Yes, December is here and the shops have been full of Christmas ‘stuff’ since early October so I guess The Silly Season is really coming! So how can we survive this joyful time of year without having a nervous breakdown and why is it so important to reduce our stress levels anyway?
According to Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, almost everything comes back to stress and boy does the Silly Season set us up for sky rocketing stress levels.
The classic definition of stress is
“Any real or imagined threat and the body’s reaction to it”
The physiological stress response is an amazing response developed eons ago when we could turn a corner only to be faced with a man eating tiger. Well, in that situation the stress response is pretty damn useful. Right at that moment we really need our body to be focused on survival rather than digesting our Cocoa Pops. That’s fine for real life threatening situations but these days we are often in chronic low level stress mode all the time, and that’s before the Silly Season hits. So what about this ‘imagined threat’ idea? The stresses of Christmas are often imagined or at the very least self-created.
Let me go back to how stress affects your metabolism for a minute. In the Slow Down Diet, Marc David writes, “Metabolism is the sum total of all the chemical reactions in the body, plus the sum total of all our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences.” In his book, Marc talks about 8 metabolism enhancers and Number 1 on his list is “The Metabolic Power of Relaxation”. When we are stressed all the body’s metabolic functions are geared towards survival so digestion is last on the list. Basically our metabolism slows down, insulin and cortisol production are increased which means the body stores fat, stores weight and does not build muscle – this a recipe for unnecessary fluctuations in weight not to mention bloating, stomach cramps, belching and heartburn. Some other stress effects include:
Decreased nutrient absorption
Increased nutrient excretion
Increased blood cholesterol
Increased inflammation (think heart disease, stroke and painful joints)
Who wants that?
Actually it’s not the Silly Season that sets us up for stress, it’s our own expectations that we set for ourselves. So here are my 10 tips for surviving the Silly Season by reducing self-created stress:
Forget the perfect Christmas, it doesn’t exist. Aim for an enjoyable Christmas instead.
Keep it simple – don’t expect so much of yourself. Do you really need to be slaving over 10 courses for lunch with 5 dessert options?
Schedule time out for pleasure and recharge your batteries – book a massage or facial, take a bubble bath, watch your favourite TV show, take a walk in nature.
Breathe! Feeling anxious? Take some deep breaths. If that doesn’t work then pop some bubble wrap.
Pay attention to the body’s need for hydration - rushing around, hot weather and alcohol can all leave you dehydrated. Also be mindful that sometimes you may use food to satiate when in fact we are thirsty.
Be organised – I love lists, I like seeing all those ticks when I’m done. Make lists!
Consider online shopping to avoid the mad rush at the shops.
Set a budget and stick to it. Keep it simple and perhaps suggest a secret Santa instead of having to buy presents for everyone.
Don’t spread yourself too thin - this may mean politely saying no to others or asking for help. Delegate to the hubby and kids and accept that they won’t do it how you would have but that’s OK. The main thing to remember is that you don’t have to do everything!
Eat a wholesome snack before a party – reduce mindless eating of party food by eating a balanced snack before you go. Perhaps a yoghurt or a small handful of trail mix are good examples of wholesome protein. Overeating can leave you with a pile of guilt the next day which = even more stress. Allow eating to be a pleasure – enjoy whatever you are eating.
“No foods are inherently good or bad"
So there it is, my top ten tips for a HO! HO! HO!
Instead of a HUM! HUM! HUM!
Relax and enjoy.
Pam Bailey is a Feel Good Facilitator, Helping Women Feel Good Every Day
Nutritionist, Eating Psychology Coach, Life Coach & Heal Your Life Workshop Facilitator.
She is an International Keynote speaker & workshop leader & also provides private coaching via Skype & in person.
For more information contact Pam on 0452 464 818 or via email email@example.com