Jingle all the way

Jan Aitken has some timely advice: Get on top of Christmas before it gets on top of you.

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken

OK, I'm going to get this over and done with really quickly ... Christmas is just around the corner.

There, I said it.

Now I'm going to sit back and wait for the torrent of emails and texts that tell me to pull my head in, we don't need to be thinking about it just yet.

I disagree. Seriously. It's just over two months away.

We're going to see the work Christmas function notice up on the wall of the staff room (if it's not there already), and end-of-year exams and school prizegivings are imminent.

Invitations to social functions will start to turn up.

We'll start thinking about gifts to buy, trees to decorate and where are we going for Christmas Day, what are we going to eat and, if you have holidays, then you had better start getting them organised.

Accommodation, food, activities, travel plans, pet care ... and all this on top of already often very busy lives.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

So while I may be being a little dramatic, it is not entirely daft to start thinking about how to handle the end of the year.

Things can get seriously busy and crammed, and many of us find the end-of-year Christmas/New Year period incredibly stressful.

If you have holidays, you can find yourself stumbling towards the end of the year and collapsing over the finish line in a heap.

Hopefully, it's not too daunting to get a little organised and take some of the frazzle out of the end of the year!

Now, where's my calendar. I have some planning to do!

 Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach. For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz


Many find the end-of-year Christmas/New Year period incredibly stressful. Photo: Getty Images
Many find the end-of-year Christmas/New Year period incredibly stressful. Photo: Getty Images


• Here are some tips and tricks to try to reduce some of the frazzle of the last couple of months of the year.



At any time of year, but especially in the run-up to Christmas, it can be really helpful to try some simple planning. Get organised, keep the stress levels down and your energy and immunity up. Focus on activity management (the things you have to, and want to, do) rather than time management. You have no control over time, but you do have some control over your activities.

Schedule. Work it all out. What time is work, sleep, exercise, regular meetings or sports fixtures, volunteer work, school events etc. Get them marked in the diary first.

The rest is your discretionary time, the time you have left to do all the other ''stuff'' in your life. Schedule/plan in a way that works for you: a visual timetable, maybe a diary, electronic or paper. There are plenty of free, printable Tips calendars on the internet (check www.no-frillscalendar.com).

Keep your schedule/plan somewhere obvious

It's not much use in the drawer or under the magazines on the coffee table. Post it on a shared computer calendar, stick it on the fridge or somewhere everyone can see it. Get all members of the household involved. You can work out who is at what and when and any transport arrangements, meals etc in advance. This way you can avoid last-minute conflicts and clashes (I don't guarantee lack of clashes if teenagers are involved!).

When you allocate time, be realistic

Allocate 15% to 20% more time than you first estimate (short-term, we do tend to overestimate how much we can fit into a day). Any time left over is a bonus; you can get on with the next job or take a few deep breaths, relax and practise your mindfulness - perfect for a busy end of year!



The run-up to Christmas can be a testing (and tempting) time when it comes to food!

The benefits of maintaining a healthy diet, sensible exercise and taking some mental downtime are numerous, including better overall health (lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, more stable blood sugar), stronger immune system, more energy and less stress.

I do not recommend a harsh approach to eating: looking after your diet for 80% of the time (eat lean meats, unprocessed foods and vegetables; keep sugar and saturated fats to a minimum) means you can enjoy the ''treats'' the rest of the time.

Moderation in all things is the key. So coming up to the busy, festive end of the year, here are a few dietary tips to help you look after yourself.

Drinks, nibbles, buffets and eating out 

• Don't skip meals because you're pushed for time.

• Eat something healthy before you go out so you're not ravenous when you get there.

• If you're heading off to a party straight from work take a healthy snack to have beforehand.

• At buffets put some food on a plate and back away from the table! Standing next to the food means you're likely to keep grazing and eat more.

Think about your food choices

• Food that glistens or is shiny or that leaves a greasy mark on the plate or serviette is likely to be high in fat. Have less of it.

• Cheese, dips, fried foods (e.g. wontons, samosas) salamis, sausages, cheerios, ''creamy'' anything and pastry are probably all high in fat. Don't be fooled by filo pastry, either, as the sheets are often buttered together! Limit the amount of this sort of food.

• If you are hungry after you have eaten, have a glass of water and wait. The brain takes time to signal that you're full.

• Alternate alcoholic drinks with  non-alcoholic. If driving (preferably take a taxi or have a designated sober driver) be super-vigilant or you might be getting more exercise than you planned this summer!

• Put your drink down between sips; you'll drink less.

• Drink at least a litre of water a day, possibly more if you exercise or drink alcohol or coffee. Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger.


If you exercise regularly, try to keep the pattern going.

Thirty minutes a day (minimum) is ideal; even 10 minutes of exercise three times a day is still more beneficial than doing nothing. Try parking farther away from work or the shops and walking at a brisk pace. Take the stairs, not the lift. Do some bodyweight exercises at home each day. You don't need lots of gear and equipment to exercise.

Check www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz for all sorts of ways to keep your exercise fun and part of your daily routine.

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