Yes, another year has rolled by and once again we approach the holiday season. With the season come all kinds of delectable delights. Did you know that the average American gains 6 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years?

It’s no wonder. It actually begins in October as we start with the Halloween candy which we are just finishing up when lo and behold we are thrust into Thanksgiving. Turkeys, Prime Rib, Hams with dressing, potatoes and cranberry sauce, why it would be un-American not to indulge! And we mustn’t forget the pies, scores and scores of pies and cakes and other tantalizing treats for the tongue that were often baked just for you. How could you resist? And we have only made it through November! Company parties, church gatherings and get togethers with friends all centers around food. The month of December is jam packed. No wonder the gyms and health clubs are over-crowded in January. I wonder how long it takes to lose those 6 pounds (or more) that we’ve gained?

Food isn’t the only thing contributing to our weight gain however. But there’s more. With the Holidays comes stress. It is inevitable. Even if you love the holidays you still suffer the effects of stress. Why? Because we are creatures of habit that’s why. Any change in our environment causes stress in our bodies. Whether you are staying up late to wrap the presents or go to a party or signing the Christmas cards you are probably not getting the amount of sleep that your body is used to and requires.

Chances are you have some kind of conflict during the holidays with someone who is close to you. Everybody has their own mental picture of how everything is supposed to look, how everybody is supposed to act and it often is unrealistic. I mean do you really think that Uncle Harry is going to get along perfectly with Aunt Mary this year? We somehow have these visions of the perfect family, something out of a Norman Rockwell painting and we think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Presents can be a source of discontent for many. I know in my own family there are some who want to draw names, while others want to give to everyone and some want to stop the gift giving all together. You have some people who give extravagant gifts and others who dole out plastic chip clips that you get at the dollar store. How much should you spend and who should you give to?

If you have children you worry about fulfilling their dreams but not over indulging them. You worry about the bills and visualize how you will be paying them long after the novelty of the item wears off.

I hate to tell you but there is a good chance all of this will settle around your waistline. You see stress causes certain changes to occur in your body. When we are put in a stressful situation the brain releases a neurochemical called corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which triggers the "fight or flight" response in the body.

It is a high alert signal for the body to prepare to fight or flee from upcoming danger. The pupils dilate respiration and heart rate increase. CRH causes the release of adrenaline and cortisol, hormones which mobilize fat and carbohydrate stores into the blood stream for quick energy. During this stage, the appetite is suppressed and the digestive system is shut down. This is why many people under acute stress will say that they are too nervous to eat.

However, as the immediate stress dissipates, adrenaline levels drop and we begin to feel calmer. The cortisol levels remain elevated in order to bring the body back to a balanced state. One way it accomplishes this is by increasing the appetite to replenish fat and carbohydrates that should have been used to fight or flee the stressor.

So what happens if you aren't fighting or fleeing from anything? What happens when you stress comes from holiday traffic jams, deadlines, trying to please everybody, financial worries, having a job or a boss you despise, trying to juggle family and career or a host of other modern day stressors? This kind of prolonged stress will cause cortisol levels to stay elevated in turn keeping the appetite chronically elevated. These high levels of cortisol will also keep insulin levels high leading to the deposit of fat stores in the abdominal area.

Can you avoid all of the stress in your life? Of course not. If you are one of the millions however who are chronically stressed out or anxious you may need to learn some ways to "actively relax". Getting a massage, learning breathing exercises, meditation, listening to guided relaxation audios and making time to take walks and exercise can all be helpful. Escape every now and then.

The best advice I can give you is as we approach the holiday season decide how you want to feel. Do you want to feel joyful, happy, at peace? Then start by simply setting that intention everyday. As soon as you wake up. Shout it aloud if you want to. "Today I will be joyful!” You will be surprised at how your days will begin to become easier. Your mind will begin to look for ways to bring more joy into your life. You see the truth is, it was there all along, you just couldn't see it before.

So shout it, sing it, write on post it notes to remind you all day. When you get stuck in that next traffic jam remember that it was joy you wanted to experience and be grateful for this wonderful gift of time you have just be given. Practice a few deep breaths and smile. I promise you holidays will turn out just they way you imagine...full of joy!

Author's Bio: 

Kathryn Watson has been helping clients relax and enjoy life for over 15 years. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist, a Certified Hypnotherapist and a Life Coach Kathryn is the creator of 7 guided relaxation CD’s including her latest “WeightRelease™” a hypnotic CD set to help you release your excess weight and maintain your goal weight.
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