It is winter, and those who come to see me at Stout Chiropractic clinic know that I am not all too enthusiastic about the cold, ice, or snow. I’m not a total Grinch though, I promise! I think the snow is beautiful—from my cozy view indoors—and I love all of the lights. I love family coming together to enjoy food and drinks and share gifts. If you can bear the cold, winter can be the most wonderful time of the year!
Winter, however, has its own unique stresses that can ruin anyone’s spirits and put metaphorical coal in your stockings. Here are 5 safe winter practices for your body and mind.
1. Safe walking on Ice
Protect your back and whole body with safe practices on wintry surfaces. If you have any suspicion that the ground is icy: TAKE SMALL, SHORT STRIDES. Even if you’re late, it’s better to take it slow and steady than risk a bad fall.
Ice under snow is a particular risk, because your feet can slip out from under you with no warning. People usually take longer strides in deeper snow, and they expect the ground to have more traction underneath the snow.
Also, be sure to wear winter appropriate shoes that are heavier and have sufficient traction on the bottoms. This is not an alternative to short steps though. Heavier boots with good traction will reduce your chances of falling. Be sure to do both for a successfully safe winter.
2. Reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety
Remember that mental health is a core part of full-body well being. The holidays are meant to be a time to reflect on giving and cherishing moments with your loved ones. This is a beautiful thing, but it can also lead to unnecessary added stress and anxiety. If you were out during black Friday at some of the big box stores, you wouldn’t know that this is a time for giving and being kind to others. Even if people are simply seeking the best gifts at the cheapest prices for their loved ones, is it really worth enduring all the stress?
I think that giving is all about the thought, and it should itself be an enjoyable experience. That may mean going with a friend, alone, or early morning/late at night when fewer customers are around. Think ahead and make the necessary plans.
3. Reduce sugar intake
Don’t forget that diet (what you put into your body) is an important part of your health. Eggnog, hot apple cider, gingerbread cookies, fruit cakes, iced sugar cookies, candied yams, candied ham, etc. I think you get the picture. Holiday foods are FULL of sugar. Excess sugar is one of the worse things for your overall health. It has been linked to depression, cancer, and tumor progression and growth, heart disease, and of course, weight gain.
Cutting out sugar can do wonders for your mental and physical health. And even if you can’t cut out sugar entirely, that’s no reason to throw in the towel! Simply be aware and make conscious decisions about when and what you choose to indulge. Moderation is key.
4. Safe driving
While you should always practice safe driving, the snow brings a whole new level of instability to your travels. This makes it even more vital to make sure everyone you are riding with is buckled up and fastened in safely. This is also not the time to realize your brakes and/or tires need to be changed. Take care of those if you have not done so already.
Also, with New Year’s Eve just around the corner, please do not drink and drive! Know your limit and don’t even get close to it if you have to drive. Ride with someone who plans on not drinking or call a cab, Lyft, or Uber. There are too many options rather than take that chance. A DUI, injury, or death will surely put you out of the holiday spirit.
Last note on driving, it is a good idea to keep a thick blanket in your car if you are taking a long road trip in the winter and/or snowstorm. If you are stranded for whatever reason and your car won’t start, the blanket could keep you warm enough a little longer before help arrives.
5. Shoveling snow with good ergonomics
With snow comes shoveling, and believe it or not, shoveling snow is a moderately intense work-out! Consider the following tips to protect your back, muscles, and joints while shoveling snow properly:
- Be sure to stretch and warm up your muscles before shoveling snow. You could easily strain a muscle if you get right into it first thing on a cold morning.
- Most important point is to take it easy. Do not try to scoop up more snow than you can comfortably handle.
- Bend at the legs instead of at the waist when you initially go to scoop up your target pile of snow. Use your whole body to lift and dump as gently as possible. (Do not twist the upper body and sling the snow as quickly.)
- Take your time! Start early if you need to, so you are not rushed.
At the end of the day, this season is supposed to be a time for taking it easy, loving your family, and reflecting back on all of the prior year’s accomplishments and memories. If you keep these tips in mind over this holiday season, you will be welcoming 2019 in good spirits and health!
If, despite your best efforts, you still end up with tension or back pain, we are here for you! We’re happy to help get you adjusted and better able to adapt to these physically and mentally stressful times. Be safe and happy holidays from all of us at Stout Chiropractic!