Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Enjoy A Laid Back Christmas

It’s supposed to be the season of goodwill to all men, but how often is that the truth. You dash round the shops in total panic looking for all those last minute Christmas presents, cocktail sticks and spare bulbs for the tree lights. Everywhere is packed, you’re in a panic and so is everyone else. You get pushed, shoved, jostled, hot and more bad tempered by the minute. Hardly a promising start to the festive season.

Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, especially for the family member organising it, and you don’t need me to tell you it’s usually the woman of the house. The anxiety begins in September when the Christmas packaging, decorations and gift boxes start appearing in the stores, and culminates in the traditional turkey meal with all the trimmings. Apart from the worry and tension of buying the presents, writing the Christmas cards – does HE ever help, doing the shopping, and getting the meal on the table?

Make sure that you are prepared in advance by having these registered herbal remedies in your medicine cupboard. Take care though; the bathroom is not the best place as humidity can degrade most tablets. To give you a lift if you are down in the slumps, use Karma, the registered extract of St John’s Wort, a long standing traditional herbal medicine for the relief of low mood and anxiety.

NiteHerb is the first ever registered traditional herbal medicine sold in the UK containing an extract of Valerian root. This plant is great to help you sleep when mild anxiety keeps you tossing and turning till the small hours.

If PMT is adding to your problems, then the answer wil be at hand if you have a pack of PremHerb. This is the only registered extract of Agnus Castus sold in the UK as a traditional remedy for premenstrual syndrome.

For more information on these natural medicines go to: www.schwabepharma.co.uk

This may all be a little tongue in cheek, but the stress of Christmas is very real and can be equally bad for those having to spend it on their own. People who may have lost a partner, single mums, divorced, the elderly, the single unemployed living in bed-sits. For these people the thought of everyone else in the world being with others and having a good time can be unbearable. It’s for all these reasons that the Samaritans, Relate and Age Concern, have more calls at this time of year than any other.

So, before you get to breaking point, here’s how you can reduce the stress at Christmas and cope better with the inevitable strains of trying to keep cheerful during the festive season.

First, check your personal stress level. It’s often difficult to take an objective view to see how badly you’re being affected. But there are common signs of stress which are easy to spot. Do you:

- Feel near to tears much of the time.
- Fidget, bite your nails or fiddle with your hair.
- Find it hard to concentrate, and impossible to make decisions.
- Find it increasingly hard to talk to people.
- Snap and shout at those around you at home and work.
- Eat when you’re not hungry.
- Feel tired much of the time.
- Think that your sense of humour has gone for good.
- Feel suspicious of others.
- No longer have any interest in sex.
- Sleep badly.
- Drink and/or smoke more to help you through those difficult days.
- Ever feel that you just can’t cope.

If you answer YES to more than four of these questions, you are stressed. DO SOMETHING NOW or your Christmas will be a disaster!

Don’t forget that laughter is the best medicine so if all else fails, read the jokes in the Christmas crackers and, better still, don’t miss the replays of Morecambe and Wise.

Stress Busting Herbs

The relaxing benefits of many herbs and spices have been used since the most ancient of times and they can be the perfect answer to your Christmas stress. You can take them as herbal teas, tablets, or even included in your cooking, and many are traditionally used in some of the Christmas favourites.

Passion flower – this beautiful plant has been used by herbalists since the middle ages for it’s gentle and non-addictive tranquillising benefits. It’s great for relieving anxiety, especially when accompanied by insomnia. You can take it as a herbal tea or get it in tablets from health stores.

If everything’s piling on top of you and you’re starting to feel depressed, then St. John’s Wort is the natural answer. It’s the most effective treatment for mild to moderate depression and as long as you’re not taking blood thinning drugs like Warfarin or medication that suppresses your body’s immune system, then this herb is safer than any of the chemical antidepressant drugs.

Valerian was used by the ancient Greek and Roman physicians as a gentle sedative and the volatile oils it contains are extremely soothing and calming. Valerian tablets help relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia.

Hops are another wonderful anti-stress herb. Just having a bowl of the dried flowers in your bedroom or using a hop pillow will start the mental unwinding process.

Lavender, one of the most traditional calming herbs, can be used in cakes, biscuits, ice creams, or you can add a few drops of lavender oil to a bath. For the ultimate relaxation get your best friend or partner to give you a massage using five drops of lavender oil in two tablespoons of grape seed or sunflower seed oil.

Basil, rosemary, lemon balm and scented geranium are all wonderfully de-stressing so use plenty of them in cooking – scented geranium is particularly good with sweet dishes like stewed fruits or sorbets.

Finally, don’t forget the spices – nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, widely used in traditional Christmas fare, and all of which are calming and mood improving. You can also add all of them to hot toddies and punches which will help you have a cool yule.

De-stressing Foods

Until they stop and really think about it, few people realise that there is a powerful link between food and stress and that this link is a two way street.

What you eat and when, can trigger stress, make it worse, or improve it, and being stressed can have an equally powerful impact on when and what you eat too.

We all know people whose reaction to being under pressure, or going through emotional upheavals is to eat more and more and gain weight, while there seems to be an equal number of people who, in the same situations, lose their appetites, stop eating properly and the pounds just drop off them.

In the run up to Christmas use this guide to keep you as stress free as possible:-

* Never miss breakfast – people react worse to stress by the end of the day if they skip this vital meal.
* Have some brain-boosting protein at lunch time – meat, fish, poultry, cheese – with something starchy like bread, potatoes, rice or pasta for energy.
* In the evening more of the starchy foods to encourage relaxation and good sleep – pasta or rice with vegetables, a large jacket potato with cheese or egg, and plenty of fresh fruit.
* Keep your blood sugar levels constant through the day with snacks of dried fruit, fresh nuts and seeds, bananas, a small piece of cheese with biscuits to prevent mood swings.
* Cut down on these stress inducing foods: refined carbohydrates, sugar and sweetened fizzy drinks, tea and coffee, uncooked bran, alcohol.

Five Supplements To Beat The Christmas Blues

All the B vitamins are essential stress fighters – take a daily B complex

Phosphatidylserine is one of the essential nutrients known as phospholipids and it helps regulate brain function. This safe mood booster is available as capsules.

If all the work and worry has left you feeling like a limp dishcloth, then Ginseng will give you a good boost of energy.
Rio Trading Guarana capsules provide slow release energy which will stop you flagging and feeling exhausted.

Coenzyme Q helps to make sure that you convert starch into available energy to help you through the difficult days.

Taking some time out for yourself is one of the most important things you can do, so get away from everyone for a quiet read, a catnap or 15 minutes worth of soul-reviving yoga or mediation.

Stress, tension and anxiety can spoil the happiest of holidays but following this practical festive guide will make sure you have a laid back Christmas.


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