Don’t shop until you drop this holiday season

The stress and strain of holiday shopping combined with our overly stressful lifestyles can take a heavy toll on our bodies.

Stress is recognized as the No. 1 killer in today’s society. The American Medical Association (AMA) notes that stress is the cause of 80 to 85 percent of all human illness and disease, and every week 95 million Americans suffer some kind of stress-related symptom for which they take medication.

How destructive can stress be on your body? “Stress is dangerous and can affect every system in your body,” says Dale Healey, DC, dean of the School of Massage Therapy at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn. “When you allow stress to affect your life, you are allowing it to influence every organ and every cell in your body.”

As our bodies try to cope with everyday stress, the physical strains inflicted by hours of wearing awkward winter coats and toting heavy packages can take a toll on our bodies—and our emotional well-being. Dr. Healey recommends that holiday shoppers treat holiday shopping as an athletic endeavor. He also recommends finding ways to manage stress during the holidays and throughout the year.

Dr. Healey offers the following 11 tips for surviving the holiday season:

1. Stay hydrated. Drink eight to 10 glasses (8 ounces) of water a day.

2. Stretch before and after a long day of shopping. When the body is stressed, muscles are less flexible than usual.

3. Wear walking shoes to lessen the impact of walking on hard shopping mall floors.

4. Dress in layers to accommodate for the temperature differences between busy stores and the cold outdoors.

5. Take frequent rest breaks, and refuel with healthy snacks, not coffee, soda or sugary treats.

6. If possible, don’t take children along on holiday shopping trips. Children often tire faster than adults, adding to the stress of the day.

7. Although the holidays are busy, make time to do some enjoyable activities whenever possible.

8. Whenever you can, notice and relieve tension in your body. Breathe deeply and gently stretch and relax any tense areas.

9. Wear comfortable and loose clothing when possible.

10. Avoid holding in feelings day after day, but instead, find a safe place to feel, express and embrace them.

11. Schedule an appointment for a massage during the hectic holiday season. While it may seem like yet another item on your to-do list, massage lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and reduces fatigue (emotional and physical).

For additional resources about surviving the holiday season, go to, a Web site focusing on natural approaches to health and wellness hosted by Northwestern Health Sciences University.

From the Nov. 22-28, 2006, issue

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