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Hello Idaho: Staying connected while being apart on Thanksgiving

"Manage your expectations. It's not likely going to be that Hallmark card Thanksgiving, so don't expect it to be."

BOISE, Idaho — To cut down on community spread of the coronavirus, health experts are urging us to celebrate Thanksgiving with only those in our immediate households.

They recommend avoiding gatherings of family and friends.

But how can you still feel connected when you can't get together?

That's what Doug Petcash talked about with licensed social worker and Optum Idaho Deputy Director Casey Moyer for this Hello Idaho segment. 

Casey Moyer: The first and probably most important thing that people can do is manage their expectations. It's not likely going to be that Hallmark Card Thanksgiving, so don't expect it to be. And you'll be able to cope a little bit better with a different sort of holiday this season.  

Doug Petcash: What are some other ways that people can cope? 

Moyer: Well, folks also need to understand that they're not alone. We're all experiencing probably kind of a weird time of the year. We're all making concessions and putting family traditions on hold or maybe making some changes to stay safe.  Don't ignore your feelings. It's normal to feel a sense of loss over not being able to gather and celebrate with family the way you normally do. Understand that next year will probably look different. And the third and probably most important is also make sure that you are being grateful and expressing gratitude. This is what we talk about a lot with Hello Idaho. It is Thanksgiving, so be grateful for the things that you do have. And when you're focusing on the meaningful, grateful parts, you're not going to be focusing as much on those negatives.  

Petcash: So what are some actions people can take to try to stay more connected this season and not feel so isolated? 

Moyer: You actually hit it on the head. That's what the Hello Idaho campaign is all about, reaching out, connecting and creating a culture of inclusion. There are a number of things I'd toss out there for folks to consider doing. One, reach out to family and friends. It's the most important tip that I can offer. Make sure you're communicating either with virtual chat, phone calls, socially distanced meetings, keeping folks in your life. It works both ways. Two, start some new traditions. If you can't participate in all your normal in-person family traditions, think about creating some new ones like online virtual shopping together. This is a great way to turn a negative into a positive and maybe start a new tradition that you can repeat next year. Third, make some family recipes on your own. Not everyone can be in the kitchen together gathered around the table, but you may be able to gather around grandma's green bean casserole over Zoom and make it feel a little more like Thanksgiving with every bite.  Four, put together some care packages for loved ones. This has two benefits. First, it's a way of focusing on others, and secondly you're doing something nice for someone else, which is what the holidays are about. Another option, deliver food to your neighbors or community. Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety. This aspect of helping and working with others can make a huge effect on your overall psychological well-being.

Moyer also suggests getting outside for some exercise and fresh air and eating and drinking wisely.

If you are worried about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, there are resources to help.

You can call Optum Idaho's 24/7 member access crisis line at 855-202-0973 or the 2-1-1 IDAHO CARELINE.

You can also check out the American Psychological Association website.

Watch more 'Hello Idaho':

Watch our latest conversations about mental health in our YouTube playlist: