When carols start to play, snow flurries start to fall, and twinkling lights start to peek out from behind normally closed curtains, some people want to crawl under the covers and hide until December 26.
The idea of fighting the crowds in the shopping malls, trying to find the perfect gifts that are sure to be returned, putting up decorations no one appreciates and run the electricity bill up, and then getting to hang out with friends and family that no one likes the other 364 days of the year just adds to the holiday malaise.
The stress from the “most wonderful time of the year” can wear many people down. And it’s not just a personal thing, research shows hormones at this time of year can have an impact on everyone’s behavior.
According to a December 8, 2011 ABCNews.com story, many experts are saying that one’s feelings, thoughts and actions during the holiday season are driven by hormonal changes that are more extreme at this time of year and may explain some erratic behavior from otherwise normally sane people in December.
Experts say the stress hormone, cortisol, can increase sugar production in the liver to power one’s muscles which also can increase blood pressure. On top of that, an increase in cortisol can turn into visceral fat to be stored at one’s middle causing further stress especially for women. Stress can also lower one’s immune system and thereby ushering cold and flu viruses into one’s body.
However, not all hormones that increase during the holiday season are bad. A 2006 survey by the American Psychological Association found that though stress does increase during the holidays, particularly for lower income people, it is first and foremost a time for joy.
In the survey, people reported many positive emotions such as happiness (78 percent), love (75 percent) and high spirits (60 percent). There is a also a feeling of connectedness that many people reported. In an open-ended question about the best part about the holidays, 53 percent mentioned family or friends and 36 percent specifically said spending time with family.
These positive feelings can increase serotonin, known as the true happiness hormone.