Author: Dr Sir-Kit Leong graduated from the University of Aberdeen in the UK in 2005. He spent his general practice training years in Toowoomba, prior to moving back to Brisbane in 2013. Today, Dr Leong consults full-time at Clayfield. View his profile here.
The holidays are an exciting time of year. We all get together, let some weight off our shoulders and enjoy a few days of respite from the pressures of life. The key to enjoying the holiday season is to be prepared for all eventualities. Fewer surprises and less stress is the ticket to coasting through the Christmas period and starting the new year refreshed and mentally well.
I’ve seen a lot of Christmases come and go. Over the years I’ve learned a few lessons and things that you might want to revisit/focus to ensure the holidays go more smoothly. Here are my top ten tips, plus one.
Be Aware of Storm Safety
Do a rapid storm safety audit of your house and backyard. Make sure loose items in the balcony are secured when you are away. Turn off appliances and power plugs; it saves you electricity and is great for the environment. Clear your gutters so that water doesn’t back up where you don’t want it and ensure there are no fallen branches or leaf matter around the house.
Importantly, take into account the kind of inclement weather that you are likely to experience in your area. If your region experiences heavy winds, ensure that everything is strapped down or put away. If bushfires, clear the backyard. You know your area well, but it’s up to you to apply that knowledge to protecting your home and preventing the heartache of coming back to an enormous clean-up job after a happy holiday.
Waste Not, Want Not
Christmas can be enormously wasteful time of the year. Naturally, no one wants to be miserly or overly anxious about trash. However, there are some very simple ways that you can reduce your waste output.
Reduce food wastage – be sensible in the amount you prepare,going overboard creates waste.
If you love cooking, then it’s certainly worth starting a tradition where Boxing Day is also known as Leftovers Day.
Spare a thought for our farmers who grow food for us. Do not waste their effort/hardwork.
Keep an eye on your power, gas and water consumption. It can be very easy to get carried away with guests over and leave every light on, but Christmas is expensive enough without an increase in power costs.
Christmas is a great time to consider the environment. Less waste reduce plastic, water and air pollution, effects translating to healthier people. Floods, heatwaves, water-borne illnesses and countless other issues occur from environmental harm. Do your bit this Christmas to keep the environment healthy and happy. Planet Earth future relies on each and everyone of us.
Be responsible with your drinking choices. Gatherings, work parties and social events are plentiful at this time of year, with some of us booked solid in the month before Christmas. It’s great to be merry and joyful over some drinks, but nonetheless you should know your limits and make an effort to stay within them.
Always have something to eat with drinks and be mindful of how alcohol can interact with any prescription medications. Do not drink and drive, and certainly do not allow your mates to drink and drive. Ubers are cheap, there’s no excuse.
Perhaps it’s time to kick that nasty smoking habit? Sure, this might be the fifth year in a row that you’ve promised to quit, but that’s how everyone starts out. If you’ve failed to quit in the past, that doesn’t mean you’ll fail to quit now. There is so much to keep your mind busy over Christmas that it’s a great time to cut back in anticipation of a new year without nicotine.
Find your “why”. Focus on the financial savings, improved cardio, reduced risk of cancer, longer life, improved taste and smell, or the dozens of other reasons that make quitting the right choice.
There is always help available. Chat to your family, friends, GP, or Quitline and get the right advice for your situation. Keep occupied, and before you know it, it will be weeks since you put out your last cigarette.
Get a Skin Check
Get a skin check before summer really hits! Do you know what your skin type is? Have you noticed any spots you are worried about? Have you had sunspots frozen before? A full skin check with your GP will tease out nasty skin lesions, especially skin cancers. Never underestimate the brunt of summer sun, irrespective of time of the day.
Prevention is better than cure. Cover yourself up if you’ll be in the sun for extended periods of time. So many of us hit the beach during the holiday break. If that’s you and your family, make sure you’re all taking appropriate precautions. Slip, slop, slap – it works.
There will be more vehicles on the road, which means inevitably the risk of accidents increases. Check your vehicle and ensure everything is in order. Plan your journey before taking off and if possible, travel outside of peak traffic periods. Take regular breaks. Switch off your phone or turn on hands-free/Bluetooth when you are driving. Think of others who are sharing the roads with you, they want to feel safe too.
Watch Your Budget
Stress can overwhelm us, and a huge cause of stress is financial concerns. We can be tempted to shop more than we need, particularly with the Christmas songs blaring through shopping centres and that ever-so-inviting festive vibe permeating every aspect of our lives.
Plan ahead. Write a list and stick to your budget. Leave in a buffer for unexpected expenses, and make an effort to be sensible about your purchases. Be that one person who goes against the flow and ends Christmas with some spare change and no credit card debt. Financial stress from overspending is the least of things we want.
Get Out and About
Christmas is the perfect time to get outside and soak up some nature. Get out of the house, walk the dog, go for a bush walk, visit a lookout, do something new. Australia has some of the greatest natural surroundings, and for most of us it’s less than an hour’s drive to get somewhere pleasant and away from it all.
Take this opportunity to get out and about, whether by yourself or with the family. Shave off those extra calories and inject some activity into your life. While you’re at it, realise how much you enjoy a casual walk, and commit to doing it a few times a week for the rest of your life.
I am 99% sure that everyone reading this has plans to do the opposite of clean eating over Christmas, and that’s fine. I’m not advocating that you spend the holidays nibbling on rice crackers and carrots. However, it’s a great time to make some very simple changes for big benefits.
Add some grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables to your meals. You should have 3-5 serves a day of these items, and they tend to go pretty well with just about any meal. Put your thinking cap on and serve up something healthy.
Monitor Your Medications
If you’re travelling, check your medications. Find out what you are short of and know when your surgery is closed. It can be difficult to renew a prescription from a practice that does not know your history, so make sure you have enough medicine for your travels.
Further, it’s a good time to check the medicine cabinet at home and stock up on a few essentials. Basic emergency medicines that are appropriate for your needs and some first aid materials are always a good option to have on hand.
Keep an Eye on Mental Health
Christmas can be an exciting, happy time for many. However, for some, there is always a lingering sadness. While you’re spending time among your loved ones and friends, take the time to call or visit someone you haven’t seen in a while. Reconnect, see how they’re doing, and show them that you care. They’ll be appreciative, and it adds some extra cheer to the season.
There are plenty more tips for the holiday season, but these are a few that if adhered to, will make it a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons. Merry Christmas, and stay safe.