Avoid the stress and start the Christmas season with self-care

Holistic health and wellness coach Tara Jackson, who is offering a free 31-day self-care challenge throughout December, talks about the benefits of a laid back Christmas full of love and self-care for your mind, body and soul 

December is all about Christmas and all that it has come to represent, or at least it seems that way when you live in one of the biggest cities in the western world.

This, for an introvert like myself, can feel a bit too much – overwhelming and even forced year after year.

Back in the days when I used to work full time in an office December was THE season for partying. Come December 1, I would typically eat and drink to my heart’s content, attend lots of office and social engagements, spend a LOT of money and be feeling so bloated and tired that I’d often stay in for New Year’s Eve.


I would then jump on the bandwagon of the typical January detox dieting to counteract how I’d been living throughout December.

Aside from the partying, there’s also a lot of pressure and expectation (whether self-induced or external) and life seems to get particularly hectic around Christmas. I find that a lot of people I know (me included, although less these days) cram in more social engagements than they have all year and feel they have to shop for people who they may not have even seen in months.


There’s also the natural desire to want to hibernate, which comes from the darker days (in the northern hemisphere) combined with tiredness as the year starts to draw to a close.

Now, don’t get me wrong there’s also a lot of magic and beauty around Christmas – generosity, love, sparkly lights (who doesn’t love them?), celebrating, coming together and sharing.

I know it’s a time of year that many love and look forward to, I love certain parts of it – the warmth, fun and being with people I love.

But there’s also a lot I personally find can be too much or that I don’t agree with – the over indulgence, consumerism (with Christmas advertising urging you to spend and consume as much as possible) and feelings of obligation to name a few.

This is usually followed by the feelings of guilt and general exhaustion that come after the season if and when you overdo it.


How about a December where you do things differently, where you allow for spaciousness, retreating and gentleness (without the guilt) – which actually are natural things for us to want to do in this month with the shortest days in the northern hemisphere?

How about a month where you honour the season of the year, but also take part in some of the kinder and more loving aspects of what Christmas is all about? How about a December where you don’t overdo it (whilst still enjoying it) and are kind and loving to yourself – body, mind and soul?

Take my free 31-day self-care challenge throughout December, to help you care for yourself, avoid the overwhelm, but also still feel love and compassion and super importantly, still have fun! It will include a daily email to your inbox with a simple tip or action to keep self-care at the forefront, so you aren’t feeling frazzled come January 1!



How to transform your bedroom into a stress-free sanctuary

As a population, our lifestyles are becoming increasingly demanding. But do you know the difference between being busy and being stressed?

The chances are, you’ve probably experienced stress in some way during your life, consciously or not. It can feel like an overwhelming sense of pressure, both mentally and emotionally, and can leave you feeling drained.

“A part of our lives that’s particularly affected by stress is our sleep,” says Time 4 Sleep director Jonathan Warren.

“Our bodies rely on sleep to help us recuperate so it can be extremely difficult to deal with our day-to-day tasks if we’re not sleeping properly.”

The team at Time 4 Sleep has compiled its top tips for relaxing at bedtime and getting a good night’s sleep:

Find the perfect bed

Creating the perfect environment is key to helping you sleep better. You should look forward to relaxing in your bedroom and that starts with choosing the perfect bed for you.

Start with the bedstead. Do you feel like you need more room to spread out when you’re in bed? It might be time to invest in a king or super king size bed. If too much space makes you feel anxious, consider a double or even a single bed.

You should also think about the style of the bed. If you’re looking for ultimate comfort, a soft, upholstered bed is a great option. However, if you want to feel more enclosed, wooden beds with a headboard and a footer may help you to feel more secure.

Once you’ve chosen the perfect bed, think about your bedding options. If you tend to feel cold during the night, opting for a thicker duvet will help. Investing in good quality sheets is an option too. They might be more expensive, but ultimately they will last longer and wash better than the cheaper alternatives.

Invest in the right mattress

A good mattress should support all parts of your body, from your head to your feet. Consider what your sleep needs are – if you suffer from back pain, a firmer mattress or memory foam mattress may help. Similarly, if you find that you often feel too warm to sleep at night, a mattress with a high content of natural internal fillings will be cooler than a memory foam.

The right mattress will provide comfort and support, ultimately enabling you to sleep better. It’s worth spending some time and selecting a mattress that best suits your needs.

Choose the right décor and accessories

Your bedroom should be your sanctuary at the end of the day so it’s important to ensure that you create a relaxing environment with your décor. Calming, muted colours are comforting and will help you to relax before you go to bed. A gentle, blue colour will help create a tranquil atmosphere in your bedroom.

When choosing your accessories, try to stay subtle. Bright colours and patterns can stimulate your brain and hinder your sleep.

Exercise regularly

One of the many benefits of regular exercise is that it can help your mind and body relax later in the day. You don’t have to join a gym either; you could join a running club, start cycling or follow an at-home workout routine. The benefits of exercise are endless; you just need to find the right exercise for you.

Have a relaxing pre-bedtime routine

It’s important to wind down before you go to bed, just taking the time to relax can really make a difference to your sleep.

Give yourself half an hour before bed to truly relax and try to go to bed at the same time every night. Switch off the TV, put down your phone, take a hot bath, read a book or even try meditation techniques as part of your pre-bed routine.

For more useful tips and advice on stress and sleeping aids, visit the Time 4 Sleep Relaxation Zone.


10 tips to overcome holiday stress

Most of us look forward to a holiday away from work and home life.  Holidays are supposed to be relaxing and, above all, enjoyable. But some of us aren’t quite as keen to get away from it all – fearing it could trigger unwanted stress and anxiety.

Mike Wakeman, a clinical pharmacist with Master’s in Pharmaceutical Analysis, Nutritional Medicine and Clinical Oncology has looked into this growing phenomena.

“Holiday stress seems to affect a lot of people nowadays, particularly with the ‘always on’ culture of dealing with work emails and phone calls 24/7,” he says.

“Having worked hard all year, the last thing you want is to get stressed before and then on holiday.  Holiday stress is the stress you can feel preparing for a holiday or the stress you feel while on holiday. Nowadays we work really hard with little time off. This means when holiday time comes we feel we really need that break and our high expectations can be the cause of real stress, both prior to and during the holiday.”

Here Mike Wakeman’s top tips for recognising triggers and how to overcome them:

Don’t try to be perfect!  “You’ve worked hard throughout the year, and you’re likely tired and ready to have a break. This holiday probably means everything to you – rest, fun, relaxation and recovery. You therefore put a lot of emphasis on it being perfect. If you carry such high levels of stress into the holiday then you are very likely to have a very stressful time.  Just chill out – nothing’s ever perfect – but above all have FUN!”

Leave work behind!  “Prepare your work schedule in advance of the holiday to make sure all the loose ends are tied up before you go away, so you are not worrying about things you have left unfinished that could impact negatively on your colleagues or business.  This is your ‘down time’ – stop thinking about work and embrace the holiday for your ‘you time’.”

Take a mini break!  “If you haven’t allowed yourself time off for a whole year, the chances are you’re going to be really stressed by the time you get to the holiday, since so much significance is riding on its success . So try and get some time away for the odd weekend every now and then to take the pressure off the main holiday.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend out on hotels and B&Bs – visiting friends that you haven’t seen for a while can be just as, if not more, enjoyable.”

Don’t try to do too much! “Overextending yourself is a sure recipe for heightening stress levels.  What are you capable of and what do you really want? Choose your holiday with care remembering what it is that you need.  There is sometimes also a temptation to do lots of things on holiday and keep busy. This means you might be replicating the busy life you’ve been leading at home. If this is the case, spend more time chilling so you don’t hear yourself saying at the end of the holiday, “I think I need another holiday to recover.”

Preparation is key.  “Don’t leave packing until the last minute. How often do you forget something or get really burned out because you’ve been in such a rush? This stress again is often carried into your holiday and is an unnecessary burden to take away with you.”

Embrace change!   “Change can be stressful for people. Going to a new environment, culture and language can be very stressful if you are already burned out and tired.  And that’s not all – although most people love the sun or a change of climate, it can often take a few days to adjust. So take time to settle into your new environment.”

A Beach is not the B-all and end-all!  “Beaches in popular resorts, both in the UK and abroad can be busy places.  If you’re used to the peace and quiet of village life, this contrast might be stressful for you.  Consider a quieter location where you can maybe travel to the coast on some days if that’s what ‘floats your boat’.”

Remember – patience is a virtue!  “In reality if you are spending a significant time at work your actual contact time with your family is probably limited. On a family holiday, suddenly you’re living on top of each other. For a lot of people this can be very stressful. So be gentle and patient, and if all else fails make time to go for a walk each day for half an hour or so and practice mindfulness.”

De-stress naturally!  “If you are a regular sufferer of holiday stress, it’s worth recognising that anxiety isn’t unusual, affecting over 25% of us, and comprises physical, emotional and behavioural factors including feelings of insecurity, sleep disturbance, muscle tension and even digestive disorders.  If this is the case, then it’s well worth trying RelaxHerb Passion flower tablets, a traditional herbal medicine used to relieve stress and mild anxiety.  The effects of the active herbal ingredient – Passiflora incarnata L – on anxiety have been assessed with highly satisfactory results. Indeed, clinical trials have demonstrated the herb to be as effective in relieving anxiety of situations such as visiting the dentist for a tooth extract, as the prescription medications oxazepam and midazolam, but without the unwanted side effects these medicines can cause.  Plus, in a recent study, a single dose of Passiflora was shown to be effective in reducing the anxiety associated with public speaking within an hour prior to the event.”

Just do it!  “And finally, if you really need a rest and to lie on the beach for a week by yourself– do it! It might not be the most sociable of holidays but your friends and family will thank you for it when you come back relaxed and refreshed.”


10 ways to look after yourself when you’re stressed

According to research, four out of five British adults feel stressed during a typical week, while nearly one in 10 feel stressed all the time.

And when we’re stressed, it’s really easy to let things slide. We’re prone to lapse into poor sleeping patterns, make bad diet choices, and suffer from low mood and bad skin.

But, according to the experts, there are ways we can stay on top of things when it comes to wellbeing – even when we’re stressed.

  1. Eat little and often

“Balancing blood sugar is essential in lowering stress because the crashes in sugar levels (which happen through the day due to going long periods without food and not eating the right foods) stimulate the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to be released,” says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, who is the author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.

“Make sure you have a small meal every 2-3 hours that contains protein (eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid-morning and one mid-afternoon).

“Have a hard-boiled egg, 10-12 almonds, a small can of tuna and brown rice, for example. This will stop those roller-coaster highs and cravings for sweet foods. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix. As your blood sugar steadies, so will your mood swings – reduced adrenaline levels will automatically make you feel happier and calmer inside and feel less stressed.”asparagus-2169305_1920

2) Increase your intake of omega-3s

“To help prevent life getting so stressful, you need omega-3s – especially DHA  (Docosahexaenoic Acid),” says nutrition and weight loss coach Pippa Campbell.

“You won’t get the same mood boost from the omega-3s (Alpha-Lipoic Acid or ALA) in flax, walnuts and soy though, so eat about two servings a week of wild salmon or other oily fish.

“In addition, research shows that people who take a daily omega-3 supplement (containing DHA and EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid ) reduce their anxiety by up to 20 percent.”

3) Try ‘medium’ breathing

“Deep breathing is more like yoga breathing, which is fine for a yoga class but if you are stressed you can end up over-breathing and feeling dizzy,” says Pippa.

“I call medium breathing 4-1-6 breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 1 second and breathe out for 6 seconds. Really try and breathe so that you can see your belly filling with air. Try and practise this even when you are not stressed as it can take some practice to make your ‘out’ breath longer than your ‘in’ breathe.  Do this for 5 minutes whenever you can.”happiness-1866081_1920

4) Get your heart rate up

“If you feel like you can’t escape your worries, it could be worth leaving the house and getting your heart rate pumping,” suggests nutritionist and fitness instructor Cassandra Barns.

“Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which make us feel happy and relaxed afterwards. Getting enough exercise can also help us sleep better, which then helps us cope with stress.

“However, if you’re very stressed, take care with the types and duration of exercise you choose. It may be best to avoid endurance exercise such as long-distance running, or very high intensity exercise such as spinning classes – unless these involve short intervals of high intensity with longer periods of rest. Intense exercise can have a net effect of raising your levels of stress hormones and making you more anxious, stressed and tired.

“Good types of exercise to go for can include weight training, interval training with longer periods of rest, moderate intensity aerobic-type exercise such as cycling, team sports where there is a good element of enjoyment too, or relaxing exercise such as certain types of yoga.”

5) Eat more protein 

Research from the Association of Comprehensive Neurotherapy has found that increasing your protein intake can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety. Tryto include protein with every meal and add protein-rich snacks to your diet, such as Greek yoghurt, eggs, almonds and tuna. To get an extra boost of protein, Natures Plus Vegan Power Meal is a great addition to your morning smoothie. eggs-1467286_1920

6) Get more sleep

“A good night’s sleep can be a great stress-reliever,” says Cassandra. “Unfortunately, of course, sleeping well can be easier said than done when you’re already stressed or anxious. Do what you can to get to bed early enough to get seven to eight hours’ sleep, make sure your bedroom is a calming environment, and set up a good wind-down routine in the evening, such as taking a warm bath.

“Take a magnesium supplement in the evening too. Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ as it’s associated with calming and relaxing properties – it may help you sleep as well as cope better with stress.”woman in bed

7) Keep a bedtime journal

“Keep a journal by your bed where you can write down what you need to do the next day at least an hour before bed,” adds Marilyn. “The aim is to stop the dialogue in your head which can end up stopping you from getting off to sleep or else waking you up in the middle of night remembering something that has to be done the next day.”

9) Have a good laugh

“Having a laugh is one of the best remedies for stress – it triggers healthy changes in our body,” says Marilyn. “Many studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves immunity and diminishes pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the natural feel-good chemicals that make us happier and relaxed.”smile-2928326_1920

10) Take control

“If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right,” Marilyn suggests. “There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health.”

“Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much. Being assertive is invigorating and empowering. It also helps to make lists of what is or is not a priority and to tackle the priority tasks first. This will help give you a sense of control over your life.”


Is stress causing your bad breath?

It’s estimated that 50% of the UK population suffers from bad breath but is stress the culprit?
Yes, says dentist, bacteriologist and founder of The Californian Breath Clinics and The Breath Company Dr Harold Katz.
“It’s well documented that stress can have a huge impact on our general health and can cause a plethora of physical conditions, such as heart disease and obesity, as well as serious mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression,” says Dr Katz.
“Specifically, when taking our oral health in to account, stress can really take its toll and be attributed to various oral health issues including bad breath, gum disease
and mouth ulcers to name a few.”
But how does stress cause halitosis?
“When individuals find themselves in high stress circumstances, their bodies react by using the sympathetic nervous system as a form of protection.
“This system essentially triggers the fight-or-flight response mechanism, providing you with a boost of energy so you can react quickly to the situation. In cases of chronic stress, your body is kept in ‘fight or flight’ mode and conserves energy by turning off certain digestive functions such as the production of saliva.
“The mouth then produces a lower level of saliva – saliva is mandatory for moistening food for easier digestion, but the body deems it unnecessary in critical situations.
“Saliva evaporates and the mouth becomes dry, leading to bad breath. This happens because the odorous gases created by bacteria in the mouth, which are generally suppressed by spit and swallowed away, are free to be released into the air.
“Additionally, bacteria are much more likely to stick to the surfaces of a dry mouth, which can further enhance the sour smell. Drinking plenty of water, chewing sugar-free gum and rinsing with a non-alcohol mouthwash can help to minimise the effects of stress related halitosis.”
How can stress cause gum disease?
“A small amount of blood in the sink when you clean your teeth might not seem like a big deal, but consistently bleeding gums should not be ignored. Bleeding gums are a visual symptom of gum disease which can be caused by stress. There are a few factors that link stress to bleeding gums and the onset of gum disease.
“Firstly, when the body is under stress it produces elevated amounts of the hormone
cortisol which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. When cortisol is produced peripherally in the gums, it stimulates mast cells to produce more proteins, simultaneously increasing inflammation and the progression of gum disease.
“In addition, individuals with high stress levels tend to adopt bad oral hygiene and lifestyle habits, and this in turn can have a negative impact on their oral health.
“If gum disease isn’t in advanced stages then good oral hygiene habits can reverse it so it’s essential to adopt a robust oral hygiene regimen coupled with regular trips to your dentist who can offer sound advice on correct brushing and flossing techniques.”
How can stress cause mouth ulcers?
“Chronic stress suppresses the immune system and can leave you open to disease and infection. Mouth ulcers are one example of this and although are relatively harmless can make life unbearable when eating, drinking, speaking or swallowing.
“They occur on the inside of the mouth and are white or yellow surrounded by a dark red area. Minimising your exposure to stressful situations and adopting some simple lifestyle changes can reduce your chances of developing moth ulcers.”
How can I minimise stress and its effects on my oral health?
“Stress can often be an unavoidable part of modern day living, but that can really hinder your day-to-day life. You can help to minimise the impact that stress has on your oral health by adopting the following:
Start with some lifestyle changes. Stress can often lead us to make bad lifestyle choices that will impact our oral health. Limiting consumption of sugary foods and drinks, alcohol and quitting smoking will all contribute to healthier gums and mouth. Smoking in particular dries out the mouth and can lead to gum disease as a result of bacteria and toxins causing plaque to form in the mouth.
Exercise. Fitting exercise into your lifestyle will do wonders for your stress level. When you exercise, you’re using physical activity to shed the mind of stressful thoughts. Regularly practicing yoga for example, may be great for the body and mind. Similarly, deep breathing exercises can be very beneficial, and any form of exercise may boost endorphin production and help you better handle your emotions in high-tension situations.
Adopt a robust oral health regimen. Brush and floss regularly but avoid harsh soap in
toothpaste. Brushing helps eradicate the plaque and bacteria on your teeth, however some toothpaste contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), a soapy detergent that creates foam but has no cleaning benefit. The additive has recently been linked to serious side effects including canker sores.
Flossing is an extra step, but it’s an important one, as it helps gets in between the teeth where toothbrushes sometimes miss. In addition, regular and specific application of alcohol-free mouth rinses such as The Breath Company Healthy Gums Oral Rinse will help calm the gum area and work to both eliminate germs associated with gum disease and reduce the formation of biofilm which leads to plaque and tartar build-up.
It’s important to steer clear of alcohol-based mouthwashes as these can cause dry mouth, and just mask odours rather than killing off bacteria
Stay hydrated throughout the day. The fight-or-flight reaction to stress can make you
dehydrated and this leads to dry mouth and bad breath bacteria forming which can both
contribute to the onset of halitosis gum disease. If you keep your mouth and body well hydrated, you will minimise the chance of developing dry mouth that can lead to these problems.
• Talk to your dentist and make regular check-ups. They are the very best source of advice and will be able to check for any signs of any stress-related gum disease and bad breath issues. In addition, they will be able to offer advice on how to prevent stress affecting your oral health and put in place a care plan that is bespoke to you.”
Dr. Harold Katz is a dentist with an advanced degree in bacteriology and a lifelong advocate of good oral health. He is the founder of The California Breath Clinics and the developer of the The Breath Company line of premium oral care products. He is the internationally recognised expert in the fields of bad breath, taste disorders, tonsil stones and dry mouth.
Known as the ‘Bad Breath Guru’ due to his numerous television appearances on U.S shows like The View and the CBS Early Show, he has helped
millions of people around the world eliminate their bad breath problems.
Dr. Katz is a graduate of the UCLA School of Dentistry and holder of a separate degree in Bacteriology, also from UCLA. In the 1970s he established a thriving dental practice in Beverly Hills, California, minutes from bustling 20th Century Fox Studios. There, he perfected his dental techniques while working with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.