Selective focus of african american girl holding digital tablet near parents during thanksgiving celebration.

5 Tips for a Healthier Holiday Season (And Only One is About COVID-19)

2020 has been, to say the least, a difficult year, with much of what brings fullness to our lives temporarily on hold. The holiday season is upon us, and we’re all understandably feeling overdue for some rest, celebration, and connection with our family, neighbors, and friends.

Unfortunately, despite some recent encouraging news on the vaccine front, COVID-19 infection rates remain very high. It’s still not safe to celebrate the holidays in all the same ways we would in more normal times. At United Physician Group, we want and plan to celebrate the holidays. However, when this pandemic is finally behind us, we also want to celebrate that you and your family are healthy and well.

So we’ve compiled some tips to help you stay healthy as you adapt your holiday traditions to the current limitations and maybe create some new traditions. We hope you’re finding ways to feel close to your family and friends, even when physically far away.

Party Safely During a Pandemic

Let’s deliver the most disappointing news first: It’s simply not safe to host or attend large, indoor family gatherings or holiday parties this year. The safest plan for the holidays is to gather in person only with those people who already live in your household. The more you come together with people from outside your home — even if they’re close family or your very best friends — the greater your risks will be.

We know that’s hard advice to accept, but the medical science is clear. Gathering closely for more than a few minutes with people from outside your household puts everyone at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

The best idea: Celebrate in person only with the people who already live with you, and include anyone else virtually, by phone or video call.

The next best idea: Plan or attend parties in ways that reduce (but won’t eliminate) the risk.

The CDC has published some advice on how to do this. We recommend you read the full article, but some highlights include:

  • Keep gatherings small, with plenty of room for people to stay at least six feet apart from one another at all times.
  • Ask that everyone wear masks except when actively eating or drinking.
  • Weather permitting, open windows and doors to increase fresh air ventilation.
  • If at all possible, hold your party outdoors.

 

It’s all a lot, we know, but it’s what we have to do this holiday season to protect the people we care about.

Maybe consider:

  • Have a virtual cookie-making party via video conference, with everyone joining from their own kitchens.
  • Deliver prepared foods to nearby friends and family in a contact-free manner. (Foods do not appear to pose a significant infection risk.)
  • Try a drive-by party, where guests drive up to your house to pick up a gift or a bag of goodies without getting out of their cars.
  • Plan an outdoor holiday gathering that follows all CDC guidelines.

Get Your Flu Shot

If you haven’t already done so, it’s not too late to get your flu shot. In fact, December 6-12 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Flu shots are a good idea every year, especially for children, pregnant women, adults over 65, and anyone with a chronic health condition. Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, the flu shot can help protect you and everyone you come in contact with.

Avoiding a serious case of the flu is even more important right now. Many hospitals are overcrowded with COVID-19 patients. There’s also the risk of catching both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, putting you at greater risk of serious complications and hospitalization.

The good news? Getting the shot only takes a few minutes. Flu shots are safe and effective, and most people experience only very mild side effects that go away within a few days.

If you and your family haven’t already had your flu shot this season, talk with your doctor about getting it now. It might save you from a miserably sick holiday.

Choose Safe Toys and Gifts

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (PDF), in 2018 there were an estimated 226,100 toy-related injuries that resulted in emergency treatments at hospitals in the U.S. That’s why December is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, a month dedicated to protecting children from injury by unsafe toys.

Prevent Blindness, the sponsor of National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, encourages you to:

  • Only buy toys rated as appropriate for each child’s age.
  • Teach children how to use their toys safely.
  • Monitor children while they play.

They also suggest several ways to verify that a toy will be safe for the child receiving it. Review their list to make safe choices for the children in your life.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry… in Moderation

Actually, no need to moderate the merriment, but be mindful of what you eat and drink. Some holiday indulgences are fine. Just don’t overdo it, and consider healthier alternatives where you can. If you’re diabetic, continue to monitor and maintain your blood sugar levels. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, and please don’t drink and drive.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has some good suggestions for healthier holidays. Some of our favorites are:

  • Include plenty of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your holiday feasts.
  • When baking, replace butter with applesauce or mashed, ripe bananas. Experiment with cutting back on the sugar called for in recipes.
  • Talk, play games, and otherwise focus on the people more than the food.
  • Make exercise part of the holiday plan, perhaps with a backyard game or a walk after a meal.

Focus on Connecting Creatively

Close connections with people we care about can help prevent or ease depression while helping us live fuller, happier lives. Those connections are even more important during the holidays, when isolation can hit us hard.

This year, connecting safely with the ones you love may be more complicated because of the pandemic. Get creative and find a way to do so anyway.

Some ideas include:

  • Make time for long phone calls or video chats with the people you care about who live outside your household.
  • Have meaningful conversations and activities with the people who live with you.
  • Schedule well distanced and masked outdoor visits with friends and family who live nearby.
  • Reach back into tradition and send handwritten letters to the people who you care about.

There’s still so much to celebrate, even in the midst of this difficult year. All of us at United Physician Group celebrate the gift of you. Here’s to a happier, healthier new year.

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Have you scheduled your annual wellness visit? If not, resolve to do so before the end of the year. It’s an important foundation for healthy living in 2021 and beyond. Schedule your next check-up today.