By Judy Fortin
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Blinking lights, Christmas carols and the ringing of cash registers signal the beginning of the holiday shopping season. For some people, the stress that can go along with buying and spending can be overwhelming.
CNN Medical Correspondent Judy Fortin talked with psychologist Nadine Kaslow of the Emory School of Medicine about ways to relieve the stress.
Fortin: What is it about holiday shopping that causes so much stress?
Kaslow: People feel tremendous pressure to get gifts for everybody and not only to get gifts for everybody, to get the right gift for everyone. The malls are extremely crowded and they become almost over-stimulating with all of the people, all of the sales, all of the decorations, all of the holiday music. It's hard to stay focused and purchase what you need and not feel distracted by all the other demands.
Fortin: What does this type of stress do to our health?
Kaslow: This kind of stress and tension is not good for our bodies. Often what it means is people aren't sleeping as much, they are not eating well and they are not exercising as much. So it's not just the tension and stress of shopping and preparing for the holidays, it's also what we're not doing that takes it's toll on us. People get run down, people start to drink more, people start to eat poorly and people stop taking good care of themselves. They get sick, they get irritable, they start complaining about head aches and stomach aches. People's weight either goes up or down and they're tired all the time.
Fortin: Can the financial strain of buying gifts cause stress?
Kaslow: Yes, I think it's really important for people to set a realistic budget for the holidays. I think that families can do all sorts of creative things to help with this. They can have a secret Santa so you're not responsible for buying everybody gifts. You're just responsible for buying one or two people gifts or people can agree among family members that they will set a financial limit for how much they give.
Fortin: Does it help to plan ahead?
Kaslow: There is clearly an advantage to being organized. I think it really helps to block out on your calendar when you're going to go do shopping and put that in your schedule just like you put all your responsibilities in there. The more you create a structure for yourself, the less overwhelming it seems.
HEALTH VIDEO LIBRARY
AVOIDING HOLIDAY STRESS
Five ways to make your holidays less stressful:
1. Create structure and organization.
2. Be realistic. Set realistic expectations.
3. Get support from family and friends.
4. Enjoy the holidays. They can be a festive, warm, loving time.
5. Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well and exercise.