We sat down with Shanele Lundahl, DC, MS of the amazing Myo Medical, a Concierge Medicine practice to chat about keeping your eye on the prize this Holiday season. By practicing self care and keeping gratitude at the forefront the prize of joy is a gift you can open every day. Here is her advise to make that happen:
November is the beginning of what I consider the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of the year when we all get to hit the pause button on our work lives and to-do lists. We get to head to a loved one’s home or host them in our own, spending some much needed quality time with the people who give our life light.
We begin the Holiday season with Thanksgiving! During this time we tend to spend a lot of time on our feet in the kitchen preparing the food, cleaning up the household preparing for guests, or even attending that annual Thanksgiving Day football game in the park. Once all the yummy food is consumed we then tend to lay haphazardly on the couches in a post-turkey coma. Sounds like a glorious day, but our bodies tend to pay for it the next day – maybe even as early as that same evening.
Let’s run through a quick series of stretches that can keep your body feeling good & mobile throughout the day. Remember to breathe throughout the entire stretch! If it hurts, keep up with good belly breathing.
Standing Downward Facing Dog
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Standing Calf Stretch
Seated Lower Back Stretch
Seated Wrist Stretches
Standing Downward Facing Dog → Let’s bring out the inner yogi in everyone this holiday season! Stand facing your countertop, back of couch or tabletop. Stand feet shoulder width apart, then double it if you can. Hinging at your hips rather than your low back place your hands on the top of the counter, I like gripping the sink or back of the couch for leverage to deepen my stretch. Aim to have your trunk parallel to the floor relaxing your shoulders + neck. Push your hips back further to deepen the stretch. I like to EXHALE on my way down & INHALE as I come up. Stretches → Front of chest + shoulders, forcing extension into the mid-back between the shoulder blades.
Seated Hamstring Stretch → While seated keep one knee bent for support, ankle directly under knee. Other leg is outstretched in front of you with your toes being actively pulled towards shins. While remaining in neutral spine + sitting tall, hinge forward from your hips just until you feel the pull in the back of your thigh + knee. Don’t allow you body to round forward, think one straight line for your trunk up through the top of your head.
Seated Lower Back Stretch → After standing for long periods of time, most of us tend to want to stretch out lower backs. We tend to do so by trying to touch our toes while standing, however most of us don’t really have the true flexibility to do this safely & without tensing up somewhere else. While seated spread your legs apart wide enough that your body can fit in between, with your ankles directly under knees. Before lowering down sit up nice & straight, take a big inhale and as you exhale lower down in between your legs. Slowly roll the body downward, think of rolling one vertebrae down at a time. If you can reach the floor think of reaching your arms out so that you can get a little more decompression. While here take a few breaths from the belly. Try to relax everything from the neck down. When you come up us both hands and slowly unwind back up to a seated position.
Seated Wrist Stretches → Since we tend to use our hands a lot around the holidays whether that’s spending all morning in the kitchen or prepping the house for the guests, we need to show our wrists + hands some love. With your shoulders relaxed use one hand to pull back all your fingers + palm into extension until you feel a stretch on inside of your forearm. Elbow should be fully extended in front of you. Reverse the stretch by curling all your fingers in & flexing wrist downwards, apply a little more pressure to the backside of the hand. You should feel this on the outside of your forearm. Switch back & forth a few times until you feel it loosening up, repeat on opposite side.
Standing Calf Stretch → Find a wall or sturdy structure. With one straight leg, bend the opposite knee to allow the placement of the ball of the foot onto the wall/structure. Straighten the bent knee so that both are now straight again. Lean forward to deepen the stretch further into calf. If you have an incline board in your home or gym, these are great for stretching your calves as well. Our calves are some of the hardest working muscles throughout our day, they propel us to walk. Show them some love finally!
Mindfulness during Thanksgiving!
This is a PERFECT time to begin with some mindfulness training for the whole family! What better week to start than when the family is home for the holiday?! Living more mindfully does not mean that you have to drastically change your life, but more about drastically changing your perspective, so that we can live happier lives! How often do you think to yourself, “There’s just not enough hours in the day”, or “I blinked and the entire month of October was gone!” When we tend to get caught up in the express lanes of life, we feel like we do a thousand things in a day, but what’s the point? Where’s the meaning to our days that makes us excited to get up the next day? Seems kind of hard some days, huh?
Let’s slowly change this model of a fast lane life, into more of the country road lifestyle. Where you still get from point A to point B, BUT you are so much happier along the way and appreciate much more. You don’t miss those little moments with loved ones. You don’t feel like you’re living in a whirlwind, like you can actually breathe. Sounds wonderful, right? Lets see some simple changes we can do to lead us closer to this lifestyle!
Gratitude Training → This one is super simple and is great for all ages of the family! Each member of the family gets their own ‘Gratitude Journal’. Nothing fancy, just a space to write down in each day. Pick a time during the day when you can write down 3 things that you are grateful for that day, or previous day if you do it in the morning! These things should be super simple, almost detailed. Example: “I am grateful today for the woman who smiled at me on the way to work.” or “I was grateful for that cup of coffee this morning.”
One great Thanksgiving tradition is to have each person say one thing they are grateful for before eating begins! I love the idea of saying 1 thing you are grateful for about the person sitting to your left and continuing around the table until everyone has had their turn. This makes us take a moment to think about the people we love and are surrounded by at this meal. Takes the focus away from material things.
Be fully present when listening no interruption or judgement → Try this with yourself & your kids! With either going to a dinner or hosting one yourself this year, you will most likely have some guests to entertain. We tend to not be fully present when someone else is talking, sometimes even finishing their own sentences in our mind so that we don’t pay attention to what they are even saying anymore. Teach your child that it is important to listen FULLY to what someone is telling them. To interest a child more in conversations, try letting them ask some questions that they want answered. Maybe sit down and think of some interesting questions that you may want to ask someone, perhaps about their childhood or previous travels. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about someone who you thought you already knew!
Don’t deny or avoid emotions → Surprisingly, this is harder for adults than children. When children experience an emotion, you definitely are aware of what is going on. However, when adults are experiencing an emotion we tend to either ignore it, stuff it deep down or we mislabel it because we don’t really see it for what it truly is. Children learn by example from their parents, and this is not a healing way of dealing with emotions. First thing to learn is that you should know that you are NOT your thoughts or emotions. These are fleeting things, meaning that they change & go as quickly as they come. Our role is not to get caught up in them, but more so – sit back and explore them. Teaching your kids to not deny an emotion, but to sit with it and figure out WHY they are experiencing this emotion is an incredibly powerful tool.
Example: A child is angered and acting out because of their emotions. Instead of reacting to their actions, focus on their emotions. Get down at the level of the child, so that you can be face to face. In a calm manner, simply ask the child what’s wrong. It may take some time for them to calm down, you yourself should remain calm during this time. When they finally tell you what’s wrong, validate them! “Wow, you must be so upset that this happened. I know I would be really sad if it happened to me. What do you think we should do to make this better?” Showing them that you not only listened, but that you can empathize with them is HUGE. When we’re upset, nothing calms us down more than someone else understanding + comforting us.
Now – try this with yourself. Talk to your inner child, we all still have them. When your emotions go wild, don’t deny them – dig deeper! Figure out WHY you are so emotional. Your mind rests much easier when you begin to understand where these emotions come from rather than getting rid of them as quickly as we can!