BLOG BY Amanda Finch MSc ANutr

How to navigate work stress over the Christmas period

“Tis’ the season to be jolly! and it’s also a time where diaries get booked up and everyone is so busy. The lead up to Christmas can often be a hectic time at work and at home. But it doesn’t need to be a time of stress and anxiety. When it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, money’s tight, work builds up, plus the Christmas party season, dark evenings and family arrangements, it can be an overwhelming time! But don’t worry, we have some tips on how to minimise stress at work so we can make this “the most wonderful time of the year!” whilst staying as happy and healthy as possible.

Prioritise your to do list

Make a list that includes; tasks, events, meetings and include preparation time in your diary - be kind to yourself and don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Be flexible with your schedule, incentivise your team to get all those Christmas tasks done, and get a ‘back to work’ checklist in place to take as much pressure off after the Christmas break. It’s important to consider all aspects of work and home life and plan based on what’s required and important to you.

Lunchtime fresh air

Walking has shown to provide a wide range of benefits, whether you’re in high-speed mode or ambling in the park. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that people who walked three times a week during lunch felt a lot better after walking for just half an hour. They were less tense, more enthusiastic, more relaxed and able to cope better with their workload compared to those who didn’t fit in a 30-minute walk. It may seem a challenge to make the time whilst work ramps up but taking a break at lunch will work wonders. Give it a try!

Sleep

Sleep and health are strongly related - poor sleep can increase the risk of having poor health, which can make it harder to sleep. One study found that workers who reported insomnia or insufficient sleep spent three times as long on time management throughout the day as workers who reported quality sleep. Consider these four steps to quality sleep; health, environment, attitude and lifestyle. Health; if you’re worried about anything, speak to your doctor and address any worries that might be keeping you awake physically or mentally. Environment; keep screens and lights to a minimum, ensure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature. Attitude; going to bed in a relaxed frame of mind is important and will help you get to sleep. Try relaxation techniques such as a warm bath, camomile tea or mindfulness practice to unwind after a long day. Lifestyle; what and when you eat can affect your sleep as well as exercise. Stimulants like caffeine, sugary drinks and sugary snacks can reduce quality of sleep, with alcohol further reducing sleep quality.

Staying hydrated & alcohol intake

Staying hydrated sounds so very simple, but it’s really important to build this into your working day. Drinks such as water and herbal teas provide us on average with 70-80% of our water needs with the remaining 20-30% coming from foods. Men require around 2000ml and women around 1600ml per day; as an example, 1 mug of tea is around 250ml and 1 cup of tea or medium size glass is around 200ml.

Christmas events often involve alcohol, and we all know how great mulled wine can taste on a chilly evening or a crisp glass of bubbly at our favourite bar. Guidelines from the Department of Health states 14 units of alcohol per week as the maximum for both men and women; a bottle of beer is 1.5 units, a pint can be between 2-3 units, a standard glass of wine is 2.1 units. We suggest alternating alcoholic with non-alcoholic, choose sugar-free mixers, go for smaller glasses of wine and beer and drink water throughout.

Set time aside for you

As the festivities take over it is important to plan some you time. One of the best ways you can take care of yourself (and increase your productivity in the process) is bringing your attention to the present moment, mindful meditation could be a great tool to help support this. Just a few minutes of meditation a day to bring your attention to the present moment might seem like a small act of self-care, but it can make a huge impact. If meditation isn’t for you, schedule some relaxation time, whether that’s watching your favourite boxset, having a well-deserved lie in or cooking your favourite meal, set time aside for you.

Trying all or some of the above tips and tricks should help minimise stress and anxiety over this busy time, especially at work. If you do feel overwhelmed, speak to someone you trust at work, a friend or your doctor.

References

1.BDA (2017). Fluid. The Association of UK Dietitians. Available from https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/fluid.pdf (Accessed 25 November 2019).

2.Department of Health (2016). New Alcohol Guidelines Launched. Department of Health. Available from https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/new-alcohol-guidelines-launched (Accessed 25 November 2019).

3.Mental Health Foundation (2016). The importance of sleep. Mental Health Foundation. Available from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/importance-sleep (Accessed 25 November 2019).

4.NHS (2018). Alcohol units. NHS. Available from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units/ (Accessed 25 November 2019).

5.Thogersen-Ntoumani et al., (2015). Changes in work affect in response to lunchtime walking in previously physically inactive employees: A randomized trial.Scandinavian Journal of Medicine; Science in Sports, 25, 6. Available from https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12398 (Accessed 27 November 2019).

This blog post was written by Amanda Finch, who is a qualified Public Health Nutritionist and registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr). Alongside running from Root to Leaf, who has a special interest in helping people live healthier and happier lives. Amanda is passionate about maximising our health through how we live our lives; our food, physical activity, sleep, stress and anxiety management, as well as how nutrition information is communicated. You can find Amanda on social media at the following channels; Instagram - @fromroottoleaf, twitter - @fromroottoleaf1 and her website fromroottoleaf

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