The Swiss even have a word for it - Weihnachtscholer.

Add equal parts Seasonal Affective Disorder, guilt (have you been a good boy this year? or what about last year's New Year Resolutions?), stress from holiday shopping, and a bit more stress from family gatherings. Stir together with the holiday weight gain, and you've got Weihnachtscholer.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
The winter solstice is December 20th, or there abouts each year. This marks the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. On the order of 10 to 20 percent of people have at least a mild case of winter depression, four times more common in women than in men, and seven times more common in Washington state than in Florida.

The cause of SAD is a change in the amount of light in the day and is accompanied by weight gain, fatigue, over sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and avoidance of social situations.

Much of the holidays focuses upon the celebration of various aspects of life - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and many others. Through this introspection we often try to measure ourselves up to some ideal... and most often find ourselves not perfect.

The holidays are especially stressful for people. The combination of planning for family gatherings, exams in school and other factors culminate at a peak in the month of December. While these days are supposed to be joyful, and happy - far too often we find ourselves staying late at work or at the library and then collapsing into a heap upon reaching a bed.
Weight Gain
Egads, I can't even think of looking at turkey... and red and white stripped candy canes just make me sick to my stomach. And don't even start talking about the M&M commercials on television.

The combination of various feasts in winter with the reduced opportunity for spending time outside (less daylight hours and colder conditions) many times leads to adding a few pounds over the holiday season. In many cases, these extra pounds reduces our self esteem and makes things just that much less enjoyable.

So, what can you do to avoid weihnachtscholer?

  • Exercise - not only does this boost endorphine levels in the brain (making you feel good about yourself via natural chemicals), but it typically helps in feeling good about yourself (psychologically). This will also help avoid the weight gain. The key to this is not starting it on the week after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas. Exercise is part of a lifestyle that should (in theory) be year round. Few will have favorable results in just a week. At the latest, start acting (not thinking) on this in September or October at the latest.
  • Take a stress management class. Many employers recognize the difficulty of the holidays and will offer them. Contact your human resources representative for more information on this. Likewise, many schools and universities may have some information - especially relating to the stress of exams.
  • Vacation - in a warm and sunny place. The key here is to get away from stress, and go some where sunny and warm. If sunny and warm isn't that much of a possibility - double up on the 'away from stress'.
  • Make achievable resolutions for the New Year - impossible ones only lead to more stress and guilt the next year.

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