Make This a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season

A look at top issues that could make or break this holiday season

By Barbara Pierce

The holidays are here once again, as well as the anticipation, excitement and sometimes dread. How can you make this a truly happy, healthy, fun holiday season for yourself, your spouse or partner and your family?

This has not been a good year for most of us, with COVID-19, political differences, unemployment, the supply chain crisis, global climate change, etc. The list of concerns this holiday season is long.

“Maintaining positivity on a daily basis is a challenge for all of us. The challenge of making this year a happy, healthy season is multiplied by 10,” said wellness coach Lisa Marie Chirico, founder of Care Planet, a health and wellness site.

It’s wise to plan, not just for the menu or the presents or the guests, but more importantly, for you. Some of the top issues that could make or break this holiday season and how to plan for them include:

• COVID-19: “Eventually, we’ll talk about COVID-19 in the past tense,” said Chirico. The time will come when it’s no longer a pandemic, when cases are no longer out of control and hospitals aren’t at risk of overflowing with patients. What’s less clear is when that will happen.

Lisa Marie Chirico is founder of Care Planet (
Lisa Marie Chirico is founder of Care Planet (

“But for now, we still live in a not-quite-post-pandemic world and we’re continuing to adjust to an ever-changing new version of normal,” she said. “That alone is stressful.”

The long-term impacts of the coronavirus, on our bodies, our brains, on society, won’t be fully understood for years. One of the most unsettling questions is how the pandemic has changed our relationships with people we love but who we’ve disagreed with on the threat of COVID-19 and the steps necessary to stay safe.

This virus has altered family dynamics. Fights over mask-wearing and social distancing created new rifts and for those who disagreed on politics before the pandemic, the crisis deepened cracks that were already formed.

“The pandemic has amplified our differences, making our emotions sometimes feel raw and right at the surface,” said Chirico. “We’re living with plenty of uncertainty now, and that uncertainty creates discomfort.”

“We all need to make our own choices that we believe are best for our health and wellbeing,” she continued. “At the same time, we need to respect the choices of our friends and family, even when they may not mirror our own. Remind yourself that it’s OK not to agree with the choices made by those we love. Our job isn’t to change their minds.”

It’s important to be totally open-minded and just hear the other person out. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree. Actively try to understand where the other person is coming from. Forget about trying to convince them, and really make an effort to understand why their views make sense for them.

• Dealing with loss: “The pandemic has brought many types of loss including the passing of family members and friends,” added Chirico. “There’s a lot of pain associated with the loss of the physical presence of our loved ones, especially during the holidays, when grief can be extremely difficult.

“Although they’re gone from our lives, their spirit lives on and cannot be diminished. So, in this sense, they can truly never leave us. I believe that our departed loved ones would like us to remember them with a smile through our tears.”

“Realize they are always beside you,” she continued. “Don’t dismiss the signs you notice around you as mere coincidence. I know through my grief counseling that our loved ones are continuously trying to communicate with us. The heavy energy of our grief, coupled with our doubt, can make it more difficult for them to send us divine signs of their enduring love for us. Stay open to these beautiful signs, especially in nature. They will calm you, soothe you and create more space for happiness and healing in your life.”

• Families: For many, the biggest source of holiday stress is family, the family dinner, the obligations and the burden of family tradition.

Family relationships are complicated. If you can cut through the vague sense of dread about family gatherings and identify the specific problems, you can make a plan of action to deal with them directly. Learn from what hasn’t worked in the past and use it to create a better situation for this season.

• Say no: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back. It’s OK to say no.

• Feel grateful: “There is always something to be thankful for,” stressed Chirico. “Feeling grateful for the blessings in your life and expressing your gratitude is a wonderful way to stay positive.”