December is known as the most wonderful time of year. It marks the midpoint of the holiday season, being that Thanksgiving is the beginning and New Year’s Day signifies the ending.  The festivities cause us to indulge.  We shop, we eat and we certainly drink. From across the country to other territories abroad it doesn’t matter if you are religious, spiritual or an atheist, the holiday season forces us all to be a little jollier compared to the rest of the year.  

But despite the joyous benefits the season tends to bring us, it can also cause harm to our bodies and minds. According to a study published in 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine, “the average American gain 1.3 pounds in the 10 days following Christmas.” Another study from the same journal had previously revealed that the average American gained 0.8 pounds between November and January. In addition to the weight gains, we also tend to increase our consumption of alcohol.  

“Many of us look forward to celebrations during the holidays, yet it is also a time when some people are more likely to drink beyond their limits than at other times of the year. Some will suffer adverse consequences that range from fights to falls to traffic crashes. Sadly, we often put ourselves and others at risk because we don’t understand how alcohol affects us during an evening of celebratory drinking,” journalist Bob Barnard of FOX 5 DC recently reported.

The symptoms of excessive stress include:

Sleeping difficulty

Increase in heart rate

Mood swings

Irritability

Weight gain, especially around the belly area

Consistent headaches

Exhaustion

Cold hands and feet 

Back pains

Excessive muscle tension

Nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain

Issues with digestion 

What affects the body also affects the mind. The holiday season also brings us an excessive amount of stress and anxiety. One of the biggest triggers of stress comes from the rush to buy gifts. Though Black Friday is the biggest day for retailers yet it provides shoppers with one of the most stressful times in their lives. Aside from shopping, stress and anxieties can also occur from the anticipation of a dreadful family get together.

Cortisol is one of the many hormones the body releases during stress. It provides support to cope with challenges but while cortisol may aide the body during stressful times, blood sugar levels may rise, causing further metabolic imbalances. 

“Because the holiday season often requires us to keep track of and pay attention to a greater number of responsibilities than usual, the brain’s prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive,” reads an article published by the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. “Over time, a high level of demand can decrease memory, halt production of new brain cells, and cause existing brain cells to die.” 

The holiday season is brief compared to the rest of the year, but if one does not pay attention to the harm it can cause on the body, and the stress it can cause on the mind, more severe issues may arise in the long run. To reduce the physical and mental harm of the holiday season, give yourself a time out. Allow yourself to relax. Pay attention to the foods you put in your body and know when you had too much to drink.   

*Editorial Note: The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider in regards to the previously described conditions.