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Hello Idaho: Three tips for reducing holiday stress

It's already been a stressful year and now we are heading into the busy time of the holiday season.

BOISE, Idaho — We are in the final weeks of what has been a very stressful year. And the holidays are only adding to it, leaving some people feeling overwhelmed.

In today's Hello Idaho, Chase Biefeldt talks with Dr. Dennis Woody, who has three tips about how we can reduce stress during a stressful time in what has been a stressful year.

It's already been a very different holiday season so far. There are so many added potential stressors to a stressful time. How can people cope, if they're just feeling overwhelmed?

"For the first time in over 100 years, Americans are confronted with the holidays that are superimposed over a pandemic," Dr. Woody said. "So, the way that we have traditionally gone through the holidays is probably going to be very different, and probably should be. And maybe the ways we think about mitigating the stressors that we encounter during our holidays, should also be different and intentional.

"If there were three things that you had to carry around in your mind about how can I make it more successfully through this very unique time, perhaps the first one would be…

1) Slow down – pace yourself. Don't find yourself swept up in the holiday fervor, trying to get everything accomplished that you thought you should have under normal circumstances.
2) Limit the type of gift giving you usually engage in. Traditionally, we all have to give gifts to other folks, and the concern about getting those gifts to their households through the logistics of mail can add stress to the whole process. Maybe a sentiment or behavior, actually reaching out to someone and reflecting with them or chatting for a while is just as valuable.
3) Allow yourself to recharge. Let your body exercise. Go for a walk, perhaps go to the gym. Do something that slows your processing or your physical engagement with the environment, slow it down."

Some people have the exact opposite problem this holiday season. Because of the pandemic, they're isolated and alone. What advice do you have for these people?

"You're exactly right – the very nature of the pandemic means that we're trying to limit the contact that we have with other people, even extended relatives," Dr. Woody said. "So it's kind of the opposite of what we do in the holiday season. It's important to go into that interaction knowing that you are not alone, and it's only the way in which you engage with family members that's changing. It doesn't necessarily have to be the frequency that's changing, and we have some technology that can help with that… whether it's meeting one another like we're doing over a zoom call or even on the telephone. I think that those sorts of things going in with your eyes wide open to the fact that it won't be as intense from a personal standpoint to be in the same room."

And we always like to remind people that there are plenty of resources out there, if they need professional help.

"The 2-1-1 Idaho Careline. This is a time of intense emotions, and it's amplified by the fact that we're isolated due to the pandemic, so I would encourage you if you're feeling desperate or feeling as if you're in emotional crisis, reach out to someone and inquire as to who you might talk to."

If you spend time focusing on what you do have can also go a long way for us during this time of year.