When the holidays roll around, are you guilty of some out-of-the-ordinary behavior, like going on shopping sprees, or holiday cookie-eating binges? Psychologists say that’s totally normal and it’s all because the holidays cause your stress hormones to go haywire, more so than at any other time of the year. Dr. Robert Lustig is a pediatrics professor at the University of California at San Francisco. He says that a lot of people feel pressure during the holidays to buy beautiful gifts for loved ones, and to plan perfect family gatherings, like the ones they see in popular feel-good holiday movies like “Miracle on 34th Street.”

But all of that pressure causes your stress hormones to spike. That can increase blood pressure and stress energy can also turn into visceral fat, which is packed between our organs. Holiday stress can also suppress the immune system and bring on colds and flu. The mixture of stress, temptation and the freezing temperatures can get us reaching for comfort food and because the holiday hype seems to start earlier each year, the stress can last for much longer.

A lot of people try to counter-act the stress with quickie fixes, like eating a whole tray of sugar cookies or going on a shopping spree. But experts warn that while a snack or gift-buying frenzy may give you a temporary boost, it’ll only end up hurting your waistline and your wallet.

So, how can you survive the holidays, stress-free? Experts say that anytime you feel yourself getting stressed, remind yourself that the holidays are only perfect in movies, not real life.