It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for many trying to make it a happy and healthy Christmas can be a challenge…

The lights are twinkling, the carols are playing, it’s summer and there are a bunch of public holidays coming up. Celebrating the festive season in South Africa sounds ideal.

However, it can also be the perfect storm of overindulgence, overspending and going overboard to accommodate friends and family.

So, what can you do to slow the fast pace of the festive season and enter the New Year happily, without extra weight or debt?

Here are a few ideas to help you have a happy and healthy Christmas…

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Make healthy new traditions to trump overindulging

‘Tis the season to be feasting, because isn’t that how we celebrate?

Yes, food is glorious food, but it shouldn’t be the main focus of Christmas. If you don’t want to roll into the new year, make changes where you can and have a game plan for facing temptations.

At home, focus on starting healthy new Christmas traditions. It could be: making changes to the usual Christmas menu; swopping that creamy pasta salad for a fresh, green salad; adding fun activities to your family’s festive itinerary; going for a walk after Christmas lunch; or playing Frisbee on the beach, rather than watching movies.

As for office parties and dinner with friends, have a game plan for how to avoid overindulging. You may find it helps to eat a healthy, high-fibre snack before the event so that you’re not hungry on arrival, sipping water, staying at the far end of the buffet table or looking for the healthiest foods on offer and filling up on them first.

Holiday feasts vs diet: What to eat the day AFTER the giant meal

Giving is great, but if trying to make Christmas perfect for everyone else is stressing you out, you’re giving too much

Conquer overspending stress

Have you already looked at your bank balance and had a shock?

Christmas can be an expensive time of the year, but if you don’t want to blow your bonus before you even have it, here are some tips to help you spend less and stress less:

  • Make what you can – If you want new Christmas decorations, make them and try to use what you already have at home. Instead of buying expensive Christmas biscuits in pretty packaging, make your own.
  • Gift gifts from the heart, not your wallet – It’s easy to think that the more expensive the gift, the better, but they can cause stress for both the giver and the receiver. If you’re worried about your bank account, there is a good chance that your friends and family know this. Giving them an expensive gift may make them feel guilty about what it cost you and they may even worry that they didn’t give you as a good of a gift. To avoid all this unnecessary stress, try setting a gift cost limit, hand making gifts, implementing Secret Santa (so you only have to buy one gift) or only giving gifts to children.
  • Plan free fun – Make a list of summer holiday activities that ou’d like to do and highlight all the free ones. If you’re feeling the pinch, a packed picnic in a beautiful natural setting is an inexpensive family winner.

Even Santa needs self-care

Giving is great, but if trying to make Christmas perfect for everyone else is stressing you out, you’re giving too much.

It’s important not to forget self-care over the festive season. If you’re willing to spread the love, try spreading the load too by asking friends and family to help prepare that Christmas lunch, clean up and organise family outings. If you don’t ask for help, you might not get it offered, so don’t be scared to speak up.

Avoid feeling frazzled and fatigued by trying to eat as healthily as possible, making time for your usual workouts and getting enough sleep. Prioritise your ‘me-time’ and workouts, even if you have houseguests. Slipping out for that 30-minute brisk walk or run is not going to put anyone out and it just gives you time for yourself to reset and return home invigorated.

How to deal with festive season stress

You are not alone

If you’re feeling depressed or lonely over the festive season, you are not alone.

Many people are alone and depressed over Christmas, so reach out and connect with others who may be on their own or need a little Christmas cheer. You could invite your neighbours for tea or volunteer to help serve Christmas lunch at a soup kitchen, old-age home or orphanage.

And finally, if you need someone to talk to and feel like you have nowhere to turn, call one of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) counsellors between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday on 011 234 4837 or the 24hr Helpline on 0800 12 13 14.

No one should have to suffer through Christmas, so try implementing these ideas to help ensure that your festive season is as happy as it is healthy.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.