The Mind-Body Christmas Stress Connection

Does Christmas really make us crazy?

Dr Robert Lustig from the University of California at San Francisco says  the season’s hectic schedule and excesses of festive eating can wreak havoc upon hormones.

Just how much those ‘Christmas hormones’ take hostage of our bodies was described by Dr. Lustig on ABC’s Good Morning America saying the season is fraught with hormonally-driven behaviour – driving irrational actions and thoughts.

He says a potent mix of cortisol, serotonin and dopamine are at play over the holiday season.

While the togetherness of Christmas – ultimately what the day is all about – fosters surges in the happiness hormone, serotonin, the build up is characterised by high levels of stress, or cortisol.

We seek quick contentment fixes in food, for example, which boost dopamine levels temporarily.

And the more that dopamine is triggered, the larger the amounts of food that are needed to feel the hormone’s pleasurable effects – which leads to over-eating, peaks and troughs of insulin and sugar highs and lows.

In the meantime, high stress levels see rises in blood pressure, suppression of the immune system and increased sugar production, he told the show.

It’s only to be expected that mood swings – and arguments – may ensue.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that close to 70 per cent of Americans say they are fatigued by Christmas, says the American Psychological Association.

Some comfort, though, can be taken in another finding by the American Psychological Association, as cited by GMA, that almost 80 per cent of Americans feel positive and happy around the holidays.

Rather than let the holiday’s excesses defeat and traumatise, the secret is to make the most of your companions, family and friends over the period, suggests Dr Lustig.

‘Happiness has nothing to do with money. It has nothing to do with food,’ he told the show’s site.

‘The best is to have a community and to be happy with what you’ve got.’

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