December 3, 2004

Money Issues Leading Cause of Holiday Stress for Americans

WASHINGTON -- What causes the most stress during the holiday season? Money issues were the top vote getters for holiday stress, according to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The Survey found that 61% of Americans listed lack of money as the top cause of holiday stress followed by the pressures of gift giving, lack of time, and credit card debt. Survey results also show that younger Americans are more worried about lack of money and gift giving compared to people over the age of 35.

One in five Americans are worried that holiday stress could affect their physical health and 36% say they either eat or drink alcohol to cope with holiday stress. Forty-five percent say they rely on exercise to relieve stress while 44% turn to religious and spiritual activities. A small number turn to massage and yoga.

“People tend to reduce stress in ways they have learned over the course of time because they turn to what they know,” says Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., APA executive director for professional practice. “Ironically, they may take comfort from eating or drinking because it’s familiar, even though it’s not good for their health. But, there are other behaviors people can learn to further relieve stress and the its effects that may be both better for them and longer lasting.”

Newman recommends the following tips to help deal with holiday stressors and to build resilience:

Make connections. Good relationships with family and friends are important. So, view the holidays as a time to reconnect with people. Additionally, accepting help and support from those who care about you can help alleviate stress.

Set realistic goals. Taking small concrete steps to deal with holiday tasks instead of overwhelming yourself with goals that are too far reaching for a busy time.

Keep things in perspective. Try to consider stressful situations in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing events out of proportion.

Take decisive actions. Instead of letting holiday stressors get the best of you, make a decision to address the underlying cause of a stressful situation.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings during the holiday season. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Taking care of yourself helps keep your mind and body primed to deal with stressful situations.

For more information on how to build resilience, visit the APA Help Center or call 1-800-964-2000 to order a free brochure, The Road to Resilience.

The APA survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates and involved 1,000 interviews of Americans nationwide on November 8-9, 2004. The margin of error is +/- 3.1% and higher for subgroups.

Media Note: Poll results available by contacting APA media contacts.

The American Psychological Association (APA), located in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its 53 divisions and its affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science and profession, and as a means of promoting health, education, and human welfare.