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Your expert guide to surviving the festive season

The last month of the year is usually so jam-packed it makes our heads spin. We’ve re-grouped ‘The Ten Women You Need in Your Life’ from our 10-year-anniversary issue in June to give us their tips on how to stay on top of your game during the festive season

Image Credit: Supplied picture
“The most important thing to remember is your highest positive intention for the festive season."

Helen Williams, counsellor and managing director of LifeWorks Counselling (, says to look after yourself.

“Attend to your own needs before attending to the needs of others. It’s not about being selfish, it’s about looking after yourself as you are no use to anyone when you are worn out. Remember that you cannot attend every event, or visit every friend and relative. We can become burdened with the task of making sure everyone’s break is happy and end up exhausted and wishing for our normal daily routine. Learning to say ‘No’ can mean the difference between success and failure for family holidays.”

On a personal note
“My family has a Christmas evening tradition of moving the furniture away to make room to dance. We each select our favourite YouTube music videos and share them in turn, dancing the night away!”

Natasha Bennett, operations manager at Dermalase Clinic (, says to combat the negative effects of partying by treating your skin to some quality products and a dose of vitamin C.

“This is the time when we often socialise into the early hours more than usual, so don’t forget to apply a good quality serum and night cream after a night on the tiles as your skin does most of its work between 11pm and 3am. Combat the effects of drinking too much by taking a good quality vitamin C supplement, as alcohol breaks down vitamin C, which is the building block of collagen. You could even include a serum, or spritz, containing vitamin C into your skin regime.”

On a personal note
“My Christmas tradition is a Christmas Eve meet-up with all of my old school friends. We meet in our village, sing carols and catch up on the last year. Even though we all live all over the world now, we always put the effort in to do this every year.”

Sarah Queen, Abu Dhabi-based nutritionist, says to eat normally and to step away from the snack table.

“The holiday season is a time for celebration, but it doesn’t mean it has to be a time for weight gain too. It actually doesn’t take a lot of indulgence to put on extra weight. An extra pound in body fat is the equivalent of eating an extra 3,500 calories, which is easily done with party nibbles – a handful of crisps, a few chocolates, a couple of samosas, a slice of quiche, a slice of cake and a couple of mince pies, plus a cocktail or two, and you have easily consumed 3,500 calories. To avoid this over consumption ensure you eat normally during the day – do not starve yourself, or be tempted to miss a meal, as this is counterproductive as you will be hungry and pick at high-fat, high-sugar foods. And avoid standing near the snack food table – how many times have you picked at food just because it is next to you when you haven’t even been hungry? You can eat lots of calories without even noticing – a handful of peanuts is about 160 calories, two small samosas are about 150 calories, and two small mince pies are 200 calories. Fill your plate with crudités, salads with minimum dressings, plain bread, rice, potatoes, plain meat and fish, and opt for fresh fruit for dessert. Avoid, or limit, pies, pastries, creamy dressings and sweet desserts.”

On a personal note
“Remember that the holiday season is a time to share, celebrate and relax with friends and family. and a time to appreciate all that you have to offer each other.”

Natalie Travis, stylist ( says to get clever with one key item to see you through the party season.

“With so many end of year parties to attend it’s essential to find new ways of making the same dress look brand new for each occasion. Find an amazing dress in a block colour – white is super hot – with minimal detailing and change the jewellery, shoes and cover-up for each party, according to your mood. Shoe boots, a deconstructed leather biker jacket and chunky bangles create the perfect rock-chick vibe for your friend’s house party, while an elegant up-do, fur gilet and sky-scraper court shoes will take you to the office party and beyond. And after all that partying, there’s nothing more lovely than coming home and getting comfy in some silky pyjamas – that’s your first holiday gift to yourself sorted.”

On a personal note
“I have a few Christmas essentials, without which the holidays can’t really begin, including an enormous real fir tree, The White Company’s ‘Winter’ Signature candle and a Christmas Day trip to Madinat Jumeirah’s festive market.”

Dr Maria Ridao Alonso, specialist in preventative medicine and Chinese Medicine, and medical director at Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre ( says the main health concern to watch out for over the festive period is excessive eating.

“During this season, people often suffer from digestive problems due to overconsumption – too much food, lots of fatty food and sweets, and too much alcohol. Also, there is a general lack of exercise. You should be able to avoid most of the problems simply by reducing the amounts you consume – have everything you want, but stick to trial size portions. Start taking a probiotic and Iberogast (a combination of herbs that helps digestion) as soon as you notice the first symptoms of indigestion.”

On a personal note
“I try to keep stress levels to a minimum during this period. We’ve spent the last few Christmas days on the beach of one of the hotels, enjoying the great weather and having a relaxed lunch. Nobody gets stressed about cooking, or about what they should wear, and you have time to talk and to move a bit. Good weather on Christmas Day is one of the advantages of living in the UAE.”

Eleanor Rivett, regional group exercise manager at Fitness First Middle East ( advises us to keep moving through the holidays.

“Don’t stop exercising! We will all slow down a little over the holidays, but it doesn’t mean you need to stop altogether. Try to train with a friend as this will keep you motivated and committed. But set a realistic time frame so you don’t feel like your whole day is taken up with exercising. Betweeen 20 and 60 minutes three times a week is enough to keep you healthy.”

On a personal note
“Christmas is all about family for me. I love nothing more than seeing my nieces’ faces – eyes wide open and grinning like Cheshire cats! – when they see their stockings full of presents from Santa. I’ve had a couple of Christmases away from home and it just doesn’t feel right!”
Louisa Coates, career coach and director of Davos Consulting Group ( says now is the time to get organised – at work and at home.
“Launch Operation Clean Up – write down the following headings and then, beneath each one, list everything that’s causing you concern (big or small): finances – short term, long term (any debts and loans outstanding); relationships – children, marriage, family, friends, colleagues; health and weight;  appearance; property; career; and spirituality. Be honest, no one need see this but you. Now ask – what could you do to take control of the situation? When’s the timing for this? Then take a walk on the beach, or a coffee break with a good friend, and ask each other these tough questions: What’s going really well in your life that you want to keep and build on next year? What new skills have you learnt this year – are you putting them to the very best use? What didn’t work out so well this year and what are you prepared to do to address this next year?”

On a personal note
“I’ve been the happy recipient of so many soap sets, notebooks and strange music that I now set up my Amazon WishList early in September. Then I gently let people know it’s there, while asking if they have one too. That way everyone’s happy – I can start ordering in good time and look forward to receiving all those little things that I can’t really justify buying for myself. And, yes, they do deliver here.”

Mind health
Dr Saliha Afridi, psychologist and owner of LightHouse Arabia (, says to spend some time reflecting over the holidays.
“Be mindful... it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of the season. A conscious effort needs to be made to stay present, in the moment, and close to the spirit of the holiday season. Reflect and meditate – we are in an age where time moves very fast. If you are not self-aware, time will move even faster. We have to make an intention and be disciplined about consciously slowing down, cutting out the distractions and reflecting on our life’s path. This does not have to be for hours, or days, at a time, but can be done for 15 to 30 minutes at the start of your day.”

On a personal note
“No holiday season is complete for me without the right aromas. I use perfumed candles from Christian Dior, or traditional oud from Ajmal to add to the energy and warmth of my home.”

Goal setting
Shana Kad, NLP life coach and owner of Life Effective Coaching ( says focusing on the real spirit of the festive season is the best approach.
“The most important thing to remember is your highest positive intention for the festive season; when you feel overwhelmed with the tasks, and how you can’t make everything perfect, think about what you’re really trying to achieve, which is to see the people around you be happy. It doesn’t matter whether your dishes match, or whether there are enough fairy lights on the tree. What matters to people is how they feel in your company – did they feel at ease and comfortable in your home and what you created for them? Create a holiday season where there is laughter and love surrounding you and your family and friends... a festive time where you remember the important stuff that is truly close to your heart.”

On a personal note
“When I was young, we would always do lots of cooking preparation on Christmas Eve and, on Christmas Day, we would have a big brunch instead of breakfast and lunch. This way we cut down on the amount of time spent in the kitchen and left more time for spending time together as a family.”

Sandi Saksena, financial advisor at Nexus (, says

“Gifts can be a heavy financial burden. To be sure you’re not wasting money on gifts your friends and family don’t want, ask them to suggest three or four possible gifts, then buy something they suggest that’s in your price range. Kids’ gifts are expensive these days! Parents, tell your children to pick the top one, or two, things they want most. You might be able to buy  several smaller gifts, if the budget allows, but children should be taught to prioritise. Handmade arts and crafts and baked goods make great gifts as well they mean more and cost less.”

On a personal note
“This year, my extended family and I are avoiding the hotel brunches we have been doing for years and going back to how we used to celebrate in years past. We are decorating the house in baubles made by my mother and my cousin, and we are cooking all the traditional dishes we used to have when we were younger.”