Yay, Christmas is here! December 1st only means one thing, let the Christmas music begin, writes Reflex Spinal Health Chiropractor Aggie Farlow-Hoare. Personally, I think Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year and this year I’m making sure not to let the little stresses of Christmas get to me. After all, nobody wants to feel stress at Christmas! Christmas is a time to be around the people you love and enjoy a well-deserved break however it can also bring on a lot of unnecessary stress. In this article, I will go over my top tricks and tips to stay stress-free during this Christmas period.
Even if we’re not aware of it, the unique combination of environmental elements that come with Christmas can easily lead to stress. For instance, Christmas falls during the winter months in the northern hemisphere, when the days are shorter and the weather is often gloomy, all of which might affect how we feel about ourselves. Depression that fluctuates according to the seasons is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it can happen when we spend less time in the sun. Some people’s mood swings, which can negatively impact motivation and happiness, can begin in December.
Christmas is typically associated with a festive home, snow outside, and a contented family enjoying a a large cooked meal. Sadly, reality might become too complicated to ever provide the ideal Christmas that the media portrays, but we still have high expectations. Due to the well-known optimism bias, which appears to be ingrained in our minds, many individuals anticipate a joyful, peaceful, and restful Christmas but instead experience a hectic, chaotic and stressful one!
Eating and drinking – People naturally turn to stress-relieving activities, such as eating delicious food and drinking alcohol, because Christmas can be a stressful time. Eating foods high in calories can indeed help reduce stress, especially during this season. However, in some situations, it’s only a temporary solution because stress actually causes our bodies to store more fat!
Even with shorter and darker days, the run-up to Christmas can be exciting as well as stressful there is a lot to plan if you are hosting people on the 25th or staying at someone else’s house. YouGov research has found that 81% of people find Christmas stressful. Sometimes it gets too much and you start to forget things you want to get done, making lists can be quite useful for some people and gives you something to refer back to.
Using to-do lists ensures you remember and carry out jobs as well as prioritising and tackling the most important jobs first, this goes hand in hand with making sure not to stress over a large number of unimportant jobs. Set yourself time goals for when you want this list to be finished or when each individual job can be completed. Sometimes it’s good to get things out of your head and onto paper.
Never be embarrassed to ask for assistance when you need it, whether it’s at work or at home. It’s far too simple to attempt to get by by taking everything on yourself. However, the truth is that expressing your need for assistance and sticking up your hand can have a lot of positive effects.
Making a plan, sitting down to brainstorm everything needed to be done and creating a timeline of when tasks need to be completed can help to alleviate any Christmas anxiety, which ties in nicely with making a list of tasks you need to complete.
An extra set of hands at home could make things go more smoothly, it’s easy to take on too much and assume that the whole burden of making sure Christmas is ‘perfect’ is on you. This is not the case, make sure to delegate jobs by assigning little tasks to family members or friends, they will then see how much work is needed to be done and can then appreciate the effort together.
Let’s talk about back pain during Christmas. With the last couple of weeks closing in and you have a mountain of presents to wrap and only 30 minutes before children arrive from school or your partner walks through the door. The worst thing you can do is start wrapping presents on the floor. Why? Well… 1. It’s super uncomfortable and 2. Think about your back posture!
When wrapping presents this Christmas, use a table or even an ironing board. Effectively this posture is similar to using a standing desk at work which helps reduce tension on your pelvis and lower back. Ironing boards are easy to assemble and don’t require much space.
Relaxing at Christmas is important however it’s key to keep moving when sitting down, it’s easy to sit in the same position for a good couple of hours this is when your joints stiffen up and your muscles tense. Make sure to take regular breaks get up and move around, put the kettle on, reach up and then touch your toes anything to get your back moving differently. This will help prevent any back pain.
Make sure to lift heavy boxes correctly, lift with your legs, not with your back. It’s good to have this reminded before lifting boxes out of the loft and when you are putting up your Christmas tree, ask for an extra hand if you feel it’s too much.
The new year is around the corner, and a new year, a new me begins the fitness enthusiast! Absolutely should you blow the dust off your old running trainers, join a gym, join a new sports club, fitness class or even some martial arts training but remember it’s been a while.. so make sure you warm up and cool down before and after exercising. There is no pressure for you to run like you were in your 20’s or reach a PB in your gym session, start slow and steady so you can enjoy the process which will help you stick to future fitness goals.
Keeping your joints happy – Be mindful of ankle, knee and hip injuries when starting to exercise for the first time in a while. If you go straight into exercise without warming up you are more likely to cause ligament/tendon and/or muscle damage. Ensure your muscles are warmed up by raising your heart rate, this can be done by jogging on the spot for 5-10 minutes or completing some star jumps. If you are at the gym using the cardiovascular machines; the treadmill, rowing machine, cross trainer or stair climber for 5-10 minutes is an appropriate warm-up. Cooling down is just as important, you have done the hard work already if you just sit down on your sofa your muscles and joints will stiffen up making it very sore the following day.
Take a look at Rob’s blog on the Benefits of Static Stretching After Exercise for appropriate cool down – https://www.reflexspinalhealth.com/2022/01/03/benefits-static-stretching-after-exercise/
When starting to exercise you may feel some muscular stiffness as a result. This is usually normal as it shows that the training is getting you stronger. However, if the pain does not resolve then do come and consult one of our fantastic Reading Chiropractors or Reading Osteopaths who can thoroughly examine the cause of the problem.
Yau, Y.H.C. and Potenza, M.N. (2013) Stress and Eating Behaviors, PubMed Central. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/ (Accessed: 29 November 2023).
Nolsoe, E. (2019) How does Christmas impact people’s mental health?, YouGov. Available at: https://yougov.co.uk/health/articles/26954-christmas-harms-mental-health-quarter-brits (Accessed: 29 November 2023)
Overview – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (2022) NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/overview/#:~:text=Seasonal%20affective%20disorder%20(SAD)%20is,feel%20better%20during%20the%20winter. (Accessed: 29 November 2023).
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Reflex Spinal Health are a passionate, dynamic spinal health team. We are committed to help as many in our community of Reading, Berkshire and South Oxfordshire to enjoy the vitality of great health, to reach their health goals and feel truly alive! Our chiropractors and osteopaths offer the highest standards of care in a superb environment.