A New Year Resolution: 10 minutes of exercise and a slightly smaller helping – Dr Catherine Calderwood

This is a special time of year for Boxing Day child Dr Catherine Calderwood, who has some suggestions on how to recover for those feeling over-fed and watered.
Catherine Calderwood was born five minutes into 26 December (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)Catherine Calderwood was born five minutes into 26 December (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Catherine Calderwood was born five minutes into 26 December (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Christmas Day over for another year.

How quickly it seems to come round and here we are again – perhaps 
groaning from being over-fed and over-watered, surrounded by wrapping for the recycling and clutter, but maybe that’s just our house!

Something to look forward to, though… it’s my birthday today. Not the optimal day.

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I can’t imagine having to gear up for a child’s birthday, and such a special day for them, the day after the Christmas efforts.

I was born at 12:05am – I am eternally grateful for that accurate midwifery timing which meant it wasn’t Christmas day!

My mother, a junior doctor in psychiatry at the time, was at work that Christmas Eve. Her consultant asked: “When is that baby due?” “Tomorrow,” she replied. “Well you’d better have a half day then,” he responded.

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She duly went home only to go in to labour the following morning and my father and grandmother had their Christmas lunch together without her – no men in the labour ward in those days.

She had saved all of her annual leave for the year in order to be off until the first of February when she went back to work. Maternity leave for NHS staff was only introduced in 1971 – times, thankfully, have changed for the better.

Camaraderie of NHS ‘family’

I have often worked on labour wards over the Christmas period and always sympathised with the babies – and their mothers – who shared my birthday.

The maternity units ‘compete’ for the Christmas baby. Of course we can’t influence the time of birth but we can try to predict if any of our mums might be the first in Scotland to give birth and gleefully phone around to check. Excitement on a night shift is very important!

A special time of year – but also a special time of year to be at work in the NHS. A certain camaraderie with your NHS ‘family’, away from home but also a privileged time.

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All of the staff are under pressure – primary and community care, the emergency departments, the sickest patients to look after, as anyone who is well enough will have gone home and the influx of winter illnesses, flu and also ice and snow, make this a busy time.

Excitement perhaps in anticipation of a new arrival, a new life to be nurtured and guided and loved. Or perhaps a new healthier you? New Year resolutions?

As the Chief Medical Officer, I would of course be asking for more of the healthy stuff which we know all about and less of the unhealthy, but I am realistic enough to know that this isn’t easy, so maybe just aim for small steps rather than giant leaps.

A little less of what isn’t good for you, even 10 minutes of exercise a day will make a difference. So will a slightly smaller helping of what’s on your plate or in your glass and a walk even when you don’t feel like it.

And kindness – not scientific enough for a CMO guideline – but also vitally important for our health and wellbeing. A simple heartfelt ‘thank you’ makes not only the recipient feel better but it costs nothing and you will also feel the benefit – it has been studied and there are real and tangible benefits for anxiety, low mood and sleep.

So thank you to our NHS staff who will go the extra mile this festive period. You are really appreciated and welcome to all those new babies who share my festive birthday.

Catherine Calderwood is Scotland’s Chief 
Medical Officer