Thursday, 15 December 2016

6 Ways to reduce the stress of Christmas

It's the second week in December and all around we are bombarded with stimulus: Wonderful smells, of spices and clementines, the pressure to look good, whilst entertaining family and friends, shopping for England and attending Christmas Parties. This all means STRESS!!!!! 

Perhaps you've spent time this year, working on a healthier lifestyle, supporting your body through nourishment and movement.....Perhaps you haven't..... YOU, may intend to start your health journey in January, in which case damage limitation may be the right thing for you to do at this time of the year. The intention of this post is to encourage some festive self preservation and investments, this means INVESTING IN YOU AND YOUR SANITY. Everybody know's how to be healthier, but here I will set about offering some practical hints and tips, which should help to lessen expansion of the waist:

1) Sleep more:

At this time of the year many of us are sleep deprived, as we set about achieving the impossible. It's important to remember that sleep is the bodies natural way to reset, to heal, and to grow. It's sleep that allows us to start each day refreshed. How will you find the energy for all of your commitments without sufficient rest? 

Failure to sleep causes confusion in our hormones, Ghrelin (our hunger marker) and Leptin (our satiety signal) become unbalanced. This means you are likely to eat more than you need.
It's also the case, if you are un rested you will lack energy and seek "instant hits" from sugar, from here you are likely to hit the sugar cycle:

Crave sugar > consume sugar > cell walls open > blood sugar elevates > sugar level drops and you return to craving!

"Sleep has so many benefits with so little effort, sleep directly affects the quality of our waking life" -Unknown

Practical Sleeping tips:
A. Sleep in a dark room, with a blackout blind if necessary or buy an eye mask, which signals to the brain that it's time to sleep.
B. Try to go to bed at the same time, creating a healthy sleep habit.
C. Keep T.V's and gadgets outside of the bedroom, the stark blue light often omitted from devices signals to the brain that it's day time.
D. Try counting sheep, Yes! it helps, this may seem like an old wives tail but is a form of meditation/ relaxation which helps you to nod off.
E. Reduce caffeine from mid afternoon, as this stimulates brain activity, replace that espresso with a herb/ fruit tea which is caffeine free. Camomile is said to be very good for relaxation.

2) Move more:

We were built to move and to work, moving is one of the best ways to create calorie deficit, which means you will lose weight. It's medically proven that people who move more are:

>Up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
>Up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
>Up to a 30% lower risk of depression
( Source

Other reasons to move include:

-Improved bone strength (reduced risk of Osteoporosis)
-Increased lean muscle mass (which elevates our metabolism0
-Raised self esteem/ reduced stress
It's really important if exercise is new to you that you seek medical approval before embarking on exercise, also please move within the realms of your ability. Walking is a great way to start.

Practical Movement Tips
A. Struggling to fit exercise your day around Christmas? Why not download a pedometer app?
B. If you are struggling to find the perfect gift for the loved one that has anything why not turn to the traditional welly and get some cold crisp walks in between Christmas and New Year?
C. Avoid the "Carbohydrate Coma" which strikes so many by playing active games like charades or Twister. (other games are available!)

3) Hydrate:

I know, it's old news right?  So what does water do for us?
-Hydrates brain cells
-Lubricates skin and tissues
-Increases oxygen in the blood and lungs
-Regulates body temperature
-Prevents loss of calcium
-Provides elasticity to muscles and joints 

Still not convinced? 

Brain = 75% water
Blood = 83% water
Muscles = 75% water
The cost of being dehydrated is massive: At 1% dehydration you will struggle to concentrate. At 5% dehydration you will feel hot and tired and experience a drop in performance.

Practical Hydration Tips:
A. Reduce costs and intoxification by having a non- alcoholic drink in between your favourite tipple.
B. Swap cafeinated drinks with decaf options
C. Buy yourself a posh water bottle, sounds silly right? but it makes drinking water much more fun. Try adding flavour with: Cucumber, berries, ginger or mint.
D. Try fruit and herbal teas
E. Increase consumption of vegetables and fruit, Broccoli for instance is 89% water.

4) Reduce stress:

If you are constantly feeling stressed, your are likely to be tired and irritable. This irritability causes yet more hormone in balances as discussed under the sleep section......

The smart phone generation is in a constant "information overload" state, next time you are in a public area, stop for just 5 minutes and count how many people you see who are attached to phones: texting, snap chatting, calling, checking e-mails, taking photos, posting to Instagram or for that matter any other platform which allows you socialise at the click of a button.

Practical stress reduction tips:
A. Banishing your phone is not an option? OKAY! but just try to reduce the amount of time you spend on it, nourish real relationships and make an effort to laugh.
B. Meditate:This doesn't mean that you have to grow your hair, live in a camper and smoke weed. It means, step back, relax your brain from the constant demands on your time and relax. It's not a self indulgent act, it's about giving yourself a breather, some space to just chill. Try these ideas:
- Listen to a piece of music, nothing else, just listen.
-Find a comfortable space and focus on 360 degree breathing (in through your nose, out through your mouth.
-Focus on an inanimate object for 5 minutes

5) Plan, plan and plan more (especially to nourish):

The best tool to take your thoughts a step closer to actions is to plan. 

Practical planning Tips:
A. Commit your ideas paper using the humble Biro! Take a look at what's above and decide which is your personal priority. I've listed some useful tips here, why not plan to implement one tip per week? 
B.If you currently drink a litre of water per day, commit to drinking 2 ltrs. Write yourself 5 or 6 post it notes and leave them in significant places. These might include: The car, the office, the fridge door, the dining table etc.

"You will never find time, you must make time for everything" -uknown  

6) Eat Seasonally:
Christmas is, for many a time of indulgence, why not indulge in quality produce and ingredients whilst they are in Season. Buying produce during it's "Season" means you are getting the very best flavours and therefore less quantity is need. 

"Buy the best quality that you are able, and reduce quantity" The following items are in Season over the festive period, and each and every one has wonderful nourishing qualities..... ENJOY!

Whiting (fish)


Brussel Sprouts
Jerusalem Artichoke
Pak Choi
Sweet potato

I hope that you have found this blog useful, all that remains is to wish you a healthy, fun Christmas and all good things for 2017.

Here at Three Pillars of Fitness we have lots of exciting things planned for the New Year, if you'd like to know more please visit

Andy x