Insurance Update
December  2017
Issue No. 87
In this issue
12 Days of Christmas Cookies from Mr. Food

About Us 
Insurance logo 
  A not-for-profit ministry of
Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides the following products: dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and AD&D, dependent life and AD&D, long-term disability, short-term disability, voluntary accident insurance, and Medicare supplement for eligible Church of the Brethren employees .
Dental, vision, life, and Medicare supplement coverage may also be available for eligible retired Church of the Brethren employees.
For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 800-746-1505, ext. 366, or contact your human resources representative.
Medical and ancillary plans (named above) may be available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities. 

Contact Us 
1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120

Here we are surrounded in every sense by the holiday season. Many people are excited and filled with anticipation, but some are already feeling the weight of all the activity and preparations. At Brethren Insurance Services, we are on the side of hope and high spirits, but we know that the festivities also call for energy and effort. So, this issue of Insurance Update focuses on things you can do to keep your spirits up.
Because there is a connection between mood and health, we want you to think about what will strengthen and lift your spirits and those of your family and friends. We want you to be joyous and stay healthy amid the challenges and stresses of the holidays.
We offer you a short essay on some of the ways emotions and the body affect each other. There is also a list of more than 50 things you can do to keep your spirits up, all the way from the simple to the sublime. You will probably not do all of them or want to do all of them. Some will be to your taste, some will be to someone else's taste. But we hope they will give you ideas. After all, "'tis the season to be jolly."
For our emphasis on insurance, we want you to think this month about coverage for your vision needs. And don't forget to take a stab at the the brainteaser we've included just for fun.
Finally, we want to announce a change. In the new year, Insurance Update will be given a new name and a new look. It will be called Well Now! It will continue to be your monthly online resource with articles on health and wellness and subjects of interest to members and clients of Brethren Benefit Trust, including an interactive puzzle for brain fitness and tips from Brethren Insurance Services in each issue. This change will reflect the trend of recent months for this newsletter to have a stronger focus on wellness, though each issue will continue to present and explain Brethren Insurance Services products.
So, as we begin this holiday season and anticipate the new year, may the old familiar words of "Jingle Bells" inspire you. "O'er the hills we go/Laughing all the way/Bells on bobtail ring/Making spirits bright/What fun it is to ride and sing/A sleighing song tonight."
Hey, a sleigh ride is a great idea. Add that to the list! Unless you live in a warm climate -- then you might consider riding the horses instead of having them pull the sleigh. Whatever your activities, may they make your spirits bright.
Vision Insurance

Brethren Insurance Services offers three different options for Vision Insurance through EyeMed. Although individual employers can choose to offer some or all of our plans, none of the plans has a deductible, and the plans pay for both EyeMed and non-EyeMed providers, though benefits will be greater with an EyeMed provider. Here are some of the benefits --
  • All three plans cover an eye exam each year with a $10 copay.
  • All three plans offer one pair of lenses, either contacts or eyeglasses, per person per year.
  • The copay for eyeglass lenses, whether single, bifocal, or trifocal lenses, varies by plan.
  • There is no copay for contact lenses, but there is a set sum (allowance) that varies by plan.
  • For frames, the replacement frequency and amount allowed vary by plan.
  • If the EyeMed plan is combined with another medical plan, EyeMed will pay as a secondary insurer if your medical plan covers office visits for vision.
  • There is a 20 percent discount for lens options such as tints, U.V. treatments, anti-scratch coating, and anti-reflective coating.
  • There is a discount of 5-15 percent for Lasik and PRK procedures.
  • There are discounts for additional pairs of glasses or contacts once the benefit has been used.
For more information, contact Jeremiah Thompson at Brethren Insurance Services, 800-746-1505, ext. 3368.
Why holiday spirit?

Your mood affects your health. That's what research seems to say. "Your outlook -- having a sense of optimism and purpose - seems to be predictive of health outcomes," says Dr. Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Kubzansky has found that emotional vitality is associated with reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. Being enthusiastic and hopeful, being engaged in life, facing problems with emotional balance -- these lead to better health.

Really, this is not an astonishing revelation. Anyone with common sense and some self-awareness knows that when you are happy and in good spirits, you feel better physically and your health is better. So the research seems to confirm the obvious.

We know for instance that constant and chronic stress takes a toll on your body. A professor at Stanford University says that stress causes the body to turn off its long-term building and repair projects. The immune system does not work as well. Cholesterol levels go up.

On the other hand, laughter reduces stress-causing hormones, lowers blood pressure, and increases oxygen absorption by the blood. Laughter, believe it or not, also burns calories.

Studies have shown that suppressing anger can raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke, while on the other hand, crying may lower blood pressure and pulse rate, and removes stress chemicals. Jealousy can raise blood pressure, heart-rate, and adrenalin levels. It weakens the immune system. Conversely, cuddling on the sofa releases the "bonding" hormone, oxytocin, triggering a chemical reaction that can reduce stress and anxiety and lower blood pressure. And massage helps the body heal.

Feelings of gratitude boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and speed healing, while depression, pessimism and apathy are associated with lower levels of serotonin and dopamine -- the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain.

It seems clear from all this research that the more we surround ourselves with positive, uplifting stimuli, the more useful it is for our bodies and overall health. All this means that there are some really good reasons for getting into the holiday spirit!
Keeping up the spirits -- things to do and
not to do

Can you really do things to lift your spirits? When you feel sad and troubled or nervous and anxious, you cannot just will yourself to be happy and lighthearted. On the other hand, your actions really do affect your mood and feelings. You may not be able instantly to banish the blues or abolish anxiety, but the positive things you can choose to do really do help. The holidays are supposed to be joyful, but they can also be difficult and trying, and at times exhausting. Here are some things that might help you center yourself in the light and joy that are at the heart of the holidays.
Too much is too much
Can you imagine the holidays without the temptation to over-indulge? And who has not done it? But think about it. Do you feel light-hearted, upbeat, energetic, ready, and raring to go after eating too much? Probably not. You feel heavy and slow. So avoid overeating or binging -- on cookies, candy, turkey and the trimmings, or anything else that is delicious and tempting.
Watch that sweet tooth
That goes for sugar too. Pay attention to your sugar intake. Lots of sugar can lead to an energy peak followed by a crash. When you do eat sugary foods, combine them with foods high in fiber, fat, or protein, thus making sure all that sugar isn't released into the bloodstream all at once.
The pleasures of generosity
Give yourself time to enjoy buying gifts. Think about your family members and what might be special to them, and then enjoy the moment if you guessed right and found just the perfect present. Surprise your friends with small, but thoughtful gifts. If your finances don't allow for gift giving, a thoughtful note can be just as special as -- or even more special than -- a physical gift.
Yes to coffee and chocolate
If you want a pick-me-up, you can actually turn to coffee and chocolate. Not too much, but just enough to get a little lift.
The aesthetics of decorations
Spend time decorating your house or apartment. Enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of hanging wreaths and ribbons, putting out poinsettias, festooning the tree. Especially the tree. Let it fill the room with magic. But don't overdo it. Don't make decorating a burdensome task.
The virtues of light
Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder? Almost everyone can feel a bit down during the long dark days of winter. Spend some time outside in the light to counteract the winter blues. Or sit under a light therapy lamp.
Stay warm
This is obvious advice. Being cold is no one's choice. But remember - spirits go up as one warms up.
Of course, exercise
Ah, here's one that makes eminent sense. Exercise regularly. Of course. Do this because you need to work off all that food. Do it because you will feel more energetic. Do it because it is good to do at any time and all times and maybe especially at the holidays when there is more stress.
Don't do what Santa does
Now here's a tough one. Late night snacks are always a temptation, but especially during the holidays. After all, we have Santa and his cookies and milk as an example. But don't do it. Or if you have to eat late at night, try a protein bar or a cheese stick or put peanut butter or hummus on a celery stalk.
There are carbs and then there are carbs
Stick with complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs like the ones in cookies and candy lead to energy spikes and dips. Complex carbs from legumes, starchy veggies, and whole grains can be a source of sustained energy.
Help others
We all know that doing something good for others makes you feel better. Doing volunteer work or just helping around the house can release endorphins and lift spirits.

Who can argue against sleep?
Who wants to sleep when there are things to do and people to enjoy, gifts to play with and children to entertain, holiday shows to attend, movies to watch? Still, stick to a regular sleep schedule and get plenty of rest. This is a sure way of keeping your spirits strong and positive.
Sometimes being alone is good
Now here's an idea that is counterintuitive. Aren't the holidays a time for being together with family and friends? So why would it be a good thing to take some alone time? Because you really can get "people overload." Don't be afraid to go off by yourself for a while. Go window shopping, go for a drive, read a book, take a walk.
The power of red
Take time to look at the Christmas tree, at ribbons, at poinsettias, at Santa Claus. Believe it or not, research suggests the color red can boost energy levels.
Consider romance
Did you know that romance stimulates brain function and relieves stress? People in love are people in good spirits. Love lifts spirits. So be sure to lavish lots of love on your spouse or significant other.
Cards for the eye and heart
If you like beautiful holiday scenes and cheerful words, send Christmas cards. You will enjoy finding cards that catch the eye and words that warm the heart, and you will like thinking about what the recipients might feel when they open the card, read it, and think about the person who sent it. And for those of you who don't want to send Christmas cards the old-fashioned way, send e-cards.
Find the joy in Christmas shopping
Enjoy the color and variety when you do your holiday shopping, but if you cannot get out to the stores, enjoy the variety and convenience of online shopping, or give gift certificates.
Know how to say no
Spending the holidays dashing from one festive thing to another can wear you out and steal your joy. Don't be afraid to say no. Don't crowd your days with frenetic activity.
Watch your favorite holiday movies. If you like sentimental films, this is a no-brainer. There are dozens of Christmas movies and even a good number of Thanksgiving movies. Even if you aren't so sentimental, holiday movies will lift your spirit and make you feel good about being a human being.
Classics on stage
Go see a Christmas stage classic like The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. What's not to love about this idea? Who can resist a holiday play or musical? This goes even for the amateur Christmas pageant at your church, which is usually filled with innocent energy and unexpected moments.
Cocoa and cookies
Keep a supply of hot chocolate and cookies on hand, though don't forget the advice about sweets and over-indulgence.
Pie and cake power
Cook or bake something special and share it with family and co-workers. Make it a creative experience. Sharing it keeps your calorie intake under control.

Reach out beyond your comfort zone.
Volunteer at the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. This is, of course, a good thing to do all year long, but Christmas is an especially hard time for those who are poor or disabled or deeply disadvantaged. So when you volunteer, do more than attend to people's physical needs. Show interest in them and see if there are things you can say or do to bring Christmas cheer. Do this not because it makes you feel good, but because it lifts their spirits. In the process it will lift yours.
Enjoy the Story
Read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke with fresh eyes. It's a magnificent story. Read it not as you have heard it so many times, but as if for the first time. Think about it. There are angels. There are people on journeys. There is an evil king. There are rough-hewn shepherds. There are rich and mysterious travelers from afar. There is a brilliant star. There is a young mother and a young father far from home. And there is a newborn child.
Try adventure
Gather your family and house guests and do something different and unexpected, even adventurous. If you live in a cold climate, go ice skating or cross-country skiing or hiking. If you live in a warm climate, go to the beach or go parasailing.

The magic of lights
Pile everyone in the car and drive around to look at the Christmas lights of the houses in your town.
Chill out
Keep your expectations in check. Enjoy whatever happens. Don't pine for what might not be. Stay relaxed enough to be open to the unexpected.
Experiment with change
Switch out your routine. Serve something different for the holiday feast. Change your decorations.
Treat yourself
In the midst of all the things you are doing for others, take a moment to treat yourself to something really nice. Stop and have a latte or a piece of fudge from a specialty candy store, or maybe a quiet moment in the evening after everyone else has gone to bed.
What is better than candlelight!
Go to a Christmas Eve candle lighting service. Sing the old carols and think about what Christmas means.
Firelight and candles -- irresistible
Put candles around your house, light the fireplace, turn off all but the Christmas lights and let the soft, warm glow of firelight and inviting shadows lift your spirits.
Ease up on yourself
Keep the to-do list short. Give yourself time and space. Don't ask too much of yourself or others. This is vacation and rest time. Banish your inner critic. Do not be demanding on yourself.
Take time to breathe -- literally. Breathe deeply to oxygenate your brain cells.
Be ready for trouble
Think ahead and be prepared for the troublesome people in your life and family. We all have people who are not our favorites. How can you be good to them when they annoy you? Give yourself room to have your feelings, so that when you have to be with them during the holidays, you are not pushed over the edge into sharp words or internal anguish.
Don't miss the chance to laugh
As much as you are able, let yourself be light of heart. Look for the humorous in the holiday moments. Encourage the witty ones of your family and friends.
Tell stories 
When you are around the table or sitting in the living room around the fireplace, invite people to tell stories -- about the family, about times past, about the little everyday things that amuse or annoy you, about the large things that inspire and uplift you.
Dust off old memories
Pull out old albums and videos and take a stroll down memory lane.
Make space for people who are down
Spot negative "fear the holidays" thinking in others and listen to their anxieties or accounts of what happened to sour them on the holidays. Don't try to talk them out of their feelings. Listen and empathize.
Pay attention to others
Think about each member of your family and what they most need for the holidays. Then see if you can help them find it.
Don't overspend
You don't need a lot of money to do most of the things on this list. You don't have to spend lavishly to be generous. Don't burden your holidays with financial anxiety.
Pamper the people you work with
Do something nice for your coworkers. If you are the boss, create a celebration.
Write it down
Keep a holiday journal. It will be fun to look back on in future years.
Give anonymously
Start early in the season and put aside a certain amount of money each week in a small box or jar, and add your pocket change. Give the accumulated money anonymously to a family who is in need.
Make travel a pleasure
If you are planning to travel over the holidays, make it an excursion instead of a trek. Give yourself and your family enough time to enjoy the trip. Notice and appreciate the bustle and the seasonal decorations in the airport or train station or interstate rest stop. Notice the anticipation and pleasure of your fellow travelers. Tip the wait staff well when eating in a restaurant. Greet clerks and servers with friendly words. If you spread holiday cheer, your own heart will be cheered.
The blessings of gratitude
If you have the kind of bad day that makes the whole holiday business feel burdensome, take time before going to bed to think of five things you are grateful for and why. When your family and guests are together, around the table or around the fireplace, ask everyone to tell what they are grateful for.
Carols, folksongs, hymns, and oldies-but-goodies
Music always lifts spirits, and the holidays present a profusion of choices ranging from the lovely to the lively.  You can never have too much music. So when people are gathered, sing some carols. Don't worry about getting all the words right or having song sheets. Most people remember a verse or two of the old favorites. Ask people to hum when they don't know the words. If there are some good singers in the group, ask them to lead out on their favorite carols. Often there is a pianist or guitar player in the group who is happy to play.
One day at a time
When New Year's Day rolls around and it is time to make resolutions, don't burden yourself with high expectations for the year ahead. Think of small things you can do each day. Actually, this is a good approach for the whole holiday season. Take it one day at a time.
Relish the beauty
In the midst of all the activity, the food, the commercialism, the stress, the decorations in shops and stores, the sentimentality -- there is great beauty - in the color and light and in the people, especially the people. Look and see that God's reality is deeply incarnated in human reality. Look into faces, see the beauty of Christmas, and rejoice.

Let it go
Here's something difficult. Sometimes we accumulate hard or hurt feelings that become a burden, especially at holiday time. Examine those feelings and do all that you can to release them. If you need help, talk to a friend or confidant. It won't be easy! But you will be surprised at how much lighter and freer you will feel.
Let love rise
Love is a bit like breath or energy. You cannot produce it. It's just there. But just as you can become short of breath or low in energy, you can lose track of the love that is in you; it can be obscured or inhibited. So, during these holidays find ways to release your love. Let it rise within you. May the light of love be shining deep within your spirit.
Christmas jokes
It was early December, and I'd been on a week-long business trip and was ready to get back home. The airport, since my trip out, had been transformed with tacky red and green decorations, and loudspeakers were blaring annoying elevator renditions of all my least favorite Christmas carols. I was tired and not in a particularly good mood.

When I approached the counter to check my luggage, I noticed another tacky and very fake decoration hanging overhead -- plastic mistletoe. With a considerable degree of irritation and nowhere else to vent, I said to the attendant, "I can't believe this lame mockery of mistletoe! And it's over the luggage scale. How does that even make sense?"
With a cheerful smile the attendant replied, "It's there so you can kiss your luggage goodbye."

In a small Southern town there was a Nativity Scene that showed the great skill and talent that had gone into creating it. One small feature bothered me though. The three wise men were wearing firemen's helmets. Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left.
At a Quick Stop convenience mart on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets. She assured me that this came straight out of the Bible. But when I told her I couldn't recall anything about firemen in the Bible, she pulled her copy from behind the counter and read aloud to me,
"The three wise man came from afar."

Three buildings in town were overrun by squirrels -- the town hall, the hardware store, and the church. The town hall brought in some cats. But after they tore up all the files, the mayor got rid of the predators, and soon the squirrels were back. The hardware store humanely trapped the squirrels and set them free outside town. But three days later, the squirrels climbed back in. Only the church came up with an effective solution. They baptized the squirrels and made them members. Now they see them only on Christmas and Easter.
Brain Puzzle
We hope you are enjoying our  monthly BRAIN PUZZLES -- just for fun! Hopefully these questions will test your reasoning a bit.

Christmas Trivia

1. The following states: Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and Georgia all have a city with the same name. What is the name of the city?

2.  Name the three reindeer who have names beginning with the letter "D."

3. What U.S. state was the last to declare Christmas a legal holiday?  Extra credit -- What Year?

4. In the "Christmas Song," what are people dressed up as?

5. According to the Bible, how many "Wise Men" come bearing gifts?

6. What are the two most popular Christmas tree toppers?

7. What year did the U.S. Postal Service first issue the Christmas Stamp?

8.  Including Rudolph, how many reindeer hooves are there?

9. In the animation, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" How much does Lucy charge for her psychiatric services?

10. What was the most popular toy under the Christmas tree in 1984? (hint: vegetable)

11. Name Elvis Presley's 1950's sad Christmas Song.

12. What is dressed in holiday style in the song "Silver Bells"?

13. One of Santa's reindeer and a household cleanser share what name?

14. In the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," who is Clarence and what did he receive for accomplishing his mission?

15. In "A Christmas Carol," what is the name of Scrooge's business assistant?

16.  Who is Santa's only female sleigh-pulling reindeer?

17.  What is the name of the town in Florida that has a fully decorated Christmas tree all year long?

18. Does a snowflake have sides?

19. The poinsettia -- one of the most popular Christmas plants -- grows naturally in what country?

20. What is the English translation of the Spanish words "Feliz Navidad"?

Christmas Dinner Puzzle

After attending Church services, Peter, Rose, Sam, Tom, and Vicky gathered together at a restaurant. The restaurant serves five-course meals. Each has a choice of soup, a salad, a pasta course, a meat course and a dessert. The menu is as follows:
Soup:  Minestrone, Navy Bean, or French Onion
Salad: Italian, Ranch, or Ceasar's Salad
Pasta: Spaghetti, Linguine, or Penne
Meat: Beef Steak, Chicken Breast, or Fish Fillet
Desert: Ice Cream, Apple Pie, or Fruit Cake.
The only choice Peter and Rose have in common is Linguine.
The only choice Tom and Vicky have in common is Ice Cream.
Two people had Beef Steak.
The only choice Sam and Tom have in common is Navy Bean soup.
The person who chose Ranch and Fish Fillet had Apple Pie.
Vicky had Ranch salad.
Two people had Ceasar's salad.
Only one person chose penne.
The person who chose Minestrone also chose Italian salad.
Rose and Vicky did not choose Minestrone soup.
The people who chose Beef Steak had Ice Cream.
Tom had Chicken Breast.
The only choice Rose and Sam have in common is Fish Fillet.
Sam and Tom did not have Spaghetti.
Find out what each person ate at the restaurant.

It's always a good time to think about Long-Term Care Insurance
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance all through the year
Eligibility for long-term care insurance benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It helps assure that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or  click here to request more information.