Doctors share ways to stay physically, mentally healthy during holiday season amid COVID

October 20, 2020

The holiday season is often the time for some much-needed rest and relaxation with friends and family. This year, there’s an unwelcome guest.

The pandemic is pushing pause on many traditions. Clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Bowers and Kaiser Permanente infectious disease physician Dr. Mona Gahunia spoke with ABC7 News about ways to celebrate while staying physically and mentally healthy.

“We thought it would be done by now, right? And here we are looking at the holidays and into the new year,” Dr. Bowers told ABC7 reporter Victoria Sanchez during a Zoom interview. “Everyone’s health and well-being is really at the forefront.”

Halloween is the unofficial kickoff of the holidays. Dr. Gahunia suggests creativity in lieu of the customary.

“We are recommending against the traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating but definitely can still embrace the holiday and even having a candy treasure hunt in your home or yard,” the mother of two said.

If you’re used to hosting a crowd on Thanksgiving, Gahunia said the number of guests should be limited to 10 and be mindful of the weather.

“If you are going to choose to see people in person, do as many of the activities as possible outdoors,” she said.

“Maybe moving your holiday dinner to a holiday lunch? Something like that?” asked Sanchez.

“Exactly,” responded Gahunia. “So, we’re thinking about doing a Thanksgiving lunch outdoors if weather permits and we’re going to quickly pivot that plan if the weather doesn’t permit and do something virtual.”

While Zoom fatigue and Facetime frustration are mounting more than six months into the pandemic, Bowers suggests making time for mental health.

“While we’re disappointed, frustrated, maybe feeling a bit lonely or isolated, it’s a time where we think creatively about what can we do,” she said.

The holidays won’t be the same but keep some traditions going. Put on your favorite seasonal music and make that special recipe.

“My mom’s stuffing is always the thing, right?” Bowers said with a smile.

If you’re healthy and traveling to be a guest at a gathering, bring a mask and yes, wear it inside.

“It may be a little awkward but wearing masks in the home, distancing, still applies in that setting,” explained Gahunia.

Making new traditions could last for years to come.

“You might take a group of those people that normally get together and say, ‘Let’s go do some sort of community service activity,’ ‘Let’s go do something together that isn’t necessarily what we’ve done in the house with 30 people,’” said Bowers.

For any of the holiday celebrations, plan ahead and communicate rules to family and guests early on.


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