Issue No. 89
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, 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. 3366, 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.
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Now that February is here, we all look forward to the last full month of winter and the fun that it may bring, whether it's winter sports like sledding or skiing, or cozy relaxing nights next to a warm fireplace, or a Valentine's Day rendezvous with someone you love. But just to remind you that not everyone can summon the strength to enjoy winter, this month's issue gives us insight into those folks who struggle with this season, its extended hours of darkness, and the uncomfortably cold temperatures. Perhaps we need a reminder that someone out there needs a little extra TLC during this month, as they endure this time of the year without a reason to celebrate.
We also want to share with you many reasons why you might want to consider short- or long-term disability insurance - the insurance that is meant to replace your income, should you need extended time off due to injury or illness. You can read more about it below.
We sincerely hope that you all can find a reason to celebrate the month of February.
If you don't thrive outdoors in this weather, you might enjoy being in front of your television to catch the Winter Olympics taking place this month. It can be thrilling to watch the performances of the athletes and appreciate the years of passion and commitment that have gone into their love of sport. Whether outside on your own skis, skates or snowboards, enjoying an invigorating walk, or immersing yourselves in the Olympics - may you find blessings this month!
What will you do if you lose your income?
In recent years health insurance has been very much in the news. We know how necessary it is for getting the healthcare we need. But there is another kind of insurance that offers an additional important combination of protection and benefit. When we are sick or disabled, not only do we need healthcare coverage, we need a way to replace the income that is lost when we can't work. This is where disability insurance plays an important role.
Why do you need disability insurance?
According to Reliance Standard, approximately 20 percent of U.S. workers can expect to be disabled for at least a year during their working life. It is estimated that one in seven employees can expect to be disabled for five years or more. Unexpected illnesses and injuries cause 350,000 personal bankruptcies each year, and nearly 50 percent of all mortgage foreclosures. Statistically speaking, this could happen to you.
What is it?
There are two kinds of disability insurance. Short-term disability provides benefits for a short period of time after an illness, injury, surgery, or even pregnancy. Long-term disability benefits begin when short-term provisions end, and can last a long time, even for life.
If you don't have this valuable insurance, it's time you considered it.
Why Brethren Insurance Services?
Disability insurance is available from Brethren Insurance Services through Church of the Brethren-affiliated employers, including churches, retirement communities, agencies, camps, and districts. If you are not in one of these groups, talk to your trusted insurance agent. If your employer offers disability insurance from Brethren Insurance Services, here are some reasons for signing up, as well as features of the plans.
- Employer sponsored insurance is less expensive than individual coverage.
- Short-term disability payments begin on the 15th day of your illness or injury and continue for 11 weeks.
- The payments provide 60 percent of your weekly earnings, up to $1,250 weekly.
- The plan includes maternity benefits.
- Long-term disability payments begin after three months (90 days) of continuous disability, and in most cases continue until social security begins.
- The payments provide 66 percent of your salary up to $5,000 per month.
- For people disabled after the age of 60, payments continue for at least five years, or until age 70.
- If you combine short-term and long-term policies, you will have income from day 15 until you no longer need it or reach the age when you can collect social security payments.
Think about it ...
You have insurance for your car and your home. Why wouldn't you have insurance to replace your income?
Because we are in early February, deep into winter, this essay began as an effort to paint a compelling picture of the darkness and sadness of the season, to offer some reasons for these winter doldrums, and then (in the companion piece that follows), inspire you with ideas for beating the blues.
But opinion is divided on winter. Some get depressed and can't wait until spring. Others find something good at the heart this season. Of all people, Albert Camus, the dour French existentialist wrote, "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." And if you read carefully the list of things to do in "Beating the Winter Blues,' you will find experiences that can be had only in winter and only because of the cold and the dark.
First, the gloomy realities. The sun moves lower and lower in the southern sky. The days become shorter and shorter until the sun reaches its lowest point, called the winter solstice. This season, the solstice fell on December 21. For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere and roughly above the 33rd parallel (roughly the northern border of Louisiana), the weather grows colder and colder as the land receives less light and warmth from the sun. Interestingly, the cold lags behind the sun, so that we experience most of winter after the solstice when the days are steadily getting longer, yet the land still stays in the grip of cold, snow and ice at least until early March, and longer if you are in the northern U.S. and Canada.
These are the months of the winter doldrums. The word "doldrums" comes from the days of sailing ships - it refers to a belt of bafflingly calm waters where nothing could move and everything was stalled in lethargy and inaction. When applied to winter, the word means a dull, listless, depressed mood, when you are "stalled" in the low spirits caused by the darkness and the cold.
The change in light and warmth affects everyone, and many have an I-can't-wait-for-winter-to-end feeling. Sometimes the holidays keep the winter blues at bay for a time, but then as we move into the more brutal colds of the new year, many feel a mild but manageable sluggishness and a craving for food. About 15 percent of the population falls into a gloomy, plodding state. And about 5 percent slip into a more severe form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder with the appropriate acronym SAD. These folks feel a deep sadness, and have trouble waking up, crawling out of bed, and getting to work on time. Often, they gain weight over the winter, as much as five or six pounds or even more.
The diminished sunlight upsets the body's clock, its circadian rhythm, and causes the brain's pineal gland to work overtime producing melatonin, a hormone that regulates body rhythm and sleep patterns, and has been linked to depression. At the same time, people suffering winter depression typically have lower levels of serotonin, sometimes called the "happiness molecule." They also have lower levels of the neurotransmitters essential for making them feel motivated, energetic, and interested in life. It's thought that people with winter blues release melatonin too early and for too long a time.
So low spirits and lethargy in the winter are rooted in brain chemistry. But let's not forget the plain old discomfort of winter for those of us in the north - driveways and walks to shovel, windshields to scrape, icy roads to navigate, bad visibility to contend with, thick clothes to put on and take off, dreary, cloudy days even when there is light. And for those who are poor or homeless, winter causes serious suffering. It's a challenging season and there are aspects that deserve to be disliked, and for which sadness is an appropriate response. Winter blues cannot be blamed solely on brain chemistry.
In reality, the winter doldrums are probably rooted in a complex combination of chemistry, weather, and diminished light, about which we know far too little. They seem to have a genetic component, since people with a predisposition to depression are more vulnerable to the winter blues. Further, our genes may be marked by the millennia-old effect of living in a world of seasons. Even in the warmer climates there is a season of dormancy. Maybe the body is programmed to slow down during the dormant months.
So that brings us to the possibilities of the winter season. Henry David Thoreau found insight into winter in the loud call of a bird, "'Hear! Hear!' screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, 'Winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it.'"
The lack of light and warmth outside drives us inside, where we can create a different order of light and warmth with fire and food and fellowship. Enforced inactivity gives us time to rest and reflect, to read, and think, to enjoy family and friends. And we must not forget winter sports and the pleasures of playing in the snow. What about those rare but precious winter days when it is so cold the clouds are driven away, the humidity is banished, the clear, pristine winter sunlight floods the frosted fields and streets, and the snow crunches beneath your boots?
And there is also the idea that we need winter so that we can enjoy the other seasons. John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charlie, "What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." And Anne Bradstreet, seventeenth-century American poet, wrote, "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant."
Winter is a complex reality. There is much to dislike and much to embrace, and to make it more complicated, sometimes the thing to embrace, like the jaybird's kernel, is inside the thing to dislike. May you find the nutty kernel in winter, and if you have the winter blues, may you find ways to beat them.
Are you mired in mid-winter? Here are things you can do to keep your spirits up and get yourself through the winter doldrums. There are more ideas here than one person can use, but this long list might have something in it that will help you. And even if you don't struggle with the blues, there are ideas here that might inspire you and enhance your winter months.
Get into the light
Spend time outside in the winter daylight. Seek out as much sunshine as you can get. Plan your work day so you can be near a window. Keep your rooms brightly lighted. Try using a light box or sun lamp for 30 minutes each day, and pay attention to your inner clock so you can plan your light "therapy" when you most need it. Try something called a "dawn simulator" that each morning gradually brightens the light in your bedroom.
Here are some foods that might ease a dark mood - lean proteins like salmon, omega-3 fatty acids, berries, the folic acid in leafy greens, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, oranges, lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, turkey, and bananas. Complex carbs are better for you; candy and simple carbs can give you a temporary boost, but then you will come down from your sugar high. Consider foods that boost serotonin, which is a mood stabilizer, such as eggs, cheese, pineapples, or tofu. Believe it or not, chocolate can actually enhance your mood and relieve anxiety, though you should eat it in moderation.
Eat for mood
Sometimes you might put aside questions of nutrition and health and eat something just because it makes you feel good. Winter mood foods like soups and stews can warm you up and make you feel cozy and cared for. Mark Twain once said about winter food, "I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter's evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream ... I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people's tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting."
Get plenty of vitamin D
The greatest source of vitamin D is sunlight, which is another reason for going outdoors as much as possible. But you can take a vitamin D supplement. Foods that are good sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt, sardines, eggs, and vitamin D-fortified cereals.
Exercise, keep active
This is always a good idea. It's so obvious it almost goes without saying. When your heart is pumping, your blood is flowing, and your muscles are moving, your mood improves. A Harvard study advises walking fast for about 35 minutes five times a week, or for 60 minutes three times a week.
Follow a regular sleep schedule
Getting the proper amount of sleep and at the right time in the day helps keep you healthy at any time of the year but especially during the winter when the short days can change sleep patterns.
Listen to music
We all know intuitively that music can affect feelings, but a 2013 study showed that listening to upbeat, cheery music improves mood. So, find a channel of lively, spirit-lifting music on Spotify or Pandora, or put a disc of marches or show tunes or gospels in your CD player. Or even better join a choir. Whatever fills you with cheer.
Get away-take a vacation or at least plan one
Design a vacation to a sunnier, warmer climate. Even if you cannot go, just imagining yourself in a brighter place might pick you up. People sometimes get as much pleasure looking forward to a trip as from the trip itself.
Behave like you're from Minnesota
Taking the opposite tack from dreaming of sunny climes, try embracing the cold, dark days. Go ice-fishing, ice-skating, snowshoeing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling - in other words, enjoy the snow. Walk in it. Build a snowman. Make snow angels. Use your camera or smartphone to take pictures of the winter landscape.
Wear bright, summer-like colors.
See if you can trick your brain by asking it to see past the brown and drab world of winter to something bright and colorful.
On the other hand, notice the beauty
Take time to see the stark beauty of winter. Notice the intricate spread of branches and twigs now that they are not obscured by leaves. Note the muted browns of the landscape and the thin, clear winter sunlight. Notice how you can see all the way to the horizon. When it snows, pay attention to all the different textures of snow, from the heavy wet flakes that coat everything, to the sleety bits that pummel your windshield, to the fine powdery flakes driven by the wind and piling up in huge drifts. Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, wrote, "I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, 'Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'"
Put up a winter bird feeder
You will do the hardy creatures of the winter air a service and get many hours of pleasure watching their movements and antics. Robert Frost wrote, "The way a crow / shook down on me / the dust of snow / from a hemlock tree / has given my heart / a change of mood / and saved some part / of a day I had rued."
Get with other people
Visit with friends and family. Being with other people is good for your mental health. You can cheer each other up and use each other to indulge your need to complain. Go to social events each week. Seek out positive people. George R.R. Martin, author of the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire (which was made into the TV series Game of Thrones) wrote, "My old grandmother always used to say, Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever."
Read books and see movies and videos
Make a list of books to read and movies to see. Curling up in front of the fireplace with a good book can banish the winter blues. Losing yourself in a movie or video can provide an escape.
Look for comedy
There is research to show that humor can relieve pain. It can release tension and raise spirits. Seek out people who can make you laugh. If you live near a city, go to a comedy club. The French novelist, Victor Hugo wrote, "Laughter is sunshine, it chases winter from the human face."
Give primal voice
Here's one that isn't for everyone but may work for you. Go into a back room, close the door, and scream. You may freak out your kids and neighbors and scare the birds. And you will probably feel silly, but you may feel better, having released your angst.
Put your thoughts and feelings into words on paper. Don't hold back or worry about grammar and punctuation. You won't have to show the pages to anyone. Let it rip. Pour it all out - everything sad and negative.
Being cold can be depressing. Wear warm clothing and shoes, keep your home temperature comfortable. When you go outside, wear enough layers, as well as gloves, hat, and scarf, so you are comfortable no matter what the outdoor temperature. Drink hot teas. Sip hot cocoa, which in addition to warming you, will give you a bit of that chocolate boost too.
Find a fire and sit by it
Stare into the embers. Warm your hands. Fire is primal. Not so many years ago it was always close at hand and necessary for survival in winter. Fire means safety and comfort. Remind yourself that you belong to the great circle of human beings who have sat around fires for millennia. The poet Edith Sitwell wrote, "Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home."
Give yourself some aromatherapy
Sometimes just changing the smells around you can pick you up. Light a scented candle. Bring in a pine bough. Make some tea and inhale the fragrance when you drink the hot brew. Put a pot of stew on the stove, not just so you have something hot and hearty to eat, but for its rich aroma. Put out some fragrant herbs. Pop music icon, Taylor Swift commented, "I love the scents of winter! For me, it's all about the feeling you get when you smell pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread and spruce."
Make this a priority when you are inside. Curl up on the sofa. Wrap yourself in a throw. Use mood lights in your living room. Have quiet conversations. Play music. Pamper yourself a bit. Danes, who know a thing or two about getting through long, dark winters have a word for this; they call it "hygge." Canadian pastor Murray Pura wrote, "If winter helps you curl up and more, that makes it one of the best of the seasons."
Try something new that you have never done before
Research shows that learning something new actually rewires the brain. Start a new hobby.
Do a home project
Purge your closet. Repaint. Organize your bookshelves. Give yourself a feeling of accomplishment. Make a to-do list and celebrate each item you cross off.
Think about what you will do when spring comes, when the days lengthen and the weather warms. Think of daffodils poking up almost miraculously through the cold ground. If you are a gardener, pore through gardening catalogues, place your seed orders, and plan your flower beds and vegetable rows.
Spend time with God
The quiet of winter can be the perfect time to deepen your connection to God. Spending time in prayer, reading the scriptures or reading a devotional can be especially grounding and encouraging at this time of year.
Calming and focusing your spirit may
help keep your spirits up.
Talk about it
If you feel yourself slipping into moodiness, sadness, or depression, talk to someone. Talk it through with your friends or with your spouse. If the winter blues really have you in their grip, join a support group to talk about your sadness and to learn from others how they cope. Try talking to yourself, using positive reinforcement techniques.
See a therapist
If the blues persist and deepen, see your primary care physician and/or a therapist.
Enjoy suspension of activity
Remember that winter is also traditionally a time of rest from the rigors of the other seasons, from the activities of planting, growing and harvesting - a time of reflection and renewal as the body prepares to resume the action of the warmer months. This is no longer true now that most of us are urban dwellers, but even if you work hard all winter in a well-heated and comfortable office, winter can be a time when you use the long dark evenings to hibernate however briefly from the frantic rounds of activity. William Blake wrote, "In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."
Remember that we live in the great cycles of nature, under a God who never abandons us. Flowers, warm breezes, green leaves, and long sunny days will return. And as we emerge from the dark of winter, there is Easter just ahead and the promise that warmth and light will always triumph over cold and dark, and one day will fill all that is.
We hope you are enjoying the
monthly BRAIN PUZZLES -- just for fun! Since this month features the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, we offer you these Olympics-themed word search puzzles.
The Olympic Games started in the Valley of Olympia in 776 B.C. The Games lasted five days and were only for men and boys. Find the 12 words in the puzzle that are related to the Ancient Games.
Want to go for the Gold? Click on the links below.
|It's always a good time to sign up for Long-Term Care Insurance
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance all through the year
This month's issue gave you a lot of information about long-term care insurance. If you're interested in purchasing coverage, you should know that e
ligibility for 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
to request more information.