One of the ways I know that the holiday season is upon us is that we begin to see a much higher percentage of ‘emergency’ cases in my chiropractic office. Almost magically, the number of both new and existing patients experiencing crisis goes through the roof at this time of year.
The typical presentation is something like, “I don’t know what I did, but I woke up this morning and my back/neck/head really hurt, and my spine was all locked up.”
Interestingly, this is also the time of year that we have the largest number of missed regular visits because of colds, flu and other types of health crises.
So, what is the deal with this time of year? Our bodies and lives have many unique demands placed upon us as the holiday season approaches. We are primed by Halloween and the consumption of not so good food that taxes our immune system (come on, you can admit it!). The time change is another hurdle for our body to get used to. This is also the time of year that we drastically reduce how much fresh air and direct sun exposure we receive.
On top of this, there are more parties, late nights and social events to attend. The time and financial stress of shopping, decorating, and travel. Family stress (enuf said). Loss of routine and eating and drinking things beyond our normal consumption top off the mountain of stressors that typify this time of year. It is no wonder that many people end up in pain, sick, and stressed during the holidays – often to a point that they cannot enjoy what is meant to be a time of joy.
There is another wrinkle to this story that is often overlooked and is perhaps the most important of all. In addition to the ‘negative’ stressors that can put people under, many people stop doing the GOOD STUFF that keeps them healthy the rest of the year.
Not only do they eat BAD stuff, they stop eating GOOD stuff. The gyms get quieter this time of year because people blow off their workouts for shopping and parties. It is not uncommon for us to see regular patients fall off their schedule in December because they feel they are too busy.
I have written an article on staying healthy during holidays most of the 17 years I have been in chiropractic practice. I have seen what works and what doesn’t. Trying to avoid food, drink, stress and parties does NOT WORK for most. The absolute best way to stay healthy over the holidays is to focus on doing GOOD STUFF. At minimum, do as much GOOD STUFF as usual. Ideally, use your extra time off (if you have it) to do more GOOD STUFF.
It is okay to indulge in some food and drink but be sure to focus on eating lots of GOOD STUFF. Commit to eating a nutritious fuelling breakfast to start things right. Do not allow your vegetable and healthy protein and fat consumption to drop, even if you are going to have some cookies.
It is great to enjoy some parties (I highly recommend it)! Do not allow parties to get in the way of regular exercise. Even if you are away from your gym, class or sport, use it as an opportunity to do something different. Get outside if you can. Be creative. I have done many great workouts on the floor of hotel rooms with zero equipment.
Even if you spend some nights out late, meditation is a great way to get ‘virtual rest’ in a very time efficient way. Sitting for 20 minutes (or even 10) can have a huge impact on restfulness and energy levels.
As much as possible, stay on track with activities that add to your health. I try to see my chiropractor MORE during the holidays because a healthy nervous system leads to a healthy person. I see it as my invisible shield at this time of year.
What I have learned over the years – and was reminded of recently while reading Jocko Willink’s great new book Discipline Equals Freedom – Field Manual – is that when you do the GOOD STUFF, you will feel good and then you naturally won’t want to do the BAD STUFF. The GOOD STUFF actually protects you from getting too much of a good (BAD) thing.
Enjoy yourself this holiday. Eat some cookies, enjoy your family and friends. Focus on the GOOD STUFF and not only will you have a better time, you will hit the ground running in 2018!