However much we’re craving the chance to fully embrace the festive season, after last year’s quieter, Covid-restricted holidays, a December filled with dinners and dancefloors may come as a shock to the system. But with one month to go, there's still plenty of time to start supercharging your health and wellbeing so you can thrive through the holidays. Boost your immune system and prepare your mind as well as your body with our expert-led health hacks...
Plan for the worst and hope for the best
If there was a defining word of 2021, ‘uncertainty’ would be a good contender. Covid measures have controlled our social lives, workspaces and holiday plans but with most countries now relaxing their rules, those long-awaited trips and family reunions finally feel possible. Yet Clair Snowdown-Darling, Head of The College of Functional Wellness and founder of Kinesiology clinic and Balanced Wellness still advises us to always make a plan B. By accepting arrangements might fall through, we take away that initial shell shock and ‘allow ourselves time to process and feel the edges of any emotions that arise in us.’ And after deciding how to make the most of the worst situation, we can get excited about planning for the best. Win-win!
Eat for immunity
If your December usually consists of chocolate for breakfast and kilos of roast potatoes, November is the time to start packing in the vitamins. Nutritionist and functional health practitioner Nishtha Patel, aka The Gut Expert, recommends using November to practice good habits and eating more mindfully. “Start eating different coloured plant-based foods on a daily basis,” she advises. “Aim for 35 a week (remember this includes herbs, spices and herbal teas as well as fruits and vegetables).” Adding lots of fibre to your diet feeds the gut microbes and keeps them well balanced, helping to boost your immune system. “Eat a bit of what you fancy and don’t deprive yourself,” says Nishtha “but try and eat more mindfully. Smell your food and really enjoy the taste. Chew slowly because the brain takes 20 minutes to let you know you’re full.” Practicing this now can help train the brain to not over-indulge when the canapés are being handed around.
Prep your skin
Now that we’ve waved goodbye to that natural summer glow, for many of us, winter can mean dry skin and breakouts. On top of the cold weather and low-humidity levels, the holidays may also mean less sleep and more socialising which can result in tired-looking skin. Dr Ross Perry, a leading skincare expert and the medical director of Cosmedics skin clinics recommends using products with Vitamin C to help brighten up your complexion. Vitamin C is “rich in antioxidants and therefore hydrating to the skin, making it appear brighter, firmer and smoother whilst tackling enlarged pores,” he says. Including this ingredient in your daily skin-care regime is a simple addition that can help add radiance.
Start practicing mindful techniques
Social gatherings and family get togethers can be great fun – but they can also create conflict. As we head into them less practiced after lockdowns spent apart, it's more important than ever to have a few anxiety-busting techniques up your sleeve. Claire suggests making a “list of ten things that nourish you, are easy to do and take between 10 and 60 minutes, such as walking in nature, listening to some music you love or a relaxing bath. Make a commitment to do one of those things every day in the run up to the holidays to put your self-care at the top of the list.” Having found that place of calm will prepare you for rushing around shopping for gifts and mass catering.
It’s also ok to feel a bit frazzled when the holidays arrive. Mindfulness expert Arika Trimnell suggests learning the 4-7-8 breathing method. “Find an empty room and inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds and exhale for eight seconds. This helps you diffuse stress and anxiety by allowing your body to return back to its normal state.” Practice these techniques now and you’ll be better equipped to handle the stress and tension should it occur.
If your December diary is starting to fill up with social events, November is your chance to fill your freezer with nutrient rich dishes. Not only is this a great way to make sure you’re eating well when you’re over indulging, it’s also a brilliant time saver. Tempted to skip breakfast after a late night? Try pre-making it – these overnight oats are a fantastic source of energy and mean you can have a longer lie in… You’re welcome.