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Focus on what matters most this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

I love to cook and host my family and friends – the more the merrier. I look forward to this time of year like most folks look forward to their birthday. To me, it’s better.

I start daydreaming about my family’s annual get-together about the time I see the first ad for pumpkin spice anything. By the beginning of November, the menu is set, shopping list prepared and invitations extended. There is a comfortable rhythm to it all.

But let’s be real. This isn’t a typical year.

Beth Toal
Beth Toal, St. Luke’s vice president for Communications & Marketing

For months now, the world has been dealing with a global pandemic. We’ve had to adapt, change, and in some cases, completely set aside plans we’ve had for ourselves and our families. There has been stress, worry and way too much loss. Often, it’s hard to know what to anchor to.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when thinking about the ups and downs of 2020. They don’t call these unprecedented times for nothing. It can be tempting to accept that nothing will ever be the same again, or that it might be best to hit pause on the things we look forward to this time of year. Given all that we’re juggling, the idea of finding another gear to power through the upcoming holiday season is, for many, a little much.

I was in that place. I felt exhausted and defeated by it all.

After a time, and with a little help from a friend, I shifted my perspective. I decided to focus on what I value most about Thanksgiving – enjoying the present, staying well, being thankful and giving back.

As a family, we made a list of ways we could stay focused on what matters most this holiday season. I’m happy to share a few highlights with you:

  • Take a deep breath. When things feel out of control, taking a deep breath and finding your center can go a long way in helping navigate unpredictable times. I found that a clear head helped me see new possibilities. A breather shifted my thinking just enough so that I could see what our holiday could look like.

  • Laugh more. We’re staying home more these days, which allows for time together away from distractions and the regular rush of life. Rather than retreating to separate corners of the house, we’re creating reasons to come together, stay connected and share a laugh or two. With a little creativity, these ideas work over Zoom, too, if your family or friends are far away. You might:

    • Play a favorite board game – we opted for a classic, Monopoly.
    • Dress as your favorite decade and lip sync to your favorite song – this brings about laughter for oh-so-many reasons.
    • Adults vs. kids video game challenge – adults, I can tell you from my experience, you will not win, and the kids in your life will definitely laugh at you.
    • Make a favorite family recipe together – this is a fantastic way to tell stories, share memories and enjoy some delicious food.

  • Celebrate favorite traditions and make some new ones. Talking about what you love when it comes to Thanksgiving is a great way to keep traditions alive – even if some of your favorite parts of the holiday aren’t possible this year. Kids especially respond to the comfort traditions bring. We’re not being shy about sharing what we’ll miss this year, and we’re also talking about what we’re looking forward to in the years to come. Reminding ourselves that this period will pass, and that we’ll find balance again, feels really good. Thinking about how to make this year special by making one or two new traditions is a great way to add to your story and mark this unique point in time.

  • Be thankful. We’re appreciating the good in our life at this very moment. It’s important and healthy to acknowledge the challenges, and the setbacks, too. Reflecting on all that you’ve navigated, learned and overcome this year and sharing what you look forward to is a great way to build upon the hope you have for the year ahead – and who couldn’t use a little hope right now?

  • Express gratitude and extend a (socially distant) hand. One of the most powerful tools for staying optimistic is expressing gratitude. Gratitude encourages us not only to appreciate what we have but also to share what we have with others. Volunteer for a cause you care about, donate to a local service organization or leave a note of encouragement on your neighbor’s front door. Simple acts of kindness not only help others, they help us.

This has been quite a year. With so many challenges, few of us feel we are at our best.

Challenging situations can have silver linings and positive outcomes; I know I’m finding some in all of this, challenging as it has been. By focusing on the most important, simple things this season, it’s possible to reconnect with what is closest to your heart – and that is what this time of year really is all about.

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