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Tips for managing holiday stress during the pandemic

As we decide how we'll celebrate Thanksgiving this year, we could face disagreements with loved ones. Here's how to cope.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Holiday plans are looking a bit different this year in the U.S.

COVID-19 is piling on to an already stressful time for many families.

As we decide how we'll celebrate - if at all - we could face disagreements with loved ones.

RELATED: Tips for safely celebrating Thanksgiving amid COVID-19 pandemic

To learn ways you can manage stress during a pandemic this Thanksgiving, News 19 spoke with an expert.

Dr. Sue Heiney, a professor at USC's College of Nursing, says the best way to relieve or even avoid stress before the holidays is to talk it out.

"Maybe saying, 'Maybe we're not gonna eat this time. Maybe we're gonna meet in a park where people can social distance, we can wear a mask, we can have cleaning stations for our hands'," said Heiney.

It's possible some family members will pass on holiday celebrations especially if it's a multi-generational gathering.

Dr. Heiney says if that's the case, consider a virtual gathering instead.

"[Don't] guilt or bad mouth people because they say, 'Wait a minute. I'm not going to be able to come this year'," said Heiney. "Be very accepting and gracious about that and think of another way to include people."

Stress can impact your mental and physical health. When we're stressed, our immune system weakens, making us more susceptible to any kind of virus.

Dr. Heiney says If you're feeling stressed or depressed, practice self care.

Doing meditation, prayers and spiritual practices can help. One of the best things you can do to feel better, Heiney says, is exercise.

"Or the simplest thing is simply to walk," she added.

The CDC recommends minimizing activities two weeks prior to your holiday gathering. For many of us, that means now.

Among the lower risk activities for Thanksgiving, according to the CDC, are:

  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home

If you're planning to gather with family members outside your household, it's also suggested you get a COVID test both before and after the celebration.