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December Tip:

Given the mounting economic woes in Kansas and across the country, the holidays have the potential to create additional challenges this year. Few people will have extra resources to spend on gifts, parties and travel. Families are cutting back, employees are worrying about job security, and many try to simply make ends meet on a fixed income. In an online poll conducted this summer, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that nearly half of Americans report that their stress level has increased over the past year, and as many as 30 percent rate their average stress level as extreme. Financial stress tops the list for 80% of adults and most report physical and emotional consequences.

“It is common to feel overwhelmed this time of year. The pressure to have the perfect holiday can be extraordinary,” says Dr. Chris Ebberwein, public education chair of the Kansas Psychological Association. “It is important to put things in perspective and realize that the materialism of the holidays isn’t the real spirit of the season. The holidays are about religious and cultural traditions, family, and time together—not decorations and presents.”

Stress from the ailing economy and the increasing costs of energy, housing and healthcare can leave you especially vulnerable to increased anxiety during the holidays. However, it is important to view the current economic situation as an opportunity to enhance your psychological well-being. Remember, there are conscious steps you can take to reduce holiday stress and ensure an enjoyable season.

The Kansas Psychological Association offers the following tips:

  • Take time for yourself – There may be pressure to be everything to everyone. Remember that you’re only one person and can only accomplish certain things. Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do—others will benefit when your stress goes down. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take time to listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need time to recharge our batteries—by slowing down you will actually have more energy to get things done.
  • Volunteer – Many charitable organizations are also suffering due to the economic downturn. Find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter where you and family or friends can volunteer. Also, participating in a giving tree or an adopt-a-family program, and helping those who are living in true poverty, may help to put your own economic struggles in perspective.
  • Have realistic expectations – No Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or other holiday celebration is perfect; view inevitable missteps as opportunities to demonstrate flexibility and resilience. A lopsided tree or a burned meal won’t ruin your holiday; rather, it will create a family memory. If your children’s wish list is outside your budget, talk to them about the family’s finances this year and be creative—perhaps with the gift of time.
  • Remember what’s important – The barrage of holiday advertising can make you forget what the season is really about. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your monthly budget, scale back and remind yourself that it’s the people who make a great celebration.
  • Seek support – Discuss your stress and worry with friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you work toward a solution for your stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider seeing a professional such as a psychologist to help you manage your holiday stress.