So, I’m hoping I’m not about to offend anyone here, but the Christmas period has, I am led to believe, started! Cue the jingle bells sound track, and all those other Christmas tunes you’d rather not heard in October! Therefore it should be ok for me to be talking about Christmas and it not be premature! As i write this blog, I have already had the ‘pleasure’ of clients consulting with me after tripping over christmas trees; getting stuck in one position writing christmas cards; and low back pain after doing some christmas shopping, so I do hope these tips don’t arrive too late for you all to appreciate and apply.
Each day I’ll give you a small short tip about the most common ‘disasters’ that my wonderful, funny clients have told me about love the years, and ways to try to reduce the chance that Christmas stress, in all its glory, does not affect you detrimentally. Some of the topic we will cover are Christmas tree handling, writing card ergonomics, and tips to help the general Christmas indulgences that snare most of us at some point each year.
Christmas shopping online
I can proudly say that in previous years I have done all my Christmas shopping online. It was the most stress free and convenient shopping experience I’ve ever had, and I would recommend it to anyone who has back and joint problems or those who get too stressed with Christmas and the rush in the shops. However, I was mindful to not spend hours in front on the screen or holding a tablet. Before you know it, you’ve spent the whole morning, not moving, and get up feeling stiff and sore. You’re body is designed to move, move, and move again. Spending those 3-4 hours (or more for some of you!) in one position is very detrimental to your physical body (joints and discs and muscles), but overwhelming evidence is showing that it is reducing our nutrients to our brain!! Plus staring at a screen has shown to increase our stress levels- not what we want especially at a pretty hectic time of year anyway!
Carrying the Christmas tree
As an adult that doesn’t have any children (yet!), I can’t say this one has bothered me as we have an artificial tree that we get down from the loft (I’m waiting for all your banter!). However, over the last 10 years of private practice I have had people injure themselves lifting and transporting the tree home and into place in the living room. Why not share this job with someone else as they are cumbersome and heavy, and you can reciprocate with your friend or neighbour. Alternatively get it delivered to your house!
Decorating the Christmas tree
Obviously you usually do this with your kids but they can’t put the fairy at the top of the tree nor reach up high enough for those difficult to decorate top of the tree moments. Be careful of over reaching with your low back especially, this is the key position where your back is at its weakest (relatively speaking). Take the time to get a step ladder and do it properly with someone to help give you you a hand holding the Christmas lights up.
Carrying Christmas shopping
Most days we now do Christmas shopping online and its delivered to the house or work- brilliant invention for someone like me who lives on the third floor of a flat! Our suggestions are to carry the weight evenly in both hands and when you get to 2-3 bags, stop back at the car to dump them off and you can continue with your Christmas shopping marathon. Do not do the carrying of shopping bags in a rush, be mindful, use your legs and core muscles, and lift straight. Do not twist and bend and lift at the same time. You have been warned!
The winter weather
The weather has started to turn and we are all dressing for the occasion with scarves, gloves and hats and thick winter coats. I often watch members of the public walking outside in the cold, shoulders hunched, head cranked forwards and braced, and think to myself of their poor spine and muscles. Remember to relax those shoulders and to not have the scarf too tightly wrapped around your neck pulling it forwards. Make sure you remove it when you get in the car and put the seat belt on. Relax and breathe when outside walking around, learn to think about how you use your body.
General Christmas stress
I do think most people would say Christmas time is stressful, even though it’s meant to be a time of giving and enjoying family and friends.
i remember one year, probably as I started becoming aware of people around me more, of my mother saying calmly and logically, that she was going to Marks and Spencer, or any well known brand, 😉 to get a roast joint that was already stuffed and prepped, vegetables that were pre chopped, and Christmas cake shop bought. My mother said she wanted to spend Christmas day and Christmas eve enjoying herself, being with the family, going to church and nothing to spend hours and hours in the kitchen. For those of you who don’t know, my mother was also the main, and for much of the e=time, the sole breed winner in our family, so, even at the tender age I was, I understood and supported my mum’s decision to make her life easier. Needless to say, the food was still absolutely delicious, but we had the added benefit of mum being present, calm, and joining in with all the family shenanigans.
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….. But remember, who are you trying to show off to? what are you trying to prove? who are you doing this all for? I’m sure your loved ones would prefer to get nothing, help bring some of the food already prepared over and to get a relaxed parent/sibling/child/friend (insert anyone I’ve forgotten here), than a stressed out snappy one, who has bought expensive presents and the food is done to perfection. One one is perfect so why ruin your own Christmas by trying to do everything yourself to perfection.
Wrapping presents and writing cards
Your posture and length of time sitting in one position doing the wrapping and writing is often much to be desired! Think about what your Chiropractor would think if they saw you hunched over the floor or dining table for 4 hours straight, not shifting and standing up….. Why don’t you give us a selfie of you wrapping your presents or writing your Christmas cards.
Travelling to friends and family
At Christmas time we tend to pack in everyone and everything. It’s the one time of year we visit everybody it seems. Why do we do this? Why not make the effort seeing people thought out the year? Anyway, if you are travelling there are several things to think about when planing the event. Obviously safety first, pack anything you may need incase of an accident but more likely are problems with snow and ice. I digress! My main tips are to ensure healthy sitting posture and to have small but frequent breaks into a long journey. Not stressing at the wheel is important both for concentration sake but also posture sake. Don’t strain your neck forwards too close to the steering wheel, keep your head back on the headrest, keep shoulder blades down not hunched up around your shoulders and finally have a good lumbar support and maybe if your lucky enjoy the heated seats. Your back does not like sitting for more than 30mins!
Bending down to get Turkey out is often cited as a common reason for lower back pain. It’s to do with leverage. It you have a heavy weight (in this example a turkey) and try to lift with your outstretched arms without being close to the aforementioned object (the turkey) then the object weights much more, relatively speaking, then if you lifted the object closer to your body. Spending all of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and for some poor peeps the following days as well bent over chopping veg, washing up, preparing and cooking food is much like a repetitive strain injury. Don’t say I didn’t warn you come the new year!!!
Do I have to really elaborate on this?! Why do we do it to our gut? We feel too full, we then chastise ourselves in the new year because we put on too much weight. If you are going to overindulge, think about having peppermint tea and milk thistle to help aid digestion.
Enough said! Drink plenty of water. Another good way to keep hydrated is to have warm water with something like lemon.
Sitting on the sofa over the holiday season
Picture the scene- you’ve had a huge Christmas lunch, stuffed your face, then you progress to the sofa to relax and prepare for the second round! Before you know it, 4 hours have gone and you and your bloated gut have not moved from the sofa. You try to get up and your back locks up! That’s cos you sat for too long on your butt and your back needs MOVEMeNT!!