Thanksgiving is, as the moniker suggests, all about giving thanks. During a year when most of us plan to spend the day in locations separate from our nearest and dearest, this might seem like an impossible challenge.
There are three components to surviving and even enjoying this Thanksgiving, according to Kim Schneiderman, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Washington, as well as NAMI’s executive assistant Deanna Lugo and volunteer coordinator Amy Ford.
Find something — anything! — to be grateful for
“It’s important that people try to keep their spirits up as much as possible. We need to strive for grace and laughter and resilience and be grateful for the stuff that we do have. It can be very minor. I’m a big believer in microstuff: every positive thing that happens builds on another positive thing,” Schneiderman said.
Ford added, “I think about the things that I’m grateful for in my life and don’t wallow in the things that are negative. That’s the whole idea behind Thanksgiving, anyway — to be grateful!”
You might be grateful that you don’t have to cook and clean and can just order pizza.
You can be glad to avoid discussing politics or conspiracy theories, this year of all years.
You may be thankful that you don’t have to eat Grandma’s rutabaga-and-lime casserole, or watch your cousin clean his toenails at the table.
You can even be grateful that you’ll help protect the people you love by not hosting or attending a big holiday get-together.
“COVID-19 activity is really high in Clark County right now and we have a lot of virus transmission out in the community,” said Marissa Armstrong, public information officer for Clark County Public Health. “The safest way to have Thanksgiving this year is having only a small gathering with the people you live with.”
Talk to someone, even someone outside your social circle
“You gotta take that step sometimes,” Schneiderman said. “You gotta reach out, call somebody that you haven’t spoken to in a while.”
If you’re feeling sad or lonely, Schneiderman said it’s even more important to connect with someone.
“We all need to recognize that we’re not alone. Everybody is dealing with this,” Schneiderman said. “Cut ourselves some grace for not being perfect all the time and maybe having feelings we’d prefer not to have. It’s OK to do that right now, and then think, ‘How do I turn this around?’ ”
If you’re having a tough time finding the silver lining and just need to talk, try calling a local “warmline” (see accompanying box) where you’ll always find a sympathetic ear.
Joke about it
If Thanksgiving feels like a joke this year, well, maybe it is.
“You need to find humor in everything because humor is healthy,” said Ford, touting the mental as well as physical benefits of a good, hearty guffaw. Laughter has been widely shown to lowers stress, boost immunity and even diminish pain.
“It’s always best if you can laugh at yourself,” added Lugo (with a laugh), who likes to visit humor websites to search for new jokes, the cornier the better. (Some websites, like gcfl.net, will even email you a joke a day.) Schneiderman favors thriveglobal.com/stories/ as a source for inspirational stories and uplifting thoughts.
In that vein, here are few unusual, uplifting and unserious ways to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020. Perhaps some of these ideas will result in new traditions — or maybe they’ll simply mark a moment during a difficult year to consider what we have, right now, to be thankful for.
1. Have an online gathering after dinner so that you don’t have to watch your nephew chew green beans with his mouth open. Play charades or just talk.
2. Have a cold, wet, socially distant meal outside. (Gov. Jay Inslee’s new COVID-19 order allows outdoor gatherings with five people from outside your household.) Just don’t burn anything down with space heaters; firefighters want to have Thanksgiving, too.
3. Write letters of gratitude to the people you love.
4. Make Thanksgiving baskets or seasonal bouquets for friends and family, or make your own bouquet of construction paper leaves with cheerful messages.
5. Prepare foods enjoyed by the Northwest’s native people at this time of year, such as salmon, venison, elk, hazel nuts, myrtle nuts and wapato or arrowhead root.
6. Have a spa day. Draw a warm bath, put on meditative music, fill your tub with bubbles and put cucumber slices over your eyes.
7. Watch a comedy movie marathon, broken up by walks around your neighborhood.
8. Get crafty and creative. Work on scrapbooks or photo albums, make an art journal, paint or draw, sculpt with clay, cross-stitch or crochet, make a papier-mache turkey. Get started on Christmas by making wreaths or ornaments.
9. Enjoy music. Compose a ditty on the piano, sing a song, strum your guitar, bang your bongos and tune up your fiddle.
10. Take the money you’d have spent on Thanksgiving dinner and donate it to the Clark County Food Bank, North County Food Bank or Treasure House Interfaith Food Bank — or clean out your pantry and donate nonperishable food items.
11. Forget dinner. Just eat pie.
12. Spend the day in bed in your pajamas watching cat videos. This is a perfectly viable option for 2020.