Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with the progress that we’ve made throughout the year when it comes to the holidays. While our schedules may vary from predictable routines, we can still stay on track, or at least not get too far off track, throughout the holidays. Allow me to share some simple tips, based on the three primary contributing factors for back pain.
- Movement. While getting to the gym or going out for your regular run may be challenging during the holidays, you can still find time for movement by thinking ahead and making a plan. Keep in mind that, while regular exercise is great for your overall health, it is regular movement of any kind that is important for warding off back pain. Try to keep things simple, or substitute a more basic routine for your usual one. Consider using some of your family time to take a walk after dinner, or see if any of your family members would like to sign up for a fun run. With a simple yoga mat, you can begin your day with sun salutations. Fit in strength training in 5-10 minutes with some quick lunges, squats and push-ups, or take the stairs rather than the elevator on the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you are used to a full exercise schedule, it’s ok to reduce the amount of activity, but you won’t want to start off the new year feeling out of shape, carrying extra pounds, and with a sore back.
- Posture. The holidays can be a great time to check in with the basics regarding posture and a good time to practice the fundamental techniques. When you’re waiting in line at the department store, instead of checking your smartphone, check in with your abdominal muscles. Are they relaxed or contracted? What position is your pelvis in, tucked or falling naturally forward? Is your spine slumped or elongated? Review the basics and practice your postural techniques at the dinner table, at parties, and while waiting in check-out lines.
- Stress. I saved this one for last because for many the holidays can be quite stressful and if we’re not careful the physical ramifications can be significant. Just remember that you are in control of your body and how it responds to stressful situations. When you feel yourself getting tense, take a slow, deep, diaphragmatic breath, and as you exhale release the tension in your muscles as you send a wave of relaxation through your body. When you change your breathing in this way, you change the physiological stress response into a relaxation response, and your back will thank you.
Perhaps most important of all, try to focus on the positives of the holiday season – time with friends and family, or maybe just some extra time alone. Focus on being thankful for what you do have and be grateful to yourself for all that you have accomplished this year, and for the friends and family that you have in your life.
And don’t forget to breathe….
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Be sure to check back often for tips on how you can have a healthy back from BACKCoach Founder Mary A. Williams, MSEd, CPE. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or receive The BACKCoach Bulletin.
If someone on your shopping list suffers from back pain, consider getting them The BACKCoach Workbook. By following the steps outlined, they can learn about what really causes back pain and follow the steps to relieving the pain and getting back to doing the things they love.