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You can manage stress of the holiday season

Does this Christmas holiday season have you down? Are you looking forward to Dec. 26, the day after it's all over? Would you rather skip the whole thing and just fast-forward to Jan. 2, 2012?

If that sounds like you, you can take comfort in knowing you aren't alone. The cost, greed, pressure, guilt and demands of the holiday season weigh heavily on just about everyone. It's enough to turn even the most cheerful of people into Ebenezer Scrooge (before he rediscovered the spirit of Christmas).

According to the American Psychological Association's Stress in America survey, most of our source of stress at this time of year revolves around two things, neither of which comes as any big surprise - time and money.

There really should be a better way to observe the Christmas season without giving in to the pressures. And the Oregon Psychological Association has offered a list of strategies for reducing holiday stress.

But before we get to that list, it's worth noting this: The list is meaningless unless you are truly willing to opt out of the Christmas culture of excess. In other words, if you're committed to ending holiday frustrations, then read on; otherwise this list is just one more thing that heaps guilt on top of misery.

So, in the spirit of giving, here's a list of suggestions from American/Oregon Psychological Association for managing holiday stress:

Set realistic expectations. No holiday celebration is perfect. So stay within a budget and remember, in the long run, it isn't about expensive gifts. Take this opportunity to remind your children of that fact.

Take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself helps you to take better care of others in your life. Go for a long walk, read something that interests you or listen to your favorite music. By slowing down, you may find more energy to accomplish your holiday goals.

Volunteer. Many charitable organizations face difficulties as a result of the economic downturn. So find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter, where you and your family can volunteer throughout the year. Helping others can put hardships in perspective and build stronger family relationships.

Remember the important things. Commercialism can overshadow the true sentiment of the holiday season. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your monthly budget, scale back. Remind yourself that family, friends and the relationships in your life are what matter most.

Seek support. Talk about stress related to the holidays with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution.