Health

Economy May Make Holiday Stress Worse-Tips for Coping

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PHOENIX, AZ -- As the economy crisis continues, many individuals may feel more stress and anxiety during the upcoming holidays.

"The holidays can be a wonderful time for many people, but they can also bring about pressure, stress and anxiety," said Dena Cabrera, PsyD, staff psychologist at Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders (www.remudaranch.com/general/anxiety/index.php). "Many news outlets have reported the recession is over, but people across the country may not be feeling the reprieve. They hear one thing, but their bank account says something different."

Because many people are struggling with layoffs and financial loss, they may have trouble enjoying pleasurable activities, particularly during the holidays. This can bring about lots of stress, and for some, anxiety.

"When stress is poorly managed, it can interfere with functioning," adds Cabrera. "Excess stress can manifest itself in a variety of emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms."

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People with stress can experience sleep disturbances, headaches, muscle tension, stomach problems and fatigue. Additionally, people who experience anxiety can experience excessive worrying, to the point where it interferes with daily life. They may also engage in unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, overeating and mood changes.

Cabrera offers the following tips to help enjoy the holidays:

-- Set realistic expectations. Holiday excitement also brings demands. Between shopping, baking, feasting, crafting, parties and entertaining, it can get quite overwhelming. By setting realistic expectations, we don't set ourselves up to become stressed because we overextended ourselves.

-- Stay balanced. As we become busy with holiday tasks, activities and demands, we can lose ourselves. Sleep, eating and exercise can become compromised. Stay consistent and don't neglect healthy living.

-- Find meaning in the season. The holidays can be difficult and challenging for many people. Many emotions can come into play. For those who struggle with the holidays, they should reach out for support and recreate meaning in the holiday season that's comfortable for them. Prepare to take care of yourself emotionally and physically.

-- Prepare ahead. Time goes fast. Make a list and check it twice. Don't wait until the last minute, this only creates more stress.

-- Learn how to deal with stress. Learn to talk to yourself with positive thoughts such as, "It's temporary, I've been through things like this before, etc."

-- Seek help when things are stressful. Just talking about it with someone you trust helps.