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Published on November 07, 2011

Tips to Avoid Financial Stress During the Holidays

In Brief

  • The holidays mean increased financial activity for the economy as a whole, and people are busy buying lots of gifts and food. Financial stress can affect your physical and mental health.
  • Try to avoid financial stress during the holiday season by planning holiday parties and giving gifts within your budget.
  • If the holiday stress becomes too difficult and you have asked for help from a friend or a family member without success, then it may be time to seek professional help.

For many people, the holiday season is a time of year filled with parties, celebrations and gatherings with friends and family. For others, however, it is filled with a sense of expectation, holiday spending and family conflict that can lead to self-reflection, loneliness, anxiety and depression.

“The chaos and disorder of the holidays along with balancing the demands of family, parties, shopping and entertaining can become overwhelming,” says Kevin P. Caputo, M.D., president of Community Hospital and chairman of Psychiatry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Taylor Hospital. “Often people set their expectations too high during the holidays, causing the onset of depression during the season.”

Tough economic times have added social stress and can lead to negative effects on people. “The holidays mean increased financial activity for the economy as a whole, and people are busy buying lots of gifts and food. Financial stress can affect your physical and mental health,” Caputo says.

Caputo explains that some common social pressures that may cause financial stress include:

  • Attaching happiness with material items, such as giving that one popular gift or ”in” toy of the season.
  • Hosting lavish holiday parties beyond your means.
  • Over-committing yourself to too many family obligations or to attending too many parties.
  • Topping yourself as giving the perfect gift.

Try to avoid financial stress during the holiday season by planning holiday venues within your budget. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) outlines a variety of ways to avoid additional stress during the holidays:

  • Use cash when buying gifts, decorations and food. This way, you can enjoy the holiday season without worrying about the credit card bill that will arrive in January.
  • Plan ahead for the holiday season. Save money throughout the year and know what your holiday allowance is.
  • Compromise what you want to spend and what you can afford to spend.
  • Scale back on your gift-giving and try to give something meaningful that is less expensive.
  • Be realistic in your spending. Don’t feel the need to have a large holiday party, but spend the holidays with close family and friends and make it more memorable.
  • Do a family Pollyanna instead of giving a gift to everyone in the family. This saves money and increases the quality of the gift.
  • Do a family charity event. Instead of hosting a big holiday dinner, serve dinner to the homeless or deliver food baskets. This can increase family time and also save money. 

“‛It’s the thought that counts’ isn’t just a poor man’s rationalization. People really do appreciate being taken into consideration enough to be given a gift, regardless of how much has been spent on that gift,” says Barry Jacobs, Psy.D., director of Behavioral Sciences for the CKHS Family Medicine Residency Program.

Jacobs continues, “The joy of the holidays is really about connecting with loved ones and creating new, happy memories. Make the effort to reach out to others, even if you haven’t seen them in a while or are unsure of their availability. Gathering around the table and sharing a meal is a great way of enjoying time together and laying the groundwork for a deeper appreciation for one another in the year ahead. For many people, receiving the gift of your time is really more precious than any material present. Make yourself available to them for socializing or even doing chores in their homes.”

However, if the holiday stress becomes too difficult and you have asked for help from a friend or a family member without success, then it may be time to seek professional help. Caputo suggests if you are still having trouble with holiday stress or post-holiday stress, a professional may be able to help you identify this and resolve the issue.

If your feelings persist, you should consider seeking help. To find a Crozer-Keystone physician who is right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258).

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