Making the Most of the Holiday Season

New York State Psychological Association Offers Tips on Preventing Holiday Stress

ALBANY, NY (11/25/2008)(readMedia)-- Given our country's economic woes, the holidays have the potential to create additional challenges this year. Few people seem to have extra resources to spend on gifts, parties and extravagances. Families are cutting back, employees are worrying about job security, and seniors are concerned about their retirement. 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.

"It is normal to feel overwhelmed during the holiday season. The pressure to have the perfect holiday can be extraordinary," says Dr. Peter Kanaris, public education coordinator for the New York State 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 family and togetherness, not tinsel and presents."

Stress from the ailing economy and the increasing costs of gas, 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 prevent holiday stress and ensure a worry-free season.

New York State 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 you're stress- free. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take time out to listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need some time to recharge our batteries-by slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals.

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 your family 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 you 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 brisket 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 remind them that the holidays aren't about expensive gifts.

Remember what's important - The barrage of holiday advertising can make you forget what the holiday season is really about. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your monthly budget, scale back and remind yourself that what makes a great celebration is family, not store-bought presents, elaborate decorations or gourmet food.

Seek support - Talk about your anxiety with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and 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.


The New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA) is a private, non-profit professional association chartered more then 50 years ago. Its mission is to advance the science and practice of psychology while supporting excellence in education, training, research, advocacy and service. With more than 3,000 members, NYSPA is recognized as one of the strongest state psychological associations in the country because of its vigorous and sustained efforts on many areas of concern to psychologists and the public interest. NYSPA is affiliated with the American Psychological Association, representing over 160,000 psychologists, the American Federation of Teachers, representing over 1.3 million educators and health care professionals, and the New York State United Teachers, representing over 550,000 educators and health care professional in New York.