Christmas is a time of year that can be mega stressful for women in particular. Throw menopause into the mix, and it can be a horse of a different colour. We women need to adopt some coping strategies that will allow us to enjoy the festivities without too much stress and meltdown. Mind you, even in the best of times coping with Christmas is stressful.
Why is it that we women feel it is our responsibility to make sure everything is done correctly for Christmas? And to make sure everyone is having a wonderful time? Well here are some suggestion to help you have a Merry little Christmas. The first thing is to delegate, and the second is to find yourself some elves. Ok, joking aside here are some suggestions.
Why Not Try This...
Make two lists: “To-Do List” and “Don’t-Do List”. A to-do list helps to keep you organised. If you’re suffering from brain fog and forgetfulness, it’s an absolute necessity. A don’t-do list reminds you of all the things that are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Ease up on trying to make Christmas perfect and remember you don’t have to do everything. Make the present-giving much more civilised and stress-free by asking family and friends to do a gift exchange where everyone buys for one person.
Do you know what triggers your symptoms? What sets off your hot flushes, fuels your anxiety, increases your stress and sets you off in a rage? Alcohol can exacerbate hot flushes by causing your blood vessels to dilate. Caffeine has a similar effect. Does going into a busy shopping centre set you off, being in a warm room, or do you find a relative particularly challenging to handle? Try shopping during less busy times or shop online. Go outside when heating up and avoid people who cause you stress. It can be difficult to avoid alcohol, especially a nice glass of bubbly. Have you tried non-alcoholic wine? You can now buy many varieties of non- alcoholic wines, including sparkling. The amount of alcohol that we drink at this time of year takes its toll on our digestion and liver. Minimise the damage by not drinking on an empty stomach, and sipping on non- alcoholic drinks (water, fizzy water with lemon, non- alcoholic wines, non-alcoholic gin) in between glasses.
As Frankie Suggests... Relax!
Christmas does not happen on its own. It takes some serious time, effort and investment to host family and friends over the holiday season. Even if you are accustomed to putting in the elbow grease to make Christmas happen, it may become a bit overwhelming this time around. Did you know that stress can make your menopause symptoms worse? We have oestrogen receptors all over and with declining oestrogen levels during menopause, stress and anxiety can become challenging to manage. Find ways to de-stress and relax daily. Many women say that they do not have the time. You owe it to yourself to dedicate some me time for you. You’ll feel better, and you’ll be more relaxed to take on the everyday stresses. Try yoga, deep breathing exercises (breath in for 4, exhale for 8), take an Epsom salt bath (loaded with relaxing magnesium), get fresh air daily or go for a walk. Take time to enjoy the moments. The key here is to make some downtime each day a priority for you because you deserve it!
The Darker Side of Christmas... Overindulgence
Overindulgence and Christmas often go hand in hand. Try to be mindful of what you are eating. Your liver will be working overtime if you consume too much alcohol and fatty foods, and this puts your body under physical stress and can exacerbate menopause symptoms. You don’t have to skip all the Christmas treats but do watch your intake of sugar. Have some healthy options available, such as fruit and nuts. Keep your blood sugar levels stable by eating lean protein such as turkey, chicken, fish, eggs and plenty of vegetables, as well as whole grains, brown rice and sweet potatoes. Make Christmas treats that have a healthy twist without additional sugars. Try cacao protein balls with goji berries rolled in desiccated coconut, crushed walnuts or flax seeds. These treats will give you a helpful phytoestrogen boost and keep the craving monster at bay.
Did you know your stomach is no bigger than your fist when it is empty? It grows and expands as we eat. The average stomach can only handle one to one-and-a-half litres of food at any one time before it runs into trouble. Lots of foods associated with this time of year are high in fat or high in sugar, and are rich. These foods puts pressure on your digestive system as they are difficult to break down. Throw in alcoholic drinks, and it’s a real assault to our gut. High-fat foods such as mince pies, sausage rolls, pigs in blanket and roast potatoes are a challenge to our stomach. As the gut is not able to absorb the micronutrients from food, you will not be getting what you need to cope with the stresses and strains of the season. Over-eating fatty foods can be very taxing on your digestive system because the stomach is unable to produce enough of the right substances, such as gastric acid and the digestive enzymes pepsin and lipase, fast enough to cope. Sour foods like lemon, limes, grapefruit and apple cider vinegar (with the ‘mother’) can help to stimulate your body’s gastrointestinal juices and aid the start of the digestion process. A good habit to adopt is sipping water with lots of lemon slices before and after a meal to help your stomach break down your food.
Plan ahead and give your body lots of healthy food as well as the richer foods on offer. Fruit and vegetables rich in fibre are easily overlooked at this time. A lack of fibre will make constipation and bloating worse. Having a vegetable-based smoothie every day is an excellent way to ensure adequate fibre intake. The smoothie will give you a vitamin and mineral boost, as well as providing your gut with prebiotic fibre (which feeds the good bacteria in your gut) and which helps to digest all the rich festive foods. A nutritious smoothie recipe includes one fruit to three or four vegetables.
Christmas dinner can be sumptuous, delicious and healthy. With some smart ingredient choices, the festive meal can keep everyone healthy and happy. Here are some suggestions:
Turkey is an excellent choice to start as it’s lean and full of protein, easy on digestion, and you can eat a fair-sized portion.
Introduce lots more vegetables to the meal such as:
- French-style green bean with cream of mushroom, water chestnuts and fried onions
- Radicchio salad with flaxseed and balsamic vinegar dressing, fruity coleslaw
- Brussel sprouts with pancetta, pecans and thyme,
- Honey-drizzled citrus salad with pistachio and pomegranate
- Cauliflower-garlic mash
- Roast butternut squash with Brussel sprouts
- Quinoa stuffing loaded with cranberries and rosemary
- Coriander roasted baby carrots
- Roast squash slices with goat’s cheese and cranberries
- Spinach balls
- Sweet potato pie
- Peppermint Fudge Protein Bites
- Fruit traybake
- Fresh Fruit Pavlova
Things Are Hotting Up!
Christmas brings on heat and a hot kitchen! Along with the pressure of getting the festive meal on the table, it can inevitably bring on some flushes. Wear cool, breathable clothing with layers, so you peel off the layers as needed. BECOME Menopause clothing www.webecome.co.uk is worth looking at. It’s designed with intelligent technology which draws in the heat when you’re cold and releases the heat when you flush. Another tip is to ventilate the kitchen as much as possible with windows open and maybe a small fan on standby to cool you down as needed. Sip on ice-cold water and iced herbal teas to help cool you down and stay hydrated. Step outside for some fresh air if you feel a flush coming on. This is a good time to do some relaxing breathing: breath in slowly hold for a few seconds then breathe out slowly. This technique will release tension and help you to feel relaxed and ready to take on the festive cooking again.
Does your family know you are going through the menopause? Talk to them about the symptoms you are experiencing. The effects menopause has on you can have a direct impact on your family and friends. Sometimes we women are not aware of how much our behaviour impacts on our family. By speaking to them, they are likely to be more understanding and grateful that you have not lost the plot. It’s an ideal time to take advantage and rope them all in to help with Christmas. These are your elves in waiting.
Count Those Sheep!
Having a good night’s rest is a priority, yet the majority of menopausal women suffer from sleep problems. Using your phone, tablet, watching TV just before bed or whilst in bed can be very stimulating so avoid it if at all possible. Write your to-do list for the next day then park it. Avoid caffeine-containing drinks after 12pm. Caffeine is a stimulant and lasts in your system many hours after it’s been drunk. Switch instead to herbal teas. Find flavours which you like.
Try to establish a calming routine at bedtime. Make a daily habit that signals to your body that it’s time to wind down and sleep. Try this relaxing technique: Legs spread shoulder-width apart. Relax your shoulders and swing your arms around your shoulders, twisting and turning as you move while letting go of all your daily worries and empty your mind. Slowly bend and let your head hang at waist level (only as low as you can go) while continuing to swing and relax. Let it all go and hang. This relaxation technique can be a lovely release for the mind and the body.
And Finally... Keep Moving!
Exercise is good at any stage and being menopausal is no different, especially after post-lunch or post-dinner festive meals, be it at a party or the countless family events you have to attend. A good workout helps play a crucial role in lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels and clears brain fog. It could be a nice walk in the fresh air! It’s not always about hitting the gym. Time in the fresh air gives you a break from the intense family time, and hey, it will help to burn off some of those festive calories that can end up as extra pounds around the middle. If walking is not your thing, try to find time for your usual exercise routine.
So what are you waiting for? Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.