How not to burn out before Christmas

I don’t know about you, but my life admin list seems to triple in size in December.

Presents to buy, Christmas cooking and related food shopping to plan, a hundred and one school related things to remember (teachers’ collections, raffle tickets to sell, Christmas jumper day, school closing early on the last day of term) and sorting out the spare room for family to stay in. All these tasks get squished into small pockets of time, sometimes late at night, because my days are busy with work, running a house and being a mum.

It’s a lovely time of year, but it can feel like we are caught in a whirlwind of activity. And SOMEHOW we’re meant to fit in exercise, relaxation, preparing healthy meals and getting adequate sleep. If only Santa could create another 6 hours in the day for the next 3 weeks…

However it IS possible (and indeed important) to tick those wellbeing boxes during December without a Christmas miracle. Here are my top tips for how to do it:

First up, it’s important to stop thinking in ‘all or nothing’ terms. Instead of thinking ‘sod it, I just can’t do my daily home workouts or train for the Couch to 5k until after Christmas is over’, switch your thinking around to see the possibilities of what you CAN do. Look at your day and see if you can find a couple of 10 minute windows to do something that will benefit your wellbeing.

It could be doing some meal prep for your lunch or dinner, going for a walk, doing some mindfulness or writing in a journal. There are loads of 10 minute workout videos on YouTube – from yoga to HIIT, you can take your pick.

If you are struggling to find more than one 10 minute window within your existing schedule, how about getting up 10 minutes earlier or spending 10 minutes before you go to bed doing something relaxing?

Secondly, start thinking in terms of how you can support yourself so you get through this busy period without getting run down. Take the focus off all the “shoulds” (e.g. I should be eating better, exercising more, going to bed earlier, which can trigger feelings of guilt) and instead focus on your needs. What do you need to do to get you through this period?

It may be that what you need to do is take regular relaxation or movement breaks throughout the day. When writing out your to-do list for the day, include those things on there!

When you focus on your needs, it becomes easier to give yourself permission to do those things.

Thirdly, support your body and mind with the best nutrition you can manage. Those last 3 words are very intentional. Take the pressure off yourself and do your best to eat well. It’s nigh on impossible to stick to a perfectly healthy diet over December – and that’s fine! Enjoy the treats but keep the basics in place.

Keep it simple and try get 4 to 5 servings of veg a day, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage it every day.

You know that lots of sugar is not going to help you have great energy so do your best to have healthy alternatives to hand – nuts, dried fruit, healthy bars and a bit of dark chocolate. Equally, if you have a couple of Quality Streets while at the hairdressers, it doesn’t really matter. Just be sensible for the rest of the day.

The same goes for too much caffeine, whether it’s in the form of coffee, tea, chocolate or caffeinated soft drinks. Swap the high caffeine drinks for herbal teas or just plan H20 – your energy levels really will be better for it. Drink loads of water too- a good tip for ensuring you are drinking enough water is to have a glass of water with every meal and one before any hot drink.

Fourthly, think of the long-term picture and in particular, what the impact of not looking after yourself can have. You know that if you push yourself too hard, you can get really run down.

When you’re stressed and over-tired, your immune system doesn’t work so well, you don’t digest your food as effectively (which means you’re possibly not absorbing as many nutrients as well as being bad news for your gut), you have too much cortisol zipping around in your body (which can lead to hard-to-shift weight gain) and your mood is affected. It takes a real toll on your physical and mental health.

There are so many things you can do to help dial down the stress and they don’t have to take up huge amounts of time. Not only are you supporting yourself in the short term, but you’ll have far less of that Christmas guilt when January rolls around.

Ultimately, you just need to be willing to find that bit of time, use it wisely and give yourself wholehearted permission to attend to your needs.

So what are you waiting for? Make yourself a cup of herbal tea and go and chill out for 10 minutes. You deserve it.

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