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Stress Management: 9 Tell-Tale Signs Of Holiday Stress

First Posted: 12/24/2010 9:07 am EST   Updated: 05/25/2011 7:20 pm EDT

Let's face it -- 2010 wasn't nice to a lot of people. If a change in your work life or finances is a dark cloud hanging on the holiday horizon, you're not alone.

Even before the economy bottomed out, Americans said financial pressures caused holiday stress. In a 2006 APA survey, 61 percent of respondents listed lack of money as the top cause of holiday stress, followed closely by the pressures of gift giving at 42 percent. Credit card debt also ranked highly, at 23 percent.

While more recent data isn't yet available, experts assume that financial pressures are even higher today. "Given the economy, money is still an issue," says Londoño-McConnell. "Typically, it is already a stressor, so it's probably going to continue."

What you should do: Although it's tough, now is the time of year to ask for help if you need it. From meals to toys for your kids, religious groups and other charitable organizations are there to help you.

If you were lucky enough to make it to the end of 2010 without needing a helping hand, then offer one to others.

"I think in this financial crisis, most of us have taken stock of what really matters," says Londoño-McConnell. "It's forcing us in some ways to get back to basics, and that might actually not be so bad." Check out creative savings tips.

You Have Super-High Expectations
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If you tend to feel stress year-round because you’re not meeting the expectations you’ve set for yourself, the holidays are likely to amplify these feelings.

“We have high expectations to have the Martha Stewart holiday, but [what if] we’re not good at baking, or our family just doesn’t get along?” says Stephanie S. Smith, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Front Range Psychological Associates, in Erie, Colo. Sometimes expectations are so unrealistic they simply can’t be fulfilled, she says.

What you should do: Focus on what is realistic -- not ideal -- or you risk facing major disappointment when things don’t go as planned. Perfectionists must remember that preparing for a holiday is not a one-person task; reaching out to a support system to delegate tasks can really lighten the load.

Now would also be the time to crank up your sense of humor and keep it on full blast until January.

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Filed by Nicholas Miriello  |