by Eimear Morrissey
When I was asked to write this blog post, I read through the blog to get familiar with the tone. I quite liked Lisa and Jenny’s ‘5 tips on…’ posts so I am going to continue with this theme (sounds better than stealing it again, yeah?). So here goes – 5 tips on staying healthy over Christmas. Christmas is full of health threats – big dinners, wine, lots of lying on the couch time, wine, tins of chocolates, nights out, more wine… Below is some advice on having a healthy and happy holiday season.
1. Get some activity
It is so tempting to stay on the couch, in front of a roaring fire, eating Roses and watching classic Christmas movies every day over the Christmas break but it important to incorporate some exercise too. Go out for a walk to stretch the legs. Encourage family to come (allowing more Christmas bonding/seasonal arguments). After dinner is a great time to do this as it aids digestion. Join in with the kids and have fun with new presents like bikes, footballs, and Frisbees.
2. Go easy on the drinks
When you are ensconced at home without driving duties over Christmas it can be easy to overindulge in alcohol. The easiest way to keep tabs on your drinking is to monitor how many units of alcohol you are consuming. One alcohol unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. This equals one 25ml single measure of whisky or a third of a pint of beer or half a standard glass of red wine. Women should not have more than 2-3 units a day and the limit for men is 3-4. Interspersing alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or water is an easy way to lower consumption.
3. Avoid a Christmas stuffing
According to research done by BBC Food, Christmas excess today means that the average person consumes 6000 calories on Christmas day. This is equivalent to eating 4.8kg of egg-fried rice, or 42 bananas, or 23 hamburgers. However the dinner itself only counts for roughly 1000 of these calories. The rest are gained by cake, alcohol, mince pies and other festive snacks. Instead of gorging yourself on Christmas day, start off with a good breakfast to avoid the temptation of snacks before dinner. Pile up your plate with fruit and veg, and do things a bit smarter e.g. make gravy from vegetable water and only open one box of chocolates at a time.
4. Sleep well
It is easy for sleep patterns to be disturbed during the festive period between catching up with friends and family and partying. Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing. Some steps towards a better night’s sleep include consuming less alcohol over Christmas, getting back to a regular sleep routine as soon as possible after the party period, logging off all electronic devices before bedtime and getting some activity into your routine.
‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ but wonderful is the last thing many people feel with all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, overspending and (sometimes unwanted) visitors that come with Christmas. Feelings of being under pressure can produce symptoms of anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Methods of alleviating this include regular exercise and techniques such as mindful meditation and yoga. Try also to keep a sense of humour and proportion. Is it really the end of the world if the Brussels sprouts are soggy and the dog ate the bottom of the tree? Laugh it off and enjoy time with family and friends. Tis the season to be jolly after all.
Eimear graduated with an honours degree in Applied Psychology from UCC in 2012 and obtained a Masters degree in Health Psychology from NUI, Galway in 2013. She has recently been awarded IRC funding to undertake the Structured PhD in Psychology and Health. Her PhD studentship aims to (1) appraise, select and synthesise all high quality research evidence in the area of m-health adherence interventions through a systematic review (2) identify/design a m-health adherence intervention using theories of self-regulation and behaviour change suitable for clinical populations (3) conduct an exploratory randomised controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the efficacy of a m-health based adherence intervention to enhance adherence to walking and medication