7 ways to look after your physical and mental health at Christmas

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The sound of Mariah Carey and Slade is enough to set most tummies rumbling at the thought of roasted chestnuts and Christmas gravy. 

But amid the cranberry sauce and festive films, it’s important that you make time to look after your physical and mental health at Christmas. 

Are you struggling to work a balance between this and having fun? Take a look at the seven top tips below. 


White trainers

Brimming with trimmings, turkey and tiramisu truffles, the last thing most of us want to do during the festive season is put on our trainers and head out into the cold outdoors. 

And despite the temptation to hunker down and eat more than is humanly possible can be overwhelming, making time for a brisk walk or a few star jumps will do wonders for your physical and mental health at Christmas. 

There are a few reasons for this.

The first is that venturing outside helps you to soak up winter’s small but essential offering of sunlight. 

Seasonal affective disorder, aka the winter blues, impacts about 2 million people in the UK alone and is a form of depression connected to reduced sunlight exposure. 

Setting yourself the simple goal of getting outside for a walk, jog or swim (although be careful if you’re inexperienced in colder temperatures) can help keep your internal body clock ticking, boost serotonin and help you sleep better. 

Exercise is as equally important for maintaining good physical health during this period; going for a 30-minute walk while the parsnips are roasting can relieve or prevent musculoskeletal issues, boost cardiovascular fitness and help manage weight gain. 


Cut your alcohol consumption 

Bottle and glass of wine

Whilst the festive period is a time for putting your reindeer slippers up and enjoying a mulled wine, our love of an alcoholic beverage in the festive season can take a toll on our physical and mental health at Christmas. 

As a depressant, alcohol can disrupt the balance of processes and chemicals in our brains.

Imagine your brain is a busy town and alcohol is snow. As more snow falls, the town’s connections gradually slow down. 

In other words, when we drink excessively, our brains cannot function properly. Signals sent by chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters can change, leading to an increase in negative emotions and subsequent mental health issues.

Don’t let your festive tipple topple your Christmas merriment – keep your gingerbread martinis to a minimum and hydrate yourself with at least two litres of water a day. 



Alarm clock

Christmas and mental health do not appear in the same sentence often. When the focus is often on who’s cooking the turkey and how many secret Santa presents you need to buy, mental health can be neglected. 

Yet all the drinking, overeating and couch-potatoing can and does impact our kip. 

According to the Sleep Foundation, drinking high amounts of alcohol can decrease sleep quality by 40 per cent and overeating can worsen your rest by interfering with digestion

The solution is a balancing act. 

Enjoy your Christmas food glut but eat earlier to allow time for your stomach to process the 10,000 sprouts you’ve just gobbled down.

Limiting your alcohol and caffeine consumption before bedtime is a must for improved sleep too. 


Try vegetarian or vegan alternatives 


One of the easiest ways to support your physical and mental health at Christmas is to eat vegan or vegetarian food. 

Given roasted meats and crackling are viewed as such quintessential traditions of the big day, this might be harder for people who don’t usually follow these diets. 

However, your body will thank you for the boost of vitamins and minerals you gain from consuming more nuts, vegetables, pulses and legumes. 

And don’t think that vegan or vegetarian Christmas comfort food can only be a nut roast. 

There are hundreds of delicious meals you can try, from rich cauliflower cheese and mushroom wellington to squash and cranberry tagine or freshly baked quiche. 

Take a leaf out of Rudolph’s stocking and make veggies the star of the show this Christmas. 


Cut down on sweet food 


Last Christmas, the UK got through an estimated 208 million boxes of chocolates. 

And whilst there’s no denying that a caramel swirl or twelve will save some from tears, giving someone special a box of chocolates to add to a growing pile might not be the best for their health. 

High in sugar and/or saturated fat, mince pies, brandy snaps and cheese boards will increase bad cholesterol in the body, potentially leading to heart and circulatory disease and a long list of other health problems.

So try and set yourself a goal. Eat three balanced meals a day or have two and enjoy a few tasty snacks in between. 


Portion control 

Roast dinner

When the weather outside is frightful, and the food is so delightful, devouring as many pigs in blankets as you can is pretty irresistible. 

But do so in moderation and your body will only be so forgiving. 

Inducing sleep deprivation, causing obesity and putting strain on our joints and cardiovascular health, overeating can be very damaging to our physical and mental health. 

Here are five ways to manage your Christmas portions: 

  • Eat off a smaller plate
  • Fill up on vegetables and reduce your meat intake
  • Drink plenty of water before you eat and with your meal
  • Stop eating when you feel full, not stuffed
  • Avoid sugary or fatty foods between meals 


Take a break from social media


Instagram may be great for decoration inspiration but picture-perfect displays of celebrity Christmas trees can be detrimental to your mental health. 

For many, the festive season is a time to be present with presents in the presence of people or pets you love. Why complicate that with social media? 

Albeit a great tool for communicating with friends and family who live further afield, social platforms have been shown by several studies to increase mental health problems and feelings of isolation.  

If you’re one of the several million people who spend Christmas alone in the UK, signing out of Facebook and Instagram and joining up to community activities or learning a new hobby could be some of the best remedies for your festive loneliness. 


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Cauliflower cheese

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