Join me during December as I count down ten tips for practicing self-care during the stressful festive season.
Now that you are more aware of the signs of stress, I’m going to give you some practical tips on what to do about it. It may surprise you that I’m actually kicking off with some tips related more directly to physical health. Physical and mental health are so intertwined that it’s hard to cover one without the other. Some people find that introducing changes related to their physical health feel more practical, and in some respects more simple. Today, it’s all about nutrition!
I love participating in the culture of sharing food and fun together at this time of year. Food isn’t purely a nutritional source, but a complex component of humanity that affects emotions, brings people together, strengthens relationships, and can bring great joy. Unfortunately many, or perhaps even most, people have had their relationship with food marred by cultural weight-obsession, repeated “dieting,” contradictory “diet” advice, and plentiful unnecessary emotions tied to various foods. But for now, I’m setting aside all things weight-related. After all, it’s health we’re after, not a specific body weight or shape.
If you feel that your nutritional intake is less than desirable, the lead-up to Christmas probably isn’t the best time to be making big changes. But today is a good day to pick up a new little tip you can introduce. Aim for simple, achievable, and sustainable.
Drinking plenty of water is easily forgotten, and is even more important if you are drinking more alcohol than usual, or enjoying warmer Australian weather. Even mild dehydration can have a significant effect on daily function, resulting in headaches, tiredness, and dizziness. And no-one wants you fainting during Christmas dinner!
Enjoy fresh produce
Increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. Only around 5% of Australians eat the recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. Experiment with different ways of cooking and preparing vegetables. Even something as simple as a dab of butter and sprinkle of salt can transform some bland vegetables into a yummy side dish.
The makeup of your diet may alter considerably during the festive season, as you socialise more, or have more convenience foods amongst the chaos, and this can have a significant impact upon how you feel. There is increasing evidence revealing the close relationship between what we eat and our mental health. Our food intake affects the bacteria in our gut, which in turn affects many diseases processes including mental health. So, try to avoid the attitude of “It’s too hard to eat well now, I’ll just ditch all attempts to eat healthily until next year.” Even if you are having some less healthy processed foods, try to also pack in plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and quality sources of protein.
Note that there is no one ‘correct’ way to eat, and every case has unique aspects. If you would like personalised dietary advice, your General Practitioner is a great place to start. They will take into account your medical history and medications, and can refer you to other health providers as necessary.
Use ‘mindful eating’ principles. Be aware of your hunger levels. Avoid eating when you’re not hungry, and stop when you are full. Slow down and take more notice of what you’re eating – the textures, flavours, smells and sounds. Savour and enjoy your food. Explore, experiment, and discover which foods you actually enjoy. Some people are really surprised at what they find when they set aside guilt and past notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods.
So, feel free to relax and enjoy the food-centered festivities this year! These tips will help you to enjoy the time-honoured tradition of sharing food with loved ones in the holiday season in a way that feeds you physically, socially, emotionally and mentally.
Over the next few days, I will be sharing more tips to reduce stress and improve wellbeing over the festive season. If you missed it yesterday, you can read about how to identify stress here. To make sure you don’t miss the rest, you can follow me on Facebook, sign up for my emails, join my Facebook group, or simply check back in on my website!