Christmas - how to have a happy (and healthy) one

Many of us find ourselves disappointed when Christmas doesn't live up to our expectations, partly because the build-up to the festive season is so intense.

We seem to look forward to December 25th for longer every year - if the length of time Christmas lights are up is anything to go by. Yet all too many of us find ourselves disappointed when it doesn't live up to our expectations.

And that's the problem. We have so many hopes as Christmas draws closer, if we're spending it with our family. If we're going to be on our own, we feel as if we're the only person in the world who feels so lonely. Either way, the build-up is so intense that we're almost bound to feel let down.

If you're spending the time with family, try not to expect too much. Very few people have the idyllic Christmas we all imagine. Many muddle along, but being thrown together in close quarters for a long period, with some alcohol thrown in, is a recipe for arguments. Getting your hopes up unrealistically makes conflict more likely.

If you don't have family to spend the holidays with, think about whether you'd rather have company or not. There are lots of other people in your position, and social services know of lots of social events going on around Christmas. Alternatively, if you make a few discreet enquiries among friends, you may have a friend who'd be only too happy to share the day with you, or who knows someone in the same position.

If you're alone because you've quarrelled, what better time to pick up the phone (or pen and paper) to set things right? Send a letter or make a call before the holiday start - just a note to say you're thinking of them, or to wish them a Happy Christmas. You may get the best Christmas present of all!

Some people would rather be alone than spend the holiday with people they don't know well. If you're going to be on your own, there's no reason you shouldn't indulge yourself. Get a delicious ready Christmas meal (don't forget the individual Christmas pudding!); save a really good book or rent a couple of videos; take a long scented bath; and ideally, wrap up warmly and go for a bracing walk. Exercise is good for your mood, and will combat that bloated, over-indulged feeling.

Don't let accidents ruin your Christmas!

With so much going on, minor accidents are also more common at Christmas, and burns and scalds are among the most common.

Fortunately, first-degree burns - the most common kind - usually heal in less than a week. These burns cause redness and a bit of swelling, turn white when you press the skin and don't usually blister. If you get one, run cold water over it for 10-20 minutes, but don't apply butter, any creams, ice or iced water. Simple painkillers like paracetamol are very effective for the pain.

Another common and unwanted visitor at Christmas is the Boxing Day hangover! Alcohol is a diuretic - it makes you pass more water, even in small quantities. That makes you dehydrated - one of the reasons alcohol gives you such a headache the next day. Drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic drink over the day will help.

Another cause of hangovers is 'congeners' - they are an ingredient of alcohol which gives some of its taste, and they are coloured. This means that dark drinks, like dark spirits and red wine (including port - yes, that old Christmas favourite, I'm afraid!) tend to cause worse hangovers.

So if you want to avoid a hangover - while the only sure way is to avoid excess alcohol - eating with your alcohol, drinking lots of non-alcoholic fluids and sticking to lighter-coloured drinks will help.

With thanks to 'My Weekly' magazine where this article was originally published.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.