Crowded malls, heavy traffic, money troubles and visiting in-laws all contribute to stress during the holiday season. Dr. Martin Wetzel, a psychiatrist in Omaha/Council Bluffs, says holiday burn-out can be a real problem for Iowans, especially during late December. He recommends being up-front with everyone in the family about what they should expect.

Wetzel says: "It’s an opportunity to communicate and to say to that individual, this is what I see as really important. Maybe it’s how you do your gift exchange or maybe it’s who’s responsible for certain meals during the holidays and being able to communicate about that as clearly as possible." Wetzel says kids are also stressed this time of year. He says many times children focus just on gifts but there’s an easy way around that, especially if a family is experiencing tough financial times.

He says: "If the family’s overall message is that it’s all about gifts, that’s what the kids will think is important. If the kids understand gifts are important but that the reason we give gifts is an expression of our celebration of being together and enjoying each other’s company, they’ll get that too." Wetzel says it’s also important that you recognize the symptoms of stress and take appropriate steps to avoid overeating or drinking too many cocktails.

"We’re a society with lots of these things available to us everywhere we turn, at work and at home. It is easy to indulge in stress eating, stress drinking and really be extra careful about that," he explains, "if you are feeling stressed, try to do something more healthy like taking a walk or taking a nap before you reach for another piece of candy or reach for another drink."

He also suggests lightening the load by delegating duties like cooking and baking. If family members are coming in from out-of-town, he says to suggest a hotel rather than your house, and to book your own travel plans as soon as possible.