Health & Beauty

Have yourself a merry, stress-free Christmas

Advent calendars to the ready, the countdown to the big day has begun! The lead-up to Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year, not to mention one of the most stressful: over-excited children waving their never-ending wish-lists under your nose, last minute deadlines at work, not to mention the pressures of the social merry-go-round as the party season gets into full swing.

Worry not! The following tips should help to ensure this Christmas is memorable for all the right reasons.

Step back and take a deep breath. If you keep thinking about the mountain of jobs you have to do, you’ll soon feel overwhelmed. Break them down into small, manageable tasks and if you’re feeling brave, enlist the help of your children – your very own Santa’s little helpers.

This is probably where correct breathing comes into play. Yours, not theirs.

Control your breathing. By taking fewer but deeper breaths you will optimise your oxygen intake, helping you to relax and remain calm. Brilliant for when your family make ‘helpful’ suggestions.

Watch your diet. In times of stress, certain nutrients are used in larger quantities than normal so increase supply where necessary. Vital vits include the B vitamins, which help to support the nervous system, and vitamin C, which helps to support your adrenal glands (which help you to cope in times of stress and distress). The B vits are found naturally in potatoes, bananas, lentils, peppers, tempeh, beans and brewer’s yeast (Marmite and Vegemite are excellent sources), and vitamin C is of course found in most fresh fruit and veg, including broccoli, kale and peppers.

Other essential nutrients include magnesium (think pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts and spinach) for the nervous system and iron for energy. Liver is an obvious food source of iron but green leafy veg, sardines, figs and apricots are also rich in iron.

If stress is having a knock-on effect on your sleep, try a herbal such as Valerian. It is recognised for its calming action and is thought to inhibit the breakdown of GABA, a chemical transmitter that enables you to ‘cross over’ into sleep. A perfect partner to Valerian is Hops as it exerts a gentle sedative action on the nervous system.

As far as herbals are concerned, Passiflora has been used for centuries as a mild sedative and is particularly beneficial when mixed with other restorative herbs such as Avena sativa. Together they help to combat both the physical and mental symptoms of stress, helping to prolong sleep time, relieve muscle tension and alleviate mild anxiety.

Finally, keep moving! Exercise is a great way of beating stress. It enables you to vent your frustration and causes the brain to produce more of the ‘happy hormones’ endorphins. Try to work up a sweat for at least 20 minutes a day. Even a short walk can help.

Now, where did you put those baubles?

Information supplied by Jan de Vries health food stores. For further advice on stress and its related symptoms, visit your local Jan de Vries health store or