Do you feel as though you aren’t as happy about Christmas coming along than you should be? Our Calmista blogger Charlotte Watts, shows you how to have a calm Christmas in the face of all the excess in a new series for the countdown to the big day
Whether you’re spending the holidays alone, with your family (or someone else’s) or friends, defining what you can control about your own experience and around your needs at the end of this year, can mean Christmas rejuvenates rather than depletes you. It may not be that you have much time that is your own, but carving out pockets of peace and avoiding becoming a martyr to others’ demands really helps change how you look back about it all after the event.
Calm Christmas step 1: Ask yourself
To help chart a steady course without getting lost in all the noise and expectation, consider these questions, sitting quietly to consider and even make notes or journal, so that any new year’s resolutions aren’t a shock to the system, but an extension of you recognising your true needs and what makes you feel safe and happy:
• How am I feeling at this transition of autumn into winter?
• What’s my energy like at the moment, from a range of dull and demotivated to buzzing and whipped up?
• What do I need to feel a happy good sense of sustainable energy with the ability to relax? See what comes to mind as a quick, intuitive response and recognise that your needs are as important as those of others.
Calm Christmas Step Two: Make notes on
• What you might need in the here and now – not for Christmas, a time in the future, but whether you need some time alone, with a partner or friend, to go on a long country walk, take a long bath, anything that keeps you sane and grounded.
• Make a note of any areas that get in the way of a happy, relaxed and enjoyable holiday time. These may not be things you can change, but creating space around them and the self-compassion to recover from them, can mean that you face them without a growing sense of resentment, irritation or fatigue.
• From there, consider what is ‘enough’ for the upcoming festivities – enough to buy as presents, enough food to buy in, enough socialising to leave you feeling fresh in the daytime, enough alcohol drunk to not tip you over the coping edge, enough sugar to feel you’ve had a treat but not set off a shame spiral – any areas where excess creeps in and may leave you feeling out of control. Even make some clear guidelines around those areas to set boundaries where you can have the fun without the fallout.
• Come back to feeling how you are in this moment. The more connected to your felt experience and your true needs, the more you can enjoy yourself and help others do so too.
Christmas temptations and damage limitation
A big part of Christmas “enough already” can be around the area of food. When everything suddenly becomes adorned and dressed in festive labels, we can lose our connection with its effects in our bodies. It’s lovely to have a treat, but less lovely when it affects our immunity, energy, mood and digestion in ways we do not enjoy.
Here are two fabulous recipes that deliver treats with a healthy edge
These little beauties can be the antidote to the perennial pull of omnipresent piles of glittering chocolate. Rather than adding to the glittery packaging landfill and overly sweet confectionary, making your own chocolates satisfies on so many levels; it’s great fun, you know what you put in and get that satisfaction of healthy ingredients. Yes there’s sugar of course (chocolate is naturally bitter), but choose a high quality honey or syrup source and you can limit the damage. These also make great presents, especially if you present in a lovely box for that truly personal gift-giving touch.
Prep time: 45-60 minutes
(makes 12-15 truffles)
For the truffles
1 cup shredded coconut
2tbsp coconut oil
1tbsp agave/honey/maple syrup/other natural syrup
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch sea salt
75g dark chocolate
Dried cranberries (chopped)
Raw pistachios (chopped)
Check the consistency of your coconut oil, it should be soft (room temperature or slightly warmer so that it easily combines with the dessicated coconut). Warm the coconut oil slightly if it isn’t soft.
Put all ingredients in a food processor (or mix by hand if you don’t have one). Briefly blitz so the ingredients combine but don’t blitz the mixture for too long or you will lose the texture of the coconut. If required, stir the mixture by hand once blitzed to ensure it’s well mixed. If it seems too wet you can add a bit more dessicated coconut or if it seems too dry to stick together then add a little more oil or sweetener.
Allow to chill slightly for 5-10 minutes in the fridge.
Shape the coconut mixture into balls (about a heaped teaspoon’s worth in size) by rolling in the palm of your hand. Place balls on a tray lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 10-20 minutes to allow them to firm up.
Melt chocolate in Bain Marie (a bowl over a pan of simmering water) and once melted remove the pan from the heat.
Dip the truffles in the melted chocolate to cover, place back on the lined tray and before the chocolate sets decorate the top with a sprinkle of dessicated coconut and/or cranberries and pistachios.
Chill the truffles in the fridge and then remove from fridge to allow to warm for 30 minutes or so before serving.
They should keep for a few weeks.
Hot gingerbread drink
It’s very easy to get the kind of Christmas blinkers that stop us seeing the hidden ingredients in themed drinks in coffee chains. It feels all Christmassy to have a warm mug of something sweet and spiced, so here is a way to create your own version that retains the immune-supporting properties of the spice, without negating them with oodles of sugar. You can even take this out in a thermos flask on walks or to surprise treat friends.
Prep time: 10 minutes
(serves 1 – if making for a few people you can scale up the recipe accordingly)
250ml/one mug almond milk (you can use alternative milks if you prefer)
1 inch ginger root (sliced)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of grated nutmeg
¼ tsp vanilla
(1 square dark chocolate – optional)
Extra cinnamon for dusting
Extra 100ml almond milk for frothing
Add the almond milk, ginger root, cinnamon stick, clove and star anise to a saucepan. Heat gently to infuse (do not boil). Leave on a low heat for 5-10 minutes. Add vanilla, allspice, nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and cocoa. If you are adding dark chocolate add this now too, it will give a richer finish but is good without it too. Whisk in the spices and remove from the heat. Strain through a sieve into a mug to serve. If you have a milk frother you can froth up a bit of extra milk to add to the top of the drink so that it feels more indulgent. Dust with cinnamon (or cocoa if you’d prefer) and enjoy.
Charlotte Watts is a nutritionist and yoga teacher whose work has focused on how nutrition and yoga can meet to help people cope with the demands we face in the 21st century. Her practice and teaching of mindfulness weaves these together and has culminated in her new book De-Stress Effect, The: Rebalance Your Body’s Systems For Vibrant Health And Happiness. She has also authored The De-Stress Diet (with Anna Magee) and 100 Best Foods for Pregnancy as well as 100 Foods to Stay Young.
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