The run up to Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time and all too often we get to Christmas day and we’re already feeling burnt out, tired and fed up of the whole festive business! There’s presents that need to be bought and wrapped, Christmas cards to be written and sent, food and drink to be made, kids nativity costumes to be sorted and then there are all the Christmas parties, which, don’t get me wrong are a whole lot of fun, but can leave us drained, hungover and often a little red-faced. Then there’s the financial strain, arguments, trying to cope with different traditions between families, different dietary requirements, in fact the list goes on and on and it gets to the point where we forget one of the most important things of all; to enjoy it.
The Art of Healthy Living is keen to ensure you have a Christmas that is healthy, happy and stress free, which is why we have compiled our Christmas survival guide, as a little present for you all!
Christmas Survival Guide
There’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas is expensive, but it is ridiculous to get yourself in financial debt for just one day of the year. Money is one of the biggest worries for a lot of people and can often be the cause of many an argument, but if you plan ahead, make sensible choices and are prepared to shop around it is possible to stick within a budget that suits you.
Where will I find the money?
Here are a few money saving tips:
- January sales – I know it seems crazy to be thinking about next Christmas when one has only just passed, but it is one way to save yourself a lot of money. Things like wrapping paper, cards, decorations and even some gifts get heavily discounted after Christmas, so January is a perfect time to stock up.
- Secret Santa – Talk to your family and friends and ask whether they would like to be involved in a secret Santa for presents this year, rather than everyone buying each other individual gifts. Most people will be thankful that you have suggested it and relieved they won’t need to buy as many presents. By all means continue buying presents for any children, Christmas is mainly for them after all, but adults won’t miss having presents, that half the time they don’t even want.
- Cashback – Sign up to a cashback site, like Quidco, which earns you cashback on every purchase you make through them. Their site will redirect you to any of the listed retailers, of which there are many major ones, and you will receive a percentage of that sale back. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up, especially around Christmas when you’re spending more.
- Be realistic – Do you really need two tubs of chocolates, five bottles of mulled wine and three joints of meat? Many of us buy way too much food and drink over Christmas, I myself am guilty of this, and the problem is that as soon as New Years Day is over there’s often loads left over and we’re all thinking about going on a diet. Before you do a food shop, sit down and make a plan. Work out what days you’ll be eating at home, what meals you need, how many visitors you’ll be having and whether everybody drinks alcohol or not. Of course it is better to have too much than to run out, just don’t go overboard.
- Stock up – It is a good idea to buy food that can be frozen or food with longer best before dates a couple of weeks in advance. That way you can stagger the cost and prevent yourself from having to go on a massive shopping trip in the few days before Christmas day when every man, woman, child and dog will be out buying theirs. This also allows you to take advantage of any deals you see, such as buy one get one free and half price offers. Just remember to keep track of what you’ve already bought so that you don’t double up nearer the time.
- Vouchers – Now is the perfect time to use any supermarket loyalty points you may have built up over the year. Tesco Clubcard vouchers, for example, often have double point boosts on them at this time of year, giving you even more value for money. It’s also worth checking out some of the voucher code sites, such as vouchercodes.co.uk, to see if you can save even more money on your shopping.
I feel as stuffed as a turkey!
Christmas is one of the only times of year that we allow ourselves free reign of the chocolates, a time when it’s acceptable to drink alcohol before 11am and when all thoughts of being on a diet are pushed firmly to the backs of our minds. But, when you’ve been constantly grazing all day come the evening you’re often sat there feeling tired, bloated and might even be suffering from heartburn. Is it really worth making yourself feel like that just because it’s Christmas? Now, don’t for one minute think I’ve gone all bah humbug on you, because I haven’t. I love my food as much as the next person and the mere whiff of a tin of Cadbury’s Roses and I’m in there snuffling about like a pig hunting for truffles. The key is, and we’ve all heard this one before, ‘everything in moderation’! That’s right, if you want some chocolate, have it, but only have a couple. Research has shown that there is approximately 3,000 calories in the average Christmas dinner alone, so combine that with what you’ve had for breakfast and all the extra nibbly bits and treats, not to mention the drinks, you’ve had on top of that and you can soon see how the figures start to stack up. The basic Christmas dinner is actually a healthy meal. Turkey contains the essential mineral Selenium, which is good for the immune system, helps prevent damage to cells and soft tissues and is also great for your nails and hair. Then there are all the vegetables; sprouts, carrots, broccoli, parsnips, red cabbage etc.. But the real damage comes from all the little extras like stuffing, rich gravy, pigs in blankets, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes cooked in goose fat and Yorkshire puddings. Again, I’m not saying don’t have all these things, just don’t have so much. Fill your plate up with vegetables so that there is less room for the other things and then you know that the bulk of your meal will be healthy and should also not leave you feeling as stuffed at the end of the meal. Oh, and before going back for seconds, allow yourself a 20 minute rest, as it takes that long before our brains register that our tummies are full. Plus, you want to leave room for dessert, right?!
With all the extra treats that are around it’s difficult to say no and we tend to leave food out on show more at Christmas, which means eating is constantly on our minds. Tins of chocolates on the coffee table, chocolates and candy canes on the Christmas tree, bowls of salted peanuts, mince pies, the list goes on and on. But, before you pop something else into your mouth, ask yourself this: are you hungry?. More often than not the answer is no, but when there’s food everywhere you look, it is very difficult to ignore. This Christmas try to be more mindful of what you eat and don’t just eat for the sake of it. Plus, try having less food on show, or if you do have food out make it fruit and non-salted nuts instead. This time of year there’s an abundance of apples, clementines, chestnuts, pears etc. and wouldn’t it be good knowing you’ve managed to consume some healthy, nutrient rich fruit other than the slice of lemon in your gin and tonic!
Which brings us nicely onto drink. We all drink more at Christmas, it is a time of celebrating after all, and if you’re anything like me your day will look something like this:
7am – Get woken by the kids. Cup of coffee in bed whilst they open their stockings from Father Christmas.
8am – Venture downstairs, all excited and take in the delighted faces of the kids as they see the mountain of presents under the Christmas tree.
8.05am – Open the Bucks Fizz to toast a Christmas cheer with the husband as the kids send torn wrapping paper in all directions.
8.30am – First bottle of Bucks Fizz gone.
9am – Think about cooking some brunch, usually scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on a toasted muffin. In our house we like to do brunch and then have Christmas dinner around 3-4pm so that we only have two large meals in one day.
9.10am – Second bottle of Bucks Fizz opened; got to have something to wash brunch down.
11am – Warm up some mulled wine. Might as well have a mince pie to go with it, well it would be rude not to.
11.30am – Finish bottle of mulled wine, because who wants a half drunk bottle of mulled wine left in their cupboard?
2.30pm – Have a long drink, as starting to feel a bit thirsty, usually something like a gin and tonic or maybe a Snowball, because it’s Christmas.
3.30pm – Christmas dinner time, time to open the wine.
4.30pm – Dessert wine and brandy for the Christmas pudding.
5pm – After dinner Port.
7pm – Kids go to bed.
8pm – Slouch in sofa feeling stuffed, tired and happy, with a glass of Bailey’s to round off a great day.
That is quite a mixture, I’m sure you’ll agree, and I’m certain it’s a good indication of most people’s drinking habits throughout Christmas day. One thing I have noticed is that there seems to be a distinct lack of non-alcoholic drinks and this is where most of us get it wrong. If you want to avoid headaches and hangovers remember to intersperse alcoholic drinks with soft drinks, ideally water. You’re body is put under a lot of extra strain at Christmas, trying to deal with the extra calories and your liver definitely needs time to recover. Keep a jug of water out, so that it acts as a visual reminder and keep topping it up throughout the day. Or, swap some of the alcoholic drinks with a fruit juice punch, which will also contribute to your 5-a-day and is something the kids can enjoy too.
It’s completely unrealistic to believe that you will keep to your usually exercise regime over Christmas, but there are still things you can do to keep yourself and the family active and burn off a few of those extra Christmas pounds in the process. An afternoon walk is the perfect way to help work off the calorific Christmas dinner and not only that, but it will also help over excited, house bound children burn off some excess energy and clear the minds of any fuzzy-headed adults. There’s nothing better than a brisk walk in the open air to make you feel good about yourself and it will leave you feeling refreshed, invigorated and full of positivity. Other ways of incorporating exercise into your Christmas is by playing energetic party games, such as Charades or why not do some crazy Christmas dancing. Anything that gets you up off the sofa and moving your body is beneficial to your health and trust me your body will thank you for it come the New Year.
Trying to create the perfect Christmas is asking for trouble, so give yourself a break and instead focus on making the day run as smoothly and as calmly as possible whilst having lots and lots of fun. Remind yourself that you can’t please everybody and as the saying goes, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. It doesn’t matter if the turkey takes longer to cook than you thought; just eat a bit later and keep the other food warm. So what if your Aunty Noreen misses the Queens speech because that’s when you’ve chosen to serve lunch; set it up to record in advance and she can watch it afterwards. There is always a solution to a problem and if people have come round as guests, they should be expected to respect your timetable, the food you provide and the traditions you uphold. As easy as it may sound, especially if you’re slaving away in a hot, steamy kitchen and the kids are screaming at each other in the next room, you really need to try and stay calm. Why not play some relaxing music, top up your glass of wine and take some time to breath. Our heartbeat increases when we’re stressed and our breathing becomes shallow. In order to reverse this breathe in deeply through your nose and hold the breath for 15-2o seconds before releasing it slowly through your mouth. Doing this a few times will restore a sense of calm and you will regain control of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.
Even if you’re hosting Christmas this year, it really is a bit much to expect you to do everything, you’re not a servant after all! Make sure everyone has their own role, for example enlist the kids to set the table, ask for help with washing up and put the husband on drinks duties to ensure everyone always has a topped up glass. It’s important that you enjoy Christmas day too and you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting some time out to sit down and watch your favourite festive film with some bubbly. If you’ve a full house on the day, why not ask guests to bring a part of the meal, such as a canapés or a dessert. Providing for everybody is not only a lot of hard work, particularly if you are making everything yourself, but it can also work out incredibly expensive and it’s really not that much to ask people to contribute towards it in some way.
Think of others and yourself
Unfortunately, Christmas isn’t always as happy and as fun-filled for everybody and there are some people who either spend it alone or who have bad memories associated with it and don’t consider it a time to celebrate. If you know someone who hasn’t got their family around them, maybe an elderly neighbour, think about including them in some of your own festivities. Just the simple gesture of popping round with a card and a bottle of something or inviting them round for drinks and mince pies at your house, is enough to make anyone smile and feel loved. With modern mass consumerism it’s all too easy to forget about the important things, so make time this year to think about ways in which you can brighten someone’s day. There are also a lot of people who struggle to afford food each week, let alone at Christmas, so if you are able to donate something to your local food bank it really does help. Christmas should also be a time when families come together and any past issues or arguments should be forgotten. Nothing is worth falling out with your family over and what better time than to swallow your pride and welcome them into your home. Even if it’s just forgotten for the day, it makes for a much more stress free environment and treat the New Year as the perfect time to sit down and talk through any remaining issues, in order for you all to work out how to resolve and take the matter forward. You must also remember to look after yourself, because you’re no good to anybody if you’re not fit, healthy and happy. Make sure you schedule in some all important ‘me’ time and try to get a good nights sleep. Alcohol induced sleep is never as good for us and if you’ve eaten heavily during the day your sleep is also likely to be uncomfortable and disrupted. Don’t stay up too late and take advantage of the dark mornings by trying to have a lie in, in fact why not leave little hints about how nice it is to have a cup of tea in bed in the morning!
And, finally, the most important thing of all is to HAVE FUN! Christmas should be a time of laughter, happy memories and time spent with your loved ones. Imagine how sad you’ll feel if in years to come your children admit to you that their memories of you at Christmas is shouting and looking stressed sweating it out in the kitchen. Not good, right? Take time to play games, take photos and simply just sitting and watching the delight on their faces. Those are much, much happier memories.
The Art of Healthy Living would like to wish you all a Happy, Healthy, and Harmonious Christmas!!