Psychologist: Christmas gift-giving stress can be damaging to mental health

G. M. Johnson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience, said Christmas gift-giving pressure is potentially damaging to mental health. He recommended that anyone who is experiencing extreme stress or stress symptoms related to Christmas expectations simply announce to all friends and family that they are not going to participate in Christmas gift-giving.

“Christmas time is supposed to be a time for festivities and warm feelings in celebration of the birth of Jesus,” said Johnson. “But for many individuals, Christmas is a time of extreme stress related to expectations that leads to spending beyond their means. These individuals experience irritability, sleep difficulties, headaches, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and depression, poor self-esteem, distractibility, stress dreams and nightmares, eating problems, substance abuse and/or forgetfulness.

“Individuals experiencing extreme stress because of finances should give themselves permission to simply notify friends and family that they are not doing any gift-giving and gift exchanges until further notice,” he continued. “And as a society, we should all stop contributing to the idea that it is worthy of shame to find one’s self in this kind of difficulty. There are far too many people these days finding themselves in financial difficulty no matter how hard they work.

“There are alternatives to gift-giving that can still keep a person involved in the Christmas spirit,” Johnson added. “Volunteering some hours, for example, at a shelter, would be very much in keeping with Christmas. Visiting shut-ins or visiting with elderly people without families at nursing homes is also a possibility.”

This recommendation and more details regarding the issues surrounding it can be found at Dr. Johnson’s Web site,

Johnson can be reached at 701-252-7788 or by e-mail to

From the Dec. 14-20, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!