-- When the holidays get to be too much and all you want to do is crawl under a rock until the new year is well under way, Suzanne Bartle-Haring wants you to know you're not alone.

"I believe holidays are the most stressful time of the year," said Bartle-Haring, supervisor of the Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic at Ohio State University.

Typically, she said, mental health professionals see a drastic drop-off of people coming into therapy around the holidays -- and then there's an even greater increase in January. Suicide rates typically increase during the holiday season, "especially for people who are alone," she said.

Bartle-Haring, who is also assistant professor of family relations and human development in the College of Human Ecology, said there are a lot of reasons for such a high amount of stress.

"For whatever reason, holidays bring back childhood memories, which may be disappointing ones," Bartle-Haring said.

"People tend to have high expectations that the holidays can be better than they actually are."

Other issues that might create more stress at this time of year include substance abuse and financial concerns. "If there's any sort of substance abuse -- well, the holidays and drinking seem to go together and that makes it worse. If money is an issue, it can become an even bigger issue during the holidays. Arguing about money has been reported as one of the top reasons for divorce."

Bartle-Haring makes these recommendations for lessening the stress of the season:

Contact: Suzanne Bartle-Haring, (614) 688-3259;

Written by Martha Carroll, (614) 292-9833;

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