Happy Holidays? Tips for ending the year of the pandemic well

One of the most difficult years, without a doubt. The world ends 2020 facing a pandemic, a new virus, with closed societies and health and economic systems on the brink of collapse.

A health crisis that has put everyone in the face of our values, political convictions, fears and hopes.

And now, the Holidays, an already fragile moment of the year. When the family gets together, or can’t get together, and friends toast again and again.

Trips, gifts, meetings…. How will it be this time? But don’t be sad, there are still many reasons to celebrate, and here are some tips that can guide your journey through December knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: 2021.

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Dr. Hilary Connery, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard University School of Medicine defines: “People are programmed to be social animals.”

He adds that traditions around the holidays, birthdays, and other special events, like weddings or baby showers, help preserve those connections in a predictable way. So a change in plans forced by external events, such as a pandemic or natural disaster, leaves some people feeling adrift.

“Grief and loss are a challenge at any time, and the holidays just highlight and amplify that feeling of missing out on what was supposed to be a time to get some happiness,” says Connery.

Harvard offers clues, behaviors, to have fun at the end of the year.

Tips to have a good holiday

Focus on what is essential and important. This time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday holidays can be very different. But that doesn’t mean they have to be negative days. Why not make it a moment of introspection? Connery wonders.

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Several experts propose using these days to think about the things that could not be done this year, which is surely a long list. And propose them as goals for 2021.

Do not forget that they must be possible goals to meet. If since you were a child you dreamed of going to the Moon, well, that goal will not be possible. But if you start to inquire into your soul, there must be many pending things. A trip? A course? Exercise? Reencounter with a dear person you haven’t seen for a long time?

Connery suggests treating this period as a sabbatical year, a time for rest and introspection. Or focus on helping others in some way during this time, whether it’s through community service or just being a friendly neighbor.

“The coronavirus cares no less about our social desires,” says Connery. Dismissing the idea that things should be a certain way and accepting the need to make changes to protect yourself and others can help you move forward with this plan.

Make a list of the good things you have. And it is not a list of material things. Your family is there. Always, even if some are far away at the moment and you can’t see them.

But think about the medium-term benefit of this temporary sacrifice. For example, if you have parents, grandparents, or older uncles, some with pre-existing medical conditions, you will want to protect them so you can be with them for many years to come. And that is why you are taking care of them now. That is a positive thing. An act of generosity.

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Plan ahead. Now, if you don’t have family members in risk groups and you want to see them in person, you need to plan.

Dinners where the whole family passes food trays and mixes up the glasses won’t work this time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that each member of the meeting have their own plate already prepared, this way there is no exchange of trays or cutlery.

It is better, they say, to use disposable plates, cutlery and glasses. And the latter must have the name of the person written, in case it is forgotten on a table or armchair where they were chatting.

And indoors and outdoors, always maintain a distance of six feet (two meters) between guests.

Respect the differences. Dr Connery explains that this is crucial to have a good Holiday season. Your risk threshold and your personal risk factors may differ from those of the people around you, and that’s okay. When making plans, pay attention and act sensitively.

“It’s about each person’s unique situation and finding a mutually enjoyable experience” to positively connect during the Holidays.

Don’t forget that the pandemic has put our mental health, our usual good humor, to the limit.

The current situation affects everyone differently, depending on circumstances, temperament, and health.

“So the real task at hand is to appreciate these differences and then, in light of that understanding, to find creative connections that everyone can be happy with,” observed the expert.

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Public health tips

The CDC suggests:

Celebrate virtually. Celebrate through meeting programs on computers (such as Zoom, Teams, Google meet and others), a means of communication that is already part of our lives, with family or friends who do not live with you, presents the lowest risk of spreading COVID-19.

Celebrate outdoors. If the weather in your area allows it, celebrate the Outdoor Parties, but still, keep your physical distance and take care to prevent the spread of COVID. Keep hand sanitizing gels, sanitizing towels, and ask guests and members of your household to wash their hands frequently with soap and water.

What to do if you travel. The car itself is always better than another means of transport, because there is less risk of contagion. Further:

  • Check travel restrictions, at your starting point and at your destination.
  • Get a flu shot before you travel.
  • Bring extra supplies, like face masks and hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a mask to cover your nose and mouth when you are in public places, even in public transport and in places like airports and bus or train stations, if you decide to use one of these means.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least six feet (about two meters) away from anyone other than the group you are traveling with.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cancel your trip if someone in your family, or yourself, has symptoms of COVID.

Sources: Harvard, CDC.

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