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’Tis the season…

Here are 20 tips for a festive break that will refresh your mind, body and soul…
We’re all guilty of over-indulging at Christmas and during New Year and while the festive break is meant to relax and revitalise us, often, it does the exact opposite. So, if you want to have a happy holiday and use the Xmas break to kick-start a healthy 2011, read on…

CHRISTMAS CHEER
Dodge the really classic seasonal pitfalls

  1. Avoid family feuds
    Your mother-in-law’s muscled in on your private conversation, obnoxious cousin Eddie’s caused a row with his Missus, and your drunk partner’s resurrected an old argument with your dad. Welcome to the traditional Christmas family dinner. ‘When relatives get together at Christmas, unresolved issues from the past year can cause tension. The best way to react is to look at the bigger picture, grit your teeth and don’t respond to any inflammatory remarks,’ says Christine Northam, a counselor working for Relate (www.relate.org.uk). ‘You can help things further by avoiding known triggers. For example, if politics is a touchy subject in your family and someone brings it up, use distraction and quickly move onto something else to discuss.’
  2. Have a blast
    Did you know that a good old giggle lifts your mood and reduces stress? So if you’re feeling a bit fed up or need a night off from work, take your family to a local pantomime or show. Laughter boosts the immune system, opens the blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against heart attack.
  3. Kiss of life
    What better excuse to grab your partner for a passionate smooch than standing under the mistletoe this Christmas. Not only does it boost self-esteem, kissing burns calories (a minute of lip action can burn 26 of them!) and can prevent tooth decay because it increases saliva flow.
  4. Try thinking before drinking
    Sure, most of us enjoy a tipple over Christmas and New Year – but we find ourselves drinking more than we should. Chris Sorek, chief executive of the alcohol awareness charity, Drinkaware (www.drinkaware.co.uk), says: ‘The buzz of the festive season combined with a few too many can mean doing things you wouldn’t dream of doing sober – such as getting an unlicensed taxi or walking home alone. ‘In the long-term, regularly drinking above the daily unit guidelines (for men, it’s 3-4 units a day; for women, 2-3 units a day) can put people at increased risk of serious health conditions such as depression, cancer and liver damage.’
  5. Animal magic
    Thinking about buying a pet this December? Picture the faces of your little ones when they meet their new furry little friend for the very first time. ‘Pets can provide us with emotional support, as well as encourage us to keep active. They also provide great opportunities for social interaction,’ says Andy Robbins, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). But remember, along with owning a pet comes the responsibility of caring for it.
  6. Nurse a cold
    If you’re recovering from a winter cold, cinnamon is just what you need because it has good antioxidant properties. Try it coarsely powdered and boiled in a glass of water with a pinch of pepper powder and honey, and you’ll soon be on the road to recovery.
  7. The early bird…
    Are you likely to worry about whether you’ve left someone off your Christmas card list, or if you’ve left it too late to order or purchase a turkey? To make sure your festive break is one to remember – rather than one that raises the blood pressure – it’s best to be organised. Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society (www.stress.org.uk), says: ‘Don’t keep Christmas in your head. Get it down on paper and record anything from seating plans and gift ideas to the number of your taxi company and babysitter.’
  8. Food for thought
    It’s so easy to overeat at Christmas because you’re surrounded by lots of delicious spreads. But there are simple ways to cut back on calories while still enjoying all the favourites. The British Nutrition Foundation (www.nutrition.org.uk) suggests stuffing the turkey with roast chestnuts, which are low in fat, removing the skin from the turkey before eating it and substituting fat-free Greek yoghurt for the brandy butter with your Christmas pudding.
  9. It’s all about giving and taking
    Take a look around you this Christmas – are there families or individuals in your community who are less fortunate than you and could do with some extra support? Donating your time or a gift can really boost people’s spirits and can teach your children about the true values of the festive season.
  10. Come on… all together now!
    Get into the festive spirit by singing Christmas carols. Away In A Manger could be just the ticket, as communal singing is good for the mind and body, according to research at Newcastle University.

    It’s relaxing, improves breathing and muscle tone and creates a healthier immune system. And if you discover that singing is something you really enjoy, why not join a church choir, gospel or singing group in the New Year? 

    JUMPSTART YOUR JANUARY
    It’s the new year, so keep fit, healthy and have some fun! 

  11. Kill that hangover
    If you wake up on New Year’s Day with a raging hangover – a banging headache, nausea and generally feeling groggy – nutritionist, Seki Tijani, recommends detoxification. After a heavy night out, you should drink juices containing carrot, apple, beetroot, spinach and ginger to help cleanse your system.
  12. Happiness is a New Year hotel
    If you’re feeling a bit low or drained from a hectic Christmas schedule and want to do something different for your New Year celebrations, why not take a UK break somewhere? ‘Getting away over New Year means all of the fun of celebrating with none of the hard work, says Annabelle Thorpe, PR manager of Visit England. ‘And a break in England means a stress-free escape; no airports, long journeys, or jetlag. England has a fantastic range of places to stay and many hotels offer special New Year deals.’
  13. Practice safe sex
    If you’re single, or think you could be tempted by a one-night stand during your booze-fuelled New Year partying, it’s critical that you use some form of protection. The last thing you want from careless sex is a disease or infection, or discovering that you’re pregnant if it’s not currently on your agenda. Be safe, not sorry!
  14. Beat the bloat
    Squeezing into a slim-fitting dress this New Year’s Eve can prove a challenge for some, particularly after eating one too many mince pies! Nutritionist Amanda Ursell (www.amandaursell.com) advises staying away from salty snacks and processed foods, as a high salt intake encourages water retention and bloating. Cutting back on salt also reduces blood pressure.
  15. Boogie nights
    Bust out your best moves on the dance floor this New Year’s Eve. Whether you’re coupling up with uncle Andrew or having a girlie dance with your pals – it’s all about enjoying yourself. And if it’s something you want to continue with in the New Year, then why not join a dancing club? There are several different types, offering everything from ballroom to salsa and jazz. If you fancy something a little more contemporary, why not try street dance?
  16. Shop ‘til you drop
    One thing us girls love about New Year is that it’s time for the sales! And what’s more, a two-hour shopping spree burns around 420 calories.

    So whether you’re after a new sofa, a pair of boots, or something for the kids, head down to your local high street to snap up some bargains.

  17. Make a (realistic) resolution
    It’s something most people can relate to at the start of January after all the partying and excess – planning for a healthier future by making a New Year’s resolution. But good intentions, such as taking up a new hobby, improving relationships or kicking the cigarettes, often prove hard to stick to. Phillip Hodson (www.phillip hodson.co.uk) a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) explains that gradual changes are the best way to make your promises stick. ‘Some people cope best by making a new month’s resolution. See if you can make it to February without resorting to your old ways – and then renew the pledge,’ he advises.
  18. Reflect on 2010
    ‘The period between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time to look back at the year and reflect on all that’s gone well,’ says life coach and author, Liz Wilde (www.wildelifecoaching.com). ‘Ask yourself: What have I achieved this year that I’m proud of? What strokes of luck or positive gifts have I received and what have I learnt? Then look ahead and think about what would be most enjoyable to do in the coming year. Now you have something exciting to focus on – always a good thing when the weather’s cold and dark outside!’
  19. It’s detox time
    Have all those Christmas treats made you feel sluggish? Have your eating habits turned bad and your skin lost its glow? What you need is a period of detoxification – and January is the month most of us try to undo the indulgence. So to help you clean up your act, take milk thistle supplements which contain plant chemicals that protect the liver.
  20. Consider your career path
    ‘January is the classic time to feel dissatisfied at work after the long Christmas break,’ says life coach, Suzy Greaves (www.thebig-leap.com). ‘It’s fairly easy to fall into a rut of moaning about our work, the boss or colleagues, but doing nothing about it.’ Here are Suzy’s tips for progressing at work in the New Year:
  • Identify your needs.
    When you’re unhappy at work, what is it that you’re not getting? Is it recognition? Control of a project? Respect from the boss? Do you need to talk about changing your role? Make a list of steps to take, then take action. You will never be happy at work if you do not learn how to get what you want.
  • Play to your strengths.
    Is your job showcasing your skills and talents? If not, what action do you need to take to move job or to retrain? Make a list of five baby steps to make in the next seven days. For example, research on the internet or take a colleague in a different department out for lunch to pick their brains.
  • Act confident.
    Sometimes it’s not the most talented people who move up the career ladder, but those who have the most confidence. Think about the most confident person you know – how do they talk? How do they stand? What pitch is their voice? How often do they smile? Write down a list of 20 things you would do if you were confident. Now for seven days, play the role of that confident person – it can be a key to career success.
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