Stress relief tips for Iowans who are working straight through the holidays

IOWA CITY — While many Iowans have a big stretch of time off during the holidays, all sorts of people will be working every single day, whether it’s firefighters and police officers, hospital staffers, retail and restaurant workers, or journalists.

Stress levels can be particularly high now for those folks, according to Steve Courtright, a professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa, who studies stress at work. He says all of us are fighting the clock.  “One of the greatest gifts that bosses can give employees is simply time,” Courtright says. “Time in the form of flexibility or making sure that bosses are respecting the work-life boundaries of their employees. That can help a lot in terms of just setting a culture that trickles down to influence all the rest of the members of the team.”

Research finds the typical person’s stress levels bound 30 to 40-percent during this time of year. Many of us see potentially stressful situations as either threats or opportunities, and Courtright suggests rethinking our points of view.  “Being able to see potentially those threats, whether it’s opportunities to serve or opportunities to redesign how we do holidays,” Courtright says, “so do we celebrate holidays on a different day? How do we take advantage of the time that we do have with family friends and other loved ones during that time of year?”

No matter how bad off things may be, someone else is always in worse shape, and Courtright says it may be helpful to shift our perspective, seek out someone who needs a hand — and offer it. “One of the ways in which to relieve stress during this time of year is in some form of charitable giving,” Courtright says. “So if there’s something that might be done to kind of reframe the demands, again, in terms of an opportunity to give back in charity, rather than feeling like we’re only at the mercy of others, for example, that we have some agency to be able to engage in charitable giving.”

Volunteerism can also be an excellent form of changing one’s perspective and disposition. While stress may be weighing heavily during the holidays, there’s also plenty of positive emotions, he says, feelings of love and connection. Courtright says not to focus on the negatives, but rather the things that bring you joy.