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Hello Idaho: 7 ways to cope with stress

Almost a year into the pandemic, many of us are struggling to cope with day-to-day stress. Fortunately, there are some simple tips for alleviating that stress.

BOISE, Idaho — It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since the pandemic reached Idaho, and since our lives were changed so dramatically.

The good news is, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have vaccines, and cases are declining. But, what can we do to reduce our stress right now?

Maggie O’Mara talked to Dr. Julie Wood of Optum Idaho. She’s a psychiatrist and she has some ideas about how we can cope with day-to-day issues that cause stress.

Here are her seven tips for managing stress:

1. Figure out the cause: What stresses you out? 

"First and foremost you need you to understand your stressors, understand what stresses us out," Wood said.  

She suggests writing down your feelings.

"Over time you may be able to understand what those triggers are," she said.

2. Map out your day

"There may be additional meetings, there may be appointments that need to be kept," Wood explained. "If we know there is a stressful event and we can move it to the front of the day that can be really helpful. And decrease those stress hormones through the rest of the day."

3. Prepare for tense situations

When it comes to tense situations, Wood recommends that you anticipate what is going to be said and what you are going to say. 

"That can actually reduce stress quite a bit."

4. Relax your muscles

Wood suggests doing gentle stretches throughout the day.

"Whether it's headaches or muscle tension in your back or shoulders, these are areas where you can do some focus exercises," she said. "There are stretches for those of us who are on the computer every day."

Improving posture, deep-breathing exercises and meditation are other ways to help bring down stress levels, according to Wood.

5. Get moving

About 20 minutes of exercise a day can work wonders for alleviating stress.

"It's recommended that healthy adults get about 150 minutes of exercise a week and, again, that's based on your schedule," Wood said.

6. Watch what you eat and drink

Stress and eating or drinking are closely related. This can be a tough one to overcome because a lot of people stress-eat and stress-drink. 

"We really can't underscore the importance of a healthy diet," Wood said.

7. Ask for help if you need it

"Some forms of stress may benefit from a little support from a friend or a support group," Wood explained. "You may need to see a psychiatrist medication and management."

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