Keeping well over Winter and Christmas

We are fast approaching Christmas and for many, it can be a bitter-sweet time of year for so many reasons, particularly in a pandemic. I love the festivities, particularly the mince pies and mulled wine but like many, I have a to-do list as long as my washing line and that can feel quite overwhelming in the run-up to Christmas with lots of plans and expectations. I want to share some tips for trying to reduce stress and help you feel as good as you can throughout winter and the festive season.

So here are my 5 tips to get the bauble rolling:

  1. Take a Vitamin D supplement

Vitamin D is really hard to make in the winter as the UVB rays we get in the summer bounce off the earth's atmosphere as the sun is much lower in the sky. Therefore it is recommended to supplement Vit D from Sept- March in the UK. Having adequate Vit D levels helps us absorb calcium for our bone health as well as a vital vitamin for our immune system and mood. If we are deficient we may feel lathargic and low in mood, so please go to your GP if you think you are, as you may need to have other medication depending on the severity. Also, it's worth mentioning that taking a higher dose of Vit D is not always better, as too much Vit D can increase your calcium levels too much- if you are not sure then speak to your pharmacist, they are generally really helpful.

2. Stay hydrated

Did you know that in the winter we do not feel as thirsty as we do in the summer mainly due to our bodies trying to conserve heat rather than prioritise fluid balance. This means we are just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as we do in the summer. While we may want to drink hot drinks, these are often caffeinated or make us wee more due to their diuretic properties. Try decaf options as well as fill a large reusable bottle every day and set reminders on your phone to sip from it regularly. And because I love talking about wee and poo it will help reduce the likelihood of UTIs, bladder irritation, constipation, headaches and dry cracked skin.

3. Cash in more sleep

This time of year can often have us out socialising or having a few more glasses of alcohol which can really affect the amount of sleep we get or the quality. Depending on the individual, on average we need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you aren't getting enough due to extra commitments or anxiety around this time of year, then try and fit in a quick 20-minute nap during the day or go to bed earlier on the days you have fewer things on. This isn't a long-term strategy as our bodies love routine and aiming to go to bed and waking up at the same time each day (including the weekend) is much better for our circadian rhythm and all the cellular functions that follow our body clock.

4. Consistency is key

Food choices may be more calorific this time of year and it often feels out of our control in terms of avoiding them completely. But I don't think we have to. We can still enjoy them if we are consistent most of the time and try to optimise other aspects of our life such as hydration, sleep, eating nutritious foods and moving more. This isn't to be mistaken for earning calories by exercising more as I feel this will create an unhealthy relationship with food and see exercise as a punishment. So it is important to focus more on getting the other stuff right to reduce our likelihood of overconsuming or feeling sluggish.

5. The power of no

While it is the season for sharing and giving, you cannot give what you do not have. That can be financially, physically or emotionally Giving to others should never be at the expense of your own wellbeing. I know it's hard, but if travelling around is a logistical nightmare or you cannot meet the financial expectations then please say no (respectfully). Arrange to celebrate on a different day, or spread seeing family over a longer period. In terms of gifting, you can do a secret Santa type arrangement and just buy for one family member and you all get one gift each. This works really well. If you don't want to buy 'tatt' then giving homemade baked goods or buying second hand is a viable option too. Other suggestions are giving your time in the new year by treating someone to a coffee or doing an activity together. I know most of us never need more stuff, we want experiences and connections with others.

Winter is always harder psychologically and so our cup can overfill much sooner than other times in the year. Try implementing a few of my suggestions to stop your cup from overflowing and hopefully end the year on an even keel rather than feeling you have to make huge radical changes in the new year.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas however you wish to celebrate it. You do you.

Merry Christmas