The end-of-year rush can be stressful for a lot of people. It is during this time that deadlines at work are being rushed to meet year-end requirements; social lives can also get quite busy during the winter months as holiday parties with friends and family fill our calendars. In fact, nearly 40% of Americans expressed sentiments about skipping the holidays entirely because of the many stressors they have to deal with. There are also various consequences to having high levels of stress, such as weight gain, mood swings, and worsening chronic conditions. In addition to putting on the pounds, here’s what studies have found holiday stress can lead to:
Low or Erratic Mood
Stress is known to release a hormone in the bloodstream called cortisol, which is responsible for the fight or flight response. This, in turn, triggers our stress response, which focuses our energy stores to react to potentially dangerous situations. While this is a normal physiological occurrence, constantly having elevated levels of cortisol in your body can be detrimental to your health and affect aspects such as your mood. A study published on the research website Frontiers in Psychology found that cortisol can negatively affect emotional responses since it lowers the amount of serotonin, or feel-good hormones, in your body. This results in mood swings, irritability, and feelings of depression.
During the holidays, it’s even more important to take a step back and catch your breath. When you’re scheduling your Christmas shopping and parties, don’t forget to include days for rest and recuperation.
Stress may be especially apparent as people try to navigate the holidays with COVID-19 still present. This can cause weight gain due to the very same hormone that affects our mood: cortisol. It stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolisms, creating a surge of energy in the body that demands food, resulting in weight gain. And with so many parties taking place during the holiday season, it’s difficult not to put on the pounds. While it might be tempting to indulge in lots of good food this holiday season, health website SymptomFind recommends preparing healthy holiday fare instead, such as a charcuterie platter and olive oil-drizzled salads. Not only are they healthier options good for you, but they can also curb your appetite for more indulgent dishes.
Keeping your stress levels at bay, surrounding yourself with healthier food options, and even looking into new FDA-approved weight management meds can prevent you from putting on too much weight during this holiday season.
Aggravating Chronic Conditions
Stress could actually be making you sicker. Because of its mechanism in the body, the very same lifesaving reaction triggered by the stress response can disturb your immune, digestive, sleep, reproductive, and cardiovascular systems. This is why people can get aches and pains when they are extremely stressed out. New or existing conditions can be exacerbated due to long-term stress, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and gastrointestinal issues, to name a few. If you have prescription medication, it might be a good time to visit your doctor and figure out whether there are necessary changes needed during the hectic season.
With so many things to think about during the holidays, you may feel the mental stress more significantly. Too much stress built up from holiday planning, work, and other brain-intensive activities can trigger constant worrying, racing thoughts, an inability to focus, and poor judgment. It’s also possible to fall into a negative mindset and become disorganized and forgetful when you’re under too much stress during the holiday season. It may be helpful to delegate some of your tasks or reprioritize them; the holiday season should be fun, not just stressful.
As discussed above, there are many other effects that stress can have on one’s health aside from weight gain, especially during the holidays. Stress management and taking care of your overall health are essential to surviving such a busy time of year.
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