How do we safely enjoy the holidays?
We’re all feeling ‘Pandemic Fatigue’ – we’re tired of hearing and thinking about the dangers of COVID-19 and all the related changes this virus has forced on us, affecting our everyday lives, work and activities.
You may even feel resentment about some new restrictions after all these months when you followed the guidelines (wore a mask, washed your hands, physically distanced), especially when you observed others who did not.
Let’s acknowledge that this holiday season will be different. Make peace with that right now. Embrace a new way of doing things and find new traditions that who knows, may outlast the pandemic. I’d like you to consider adopting a self-care attitude to help you navigate the coming months and that is: ‘Try Familiar things in a New Way.’ Studies show the concept of novelty makes people happier, and we all could use a boost as we enter what might be the homestretch of this challenging time.
With the holidays coming up, we might be asking, what’s safe? You’re likely reading about the winter season ahead, with surges being predicted, and some areas of the country with more severe restrictions in place, so let’s break down some key information so you can make decisions about the holidays with guidelines and practices to be as safe as possible.
Understanding your risks is key, and only you can make the decision for you, your family and your social distancing crew. There is no individual right or wrong answer, as each person has to decide for themselves. For a family, however, it’s probably best if everyone is on the same page: for unity, for harmony, and with an eye toward collective safety, mental well-being, and overall enjoyment. And keep a watch for confirmation bias – looking for information on what you want to hear. Be sure to carefully weight all the facts and information.
Know it’s all about balance in the coming months. We want to watch getting comfortable, as well as being hypervigilant, for months on end. There’s a balance between letting your guard down and excessive alertness. It will do you well to not look at this time as ‘all or nothing,’ meaning ‘well, we can’t do what we used to do, so forget any celebration,’ but rather finding some joy along the way in new ways that might turn out to be more fun that you imagined.
First, find your social distancing crew and stick with them. Some experts say limit that to two households. You might expand your bubble for your mental health and that will allow for some holiday cheer as well, and everyone in your bubble should be following similar social distancing practices. Spend as much time outside as possible if you are socializing, so bundle up on the outer wear; in fact, that might be on the top of your gift list this year!
The CDC encourages hosts to request that guests avoid contact with people from outside their household for two weeks before any event. That doesn’t mean total lockdown. It does mean no activities indoors outside your bubble (excluding ideally one trip to the grocery); activities within your bubble or within six feet of others outside is OK. Wear a mask.
And if you are going to lower your risk by traveling, then get tested through your state or local health department. A 72-hour window has been recommended. It is safest to travel to low infection areas, of course, and older individuals and those with preexisting medical conditions should not travel at all at this time. It is also safest to stay at a hotel versus a home, only after quarantining.
Here’s an idea that has can keep everyone safer: make someone the ‘Designated Driver’ a champion if you will, leading safe COVID-19 practices with a cheerful tone, being pleasantly assertive and helpfully reminding everyone about masks and sanitization. When you travel, make and bring a Safe Travel Kit. Items can include sanitizer, Tylenol, wipes or sprays and paper towels, masks, snacks, food, gloves, and linens. On the road, the risk of infection is higher.
Please-realize that an increase in indoor socializing can easily lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases and we all want to do our part to reduce the burden on hospitals. In situations where people do gather, experts say it’s best to stay masked and avoid sharing food or utensils. The rule of six people seems to stand for gatherings, and events that are shorter in duration are better. Events outside are best. If you are inside, open a window; this is where the coat and outerwear as gifts can be used by all!
Here’s just a few: limit people in the kitchen preparing food, even have people prepare and bring their own food; no buffets; use disposable serving dishes and cutlery; and when cleaning up, use gloves, especially with the garbage. And don’t forget, the Butterball Turkey Talk Line is open now and shop early, as smaller turkeys will be in demand this year. You can find more resources at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
To reduce risk of exposure, you want to avoid groups of people. Avoid crowded stores, times of the day where there are larger number of people shopping or eating, and anywhere there are lines. If you observe poor protocols at any venue or establishment, feel free to leave if you feel uncomfortable.
As for gift-giving (and if you are able): DIY kits, like candle making or a craft to pass the time at home, puzzles or board games, blankets, outerwear, and outdoor lights or heaters if you can find them, are some suggestions that fit the 2020 gift list. Self-care items will be welcome and get something for yourself; it’s been a year. And think of your local retailers and nonprofits who have been affected by the pandemic; they could really use our support.
For a non-contact event, families in separate households can sit at their holiday tables at the same time and connect through Skype or Zoom, which can give a sense of sharing the holidays. You might want to concentrate on decorations this year, even if it is just for your family. Other ideas include drive-by light parades, reading classics to each other online, streaming movies together, even singing online. But avoid singing in person as that creates aerosols in the air.
Remember, this isn’t quite over. Months later, COVID-19 patients still have breathing difficulty and extreme fatigue. For your safety, Washing Hands, Wearing a Mask, and Physically Distancing will keep your Immune System Strong.
The holidays are symbolized through light, love, hope, and peace. For all of us that are suffering in so many ways and for all of us that are striving to find such symbols, here’s to 2021.