4th of July

This year’s July 4th – Tips for a fun and safe holiday

Reading Time: 2 minutes

While pets and wild animals everywhere rejoice, many Skagitonians are disappointed that July 4th community fireworks displays have been canceled due to COVID-19. This is just one more thing that the pandemic has taken away from us!

But all is not lost! It won’t feel exactly the same, but there are still fun ways to celebrate our nation’s independence. Here’s a short list of alternative ways to commemorate the United States’ 244th birthday, while maintaining social distancing and following Phase 2 guidelines so we can all get through the holiday safe and healthy.

What NOT to doWhat you CAN do instead
Invite a large group of friends, extended family or neighbors over for a backyard barbeque.Keep your gatherings limited to no more than 5 non-household members, stay outside, wear a mask when you’re near others, and skip the potluck or buffet-style meals; it’s not ideal, but everyone should bring their own food and drinks. And it can’t hurt to keep hand sanitizer in close reach and use it often!Family challenge: Who can make the most delicious and creative red, white and blue treat? Click here for some inspiration.WATER BALLOON FIGHT! Water balloon dodgeball?First Annual Lawn Games Olympics. Bocce, long jump, DIY obstacle course, whatever you want! THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE CHAMPION!Gather around a fire pit and roast marshmallows. Maybe try some of these gourmet s’mores recipes!
Go to a fireworks display where non-household members have gathered.Set off your own (legal!) fireworks or light sparklers with your family. Keep a bucket or water or a hose nearby, just in case. Involve your kids in making a holiday craft. Maybe paint a flowerpot red, white and blue, or create a festive wreath (out of fabric, pompoms, pinwheels, or whatever!) for the front door.Watch a patriotic or America-themed movie. Disney+ will be streaming a filmed version of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” starting July 3rd. And of course, there’s always “Independence Day.”Go somewhere dark and watch for shooting stars. It still gets cold at night, so dress warmly and bring along hot chocolate and blankets.
Attend a July 4th parade.Take a scenic drive east on the North Cascades Highway, where you’re bound to see some bald eagles.Visit a nearby state or national park (check if they’re open first). Just be sure to maintain social distancing and bring a mask, hand sanitizer, snacks and water with you. Keep in mind that bathroom facilities may not be open, so … be prepared.Gather your family and put on your own parade for the neighborhood. Pinterest has lots of ideas for DIY noisemakers, and here are a few more.Go on a virtual tour of all 50 states in our beautiful country. You can even visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia or Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. This list is a good place to start.

It’s going to look a little different this year, but you can still find fun ways to celebrate Independence Day. It’s normal to feel disappointed, especially if you really look forward to the community events. Hopefully, you can turn this forced change into an opportunity to start a new family tradition.  

Whatever you do, please be sure to keep your pets safely indoors. While community fireworks displays have been canceled, individuals will still be setting off their own, and this can be very terrifying for animals. The ASPCA, Petfinder and Banfield Pet Hospital have some tips to keep your furry family members safe while you celebrate.


Ten Ways Emotional Wellness

Building the Ship While We’re Sailing It

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Ten Ways to Protect our Emotional Wellness

TOO LITTLE WARNING

What strange and uncertain times these are!  With too little warning, we find our lives narrowed, physically distanced from family and friends, our routines that bring us predictability and comfort disrupted. To protect ourselves and others, we have changed the way we learn, play, and even shop. Work is completely different.

Many Skagitonians are unemployed. Workers lucky enough to have a job are stationed at home at kitchen table offices or out in the community masked-up. The things we cannot do are often the most trying – not at an ill parent’s side, not having a paycheck, or not going to school.

We have not experienced a more significant and global crisis than we face today with the COVID-19 pandemic. I was not prepared for this. We were not prepared for this.

I could not have imagined a short 30 days ago that this was what lay ahead. While I’m starting to adjust to our new normal, I’m uncertain of what to expect between now and May 4th, the current date for the State of Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order to expire. I simply do not have the lived experience to predict what is going to happen next. That is scary to admit. But I know that I am not alone in this and neither are you. We are in this together, Skagit.

FEELING VULNERABLE

In times like these, we may feel increased stress, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, confusion, grief, or resentment. Even without a crisis, no one is free from tough days and rough weeks. The difference is that we now have less access to the tools, people and routines that help us cope.  Facing unexpected and significant change, it may be challenging to find our footing and maintain our emotional stability.  We may not know what do to next, what to say next, or even what we are feeling.  

Brené Brown, a professor from the University of Huston who is famous for her work on courage, grit, vulnerability and empathy. She put things in perspective for me —

When we have no relevant experience or expertise, the vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear of these “firsts” can be overwhelming. Yet, showing up and pushing ourselves past the awkward, learner stage is how we get braver.” 

Without a doubt, we are all learners during COVID-19, bumbling about anxious and awkward. At the same time, we are figuring some things out and finding we can be braver than we had previously imagined. We are building the ship while we are sailing it.


Almost anyone can do these things. Of course, not every suggestion is going to work for every person. Also, these suggestions cannot replace professional assistance.

#1 Name itYou’ve got to name it to tame it!

Research shows that if you talk about your feelings, their negative impact decreases.   UCLA researcher, Mathew Lieberman found that when you say your feelings out loud, not just in your head, your brain changes focus from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is all about fear. The prefrontal cortex signals to the amygdala whether the alarm is real. The prefrontal cortex also helps us figure out what to do when we are under stress or sensing danger. In most cases, there is no immediate threat and so the prefrontal cortex helps calm us down. Okay – enough brain science for the day!

Try it next time you are feeling overwhelmed. Pause. Think about what you are feeling. Say it out loud, maybe even a few times. Nobody needs to hear you – we all talk to ourselves from time to time!  Check in with yourself. Has the intensity of the emotion decreased?  You should be able to better understand your situation and decide what to do next.

#2 Establish a Routine

Often, a daily routine is how we know everything is okay.  Our routines and schedules help us to predict what’s next.  They give us a sense of control. A routine can’t eliminate stress, but it often reduces it.

COVID-19 has severely disrupted our routines, but we can adjust and build new habits and schedules.  The Ohio Department of Health developed this great checklist to help people set up new routines.

#3 Stay Connected

“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others.” Dalai Lama XIV. Yep, there it is. Probably not news to you, we need each other! Maybe now more then ever.

Maintaining connection with friends and family can help your emotional wellness.  It’s important to talk about our struggles but also enjoy conversations that have nothing to do with the outbreak. Of course, we all know we can make a phone call, send a text, or write a letters. Here are some interesting new ideas to stay connected!

Virtual Dinner, Birthday, or Game Night

Just because we should only have close contact with those in our own household, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate special occasions with friends!

Virtual birthday party!
Dinner and game night with friends.

Have Instagram?

Follow Kevin Hines on Instagram @kevinhinesstory. Kevin is a worldwide speaker sharing his story of hope, healing, and recovery while teaching people how to survive pain with true resilience.  Kevin is known for responding personally whenever he receives a message from his followers. Kevin has visited Skagit County many times. If you haven’t had a chance to meet him yet, we are hoping to bring him back live – you know – when things are back to normal-ish.

Kevin Hines
Instagram Live – Kevin Hines

Get out and about!

#4 Mind Shift

Sometimes we just need a new perspective on a situation. We need to stop and recognize the things we can control, and the things we cannot. We love this reminder designed by Carrie Stephens Art.

#5 Exercise

Find ways to move! Decades of research has taught us that our physical health affects our mental health. Exercise can reduce stress, moderate depression, and stabilize our moods.  And you don’t have to hike a mountain or train like a triathlete to get the benefit either. Dr. Michael Otto of the American Psychological Association reports that “within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”

Did you know that the Skagit YMCA is offering free virtual classes?

Of course, you can always get outside for your exercise too. The World Health Organization offers some great tips on staying safe while being active outside during COVID-19.

#6 Healthy Eating

Addressing boredom or anxiety with food is all too common as it is. Now that we are staying home to stay safe, we need to make sure that we are eating as healthy as we can. Harvard Health has a great blog post addressing healthy eating to improve your mood and lower stress.

If accessing food or groceries is a concern, check back with us next week when we will address food security and safe grocery shopping practices.

#7 Meditate

The CDC and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) both support meditation as means to address overall wellness. Additionally, NIH reports meditation may physically change the brain and body, and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.

If you are new to meditation or want to give it a try, the United Nations offers free audio guided mindfulness meditations. Great tools to reduce anxiety and stress. If you’ve never tried it before, now’s your chance!

#8 Moderate

What’s the saying, “everything in moderation”? Without our routines and schedules we may need help to moderate. Adopting new routines will also help to keep ourselves in check. Watch for these signs that it is time to moderate or stop a behavior:

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Spending hours and hours watching news or following stories in social media about coronavirus, illness, or death
  • Binge eating

#9 Go to your Toolbox

These tools can be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

  • Square Breathing or Box Breathing
  • Relax with the Help of Your 5 Senses
  • Create a list of personal self-care activities that you enjoy and have access to right now,  like talking to a friend on the phone, watching a movie, going for a walk, cooking, gardening,  listening to music, or reading a book.
  • Take a Time Out If you are feeling overwhelmed by a situation or conversation. It is okay to take a personal time out. Let people know that you will come back to the conversation later.

#10 Ask for Help

Building resilience and learning to manage our emotional wellness can take practice and time.  It is OK to ask for help! If you don’t feel you are making progress — or you don’t know where to start — consider talking to a friend, a pastor, or a mental health provider. With support and practice, you can improve your resiliency and emotional wellness.