The xmas factor

CHRISTMAS is an opportunity to look after our health. Our physical and mental health matter equally, as does the health of our relationships.

1. Focus on yourself and others. There is such a pressure to give to others that people forget their own needs, get sick and dread Christmas. This is not meant to be. You matter.

2. Delegate. Guests could bring starters or dessert. Get the kids to help out.

3. Take the pressure off. Do you have to send cards to everyone? In every area, take a little pressure off.

4. Be different. Have the Christmas meal in a hotel. Go on a sun holiday. It is up to you what you want your Christmas to be.

5. Reduce risk. Plan for dark nights with leaves and snow. Buy salt for the front avenue. Use shoe grips for icy conditions. Have a torch, warm clothing, liquid, and a bar of chocolate in the car to prevent hypothermia if you car breaks down.

6. Plan for your medical needs. Order your repeat prescriptions in advance. Find out the after-hours phone number for your GP and their arrangements over Christmas. An easily identifiable house number, especially at nighttime, ensures the doctor, ambulance or fire-brigade will get to you earlier. Write out your drug allergies and medication, and the medication strength. Your pharmacist can help.

7. Prevent the flu. It is not too late to get the flu jab. Keep dry and cosy over the cold season. Exercise gently, daily. Seek quality sleep and the glow of a log fire. Check your fire alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors. Turn off all electrics before you sleep.

8. Make sure there are low-alcohol and non-alcohol options in your house. Have colourful, fresh fruit on view on the table, and in the fridge as fruit salad. Before you eat or drink, think about how you want to feel after your eat. A little, often, is tastier than too much and being stuffed.

9. Good moods create good memories. Too much sugar, caffeine, and alcohol in combination with not enough personal space, exercise, sleep, can create great festive stories, but awful memories and worse health. Kids get hyper, moods can change quickly and offence is easily taken. Say ‘no’ politely.

10. Don’t forget the forgotten in your community, as isolation in a time of plenty can be excruciating. It is lovely to be noticed, to be seen. One smile, one word of encouragement, one touch. This is the greatest present and it is free.

* Dr Heslin writes in association with HSF Health Plan. See


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