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Dec. 7, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

Planning ahead reduces stress

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - For many, coping with the upcoming holidays and the money issues, buying issues, family get-together issues, work, decorating, parties, food preparation, shopping, house cleaning, out-of-town guests and the increased use of alcohol the season brings can be absolutely overwhelming said Carol Holland, director of Slippery Rock University's Student Counseling Center.

"However, with just a little planning and breaking the tasks into management 'bites' can really make the holidays enjoyable and greatly reduce any related stress," she said.

"Many people think they must spend too much money on gifts and that causes anxiety," Holland said. "For others planning parties, going to parties, maintaining their work schedule and even dealing with holiday issues related to their children, can cause anxieties."

"A recent American Psychological Association Stress in America survey I saw reported money as one of the top three stressors Americans report. It is important to recognize its heightened effect during the holidays and to plan for it," she said.

Experts recommend everyone find ways to spend the holiday season so that they are meaningful to them.

Holland said the APA recently prepared a list of strategies to help people manage their holiday stress. "I think it is worth passing along," she said.

The APA recommends people:

  • Reframe: Refocus the holiday season on spending time with loved ones by creating a realistic budget for gifts and reminding your children that the holidays aren't about expensive toys. This reframing can help you better manage your stress about spending and redefine the celebration around what's truly important.
  • Volunteer: Make the primary focal point of the holiday about helping others in need. Go to a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter, where you and your loved ones can volunteer together during the holiday and throughout the year. Helping others can put your challenges in perspective and build stronger community relationships.
  • Be active: Pennsylvania offers great options for enjoying the activities of the season. Cities and towns have parades, holiday lighting ceremonies, or other organized events. Pennsylvania has 120 state parks, many of which offer winter activities. For those who live near snow, bundle up for sledding, building snowmen and making snow angels.
  • No matter where you live or what the weather, consider starting a new tradition that also reduces stress. Whether it is an organized event or just a family walk around your neighborhood, being active is a great way to lower your holiday stress. And, being active can have the added benefit of giving you a break from the constant temptations of fattening foods and expensive gifts that appear around the holidays.

  • Take time for yourself: Taking care of yourself helps you to take better care of others in your life. Go for a long walk, take a needed nap, relax by reading something that interests you, or listen to your favorite music. By slowing down you may find you have a better outlook on the season and more energy to accomplish your holiday goals.
  • Seek support: Talk about stress related to money and the holidays with your friends and family whom you trust. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider talking with a psychologist, who can help you develop coping strategies and better manage your stress. A psychologist has the skills and professional training to help people learn to manage stress and cope more effectively with life's problems.
  • The Pennsylvania Psychological Association is a member-driven organization dedicated to promoting and advancing psychology in Pennsylvania, advocating for public access to psychological services, and enhancing multiple dimensions of human welfare while supporting the development of competent and ethical psychologists. Its mission is to educate, update and inform the public and its membership on cutting-edge psychological theory and practice through training activities and public policy initiatives.

    "If people just follow some of these tips, I think they will better enjoy - and get through - the season in better spirits," Holland said.

    Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.