By Gwenn Voelckers
If you are a regular reader of my column, you know that I usually fill my Thanksgiving column with tips and creative ways to manage what can be a challenging holiday for those who live alone.
But this year is unlike any in recent history.
We’ve endured and continue to endure a frightening pandemic, a divisive election process, environmental disasters, an economic crisis and increasing violence in our streets.
This year, I feel compelled to share a different message.
In addition to counting your blessings this Thanksgiving, I encourage those of you who live alone (as well as those who don’t) to say “No thank you” to the things that get in the way of your health and happiness.
• Say “No thank you” to any suggestion that COVID-19 is nothing to fear. You’ve picked up this copy of “In Good Health,” which tells me you are interested in your health and overall well-being.
Follow your instincts and the advice of medical experts, scientists, and researchers to protect yourself, your family and your friends. We all know what to do.
• Say “No thank you” to anyone who mocks you for wearing a mask, keeping your distance or declining an invitation to a gathering or event that you feel poses a risk.
I’m still reluctant to go out to eat unless there is an outdoor option. That’s my choice. This is my life. Others may choose differently. That’s fine. I respect their choices and expect the same in return.
• Say “No thank you” to unreliable sources and “pundits” in the mainstream media and online who may be spreading fake news. Even well-meaning members of your inner circle of friends and family may share misinformation, even if unintentionally.
Develop a critical eye and turn to trusted media outlets that follow rigorous editorial guidelines. Look for evidence-based stories by highly trained and experienced reporters.
My favorite fact-checking site is Snopes.com.
• Say “No thank you” to disrespectful, insulting and deceit-ridden public discourse. Turn it off and tune it out.
Turn instead to voices of reason, empathy and compassion. When we really listen to one another and seek to understand each other’s needs, we have a prayer of moving forward and entering into productive conversations and problem solving.
Even when we don’t see eye to eye, we can still show respect and treat each other with loving kindness.
The challenge is to stay present, curious and connected amidst so much pain and turmoil. Let’s all do our part, big or small. Every good intention to improve our world matters. So does every VOTE. So make a plan. Our lives literally depend upon it.
• Say “No thank you” to hoarding paper items, meat and other essentials. As news of a potential second COVID-19 surge spreads, so spreads a resurgence of panic buying.
Those who can’t afford to buy in bulk or easily find transportation to the store are left looking at bare shelves. They go home empty-handed, often to the expectant eyes of young children or aging parents.
Let this time bring out the best versions of ourselves. Let’s exercise restraint in our shopping and acknowledge those in need. Let’s demonstrate generosity, see who needs assistance, and donate our food, time, and money for the greater good.
• Say “No thank you” to disappearing into TV, a bottle, or online shopping to assuage your fears and dread of what the future may hold.
It can become a slippery slope, so now’s a good time to take notice. What might feel like a welcome stress-reliever today can turn into a hard-to-break habit tomorrow.
I find that daily meditation eases my anxiety and worries about the future. In the peace and quiet I can open my heart and embrace our collective goodness and care for one another. I find it reassuring and inspiring.
• Say “No thank you” to languishing on the couch (except on Thanksgiving). We all get a pass that day!
The more you move your body, the healthier it gets, and the better you can feel, physically and emotionally. The good news? Studies show that it doesn’t take an enormous amount of physical exercise to achieve health-enhancing results. Keep moving.
• Say “No thank you” to beating yourself up for being less than productive during this highly unusual year. These are trying times. And many of us, myself included, have experienced “low energy” days when we walk in circles, stare out the window, and just can’t seem to get anything done.
Let’s be kind to ourselves. Give yourself a break if you aren’t re-imagining your career, re-inventing your retirement, or re-invigorating your love life. All of that takes energy. Some days, I need all the energy I can muster just to put away the laundry.
• Say “No thank you” to conversations that drift into politics during your Thanksgiving holiday. Even if you are surrounded by friends and family who share your views, the tone and language of these conversations can devolve into headshaking and criticism of the “other side.” It can become a real downer.
Instead, choose to uplift the conversation. Reminisce about the good ol’ days, discuss future travel plans or talk about what’s on your post-pandemic bucket list.
At my Thanksgiving table, we take turns sharing items on our gratitude list, which pairs perfectly with the dessert course!
A closing note: I want to thank you for taking the time to read this column and for thinking with me about how we can help ourselves and each other during this time of unrest. I’m optimistic that together we can build our capacity for compassion, return to restorative calm, and enjoy a better, brighter, and – importantly – healthier future.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women, and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com