By Alecia Sexton
The saying goes that the holiday season is the “most wonderful time of the year”, right? Food, family, Christmas, vacations… It’s more than easy to point out all the wonderful things about the time between Thanksgiving to Christmas, but what we often overlook, whether it be because we’re still young and have yet to taken over some of the authority that’s required to make the holiday season special, or because we simply don’t think about it, is the stress that comes along with the magic.
According to a study done by the American Psychological Association in 2006, on average, 61% of Americans experience an increase in stress levels during the holiday season. Like so many things in this world, beneath all of the glitz and glamour lie struggles.
As pointed out in a 2013 study done by the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, holiday demands put a great deal of pressure on a section of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This section is responsible for planning, memory, attention, organization, and allocating appropriate behavior across multiple environments. Because of all the must do’s during the “happiest season of all”, the prefrontal cortex gets overused and burnt out. This leads to a decrease in memory proficiency, decreased ability to multitask, and a slower production of new, healthy cells. Couple this with a diet of sugar cookies and eggnog and no exercise, and you’ve got yourself a merry mess.
While all of this is true of the holiday season, in no way does this mean that the holidays can’t be enjoyed. Nick Conetta, a freshman said that he’s “super excited for the upcoming break and the holidays. He can’t wait to catch up with his family on their annual Catskills vacation, eat tons of food and take a much needed break from work and wrestling. Regarding finals, “Time management and staying on top of everything is key to not letting the stress of the season build up,” he added.
Some words of advice I’d give to anyone who wants to avoid their annual holiday spike in blood pressure is to set realistic goals. Plan to purchase gifts that are within a fair price range and don’t spread yourself too thin trying to accomplish ten things in one day.
Also, it’s important to surround yourself with loved ones who understand the stress in your life and are willing to help when they can.