Holiday festivities unfortunately involve more than unwrapping presents and drinking eggnog all day long. Traveling, waiting in the gift-wrapping line at Macy’s and standing all day tending a 20-pound turkey can take their toll. Women, especially, often find themselves at the center of the storm, trying to make everything perfect. “Instead of striving for perfection, focus on being grateful for your life and the people in it,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, MS, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness (Morgan-James, 2009) and founder of ControlHolidayStress.org. Here are four stress-less tips to show you how to have a truly happy holiday experience.
Holiday stressor: A four-hour drive to Grandma’s house
Sitting in a car or on a plane for long periods can cause everything from knee pain to back pain and blood clots.
How to deal: Stop every couple of hours to get blood circulating. Lumbar support pillows may also help prevent lower-back pain. Stretching out hip flexor muscles helps relieve back pain: kneel on one knee with the opposite foot forward in a lunge position/staggered stance with hands on hips; tighten abdominals. Perform a pelvic tilt by pushing hips forward until you feel a pull; avoid arching the back.
Holiday stressor: Day-long cooking and baking sessions
Standing for hours, chopping vegetables and lifting heavy pans in and out of an oven can cause aches and pains.
How to deal: Start with a good night’s rest. Get up and go for a light walk to loosen and warm up muscles before you begin the day’s activities. Since many of the main tasks involve squatting, standing hunched over and reaching while carrying heavy objects, perform a few moves that mimic these actions to prepare muscles. In addition, take a five-minute break every hour or so and pace yourself.
Holiday stressor: Waiting in the gift-wrapping line at Macy’s
Taking advantage of holiday sales often requires lining up with other bargain hunters, sometimes for long stretches of time.
How to deal: Use a cart to carry items instead of stressing fingers and hands. Try to get in a morning workout before you go shopping and eat a healthy breakfast so you’re in the best shape to handle the stress. To prevent leg aches, hold onto your cart and perform simple calf raises by rising up onto the balls of your feet and slowly lowering back down 10 times.
Holiday stressor: Dancing the night away
You don’t have to be a participant on Dancing With the Stars to get caught up in dance fever around the holidays. Problem is, if you’re unaccustomed to the activity, you may find yourself with sore and strained muscles.
How to deal: Choose shoes with good arch support and a heel no higher than one to two inches (or bring along a spare pair of flats). Use antiperspirant on your feet before donning socks or stockings to limit friction and help prevent blisters. Soft cushioning in the soles of the shoes may also help, as can blister pads to cushion the heel.