Category Archives: Self Care

Your Thanksgiving Self-Care Plan

Be present in all things, and thankful for all things — Maya Angelou

718-6IH9jXLDid you know that 1 in 5 people cope with a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety? And that 1 in 10 people are in recovery from addiction? If you have one of these challenges, you are not alone.  Thanksgiving can be an especially stressful time, and that stress can make these conditions worse.

Even if you do not have one of these conditions, Thanksgiving may stress you out.

That’s why you need a self-care plan for Thanksgiving Day. Your self-care plan should remind yourself that you have value, adhere to your healthy boundaries and provide for resources in case you need them.

Consider reviewing your plan with a therapist, sponsor, relative or friend.

Here’s an example of a self care plan for Thanksgiving.

  • Stay on schedule with medications, meals and sleep.
  • Set aside time to rest and relax. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • Choose safe driving times. Consider not driving between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., when most DUI accidents occur.
  • Enjoy a special meal that is right for your dietary needs.
  • Abstain from alcohol or reduce what you imbibe.
  • Set aside time for exercise. Movement helps reduce anxiety and depression. Stretch, walk outisde, run, bike or do yoga.
  • Practice mindfulness. You can choose to meditate, say affirmations, do a craft or color. Practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques.
  • Express your gratitude. Be thankful in a way that is meaningful to you. Gratitude helps relieve depression and anxiety, and has many health benefits.
  • Connect with people and avoid isolating. If you can, spend Thanksgiving with family or friends. If you can’t, arrange time to call them on Thanksgiving Day. If these aren’t options, spend a part of the day around people.
  • Do something nice for yourself. Ideas: a bubble path, pedicure, or hair cut/style.
  • Plan something fun to do that you really enjoy. Check out the Cool Yule November calendar for ideas.
  • Laugh! Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Friends Thanksgiving TV episodes or listen to old time radio Thanksgiving episodes of The Jack Benny Show or Our Miss Brooks (you can find them on YouTube).
  • Arrange for help, in case you need it. Put the phone number of your emergency contact person (sponsor, therapist, doctor, etc.) in your phone, to be used in case a crisis develops. The Merrifield CSB in Fairfax County also has a 24-hour mental health crisis number (703) 559-3000.
  • Enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal with other people in recovery. The Unity Club in Falls Church offers 12-step meetings and a free Thanksgiving meal from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. with fellowship and great food. You can sign up in advance to bring a dish to share, if you like. Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia is offering a free Thanksgiving meal on November 21 at the Merrifield Peer Resource Center at 12 Noon and on other dates at four other locations in Northern Virginia for people who are living with mental illness and/or addiction..

What other ideas do you have for a Thanksgiving self-care plan?

Gratitude inventory for Thanksgiving

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” — Aesop

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

It’s amazing that the active practice of gratitude has more positive impact on some aspects of our health than prescription medication (with zero side effects!). Gratitude journaling or thoughts have been found to reduce blood pressure, alleviate depression, improve sleep, boost energy, reduce pain and motivate physical activity.

Expressing Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Some families create a Thanksgiving tree, or use a gratitude jar to remind themselves and their loved ones of their blessings in a concrete way that is easy to share.

Gratitude Jar Activity

I think this is a wonderful idea. I bought a gratitude jar from Target from $3. Everyone draws out a chip and says why they are grateful for things like a favorite teacher, a special time of day, and lots of other things I hadn’t considered being thankful for.

Counting our Blessings

It would be easy to make your own with any kind of container and slips of paper. There are plenty of similar projects online.

Here are some ideas for things to express gratitude for on Thanksgiving.

  • The love and support of our family.
  • The company of our friends.
  • The comfort and security of our home and community.
  • The efforts of our teachers.
  • Our jobs.
  • Our volunteer work or causes that give us purpose.
  • Our faith in God or a higher power.
  • Our good health.
  • The companionship of our pets.
  • The bounty of our Thanksgiving meal.
  • Our good memories of people who have passed.
  • Our challenges that help us grow.
  • The dedication of our police officers, fire fighters and first responders.
  • The courage of our military.
  • The expertise of our doctors and people who help keep us healthy.
  • The beauty of nature and the blessing of our environment.
  • The luxury of time to do the things we love to do.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?


Ah…CHOO! Make a self-care cold and flu kit

cold comfort cover cute

Photo by Pixabay on

With the holidays on the way, the last thing you probably want to happen is for you or one of your loved ones to catch a cold or the flu. The good news is there’s a few things you can do to minimize your chances of getting sick.

Will the flu season be bad this year?

Possibly. Australia has its flu season before the United States, and it’s usually a good measurement of the severity of our flu season. Bad news. The Australia flu season was its worse ever. It broke the record. Also, it hit Australia about one to two months earlier than usual. Since the U.S. peak time is between December and February (but starting even earlier and lasting as long as May), the time to prepare is right now.

1. Get a flu shot. The flu is a potentially lethal disease, killing thousands of people in the U.S. each year — last year, almost 80,000. Vaccines do not eliminate risk but they reduce it. A flu shot reduces your chances of having to see a doctor or go to a hospital by 30% to 60%. “Herd immunity” also helps protect vulnerable people around you. The flu shot takes about two weeks to become effective.

2. Get a pneumonia shot. Talk to your doctor if the pneumonia shot is right for you, especially if you are over 65, smoke cigarettes or have a medical condition.

3. Take Vitamin C, if you don’t already, or add vitamin-C rich foods to your diet.

4. Make lifestyle changes that are shown to increase immunity to illness. These include daily physical activity, regular and healthy meals, sufficient sleep and rest, reducing stress, and drinking water throughout the day. Basically, ramp up your self care! Social interaction, laughter, meditation and acts of gratitude are also proven immunity boosters.

5. Use a humidifier in dry, heated rooms. I prefer the warm mist kind, but I’ve heard the cool mist ones also work. Forced air heat dries out your nasal passages and throat while you sleep, which makes those areas more susceptible to illnesses such as sinus infections and croup in babies. Another trick I do when I get sick is to boil a large pot of water and put thyme in it, then let it simmer. Lemon is another nice addition. While it is simmering, lean over (not close to the pot) and inhale the steam to soothe and open nasal passages.

6. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer does not kill all germs (especially the ones that cause “stomach” bugs) that can be washed away with hand washing. Hand sanitizer is a good add-on or a back-up if no soap and water are available.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on

7.  Assemble your cold and flu survival kit. If you became sick tomorrow and were really ill for almost two weeks, would you have everything you needed? Here’s a list.

  • Germ-busters and hygiene: Extra toilet tissue, Kleenex, paper towels, laundry detergent, hand soap, dishwashing soap, bleach and Clorox or Lysol disinfecting wipes. Paper plates and cups.
  • Comfort food and hydrating beverages: Canned chicken soup, saltines, apple sauce, spring water, ginger ale, Gatorade, tea. I like Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup (throw a little dried thyme in it), Bigelow “I Love Lemon” herbal tea with Vitamin C, and Gunter’s local honey (in the bear container, of course). Local honey is an immunity-booster. Garlic and ginger are also good. Avoiding processed food and fried food will help you get better.
  • OTC medications: Mucinex, Theraflu, Imodium and Tylenol (or their generic equivalents).
  • Symptom relief: Petroleum jelly (for chapped nose and lips), saline nasal spray, cough drops. You will want salt for gargling with warm water to soothe your throat. Epsom salts in a warm bath may help you feel better by detoxing, increasing immunity and soothing body aches. Use 2 or 3 large handfuls or about 2 cups and soak for 20 minutes.
  • A fever thermometer. You are contagious before you get the worst symptoms. With flu, you are contagious 24 hours before you get sick. But fever is an early indicator. If you or your child run a fever, you should not go to work or school until 24 hours has passed.
  • Extra, new toothbrush. You should toss your old toothbrush in the trash after you get sick.
  • A large, soft, snuggly throw blanket – because you’ll need a lot of rest and comfort! I found a wonderful one at Ross for $10. There are also nice ones at Walmart, starting at $6.

8. Clean surfaces where bacteria and viruses hang out. Cold and flu viruses can live on hard surfaces from 24 hours to 7 days, depending on the strain. Isn’t that shocking? Do you work in an office or school? Clean your desk, phone and keyboard often – daily or weekly, at least. Especially germ-laden surfaces include

  • Countertops, desks and tables
  • Door knobs
  • Switch plates
  • Microwaves
  • Remote controls
  • Keyboards, mouse and laptops
  • Cell phones and regular phones

Tables, countertops and desks — Spray and wipe with cleaner and a microfiber cloth or paper towel, then rinse with clean water and another cloth or paper towel. You can use an all-purpose cleaner or make your own cleaner by mixing one teaspoon of dish washing liquid in a spray bottle filled with water.

Other items, like switch plates – spray the cloth and wipe the item, instead of spraying directly.

Electronics, like monitors, keyboards, remote controls and cellphones – Clean with a 50/50 water and rubbing alcohol solution mixed in a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth designed for electronics cleaning. Spray the cloth with the solution and wipe.  You can also use Lysol wipes on electronics. Monitors and screens may need special treatment, however. Check directions for your item.

Disinfectant – If you need to disinfect a surface (preferably after cleaning it with cleaner and rinsing with water beforehand), use disinfecting wipes or mix 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach with water in a spray bottle, and spray until wet and let air dry.

Ways to express gratitude at Thanksgiving

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” — Willie Nelson

I recall two times when I was so grateful for people went out of their way to make sure I had a nice Thanksgiving when I was going through a tough time.

The first time was when my baby was in intensive care. My husband and I stayed with him all day. His prognosis was still uncertain. That day, the baby in the room next to his died after a terrible illness. We saw the young parents cradle their baby in their arms to say goodbye. My husband and I were so sad and we hadn’t eaten. When we returned home that evening, we found that our neighbors had left generous portions of their home-made Thanksgiving dinners, all wrapped up on our doorstep.

Another time, I was in bed with the flu at Thanksgiving. One of my young coworkers from Hallmark dropped by with her sister to check on me. She brought a plate of food from their family Thanksgiving dinner and I was so touched by her thoughtfulness.

If you know someone who is having difficulties, you’d be surprised how little it takes to brighten their day, and it will make you that more grateful for your blessings.

FTD “Shades of Autumn” arrangement, starting at $35.

Here are some ideas for getting in touch with gratitude and the impact of kindness and abundance in your life.

  • Compose a list of people and things you are thankful for.
  • Write a thank you letter.
  • Send Thanksgiving cards to loved ones. Dollar Tree has nice ones, two for a dollar.
  • Complete a guided meditation on gratitude.
  • Bring or send flowers to thank someone.
  • Attend a Thanksgiving Day worship service.
  • Say a prayer of thanks before your Thanksgiving meal.
  • Pass around a “Gratitude Jar” and share your thoughts.
  • Take a walk and reflect on your blessings.
  • Make something creative: a collage, some photographs, a drawing or poem.
  • Attend a 12-step meeting.
  • Volunteer or make a charitable contribution.
  • Reach out to someone who is going through a hard time. Even a phone call can help.

Have you found creative or meaningful ways to experience and express gratitude? What do you teach your children, if you have them?

Diet-Friendly Thanksgiving Tips

Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008

Image via Wikipedia

“You can’t have Thanksgiving without turkey. That’s like Fourth of July without apple pie, or Friday with no two pizzas.” — Joey, Friends

Thanksgiving dinner can be a healthy meal, if you approach it sensibly, and it only comes once a year, so I think you should enjoy it.  But don’t let it sabotage your weight management plan, either.

Figure Out Those Calories!

Are you wondering how many calories will be in your Thanksgiving dinner?  You’ve got to try this very cool Thanksgiving dinner calorie calculator.

Before the Thanksgiving meal…

  • Eat breakfast. Skipping meals will cause you to overeat. Consider oatmeal, eggs or Greek yogurt.
  • Drink water. Sometimes you can confuse being hungry with being dehydrated.
  • Exercise. Take a brisk walk or join one of the Thanksgiving Day walks/races.
  • Skip the alcohol. Did you know that people drink more alcohol on Thanksgiving than on any other holiday? And the night before Thanksgiving is when the heaviest drinking occurs. Alcohol has lots of calories and it lowers your inhibitions, tempting you to eat more.
  • If appetizers are available, skip the crackers and cheese and eat veggies and olives, instead.

Preparing a meal vs. Dining Out

There is no question you will save calories if you choose to dine out rather than prepare a big meal. It is one thing to have one calorie-laden meal…it’s another to have second helpings and leftovers later.

The average, home-cooked Thanksgiving meal is about 3,000 calories, not counting alcohol or appetizers. That’s too much! By contrast, the Thanksgiving meal at Cracker Barrel is 570 calories. Portion control is EVERYTHING.

Cutting calories without sacrificing flavor

If you do choose to make your own meal, there are lots of ways you can save calories and still make your meal taste delicious.

  • Turkey is a real winner for dinner. It has more protein than chicken, ham or beef.
  • Make mashed potatoes with buttermilk and add some garlic or chives if you want more flavor. Result: 80 calories a serving.
  • Use a dry gravy mix or canned turkey gravy. You will save 125 calories a serving.
  • Make stuffing with chicken stock or vegetable stock instead of butter. It will still be moist and delicious but much lower in fat.
  • You’ll save 200 calories a serving if you eat steamed green beans instead of green bean casserole. I know, I love it, too.
  • One serving of cranberry sauce is 1/4 cup and 110 calories. See if you can get by with a tablespoon instead.
  • Just eat one roll — it’s about 100 to 150 calories.
  • Choose pumpkin pie for dessert. It has the least calories. If you choose apple pie or pecan pie, just be aware you are also choosing up to 400 extra calories. Fortunately, that spray can whipped cream only has 15 calories, so you can be lavish with that! I don’t eat the crust of my pumpkin pie — that’s where a lot of the fat and calories live and I’m fine without it or just a nibble of it.
  • Another treat? Coffee or decaf with Coffeemate pumpkin spice creamer (35 calories a tablespoon). Add some spray whipped cream and cinnamon on top! Or have a cup of peppermint tea to ease your digestion, or chamomile tea to relax.

How do you keep your diet on track during Thanksgiving?  Will you be working out on Turkey Day?

How to Make the Holiday Bright for Your Unemployed Friend

One out of ten people are unemployed in our country right now (I’m looking for a job, myself!).  With the holidays right around the corner, are you wondering what to give to your unemployed friends on a tight budget?  Here are some ideas to lift their spirits this Christmas.

  • Get them out of the house and moving! Job-seekers spend a lot of time on the computer (looking for jobs, of course!).  Why not invite them for a winter walk?  Then be prepared for a lot of listening.  Some people find it easier to talk about their problems when walking.  You’ll be doing their mood a lot of good by getting them walking briskly (which will increase their endorphins) and by listening to their problems (which will reduce their stress level).
  • Propose fun and free things to do together. Check out museum exhibits, free concerts, and tree lightings, all of which are abundant around the holidays.  Skip the mall, which may remind them of how little they have to spend.  Go for a drive and look at Christmas lights.  Volunteer.  Or spend an afternoon together making Christmas cookies or watching old movies.
  • Give the gift of networking. Bring your friend to a holiday event with you and introduce them to people.
  • Offer to read their resume. If you have worked together, and it’s appropriate, consider writing a recommendation for them on LinkedIn.
  • Agree to exchange modest gifts this year. If you usually exchange gifts, or it’s a relative, set a budget, e.g. not to exceed $10, and honor that.
  • Help them with a useful gift. Take their picture of your friend and help them upload it to their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.  Help them design and purchase a set of business contact cards on VistaPrint. Give them a month-at-a-glance calendar to help them keep track of their job interviews.

How to Enjoy the Holidays without Gaining (Much) Weight

Holiday parties and dinners present all kinds of options.  I think all foods are fine in moderation.  The trick is moderation!  Here are some tips for enjoying food in moderation, if, like me, you tend to over-indulge and pack on pounds…

Don’t skip meals on the day of the party. You know what a beast stored hunger is. You’ll be far better off if you eat a good breakfast and lunch and stay hydrated before dinner or cocktail parties.  If you usually eat cereal or toast for breakfast, maybe try oatmeal that day, or eggs and canadian bacon, for more staying power throughout the day.

Eat before you go out. If you can manage to grab a snack before you go out, you’ll be less likely to eat too much at the party (or before shopping!).  Eat something substantial, like greek yogurt with honey, and a small handful of almonds.  That will line your tummy, too, in case you eat something spicy or drink alcohol.

Keep a camera handy. Why? If you get attacks of shyness at social gatherings (like I do), you can always take pictures of people, or holiday decorations, or the food.  That way, you won’t eat or drink just to keep busy or to feel less conspicuous if no one is talking to you. Taking pictures keeps you busy and can be a great ice-breaker.

Look out for the holiday blues. Everyone I know gets depressed a little bit at some point during the holidays. It’s really common.  Before you snack, ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or just bored, lonely, disappointed, tired or even thirsty.  If you’re hungry, eat. Otherwise, have a cup of peppermint tea (hot beverages are great for curbing appetite and peppermint has been shown to lessen depression). Another blues-buster is to take a walk outside to rev up your mood (and your metabolism).

Skip (or reduce) the alcohol. It’s true for many people that alcohol tends to lower their inhibitions, which can lead to eating more. One healthy, non-alcoholic drink option that looks and tastes festive is to order cranberry spritzers (cranberry juice and club soda with lime).

You can also order white wine spritzers, or ask the bartender to make a drink with half the alcohol.

If you choose to drink, alternate imbibing cocktails or glasses of bubbly champagne (100 calories) with glasses of water, mineral water, or seltzer.  (This will also help prevent a hangover!)

Try the lower fat versions in recipes. In some cases, the low-fat options are really good. I like light versions of sour cream, mayonnaise and salad dressing and use them in my recipes for veggie dip, etc.

A great way to cut fat in mashed potatoes is to mash them with buttermilk.  It’s delicious! But pass on the homemade gravy — too much fat.  Try canned gravy or jarred gravy instead; we’re talking a 300 calorie-plus difference!

I love stuffing with lots of onion and celery.  Try replacing all or some of the butter in stuffing recipes with canned, fat-free chicken stock or vegetable stock.  Also, don’t cook it inside the turkey.  It will absorb fat and calories from the bird.

Dress hot vegetables like green beans, broccoli or brussel sprouts with olive oil and herbs to avoid the less healthy fat in butter.

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Just don’t go there.  I know, it’s delicious but if I told you how many calories, you wouldn’t believe me.  Try this version of sweet potato casserole instead, which has only 3 g of fat and at least half the calories.

It’s amazing the calories you can save just by choosing pumpkin pie over pecan pie.  And that spray whipped cream only has 30 calories a serving!  If you ate just the top of your pie, along with the canned whipped cream, you’d save all kinds of calories by skipping the fat-laden crust. I do that, sometimes.

Lean meats and fish are good bets on the buffet table. Just a little cheese has a lot of calories. But, shrimp has few calories (as long as it isn’t fried), as does smoked salmon. Beef tenderloin is a luscious 165 calories a serving.

Olives, raw veggies, and mushrooms have practically no calories at all.

I was surprised at how many calories are in fruit cake. It seems so benign! But 1/4 of a Claxton fruit cake will set you back 390 calories and it has a lot of fat. If you indulge in fruit cake, take just a nibble.

Did you know a lot of those holiday coffee drinks are packed with calories and fat? As much as or more than candy bars!  Make your own coffee at home and add purchased flavored creamers (30 calories per serving) like White Chocolate Peppermint or Pumpkin and top with canned whipped cream (another 30 calories) and you’ll save money and more than 500 calories in some instances!

The holidays are about having fun, and food is part of that. If weight loss is personal goal, I hope some of these options work well for you.