Get through Christmas with S.P.A.R.K.L.E!

Does Christmas push you close to breaking point every year? It doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of added S.P.A.R.K.L.E you can finally learn to enjoy it.

Christmas is looming. And like many mums around the country, you may be more in need of consuming festive spirits than feeling it.

To help put some seasonal joy back into your Christmas, burnout and recovery expert Sarah Beilfuss reveals her recipe for getting through Christmas with S.P.A.R.K.L.E!

Does this sound familiar?

It’s the run up to Christmas, and you’re feeling flat and exhausted. A client wants you to make last minute changes to a presentation you are delivering the next morning (it didn’t occur to them to let you know when you submitted the draft to them over a week ago).

You make the changes and rush out of the office because you finally worked out the perfect gift for Aunt Martha, who is impossible to buy for. But you get to the first store and it is sold out, the second one closed early and the only other one you can think of is a five minute drive away, that will take you half an hour in rush hour traffic.

Why do you bother anyway? She will hate your present, as has become tradition, while you are resisting the urge to scratch yourself raw, wearing the very itchy sweater she knitted you years ago and that you diligently wear every year.

When you finally get home you are greeted by the smell of burning dinner. You step into the kitchen taking in a deep breath to have a go at your partner when you find him covered in vomit – just as your older child tips over a jug of orange juice. The source of the vomit is immediately becoming clear as your younger child covers your partner in a second layer from the excitement of seeing mummy.

Surely there is no way this can get any worse you think, as you inspect the charcoal-like results of the dinner your partner made. You start fixing up a quick alternative meal so you can get the kids fed and off to bed, when the phone rings.

The childminder has to cancel for tomorrow morning, when you have the single most important presentation of your life for a difficult client. At the same moment, your mobile pings and you know the client wants more changes.

Desperately tired, you silently start to cry as you wish yourself to bed, but know that you will sit up working until well into the night and you prepare to call your mother-in-law. And you know she will make you beg…

We all have days like this

Aaah, don’t we all love a day like that? And we all know that as we come closer to Christmas, it will only get worse.

Work needs to be done before the holiday period plus the Christmas parties, the kids have events in their schools and the relatives expect a believable re-enactment of what a functioning family would look like.

Pressures all the way round and only one wish on your mind: “Please, let me make it through Christmas alive!”

How to add a bit of S.P.A.R.K.L.E to your Christmas

I am not going to lie to you, Christmas is a stressful time of year. But what if you could make it just a little bit more bearable?

Add a little bit of S.P.A.R.K.L.E to the festive season and get through Christmas without burnout and with most of your sanity still intact. Here’s how.

S – stay nourished

No matter how much you have on, never leave the house without breakfast. Eat regularly and have healthy snacks in between meals and have some protein with everything you eat.

Some nuts or seeds with a piece of fruit make an excellent snack and will help to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout the day.

P – prepare

Christmas is a time of overindulgence, putting a strain on your digestive system, which can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish.

Knowing this, you can prepare yourself and give your gut a break by planning in the odd fast day. Have your healthy snacks especially before a big meal, so you won’t feel famished by dinner time. This puts you in more control and helps to make healthier food choices.

If you do overindulge, that is okay. You can compensate for that by replacing another meal with a green smoothie or having a fast day the next day.

Whatever you do, ditch the guilt and keep moving forward. If you slip up today, just be better prepared tomorrow.

A – accept what is

As Christmas draws closer and the extended family moves in, be realistic about your own expectations. Your family is what it is, for better or for worse.

Overcome the ‘disconnect’ between how it is and how you would like it to be by accepting what is. And prepare yourself – think about typical, challenging scenarios in advance and visualise yourself staying calm. You will find challenging situations bounce off you more easily.

R – remember the positives

It’s only too easy to see only the things that get our backs up and then dwell on them all day. Instead, actively look for the good things that happen every day – Aunt Martha actually liked the gravy, the kids were playing nicely, and the evenings felt cosy by candle light.

Even if there are members of your family that you could do without, if you look hard enough, I am sure you will find something about them you like.

Set yourself the challenge to find one positive thing in every situation and every person. They will soon seem less annoying. You’ll see.

K – kindness

Kindness is a magical thing. We are biologically designed to be kind. Whenever we are, our body produces oxytocin – the happy hormone. It is intimately involved in how we cope with stress, particularly protecting our heart from the negative effects of stress. It also strengthens our immune system and makes us feel good.

So being kind to others and making real human connections actually energises you and keeps you healthy. Aim for at least one act of kindness towards another human being every day without expecting anything in return. I promise it’ll make you feel good!

L – listen to your body

If being kind to others while under lots of pressure was not hard enough, most of us find being kind to ourselves even harder. But make an effort and take a little ‘me-time’ every day.

Maybe do some yoga in the morning, meditate for five minutes during a toilet break, or practice deep belly breathing, which will trigger your body’s relaxation response.

When time permits, relax in the bathtub with Epsom salt, baking soda and your favourite relaxing essential oils, such as Frankincense and lavender. The magnesium in the Epsom salts will help you sleep better and make you feel more energised the next day.

E – enjoy!

Struggled to see something positive in Aunt Martha? Swore at the person that pushed you over on the bus? Snapped at your partner? So what? All you can do, all we can all ever do, is doing our best.

At the end of the day, we are all just human. And sometimes despite the best of intentions, it all gets a little too much. And that is okay. You are okay. Just as you are. So move on.

Don’t dwell on it and don’t feel guilty. Whatever you do, keep your focus on the next enjoyable thing. Christmas can be so beautiful, if you allow it to be. Enjoy the food, the cold days out, the warm nights in, the gorgeous food and your mildly dysfunctional family.

Merry Christmas!

Sarah Beilfuss is the founder of The Chronic Recovery Centre. She specialises in helping people who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME and Fibromyalgia to regain control of their recovery and health so that they can get their life back.