November 29, 2021

Acqua NYC

Fit And Go Forward

Tips for keeping the holiday spirit alive during the COVID-19 pandemic

‘Tis the season for family gatherings, festive parties, beloved traditions and coming together with those we love. But how do we navigate the holidays while ensuring that our families and communities remain healthy and safe during a pandemic? Follow along for a few tips to help you and your family safely navigate the upcoming holiday season.

Give the gift of safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the safest way to celebrate is at home with your own household. The CDC advises against traveling to visit relatives, as this can pose a risk for your own health and contribute to spreading the virus between different areas.

As difficult as it may be to not hug your loved ones in person, gathering virtually or with members of your own household poses the lowest risk of spreading or contracting the COVID-19 virus — and with a little creativity, it can be just as festive!

Olga Garcia prepares capirotada, a bread pudding layered with cheese, bananas, raisins, cinnamon and pecans, as she works on an afternoon family meal Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in her home in Sedro-Woolley, Wash. On any other Thanksgiving, dozens of Olga's family members would squeeze into her home for the holiday. But this year, she'll deliver food to family spread along 30 miles of the North Cascades Highway in Washington state. If the plan works, everyone will sit down to eat in their own homes at precisely 6:30 p.m. and join a group phone call. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Although large gatherings and events are discouraged this year, that doesn’t mean traditions are off the table. Much like any year, it comes down to careful planning, open communication and a bit of flexibility. So pick up the phone, meet online and start working together with your loved ones to create new traditions. There are many ways to enjoy the season from the safety and comfort of your home. And what better gift can you give your loved ones than the gift of health and safety?

Set new expectations

It is inevitable that some holiday plans and traditions will have to adjust, and that change can be especially difficult for children. To help your family avoid feelings of disappointment, make sure you prepare them in advance for what to expect this year.

“Regardless of your plans for the upcoming holiday season, be sure to prepare your children for what this year will look like for your family,” says Beth Bender, CCLS, child life specialist at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center. “Remind them that we are all doing our best to keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy.”

Tailor your tidings

To accommodate for the adjustments that must be made for this year’s celebrations, prioritize and start planning as soon as possible. Consider what you love most about the season. Is it being with family and friends? Preparing and cooking extravagant meals? Participating in religious events? By prioritizing the traditions and experiences you value most, you can decide what’s a must and tailor this year’s festivities around that.

Then you can communicate your plans to your extended family and manage expectations. Prepare yourself for difficult conversations in some cases, and become comfortable with saying no to situations that feel too risky. If you’re not sure how to proceed, the CDC offers recommendations and guidelines for making safe holiday plans.

Saying no or altering longstanding holiday traditions might leave you feeling disappointed or sad this holiday season. According to Eli Mandel, a licensed clinical social worker and wellness program manager at Baylor Scott & White Health, these emotions are normal. If you do find yourself feeling less than jolly during the holidays, focus on the moments you are able to experience rather than the ones you wish you could.

“You might be feeling angry that you can’t be with everyone in your family during a celebration, but you can also feel gratitude for getting to build a deeper connection with the few people who are there,” he says. “Whatever the circumstance, try to find the glimmers of joy and appreciation in the situation.”

Create cozy celebrations

An intimate holiday at your home doesn’t have to be a downgrade, and it doesn’t have to replace your typical festivities. Instead of a celebration overhaul, think about a cozy retooling that will not only keep your loved ones safe but also call on your creativity.

In this 2014 file photo, Christmas lights choreographed to music are on display for Christmas in the Square in downtown Frisco. Over at Dr Pepper Ballpark this year, you can get in the holiday spirit with a mile-long drive-through Christmas light show, "Radiance! A Holiday Light Spectacular."

If you have kids at home, make sure they’re in on the changes and let them participate in the planning. That way, no one will feel let down by the new take on holiday celebrations. Fortunately, there are so many creative ways to keep family traditions alive — and even build new traditions — this holiday season.

Focus on the parts of the holiday that you value most and work these aspects into this year’s events. If being with family is an essential element, plan a time for an online gathering with as many of your family members as you can. For those who can’t be online, find other ways to let them know you’re thinking of them. Write heartfelt holiday cards or make handmade gifts that showcase how much they mean to you.

If a delicious meal is high on your priority list, enlist everyone in the household to plan and prepare a full feast. Cooking together is a fantastic way to bond and get into the holiday spirit.

And being physically distant doesn’t mean you can’t take a drive or walk through the neighborhood to see Christmas lights or lounge on the couch for a holiday movie marathon.

Embrace the season

Ultimately, the best way to have a happy, healthy holiday season is to celebrate at home with only your immediate family or household, keeping in mind that the best present you can give or receive this year is the health and safety of your loved ones.

Just because the festivities will be a little different this year doesn’t mean they can’t be fulfilling. Go to bswhealth.com/staysafe for ideas on how to spice up your holidays while keeping everyone safe, and check the CDC website for the most up-to-date recommendations.

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