Holiday Ergonomics - Kitchen and Entertaining
Our bodies react to stress by switching into the 'fight or flight' mode. This is normal and occurs with both physical and psychological stress. In the Holidays, we have both. Our bodies become filled with stress hormones: adrenaline, cortisol, and others. Heart rate speeds up, blood pressure rises, breathing is faster and shallower, and muscles tense. Pain sensations are suppressed. The body prepares for action.
Unfortunately, while our bodies prepare for danger, we need to be calm with family and guests. We need to keep control and maintain awareness of basic kinematic principles. Muscles under stress tighten and put stress on weakend structures.
It is harder to work in a deliberate manner, remembering to protect muscles, joints and tendons already sore or injured. With pain suppressed by hormones, you may not feel it at the time.
Here are some tips for food preparation and your mental preparation.
. Try to keep activities low key.
. Plan your meal so that it's easy to make. Make as much as possible ahead of time so that on the day of festivity you have less to deal with.
. Get help for tasks that may be difficult, even if you think you can do it yourself.
. Don't Over-reach. Keep your tools close so that you don't need to stretch to reach them.
. If you are lifting or carrying items, your first step should be to prepare the place where you will set them down.
. Lift from your strongest vantage point. Move close to the item. Best lifts heights (start and finish) are from 6 inches below the waist to 6 inches above the waist. As you lift, pay attention to your breathing.
. For heavy weights (like turkey roasters or turkeys on platters), set your posture and breathe in before you lift.
. Maintain good posture for all strenuous activities (like stirring, moving full pots and pans, etc).
. Use your large arm muscles, not your wrist or fingers for chopping, peeling, dish washing and other repetitive activities.
. Use tools like the electric knife or adaptive jar openers to decrease need for strength.
. If you have trigger finger, be sure to use kitchen tools with large grips. The Good Grips brand works well.
. Make sure your knives are sharp. Chopping with dull knives requires more strength and control. There are also more injuries from dull knives.
. Allow more than enough time for preparation on the day of the event. Try to schedule a long relaxing bath or shower before your final preparations.
Above all, set out to enjoy the people you are with. That is your best way to lessen overall stress as well as to accomplish real goal of the event.
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