10 easy ways to boost your energy levels this festive season
Family holidays at this time of year can be exhausting. Battling the crowds for last-minute Christmas gifts, wrapping presents, cooking the turkey and catching up on those last pieces of work; it's no wonder many people find Christmas a really stressful time, and depression rates rise at this time of year (1). We believe that you should still have time to focus on your health and well-being over the festive season, so we've come up with 10 easy ways to give your Christmas energy levels a boost. Try one, or try them all, and you'll be gleefully opening gifts and enjoying family movie marathons all Christmas long!
#1. Cut your sugar intake
That family-sized tin of Cadbury's Roses may seem like a tempting option, particularly if you have a sweet tooth, but eating so much sugar in one go can cause a massive surge of energy, followed by a crash a few hours later, which could leave you feeling in need of a nap! Combining high-sugar foods with foods high in fat, protein and fibre helps the sugar to be released slowly into the bloodstream (2). Reach for naturally sweet items instead, such as dates, fruit (bananas are great) or even cereal bars. Or enjoy a few square of dark chocolate, packed with antioxidants, or a mug of cocoa.
#2. Avoid the late night munchies
Eating late at night seems to be the done thing over the holidays and it can be hard to avoid, when parties last until the morning or midnight movie marathons seem to be taking place every night! Late night snacks not only lead to weight gain, they can also make you feel tired the next day (3). If you do need to snack before bedtime, try to stop eating around an hour before you go to sleep, and avoid greasy, fatty, sugar or carb-loaded foods. Your body will work overtime to digest these types of foods, when it should be preparing for sleep!
#3. Get some alone time
Spending time with your mum, dad, siblings, grandparents and the rest of your extended family is lovely during the holidays, but don't let family obligations take up all your time. Take some time out, for yourself, to relax and de-stress. Go for a run, read a new book, or hit the Boxing Day sales and treat yourself. Scheduling time for things that make you happy can alleviate depression and anxiety and help you to feel calmer.
#4. Get your running shoes on
Unfortunately, your health and fitness routine could fall by the wayside over the holidays – Christmas pudding, turkey with all the trimmings and as many sweets as you want can all be tempting, not to mention those mince pies! When it's cold outside, going for a run is often the last thing you feel like doing. But working out over the holidays can help relieve stress, boost endorphins and give you more energy. If you really can't face running in the cold, go for a swim, head for the gym or try some indoor bouldering.
#5. Volunteer your time
Research shows that doing volunteer work makes us feel good – it releases endorphins which can boost energy levels and banish depression. Whether you sign up as a dog walker in your local area or help serve Christmas meals at a homeless shelter, remembering those less fortunate than you can also help you to feel more positive and grateful for what you have (4).
#6. Get some light
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is common at this time of year and it can cause fatigue, depression and even weight gain. Shorter, darker days and a lack of sunlight are not good for your mood and spending all your time indoors over the holidays can cause a deficiency in vitamin D, which could lead to daytime sleepiness (5). Try to spend some time outside earlier in the day, even if it's grey and cold. This can boost your mood and energy levels and an also help to regulate your body clock, meaning you'll sleep better. If SAD is a real concern, contact your GP, who may be able to prescribe light therapy.
#7. Take a nap
If you're really exhausted, make sure you're getting plenty of sleep. Between last-minute gift shopping, present wrapping, cooking and keeping the whole family entertained, you could find yourself staying up all night! Making sure you stick to a regular sleep schedule is important, even over the holidays. If you really can't stay awake, a brief nap can boost your concentration levels and leave you feeling energised – around 20 to 30 minutes is thought to be ideal. Any longer and you could feel groggy and even more tired!
#8. Cosy up
Keeping warm in the winter can help you to feel more energetic – being cold can cause plummeting energy levels, so make sure you cosy up! Hot drinks such as cocoa, tea and even a small mug of mulled wine can help. So can wearing that hideous Christmas jumper your gran knitted for you – it's not like anyone else except for the family is going to see it!
#9. Indulge in caffeine
If you're feeling really low or tired, caffeine can help perk you up. We're not suggesting you rely on caffeine in place of plenty of sleep and a healthy lifestyle, but for the occasional boost, it's fine to indulge in moderation. Coffee and chocolate both contain caffeine which will give you a temporary energy boost, but avoid both before bedtime. It's best to stick to dark chocolate as it's a healthier choice.
#10. Don't over-eat
Christmas is the time to indulge but that doesn't mean you have to pile your plate high with Christmas dinner! Turkey or a vegetarian alternative with all the trimmings is delicious, but try to avoid stuffing your face and eating more than you would normally. After a big meal, blood is diverted from the rest of your body to the digestive system, which is why you often feel sluggish and tired after eating. Stick to a normal-sized portion – there's sure to be plenty of opportunities for nibbles later one!
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