Don’t end up Black & Blue this Black Friday

thanksgiving_dinner2Congratulations!  You survived another Thanksgiving.  Hopefully the only thing that ended up being stuffed this year was your turkey.

However, the holiday hazards aren’t over yet.  Experts warn that the stress that accompanies Black Friday shopping can add costs, far greater than those we ring up at the mall.

While retail stores are raking in the money, shoppers are probably having a more negative experience. Although we all love a Black Friday deal, “it is more like Red Friday for the consumer, as the shopper goes into debt to pay for purchases,” says Nancy Barton, professor in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University.

Besides overspending, four people have died and dozens of injuries have occurred in the Black Friday shopping frenzy in the past four years.

black-friday-shopping-fightWho can forget the images of the trampled Walmart worker in Long Island; the collapsed man bypassed by shoppers at a West Virginia Target and a shooting at a Toys R Us over an item brawl.

Clearly, both consumers and stores are clearly unprepared for the post-Thanksgiving stress and excitement.

Some have argued that we are wired for desire as a result of our dopamine reward pathways.” Barton adds, “When we are overstimulated by a novel experience or unlimited choices on Black Friday, a craving (for more) and insatiable desire is triggered.”

The key to combating these desires relies on the executive, thinking part of the brain. However, this control can be hindered if you are stressed out, tired and hungry, arguably the three main traits of an all-night Black Friday shopper.

How can you avoid these stressors?  How about? :

fit familyOpting out of Black Friday shopping. Think of another way to give a gift. How about buying an “experience” for your loved one(s)?  After all, there is plenty of evidence that it’s experiences, rather than things that make us happy. What about a family gym membership? Not only will you stay healthy, but the family that works out together, is more likely to stay together

Paying It Forward. Instead of spending, how about giving? Think about those who are less fortunate than you and do something for them. Visit an elderly neighbor living alone; volunteer at a local hospital / animal shelter, soup kitchen. Your smile and touch may be the greatest gift of all.

self reflectionTrying some self-reflection. The perfect antidote for ungrateful feelings is to practice gratefulness.  List three things that you are grateful for. Embody the feelings of gratefulness. Positive emotions and satisfaction with what you already have will start to unfold as you reflect on your list.

Whatever you end up doing today – please stay safe.

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Help for the Holiday Blues

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all

For many this truly is the happiest and most wonderful time of the year. But for those who have lost a loved one, the empty chair at the table or fewer presents under the tree can be a painful reminder of our loved ones who are no longer with us.

There are so many traditions associated with the holiday season that it can be an emotional roller coaster for someone who has recently lost a loved one,” says Nancy Kiel, bereavement coordinator for Loyola University Health System. “Many people wish they could just fast forward through the holidays, but getting through the season is possible if you give yourself permission to be flexible.”

So for all those who are grieving and mourning the loss of someone this Holiday season here’s some tips that might help make the holidays a little brighter.

  1. Discuss holiday plans as a family. Everyone is feeling the loss, so talk about what you are going to do and be willing to compromise. If you don’t like the change you made, next year you can always go back to the way you did it before.
  2. Skip the mall. Christmas shopping can be stressful even when not dealing with grief. Consider giving gift cards or shop online to avoid the mall madness. Remember it’s not just about the presents, but about the presence of caring and supportive people.
  3. You can say no. The party invitations and social gatherings might be more difficult this year. You can say no or give yourself some breathing room by asking to RSVP at a later date. If you do go, drive yourself. This will allow you the freedom to leave at your discretion. Also, try to avoid “should people” who say “you should do this or you should do that.”
  4. Honor your loved one. Start a new tradition to honor and remember your loved one. You could light a special candle, at dinner have everyone at the table share a favorite memory or all take part in a loved one’s favorite holiday activity. Do something that would make your loved one smile.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. Do what you need to do and pamper yourself. If you need to take a nap, take a nap. Exercise is a great stress reliever, so bundle up and take a walk.
  6. It’s OK to change traditions. Do something different this year. Take a vacation somewhere hot. Skip the cooking and go to a restaurant, volunteer with those even less fortunate.

“Grief is hard work and it can be exhausting, but it is something we must do,”  advises Kiel. “If you put it on a back burner you’ll never heal. You can’t go around, over or under grief – you have to go through it. So find someone who will listen unconditionally and tell your story.”

For more information, visit www.loyolamedicine.org or call Nancy Kiel at (708) 216-1646.

Black Friday Fitness

After a day of over-indulging on family, food and football, now it’s time to turn your thoughts to Holiday shopping. But before heading out to join the Black Friday frenzy, SRxA’s Word on Health is here to make sure you’re prepared.

First, you need to recognize that Black Friday shopping is a sport and a dangerous sport at that!  You need to prepare with the thoroughness of an Olympic athlete to outperform your competition.

And while it might be too late to get in shape for the 2012 holiday shopping season, it’s never too early to begin next year’s preparations!

The workout plan below will help you get ready to take on both the stores and the other shoppers by improving your agility to grab the best deals.

Warm Up

  • 5-minutes on the treadmill or elliptical will help warm up your muscles in preparation for the door-opening and mad stampede that follows

Workout

  • 25  x Jumping Jacks – will help to reach those must-have items on the top shelves
  • 2  x Agility Ladder runs – be ready to make sharp turns while maintaining speed and control to help you avoid crowds and crush injuries
  • 10 x Box Jumps – to develop lower body power and elevate your heart rate and prepare you for both the physical exertion and psychological stress of a long day of shopping
  • 25 yard Bear Crawls – to help strengthen your back and core in preparation for carrying home all those bargains
  • 5 x Suicide Runs –  to build up your endurance and agility
  • 25 x Walking Lunges – to tone up your glutes, hamstrings and quads, so you look good while you shop
  • 45 x Pick Pockets. Help yourself to evade pick-pockets through these abdominal twists and turns
  • 15 Push-ups. Work out all the muscles in your upper body and build optimal strength in your forearms, wrists, upper arms, shoulders and chest. All important for pushing carts and maximizing parcel carrying power.
  • 10 Dumbbell Deadlifts – work your back, butt, hips and legs, ready for taking steps three at a time and gaining headway on those standing in line for the elevator

Cool Down: 

  • Stretching out, eyes closed, on the recliner or arms raises with a cold adult beverage

After all – if you make it out of the mall, with body and finances still relatively intact – you’ve earned it!

Beating the Thanksgiving Guilt

With the holidays right around the corner, we suspect that many of our readers will already be worrying about the consequences of overindulgence and the missed days at the gym.

Fear not!  According to experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, you can get daily exercise throughout the holiday season, by adding heart-pumping twists to tasks already on your holiday to-do list.

Many holiday activities offer ways to get the 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity that your body needs to help fight off many forms of cancer and other diseases,” says Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson.

How, you may ask, is that possible?  Food, family and hours of watching football are hardly traditional calorie burners.

Well,  true to our mission statement, Transforming Challenges into Opportunities, SRxA’s Word on Health brings you our top exercise tips for the holidays:

Shopping?

Instead of driving around in search of a parking space near the door of the grocery store or mall, park as far from the entrance as you can.    Or, if you’re taking the bus, get off a stop or two early. Once  inside, opt for the stairs instead of the elevator and, if possible, carry your purchases instead of using a shopping cart.

Hosting guests?
Readying the house for guests and cleaning up after they leave is a great way to sneak in aerobic activity. With the right mindset, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, gardening and the multiple trips upstairs to put away laundry or holiday decorations become exercise opportunities, rather than chores.

Traveling?

If you’re flying or taking the train or bus take a brisk walk around the terminal while waiting to depart, and when you arrive at your destination, make your walk to baggage claim or the exit a quick one.

Whichever you chose, by making physical activity part of your holiday plans, you’ll ensure you have the momentum to keep exercising in the New Year.

Happy, Healthy Holidays to you all.