20 natural energy boosters
From herbal infusions to reflexology techniques, discover the best ways to fight festive fatigue and reduce stress. By Lucy Dimbylow
Christmas should be one of the happiest times of the year, but tiredness, over-indulgence, extra responsibility and lack of exercise can all lead to feelings of stress and weariness. "Many women get through the Christmas period on adrenaline, thinking of everyone but themselves," says nutritionist and psychologist Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of 'The Natural Health Bible For Women' (£16.99, marilynglenville.com). "It’s easy to fall into a trap of doing too much, missing meals and staying up late, all of which will drain your energy." So how can you survive the festive pressure and muster the energy and enthusiasm you need for the celebrations ahead? We asked experts for their favourite natural tips...
1. Start the day on a high by taking an invigorating aromatherapy shower. “Essential oils, such as cypress, eucalyptus, juniper, lemongrass, rosemary and thyme, all have a stimulating effect on your energy levels,” says holistic GP and women’s transformational health expert Dr Alison Grimston. For maximum impact, put the plug in the shower tray and add five or six drops of oil; the steam helps to disperse them into the air so you can inhale them more easily. “Scrubbing your body with a loofah and finishing with a blast of cold water will give you an extra boost,” Dr Grimston adds.
Read: easy ways with essential oils
2. Don’t have milk in your tea: a recent Dutch study showed that drinking black tea improves alertness and concentration.
Read: 10 teas and why they're good for you
3. Grab your wellies and woolly gloves and make a wintry countryside walk part of your daily schedule. “Exercising, particularly outdoors on bright days, triggers the release of adrenaline and endorphins, which boost your energy levels and mood,” explains personal trainer Steve Mellor. What’s more, a leisurely stroll could be more beneficial than a gym session: 2012 research shows that regular moderate exercise has a bigger impact on mood and energy than vigorous workouts.
Read: find a route to suit with our free walks guide
4. Snack on Brazil nuts. They are a rich source of immune boosting selenium and B vitamins, which convert fat, protein and carbs to energy. “A handful of Brazil nuts and a few raisins will help balance your blood sugar and avoid energy peaks and slumps,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville.
Read more on seasonal superfoods
5. In search of a good night’s rest? A new study by the National Sleep Foundation found that using electronic devices before bed suppresses the sleep hormone, melatonin, and affects the body’s natural rhythms, disturbing healthy patterns. So switch off your laptop and smartphone, and relax in front of a flickering fire instead.
Read: our complete guide to a good night's sleep
6. Many of us see the holiday season as an opportunity for long, lazy lie-ins, but a new study from the University of Toronto suggests that early birds feel more alert, awake and motivated than those who get up later.
7. Feeling overwhelmed by all the present-wrapping, tree-decorating and turkey-stuffing that needs to be done? “The herbal remedy Siberian ginseng is renowned for boosting energy levels and helping to overcome fatigue, particularly when stress is affecting your ability to cope,” Dr Glenville advises. Try taking a supplement, such as Tranquil Woman Support (£22.97 for 90, naturalhealthpractice.com), once or twice a day throughout the month to help you cope both mentally and physically during this busy time of year.
Read: stress-beating remedies
8. “Poor posture can affect our energy levels by putting stress on parts of our body that are not designed for it, such as our neck or back,” says Steve Tolan of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. “To improve your posture, draw in your stomach muscles and try to be as tall as you can, whether you’re walking or sitting.”
9. If you need to be on your feet over the festive period, try reflexology: a Korean study shows it can relieve fatigue and promote sleep. And you can do it yourself. First, locate the gait reflexes on your foot – there are five on top of the foot, about halfway down, in between the metatarsal bones, and one on the sole, in the centre of the foot, and slightly further back than the others. Apply firm pressure for a few seconds to each point for an instant energy boost.
Read: health secrets your feet can reveal
10. Roasted chestnuts are the perfect winter pick-me-up. They are packed with B vitamins and healthy carbohydrates for energy, plus they’re lower in fat and calories than other nuts.
Read more on seasonal superfoods
11. Dig out your festive classics CD or go along to a local carol service to join in a rousing rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful: according to research from the University of Windsor, Canada, listening to music lifts our mood and makes us more productive and efficient.
12. It’s easy to become dehydrated over the party season. A study confirms that a lack of fluids can contribute to fatigue and a loss of focus, so make sure you drink six to eight glasses of water a day: “Thirst isn’t always a good indicator of needing a drink, and many people are dehydrated without even knowing it,” Dr Glenville adds.
Read: why we need water
13. Do you have a lemon balm plant in your garden? “Tea made from this herb has a calming effect, particularly if pent-up stress is draining energy,” Dr Grimston says. “Leaves can be picked earlier in the year and dried or frozen for use in winter.”
14. Stock up on energy for the Christmas period by ‘banking’ sleep. American research shows that extra sleep every night ahead of a phase of sleep deprivation can help you cope better.
15. "Rosemary helps to reduce fatigue, while sage sharpens memory,” says medical herbalist Lloyd Gee. Infuse a tablespoonful of dried rosemary and sage in a pint of hot water, leave to cool and drink a small cup three times a day.
16. Frankincense could be the ultimate Christmas energy booster. “It gives you a lift by deepening your breathing and clearing your mind so you can focus more clearly,” says aromatherapist Katie Whitehouse (vitaltouch.com). “Use five drops in an oil burner or one drop on a tissue to inhale.”
17. Struggling to keep up with the demands of the season? Your iron levels might need a kick-start according to a new Swiss study, which reports that taking a daily 80mg iron supplement could decrease fatigue, even if you’re not officially anaemic. Try a natural booster such as Spatone Apple (£8.25 for 28 sachets, nelsonsnaturalworld.com), which contains your recommended daily allowance of iron.
Read: why am I tired?
18. “If juggling Christmas commitments is burning you out, the Bach Flower Remedy Olive (£5.99 for 10ml, bachcentre.com) can help to relieve mental exhaustion and restore your vitality,” says Bach practitioner Alexandra Bacon. “Take two drops in a glass of water, four times a day, until you have regained your strength.
19. The Christmas season may be exhausting, but it’s also a time for friendship, family and goodwill – and spending time with your nearest and dearest could give your health, wellbeing and mood a seasonal uplift, too. A recent study found that women who have strong friendships cope better with stress, feel happier and healthier, and even live longer.
20. Take time out from Christmas preparations to re-energise with a simple meditation exercise. “Sit down, close your eyes and breathe deeply, while imagining you have roots growing from your feet,” suggests Dr Grimston. “Visualise these roots going deep down into the soil and beyond, into the centre of the earth to help ground you and connect you with the earth’s own deep energy source, reducing anxiety and stress, and leaving you feeling refreshed.
Read: meditation for everyone