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Money Problems Leading Cause of Holiday Stress

Tips on coping with financial strains during gift-giving season

THURSDAY, Dec. 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Money problems are the leading cause of holiday stress for Americans, says a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The nationwide survey of more than 1,000 people conducted in early November found that 61 percent of respondents listed lack of money as their top source of holiday stress. That was followed by the pressures of gift giving, lack of time, and credit card debt.

Younger people were more worried about lack of money and gift giving than those more than 35 years old, the survey revealed.

It also found that 20 percent of respondents were worried that holiday stress could affect their physical health. Thirty-six percent said they either drank alcohol or ate to help cope with holiday stress, while 45 percent said they exercised, and 44 percent said they turned to spiritual and religious activities. A few used massage and yoga to deal with holiday stress.

"People tend to reduce stress in ways they have learned over the course of time because they turn to what they know," Russ Newman, APA executive director for professional practice, said in a prepared statement.

"Ironically, they may take comfort from eating or drinking because it's familiar, even though it's not good for their health. But there are other behaviors people can learn to further relieve stress and its effects that may be both better for them and longer lasting," Newman said.

He offered the following advice for building resilience against stress:

  • Make personal connections. Use the holidays to reconnect and reinforce relationships with family and friends. Accepting help and support from people who care about you can help relieve stress.
  • Set realistic goals. Take small steps to deal with holiday tasks. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by setting far-reaching goals that you can't accomplish during the busy holiday season.
  • Maintain perspective. Analyze stressful situations in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Don't blow things out of proportion.
  • Take action by addressing the underlying causes of stressful situations.
  • Take care of yourself by paying attention to your own needs and feelings. Take part in activities that you enjoy and that help you relax.

More information

For more on dealing with stress, visit the American Psychological Association.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, December 2004
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