Holiday Health Survival Guide

Oh, December. The time to balance joy with stress, vegetables with cookies, and calendar overload with wellness routines. This year, COVID-19 has thrown an extra curve ball in the mix. How do we keep the spirit of the season alive when things feel extra dark? We made a list.

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Pare Down

Ordinary years’ holiday cheer can leave us frazzled, signed up to office potlucks, neighborhood dessert parties, friends’ get-togethers and large family meals. This year, overcommitment is extra complicated as we try to have happy holidays but stay safe.

Risa Byars, Psy.D., a psychologist in Bluffton, offered suggestions for navigating decisions. First, follow advice from verified sources. Then, listen to your gut.

As Byars put it, “Don’t let anyone make you feel crazy or bad for doing what’s right for you.”

After all, you are unlikely to enjoy an event while worried that you shouldn’t be there.

Byars also emphasizes to keep hope alive.

“Even in this darkness, we have reason to be hopeful,” Byars said. “This won’t last forever. It is temporary and it will end.”

For trusted information about the risks of holiday activities, the CDC has released a holiday risk guide on its website.

Find joy through connections

Humans are not built for social isolation, and it causes mental health to deteriorate quickly, so figure out how to stay connected and find joy.

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In planning your season, cross anything off your list that feels like mere habit or obligation. Then, consider which aspects of what remains make your heart sing. The sense of togetherness? Watching a loved one open a carefully chosen gift? Sharing a meal?

You can recreate all of these with some creativity. Video technology make it possible to dine with family, host a holiday games party, or even go caroling. The Lowcountry is blessed with great weather. You might enjoy drinks with friends or neighbors distanced in your driveway or an outdoor meal with loved ones.

Nourish your Body

Wellness matters now more than ever. This means eating right, but nourishment isn’t just food. Amber Faust of Hilton Head, a wellness expert who blogs at Faust Island, suggested a well-rounded, simple approach. “Drink water, laugh, and get outdoors, even in the cold.”

She emphasized hydration: “Make sure you are drinking enough water. Holiday foods are full of sugar and alcohol can leave you slightly dehydrated. This could lead to headaches and run down your immune system.”

Ask for Help and Give it to Others

Kimberly Hall is the Executive Director of Bluffton Self Help, which offers emergency financial assistance, a wellness food pantry, holiday-based programs and a wealth of education and resources. There has been an increase in need in the community since COVID began, and they rely on local donations, providing a great opportunity to support others and boost your mood.

But Hall implores people not to be afraid to ask for help — and not to feel hopeless.

"One of the things that can be hard in this moment is the loss of hope,” she said. “We want to remind people that there is a light at the end; we want to help give hope and light. It can be hard to ask for help. But more than a third of the growth in families we serve during COVID have never sought support before. Many pay it forward through donations or volunteering."