This Is Why The Holiday Season Leaves You Feeling SO Exhausted, According To Experts
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose — is it just me, or does “The Christmas Song” sound like the ideal tune for a cozy winter nap? Frankly, I don’t know about you, but some of my best memories around this time of year involve dozing off on the couch while watching a holiday movie, my mug half-full of cocoa on the coffee table. With presents to buy, cookies to bake, and parties to attend, the holidays can make you tired because the most wonderful time of the year is always bustling. But a busy social calendar isn’t necessarily to blame here, friends. Jam-packed weekends plus office parties can definitely have something to do with this kind of seasonal exhaustion, but there are probably a few other other sleep-inducing elements at play around the holidays, too.
Cliché as it may sound, I personally feel like I live my best life around the holidays. From Thanksgiving on, I make a huge effort to be as jolly and merry as humanly possible, by making a list (and checking it twice) of seasonal to-dos to get me and my husband in the holiday spirit. Generally speaking, scheduling these activities works like a charm, but sometimes my spirit takes a turn for the tiresome, and we both need a day or two of doing absolutely nothing but dozing in front of the TV to recharge. And while I always assumed it was my ambitiously full calendar that made us feel so sleepy, apparently there are a handful of more subtle reasons why you might feel tired around the holidays, many of which have nothing to do with gift swaps or holiday parties.
That said, in order to understand where holiday exhaustion, specifically, comes from, it's good to have a general idea of what makes the human body tired in the first place. According to Dr. Raj Gupta, wellness expert and founder of Soul Focus Wellness Center, your energy levels depend on your adrenal glands, which, as per Johns Hopkins Medicine, are located above the kidneys and produce hormones to regulate your metabolism, blood pressure, and help your body properly respond to stress.
There are three major things that can disrupt the way your adrenal glands work, says Gupta: lots of sugar, lots of stress, and lots of alcohol — all of which you’re probably encountering throughout the holiday season. “During the holiday season — it’s a trifecta [of too much stress, alcohol, and sugar],” Gupta tells Elite Daily in an email, adding that, unfortunately, “the more you indulge, the more likely you are to be tired.”
Of course, reading this is probably just as bad as hearing the ear-splitting screech of nails on a chalkboard. After all, who doesn’t want to take full advantage of all the delicious seasonal goodies around the holidays?
For the record, the purpose of this article isn’t to deter you from going back for seconds at the dessert table, or cheersing another round of mulled wine with the fam after exchanging gifts. Christmahanakwanzika season only comes around once a year, so you should enjoy reindeer-shaped cookies and cranberry mimosas as much as you want to. But if you notice your eyes getting a little heavy, or your energy levels are dipping after dessert, just be mindful of what, and how much, you’re putting into your body to see if you can draw any connections.
Indulging in moderation is definitely key, but Gupta says it's also important to treat your body to foods that contain the vitamins and nutrients it needs to thrive. He tells Elite Daily that the best way you can feed your adrenal glands to stay energized and healthy is to make sure you’re eating nutrient-dense foods, especially those that contain B vitamins. And if supplements are something you’re interested in, a bottle of SmartyPants Vitamins' Organic Women's Complete is packed with omega-3s, probiotics, vitamin B12, vitamin D3, and zinc, so you'll know that, no matter what you eat, you've definitely gotten your major vitamins in for the day.
Aside from the various sugary treats and seasonal cocktails you might indulge in this season, the chilly weather conditions could also be playing a role in your exhaustion. Let’s face it: The most wonderful time of the year also happens to be the gloomiest. Sure, white Christmases are lovely (though rare), and the first flurries of the season can feel nostalgically magical, but the dip in temperatures requires your body to produce more heat, the skies are bleak and gray, and thanks to Daylight Saving Time, it gets darker way earlier in the day. Combine these elements, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for snoozing.
“You wake up in the morning, it’s dark. You’re on your way back, it’s dark,” Gupta tells Elite Daily. Plus, temperature-wise, he explains, to keep warm, your body has to expel more energy to keep your internal temperature regulated, and when you shiver, “you use every muscle in your body,” he says. When you think about it that way, feeling exhausted around the holidays makes so much more sense. Particularly when the outside temperature falls below freezing, Gupta explains, your body has to put in more work than it's used to to stay warm, so it wears out more quickly. Before you know it, you're putting your head down at your desk and wondering if anyone would notice if you took a quick cat nap in between tasks.
However, if you start to notice that, not only are you chronically exhausted around the holiday season, but your overall mood is shifting, too, Dr. Navya Mysore, primary care provider at One Medical's Tribeca office, tells Elite Daily that it could be a sign of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, SAD affects roughly 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population, so if any of those symptoms — as well as things like difficulty concentrating, irritability, and a change in appetite — resonate with you, it’s important that you speak with your doctor ASAP in order to discuss the best treatments.
That being said, if the weather outside has you in a generally sleepy funk, Mysore suggests taking vitamin D, "or other supplements for omegas that can boost your mood as soon as the fall colors start to change." So basically, you're going to want to start popping those supps ASAP. And, if your hometown, living space, or office is particularly dark, Mysore also recommends investing in a mood lamp to soak in some of the UVA/UVB rays you would normally get from the sun. That way, your mood can improve, and your energy levels might not be so low.