child in orange shirt wearing turkey hat craft at thanksgiving in covid

Don't Invite COVID to Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Nov 16, 2020 COVID-19 Share:

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. With cases of COVID-19 rising in our communities, many are rightfully concerned about getting together to celebrate Thanksgiving. But at MedHelp, we believe it’s important - and even beneficial - to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Our team at MedHelp Pelham is offering their expertise to help you plan a safe celebration.

Why it’s important to celebrate Thanksgiving this year

Thanksgiving shouldn’t be canceled due to COVID-19. In fact, celebrating Thanksgiving this year might be more important than ever. Celebrating Thanksgiving can help you maintain a sense of normalcy in the midst of a difficult year.

Celebrating Thanksgiving also provides many benefits for your mental health. Practicing gratitude1, connecting with loved ones2, and even cooking3 all improve your mental health.

While you may need to alter some of your Thanksgiving traditions, you can still celebrate the holiday in the same spirit.

table set for thanksgiving outside for a safe thanksgiving dinner in covid

Things to consider while planning your 2020 Thanksgiving

While Thanksgiving traditions vary, many Thanksgiving celebrations usually include an indoors, intergenerational gathering, crowded around a table with food. While this would be an unwise way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, you can still keep what matters: giving thanks, connecting with family and friends, and food.

There are some important things you need to consider and do to plan a safe Thanksgiving. The team at MedHelp Pelham thinks it’s essential that you think beyond physical safety to evaluate priorities and celebrate well.

Communicate about your Thanksgiving priorities

Dr. David Wever at MedHelp Pelham says, “Don’t be afraid to get together this year. But honest communication is key. Don’t make assumptions about what your family and loved ones want. Everyone gathering needs to be on the same page about their needs and priorities for a Thanksgiving celebration.” Many of your older or immunocompromised family members may still want to get together in person on Thanksgiving, but you’ll need to take extra precautions to make sure they’re safe and included.

Some things you may need to communicate about as you plan your Thanksgiving celebration include:

  • Who wants to be present and who would rather not participate due to concerns about COVID-19
  • Safety precautions that you plan to take
  • Current exposure risk
  • Concerning symptoms that may arise prior to Thanksgiving

You shouldn't limit your communication to a single conversation that happens prior to the gathering. Instead, communication needs to be ongoing, open, and honest. And if someone in your family feels uncomfortable with gathering this year, it’s important to respect their wishes and find alternate ways to connect with them.

Consider COVID-19 travel safety

Many people travel to spend time with family over Thanksgiving. But you need to consider more than just your packing list when you’re traveling in 2020. If you’re traveling out of state, make sure to be mindful of travel restrictions and other regulations where you’re going.

The CDC provides extensive guidance for those who are planning to travel during the holiday season. Remember that cases are currently rising nationwide, and if you travel to a location with a higher rate of infection, you’ll need to be even more careful when you return home.

Because of COVID-19, traveling by car or RV is a safer choice. If you must fly, make sure you do your research and make sure you’re following all safety guidelines for your chosen airline. While airlines are working hard to make travel by plane safe, you’ll need to take extra precautions while you’re at the airport. Make sure you pack several masks and hand sanitizer in your carry-on bag.

Take care of your own health

Everyone is rightfully concerned about COVID-19, and you should continue to take precautions to prevent infection. But it’s also important to practice some basic habits for overall health. The team at MedHelp Pelham says that some helpful things you can do today are:

  • Eat well. Focus on eating whole foods, including lean meats and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Look for foods that are high in antioxidants (like berries, kale, beans, and dark chocolate) to boost your immunity.
  • Take your vitamins. Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc are all important vitamins to take to help you prevent and fight off infection.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night, and try to limit your caffeine after 12pm.
  • Don’t neglect exercise. You don’t need a gym membership to get health benefits from exercise. Anything that gets your heart pumping - walking, riding a bike, yard work, or playing with your kids - counts as exercise. And if you can exercise outside, it’s even better. Regular exercise helps reduce inflammation and also reduces anxiety.
  • Practice moderation. The holidays are a time when it’s tempting to go to excess with your vices. Anxiety due to a difficult year in 2020 could make this temptation even worse. Ask for help if you need it.
  • Get your flu shot. There are many benefits to getting your flu shot this year. Flu shots are now available at MedHelp Pelham and all of our MedHelp locations. No appointment is needed for flu shots, so you can walk right in and request a flu shot at your convenience.

Due to COVID-19, many people are also tempted to put off routine wellness checks or to avoid visiting the doctor for other health concerns. All of our MedHelp locations are committed to keeping our patients safe from the time they enter our clinic to the time they leave, so you don’t have to worry about getting sick with COVID-19, whether you’re coming in for a check-up or an urgent care visit.

Some urgent care and wellness concerns can also be addressed with a telehealth visit, so you can receive treatment from the comfort of your own home.

Use common sense

As a community, we’ve been living with COVID-19 for nearly 9 months. We’ve all learned ways to stay healthy. Frequent hand washing, maintaining social distance, monitoring your symptoms, and following your local regulations are all important to having a safe Thanksgiving this year. Consider your particular situation and use common sense as you make your plans.

thanksgiving handprint turkey craft with colored paper and glue for covid thanksgiving

Ways you can celebrate Thanksgiving in 2020

As you plan this year’s Thanksgiving celebration, it’s important to focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do. While you may not be able to keep all of your usual Thanksgiving traditions, determine what does matter to your family, and plan your celebration around those core priorities.

Remember that the goal of Thanksgiving is to give thanks. Dr. Wever says, “Thanksgiving is a time to put all of the difficulties of the year aside and get back to the basics of giving thanks. It’s essential that we stay appreciative of the small things and the moments we have together.”

Host an outdoor Thanksgiving dinner

One safer way of gathering with family and loved ones this year is to move your Thanksgiving celebration outside. Thanksgiving in Alabama is usually very pleasant, and this year looks to be no different. If it starts to get chilly, you can always use propane heaters, blankets, and firepits to make everyone more comfortable. String lights can help you extend the festivities as the sun goes down. You might even consider some low-contact outdoor games such as cornhole to help your guests work up an appetite or work off some turkey.

To make your Thanksgiving even safer, the team at MedHelp Pelham suggests the following ideas:

  • Seat families together at individual tables. Instead of having a kids’ table this year, consider multiple smaller tables for different households. This way you can celebrate together without crowding around a single table.
  • Consider catering. Most Thanksgiving feasts are traditionally potluck, but it’s far safer for one person or family to be in charge of meal preparation. If that’s just too much food for one person to prepare on their own, reach out to a local restaurant and cater your Thanksgiving meal. Families can contribute money rather than a covered dish.
  • No double-dipping. Whether you make your own meal or have it catered, have one person be in charge of serving the meal rather than offering a free-for-all buffet. This will minimize the spread of germs.
  • Choose disposable tableware. You may not want to bring your fine china into the backyard this year, and your disposable tableware may actually be a safer choice anyway. Have everyone write their name on their own cup to prevent drink sharing. Kids may really enjoy decorating their cups or plates this year.
  • Know when to stay home. If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, a new cough, or loss of taste or smell, get tested. All of our urgent care locations, including MedHelp Pelham, have drive-up rapid COVID tests that will give you results in just 15 minutes. Do not attend or host a family gathering if you’re positive for COVID-19.

Take advantage of technology

Although there are safer ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, some may prefer not to celebrate Thanksgiving in person this year. But it’s important to still find ways to connect with your loved ones. Technology makes this easier than ever. Use Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom to spend time with those that you love, even if you can’t gather around the table together.

Some ideas to help you connect beyond a simple phone call include:

  • Give a verbal hug. Tell your loved ones specific things that you love about them and the ways you are thankful for them. This kind of encouragement is so important, especially in the absence of physical contact.
  • Have a virtual dinner party. We know that eating together over Zoom just isn’t the same. But it’s important to find ways to connect and battle against isolation on Thanksgiving.
  • Host a watch party. Does your family have a movie you always watch after the big Thanksgiving meal? All of the major streaming services offer a watch party option so you can enjoy your tradition, even while you’re separated.

Share with others

Thanksgiving is a time for generosity. If you have a loved one that won’t be at Thanksgiving this year, consider sending them a Thanksgiving care package. You might want to include some special snacks, a handwritten copy of a favorite Thanksgiving recipe, an encouraging note, or a Thanksgiving activity.

Many people also love to volunteer as a family on Thanksgiving. While traditional volunteer opportunities may not be available this year due to concerns about COVID-19, here are some ways you can still serve others:

  • Make a donation. Many nonprofit organizations are suffering financially this year. Even a small donation can make a big difference to an organization that you love. You can also make a food donation to a local food bank.
  • Contact a local organization to see how you can help. One local organization we love is Daniel Cason Ministries, but there are countless organizations in the Birmingham area that could use your help. They’ll be happy to share ways your family can volunteer safely this year.
  • Encourage those in assisted living and nursing facilities. With restrictions on visitors, sending cards and care packages to our elderly neighbors is a way to share love and connection. Contact your local facility for specific information.
  • Support doctors and nurses on COVID units. Reach out to your local hospital and ask if there are specific ways you can serve. Some ideas for encouraging these workers include sending a meal or writing encouraging notes.

Celebrate with your own household

You may feel safer by choosing to celebrate small this year. But celebrating Thanksgiving with your own household doesn’t have to be a let-down. Here are some ideas to keep the holiday special in 2020.

  • Decorate for the feast. Use special dishes, make a festive centerpiece, forage for fall branches, or create new decorations together as a family.
  • Try out new Thanksgiving traditions. Thanksgiving is already different this year, so lean into the difference with new foods, a special game, or by watching a fun movie.
  • Get outside. Bonus points if you’re exercising! Challenge your family to a race before the big meal, go for a hike on a local trail (we love Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham and Red Mountain Park in Birmingham for hiking), or visit a local playground.
  • Virtually connect with your extended family. Even if you’re separated from your extended family on Thanksgiving, there are still many ways you can connect. Reach out to those you may be missing this year.

Care for your mental health

Many people struggle with anxiety and depression during the holidays. This struggle may be more intense this year due to COVID-19. You can fight off anxiety and depression by putting into practice the healthy habits we've already mentioned. Since mental health is tied so closely to your physical health, taking care of your body will promote a healthier mind as well.

Make sure you continue to eat well throughout the holidays. Exercise releases endorphins, which reduce your overall stress. Journaling your feelings, talking to a friend, and doing things you enjoy can also boost your mental health. And practicing gratitude, however you celebrate, improves your mood and reduces depression4.

But remember, you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression this Thanksgiving season, don’t be afraid to see your primary care provider for more help. And if you don’t have a primary care provider, you can visit MedHelp Pelham or any of our MedHelp locations as an urgent care patient and we’ll get you the help you need.

Take care

Thanksgiving may look different this year, but it’s still possible to give thanks and connect with your loved ones. Remember that it’s normal to grieve what’s different, but the changes due to COVID-19 are temporary.

We’re thankful this year for all of our patients. Know that we’re here for you at Thanksgiving and all year round.

We're in this together.

Whether you’re feeling under the weather, concerned about COVID-19, or in need of a checkup, we’re here for you. We’re open seven days a week with five Birmingham locations to serve you.



Resources:

1Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, June 19). In Praise of Gratitude. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu...

2Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, August 6.) The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships. Retrievd November 12, 2020 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships

3Whalen, J. (2014, December 08). A Road to Mental Health Through the Kitchen. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-road-to-mental-health-through-the-kitchen-1418059204

4Morin, A. (2015, April 03). 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

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