Millions are gathering with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Even with the pandemic still on the mind, the rise in vaccinations along with the recent approval for vaccines in kids over 5 are making people more comfortable to get together.
But, “staying healthy” is more than being smart about COVID. The holidays can cause all sorts of emotions and stress, especially after spending last year’s cooped inside.
Here are tips from K Health experts to ensure a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
1. Talk COVID safety before you get together
Now that many adults, and now children, are vaccinated, many families are excited to get together this year.
Vaccines are proven to be very effective, however there are still risks for breakthrough infections, so there is some caution to be had.
Dr. Bill Hudenko, the global head of mental health at K Health, reminds us that different members of your family may have different levels of what is considered “safe.”
Before getting together, he says to make sure you know each others’ comfort level, in terms of masks, sharing food, getting tests, and more. For example, if you know early on someone will not be comfortable with a “family style” meal, you can prevent any awkwardness when you sit down to eat.
Setting these boundaries and expectations early on will generally reduce conflicts and concerns about safety, thus allowing everyone to have a more enjoyable time.
2. Be content with a little conflict
Dr. Hudenko wants everyone to remember that it’s normal to have conflicting emotions around spending time with family.
Nearly everyone has someone who they’ve butted heads with in the past, whether it be because of conflicting belief systems or strained relationships.
Be prepared for that (potential) argument around the dinner table, but also get excited for the positives of reuniting with people you love.
“Allow yourself to be excited and hopeful about positive times together,” he said. “One of the best skills to build is conflict resolution…think of ’tense’ moments as opportunities to practice building that skill.”
Fun fact: the main dish of the holiday, turkey, is known to reduce stress! It contains tryptophan, an amino acid that which promotes a calming effect and helps produce serotonin! Eat up.
3. Indulge thoughtfully
Holidays are frequently associated with good food, drinks, and overindulgence. Sometimes, however, that can lead to people feeling guilty or mad at oneself for “over consuming.”
Dr. Hudenko reminds us that holidays are a special time of year and there is no reason to not enjoy yourselves.
However, there are ways to “indulge” without feeling bad, as indulgences don’t only come in the form of food or drink.
“Pick some favorite desserts to eat, but also think about other holiday pleasures, like quality time with your favorite relative,” said Dr. Hudenko.
4. Walk it off
Exercise is great everyday, but especially around the holidays. And not just because holidays tend to focus around eating and drinking! It also can help reduce any stress that may come along with gathering with family.
People also have time off from work, which means they have more time for self-care and doing things they may not normally have time for. Endorphins from exercise help people feel good, and research shows that small bits of pleasure produce more overall happiness and wellbeing than large rewards.
“Walk around your favorite park,” said Dr. Hudenko. “Don’t feel guilty indulging, but do so thoughtfully!”
5. Focus on enjoying yourself
Regardless of what you have planned this Thanksgiving, try and find ways to enjoy your time. Especially since you may not have gathered with your loved ones in some time.
For example, instead of thinking that your family should get along, try and reframe it by thinking you should make a point to enjoy your time together.
Dr. Hudenko also says finding ways to spread joy makes people happier. “Consider helping a family member with a chore or volunteering at a shelter,” he said.
Finally, prioritizing your self-care is always something recommended around the holidays. Do things you love, whether it be reading a few pages of a book or carving out time to catch up with friends.
6. Don’t wait to see a doctor if you need one
We hope you don’t need a doctor over the holidays, but if you do we got you covered.
Clinicians are available 24/7 via the K Health app for everything from late-night fevers to a stomach ache to increased anxiety. Pediatricians are also available for children over 3.
Don’t think you need a doctor and just want to check to see what your symptoms may mean? Download the app to check your symptoms on-the-go, from wherever you are.