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Handling Stress During the Holidays


DECEMBER 4, 2023

The holiday season is a fun time of the year. We get to hang out with family and friends, enjoy lots of great gifts, eat lots of great holiday food, and drink egg nog to our heart's desire. But after the holidays end the stress or grind of everyday life picks back up again.

Stress itself is a silent killer. Countless amounts of studies have shown a link between stress, increased inflammation, and heart diseases/cancers. Along with these nasty medical conditions, stress has been shown to be tightly tied to back pain. A recent study showed that prolonged sitting and stress were two of the major causes of lower back pain.

So as a Christmas gift from me to everyone out there in the Northern Neck; I’m going to give out a great little stress-relieving technique that you can do at home or if you have a very laid-back boss, even at work! It works great at relieving stress when it's really elevated. I’ve used it myself during my stressful graduate school days, and I teach it to a select few of my back pain clients who will benefit best from it. It should help cut down stress and as a bonus relieve back pain long term.

The stress-relieving posture I’m going to teach uses a breathing technique paired with muscle contraction to cut down on stress. By slowing and normalizing our breathing we can relieve stress. Another interesting way to reduce anxiety, depression, and overall stress is muscle contraction. When we tighten a muscle for a certain period of time an interesting reflex occurs afterwards. This reflex is loosening of the muscles, and if we do this to enough muscles over a few minutes stress will drop.

To do this we first need to grab a comfortable pillow to place under our heads. Next, we lay down on our back, arms to our side, legs straight, and eyes closed. After this, we need to slow our breathing. To do this you need to breathe in through your nose for a few seconds. Then you purse your lips and slowly blow out the air from your mouth for a few more seconds. It's important that you try to get as much in and out as you can. This is repeated the entire time you’re lying.

So, we’ve got the breathing covered, and that’s half the battle. Just using this breathing technique alone will reduce stress, but we’re going to add in muscle contraction to make it even better!

After you’ve played with the breathing for a minute or two it's time to include the muscle contraction, first, we try to squeeze just our hands and feet for 15-20 seconds as much as possible. Next, we let our hands and feet relax, and we repeat the same squeeze around our elbows/knees. Once we’ve done that for 20 seconds or so, we next tighten our neck/torso. After you take care of those, you go back through the muscles you just worked through until you get to your hands again. Once you’ve completed that, congrats you’re done!

This technique has proven to be a great easy way to reduce stress. It involves a very small time investment, less than 5 minutes to be exact! Try that today, and if you're looking for more ways to reduce stress for either back pain or general health then there are also other methods that help as well.

Lavender is a great tool that has been shown by research to help with stress. If you looking for more information on that just head over to montrossphysicaltherapy.com, and you can check out a blog post I’ve done on the topic a month or so ago. It covers what type of lavender to use, how often it should be used, and how it actually works.

Another great tool that I use myself to keep my back healthy as well as cut down general stress levels is massage therapy. If you’ve never had a massage, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a way to relieve stress, and anxiety, prevent future pains from popping up, and more importantly it’s an actual fun way to improve your overall health. If this sounds of interest, shoot us a call at (804) 493-0002, and we’ll go over the different massages we have available. Ranging all the way from Swedish to Hot Stone Massage if you're feeling more adventurous!

Well, that’s it for today, everyone. Have a happy holiday season, and remember movement is medicine!

P.S. Have back or sciatic pain but are on the fence about “pulling the trigger” and committing to setting up an appointment? If so, just know that it’s very normal to feel this way. In my back pain practice, we see folks who have suffered from back pain in some cases over 40 years. They’ve tried gels, creams, all sorts of medication, chiropractic adjustments, and even traditional physical therapy with zero results.

If this is you, then I completely understand the hesitancy to try yet another treatment! So Before making the plunge, I like to offer a completely free option. This is our phone consultation, and during the call, I’ll ask a few questions and dig into your problem. During the consult, I’ll determine a likely cause of the back pain and figure out what treatment options are the best to actually get rid of the back pain.

This call will not only get you one step closer to losing the back pain for good, but also get you back to playing with the grandkids, long walks, vacations, and even just back to enjoying your favorite chair like you used to. It's no point to miss out on life any longer! Our number is (804) 493-3256, just shoot us a call or click here to set up your phone consultation today. We only offer 1-2 weekly, so call as soon as possible to avoid the wait!