Even as we remain a nation practicing social distancing this winter, our holiday to-do list is still miles long. There’s shopping, card creating, cooking, planning, and the added stress of possibly being separated from loved ones and missing out on annual traditions. Stress can take many forms in the body, including physical pain. If you feel worn out, achy, or are experiencing headaches, stomach aches, or any of the other physical symptoms of stress and anxiety this holiday season, continue reading to learn how to put your mind and body at ease.
- Pace Yourself. If you have a long list of holiday to-dos, make a scheduled, coordinated plan for achieving your goals. If you plan, you can avoid the stress-inducing, last-minute moments that can exacerbate pain. Such moments may include wrapping gifts well into the night, standing at your kitchen counter baking for hours, or sitting at your desk addressing one hundred holiday cards. Pace yourself and give your body a break from long sessions of physically exhausting activities.
- Ask for Help. If you’re a can-doer, then this tactic may be challenging for you—but also crucial. No one should expect to balance work, homeschooling, chores, and holiday preparations alone. Ask for help when you need it. Ask your spouse to help your kids create their classroom holiday craft assignment, ask a friend to help you with your baking, and invite some neighbors to help you prepare meals for charity. Whatever it is that will require more time than you have in a day, ask for help before your body does so in the form of pain.
- Don’t Quit Your Fitness Routine. It can be easy to give up your yoga class or running group when something needs to give to make up extra time for your holiday responsibilities. Resist the temptation to sacrifice the feel-good, stress-relieving, endorphin-boosting benefits that you get from working out. Too much sedentary time or not enough sleep can cause headaches, body aches, or exacerbate symptoms of conditions associated with chronic pain.
- Reimagine Some Traditions. Perhaps, when you were in your twenties, you started a tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree, dragging it through the woods, strapping it onto your car’s roof, and setting it up in your house. It’s a tradition you’ve loved for decades, but now the aches and pains that naturally come with age are making it hard to complete the task easily—or maybe even dangerous. Accept that it’s okay to make the switch to an artificial tree. Reimagine your tradition by still gathering your immediate family together and decorating the tree together. The event may be different, but what matters is that you’re with your loved ones—people who don’t want to see you hurting over the holidays.
- Eat Clean. If your chronic pain comes from inflammation, treat your body with kindness by limiting your intake of those items that can exacerbate inflammation and trigger pain, including alcohol, dairy, gluten, and artificial substances like preservatives.
- If You’re Depressed, Know When to Ask for Help. Depression can manifest into physical pain. If you’re separated from loved ones and feeling isolated this holiday season, your sadness may cause body aches, fatigue, headaches, and other physical symptoms. If your depression begins to interfere with your ability to complete your daily responsibilities, you begin to practice self-harm, or you have suicidal ideations, seek professional help immediately.
The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year for the warmth and happiness of friends and family. Just remember that the holidays are about who you’re with, not how many tasks you can check off your list. Don’t let your enthusiasm for the holidays take its toll on your body. Commit to celebrating this season, feeling happy and healthy.