If you have ever wondered why you feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained at Christmas – a time meant for merriness and cheer – it could be due to the stress of the holiday wreaking havoc on your hormones.
There’s no doubt Christmas affects our behavior, bringing out the best and worst in us. For some, it can be a time to interact with family, indulge in one’s favourite foods, and recharge the batteries before the next year begins. For others, the stress of online shopping, navigating Christmas high streets (especially during a pandemic), coordinating the family schedule and organising the food shop is enough to bring on a myriad of negative emotions, from stress through to severe anxiety.
A mix of cortisol, serotonin and dopamine – hormones that appear in normal amounts throughout our day-to-day lives – spike throughout the Christmas season, and these are to blame for those highs and lows that are sometimes experienced during this time. However, there are ways to handle the holidays that won’t leave you feeling exhausted by the end of the year. Here are our tips on what to avoid and how to get a handle on those Christmas hormones.
Not everyone finds Christmas joyful all the time. Cortisol is on overdrive during the Christmas break, and has an effect on the hippocampus which may decrease memory and multitasking ability. You’ve got to think about decorations, food shopping, buying gifts, finding time to wrap them, visiting friends and family, and everything else – that can mean a lot of stress!
Instead of pressuring yourself to do it all, listen to your body. Try to relax. Don’t oversubscribe to commit. If you know that your Christmas period is set to be busy, plan some downtime for yourself in advance to break up the stressful periods. This will help your body to regulate your cortisol levels, and give you a chance to catch up. Exercise has been scientifically proven to help reduce stress, so why not grab your coat and enjoy a brisk walk?
Mince pies, pigs in blankets, Christmas pudding – they’re all delicious, but they can do more harm than good, especially when you’re overindulging on other foods too. These foods boost dopamine (the feel-good transmitter) temporarily, which means that you’ll need more in order to sustain that feeling of contentment, leading to overeating. What’s more, the food that you eat can drastically alter your mood in the short-term too. For example, consuming sugary food increases blood sugar levels, elevating your mood (and making you feel good) before crashing back down again a few hours later (making you feel low). Meanwhile, eating lots of heavy meals that are rich in dairy and carbohydrates can make you feel sluggish and fatigued.
Instead, make the following tweaks to your festive food plans:
- Make healthier food choices, such as opting for crunchy vegetables and a delicious homemade dip rather than a bowl of crisps for the pre-dinner snack
- Buy only what you need when you’re shopping for food
- Enjoy just a few treats and go for quality over quantity
- Take time to savour your food when you eat it
- Choose foods that can help boost your mood, like cruciferous vegetables, nuts, and seafood
- Choose foods that keep you fuller for longer, like protein-packed turkey, and vegetables that feature complex carbohydrates
It’s not unusual to struggle with sleep if you’re going through menopause. During Christmas, you may find that your sleep becomes even more disturbed as you consume more sugary foods and drink (including alcohol), stay up later in the evenings, and experience increased stress. This can lead to having low energy during the day, prompting you to reach for the caffeine and consume even more sugary foods to perk yourself up with. But this is a big no-no!
To prevent your body from relying on stimulation from unhealthy foods, keep up a gentle exercise routine over Christmas. Go for a post-dinner walk to get the endorphins flaring up. Then, if you still feel tired, embrace the afternoon nap!
Speak To A Specialist About Your Hormone Concerns
We’d like to wish you a happy holiday and new year! If you need help, our friendly team is here to give you guidance and help you balance your hormones.