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Nov. 24, 2020

The holiday season can be joyous and full of love. It can also be one of the more stressful times of the year. 

“Holidays can be a stressful time of year in terms of finances and the time demand for events. Make sure you are taking time for yourself and saying no to things that aren’t as important so that you have more time and energy to do the things you want to do,” says Pamela Jennings, a health coach with BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. 

For anyone feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, ask for help either from family who can help with responsibilities or from a professional who can help with the mental stresses, she says. 

“This year people may have more emotional issues because they want to be with family or friends and can’t because of the pandemic,” Jennings says. “We will all have to take personal responsibility because you don’t want to make your loved ones sick.” 

Here’s some more advice from Jennings to make your holidays a little healthier this year. 

Family makes virtual call with computer during Thanksgiving Hover image

Prepare for COVID-19 

There’s no doubt that this year will be a holiday season unlike any other. With the pandemic continuing, it is important to make sure you are practicing appropriate social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* recommends limiting the number of people invited to any gathering and avoiding crowding indoors. Consider moving your holiday dinner outside, picnic style. 

“We’re lucky in the South that we can do more outside because we have warmer weather,” Jennings says.  

Have a conversation with anyone you plan to celebrate with in advance to set expectations. Do not attend or host a holiday celebration if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, says the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control*.    

Other things to consider during the pandemic: 

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils.
  • Use single-use options, such as salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items, such as food containers, plates and utensils. 
  • Make sure you clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
Outside table set up for Thanksgiving Hover image

Get organized 

During normal times, planning ahead makes choosing healthy options easier. This is also true during the stressful times of the holidays. If you are going to a gathering, eat a healthy snack beforehand so you will be less likely to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. Or better yet, bring your own healthy snacks to add to the table.  

Stick to your normal schedule as much as you can and make sure you are getting plenty of sleep, Jennings says. 

Moderation is key 

Another big obstacle to healthy holidays is drinking too much alcohol. During the pandemic more Americans report increased drinking, too. Drinking too much isn’t just bad for your mental health, it is also a lot of empty calories and increases the chance that you will eat more unhealthy foods. 

To avoid the alcohol, find a healthy swap like sparkling water. If you plan to drink, don’t do so on an empty stomach and set a drink limit for yourself. 

When diving into the dessert table, grab a small plate and a small slice. Load up your plate with fresh vegetables or healthy foods first so you don’t have as much room for the unhealthy options. 

“Try to make sure that you are being mindful and not just eating because it is there,” Jennings says. 

Sparkling water with fruit Hover image

Make healthy swaps 

This time of year can be particularly difficult for people with diabetes, Jennings says. Planning ahead can be helpful for anyone watching their blood sugar. Another way is to make healthy swaps in your recipes, she says. 

“Your food can be healthy and tasty at the same time,” she says. 

For some ideas for healthy cooking this season visit the recipe library from the American Diabetes Association* and ChooseMyPlate.gov*. 

Also plan to swap in some activity during your holiday time. Take the family for a walk before or after dinner or grab a Blue Bike for transportation to your holiday gathering. Instead of meeting friends for drinks, meet for a walk at a park. Walk around the house during commercials during the game. 

However you choose to celebrate this holiday season, take the time to care for yourself and find ways to connect with those you love.

“We are lucky today because there are so many ways for us to be together — virtually or in person safely. Don’t be isolated. Seek support if you need to,” Jennings says. 

*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the American Diabetes Association and ChooseMyPlate.gov are independent organizations that provide health information you may find helpful.

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