Healthy Holidays: How to Stay Injury-Free and (Relatively) Sane

The holiday season is a time to create lasting memories with friends and family, partake in outdoor activities, and enjoy delicious meals. But of course, life rarely goes as planned. As you begin this special time of year, heed these expert words of advice to help keep your holidays injury-free, healthy and relatively sane.

Avoid the Emergency Room

During the holiday season, “Some of the most common injuries include broken wrists, knee injuries and hand lacerations,” says Dr. Leon Benson, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon with NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute and Illinois Bone & Joint Institute. Dr. Benson offers this advice:

  • Slipping on ice often results in broken wrists. Shoes or boots that are specifically designed with extra traction can be critical in preventing falls. “Black ice” conditions develop overnight and falls occur with that first step outside.
  • Injuries related to winter sports activities—skiing, sledding, ice skating and snowboarding—are common. Prevent injury by wearing the protective gear, mastering the skills required to perform the sport (selecting the appropriate ski run difficulty, for example) and keeping an eye on the weather and lighting conditions. Take a break when fatigue sets in.
  • Sharp utensils and preparing complicated holiday meals mean an increase in hand injuries. Key safety principles include never having children use sharp utensils and using the right tool for any job. Never use a knife to cut toward yourself or separate frozen foods.

Enjoy the Meal

With so much good food, it can be torture to resist the temptation fearing weight gain. Registered dietician Karen Raden encourages her clients to indulge within reason. She offers these tips to help you enjoy the food without going overboard:

  • Have realistic goals, like focusing on maintenance rather than trying to lose weight. Take the pressure off and enjoy some of your favorite holiday goodies but set limits. Enjoy what you are eating, consciously.
  • Spend time reconnecting with people you care about instead of focusing solely on the food. When the emphasis goes away  from the food, you will be amazed at the new relationships you make with friends and family.
  • Add activity by taking in a holiday-themed 5K or hitting the gym. You will be relaxed and enjoy the rest of the day preparing for the festivities. Encourage a friend or family member to go for a 30-minute walk to get some fresh air.
  • Eat well with balanced eating in mind. Don’t skip meals, protein and/or calories during the day as a way to allow yourself free reign later in the evening, as your low blood sugar will drive you to overeat.

Manage Stress

Keep your sanity and enjoy the holidays by managing your expectations. “Many people believe that family gatherings should be stress-free, with everyone getting along.” says Robert R. Farra, Ph.D., director of solutions for depression and anxiety, NorthShore University HealthSystem. “For most of us, this ideal doesn’t match our experience, so we’re disappointed and stressed. With some of these individuals, we have a history of disappointments, hurts, and resentments.” Farra suggests the following strategies to help adjust your expectations:

  • Your “self-talk” is crucial in decreasing stress. Become aware of your habitual ways of thinking. Remember, if you’re ruminating about things over which you have no control, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to be happy.
  • Be kind to yourself and others by being non-judgmental. Being self-critical and judging others are, for many, extremely bad habits.
  • Practice gratitude even when everything isn’t perfect. Be grateful for the small things: the opportunity to gather for a meal, catch up on the lives of those present and celebrate another year.

Give Yourself a Break

We tend to overdo things like shopping and cooking. “This extra activity, in addition to our normal activity, is often too much. Space out your shopping trips and cook what you can ahead of time,” says Anne Biala, clinical risk coordinator at Athletico. “Marathon online shopping can lead to low-back and neck pain, and often headaches. Get up from your chair at least every 45 minutes. Go outside for a break.”