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Surviving the Holidays

The day after Thanksgiving is a milestone of sorts in America. It reminds
us of just how quickly the year has gone by— and how close we are
to the holiday season. This realization— coupled with the fabulous
sales at major department stores and malls everywhere— helps make
the day after Thanksgiving our biggest shopping day of the year. And until
we flip the calendar over to a new year, the chaos just doesn’t let up.

“Our bodies have the capacity to do a little more than we normally do,” says
Dr. Scott Bautch, past president 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.”

So relax and enjoy the holidays! Dr. Bautch and the ACA encourage you
to consider the following tips to help keep you and your loved ones healthy,
happy and safe this season.

  • Stay hydrated! Drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water a day. (Coffee,
    tea, soft drinks and alcohol are diuretics/dehydrators. Don’t substitute
    them for water.) On shopping days, you may need to drink even more water.
  • Be sure to stretch before and after a long day of shopping. When you are
    stressed-out, your muscles are less flexible than usual.
  • Wear shoes with plenty of cushioning in the soles to absorb the impact
    of walking on those hard shopping mall floors. According to recent studies,
    60% of women report wearing shoes that are uncomfortable.
  • 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. Wear a light fanny pack, or if necessary, a
    light backpack instead. Pack only those items that are absolutely essential
    (driver’s license, credit card, etc.).
  • If you start to feel some pain, nip it in the bud. Apply an ice bag to
    the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours.
    Repeat a couple of times each day over the next day or two.

“During the holiday season, we’re running at absolute maximum capacity,
which can lead to stress and even depression,” says Dr. Bautch. “Why do
so many people become depressed around the holidays? We need to stretch
and stay hydrated to increase our capacity, so we are not overwhelmed by
the activities of the season.”

  • During a day of heavy shopping, most people should take a break every
    45 minutes. Those with less stamina may even need to take a break every
    20-30 minutes. If you work in a physically demanding job where you are
    accustomed to being on your feet most of the day, you may be able to
    get away with taking less frequent breaks.
  • If possible, obtain a locker. Lockers can help cut down dramatically on
    how much you have to carry around. You can take a load off by scheduling
    trips to your locker into your breaks.
  • If your mall or shopping center doesn’t offer lockers, try to plan trips
    to your car. Don’t carry around more than is absolutely necessary at
    one time.
  • When taking breaks, try to eat light foods. A salad and some fruit is
    a much better option than a burger and fries.
  • Skip the coffee break! Coffee and sodas contain caffeine and sugar, which
    add even more stress to your body. Pass on the designer coffee at the
    java stand and keep drinking water.

“We actually need to eat better than normal during the holiday season,” explains
Dr. Bautch. “On average, people gain five to six pounds during the holidays.
And heart attacks occur more often during the holidays as well. Eating
a heavy meal and then running out on an exhausting shopping trip can be
very dangerous.”

  • If at all possible, DO NOT bring a child or children along on a holiday
    shopping trip. Most children simply do not have the stamina for such
    an event, and you and your child will only become frustrated with one
    another. Don’t add this type of stress to an already stressful situation.
  • Try to split “child duty” up with a spouse or another parent. They’ll
    watch your kids while you shop, and vice-versa.

“Shopping with children is just a bad idea,” says Dr. Bautch. “If your
hands are loaded with shopping bags, you may not be able to hold your child’s
hand, which could increase the chances he or she might wander away from
you. Take whatever steps necessary to not have to bring your child along.”

  • 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, etc.
  • 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 stretch before and after you wrap gifts.

“When wrapping presents, it’s a good idea to ‘stretch the opposites,'” says
Dr. Bautch. “In other words, if you are leaning forward when wrapping your
gifts, stretch backward when you are done.”