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'Tis the season for holiday stress.

Nearly half of all women in the U.S. experience heightened stress during the holidays at great risk to the health of their minds and bodies, according to a national survey released by the American Psychological Association. Despite repeated warnings about the effects of stress on psychological and physical health, women are relying more on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress during the holidays and the rest of the year.

"People who cope with stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviors and lifestyles--like overeating and drinking--regardless of the time of year, may alleviate symptoms of stress in the short term, but end up creating significant health problems in the long run and, ironically, more stress," explains Russ Newman, executive director for professional practice. "Research shows that stress, and the unhealthy behaviors people use to manage it, contribute to some of our country's biggest health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. So, it's imperative that people take steps to address issues like holiday stress in healthier ways."

A national stress survey conducted by APA found that, during the year, 31% of women turn to food to manage stress compared to 19% of men. The holiday stress survey, meanwhile, showed that comfort eating rises by 10% at the holidays as a source of stress relief for women (versus a six percent increase for men). "The effectiveness with which people manage stress--especially women during the holidays, given their increased stress levels--is critical to the mind and body's long-term health," asserts Newman. "It seems that women, in particular, view holiday stress and their ways of coping with it as a normal part of the season."

Women under stress are more likely than men to report that they are in fair or poor health. People very concerned with the level of stress in their lives are more likely to report a number of specific ailments and symptoms, such as feeling nervous or sad; fatigue; inability to sleep or sleeping too much; lack of interest, motivation, or energy; headaches; muscular tension; frequent upset stomach or indigestion; change in appetite; feeling faint or dizzy; tightness in chest; and change in sex drive.

"My advice to both men and women is to pay attention to what causes their stress and to find healthy ways of managing it. Everyone responds to their stress in some way. The key is handling stress in a manner that doesn't make things worse," concludes Newman.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:women and stress
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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