You’d think Christmas and wellness go together like a horse and Louboutin heels. One involves wild excess verging on insanity, the other moderation and balance.
However, wouldn’t it be a rather splendid idea (one hates poop the party with the word ‘sensible’) to use one to offset the other?
As one who likes to approach Christmas downhill on a glittery toboggan clutching a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and several mince pies, here are five wellness tips that I can just about apply without spoiling my seasonal cheer, and indeed might help avert the inevitable crash and burn.
1. Drink water
In winter, many of us drink far less water. This is bonkers when you consider the fact we are all sealed in centrally heated rooms consuming more alcohol and sugar than is wise. Staying hydrated is probably the most important thing you can do for winter wellness – even if you ignore the other tips, do this and your skin (and liver) will thank you.
But how much do we need to drink?
Three small bottles of water a day, according to a nutritionist on a Fitter Stronger weekend at Chewton Glen: one throughout the morning, another in early afternoon and the third late afternoon to early evening. He also suggested keeping an eye on the colour of one’s wee – anything darker than pale pastel yellow and you need to drink water (you can get Pantone charts of pee if you are that kind of person…). Austrian nutritionists at the Lanserhof and Mayr advise not drinking water with meals. Apparently, it dilutes the saliva. However, wine is allowed because it helps dissolve fat during digestion (in moderation, of course).
In party season, try – I know, this is not always easy – to stagger alcoholic drinks with glasses of non-fizzy water. If things have gone a bit swirly, down a pint or two of water before your face hits the pillow. This is more about damage limitation than a cure, lessening the agonies of the morning after.
2. Keep breathing
Take a few deep breaths when you’re stuck in a car park queue, when the mother-in-law tells you how to cook a turkey, or when the dog/kids knock the tree over for the 99th time. Stop, unclench your teeth and hands, and take a deep breath in through your nose, count slowly to three, then slowly breath out through your mouth counting to six. The counting helps put your cognitive brain back online, while slowing down your breathing lowers your heart rate, which is preparing you for fight or flight. Once calm, you can put everything in context rather than exploding like a Christmas cracker.
Not the Christmas tree – they can be a little prickly. What we mean is get outside, embrace nature (mentally rather than physically), indulge in some forest bathing - which I thought was skinny dipping in ponds, but in fact means simply looking at trees. Studies say it reduce levels of depression and anxiety. Light therapy is being used more and more in spa treatments, as well as helping with the condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. In winter the daylight window narrows, so make the most of it: wrap up warm and go for a wild winter walk, then come back and reward yourself with a mince pie or two.
4. Lower your expectations
The build up to Christmas is all about raising expectations to a non-realistic level. Everything must be sparkly and fabulous, however run-down and stressed-out you really feel. Indeed, the wider the gulf between expectation and reality, the harsher the comedown. Just saying...
Slow down, accept that you are never going to make everyone happy: it’s impossible, and besides, not everyone wants to be happy. To paraphrase the opening line of Anna Karenina, all happy families look like a John Lewis ad, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Be proud of your quirks.
You don’t have to book in for an entire day of indulgence – wiser to earmark this for your Dear Santa wish list. Just popping down to your nearest treatment rooms for an Indian head massage, or a back and shoulder massage, will help you weather the storm, gather your senses and reduce any aches and pains. Even treating yourself to a manicure will give you space to breathe. Break up a shopping spree with a reflexology massage. What could be better?