Henrico’s Newest Fitness Trainer Talks Healthy Hearts and Black History Month

Every February, the United States honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who helped shape the nation. In our diverse, multicultural community here at Henrico, seeking to understand and support our peers goes a long way to promoting positive relationships and elevating respect for the experiences and insights of all cultures. 

This month, we encourage you to participate in celebrating the black community’s rich cultural heritage, triumphs, and adversities. In Henrico County, there are many opportunities to immerse yourself in Black History Month and engage our community through events and connections.

Building positive relationships with others has benefits beyond forging connections and deeper understanding. Studies show that having positive, close relationships with others can improve your ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression and can benefit your heart health. Each February, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and The Heart Truth celebrate American Heart Month by motivating Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles to prevent heart disease.  

To understand more about heart health, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Division team member interviewed Sydnei Douglas, a trainer and health enthusiast in the Department of Human Resources’ Fitness and Wellness Division, to ask her thoughts about the importance of heart health. These are some of the highlights of the conversation:

 Why is heart health so important?

Sadly, cardiovascular disease is a public health crisis as it is the leading cause of death in the United States. About one person dies every 33 seconds in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease or related conditions. A big reason for this could most likely be hypertension—high blood pressure—which is the number one cause of cardiovascular disease. About 40-45% of the U.S. Adult population has hypertension. That’s almost half of our adult population! 

I think it’s important for our employees to be aware of this and to take steps towards prevention. It’s never too late for a change. Start with the small steps. 

What do you think people should know about heart health or heart disease?

When you think about our workplace setting, a good portion of our employees experience a high volume of sedentary activity because of sitting at our desks. Sedentary behavior and lack of physical activity can also play a huge role in cardiovascular disease. For employees, it’s important to note that we do sit down a lot of the time throughout the day, so one of the things we can do is be more intentional about moving more and getting more physical activity in our daily lives. 

What are three things one can do to be more intentional about heart health? What advice would you give?

The first thing would be to move more. The steps you take towards prevention don’t have to be super intense. Everybody is on a different journey and physical level, so start with what is capable for you. Perhaps start with taking the stairs or getting up to walk around at certain times during the day. Being more physically active in small increments over time is a great way to start being more intentional with your heart and overall health. 

We offer many classes throughout the day at the Training Center for employees to be active. It is also a great way to make connections with other employees! Exercising in groups brings about a sense of community, holds you accountable, and empowers you to overcome challenges. 

Changing your diet is a big one. A small step I recommend is cutting down on fried foods. Fried foods are filled with fat, which can cause plaque buildup in your arteries and blood vessels. We offer many classes and workshops—for both physical activity and nutritional knowledge—throughout the year that our employees participate in. 

Get involved with the programs we have available. You can find this information on the Fitness and Wellness SharePoint site

If you are a smoker, choose a quit date. There are good resources out there that provide knowledge and support throughout your journey, including Employee Health Services and our Anthem Employee Assistance Program (EAP). And if you aren’t a smoker, vow never to start!

Even if you have high blood pressure, which is a huge risk for cardiovascular disease, it can be reversed. Making healthier choices now can improve your heart health over time. 

How can employees celebrate American Heart Month and Black History Month in February?

A good way would be to attend our Heart Health Initiative program in February! I will be doing a bunch of different workshops and educational initiatives to help our employees understand how to improve our heart health. You can register online or email me at [email protected]

Week two of this initiative will be dedicated to health equity, where we will be talking about health disparities regarding cardiovascular health in the black community. This is a great opportunity to educate yourself about the history behind these disparities and the social determinants and recognize black healthcare professionals and clinicians who have impacted cardiovascular health. 

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The 50-30-20 Budget Rule Explained

We all know the feeling of our spending getting out of control. We often don’t realize how much we are spending on the “little things” like ride-sharing, our daily lunch at the deli around the corner, or all those subscriptions to streaming services we pay every month.

While the big things like rent or mortgage, car payments, and groceries often have the biggest impact on our spending, creating a comprehensive budget is one of the most important things you can do to manage your finances responsibly. However, there are many different approaches to budgeting and many different kinds of budgets.

So how do you choose the right budgeting approach for you and your family? One type of budget you might want to consider is what’s called the “50-30-20 budget.” It’s a percentage-based budgeting approach that is designed to make it easy for you to allocate certain percentages of your income to “buckets.” This can help you gain more control over your spending and, hopefully, achieve your financial goals.

3 main expense categories

With the 50-30-20 budget, you assign all of your household income to one of three main categories of expenses:

  1. Needs — The 50-30-20 approach dictates that you devote 50% of your income to this category. Needs are things like housing, utilities, food, clothing, insurance, and transportation.
  2. Wants —You’ll devote 30% of your income to this category. Wants are things like entertainment, eating out, vacations, recreation and hobbies, and non-essential items such as big-screen TVs, audio systems, and boats and motorcycles.
  3. Savings —You’ll devote the remaining 20% of your income to savings. This includes savings to meet both short- and long-term goals. It may also include debt repayment (other than a home mortgage, which should be considered housing and included in the needs category).

Distinguishing between wants and needs

While these expense categories may seem cut-and-dried, there are some expenses that can bleed over from one category to another. Take clothing, for example.

Obviously, we all need clothes. But there’s clearly a big difference between buying basic clothes and frequently purchasing designer clothing at a high-end boutique. The former would be considered a need while the latter would be considered a want.

Cars are another example. Unless you live in a big city where you can reasonably get around via public transportation, you probably need some kind of vehicle. A basic, dependable car like a Honda or Toyota could be considered a need, while a luxury car like a Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar could be considered a want.

Don’t get too hung up on these kinds of distinctions, though. Decide which category each of your household expenses fits in best and go with that. You can always make adjustments to your budgeting categories later.

The savings buckets

One of the biggest advantages of using a percentage-based budget like the 50-30-20 budget is that it forces you to devote a fixed percentage of your income to savings. Other budgeting systems can tend to just make “savings” whatever is left over after you’ve met all of your needs and wants.

With the 50-30-20 method, your savings should be further divided into two distinct buckets: short-term savings and long-term savings.

Short-term savings

Short-term savings may include an emergency fund, a planned surgery or medical procedure, or saving for a down payment on a car that you’re looking to buy in the near-term. For your emergency fund, it is generally recommended to have between three to six months’ worth of expenses set aside.

Emergency funds are there for you to tap to pay for large expenses like a major car or home repair, or to carry you over during an unexpected time of unemployment. Building an emergency savings account is a short-term savings goal that we recommend everyone set for themselves.

Long-term savings

Conversely, saving for retirement or your children’s college education is usually considered a long-term savings and investing goal. You might use tax-advantaged accounts such as a Roth IRA, 401(k), or 529 plan to help you meet these objectives. The amount you allocate to long-term saving and investing like this is going to be highly personal and depend on your specific goals.

If you can’t devote 20% of your household income to savings right away, don’t let that stop you from adopting a percentage-based budget like the 50-30-20 budget.

Start off with a savings percentage that’s realistic for you and adjust the formula accordingly. For example, a 60-30-10 budget might work better for you now, with the goal of gradually building your savings up to 20% over time.

How Empower can help

Empower provides free online tools that can help you implement a 50-30-20 budget. Empower’s financial tools offer a holistic view of your overall household finances in one central location; this is the first step to creating any kind of budget.

You can link your investment, retirement, bank, and credit card accounts to the dashboard in order to see all of your expenses and total monthly income to get a quick snapshot of your monthly cash flow. Based on this, you can start allocating income to the three expense categories dictated by the 50-30-20 budget system and make adjustments in order to get the percentages right.

In addition, you can create sub-categories beneath the main categories of needs, wants, and savings to help you track cash flow and categorize expenses more closely.

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10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Dark mornings, darker evenings, and chilly gray days in between mean winter is here — and with the coldest season comes the winter blues. There’s no clinical diagnosis for the “winter blues,” but experts at the National Institutes of Health say the so-called winter blues are fairly common and are usually marked by feeling more down than usual, sad, less energized, or less interested in activities one usually enjoys.

Here are ten ways to lift your mood this winter:

If you think it is more than the winter blues or want to talk to someone about them, don’t forget about the Anthem Employee Assistance Program! It has resources and professionals available help you!

Source: https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/your-best-weapons-against-the-winter-blues.aspx

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The Henrico Christmas Mother: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

If you have worked for or lived in Henrico County for a while, especially around the holiday season, you may have heard of the Henrico Christmas Mother. It has become an annual tradition for the County, but do you know what it truly is or means?

It means just as their slogan says: “Neighbors Helping Neighbors .” What started in the 1940s as a schoolteacher asking her students to bring in canned goods and items to help their less fortunate peers and neighbors has expanded into a mission supported by hundreds of volunteers yearly. Today, the mission is to provide assistance in the form of food, new clothing, books, and toys to qualifying families, seniors, and disabled adults during the holiday season.

Throughout the year, the Henrico Christmas Mother Volunteer Council campaigns to raise funds and donations for participants and then, in the summer, chooses a Christmas Mother to represent them through the holiday season. In 2023, the honor went to Helen Wood, a retired Henrico County Public School teacher and lifelong County resident.

The naming of the Christmas Mother kicks off the campaign time for many County employees. Like Rebecca Slough, Co-Coordinator for the Henrico Christmas Mother, said, “For 80+ years, the Christmas Mother campaign is all about “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” I love that our employees embrace that motto and find new ways each year to collect donations and the monies they raise.” Employees had a lot of fun coming up with fundraising ideas, baking, burger flipping, organizing, stocking groceries, and “shopping” with neighbors. In the first few weeks of December, once all the collections have been tallied, the Christmas Mother warehouse is transformed into a store of sorts for participants to “shop” for Christmas gifts for themselves or loved ones. “This is absolutely AWESOME! To volunteer in the Warehouse last week and seen everyone efforts I cried. This is amazing!” exclaimed Monica Barnette, Coordinator for Public Works.

Once again, the County Manager asked department coordinators to make this the best year yet, and county employees did not disappoint! This year, more items were collected in almost all categories as compared to last year, including over six times the number of bikes and helmets. Here are the totals of the items collected this year as to previous years:










New Books
















Miscellaneous items









So what does the Christmas Mother mean? It means that through the open hearts and generosity of our employees, 1,261 families, 2,800 children/teens, and 744 seniors/disabled residents were able to have a little brighter holiday.

Check out the pictures below to see employees enjoying the Christmas Mother spirit!



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Achieve Your Resolutions with the Power of Habits!

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year? How about setting some healthy goals for yourself? In his book, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” Daniel Pink shares that the beginning of the year is a great time to make changes because it gives us a psychological push, inspiring us to take action, set goals, and make positive changes in our lives. 

So, what’s the best way to get these resolutions and goals to stick? 

We usually rely on willpower, and it turns out that willpower is actually a very small source of energy for us – and it quickly runs out. Research shows that if we use our willpower for one thing during the day, like staying calm during a stressful meeting, we don’t have much left to make the healthy choices we promised ourselves we’d make.  

So where do we find that energy? The answer is: we develop new habits! Habits involve creating consistent behaviors that become automatic for us. Rather than relying on sheer willpower, habits tap into the power of repetition and routine, rewiring our brains so we perform those positive actions effortlessly. We are, in fact, actually drawn to doing them rather than needing to push ourselves using willpower.

The video How to Create and Maintain Healthy Habits on the Department of Human Resources’ YouTube channel has much more on how to make the power of habits work for you so you can finally achieve those goals you’ve been promising yourself you’d meet!

If you want to focus on creating attainable goals, checkout HR’s two-part video about Goal Setting.

Regardless of the approach you take, we hope you find these resources helpful and wish you a successful new year!

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Five Ways to Protect Pets This Winter

Editor’s Note: This article can be found through the Anthem Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) online resources. To see what other articles they offer, please visit anthemeap.com.

In many areas, winter is a season of bitter cold and numbing wetness. Make sure your four-footed family members stay safe and warm by following these simple guidelines.

Keep pets sheltered.

Keep your pets inside with you and your family. Under no circumstances should pet cats be left outdoors, even if they roam outside during other seasons. Dogs are happiest when taken out frequently for walks and exercise, but kept inside the rest of the time. Don’t leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops.

If your dog is outdoors much of the day for any reason, they must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow them to move comfortably, but small enough to hold in body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches from the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Bundle up. Wipe down.

No matter what the temperature is, wind chill can threaten a pet’s life. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold snaps. For this reason, short-haired dogs often feel more comfortable wearing a sweater—even during short walks.

Rock salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth.

Remove common poisons.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up any antifreeze spills immediately and keep it, like all household chemicals, out of reach. Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are less toxic to pets, wildlife and family.

Dogs are at particular risk of salt poisoning in winter due to the rock salt used in many areas—often when licking it from their paws after a walk. Store de-icing salt in a safe place and wipe your dog’s paws, even after short walks. If your dog ingests rock salt, call a veterinarian immediately.

Protect outdoor animals.

Cars are one of many hazards to small animals—warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

You can also help make your property safes for deer in the wintertime by waiting until after the first week of December to string lights, and after then, only on trees over six inches in diameter. Before the first snow, you should also store summer recreational materials, like hammocks and swings.

Horse Care

Be sure your horses have access to a barn or a three-sided run-in so they can escape the wind and cold. While not all horses will need to be blanketed, blankets will help horses keep warm and dry, especially if there is any rain or snow. If you’ve body-clipped your horses, keep them blanketed throughout the winter.

Give your horses access to unfrozen water at all times. You can use heated buckets or water heaters/de-icers to make sure the water doesn’t freeze. Also, be sure to feed your horses more forage—unlimited amounts, if possible—during extreme cold. This will help your horses create heat and regulate their body temperatures.

Speak out.

If you encounter a pet left in the cold, politely let the owner know you’re concerned. Some people genuinely don’t know the risk that cold weather poses to their pets or livestock and will be quick to correct any problems you address. If someone you raise these concerns with responds poorly or continues to neglect their animals, follow the Humane Society’s steps on reporting wintertime neglect:

Source: Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). From 5 ways to protect pets this winter. Retrieved January 30, 2019, from https://www.humanesociety.org

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Empower Your Financial Goals

Great news! Financial planning from Empower is available NOW!

Take the next step toward financial independence!

We’re excited to announce that comprehensive financial planning is now available as part of your employee benefits below the industry average cost1 through your plan provider, Empower. Everyone’s financial situation and goals are different, but no matter where you’re at an Empower financial planning professional can meet with you to work toward the financial future you want.

The process starts with a no-obligation initial consultation where they get to know your unique situation and goals. If you enroll in the service, your Empower financial planner will look at the topics most important to you with your full financial picture in mind, and then develop a straightforward plan with clear next steps.

Empower financial planning professionals can help with topics including:

  • Identifying and prioritizing your financial goals.
  • Retirement savings and income recommendations.
  • Organizing your finances.
  • Insurance and estate planning.
  • Saving for education.
  • Debt management.

Schedule your no-obligation initial consultation now.

Learn more about everything financial planning can do for you.

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