The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, with the opportunity to relax, share time with loved ones, exchange gifts and more. However, the holidays can also be a challenging and stressful time for many reasons. It is important to remember to continue taking care of your physical and mental health throughout the holiday season, despite the busyness that comes this time of year.
“Our bodies have the capacity to do a little more than we normally do,” says Scott Bautch, DC, DABCOH, a member of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. “But our bodies do not adapt very well to doing a lot more than we normally do. Since the added demands of this season can stress the capacity of our bodies, we need to do everything we can to help ourselves. Eat right, drink plenty of water, stretch, exercise and take a few minutes to slow down and reflect on what the season is all about.”
Relax and enjoy the holidays! Dr. Bautch and ACA encourage you to consider the following tips to help keep you and your loved ones healthy, happy and safe this season.
Remember Your Physical Health
When we’re busy, it can be easy to let exercise and physical health fall by the wayside, but it is important to take care of your body year-round. During the holiday season, don’t forget to move your body regularly. Take breaks to stand up and stretch, walk around the neighborhood or up and down the stairs. You can even incorporate exercise into your other activities, like holiday shopping. Check out these Healthy Living Blog articles for some simple but effective ways to take care of your body:
- How to Get (and Keep) Moving
- Exercise, the Easy Way
- Your Musculoskeletal Health: Steps to Strength and Stability
Healthy Holiday Shopping
If you’re shopping in person, be sure to remember that you might be moving a lot as you walk around stores, so you need to keep your body safe and comfortable.
- Wear shoes with plenty of cushioning in the soles to absorb the impact of walking on hard floors.
- Make sure the clothing you wear is as comfortable as possible. It’s a good idea to wear layers, because you may be going from a cold environment (outdoors) to a warm environment (indoors).
- Leave your purse at home. Keep your belongings in a zippered-up coat pocket or in a light backpack, packing only items that are absolutely essential (driver’s license, credit card, etc.).
- Ask for help if you’re purchasing an item that’s heavy, oddly shaped, or hard to reach. Be patient, ask for help, and don’t try to do it yourself.
If you’re shopping online, it’s still important to consider the impact that sedentary activity might have on your body. When sitting at the computer for long periods of time, take stretch breaks every so often. Taking 5- to 10-second microbreaks roughly four times per hour is a great way to adjust your posture and stretch your muscles. Set a timer on your screen for every 15 minutes. When the timer pops up, take your eyes off the screen, spread your fingers and take a deep breath. Try resting the muscles you were using and using the ones you were resting. Straighten anything that was bent and open what was closed. You can also take longer breaks to get up and walk around, go up and down stairs a couple of times, or do some stretching exercises.
Since there is no “ideal” position for wrapping gifts, the most important thing to remember is to vary your positions. For example, try standing at a table or countertop for one package, sitting on a bed for another, sitting in a comfortable chair for another, and so on. Do not wrap packages while sitting on the floor. Wrapping packages while sitting on a hard floor can wreak havoc on your posture and should be avoided.
Always remember to stretch before and after you wrap gifts. “When wrapping presents, it’s a good idea to ‘stretch the opposites,’” recommends Dr. Bautch. “In other words, if you are leaning forward when wrapping your gifts, stretch backward when you are done.”
Mental Health Matters, Too
The holiday season can be a stressful time physically as well as mentally. A study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that 64% of people with mental illness reported that holidays make their condition worse. Anxiety, depression, grief, loneliness, stress and more can be exacerbated during the holiday season, so it is important to take care of your mental health alongside your physical health.
- Use your support system. Building a social support system helps people maintain a higher quality of life. Reach out to family, friends and loved ones for support when you need it.
- Don’t try to do too much. Be aware of your feelings and your mental state, and take a break from activities if you need to. Don’t overfill your schedule — allow yourself time to rest during the holidays.
- Do what you enjoy. Whether it’s reading a book, listening to music or spending time in nature, be sure to take time to do things that you enjoy and that help you relax.
- Exercise. There is a growing body of research on the benefits of physical activity to a person’s mental health and overall well-being. Moving your body can help your mind as well. Check out this article on the Healthy Living Blog for more: Physical Activity Offers Benefits to Our Mental Health
- Check out more resources from NAMI about managing mental health during the holidays.
Happy holidays from ACA! We hope these tips and resources help you stay healthy this holiday season. For more health and wellness information, or to find a chiropractor near you, visit ACA online at www.HandsDownBetter.org.
Reviewed by the ACA Editorial Advisory Board. The information in this post is for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for treatment or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have specific questions, contact your doctor of chiropractic. To find an ACA chiropractor near you, click here.