News from Illinois CancerCare

Tips for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

The holidays are a time for making memories, reflecting on the past year and looking toward the future filled with hope. This year’s holiday season will look and feel a little different, so we’re sharing a few tips to help you enjoy yourself in a safe and healthy way.

The 2020 Difference

“As we gather inside, we need to be much more vigilant about social distancing and wearing masks,” Monica Hendrickson said in her October 15 COVID-19 update. Serving as the Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator, Ms. Hendrickson has been keeping a close eye on the coronavirus situation from the beginning and continues to share suggestions to mitigate the spread of this serious virus.

In giving her weekly report, Ms. Hendrickson shared two important factors for us to be aware of as we head into the holiday season:

  1. In addition to spending more time indoors, this is the time of year when other viruses increase, including influenza. With few exceptions, everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot. If you haven’t done this yet, it’s not too late. But keep in mind that it typically takes about two weeks to achieve optimum protection.If you have questions about your need for a flu shot, please reach out to your healthcare provider or review these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 
  2. Healthcare capacity is something that public health officials track on a regular basis, especially during flu season. This year, it will be even more critical to manage ICU and hospital bed availability as different areas experience spikes in coronavirus. No one wants to be in the hospital at any point, but definitely not during the holidays.In addition, we want to keep those beds and healthcare teams available for people who become seriously ill. Getting a flu shot, practicing social distancing and wearing masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19 – and help our communities maintain adequate medical resources.

Managing Your Guest List

While many of us have been avoiding large gatherings, experts are noticing that many of the new infections of Coronavirus are coming from smaller group activities. After months of being vigilant, it’s understandable that people are craving connection and spending time with each other. Unfortunately, as we let our guard down in small ways, the virus can hurt us in big ways.

“I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at risk because of their age or their underlying condition,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAIDI).

Of course, cancer patients and survivors fall into that category of higher risk. In addition, if you live with – or care for – a cancer patient, it’s important to protect yourself so you don’t transmit COVID-19 to your loved one.

If you do decide to travel this holiday season – or your family chooses to come to you – the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) provides a detailed set of recommendations for travel and overnight guests, as well as a quick-look infographic.

Middle of the Road

Rather than hosting a huge party or hunkering down all alone, some families may decide on a hybrid approach to the holidays. The IDPH also shares tips for a healthier small get-together – read the long version here or check out the visual summary.

If your family or friend group typically hosts potluck style meals, you can suggest a video dinner. Each person (or family) can prepare their specialty dish and divide it into carryout containers. At a pre-determined time, one person from each household can meet up to hand off their contributions to the holiday meal. Re-connect later that day with a Zoom or FaceTime celebration. Of course, it’s not the “real” thing, but your health and reducing the COVID spread are important.

Your Mental Health Matters

Feeling like you’re stuck at home or restricted from activities you enjoy and people you love can be mentally draining. Even during a normal winter, depression can be prevalent, so it’s smart to pay attention to signs you may be more blue than normal or are feeling extra anxious.

Other signs of depression or anxiety can include a change in eating habits, sleeping habits or how you spend your time. It’s also important to remember that experiencing depression and anxiety isn’t a character flaw. They’re recognized mental health conditions that can be treated in a variety of ways, including medication and various approaches of talk therapy. We recently wrote an article that addressed this issue and encourage you to take a few moments to read it.

It’s been said that 2020 has been an unprecedented year. In spite of the challenges, we have the opportunity to make the holidays unique and look for a fresh start in 2021. Best wishes for healthy and happiness!