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As we approach the holiday season with the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting our daily lives, it is time to consider how to celebrate safely.

"Tips for Celebrating Safely This Thanksgiving" Infographic from the Public Health Communications Collaborative. Available at https://publichealthcollaborative.org.

This year may present the perfect opportunity to tweak old traditions and try something new! The CDC has provided guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while celebrating the holidays. The safest way to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe is to celebrate virtually or with members of your own household. If you chose to gather with extended family, friends, or others this season, know that small, outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities. Those planning to host or attend in-person holiday celebrations might consider whether and how to take the activities outdoors and make them memorable!

If your holiday celebration typically includes time spent in the living room or basement watching a football game or parade on TV with friends and family, might you be able to set up a projector screen or TV in the backyard and continue this tradition? If you don’t have the backyard space to host a gathering while allowing for adequate social distancing, is there a local park or outdoor spot where you could meet family for a picnic or hike? If you’re worried about cold weather, there are ways to keep warm while outdoors. You could:

  • Play games while social distancing to get moving and warm up
  • Sit and chat around a fire pit or outdoor heater
  • Bundle up with blankets, coats, mittens, hats, and other winter accessories
  • Sip on a cup of hot coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or cider

If you are the host of the gathering, encourage guests to bring their own food, beverages, and utensils to minimize sharing and the potential for cross contamination. If you opt to make food or beverages available, consider single use options or designate one person to serve the food so multiple people are not handling utensils and dishes.

Since many gatherings will be smaller this year, and because guests are encouraged to bring their own food, hosts may not need to cook a whole turkey, ham, or other large meal – the perfect opportunity to break from tradition and try new holiday recipes. Roasted turkey breast with vegetables, for example, makes a delicious meal for a family of six.

Holiday celebrations this year will be different for all of us.  With a little planning and creativity, you can find ways to experience comfort and happiness with loved ones – and you may even find a new tradition worth keeping!

Written by: Ashley Markowski, Dietetic Intern at Cedar Crest College

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

Kistler, S.E. (2020). How to plan winter holidays in a pandemic. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/covid-and-planning-thanksgiving-christmas-holidays


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Inhale. It means to breathe in. Slow or controlled breathing is often used to reduce heart rate, calm emotions, and lower stress. This controlled breathing technique has been around thousands of years in yoga, meditation, and other health practices. I saw this advice recently reminding me to inhale during this holiday season, and I loved it.

When I saw the admonition to inhale, I took it as a reminder to take it all in. That is the inhale; be purposeful in choosing what to take in and what to pass on. Our holiday schedule looked extra hectic this year with one daughter dancing in a professional nutcracker production, a new college student rejoining our family for her extended break, travel for work and a visit from my parents. I knew with all this I had to be extra careful about what I inhaled.

Taking that same definition of inhaling and applying it to our holiday busyness can be difficult. We are often rushing from event to event, and tackling a never-ending list of holiday fun. Advice is always easier to give than take in and follow. Several friends shared with me what they do to inhale the holidays. These can be simple, such as:

Spending a quiet morning before everyone is up, enjoying coffee and the Christmas tree and remembering why we celebrate the holiday. ~ Sarah

Making an effort to turn off the TV and put away phones so that family time can be enjoyed. ~ Amanda R.

Spending some quiet time and making sure to get quality sleep. ~ Jessica

Making an effort to start each day with an intention and not rushing out the door. ~ Amanda W.

Admiring a Christmas tree in the darkness and taking a moment to be grateful. ~ Lorrissa

Taking a few minutes after work to take some deep breaths, and reflect and center before joining family and evening activities. ~ Amanda B.

Other ideas included some simple planning to emphasize the events and traditions that matter most, such as:

Making a December bucket list of the most important activities and traditions and hanging it up for the family to see. This makes it easy to say, “This isn’t a priority for us” when things come up. ~ Becky

Make an effort and a plan to focus on small acts of kindness and simple holiday experiences.  Leaving treats for a mail carrier, dancing to Christmas music, or driving around to look at lights, have these things planned out so they can be included and enjoyed. ~ Amber

Besides having a plan and making simple changes, prioritizing and self-care can help with your holiday inhale. Other ways to inhale include:

Reflect on what is important to your holiday celebrations. Realize that this may change over time. Thinking about what is most important will help you to be intentional when choosing how and who to spend your time with. It is hard to make your holiday meaningful if you don’t decide before the rush starts what gives it meaning.

Ask for help. Let your family know how they can support or help with holiday tasks and plans. Accept their offers to contribute. This will help involve them, as well as lighten your workload. This can also be a way to share traditions or teach skills with children and other family members.

Keep in mind the holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, pace yourself. If adding an extra party or gift to your schedule causes you stress, then don’t. The parties, events, gifts that you do choose to participate in- inhale! Be present as you experience and participate in them.

Take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Extra social gatherings can be fun, but do not compromise your physical, mental or financial wellness by doing too much. Acknowledge that you cannot do everything for everyone. Practice saying “no” without guilt.

Do not throw out your routine. Do your best to make healthy food choices, relax, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Sticking to your routines will help with your endurance and patience as you manage the holiday.

Most importantly, whatever you do this holiday season, enjoy the inhale!

Writer: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewers: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County, Dunfee.54@osu.edu

Sources:

LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Butanis, B. (2014, June 9). Ten Tips for Enjoying the Holidays. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/stories/ten_tips_for_enjoying_holidays.html.

Keep it Real This Season. (2019, December 4). Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/12/05/keep-it-real-this-season/.

LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Russo, M. A., Santarelli, D. M., & O’Rourke, D. (2017, December 1). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Retrieved from https://breathe.ersjournals.com/content/13/4/298.

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christmas-table

Are you trying to eat healthier this holiday season but having problems?  These ideas may help you to make a few changes that can add up over the holidays.

  • Plan ahead – This includes making menus and shopping. You can usually do some of the prep ahead of time such as chopping and cutting up vegetables.  You may want to cook your meat a day ahead, slice, refrigerate, and then reheat before ready to serve.  Be sure to check temperatures of meat:  145°F for beef, pork, lamb or fish and 165°F for turkey or any kind of poultry.
  • Start with a good Breakfast, whether you are having the party at your house or attending one. Ideas for a quick breakfast include:
    • overnight oatmeal with toppings (fruit dried or fresh, nuts, cinnamon, cranberry sauce)
    • Frittata – use cut up vegetables and/or meats ( You can make ahead as muffins and then freeze, unthaw, heat and eat).Breakfast vegetable muffins
    • Breakfast casserole – make one the night before and leave in the refrigerator. Cook in the morning and serve. (Just watch the cheese and processed meats so you don’t over indulge.)
    • Breakfast Burrito – Cook eggs and add a can of refried beans, salsa and cheese. Heat until bubbly and serve in a tortilla.
  • Get Your Family Involved. Check Pinterest for decorative veggie or fruit tray ideas.   Let your children or grandchildren decide which you will make, and then turn the process over to them.  (With younger children you may need to pre-chop for safety.) They will eat more veggies or fruit this way.  Examples:  Wreath, Santa, Tree, snowman, Words – like joy.   Vegetable Christmas tree
  • Side Dish Swap Out. Instead of the usual, try roasted vegetables; sweet potatoes with apple slices and dried or fresh cranberries, or mashed with crushed pineapple; reduce the amount of extras you put in mashed potatoes; instead of green bean casserole try a green beans and cranberry dish; and/or make your own cranberry sauce with less sugar and actual cranberries in it.
  • Make-over your drinks. Serve infused water with cranberries, raspberries, apple or your favorite fruit.  Mix seltzer water with cranberry juice or your favorite juice.  Serve unsweetened tea or coffee.  Remember alcoholic drinks are high in calories, so use caution.   water with raspberries
  • Bake-It Healthier. For baked goods swap out the oil or butter for unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas, or other fruit baby food.  In pumpkin pie use non-fat evaporated milk and cut back the sugar by ¼ to 1/3.   Switch half the flour to whole grain flour.  Use low-fat yogurt in place of sour cream.  Try salt-free seasoning and spice mixes.
  • Sweet Switch Out. Serve a Trifle, baked apples with cinnamon, miniature desserts, or banana pudding parfait using ginger snaps, bananas and pudding.
  • Get Physically active. It helps us all feel better and helps limit the weight gain.
  • Wrap it Up with Food Safety. Be sure to follow food safety rules.  Wash your hands.  Follow the 2-hour rule.  Questions on meats and Food storage containersturkey – Call the USDA Meat/Poultry Hotline – 1-888-674-6854 available year around.
  • Enjoy the Holidays. Allow yourself to enjoy the Holidays!  Plan some time to enjoy the things you enjoy doing during the Holidays.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

References:

Brinkman, P. (2015).  Modifying a Recipe to be Healthier.  Available at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5543

Food Safety Information. (2018). Available at https://www.foodsafety.gov/

Pinterest. (2018). Holiday Veggie Trays.  Available at https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?rs=ac&len=2&q=holiday%20veggie%20trays%20christmas&eq=Holiday%20veggie%20trays&etslf=14631&term_meta[]=holiday%7Cautocomplete%7C4&term_meta[]=veggie%7Cautocomplete%7C4&term_meta[]=trays%7Cautocomplete%7C4&term_meta[]=christmas%7Cautocomplete%7C4

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline:  Available at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/programs-and-services/contact-centers/usda-meat-and-poultry-hotline

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Why not give a gift that encourages health, rather than the quick and easy gift, or one that actually discourages wellness? While the possibilities are endless, we have developed a list that has something for everyone.

Wellness Gift Ideas:

  • giftCookbooks – Think about the new trends such as root vegetables, gluten free, or farm to table.
  • Teas – whether green, black or white. There is research to support the health benefits of teas.
  • Gift cards to farmers market , local fruit farm, or nursery (this may be for future plants or garden supplies)
  • Insulated lunch or grocery bag
  • Insulated water bottle (with fresh fruit infuser)
  • Adult lunch containers (include dressing slots, small compartments for sides, etc.)
  • Pretty apron and new holiday inspired dishtowels
  • Bath and shower gels, candles, or lotions
  • Fresh fruit or nuts
  • Gift card to a cooking store
  • Gift card for a massage or mani/pedi
  • Salad spinner
  • Yoga mat, workout DVD, or a certificate to an additional service at their favorite fitness center
  • Workout clothes, shoes, or bag
  • Canning supplies, such as new jars or equipment
  • Food processor, immersion blender, or slow cooker
  • Cordless activity and sleep tracker
  • Dance video games – There are choices for every age and music preference (country, kids, Broadway, current music, summer hits, and much more).
  • Humor books – cartoons, funnies
  • Books on positivity – such as, Jon Gordon’s “Energy Bus” or books on Mindfulness
  • Gift basket with a new cookbook, the ingredients for one recipe, and a cooking tool that might be needed
  • For many people music is a great stress reliever – Purchase CDs, music download cards, or even tickets to a local musical

Who are you going to give a wellness gift to this year?

Written by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Kathryn Dodrill, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.

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Tis the season to be thankful and jolly and . . . stressed out?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Even amid the hustle and bustle of parties, shopping, and decorating, you can keep your cool and enjoy the holidays.

The stresses that plague us this time of year are rooted in three basic sources: time (getting everything done), money (paying for it), and emotions (painful memories and family conflict).

Despite the stresses, holidays have the potential to fulfill and renew.  Most of us treasure this season as a special time to grow closer to family, friends, and our deepest beliefs.

Eight Ways to Make your Holidays Merrier

1.  Set Priorities.  How do you view the holidays: a religious occasion? a time of relaxation to enjoy with your family? An
opportunity to socialize and attend parties? It’s possible, of course, to choose all of the above, but typically people over-extend themselves trying to make the holidays serve too many functions. Clarify what you want and you’ll probably be able to make better choices about the way to spend your time and energy.

2.  Plan ahead. Take charge of your holiday:

  • Decide in advance which social obligations are most important and prioritize them.
  • Make lists of things to do and set aside some time each day to do tasks and run errands instead of trying to do everything at the last minute.
  • Allow time for activities you enjoy.

3.  Simplify.  Is it really necessary to cook the world’s most elaborate feast?  Does the house have to be spotless?  Do the presents have to be perfect? If you enjoy facing those challenges, step right up.  Otherwise, set limits on what you’ll do.  Plan perhaps one major meal during the holidays so that you’re not tied up in the kitchen every moment that your relatives are visiting.  Arrange one party as a favor for a returning friend.  Learn to say “no” gently but firmly.

To reduce the strain on you, enlist the help of others.  Delegate jobs like trimming the tree, addressing envelopes, and shopping for groceries.  Shopping, of course, is a major headache, so make it easy on yourself.

  • Shop early to beat the crowds.
  • Take advantage of free or low-cost gift wrapping services.
  • Use on-line shopping or mail-order catalogs.
  • Settle for simple presents.

 4.  Scale back expectations.  It’s common to expect too much from the holidays.  People anticipate a magical experience and start preparing for it well before Thanksgiving.  For weeks, they get all geared up and then they have a celebration that’s over in a few hours.   Others run into trouble trying to live out a childhood fantasy.  They buy lavish gifts or schedule expensive activities in hopes of creating a perfect Christmas.

5.  Start new traditions.  Some cherished traditions from your childhood may not be feasible today.  Families are smaller and often separated by large distances.  Remarriages may mean spending the day with “strangers.”

Reflect on what made the holidays special when you were growing up.  Often, it’s simple things – a special food your mother made, a walk through the park on Christmas morning.  You might discover special meaning by volunteering at a nursing home or homeless shelter.

6.  Beware of family arguments.  Nothing seems to bring out old family frictions like an extended holiday stay.  Common factors include, too many people in too little space; battling kids; travel-weary grown ups. Is it any wonder nerves get frayed?
Holidays are a poor time to try to resolve long-standing issues.  The holidays are a time for merriment and good behavior.

 7.  Acknowledge losses.  Holidays often release the ghosts of Christmas past.  Recent losses can haunt you. Two ways of dealing with loss are, acknowledge it with a direct, limited activity, such as visiting the cemetery or change your holiday routine in some simple ways so that you are not constantly remembering and comparing today’s holiday to past one.  Still, one usually has to go through a holiday season once without the person to overcome the grief caused by the loss.

 8.  Treat yourself nicely.  Counter the holiday pressures by being kind to yourself.  Take relaxation breaks.  Go for uninterrupted  peaceful walks.  Or take a nap. Sounds selfish?  Perhaps, but you’ll return from your break refreshed and ready for the pleasures of the season.

Author:  Cindy Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.

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