We all crave and strive to achieve the perfect, idyllic Christmas, but it can also get a little overwhelming. It’s one of the busiest times of the year, with many trying to juggle their finances whilst delivering an effortless Christmas spectacular for the entire family. The months leading up to Christmas can be very stressful and it is no surprise that nearly 60% of those who suffer from anxiety will experience a panic attack during the Christmas season.
According to the charity, Mind, 81% of anxiety is caused by general stress during this period; a culmination of shopping, financial pressure, socialising and raised expectations. To make the festive period as stress-free as possible, nutritionist Sarah Flower offers her expert advice on how to deal with pre-festive anxiety.
1. Don’t Feed Your Anxiety
During the festive season we are surrounded by temptation and encouraged to indulge, which can be a real challenge for anxiety sufferers. To counteract the feeling of low energy, lack of concentration, and brain fog, many will reach for caffeine and sugary foods, which are so readily available during this time of year. Cortisol (produced by the adrenal glands) is often raised when we are anxious and this increases when we consume too much of these foods. Long-term stress and anxiety can cause the adrenal glands to become exhausted, leading to adrenal fatigue, which increases symptoms such as mood swings, weight issues, depression, muscle aches, cravings, and insomnia. It might be difficult, but where possible, try to avoid the vast array of junk and sugary snacks, and opt for colourful plates packed with antioxidant rich vegetables, lean meats, fish, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. In addition, pick foods which help to create more serotonin, and therefore help us relax, such as turkey, bananas and oats which are rich in tryptophan. Remember, Christmas is just one or two days for most of us. Be realistic and buy what you need or you will find you will still be eating mince pies, Quality Street and dried figs in January.
2. Up Your Vitamin D Intake
With the UK’s unpredictable weather and few sunshine hours, it is difficult to rely on boosting your vitamin D levels simply through sun and getting outdoors. A vitamin D deficiency affects many functions within the body and is also linked to seasonal affective disorder and mild depression, so I recommend investing in a Vitamin D supplement, especially during the winter months. However, I am by no mean suggesting you should avoid heading outdoors. It may be cold and dreary but the benefits of exercising outside are huge and can really help anxiety and depression sufferers. Whether it’s going for a short walk in your lunch break or a run in your local park before or after work, getting outside and moving can help to reduce stress and ease depression.
3. Consider CDB Oil
You may not have heard about this wonderful oil or may be apprehensive at the thought of it containing a form of cannabis, however you can rest assured, as CBD oil is not an illegal drug and does not have the same intoxicating effects as cannabis. It does, in fact have wonderful health benefits ranging from pain relief, arthritis, fibromyalgia, IBS, depression, ADHD and high blood pressure, as well as aiding with anxiety, depression and insomnia, so a perfect remedy at this busy time of year. Simply add a few drops of the oil onto your tongue, allowing it to rest for a few minutes for greater absorption. I would also always recommend buying from a reputable company, such as Power Health (www.powerhealth.co.uk), the market leaders in nutritional supplements. Their CBD oil contains 20 servings of CBD, which should be consumed in 50mg doses squeezed under the tongue.
4. Fill up on Magnesium
Magnesium is required for neuron activation and the synthesis of neurotransmitters (for example, serotonin). Those who suffer from anxiety, depression and migraines are usually shown to be deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is known as the anti-stress mineral due to its amazing effects on the nervous system. We are becoming increasingly deficient in this nutrient due to our highly processed western diet as well as our over-farmed soils. It can also be depleted when we have high alcohol or caffeine consumption, too much calcium, as well as our age and possible ill health. Cooking, such as boiling vegetables, can cause magnesium to leach out, so I would recommend steaming or stir-frying which has a less detrimental impact on the mineral and nutrient content of the food. would also advise filling up on kelp, wheat bran, almonds, brewer’s yeast, buckwheat, brazil nuts, cashews and molasses.
5. Swap Your Cuppa
Switch to low-caffeine alternatives such as green tea, chamomile tea, Matcha tea and peppermint tea, all of which have calming properties. Peppermint is also good if you have any stress/anxiety related stomach problems or anxiety headaches. Chamomile tea is good in the evening as it can also help aid a good night’s sleep. Green tea contains ECGC and L-theanine; both ease anxiety and stress, helping to calm and even improve our brain health. Studies have shown drinking green tea can actually decrease our levels of cortisol, helping to balance our adrenals to create less anxiety and stress.
6. Stay Hydrated
It is incredibly important to up your water intake and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. We often confuse hunger with thirst and dehydration can make us tired, lethargic and can bring on a headache, especially when we are in central heated rooms all day with little fresh air. Keeping hydrated helps your body work more efficiently and aids the transportation of nutrients, helping us maintain our energy levels.
7. Learn to Say No
Remember, it is ok to sometimes say no, especially during the party season. With endless Christmas events, busy pubs and restaurants, and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas markets, it is likely that your anxiety levels will increase, so if all these invites are having an impact on your mental health, you can say no. It is important that you put yourself first in situations like this and people will understand that you cannot come to everything.
8. Learn to Delegate & Prioritise
Christmas is a family affair, which means you shouldn’t take everything on yourself and try to enrol the help of your friends and family. If you are planning on having guests over, why not ask them to bring a dish to help ease your workload and purse strings. Most people will appreciate being asked to contribute something and it will make the evening less stressful for you. Try to prioritise what is important and not overdo it to avoid overwhelming yourself.
9. Plan Ahead
I know it sounds boring, but it really is the best way to make the most of Christmas. Firstly, reduce the anxiety from the financial strains of Christmas gift buying and start saving up early, to make your spending a little less stressful. You should also write a list of the people you need to buy presents for, as well as ideas and a budget, so that you feel more prepared when going to buy. When it comes to preparing for the big event; Christmas dinner, make a detailed list of everything you will need, and order your groceries online to avoid the chaotic supermarkets. it is also worth speaking to your local butcher and asking him to save you certain meats, which will take another thing off your list. Remember, Christmas dinner is just a fancy roast dinner. Prepare everything the day before and do not be so hard on yourself. It is one day of the year that you should allow yourself to enjoy.
EXPERT: Sarah Flower, Nutritionist at Power Health (www.powerhealth.co.uk)