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Ways to manage holiday stress and remain safe amid COVID-19 pandemic

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the nation, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the nation, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.

The CDC says gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. For some, being away from family and friends during the holidays can be hard. But, health experts say, hard choices to be apart this year may mean that you can spend many more years with your loved ones.

You should do what's best for you and your loved ones this holiday season. When you talk with your family and friends about holiday plans, it's okay if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others. Remember, the first step in managing stress is taking care of yourself and overall well-being.

“Specifically, you want to make sure that you are taking care of your own wellness, said Dr. Michelle Bucknor, Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealthcare North Carolina. “So, try to maintain a healthy diet, get enough sleep, get in exercise, and be out with nature. Whatever you typically do, you want to make sure you're managing your stress with things that are going to keep you healthier and more balanced.”

Health experts also suggests making time to take care of your body and staying active to lessen fatigue, anxiety, and sadness. The CDC offers the following tips to help manage stress and remain safe during the holiday season:

Healthy ways to cope with stress

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

Everyone Can Make Thanksgiving Safer

  • Wear a mask
    • Wear a mask with two or more layers to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
    • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
    • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
    • Remember that people without symptoms may be able to spread COVID-19 or flu.
    • Keeping 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
    • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Attending a Gathering

  • Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.
  • If you choose to attend a gathering, make your celebration safer. In addition to following the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer, take these additional steps if attending a Thanksgiving gathering:
    • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
    • Wear a mask and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
    • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
    • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.