Wondering how you're going to survive the holiday party season? Nutritional therapist Sally Duffin shares her secrets for staying healthy over Christmas and coping with stress and overindulgence.

In the midst of all the celebrations, gifts and festive foods it is easy to get caught up in all the images of Christmas we see on television and in magazines – happy families in jolly knitted jumpers, opening presents and sharing a perfectly presented Christmas dinner.

Reality can be quite different with heavy deadlines at work before the holidays, winter colds and flu, stressful family gatherings and upset stomachs from too many sweet treats.

Let’s look at 5 top tips for coping with Christmas:

1. Stress: Christmas is a particularly tough time for anyone suffering with depression or bereavement. The pressures of work and managing big family gatherings also ramp up the stress levels. Magnesium and B-vitamins are fantastic for soothing your nervous system; green leafy vegetables, cashew nuts, mushrooms and brown rice are all good sources. Bathing in Epsom salts is a traditional remedy and a great way to absorb magnesium through your skin! Add in a few drops of lavender oil too, then lie back and soak for a good 20 minutes.

2. Overindulgence: indigestion can be incredibly painful – even mistaken for a heart attack in severe cases, And festive hangovers are not ideal when you have to go sales shopping. Chamomile and fennel teas are wonderfully soothing for sore or upset stomachs and can relieve painful trapped wind. Milk thistle offers herbal support for liver function and easing hangovers – do check with your healthcare practitioner before taking any herbal remedies alongside prescription medications though.

3. Special diets: you’re hosting a Christmas party and suddenly realise several guests are gluten and dairy free – what can they eat? Panic not, healthfood stores now offer a full range of festive treats designed to meet specific dietary needs. These include gluten-free gravy granules, oat cream, soya cream, rice flour for making pastry, dairy free chocolate advent calendars and gluten-free Christmas puddings.

4. Colds and flu; ‘tis the season to be jolly unless you’re struck down with a virus! As I mentioned last month, homemade chicken and vegetable soup is a fantastic immune booster. Broccoli, peppers, kiwi fruit, mushrooms and sweet potatoes are all packed with antioxidant nutrients that help us fight off bugs. Top up your vitamin D with an oral spray supplement and keep some manuka honey to hand for making honey and lemon drinks to soothe croaky throats and coughs.

5. Headaches; stuffy atmospheres, stress, alcohol, sugary foods and dehydration can all trigger headaches. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, pace yourself with sweet treats and make time for a relaxing Epsom salt bath to ease tense neck and shoulder muscles.

With all these tips to hand you can feel ready for anything over the next few weeks; enjoy your celebrations and I wish you a wonderful Happy Christmas and New Year.

- Sally Duffin is a nutritional therapist and writer based in Holgate, York