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Holiday Health Tips During A Covid Crisis

By Pamela Redwine
County Coordinator
MSU Extension Agent III

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in pandemic panic mode for 9-plus months with the holidays at our heels. Having to work from home, home school your kids, and find a mask to wear every time you leave the house can be draining. From losing friends or family to the virus to losing work or your home, this situation has certainly challenged all of us.
Isolation and “staying put” is also difficult. We miss even simple travel like driving to work, the mall, or the grocery store. Disappointment in not seeing friends and family, especially at holiday time, is natural. Having to send gifts out on time adds another layer of stress. Some individuals are at higher risk for psychological distress than others. Being resilient is vital.

Who’s at risk?
A recent systematic review of 41 studies evaluated the indirect impact of Covid 19. About half of the studies were on health care workers while the other half included the general public. Not surprisingly, individuals working in health care experienced more depression/depressive symptoms, anxiety, poor sleep quality and increased psychological distress. Higher scores of anxiety and depression, as well as lower psychological well-being, were seen in the general public compared to how they felt pre-pandemic. A higher risk of psychiatric symptoms was observed more frequently in females, poor-self-related health, and having family members with Covid-19.
Another article published in the Cambridge University Press identifies four groups of individuals with a higher risk of mental and psychological consequences of the pandemic. These include those who have had direct or indirect contact with the virus, those with prior physical or mental issues, health care professionals, and people that are frequently watching multiple media channels. This list could virtually include anyone.

How to reduce stress and anxiety during the holidays:
Self-care is always important for good mental and physical health during the holiday season, but even more important during a pandemic. If we want to get through this, we may cope better with a few strategies within our control. Here are 10 ways:
1. Reduce your sources of stress. Limit how many news sources you read as well as the frequency of consumption. Ignore information from unofficial or uncontrolled sources.
2. Increase communication with friends or family. This is not only via phone or Zoom calls, but writing letters, sending holiday packages, or meeting in person, but at a physical distance with masks.
3. Keep a regular schedule for meals and sleep. This may help maintain energy throughout the day, reduce frequent snacking, and help to reduce fatigue.
4. Get outside. Being out in nature reduces your screen time and provides a mental break. Seeing neighbor’s holiday decorations and lights may also cheer you up.
5. Exercise regularly. Go for a walk, bike ride, or hike. Use hand weights or a medicine ball indoors or a stationary bike, elliptical machine, or other equipment if you have it.
6. Volunteer in your community. If you have time, spend some of it helping others. This will lift your spirits in addition to giving back. Opportunities such as food rescue, holiday toy drives or other charity work could use help these days.
7. Take care of your pets and your skin. Psychologists note we may all be suffering from “skin hunger” from the lack of personal touches we’re normally used to. Pet your dog or cat often, hug the people in your immediate circle daily. Treat yourself to a long bath or hot shower or use a favorite lotion on your legs and arms. We all need a human touch.
8. Enjoy the silence. Embrace the introvert in you. Meditate daily, read more or journal your thoughts. Write three things you’re grateful for each day. Life is not always a group activity, and that’s okay.
9. Learn a new hobby. Baking sourdough and banana bread became a hit this year because everyone had more time at home. Use an app to learn a new language or yoga or try your hand at a new craft like collaging.
10. Ask for help. Mental health professionals are poised and ready to use telehealth for those who need professional help with their stress or anxiety.
Remember, we won’t be in crisis mode forever. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to be patient and trust that this too, shall pass.

Extension Office Notes:

• We have had a great turnout with our 4-H Cooking Kits this year.  We will continue this activity into the New Year.  This is a great activity to sign your youth, ages 5 to 18, up for (younger children may need more adult supervision but it is fine to sign them up).  You do not have to be a member of 4-H, but we would love to sign you up,  Yalobusha County 4-H it is free to join.  The monthly kits are $5 per kit.
Each monthly kit includes a cooking related educational handout, a recipe, all of the ingredients that you will need to make the recipe and a surprise cooking tool to use to make your recipe.  It’s fun, educational and delicious. The youth that participate look forward to their kits each month.  Registration for the January kits is open until Friday, January 15.  The kit pickup date is Thursday, Jan. 21.  You can pay for just the January kit which is $5 or you can go ahead and pay for the first three month’s kits for $15.  If you receive a kit, you are asked to send a picture of the child(ren) with the finished recipe and fill out a short evaluation which can both be returned via text or email.
• The Yalobusha County Extension Office will be closed December 23 and will reopen on Monday, January 4th at 8 a.m.  We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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