The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, however, it can get out of hand really quickly if you don’t take care of yourself. My name is Dr. Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS, the founder of Movement Vault and Lux Physical Therapy and Performance. Here are some low-cost, high-value practical tips that will help bring your holiday “performance” to the next level! The following tips can be applied during the holiday season, and also 365 days out of the year.
Lets face it; everyone has to deal with stress. The human body has evolved to deal with appropriate amounts of stress. This is literally in our DNA. With that said, most of us are dealing with way too much stress. On top of that, the so-called “stress” that we are dealing with, really isn’t that stressful—it’s very important to maintain a well-rounded perspective on these things.
What can you do to deal with holiday/everyday stress?
- Find an activity that allows you to escape everything, only focusing on the activity that you are doing. I am a huge proponent of meditation, as anecdotal evidence and research continue to hail the benefits of meditation on stress reduction. If meditation isn’t your thing- try exercising, hiking, reading, drawing, painting, writing, or building something. This list could go on forever. The only rule is to pick an activity that you are able to fully immerse yourself in.
- Get into a Sauna. They feel amazing, help you relax, and have been shown in studies to increase feel good chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters, as well as hormones, such as growth hormone, which aids in recovery. Aim for a 10-20 minutes in a 160-190 degree sauna.
Sleep is underrated. It is very easy to skimp on your sleep, especially when you have to shop for gifts, attend numerous parties, and travel. Don’t compromise though! This is the time when vital physiological processes occur within our body to help repair and rebuild itself. One of the most important processes is hormone production. Your body produces hormones to aid in the repair of the damages that were incurred throughout the day via stress.
Better Sleep Protocol:
- Limit blue night exposure at night. This means no screen time for at least an hour before bed. Better yet, you can buy a pair of blue light blocking glasses and wear them for the last couple of hours before you go to bed. This will aide your body’s natural production of melatonin, which will help you sleep better.
- Sleep in a completely dark room. This means putting up light-blocking curtains and removing any source of light in the room.
- Sleep cold. The optimal sleeping temperature is somewhere in the range of 62-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sleep in a quiet place. This is not always an option, so in these cases- ear plugs work wonders.
- Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
Movement and Exercise
We as humans have evolved to move and do physical tasks. For thousands of years, our genes have evolved to run, jump, climb, and carry in order to complete life’s essential tasks. With the advances of technology, our life today is much easier than it has ever been. Technology helps us be more efficient and complete tasks never thought possible. There are no free rides, however. Our genes don’t care about technology; we still need to run, jump, climb, and carry. Unfortunately, most of us are not doing enough of it.
A majority of the population sits for 8-15 hours per day. Studies have shown that this type of sedentary lifestyle literally decreases your life span significantly. Sitting all day also leads to being “tight” and not “flexible.” This tightness can then lead to injury. This is one of the reasons that led me to start Movement Vault.
Studies have shown that movement and exercise can decrease and even help treat depression, anxiety, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease to name a few. Exercise has even been shown to increase cognitive function and make you a happier person.
The take-home message when it comes to exercise and movement during the holidays is to get some!
Exercise and Movement Best Practices:
- It’s as simple as moving your body for 30-90 minutes per day. This could include any type of activity-- such as hiking, lifting weights, CrossFitting, Yoga, Pilates, running, or playing tennis. You get the picture.
- Don’t neglect your stretching/mobility routine. In my Physical Therapy practice, I see a lot of injuries that stem from sitting at desks all day. This leads to “tightness” all over the body. Make sure you are spending 15 minutes per day to work on you flexibility and mobility to “unglue” all of the damage you have done throughout the day.
The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, so that you can enjoy your loved ones to the fullest! Happy Holidays!
Dr. Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS, the founder of Movement Vault and Lux Physical Therapy and Performance, helps athletes achieve high performance.