Prevent Holiday Stress from Hurting You

Stress can be a pain in the neck!

But all jokes aside, stress is one of the most common causes of neck pain.

With family being in town for the holidays, cooking mishaps, snowy roads, and terrible traffic, the stress of winter life can have a huge impact on the musculature in our upper body. Little stressors accumulate over time if you do not deal with them properly, and that accumulated stress can eventually lead to structural issues.

The part of the nervous system designed to deal with stress is the sympathetic nervous system - responsible for your Fight or Flight reflex. This reflex prepares your body to either stand up to or run from danger. It was originally developed in a different time, when the most common danger was bears or a pack of wild dogs during hunting or gathering, rather than that rogue aunt who just will not stop commenting on your decision to not find a date for her holiday party. Now that stress has become a normal, everyday occurrence, just like breathing, the sympathetic nervous system becomes the proverbial Mount Everest, which we need to overcome to find relief.

The daily stresses of life cause the sympathetic nervous system to activate major muscle groups, like the trapezius and hamstrings - a reflex that prevents our body to run or battle. But in today’s society, all that prepares our body’s to do is hurt. The strain of constantly hypertonic traps causes the shoulders to elevate and causing significant stress to the lower cervical and upper thoracic spinal regions, the neck and upper back. And the same stress in the hamstrings over time causes inactivation of the glutes and low back pain.


But although stress is now a permanent fixture in our daily lives, the pain doesn’t have to be!

Here are 6 ways to reduce stress and the pains it causes:

1 - Breathe. Whether you meditate daily or just need a minute for yourself after your aunt’s snarky comment, breathing is key. Be sure to breathe with your diaphragm by expanding your belly as you inhale, rather than lifting your chest.

2 - Relax. I know this one is annoying to hear. It’s like telling a bee not to buzz. But allow your shoulders to drop away from your ears, and focus on the muscles relaxing. You can even roll your shoulders back and forth a few times to relieve some of the muscle tension.

3 - Plan ahead. Stress can increase when you are not prepared. So, personally, I have found a general decrease in my daily stress when I take a few minutes, first thing in the morning to plan my day. Adding a few minutes to my morning commute, in case there is extra traffic also helps to decrease the flustered, frustrated feeling first thing in the morning, and if I’m early to work, I have extra time to complete paperwork.

4 - Feed yourself. Food: you literally need it to live. Stop adding stress to your day by punishing yourself for what you ate. Eat carbs, eat fat, and eat protein. If you decide to roll it all into one crisp, fresh salad with chicken, then congrats! You fed yourself! If you roll all of that into one big, juicy cheeseburger, then congrats! You fed yourself! Of course, the healthier choice is the better choice. But sometimes you just need food. And life is about balancing one with the other.

5 - Get your blood pumping. I know you don’t want to hear it, but reducing stress takes exercise. But that doesn’t mean you need to start the Couch to 5K program! Just take a few minutes to break a little sweat! Got a dog? Go to the dog park and chase him/her! Got a kid? Go to the kid park and chase him/her! Got a membership to the local Y? Join me at the Yoga flow class on Sunday afternoons! Get creative with it.

6 - Reduce the stress on the body. Chiropractic care is so important over the winter months. Reducing the negative impact of the abnormal muscle tension can not only reduce discomfort and pain, which let’s be honest, only add fuel to the fire, but it also helps to balance the sympathetic nervous system with its counterpart the parasympathetic nervous system. Your Circle City Chiropractor can also evaluate other parts of your life, like your diet to see if you are lacking in key vitamins/minerals, specifically Vitamin D and B12, which are integral in winter issues like a depressed immune system and lack of energy!


Call or click today to schedule your next, or first, appointment!


With our two very convenient locations in Carmel or Northeast Indy, we’re ready to help you tackle this holiday season!

Circle City Chiropractic

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