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Celebrate the Holidays: COVID-19 Tips, Anxiety, and Safety

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Author name: Lee Health

Holiday safety graphic

The most wonderful time of the year graces our lives again—but with that not-so-wonderful and uninvited guest, COVID-19.

But we can make this a memorable holiday season by understanding how to protect ourselves and others while celebrating, says infectious disease expert Dr. Stephanie Stovall, Chief of Quality and Patient Safety at Lee Health.

Read on to learn tips on making this year’s festivities fun and safe.

Lee Health supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance for safer ways to celebrate the holidays and travel safely, according to Dr. Stovall. She recommends both unvaccinated and vaccinated people follow the CDC’s recommendations to reduce their risk of exposure.

“But the most important CDC recommendation is for both eligible adults and children over 5 years of age to get vaccinated,” Dr. Stovall advises. “This becomes especially important as we gather with others during the holidays, including with some people whose vaccination status we may not know.”

Dr. Stovall says parents should be aware of the timing of vaccinations for their children between ages 5 and 11. Those who receive a COVID-19 vaccine won’t be fully protected until two weeks after their second dose (which is 21 days after the first). This means that depending on the date of your holiday gatherings, there may not be enough time for your kids to get vaccinated and be fully protected.

Also, get your booster shots if you’re eligible, Dr. Stovall says.

“Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes. As we enter the winter holidays, boosters are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus,” Dr. Stovall says.

If you’re traveling to celebrate in person, Dr. Stovall suggests checking travel restrictions or requirements before leaving home. Local travel restrictions can change during your travel, altering your trip. You never know what might come up when you’re away from home, including getting ill and requiring care. So, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan. Check the current COVID-19 situation at your destination.

Dr. Stovall also recommends you:

  • Delay travel until you’re fully vaccinated.
  • If you’re not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow the CDC’s recommendations for people who aren’t fully vaccinated.
  • Know you’re healthy before you go. Don’t travel or gather if you are sick or with someone who is sick, or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

If you choose to stay home this year absent of friends and family visits, you can reduce your anxiety around the decision by telling your loved ones sooner than later. It will also help address their expectations. There are always ways to celebrate together when apart. Here are some suggestions, from triviagenius.com

Other ways to safely celebrate:

  • Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.
  • Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.
  • Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Fighting the holiday blues

In the midst of creating your holiday season, remember to take care of yourself.

Eating too much, spending too much money, and overextending yourself to friends and family can contribute to the “holiday blues.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 64 percent of people with mental illness say the holidays worsen their conditions.

“The stress of standing in long lines, dealing with the crowds, having to travel and see relatives, and buying gifts for everyone can lead many people to experience anxiety and depression around the holiday season,” says Lee Health psychiatrist Daryl Tanski, M.D. “We need to have realistic expectations for the holidays. It won’t be perfect, and don’t push yourself to do more than you can handle.”

  • Get enough sleep: 7-8 hours per night.
  • Plan and stick to a budget.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Simplify gift-giving.
  • Consume less alcohol and sugar.
  • Start or keep exercising.
  • Avoid “toxic” people and relatives.
  • Do not over-commit yourself.

Traveling This Holiday? Take These Steps to Protect Your Home While You’re Gone

What’s worse than crowded airports, long lines, rude passengers, the middle seat, and delayed flights? Finding out that thieves have gone Grinch on your home while you were away. Here’s how to make your residence safe during your travels:

We Love Our Social Media -- So Do Thieves. Avoid Broadcasting Your Travel Plans.

One in three Americans will hit the road for the holidays, according to AAA. When planning your travel, plan not to share your vacation information on social media, too. That cute selfie of you and your family standing in front of the Grand Canyon is an invitation for would-be thieves to visit your home. AAA also suggests avoiding geotagging a photo of your hotel. Take all the selfies and pictures you want, of course, but wait until you’re sitting on the couch at home to post about your trip on social media.

Tell Thy Neighbor.

If you’re leaving town during the holidays, tell someone you trust, ideally a neighbor who can keep an eye on your home for any suspicious activity. Also, ask your neighbor or a friend to collect your mail and any boxes or papers that show up on the porch. Those dastardly porch pirates make the nightly news more often than we’d like. If you’re expecting lots of deliveries, get a security camera or leave instructions for the delivery service to leave packages somewhere safe.

Nowadays with home automation devices, you can add motion sensor lights to your property and program electronics like TVs and electrical lamps to really make your home look inhabitable.

Don’t Show Off the Most Beautiful Christmas Tree in the World. Or the Gifts Under It.

Like inquisitive kids, potential burglars can’t keep their attention off beautifully wrapped gifts. That’s why it’s smart to keep gifts and packages away from windows or other places that offer a view. That means you may have to move your Christmas tree from the picture window. Don’t advertise!

Safety Doesn’t End with the Holiday.

You’ve survived another holiday! But before you congratulate yourself with another cup of egg nog, make sure all those empty gift boxes, especially the ones of big-ticket items such as HDTVs, Xboxes, and computer monitors, aren’t piled up in the street. Everyone will know, including the bad guys, that you have expensive new gifts. Flatten the boxes and fold them smaller so they’ll fit into recycling bins.