatterjee.com/episode-27-why-we-sleep-with-matthew-walker-part-2/

 

2 – See the light 

The Christmas movies may tempt you into spending your break on the sofa, resting.  And although it is valuable for your wellbeing to take time out and indulge in some escapism, neglecting the fact your body needs some light and outdoor action won’t keep you feeling your best. 

First off, your body needs Vitamin D and up to half of us are deficient in Vitamin D in the winter, and a Vitamin D deficiency has some serious health concerns.  Lots of research points to the ‘flu season’ being related to a population level decline in Vitamin D as the light and sun fades during the winter. 

Making time to get some light onto your body not only will aid Vitamin D production, the research is also very clear that walking has tremendous positive impact on your wellbeing and general health – it can increase creativity and problem solving, lift your mood, protect you from depression and even reverse the functional ageing of the brain. 

You can use your Christmas break wisely – it is an opportunity to set your habits for 2020 around this very basic pillar of wellbeing – getting outdoors and moving more.

If you’d like to know more about vitamin D in the winter months, here is some information:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/nov/03/five-ways-to-avoid-a-vitamin-d-deficiency-in-the-dark-of-winter

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/users-guide-getting-vitamin-d-dark-months-ahead/

And this podcast about the superpowers of walking is super informative; you could go for a walk while you listen! https://drchatterjee.com/why-walking-is-the-superpower-you-didnt-know-you-had-with-professor-shane-omara/

 

3 – Be around your people

This is a tricky one because none of us have perfect social relationships, but one thing is for sure… we all benefit from spending time with other humans.   We are social animals and our relationships and connections with other people matter to us.  

Christmas can bring into sharp focus the quality of our social relationships – some of us have good quality relationships and feel content, but some of us don’t have that and feel empty and disconnected.  Whatever your situation, take this time to evaluate your social connections and put some goals in place for 2020.

If you have good relationships, be mindful during your valuable time together and set the goal to be totally present with them and really enjoy the moments to renew your wellbeing.   If not, take some time to do things you enjoy and try not to compare yourself with others (e.g. stay away from social media!). Try and remember that we all must tread our own path in life and deal with our own, often undesirable, circumstances and especially that comparison is the thief of joy.   

As with all these things, you cannot change this overnight, but you can take some positive steps to improve your social connections.  Setting a goal for 2020 to take up that hobby you have been thinking about doing, calling that friend you have been meaning to call or even joining a dating website, could enable you to feel differently and set yourself up to get the enormous wellbeing benefits from good social connections.  

 

4 – Eat for sustained energy, despite the temptations

The supermarkets are crammed with temptation right now and Christmas is often centred around food, and most of us say to ourselves “I’ll start again in the New Year” as we go for another mince pie.  And without wanting to be a total killjoy here, my thoughts are purely about whether these ‘treats’ are worth it for our overall wellbeing, and even the ability to enjoy the Christmas break? 

Sugar is the critical thing here as it plays havoc with our energy levels because our blood sugars go crazy with the influx of sugary snacks.  The afternoon nap may seem like a luxury during the Christmas break, but believe it or not, there is a world that exists where you don’t even need the after-dinner nap but it means paying attention to your sugar intake. 

I am very aware that this seems miserable, but my motivation here is for you to maintain your energy so you can actually enjoy your Christmas and not feel drained and exhausted by something that is so easily in your control – what you eat! 

For more information on how sugar intake impacts our energy, see here: 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10344206/How-to-stop-feeling-tired-and-maintain-your-energy-levels.html

 

5 – Switch off

It is becoming a bit of a thing to do a ‘digital detox’ and the Christmas break is a perfect opportunity to try this for yourself.  How long could you do without your phone? An hour, an afternoon, a day? How about 3 days?

Challenge yourself and see how you feel – does it improve your wellbeing?  There is a lot of research to say it will:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10344206/How-to-stop-feeling-tired-and-maintain-your-energy-levels.html

 

Christmas is just one day and you don’t change habits in one day, but using your Christmas break to evaluate your own health and wellbeing and starting the process of creating some new habits that prioritise your wellbeing for 2020 is realistic; set some goals and be very honest with yourself about how seriously you take your own wellbeing.

I hope your break is full of energy, joy and laughter but if not, you have the power to take back control of your health and wellbeing for 2020. 

Best wishes.