Our guide to a healthy, happy and stress-free fall

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Fall is an exciting time of year with balmy weather, Halloween ups and downs, and thoughts of future holiday reunions with family.

But it’s a pandemic fall – our third – and vacation planning still isn’t as easy or carefree as we’d like. Many of us have the same questions we had three years ago about the safety of traveling and gathering with friends and family. Add to that inflation, rising food and travel prices, and the November election, and autumn fun suddenly feels like autumn stress.

But you don’t need to press the pause button to fall. Here’s a simple roadmap to get the most out of it.

The good news is that even though the virus is changing, the advice for staying safe does not. Get vaccinated, get vaccinated, wear a mask in crowded spaces, and use home testing to prevent your holiday gatherings from becoming spread events. When making plans, think about the most vulnerable person in your orbit and adjust plans accordingly to keep them as safe as possible. We have a new guide to the latest research on covid-19 booster shots. And find out how regular exercise can make your covid shot more effective.

Influenza and other respiratory viruses invade hospitals. Get your flu shot today. Like covid, the flu can lead to hospitalization and death. And in some cases, the flu can lead to long flu, a chronic illness similar to long covid.

As we learned this month from Brain Matters columnist Richard Sima, haunted houses and horror movies can be a lot of fun. Our By the Way team has found 11 of the scariest places you can travel to. You might want to invest in a 9½-foot animatronic werewolf to make your house the weirdest on the block. Our Home You Own team has tips for making your home “that crazy Halloween house” this year. Climate journalist Allyson Chiu has tips for making more socially responsible Halloween candy choices. Voraciously has six Halloween cocktails for the adults and a gruesome severed hand for those who want to serve up the spookiest Halloween food.

Consider outdoor heating.

Outdoor heaters and lights can sell out quickly. If you’re worried about indoor gatherings or if a family member is at high risk, it’s never too early to start planning social events outdoors, even in cold weather. Gathering around a fire pit or on a patio heated by outdoor heaters can be a holiday highlight. We have a guide to warming up your outdoor space to keep you entertained. Wirecutter has tips for the best outdoor heaters.

Plan your fall vacation as soon as possible.

Airfares are already on the rise. The By the Way team breaks it down with tips for planning vacation trips. And since the covid is still here, check your tickets to make sure you can adjust your flights if someone comes down with the coronavirus. Even though masks are no longer required on airplanes, it would be wise to wear one given that various variants of coronavirus are circulating and covid cases are expected to increase this fall and winter.

Fall is the current season. If you’ve already signed up for a marathon, you can read our 26.2 tips to help you finish. You can use the tips for any race, including a relay race with friends or planning a local turkey trot.

Consider a mostly vegetarian Thanksgiving.

A devastating bird flu wiped out turkey flocks across the country, and experts predict turkey prices will rise 20% per pound or more. One solution is to buy a smaller bird (or no bird at all) and amp up the side dishes. We’ve got you covered with the Voraciously: Plant Powered newsletter. Check out our tips for making the most of fall root vegetables and creating delicious fall soups.

Have a political plan for the dinner table.

It’s the season for lively family conversations. Teddy Amenabar has advice on how to handle differing political opinions among close family and friends. Surprising advice: Don’t have these conversations at the Thanksgiving table. It will ruin a good meal and accomplish nothing but hurt feelings. Read 9 tips to debunk false claims made by friends and family.

We asked what “aging well” looked like and over 500 readers responded. But one idea kept coming back: aging is a lifelong process, so start thinking about aging well when you’re young.

“Once you hit 40, you have to realize that the body is not going to react to the same environment it did when you were 20,” wrote Michelle Justiniano, 54, of Hampton, Va. “We all want to stay young, but in reality, the body isn’t meant to stay that way. ‘Aging well’ means we’re still alive to read that book, climb that hiking trail, and eat that end dessert. For me, the real key is to stay positive and stay optimistic once reality hits.

There’s plenty more in the special issue, including why women should ignore society’s messages about aging, tips for LGBTQ seniors, an online resource to help seniors prepare for visits to the doctor and how to know when your chest pain is or is not an emergency.

Ask a Doctor: What Happens If I Drink Too Much Water?

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Fetterman’s debate performance reveals divide on disability

What you need to know about the dry shampoo recall

What should I do if I see a bear? First of all, don’t run away.

A Group That Shapes Its Nutrition Policy Has Made Millions From Junk Food Manufacturers

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