Shopping centers are filled with rushed customers, presents are wrapped with colorful paper under the tree, and grocery stores are stocking up for anxious party hosts. Is it safe to say, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year?’ While the holidays are supposed to bring joy, they can also cause stress and anxiety. This holiday season Parkland Health & Hospital System experts want you to make your health a top priority and not let your mental health or COVID-19 interrupt your celebrations.
“We can get so caught up buying the perfect Christmas gifts and stress over hosting the best Christmas dinner that we forget the meaning of it and why we’re celebrating in the first place,” said Jeanette Dominguez, LPC, Lead Mental Health Counselor at Parkland. “We should use this time to appreciate one another, especially after another difficult year.”
For some individuals coping with loss of loved ones, financial or mental health challenges, the holiday season can be lonely or filled with depression. And COVID-19 has not made things easier.
“Mindfulness activities are a great way to bring peace and simply be present. My favorite thing to do is paint by numbers,” said Dominguez. “I’m also mindful when eating holiday meals, paying attention to my body’s needs such as resting when I need it and only eating until my stomach says it’s full.”
Dominguez also suggests avoiding conversations with family members that may trigger negative emotions. If you’re traveling for the holidays, coping with crowded airports or highways, “Try to focus your attention on the scenery, sounds, and colors you see around you,” she said.
Getting vaccinated is another important step to keep you and your loved ones safe during family gatherings.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are a two-dose shot series spaced at least 3 weeks apart. Therefore, it’s too late for unvaccinated people to become fully immunized before the holidays if they prefer these vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only one-dose option available for adults ages 18 and over. In order to be fully immunized by Christmas Day, you must receive your Johnson & Johnson shot by Saturday, Dec. 11.
“COVID-19 has not gone away, and it continues to pose a risk to our community,” said Joseph Chang, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Parkland. “Individuals and children who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 should do so now. Fortunately, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children as are booster shots for everyone over the age of 18. And let’s not forget about getting your flu shot so you’re protected from that virus as well during the holidays.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have serious medical conditions or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. Therefore, they should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask and avoid indoor gatherings with people outside their immediate household.
If your plans include a family gathering with people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, you should consider additional precautions. Dr. Chang recommends avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel and taking a COVID-19 test in advance of the gathering to further reduce the risk.
The CDC also recommends the following to have a healthy holiday season:
- Wash hands often to help prevent the spread of germs
- Bundle up to stay dry and warm
- Manage stress
- Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive
- Be smoke-free
- Fasten seat belts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle
- Get exams and screenings
- Monitor children
- Practice fire safety
- Prepare food safely
- Eat healthy, stay active
“We understand how important holiday traditions are but right now is not the time to let our guard down,” said Dr. Chang. “We can still enjoy family gatherings if we work together and do our part to not only protect ourselves but those around us.”
COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots are available at many of Parkland’s Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) health centers located throughout Dallas County. To find the nearest Parkland COPC, visit www.parklandhospital.com/locations