Christmas season can be a hazardous time of year. Amongst the shopping, activities, and travel is the stress of preparation, driving on cluttered roads, and being a good guest or host. It takes energy to get through this time of year and survival is more likely by making a plan now. This blog aims to describe the cause of your emptying gas tank and strategies how to keep you topped up.
Firstly, how to avoid the pitfalls of the pre-Christmas (pre-25th) season with a sprinkle of common sense and planning.
It’s a busy time of year and for most of us we experience increases in stress. Stressors will often be due to: a greater pull on your time; more pressure on your budget; and, less than ideal food temptations being constantly offered/available – sometimes it’s hard to say ‘no’.
Stress is not always a bad thing. Pre-25th is a busy time and you need to get up and going to get things done. Stress provokes a chemical response to do just that. More adrenaline is produced to help you push through. It helps you have a higher state of awareness for grabbing that parking spot or seeing that great deal for ….. enter most difficult person to buy a gift for here. Unfortunately, that’s about all stress is good for.
Often, increase in stress chemicals (eg. adrenaline, cortisol) result in negative effects such as fatigue, emotional tension, and unwanted physical symptoms. The reason for these negative effects is simple – you’ve lost your normal balance. At this time of year there is often: a compromise of your time to social events; reduced physical activity due to other commitments; poor food choices with social eating being high in sugar, alcohol, and polyunsaturated fats; and significant strain on the family budget.
Environmental factors don’t always help. The middle of the day can get very hot, roads become busy, and car parking is scarce. Other people are stressed which may make them …… unpleasant. Longer days bring more daylight which may allow you to do more, however, sleep is important during busy times and often longer days equate to later nights and earlier rises.
Finally, the weight of expectation to be social, generous, and available can reduce your immune system strength and hence your ability to ward off bugs and lurgy. With an ever-growing ‘to-do’ list the last thing you need to happen, happens – you get sick and confined to bed.
With just a little planning, fore-thought, and help there is no reason why you can’t have your cake in moderation and a full gas tank too. This year focus on keeping your health foundations strong with awareness and strategies to these major areas of health:
- Diet. Christmas cheer is synonymous for sugar overload. Too much sugar will result in achy joints (particularly fingers and low back), spikes of energy followed by lows of fatigue, and bad breath. Strategies to combat sugar overload (other than not eating it) include:
- Snack on carrot sticks, fruit pieces (apples, pineapple, oranges), dates, olives, muscles, cucumber, summer berries (blueberries, strawberries), and cheeses (know your tolerance – you can overload here too).
- Drink more water. You can make water enjoyable and healthy. Drink still or sparkling water with lemon (squeeze it yourself) or consider coconut water (high in minerals which replaces electrolyte loss through sweating).
- Limit alcohol. Introduce a limit or combine water with your social consumption by adding a glass of water in between drinks.
- Exercise. Extra commitments pre-25th often hinder your normal routine of exercise. Try modifying your exercise to fit in with your busy schedule. The sun is higher which also equates to extra heat in the middle of the day and with extra sting in the sun rays. The best time to exercise is first thing in the morning (or late in the evening) due to: cooler hence less strain from hot conditions; helps prepare the day with clear thinking; and social events tend to be in the evening and hence exercise in the evening is sacrificed. Additionally, modify your exercise intensity to allow you to have energy for this busy time of year. It’s only a few weeks and there is plenty of summer left for you to ramp up your training post 25th.
- Sleep/Rest. Natural recovery is vital at this time of year and a good nights sleep is essential for the body to have a full gas tank, cope with pre-25th and be ready to play post-25th. Other than going to bed at a sensible time, consider these three factors:
- Avoid stimulants before going to bed – particularly treats and
- Ensure your bedroom is light proof.
- Have air flow in your bedroom with windows and doors slightly ajar or open.
Try this test for determining your tiredness. Go to bed at 8-30 (assuming this is an early bed time for you) with a book or magazine (no electronic devices) and see how long you last – if you crash then you need more sleep, repeat the following night.
The saviour of Christmas present – make a Planner!
Control of stress requires a well thought out plan. My suggestion is to follow our template below. Our plan consists of three columns: identifying the stress; managing the individual stress; and, sharing the stress load. There is power in writing things down – so get some paper and a pen and do the hardest thing first – get started.
An example of a Christmas planner is given below, however, you can make your own.
- Identifying Stressors.
The causes of stress present in many different guises. Start by addressing the most obvious and then extrapolate on those to get to the real reason that item is on your stress list to start with. Stressors will be things you don’t like about this time of year. It may be: traffic, budget, socialising, restrictions on budget, interruptions to your normal routines.
- Determine your Management Plan.
This is where you make a plan to deal with the stressor. It is also where you can determine who to purchase gifts for and what budget you can assign to your plan. Be sure not to abbreviate this section as it represents your saviour to the stress of pre-25th.
- Shared Load.
Here is where you can really take the stress out of pre-25th. A stress shared is a stressed halved – as the saying goes. Lots of options come apparent when you think about how you can help others and how they can help you. For example, combine looking after the children of one friend/family with two (or more) instantly gives them and you more time when the roles are reversed. Combine gift giving takes pressure of budgets and maybe decision making.
Finally, keep your planner in one place so to avoid losing your plan. Make the place easily accessible and peaceful so you can think clearly about the modifications which invariably occur during this chaotic time of year.
Good luck and be sure to have your Chiropractic check-up before Christmas.
Matt Short – Dr of Chiropractic