The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but ironically an extremely stressful time. Over committed schedules packed with business, personal, and family obligations can be overwhelming and consequently induce stress. Stress management is key to managing anxiety, reducing pain, improving physical function, and most importantly, enjoying the holidays! Many people overlook the impact increased stress can have on the human body. Stress most commonly appears in the form of neck pain, headaches, and back pain. To avoid forms of stress-induced pain, there are simple ways to reduce and manage stress (especially during the holidays), but the most holistic way is through the “M.E.D.S.” philosophy. This isn’t referring to physically taking medication, rather using four common sense principles to reduce the body’s stress level.
M.E.D.S. is an acronym for meditation, exercise, diet, and sleep.
Meditation does not always mean just meditating, but taking the time to be introspective, to relax ones mind, and to clear ones brain. Meditation techniques are an easy way to do this, but one can do this whether it is attending church or just finding a peaceful area; whether a bath tub, hot tub, steam room, or just resting in a quiet place. One can even accomplish a simple mind clearing while sitting at ones desk or in a quiet room. Relaxation techniques greatly aid this process.
Don’t understate the importance of a healthy exercise routine which consists of, not just strengthening or aerobic exercise, but also flexibility, core strength, overall strength, flexibility, and obtaining aerobic conditioning. With busy schedules during the holidays, even a ten minute session of vigorous can produce great positive outcomes.
Although more challenging during the holidays, maintaining a well balanced diet is key. “Well balanced” is defined as the traditional 30% fats, 30% protein, and 40% carbohydrates, but also portion control. If one makes this a lifestyle, then it is much easier to comply, especially when arriving at a holiday table with high calorie treats waiting. A helpful tip to avoid overeating at a holiday social gathering is to consume a well balanced meal prior to arriving at the event. Pre-planning is key to resisting the temptation to overindulge at high calorie gatherings.
Obesity leads to inactivity, discomfort, aches, as well as sleep apnea, risk for hypertension and diabetes, as well as other health ailments. By making a lifetime commitment to proper eating, one has a much better chance of maintaining an appropriate body weight.
The stress-reducing quality of appropriate sleep, especially on a regular basis, cannot be overstated. Adequate sleep does wonders to allow the body and mind to heal, and to put us in a refreshed mood to overcome the challenges in our day. To this point, if one has sleep apnea, or is having significant pain, then sleep can be impaired. Inadequate sleep will cause an impairment of our ability to not only function, but to manage stress levels.
In summary, relaxation, a well-balanced exercise program, a proper balanced diet, and appropriate sleep do wonders to decrease stress in our life, and especially during these hectic holiday days. With the proper use of the “M.E.D.S. philosophy”, we can all enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season.
Here’s to a happy and healthy (stress-free) holiday season, from all of your friends here at Virginia Spine Institute!
Dr. Thomas Schuler is a world-renowned, double board certified spine surgeon; trained in both neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery of the spine. He founded Virginia Spine Institute in 1992 and is a recognized international leader in the treatment of neck and lower back conditions. Dr. Schuler is noted among the 100 best spine surgeons in America, and serves as President of the National Spine Health Foundation as well as Chairman of its Medical and Scientific Board. Learn more about Dr. Schuler.