Do you find yourself undoing the top button to accommodate the bloat? Are you ready for a nap by mid-afternoon?
Christmas is nearly here and after (another) difficult year, lots of us are looking forward to getting festive and celebrating. But it can also be a stressful, exhausting and uncomfortable time of year.
It doesn’t have to be like this. You can enjoy Christmas without feeling the ill effects.
I’ve put together my top tips proven to manage stress, beat the bloat and help energise you this Christmas.
1. Breathe through the Christmas stress
Throughout the year, the nervous system can spend a lot of time in fight and flight mode (sympathetic). However, Christmas can be stressful too and being in sympathetic mode can affect your gut.
The gut is known as the “second brain” and for good reason. The gut and the brain are bidirectionally connected, which is why stress and anxiety can lead to nausea, bloating and toilet visits – or lack of for some.
Breathing techniques activate the rest and digest mode (parasympathetic) and bring instant calm. Controlling your breath is also a great way to increase your oxygen levels and stay energised throughout the day.
Try the 4-3-7 breathing technique – a very simple one that you can do anywhere.
- Exhale deeply through your mouth to get ready
- Inhale through your nose for the count of 4
- Hold your breath for the count of 7
- Exhale through your nose for the count of 8
- Repeat three times
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2. Don’t go overboard with festive snacking
Christmas brings us some of the best foods and flavours. It’s a tempting time of year where food is concerned that’s for sure! From festive-flavoured crisps to cheese and biscuits and the tin of chocolates, there’s always something to graze on. It leaves your stomach constantly working to digest everything you’re eating.
If most of your snacks are loaded with carbs and sugar (pretty standard for the Western diet!), your blood sugars, and therefore energy levels, will crash – cue that mid-afternoon nap!
There’s another factor involved here too. The more you snack, the more air you swallow and all of that extra air can be the bloat trigger.
Balancing your meals helps avoid this. Combine proteins, carbohydrates and fats to balance your blood sugar and fill you up properly. Load up on winter warmers made from seasonal veg too. The fibre content in veg will curb the urge to snack.
To help rein the snacking in even more, aim to eat no more than every 3 hours to give your digestive system a chance to rest.
It’s equally important to not ‘save yourself’ for any particular meal either and fast for longer than you’re used to before diving in. It can be hard to assess true hunger and fullness, leaving you stuffed and uncomfortable.
3. Be smart with tipples
Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you to give up your favourite festive tipple but do be smart with it. Alcohol can be very harsh on your digestive system – think gas and heartburn. Carbonated drinks are prime culprits for bloating too. They’re full of fizz, after all!
Keep an eye on how much alcohol and fizz you’re drinking. One thing to keep in mind: the more of these you consume, the earlier you’ll be heading for that snooze. Alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water, or have some fun with a shot of water for every drink. You’ll be grateful when you wake up on Boxing Day!
4. Stay hydrated the right way
While we’re on the subject, hydration is a must for healthy digestion and good energy. If you’re drinking alcohol and/or eating more salty foods than normal, it’s even more important.
Dehydration can be one of the reasons why you feel digestive discomfort. It reduces motility in the gut and leads to fatigue and brain fog. You feel sluggish and foggy, which means you grab for more food to perk you up and it becomes a vicious cycle. Not a fun Christmas!
Start the day right by drinking at least one glass of water when you get up. And don’t let up from there. If you don’t like water, herbal teas count too. Try chai, cinnamon, citrus and berries for those festive flavours!
5. Don’t forget to move from the sofa
As tempting as it may be to spend the week between Christmas and New Year in your PJ’s, your body isn’t going to love it. Skipping some form of movement can really reduce your energy.
Movement increases blood flow to the muscles and oxygen to the brain helping to combat both gut issues and lethargy.
Go for a walk outside with those you’re sharing time with. Your mind and body will thank you for it, even if it’s only for a short period. Time in nature helps reduce stress and improves the general feeling of wellbeing. There’s no scientific evidence but it just may help to avoid that traditional family argument too.
If you can, continue with your usual workouts and keep up your exercise routine. Or if you want a day’s rest and the weather is too bad to walk outside, choose games that get you moving or dance to your favourite Christmas tunes.