MU health psychology expert shares tips for safely enjoying the holiday season during COVID-19

Nov. 9, 2020
Contact: Brian Consiglio, 573-882-9144,

*The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member and do not necessarily reflect the university’s official stance.*

The holiday season is usually a time spent with family and friends, but current COVID-19 restrictions related to travel and social gatherings are causing many families to adjust their holiday plans. After nine months of unprecedented emotional and physical stress, MU health psychology expert Kimberly Kimchi highlights key topics to consider for safely enjoying the holiday season:

This is a photo of Kimberly Kimchi

Kimberly Kimchi is an assistant clinical professor in the MU School of Health Professions.

Prioritize self-care and mental health

Practice self-care by prioritizing healthy habits, such as eating nutritious foods, drinking lots of water, exercising and getting enough sleep. Cut yourself some slack when it comes to holiday expectations and take time for light-hearted, enjoyable activities like puzzles, arts and crafts, or baking.

Connect virtually

Dinners with relatives and loved ones are traditionally a highlight of the holiday season, and technology platforms like Zoom and Skype allow us to still have these without sitting at the same dining table. Through this technology, extended families might pray together or make a toast at the beginning of the meal for a sense of unity and togetherness.

Rethink gift-giving

Instead of traditional Black Friday shopping, consider homemade gifts that can be sent to loved ones through the mail. If a family has children that play instruments or sing, they could create a recording and send it to family members with a personalized note. If going to a particular restaurant or business is a holiday tradition, gift cards from those places can be bought as stocking stuffers to show community support without the risks associated with dining-in.

Check in with grandma and grandpa

Elderly residents living in assisted-care facilities have suffered from social isolation during the pandemic as facilities have restricted visitors. In addition to phone calls, sending care packages with cards, treats or artwork can help maintain connection with loved ones. Or, instead of visiting in-person, singing Christmas carols outside of assisted-living facilities may become a welcomed alternative this season.

Acts of kindness

Social and neuroscience research has shown that when we focus on the needs of others, our own health and well-being reap benefits as well. This is because acts of kindness cause the release of endorphins and oxytocin in our minds and bodies, which produces feelings of calmness and social connectedness. Therefore, identifying ways to connect with those in need will not only brighten someone else’s holiday spirit, but has the potential to bring joy, reduce stress and generate social connectedness for those reaching out as well.

Finding a bright side

The holiday season can be a time of increased stress and frenzied attempts at “doing it all.” In the midst of decorating, shopping and baking, it is important to remember to be present for our loved ones and ourselves. We may discover that reducing our social circles allows us to spend more intimate time with our immediate family and close friends while engaging in new activities that have the most meaning for us.

To arrange an interview with Kimberly Kimchi, please contact Brian Consiglio at 573-882-9144 or   


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