For many people, the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year.
According to a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of Americans found their stress levels had increased over the past year and 30 percent considered their stress level to be extreme.
Stress becomes even more severe during the holidays.
"For many people, their regular routines become disrupted," explained Bonnie Black, director of Employee Assistance Services, a program of Behavioral Health Services North. "And, in our materialistic society, people feel that they need to 'measure up' to their children, family and friends through the 'stuff' we see hyped every 30 seconds during commercial breaks."
To reduce some of the stress associated with the season, the APA suggests people take time for themselves, volunteer, have realistic expectations, remember what's important, and seek support.
To take time for yourself, the APA suggests people go for long walks, get a massage or read.
"All of us need some time to recharge our batteries," states a press release from the APA. "By slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals."
Black finds volunteering to be one of the best ways to cope with holiday stress.
"[It] gets people into the spirit of the season," said Black. "We have many nonprofits in the North Country, all of whom need more volunteers."
Black has found the biggest holiday stress factor to be the unrealistic expectations people set for themselves.
"Attitudes are dependent on our perceptions and since we are in control of our perceptions, it is possible for us to perceive events with a positive attitude - and less stress."
In regards to putting things into perspective, Dr. Peter Kanaris, public education coordinator for the New York State Psychological Association, said to "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."
Finally, seeking support is something Black has found one in 10 people need, because changing unrealistic expectations isn't enough.
"Anxiety disorders can be exacerbated when the unrealistic expectations of ourselves or others become the focus in our lives," she said.
Another reason for stress this season is due to the economic crisis, which the APA has found is impacting women and families the most.
"While Americans continue to report financial issues related to money (82 percent), the economy (82 percent) and work (69 percent) as sources of stress, households with children are more likely to report money (88 percent versus 80 percent without children) and work (74 percent versus 67 percent without children) as significant stressors this holiday season."
Because of these stresses, Dr. Katherine Nordal, APA's executive director for professional practice, has found "unrelenting financial stressors can become a real health issue for women who continue to report stress at dangerously high levels and for families who are in an important position of teaching stress-management strategies to children."
When these tough times hit, it's important to remember "this is a time to celebrate family and friends and to take time to relax and enjoy each other," added Nordal.