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Has your ho-ho-ho become he-he-HELP? Charmaine Yabsley talks to top holistic health experts on how to turn down the stress dial.

1. Stay strong

“The warmer months are a great time to work on toning and strengthening our limbs, preferably bare to the sunshine,” says physiotherapist Jason T. Smith. “Resistance training is great for targeting areas that require tightening. Resistance bands are low cost and can be used in place of weights for strength training. Consider a daily routine of squats with weights to target your arms, plus one minute wall-sits, a one minute plank, and push ups and lunges. During these exercises, concentrate on activating your core muscles to avoid compromising your back.”

2. Add antioxidants

“For many of us, summer means plenty of activities and events,” says naturopath Stephen Eddey. “The key to finding the energy for them all may lie in a potent antioxidant, found naturally in the heart, liver, muscles, and kidneys, called ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is the reduced and active form of coenzyme Q10, a strong antioxidant which soaks up oxidative stress and free radicals. Ubiquinol helps your body’s cells convert energy. While supplementing with ubiquinol should not replace a healthy and active lifestyle, it may assist in restoring natural levels of ubiquinol which become depleted over time with age, stress, or over-exertion. For more information, visit www.kanekaqh.info.”

3. Lower expectations

“Don’t think that you ‘should’ feel excited, have a gift for everyone, or even be happy about being with family,” suggests counsellor Colleen Morris. “Let go of all your expectations of others. Practise living in the present moment, pay attention to what you are experiencing with all five senses and you will feel grounded and calm. And if you don’t get on with family members, plan to be with the people you love and care about the most.”

4. Choose wisely

“The holiday period is not an excuse to completely stop exercising and eating properly,” says
nutritionist Sarah Do Rozario. “Sure, you can enjoy the special occasions - but don't let one or two days of relaxed eating turn into whole weeks off the bandwagon. And if people give you food gifts that aren't going to help you reach your health and fitness goals, you can always re-gift them.”

5. Keep it active

“You can also use social opportunities to stay healthy,” adds Rozario. “Not every event has to
revolve around food and alcohol. Organise a family football tournament or a beach barbeque and cricket match, go hiking in a national park, or take long walks along a beachfront or river.”

6. Stay mobile

“Commitments piling up and changes to routine make it tempting to abandon your regular exercise plan during the holidays,” says personal trainer Ali Cavill. “The trick is not to stop altogether – a 40-minute cardio workout is just as effective as a one-hour one. Try to keep to workday to-bed times and regular sleep patterns, as this gives you the energy to actually do any exercise the next day. And remember the three Ps – prepare, prepare, prepare! Book your gym or exercise time into your timetable just as you would any appointment, and make sure you have a babysitter lined up, if necessary.”

7. Harness technology

“Smart phones aren’t just for social media - there are now apps that track your food intake, weight changes, feelings, hunger, workout, and more,” says nutritionist Lyndi Polivnick. “Using technology can help you stay on track and maintain motivation. You can also search the internet for healthier alternatives to the usually-fattening Christmas classic recipes.” And don't deprive yourself. “If there is something indulgent on the menu that you simply cannot resist, then don't be too hard on yourself - it's Christmas after all!” adds Polivnick. “Have a small serve, and appreciate each mouthful.”

8. Take CoQ10

"The festive season can leave you Scrooge-like and overwhelmed,” says nutritionist Ravender Lilly. “A stamina boost could be the answer, and CoQuinone 100TM may just help. CoQ10 is essential in energy metabolism, which is extremely beneficial to anyone with an active lifestyle – that is, anyone that requires super powers in the lead up to Christmas!"

9. Practise self-care

“Make sure you keep some time for yourself,” says counsellor Annie Gurton. “We all need our privacy, but the social whirl at this time of year can mean that we reel from one function to another. Prioritise self-care, and you will survive well. For those without family the season can be hard, so reach out to those less fortunate, do them some good and feel good about yourself, too.”

10. Don’t forget to …

… breathe! “Calm your mind, and keep a clear, balanced emotional, mental, and spiritual state by incorporating yogic, mindful breathing or meditative practices into your day,” says traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Karina Stewart. “For some, the key may be finding relaxation by reading uplifting material, or walking in the park. Find what recharges you from the inside out, and practise it.” And be picky: "It's tempting to say 'yes' to every party and function, and it’s also easy to put our own needs aside to please others,” says energy coach Kate Manning. “To keep your energy levels high and be able to meet others with genuine enthusiasm, say ‘no’ to some of them, and take time out regularly to enjoy your own company. Saying 'no' also means that you won't bring false energy with you, plus you'll avoid the post-Christmas slump."

11. Prepare yourself

“Unfortunately, not ‘everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ - your body will remember the consequences of everything you eat, drink and do (or don’t do), even if the details remain foggy in your mind,” says director of Love Your Weight Loss, Sally Symonds. “Try to get in the best possible shape before the silly season starts. If you’re feeling trim, taut and terrific, then not only will you look super-fabulous, you’ll also be more likely to maintain your healthier habits because you’ll remember all the hard work that went into losing the weight in the first place!”

12. Use your diary

“Get in training!” says Brook Ramage of Cabarita Ocean Health Retreat. “Start the festive day with a good protein-based breakfast and a glass of probiotic kefir; exercise early in the morning when it’s cooler; snack on healthy foods such as frozen grapes and ice-cold snow peas, and make a point of eating before you go out – most party food is full of fat and calories. Choose a beverage mix that’s low in calories, like cranberry juice, refrigerate your rosewater face mist and pop it in your purse to freshen up during the night – and don’t forget that dancing is excellent exercise, so get into it!”

13. Go easy on grog

“This is the biggest danger for most people around the festive season, not food,” explains Symonds. “Alcohol equals empty calories, with one standard drink containing as many calories as a small meal – and a cocktail can contain enough calories for an entire day! The other danger is that alcohol lowers your inhibitions around food - it’s that much harder to skip less-than-healthy, calorie-rich foods when your blood alcohol level rises.”

14. Start with cider

“Start your day with a glass of lemon water and apple cider vinegar to kick-start your metabolism and help support your liver,” says Raw Blend’s Tommy Nicholas. “Make sure your breakfast includes wholefoods with a serve of good carbs, fibre, and protein - you can have all of this in one super tasty, easy to make, and nutritious green smoothie. Get in touch with your inner child and join in any physical activities and games. Most importantly, have fun!”

15. Feed your skin

“Sunny weather sees us outside, socialising and swimming, so it’s essential to protect your skin,” says naturopath Amie Skilton. “Sunscreen is a must-have - but you can also improve your skin’s natural resilience towards ultraviolet light by upping the carotenoid content of your diet with foods like tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. Or ask your healthcare practitioner for a high-quality, practitioner-only supplement.”

16. Sip, sip, sip

“Stay hydrated to stay energised and vibrant,” says nutritionist Tracie Hyman. “Start the day with a glass of water and the juice of a lemon, to kickstart your metabolism and alkalise your system. Breathe deeply into your lungs and, on each exhalation, let go of all negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones on the inhalation. Add super foods like green juices, quinoa, raw cacao and activated nuts to diet. If you’re feeling lonely, offer to volunteer and connect with others at your local charity.”

17. Give gratitude

“Instead of dreading the impending festive season, do something different and embrace it,” says counsellor Luke Sheedy. “Happy people are grateful people. Express gratitude to those that have made your year special, even if it was in a small way – it could be to the babysitter that never let you down, or the plumber that came on the weekend. Send a card with a heartfelt message. Letting someone know they are appreciated puts you in a positive mindset for the busy weeks ahead, and also opens you to deeper connections and friendships.”

18. Do it later

“It doesn’t all have to happen before Christmas,” adds Sheedy. “House guests, family get-togethers, and shopping trips can all be rescheduled for the new year and January. Politely decline the extra invitations and suggest catching up after the silly season – you’ll feel less frazzled, have more time for the things that are important to you, and be better able to enjoy it all.”

19. Go raw

“Balance the festive lifestyle with raw, whole and live nutrition, to keep your body in optimum
health,” suggests nutrition advocate Dwayne Martens. “Drink lots of water and add plenty of leafy greens like spinach to your diet, as this detoxifies your body. Try lightly sautéing your greens with some capsicum and mushrooms, before serving them at room temperature – it makes them easier to digest and improves their nutritional bioavailability.”

20. Set a detox date

“Getting through the silly season and still feeling healthy can seem daunting,” says FebFast
ambassador and director of Love My Body, Hayley Roper. “But penning in a ‘holiday for your body’- a post-Christmas detox - after the busy period is over will have you feeling back in control and primed for the year ahead. Whether it’s better sleep, feeling sharper mentally or weight loss, 98 percent of FebFasters report at least one benefit from taking a break from a creeping habit.”

Meet our experts

Jason T Smith, physiotherapist, founder of the Back In Motion Health Group and author of ‘Get
Yourself Back In Motion’. www.backinmotion.com.au
Stephen Eddey, nutritionist, naturopath, and Principal of Health Schools Australia.
Colleen Morris is a family therapist and counsellor. www.watersedgecounselling.com
Sarah Do Rozario, metabolic nutritionist and body transformation specialist, Prestige Lifestyles
International. www.prestigelifestyles.com.au
Ali Cavill, personal trainer. www.fitfantastic.com.au
Lyndi Polivnick, The Nude Nutritionist. www.thenudenutritionist.com.au
Ravinder Lilly, expert nutritionist at USANA Health Sciences. www.usana.com
Annie Gurton, psychological therapist and counsellor. www.anniegurton.com
Karina Stewart, TCM doctor and co-founder of Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary. www.kamalaya.com
Katie Manning, energy coach.
Sally Symonds, director of Love Your Weight Loss, www.sallysymonds.com
Brook Ramage, general manager, Cabarita Ocean Health Retreat, www.cabaritaoceanhealthretreat.com.au
Tommy Nicholas, Raw Blend. www.rawblend.com.au
Amie Skilton, naturopath, herbalist and senior educator at BioCeuticals.
Tracie Hyam, accredited nutritionist. www.tacietalkshealth.com.au
Luke Sheedy, counsellor, motivator and author. www.lukesheedy.com
Dwayne Martens, natural nutrition advocate and CEO of Amazonia. www.amazonia.com.au
Hayley Roper, FebFast ambassador and director of Love My Body. www.febfast.org.au