Whether you eat too much, drink too much, or don’t prep enough, the holiday season can be really tough on your body and mind. Not only do our stress levels go through the roof, but there is an expectation of excess around Christmas and New Year's that some people find difficult. Whether that’s because you’re recovering from an addiction, you have a difficult relationship with food, or you struggle to manage with less sleep, the excess can catch up with you very quickly. So as we move into the festive season, we wanted to highlight some of the issues that can come up, and how to navigate them.
‘Tis the Season Of Excess
There’s a lot to love about the Christmas season. It’s a time of year when everybody stops working and spends time with the people they love. We all get to eat, drink and be merry together, like a little refuge from the everyday stresses of the world.
But it’s also a time of excess. We all go a little overboard, whether it’s on food, alcohol, drugs, spending, or even staying up too late too many days in a row. It’s the one time of year we feel like we can let loose and enjoy ourselves. The problem is, all of that excess isn’t always good for us. Studies show that around a quarter of us struggle with our mental health at Christmas, and a few of the causes can be linked back to excess. Around 47% of people get into debt due to overspending at Christmas, while many others feel guilty about indulging in alcohol, drugs or food, sometimes to the point of feeling physically bloated and unwell. Not to mention the increased negative emotions from alcohol (which is a depressant) or interference with prescribed medication. But is there a way to get the enjoyment of Christmas, without having to deal with the morning after the night before?
Managing The Festive Period
Keep your routines: Routines are important to us as human beings. They keep us grounded, make sure our nervous system is regulated, help us manage stress more effectively and put us in a positive mental space. The festive period often means a lot of disruption and change, which can interfere with your routines. Of course, you might not be able to control some things, but if you can keep some of your routines (like bedtimes, self-care routines, exercise etc) the same, it will make the rest of the stressors much easier to cope with. That goes for children as well as adults!
Pay attention to your mental health: You are the best judge of your own mental health. If you understand what your triggers are, and what it looks like when you start to slide downhill, you can take action to prevent it. Whether that means avoiding a certain person or situation entirely, or taking time out of a busy situation to meditate and practice mindfulness, making sure you’re aware of your mental health and how you feel can be a big help. You are your best advocate after all.
Know your limits: And stick to them. If you know you can only have 3 beers before things start getting hazy, then make 3 beers your hard limit. If you know that mixing drinks will give you a nightmare hangover, make sure you don’t do it. And if you know coffee after midday will keep you up all night, make sure you decline the after-dinner coffees. No matter what it is you’re consuming, make sure you know what your limits are, and make them known if you need to.
Manage your spending: The excess of the festive season isn’t just food-based. Overspending is a big problem for many people in the months leading up to Christmas, and is one of the big causes of anxiety and depression in January. If that feels familiar, then now is the time to prepare and make sure you don’t overspend this year. The first step is to create a realistic budget for all of your holiday expenses – gifts, decorations, travel costs, and anything you will need to spend. This will help you stay on track and avoid impulsive purchases. Make a list, and set the money aside in a separate account if you can, as this will stop you from going over budget. Remember it’s the thought that counts, rather than the price tag, so if you’re able to do DIY gifts, all the better!
Practice mindful eating: Mindful eating might sound complicated, but it’s just listening to your body. After all, the holidays don’t just mean you eat more food than usual. You’re also eating much richer food and drinking more alcohol than usual, which can cause all sorts of disruption to your system. Mindful eating is the practice of listening to your body and immersing yourself in the experience of enjoying your food. This means identifying whether you’re really hungry or just eating because it’s there (don’t worry, we’ve all been guilty of this!), paying attention to your satiety signals, eating slower and using all of your senses to really enjoy your food. Doing this means you often end up eating less, but you enjoy the experience a lot more and avoid the excess! There’s a great blog on mindful eating that you can read here.
Excess might seem like part and parcel of the Christmas spirit, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little preparation, you can avoid that difficult ‘morning after the night before’ and enjoy the season guilt-free.