A Thanksgiving Like No Other: Resources For the Celebration and Cultivating Gratitude

A Thanksgiving Like No OtherThanksgiving 2020 is a Thanksgiving like no other. In the midst of a wildfire of COVID-19 which has spread across the country, it is in the interest of ourselves and everyone else to take a pause. There will be another Thanksgiving. We will celebrate with our extended family and friends again. The risks of people being infected, getting sick and even dying are severe.

Let’s embrace this Thanksgiving like no other  by following the medical and local leadership advice and planning a celebration at home with only those in our immediate circle.

Last Thanksgiving I shared a collection of online resources to engage and entertain children and the whole family for the day and the entire weekend. There are great things to download and print, games, learning opportunities, recipes, and more. Plan for enjoyment:   https://carolbrusegar.com/thanksgiving-free-online-resources-entertain-family/

Through these past months of the pandemic, everyone has had their life disrupted in some ways. The severity of that impact has varied greatly. All of us feel loss of a variety of people and things. There’s a lot of pain and sadness, depression and anxiety. Many of us will find it more challenging to be thankful right now. Yet the very intention to identify, acknowledge and celebrate can be therapeutic in the midst of extraordinarily challenging times.

Gratitude is powerful. It can shift our thoughts and mindset and open us to more positives. It can inspire us to do things to enrich others’ lives. Expressing our gratitude to people who have enhanced our lives and supported us through difficult times helps both us and those to whom we communicate.

Adela Rubio describes 3 reasons that gratitude shifts our energy: It shifts your focus to the present moment, creates a new orientation, and establishes a indelible connection with Source. “Gratitude is a powerful transformation tool. It changes you and the world you live in!”  https://adelarubio.com/3-reasons-gratitude-shifts-energy/#

Perhaps there is no more important a time than this to structure a gratitude time into our lives. It can be as simple as having a small notebook or some paper clipped together where you write five things each day. As the days pass and you look back, you can see where you have been and what has touched you. Another approach, recommended by Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD and professor at the University of California Riverside, is a weekly gratitude exercise. Once a week, perhaps Sunday evening, reflect upon and write down five things for which you are grateful. For some, daily expression becomes boring and routine; weekly can be more meaningful.

Or you can take a more structured approach with prompts for you to write about each day (or less frequently but regularly). I offer you this free, directly downloadable 30-day Gratitude Journal to get started (or to resume a left-behind practice).  http://carolbrusegar.com/30daygratitudejournal

Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA has written a post that includes multiple aspects of gratitude. It was written this year and reflects our current reality in the midst of the pandemic.  Dr. Edwards is a physician and life/executive/wellness coach who blends traditional medical and integrative perspectives in her work.

Dr. Edwards includes a list of 20 Ways to Celebrate Gratitude which focuses on things we can do to express our gratitude to others, which has benefits for both ourselves and the recipients. For example, “Email or text notes or drawings to healthcare workers” or “Verbally thank the grocery store clerk who is stocking shelves non-stop or checking one customer out after another, and thus putting themselves at risk.” Here is the full post: https://peopletweaker.com/hcr-blog/gratitude-during-difficult-times/

Yes, it is a Thanksgiving like no other. Cultivating gratitude in yourself and encouraging it in others can be a powerful positive force now and for the weeks and months ahead.

Here’s a book with 105 short essays on gratitude. Each is written by a different author with a unique perspective and story. It’s a great thing to pick up and read an essay or two when you need a boost.  A Gift of Gratitude

 

 

 

Developing the Art of Staying In

painting watercolors

Autumn is here. The temperatures are moderating just about everywhere and signs of winter may be appearing. Autumn brings unique pleasures and treasures, but this is a unique autumn. The pandemic has affected everyone. Let’s take on the challenge of developing the art of staying in safely this autumn and winter!

Earlier, I offered some ideas for fall that included getting out in nature for activities of various kinds: https://carolbrusegar.com/celebrate-and-enjoy-autumn/ Now let’s focus our plans and activities on things we can do at home safely, possibly with a small number of friends or family.

The art of staying in begins with focusing on activities and pleasures we may not have taken time for in more active seasons. Some will take some time, others are just tweaks of things you may already be doing.

Being Healthier By Using Spices

Many of us are tiring of cooking at home much more than we used to. We may be eating the same few things over and over. New recipes can perk up the rotation; even just adding additional spices can enhance a dish or a beverage. And here’s a bonus – besides tasting great, certain spices are widely considered as “healing spices” that can boost the immune system. Anything we can do to strengthen our body’s ability to fend off colds, flu and other seasonal ailments is especially important this year.

Turmeric is one of the top spices in this category. It is closely related to ginger and has been used for its medicinal benefits for more than 4000 years. It is ideal in rice and chicken dishes. Here’s a simple recipe to try: https://www.food.com/recipe/turmeric-lemon-chicken-19687  Turmeric can be used in teas and other warm beverages. For example, Turmeric Golden Milk which also includes honey and pumpkin pie spice.  https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Turmeric-Golden-Milk-2226958

Cinnamon is a favorite flavor and is used in many fall recipes, especially baked goodies. It is also an antioxidant powerhouse.  Experiment with additional ways to consume more of it this fall. Try adding cinnamon sticks to your water – I like to combine them with apple slices in my infused water – and to hot beverages like apple cider or coffee.

For ideas about using some other immune-boosting spices, go to https://carolbrusegar.com/use-healing-spices-to-boost-immune-system/ .

Scents of Fall DIY Projects

Making your own scrubs, bath salts, candles, etc. is a great self-care activity. The process is enjoyable; the results provide relaxation. In addition, these items are great gifts for others. To get some ideas and “recipes” go here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/scents-of-fall-diy-projects/

Did you make Clove/Orange Pomanders when you were a kid? I did. They add scents of fall, too, and can be artistic projects as well. Check this out for ideas for designs, ways to make them last longer, and ideas for using them. https://www.almanac.com/content/how-make-pomander-balls

Learn Some Watercolor Painting Techniques

At my granddaughter’s birthday party, we had a painting party utilizing a YouTube video to guide us. It was great fun and expanded my interest in similar resources. I found that Jay Lee Painting has a variety of videos teaching watercolor techniques using simple trays of watercolors. You can use heavy art paper rather than canvass and have a relaxing and enjoyable time alone or with others.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=watercolor+painting+jay+lee

Take Advantage of Online Arts and Other Events

Early in the pandemic, I was intrigued with the number of concerts that were being given online so that musicians and other performers could stay connected with their followers and boost the spirits of anyone who watched. I anticipate a surge of such events as we move into the holiday season. Watch for announcements, check on websites or social media platforms for offerings and enjoy them. For example, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is having its first-ever Virtual Winter Season, December 2–31, 2020. In the spirit of making dance accessible to all, it will be free for everyone to enjoy. What a treat!  For more information: https://www.alvinailey.org/blog/announcing-aileys-virtual-season-dec-2-31 Festivals and other such events are often virtual these days. Find some you are interested in and see what they are planning.

For all of these events, enjoy them alone/with your household, or have some friends tune in at the same time and share the experience by connecting electronically during it.

Developing the art of staying in can be enjoyable and open new vistas and interests at the same time. It can boost your spirits and transform the time at home.

How the pandemic is affecting us continues to change. I invite you to be journaling through these changes if you are not already doing that. I created a free downloadable and printable journal a few months ago at the beginning. It can still be useful.  You can print additional pages as you wish. I also invite you to join this Facebook Group:  http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-a-Tool-For-Life

In the journal, I provide some questions/prompts that can help you zero in on your experiences and questions.  So that it is most flexible, those questions/prompts are in list form and you can write about what seems most useful on any given day. Or perhaps you just want to do daily reflections as you go along.

Here’s your link to the direct download: http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-Through-Crisis

Celebrate and Enjoy Autumn

No matter what the year has been like up to this point, I hope that all of us will celebrate and enjoy autumn! Various polls over the years have indicated that the season most cited as “favorite” is autumn/fall. There are a variety of reasons for this: relief from extreme heat, beautiful fall colors as leaves turn, return to school and fall schedules, the multiple holidays of the season, and more. Even in this most unusual year, there are reasons to celebrate and enjoy this time of the year. And perhaps it’s even more important than ever to do that.

A part of taking care of ourselves when there is much uncertainty and stress at many levels is to find and create ways to relax and renew our bodies and minds. It can be alone or with loved ones.  We often think of self-care as routines and practices. In addition to those, identify and choose some activities outside of your normal daily and weekly patterns. Here are a few autumn-specific ideas to celebrate and enjoy autumn.

Enjoy Nature in All its Autumn Glory

One excellent thing to do in the fall is to enjoy nature. Wherever you are located, the change of seasons is evident. It is more subtle visually in some areas than others, but changes are everywhere. If you are fortunate enough to live in or be close enough for a visit, the annual changing of leaf colors in some parts of the country are certainly worth a drive. Taking photos of the beauty and sharing and/or printing them for display are ways to bring enjoyment to yourself and others. Here’s a link to a fall foliage map for 2020 where you can see by date, through November, where the colors will be best. Fall Foliage Map 2020

Engage Friends in a Virtual Activity

As we continue to demonstrate caution in interacting with others during the pandemic, our creativity is our best ally. Choose an activity, set a time and guidelines, and invite friends and loved ones to participate. Use Zoom, Google Meet, or other group platforms to gather at the appointed time to share the results.

Here are some options; add any that you think of.

  • Pumpkin carving or decorating (paint, glitter, etc.) – have each participant prepare ahead of time and share the results, or connect on your virtual platform for a specified period of time to do the carving or decorating together.
  • Share a favorite family recipe that you especially enjoy in the autumn. Show both the prepared item and have a recipe to email.
  • Autumn wreath making – send out suggestions of materials to gather ahead of time and make the wreaths at the same time while connected on your virtual platform.
  • Share ideas for adding autumn scents to your home – invite people to share and possibly demonstrate their favorite ways they do this. (candle or oil scents they love, potpourri they put together, etc.)

Visit a Local Apple Orchard

Most apple orchards and pumpkin patches have adapted their offerings to make them safe for participants this year. Check ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable with them. In some cases you can pick apples, in other cases you will be able to walk through the orchard and choose apples to sample and buy. There are usually apple treats to take home, and perhaps recipes to make at home.

Head to the Pumpkin Patch

Grocery and other stores offer pumpkins for purchase and it’s so handy to just pick up what you want there. But why not go to an actual pumpkin patch? Many cities and towns have big pumpkin patches where you can walk around and look at all the various sizes and shapes of pumpkins to pick out your favorite ones. Besides those for carving and/or decorating, purchase some of the varieties that are best for baking or cooking and experiment with fresh pumpkin recipes at home. There’s an added bonus at a pumpkin patch – it’s a great opportunity for some photos with pumpkin backgrounds with the family.

Have a Fall Picnic

Identify a place where you can enjoy the fall weather and scenes and pack a simple picnic lunch. If you want to try outdoor exercise, you can do some hiking too. Or you could picnic in your own back yard. If you have a fire pit or grill to use, roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Marshmallows = S’mores for many of us; add the graham crackers and chocolate for that favorite treat.

There are many things we can do to celebrate and enjoy autumn and still keep ourselves and our families safe. Make some plans now and have a great time. Here’s a link to a free instant download of a Fall Bucket List form to use as you plan. Fall Bucket List 

 

 

Summer Superfood Smoothies For Health And Energy

smoothies Summer is winding down, but warm weather continues for many areas. I have noticed my early summer focus on healthy eating has diminished. Perhaps you have also. This is a good time to re-look at some options and boost our health and energy as we move into fall with all of its unique 2020 challenges.

If you’d like to refresh your memory of options of summer superfoods and what they offer, I wrote about them here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/great-superfood-choices-for-summer/

Why are smoothies such a good way to consume those great superfoods? Here are three good reasons.

Quick and Easy Preparation

Superfood smoothies are very quick and easy to prepare. They take literally 5-10 minutes at the most to prepare. Gather your ingredients, do any chopping, throw the ingredients into the blender and within a minute the smoothie will be ready to drink.

If you are preparing for one person, I hope you have a personal blender which makes the process easier. There are many varieties; check them out here: Personal Blenders

They Taste Delicious

You can combine ingredients to fit your taste preferences, either of green-based or berry-type smoothies. Eating or drinking something “healthy” that we don’t enjoy means we likely won’t continue consuming it very long. So experiment with recipes and variations to find combinations you love and look forward to drinking. (I suggest a great recipe book below.)

Drinking Your Smoothie in the Morning Starts Your Day With Energy

Although smoothies are great whenever you choose, there can be benefits to having one for breakfast. Of course, they are a healthier alternative to sugary cereals and high-calorie pastries. And they deliver lots of nutrients which will help you to feel more alert and energetic and ready to start the day.

Now, let’s look at a few tips for creating healthy superfood smoothies.

1) Use either fresh or  frozen ingredients

Fresh ingredients are great when they are easily accessible and economical. But frozen ingredients can contain just as many nutrients as fresh. If they were picked and frozen right after being harvested, they’re going to maintain the same level of nutrients as they had when they were fresh. Many times frozen ingredients are cheaper to buy, and there is less waste too.

2) Use natural flavorings

If you find your superfood smoothies to be a little bland, always use natural flavorings to enhance them. Did you know for example, that dates can help to add sweetness to a smoothie instead of sugar? Honey is also an excellent natural flavoring to add sweetness.

3) Add water to thin the smoothie out

If you find the smoothie is too thick, water is the best thing to use to thin it out. It’s healthy, readily available and will help to thin the smoothie out without adding additional calories.

4) Tailor your ingredients to your needs

Any superfood smoothie will provide a healthy alternative to many of the other things you might eat. Perhaps you would like to boost your immune system or want to take off some pounds. If you have those goals, you can research ingredients or recipes that will work for that.

5) Pair your superfoods carefully

Not all superfoods will go well together. So, when thinking of what to add in the smoothie, be careful to match the right superfoods together. Orange fruits and avocado or kale and almonds, are great examples of superfoods which work well together.

This cookbook will help you with both tailoring your ingredients to your needs and in deciding on combinations of superfoods. It provides recipes, indicates what they offer your health, and is a great reference. http://Simple Superfood Smoothies: A Smoothie Recipe Book to Supercharge Your Health

smoothy book

 

Black Pepper During Flu Season

PepperI previously talked of some natural approaches to prevention and treatment of cold and flu: https://carolbrusegar.com/using-natural-preventatives-and-treatments/

Another preventative and treatment that is right in your cupboard is black pepper!  We think of it as a basic seasoning and perhaps little more, but it is known to have powerful cold-fighting properties. Not only is it great for the immune system, but it’s also known to help with a wide range of other ailments too.

How can black pepper help during flu season?

Regular consumption of black pepper can help to fight off infections and boost the immune system. It contains an especially high amount of Vitamin C – a crucial vitamin in the treatment of colds. Black pepper contains a high level of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is these which prove useful in the prevention and treatment of colds and the flu.

Another great benefit of black pepper is that it can help to alleviate congestion. A common symptom of colds and the flu is chest congestion. So, even if it’s too late to use black pepper to prevent a cold, you can still use it to help alleviate the symptoms.

How can you use it?

There are numerous ways you can use this spice to prevent and help to treat a cold. Of course, add more to various foods on an ongoing basis – soups, stews, egg dishes, salads, in rubs on meats, etc.  If you’re already fighting a cold, you could try mixing black pepper with honey. This is especially great for suppressing a cough and it’s been used in Indian medicine for centuries. You’ll need to crush up the peppercorns and mix it with a little honey for maximum benefits.

Another way of using black pepper to combat colds is to add half a teaspoon to a cupful of water. Add in some ground tulsi leaves* and half a teaspoon of chopped ginger. You should aim to drink it at lukewarm temperature. If you’re not keen on the taste, you can add a spoonful of honey.

*Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is a close relative of culinary basil for cooking. The three varieties of Tulsi do, however, have additional medicinal benefits. These include being anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, and ability to stimulate the immune system’s activity. It comes in a variety of forms – leaves, tea, capsules and more. To explore the options, go here: Tulsi Options

Are there any side effects?

In terms of using black pepper in cooking, there aren’t any side effects to be aware of. However, if you’ll be taking black pepper supplements, you’ll want to stick to ones with a strength of 5mg to 20mg. Higher strengths could produce burning sensation in the throat or high absorption of medication. These are the only two potential side effects identified.

What other ailments does black pepper help with?

As well as helping to fight off colds and flu, black pepper can also potentially help with other ailments such as:

  • Arthritis inflammation
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • High blood sugar
  • Poor gut health

The health benefits of black pepper are extensive – and it is one of the cheapest and easiest spices to use!  So in general, to boost your immune system, be generous in your use of pepper in your food and explore additional uses. If you do develop a cold or flu, you can use supplements or more potent black pepper remedies to eliminate the symptoms.

Here’s a selection of pepper, peppercorns and more: Black Pepper

And a Black Pepper Supplement

USING NATURAL PREVENTATIVES AND TREATMENTS DURING FLU AND COLD SEASON

Cold-Flu 2

Be proactive to avoid and cut short colds and flus! Flu and cold season – which seems to get longer and longer – is a challenge to navigate. Even the flu vaccines are not totally effective because of the various strains of flu in a given year. There are additional over the counter medications and prescription drugs available as well. We are encouraged to avoid getting or spreading these conditions by washing our hands a lot, not touching our face, staying home if we are sick, etc.

In addition to all of this, I personally favor natural preventatives and treatments as much as possible. I found an article from a couple of years ago that offers 10 natural cold and flu remedies that work that you may want to consider. A couple of them were new to me and perhaps you also will find a natural preventative or remedy to try.

Here are some of the suggestions provided by the author on The Healthy Maven blog:

  • Gargle with salt water – do this at the first sign you may be getting sick. I have personally done this just recently and it was effective.
  • Honey – this can be as is, or in over the counter cough syrups (all-natural varieties). Raw honeys are the best if possible.
  • Ginger which comes in a variety of forms – root, powder, capsules, even candies.
  • Elderberry Syrup which both is a great preventative and treatment. There are a variety of other elderberry options. I have used and found elderberry to be very effective. Here’s more information in an earlier post: https://carolbrusegar.com/what-are-elderberries-health/
  • Propolis – produced by bees to seal their hives and very anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It’s available as a throat spray. Reviews indicate that this throat spray is a good preventative when used daily, as well as to nip a scratchy throat or other symptoms quickly. Propolis Throat Spray
  • Essential Oils – Eucalyptus and peppermint as well as combinations of various oils can be used effectively. These can be infused and benefit everyone in the household as well as being applied topically or ingested. It’s important to know exactly how to do this.

There are a couple of additional natural approaches that are widely recommended: hot green tea and turmeric.

Hot green tea is high in antioxidants and stimulates organ function; add honey for a double benefit.  Turmeric reduces inflammation in our bodies, and we hear more and more that inflammation is related to many conditions. It can make us feel achy and sometimes lead to illness. Make a paste from powdered turmeric (from the spice shelf) with water and mix into warm milk or tea.

Let’s do everything we can to avoid colds and flus and to get rid of them if we happen to get them, using natural substances as much as possible!

 

 

A New Decade — Opportunity for Perspective and Moving Forward Powerfully

2020 20302020 – we are leaving the 2010s and beginning the 2020s! What does that mean to you? Perhaps not much. A year is a year, you may think. However, you might consider this an opportunity to do some reflection backward and anticipation forward on a broader scale than one year. Another decade, another 10 years of life is ending; another decade is beginning. I find that these mileposts can provide valuable chances to celebrate, learn, focus and refocus.

Looking Back on the 2010s

For some of us, the decade ending has a particular meaning. For example for me, the beginning of March 2020, marks the completion of 10 years living in Nashville, Tennessee. I am taking the opportunity to reflect on that decade of living in a location I had never imagined as my home. What has that meant to me and what does it mean going forward?

Do you have aspects of your life that coincide with the years 2010 to 2020? They may not be as obvious as mine; see if you can identify any. For all of us, taking a longer view backwards can be beneficial. Try to take an aerial view. Perhaps it’s from a helicopter, or a hot air balloon, or on the wings of an eagle.

Grab a pen and paper and start jotting things you remember as you look back on those years from that higher perspective. You might do this by category: successes, disappointments, family highlights, family struggles, illuminations or learnings. Add categories that resonate with you. If you have things to reference that will jog your memory, use them. For example, every year during this decade, I have included a list of highlights of the past year in my Christmas cards and they are a great memory booster in this process. Do you have something like this? Perhaps you journal or keep planners and calendars from past years – they can provide memory jogs.

NOTE: you may write these things in lists and other linear modes or use visual tools like mind mapping. If you’d like more information, go to: https://carolbrusegar.com/mindmapping-multi-faceted-tool/

Once you have written as much as you can think of for now, spend some time reviewing it. Pull out particularly significant things and translate them into learnings that can inform your looking toward a new decade. For example, after six years in Nashville I intended to follow my family who had moved back to California. I am still here (for multiple reasons) and digging into why is an important part of my consideration of the past decade.

Looking Forward

Now shift your perspective toward the coming decade. This time we will start at the end of the decade – 2030 (YIKES) – and create a picture of what we would like to have as our reality at that point. Think about family, financial status, location, relationships, career/job/business/activities. Add any other categories you choose. Take some time with this.

After you have some things recorded that you are excited about, you can jump back into your helicopter, hot air balloon or onto the wings of the eagle. From that aerial view, start jotting down some milestones along the way between your desired 2030 reality and where you are now in 2020. Exactly the kinds of things you include is your choice. It might be intermediate steps toward the outcome, resources needed, things you need to learn, people to involve in various ways, etc.

What we are creating is a background for more specific planning. Are you getting excited? I hope so!

After you have gleaned useable information from the past decade and have a stimulating vision with milestones for the coming decade, it’s time to look at the new year of 2020 in that context.

What do you want to create and develop that will move you into the new decade with power? Again, use linear or more visual tools, depending on what is most useful and inspiring for you.

Look at what you have recorded. Think of a word or phrase that can be your Word for the Year to help keep you focused and on track for this fabulous year. If you have not used a Word for the Year tool, you can learn more about its value here: https://carolbrusegar.com/choose-your-word-for-the-year/

To fully benefit from use of this practice, grab a copy of the book here:  One Word That Will Change Your Life

Watch for specific planning resources in future posts.

EXPANDING THE PARAMETERS OF YOUR DECEMBER HOLIDAY

Reaching OutAs I write this post, it is one week before Christmas. For many people, the entire focus of the past month has been on preparing for that day as the culmination of the season. Often they start the hustle and bustle the day after Thanksgiving – shopping, decorating social events, etc. Then by the day or so after Christmas or at least before New Year’s Eve, it’s all over. Decorations down, focus on recuperation and the coming “return to routine.”

I prefer to observe the 12 Days of Christmas which for centuries have been a time of celebration – starting with December 25 and ending on the evening of January 5. Others observe the pan-African holiday Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1, celebrating family, community and culture.

The Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, follows a lunar calendar so the dates vary, but in 2019 it is from sundown on December 22 through sundown on December 30. This whole period of time includes a variety of celebrations that we can learn about and from, especially if they are from a different culture or group.

What if we extended whatever holiday we observe by planning to do some simple things that demonstrated care and love to others? The time after Christmas and especially after New Years Day is often a time of let-down, of sadness and loneliness for people – perhaps you and people you know. The energy and push of the previous month is over, the days are still short and winter weather prevails.

Here are a few suggestions for extending the spirit of the holiday season:

1. Engage with an elderly person. The holidays can be tough for bedridden and nursing home-bound individuals. Bring love to those who need it most. Show up with books or magazines, do a crossword or puzzle together, sing songs or even just sit quietly and be a good listener.

2. Share a cup of cheer. Here’s a simple gesture to offer – surprise someone you love with a hot beverage. Coffee, tea, cocoa or chai, whatever their pleasure. Invite them to you home or to meet at a restaurant or coffee shop for relaxed time together.

3. Help someone who is struggling. If you live where winter includes cold and snow, there are likely people near you who could use some help managing. It may be keeping sidewalks and driveways clear. Or perhaps the elements are keeping them inside and isolated. A visit and a treat – cookies, a loaf of sweet bread, etc. – can be a real boost.

4. Get together with grandparents. After the group gatherings of the holidays, January can be very lonely. Make a visit, take them out for lunch or a movie or some other activity that will be enjoyable and give you a quieter time to be together.

5. During these coldest times of the year, there are people in need of warm hats, scarves or mittens. Check with a school or homeless shelter. You could knit or crochet and item or two individually or have a gathering of a few friends to make some items. If you aren’t crafty or don’t have time to do that, find some cozy things at the store and share them.

6. Remember those who have had tough holidays because of a breakup, the loss of loved ones, family conflict or other factors. Making contact and perhaps spending a little time with them, even on the phone, can be a boost. It’s a reminder that people remember and care.

If you are one who experiences down time, even depression, after the holidays, doing one or more of these or similar things can give you a sense of purpose as well as help someone else. A win-win situation for sure!

Take Steps Now to Reduce Holiday Stress

Reduce Holiday StressWhen you think of the holidays, what comes to mind first? Twinkling lights? The merry faces of children? Or… is it stress? Does planning for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the December holidays stress you out?

In a recent article published by allonehealth.com, “Holiday stress statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a ‘lack of time,’ 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a ‘lack of money,’ and 51 percent are stressed out about the ‘pressure to give or get gifts.’”

I think most of us will agree that it hasn’t always been this way. Especially for the older ones among us, the holidays were pretty simple. Holiday programs at school and church, putting up the Christmas tree together with ornaments the included handmade items by the children, perhaps Christmas caroling and holiday meals with family at home or at other relatives’ homes.

Now there is additional pressure to do indoor and outdoor decorating that can be competitive with relatives or neighbors. The list of people with whom to exchange gifts seems to grow. The advertising wherever we look starts SO early. In the internet age, the pressure to shop online on Black Friday has infringed on our Thanksgiving Day. The next day is Small Business Saturday and the following Monday is Cyber Monday for online sales.

Now is the time to decide, individually and with family or others who are directly involved, what kind of December you want this year. It doesn’t have to be an extensive process. It is really a priority-setting exercise that will set the parameters and tone for decisions about activities you choose.

Here are a few simple questions to think about and discuss with the others involved:

  • Looking back at previous holiday seasons, what things were the most enjoyable and meaningful? What made them that way?
  • What things caused the most stress and perhaps conflict? Was the stress primarily on one person or was it experienced by others?
  • Are there things any of you would like to include in your holiday celebrations that haven’t been part of them recently, or ever?
  • Based on the above, what key things (you may want to set a number) do you want to include that will be enjoyable and fulfilling for you and for others?
  • Are there activities that you want to continue but simplify? How?
  • What self-care strategies can you insert into the holiday season that will decrease stress for you? How about for others?

If there are differences of opinion about any of the above, working out a set of priorities and plans together can in itself reduce stress.

Taking time to do this between now and the beginning of December can have a huge positive impact. Perhaps it is something you can do during the weekend after Thanksgiving. Make it festive – snacks and beverages, candles, etc. This can become a tradition that you look forward to and treasure, not only for the outcome but the cooperative process.

Click below for a simple worksheet that includes the above questions. You can download and print it for this year and repeat next year.

WORKSHEET for Reducing Holiday Stress and Increasing Enjoyment

If this results in some fairly major changes in your holidays, be sure to communicate them in a positive way to anyone affected by your decisions. And in January, have another festive debrief of how this went for everyone. Happy holiday planning and destressing!!

For Thanksgiving: Free Online Resources to Entertain the Whole Family

Thanksgiving Resource PostThanksgiving and a long weekend can be a challenge in terms of keeping the family occupied while they are out of school and off work. It can also be a challenge when one or more of the parents needs to make the Thanksgiving meal, and they need to find quiet activities that children of all ages can do with a minimum amount of supervision and a maximum amount of interest to keep boredom at bay. And, of course, if there are guests in the house, too.

Fortunately, there are a number of online resources packed full of clever ideas the whole family can enjoy together. Here are several suggestions.

1. DLTK Growing Together    http://www.dltk-holidays.com/thanksgiving/

This useful site from Canada offers:
• Thanksgiving coloring pages
• Thanksgiving crafts
• Thanksgiving games and puzzles
• Thanksgiving poems and songs
• Thanksgiving printables
• Thanksgiving recipes
• Thanksgiving worksheets

This site is perfect for K through 8 and for adults who want to spend quality time with the kids for at least part of the holiday weekend. Load up the printer and ink and print out a range of activities, puzzles and more.

2. Education.com

This site has a nice selection of printables for all ages and of all types. There are puzzles, games, and history pages that help teach about the first Thanksgiving and the Puritan settlers to the New World.
https://www.education.com/worksheets/thanksgiving/

Extend the use of the pages by having your younger ones color them in. Be sure to have snub-nosed scissors and glue for the arts and crafts worksheets.

3. Scholastic

Scholastic has both free and paid printables through their membership, and resources for K through 8. Learn about colonial America, and enjoy coloring pages, games and worksheets. See the Thanksgiving collection here:
https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collections/teaching-content/thanksgiving/

and the printables page. https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/thanksgiving-printables/

4. TheHomeSchoolMom

This site has a wealth of activities and links to a range of educational material from Pre-K to 12, plus teachers’ resources. Use the checkboxes at the top of the page to sort what you are looking for. This site is sure to give your whole family hours of educational fun. https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschool-lesson-plans/thanksgiving/

5. SignUp Genius

This website helps groups get organized by having them sign up for different activities. It has a nice list of 20 Thanksgiving games to play. https://www.signupgenius.com/home/thanksgivinggames.cfm

There’s also a sign-up project to help plan your Thanksgiving feast which you might find handy, and which the kids can help you with if they are old enough. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f044daead2aabfd0-dinner

6. Iheartnaptime.net

This site has made a list of 50 top printables the family will love. You’re sure to find hours of activities and tons of inspiration. https://www.iheartnaptime.net/50-best-thanksgiving-printables/

7. Play Party Plan
This site offers 30 Thanksgiving-themed party games the whole family will love.
https://www.playpartyplan.com/30-great-thanksgiving-party-games/

8. 247 Games

This fun site offers holiday versions of popular card and board games, such as Thanksgiving solitaire, mahjong, Sudoku and more.

http://www.thanksgivingblackjack.com/
http://www.thanksgivingmahjong.com/
http://www.thanksgivingsolitaire.com/
http://www.thanksgivingsudoku.com/
http://www.thanksgivingbackgammon.com/
Learn all new games or have fun with old favorites. Organize tournaments for each game to see who is the winner of each.

9. The Spruce Crafts

This site offers a range of fun Thanksgiving-themed puzzles.
https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/thanksgiving-puzzles-2809152

With all these free ideas, no one needs to be bored during the holidays.