NELA Living Blog by Emilie Broughton

3 Ways To Handle Holiday Stress During Covid

Whether we spend the holidays together or alone, they will undoubtedly be a different kind of holiday season this year. Even under normal circumstances the holidays can be a difficult time for people. It can either bring a sense of excitement and joy or create anxiety, stress, and dread and sometimes it’s a little bit of everything!

Because this holiday season may bring new challenges like not being able to gather with a large group of friends and family, they will be more important than ever to think about what you will need to cope through it now, rather than waiting until you are in the midst of it.

Anticipating the holidays can create an opportunity for hard emotions to grow, making it more challenging to think clearly and cope effectively at the moment. Coming up with coping skills and practicing them ahead of time will help you move through any challenge more smoothly when it presents itself. Here are 3 ideas to help:

1. Keep traditions alive while you’re apart, or start new ones virtually

If you and your loved ones have holiday traditions or are interested in trying something new, now is the time to get creative! Perhaps everyone could make the same meal or side dishes and virtually eat together, or you can research virtual games to play and make sure everyone is set up on the tech side in advance. Of course, it won’t be the same as your in-person tradition, but you can still be with your loved ones, have some fun, and feel connected. Maybe you’ll even start a new trend you can bring to future in-person gatherings.

2. Keep faith in the power of structure

Regardless of whether you relish the upcoming family time, dread the impending togetherness, or plan to spend the holidays alone, structure can be a best friend to you during this season. That’s because having structure allows us to focus on the task at hand. Knowing what is coming next helps manage feelings of uncertainty, loneliness, and anxiety so we can stay present.

Start thinking about your structure now by creating a list of activities you could do on those quiet days when you might be feeling more vulnerable. Maybe you could go for a walk, make your favorite meal, bake, read for enjoyment, FaceTime loved ones, or create a movie or book list. These are just a few suggestions to get you started!

You don’t have to pack your schedule, but having one or two tasks, fun items, or even chores each day will help you manage your mood more effectively.

3. Keep it simple

You don’t need to plan a grand gesture to cope ahead. Small skills can make a big impact. When practiced over time, your mind will learn to rely on these calming practices, so in times of stress, those same simple skills can help improve your mood.

For example, you could curl up in a comfortable blanket, make tea, eat something you enjoy, light a scented candle or spray a scent that you like, or go for a walk and notice what you see and what you hear.

You could also listen to a podcast or audiobook, take a hot shower or bath, clean a section of your room or home, do laundry, meet a friend for a socially distant walk, or write postcards to snail mail to your loved ones. Practicing one small skill each day will not only help improve your mood, but it can also become a part of your daily structure!

Whatever you choose to do this holiday season, creating a plan to deal with possible anxiety or even just a list of possible strategies can help you prepare for any potential challenges. So create your COVID-19 holiday coping plan now—give yourself some things to look forward to!

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Category: Blog |

Tips For Emergency Preparedness

Emergencies can happen at any time. Since March we have been in a pandemic, forced to quarantine and wear masks everywhere we go. We are reminded more than ever about the importance of washing our hands and keeping our supplies fully stocked. We all remember it wasn’t long ago that you couldn’t go to a store without finding empty shelves where the toilet paper, cleaning supplies and even staple food items were wiped out. This has taught us that it is extremely important to be prepared for any disaster that may come our way. With California wildfire season in full swing, now we need to think about putting together an emergency supply kit and keep it easily accessible so you can take it with you if you have to evacuate.

Plan to be away from your home for an extended period of time. Each person should have a readily accessible emergency supply kit. Backpacks work great for storing these items (except food and water) and are quick to grab. Storing food and water in a tub or chest on wheels will make it easier to transport. Keep it light enough to be able to lift it into your car.  Ensure you plan with COVID-19 in mind. Keep in mind that evacuation shelters may not be available and are not the safest place right now. Find out which hotels or family members you can stay with if you absolutely need to.

Emergency Supply Kit Checklist

  • Face masks or coverings
  • Hand sanitizer & wipes
  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
  • Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
  • Prescriptions or special medications
  • Change of clothing
  • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
  • Don’t forget pet food and water!
  • Pet food, dishes, cat litter

Items to take if time allows:

  • Easily carried valuables
  • Family photos and other irreplaceable items
  • Personal computer information on hard drives and disks
  • Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.

Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.

Stay connected

  • Sign up for emergency alerts in your area
  • Keep cell phones and ipads charged
  • Follow local news channels

For more information on emergency supplies, visit



Category: Blog |

A Twist On Holiday Cooking

The holidays are a time for being with family and sharing in traditions.

Typically this means an evening spent sitting around the dinner table swapping
stories and eating good food. Whether you spend hours in the kitchen cooking
old family favorites or opt for the highest rated Food Network recipes, preparing
a family sized holiday feast is a lot of hard work.

Here some twists on traditional Thanksgiving recipes that might inspire new

Change it up: Try half Yukon gold potatoes and half turnips or parsnips. Make
the same way as mashed potatoes with a touch of half and half and butter,
seasoning salt or simply salt and fresh pepper. For a heart-healthy version, use
low fat cottage cheese rather than cream and butter and mash into potatoes.
It gives a creamy tasty consistency that’s a bit healthier.”

Try a tent: Start out with the turkey completely sealed and tented with
onion, carrots, celery, V-8 juice, chicken stock, brandy, bay leaf, sage
and fresh herbs. Cook it half the required cook-time completely sealed
(air-tight) on high heat, about 450. Then for the last half of the cooking
time, uncover it and turn the heat down to 350. Baste and brown it until
it is done. This is consistently YUMMY and moist–even the next day
reheated as leftovers.

Or slow roast at 300 degrees simply with fresh herbs on a bed of
fennel, onions, carrots, celery, leeks and bay leaf, a dusting of sea salt,
pepper and ample amounts of sage. The veggies and herbs add to the
drippings to create exceptional gravy.”

Up for Brussels Sprouts? For all you Brussels sprout haters out
there–this will convert you! Cut the bottom off each sprout, peel each
individual petal off, and quickly blanch the loose petals (15 seconds) in
boiling water. Cool down. Oven roast little cipollini onions (peeled)
until caramelized and done. Slice the onions in half. In a sautè pan,
heat a little bit of sliced bacon, the onions and the Brussels sprout
petals. Season them to taste with salt and pepper. Serve as a side and be
ready for people’s surprised reaction to how much they LOVE Brussels

Do not bake the stuffing in the turkey. Bake on the side in the oven to
get a bit of crispy crust on top. Use lots of sausage, celery and onion
with crusty bread or cornbread and lots of fresh sage. Drizzle turkey jus
(after it’s roasted) over the dressing to keep it moist and add a ton of

Category: Blog |

7 Ideas To Safely Celebrate Halloween This Year

Halloween hasn’t ghosted us just yet. Halloween may not revolve around the traditional celebrations like big costume parties or trick or treating. If we have learned anything during this pandemic it is how to be resourceful and creative in finding new ways to make things fun. Halloween is no different. Go overboard on decorations even if you can’t have a party. Buy candy and put on a scary movie. Regardless of how you spend Halloween this year, it is sure to be one to remember. I have put together 10 ideas to make Halloween fun, safe and social distanced. This is the year we have the opportunity to really test out our creative skills

Costume Fashion Show
Just because there aren’t Halloween parties this year doesn’t mean you can’t dress up! Use it as an excuse to bust out some old costumes too, for a full fashion show! Take photos or videos for your kids to re-watch and share.

Neighborhood Decoration Contest
Get all your neighbors to decorate their front yard for Halloween and have a contest. Winner gets an e-gift card at their favorite restaurant or a Costco-sized bag of candy.

Scary Movies
Whether you like silly or scary, there are tons of Halloween movies! How about watching one a night leading up to October 31? This is an easy way to make the whole week feel special!

Reverse Trick-o-Treating
This idea requires a bit of coordination by neighbors, but you could have kids set up at the end of their driveways and have adults or older teens drive around and throw candy like it’s a parade!

Party with your bubble
If you have been quarantining in a “bubble” or with a small group of other families that you trust, consider having a small party with them. Have each family bring lots of candy! Since it’s a small group you can definitely splash for the king sized candy bars! Put together some frightfully fun games like bobbing for apples or create your own murder mystery game. Another fun thing is to bring blindfolded participants to a Scary buffet of bowls that feel they are filled with eyeballs (peeled grapes), gummy bear worms, Jello and other objects that have odd textures.  Have paper towels to wipe their hands after their eerie experience and the reveal.

Throw a Virtual Halloween Party On Zoom
Let Snapology help save Halloween with scary fun virtual programs designed for kids of all ages. One of Snapology’s awesome party hosts will keep the activities and fun going during the hour-long program so you and the other parents can sit back and relax. Themed programs like Monster Mania and Virtual Escape Rooms will bring children together from a distance and help make this Halloween better than ever. Decorate the area around your computer to make for a ghoulishly fun Halloween background or choose from images on Google to save and add into your Zoom call.

Crafts At Home
Crafts are a great way to get festive. You can do these crafts on Halloween, or better yet, start them earlier in the month so they can double as decor inside your home!

Category: Blog |