It’s meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ but the pressure of the festive season can often mean a stress overload. Trying to get everything ready in time can be incredibly stressful, especially for women – a third of whom feel more stressed in December than any other month, according to research. Here’s what you can do about it.
#1 The 10-minute mind trick
Set aside 10 minutes a day for meditation. Simply sit down in a quiet room with your back supported and eyes closed. Try to clear your mind of all worries. Don’t worry if thoughts bubble to the surface, as this is completely normal! The more you resist the more it will persist. Simply bring your attention back to your breath and continue until the time is up. If you’re new to meditation or need more support, find a guided meditation app (e.g. Calm, Insight Timer or Headspace) to lead you through the process.
#2 Eat regularly
Erratic eating times and skipping meals can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels, which leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s difficult when routines go out the window, but try to stick to three meals (with two optional snacks if needed) a day and your digestion will thank you for it. Base all your meals and snacks on protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and seeds), fruit and vegetables and smaller amounts of complex carbs (root vegetables, brown rice, wholemeal bread or pasta).
#3 Cut back on alcohol and caffeine
I know it’s hard, especially at Christmas when socialising revolves around drinking, but try ditching (or significantly reducing) your alcohol and caffeine intake. Caffeine causes a release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands – the last thing you want if you are already stressed! At first, alcohol might help to relax you when you’re stressed out (by promoting the release of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter), but it is quickly metabolised to sugar that can lead to a restless sleep, which leads me onto my next tip.
#4 Prioritise sleep
Get into a sleep routine that includes relaxing practices such as taking a warm bath with Epsom salts, light reading or stretching. Introduce a digital detox at least an hour before bed (that means no phones, no TV, no laptops or tablets), so as not to disrupt melatonin production (the sleepy hormone). A light snack such as an oatcake with almond butter or a banana may help to support undisturbed sleep.
#5 Eat magnesium-rich meals
Magnesium relaxes the nervous system and muscles so eating foods rich in this mineral, such as leafy greens, avocados, sesame seeds and spinach can help reduce stress.