Guest Post: Courtesy of John Markley, Centerstone, Regional CEO in Illinois
For many, the holidays mark the most joyful time of the year. The last few months of the year serve as a time to slow down, take a break and enjoy the company of friends and family. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic persisting, the holidays are still a special time, though they may look different this year.
People need support, connection and gratitude no matter the circumstances, including COVID-19. Holiday celebrations provide opportunities to meet these emotional needs and more. Still, like with the upcoming turbulent winter weather, sometimes conditions call for accommodations. Adjusting celebrations promotes everyone’s well-being this holiday season. To help you celebrate the holidays, we are providing tips on what to consider when planning your celebrations.
You may be planning to only celebrate with close family or you may want to host a slightly larger gathering with friends. No matter what you choose to do, there are safety measures to consider when making your plans.
The pandemic has contributed to increased stress and mental health challenges, which may be increased further by the stress of the holiday season. If you are in need of mental health help, Centerstone is here. Connect with us by calling 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123).
John Markley serves as Regional CEO in Illinois, serving residents in eastern and southern Illinois through more than 30 locations that provide treatment, support and educational programs and services to individuals who have mental health and addiction disorders and specialized services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Centerstone employs over 525 staff in Illinois and serves more than 17,000 individuals annually.
- Local spread of COVID-19. An important factor to consider no matter what you’re doing is the community level of the virus. If you are in a high-case area, you may want to keep gatherings as small and physically distant as possible. Consider also the locations that all attendees are arriving from.
- Travel conditions. Choose whether driving or flying is safer based on the risk of possible exposure; which option exposes you to the fewest number of people outside of your household? It’s possible to get gas without interacting with others. For longer trips, packing your own food or selecting drive-thru or curbside options, are considered lower risk than dine-in options. The CDC also recommends staying up to date on routine vaccinations, such as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine.
- Location. Outdoor gatherings are generally safer than indoor gatherings, as the virus has a far lower chance of spreading outside.
- Size. Limiting your contact to the people in your household is the easiest way to promote well-being of your extended family.
- Duration. The shorter your gathering lasts, the less time there is for the virus to spread among your attendees.
- Health status of attendees. Ask all attendees to self-screen for COVID symptoms and to stay home if they’re sick. You might also prompt attendees to reconsider attending if they meet high-risk criteria for COVID.
- Preparation. When possible, self-quarantining for 14 days prior to the event, or getting tested approximately 5 days in advance, lowers risk. You can also prepare by sharing any special requests, expectations or “rules” with attendees prior to the event.
- Behaviors of attendees. There are several preventative measures you can take when planning your gathering. Social distancing, wearing masks and setting up hand-washing or sanitizing stations will provide added assurance that your gathering is promoting well-being. Buffet-style or potluck meals are riskier because everyone will handle the same serving utensils and because a line may form. If you choose this meal style, consider assigning one or two attendees to handle the serving utensils while wearing gloves. You might also ask attendees to get food one at a time to avoid forming a line.
Centerstone is a not-for-profit health system providing mental health and substance use disorder treatments. Services are available nationally through the operation of outpatient clinics, residential programs, the use of telehealth and an inpatient hospital. Centerstone also features specialized programs for the military community, therapeutic foster care, children’s services and employee assistance programs. Centerstone’s Research Institute provides guidance through research and technology, leveraging the best practices for use in all our communities. Centerstone’s Foundation secures philanthropic resources to support the work and mission of delivering care that changes people’s lives.