Medical herbalist columnist Nicola Parker writes about winding down before Christmas.
With the holiday season here, I found myself spoilt for choice on topics I could write about, pertaining to health.
For some people, the lead up to Christmas has been incredibly stressful due to the mad rush of preparing for the big day. Financial burdens, family obligations and the sheer volume of work that goes into gift buying, card sending, house decorating and meal planning. For others, the burden of Christmas is emotional, as we face family conflict or find ourselves remembering lost loved ones and missing those who, for whatever reason, can’t be with us on the day.
We might over indulge, burdening our bodies with an excess of food and drink, before detoxing in January and starting a new exercise regime or cutting out unhealthy habits that we’d previously found comfort in. This can present as a minor trauma to the body as it suddenly needs to deal with the extra onslaught of demands being put upon it.
Consequently, it is no wonder that I am visited by people that are ill, exhausted, under the weather and depressed during the Christmas and New Year period. If any of these things ring true, then I encourage you to make this year a little different by dedicating a larger part of your focus towards self-care. Put everything else aside and show a little love for your own physical and mental wellbeing.
If you have spent December rushing around, for example, it’s possible that your immune system won’t be working as well as it should. Stress makes our body go into fight or flight syndrome, which suppresses our immune system. If this is the case, you make have picked up a bug that you don’t start fighting off until you finally find the time to relax.
So take some time for yourself, spend a few days enjoying restful activities, reading, watching old films, taking long baths and walking in your favourite outdoor areas. Figure out where you feel calmest and take some time to recuperate in that space.
Let your stress response settle down and your immune system return to full health. If you’re feeling run down, take something to boost it. I use a multinutrient called Immune Support, as it contains antiviral herbs and actually builds and supports the immune system, rather than just fighting off bugs.
If you’re not one for rushing and you’re more concerned about the emotional toll the holidays can take, then make your mental health priority. Decline invitations from people that make you feel worse and reach out to those that bring joy into your life. If you’re short on people to turn to, check out local church or community groups to see what events are happening to help lift your spirits.
January can be a long month and is known for being the worst month for depression. If you feel you’d benefit from some help, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss what options could be available.
Alternatively, visit or call up your local herbalist. While many may be taking time off during the holiday, we stay open at my clinic, offering an over the counter service, with free clinic appointments opening in January. Remedies like St. John’s Wort and L-5HTP can help alleviate low mood for some and I have known many use such things to get them through the darker moments that little bit easier. Other remedies such as Rose, rescue remedy and other flower remedies can be used for specific emotional states, from fear to a sense of loss, to low self confidence.
Finally, if you have overindulged this Christmas, don’t spend January on a difficult detox or strenuous exercise regime. Ease yourself out of Christmas with nutritious, easy to digest comfort foods, like hot soups, fresh herbs and cooked vegetables. Start gently with any new exercise and gradually reduce bad habits if you feel like you’re likely to fail by going cold turkey. Consider taking some milk thistle to show your liver a bit of love but avoid gimmicky detox products.
Our body and mind are our home, more than our house ever will be. So show them some love this Christmas by making their health your priority.