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The pandemic has caused ripples of uncertainty and concern in all areas of life. At the start of the pandemic, people sheltered in place and stayed home. Children began virtual learning, some employees transitioned to a home office environment. For others though, the transition was not as easy. People lost work or income which threatened the security of their homes.

A study by the Census Bureau shows that 38% of homeowners and 54% of renters in Ohio lost employment income between March 2020 and March 2021. This loss of income in part has led 9% of homeowners and 18% of renters in the state to be behind on their housing payments. Many of these households were able to stay in their homes due to federal housing protections, but those expired on July 31.

If you are having trouble making your housing payment, it is important to act if you want to prevent foreclosure or eviction.

Help for renters and landlords

As a renter or a landlord you can apply to a state or local program for money from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program. This money can cover back rent, including utilities, that came due during the COVID-19 pandemic. Money may also be available to cover moving costs. There may also be additional assistance in your area, this tool allows you to filter by state and county.

Help for homeowners

If you are having trouble making your mortgage payments you may have mortgage relief options, like forbearance, available to you. Forbearance is a plan in which your servicer can pause or reduce your payments while you recover from financial hardship. You will need to know who your mortgage servicer is and contact them as soon as possible to come up with a plan to prevent foreclosure.

The longer you wait to contact your mortgage servicer or the further you fall behind on payments it may be harder to find a solution. If you have further questions or need additional assistance please contact a housing counselor or the Legal Aid Society in your area.

Written by: Courtney Woelfl, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Woelfl.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, powers-barker.1@osu.edu


If you are having trouble making your housing payment, it is important to act if you want to prevent foreclosure or eviction.

References

The Financial Pressures on Households Vary Considerably by State. Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies tabulations of US Census Bureau, Household Pulse Surveys, January–March 2021.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Multiple pages. ConsumerFinance.gov and https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/

Just Peachy!

There are so many things I enjoy about summertime, and admittedly, much of it revolves around food. Fresh peaches are delightful with a wide variety of ways to enjoy them.

Though Georgia most likely comes to mind as the peach capital of the US, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension, more peaches are grown in the states of South Carolina and New Jersey than in Georgia! However, California grows far more than all those states combined. California grows about two-thirds of US peaches, and most of them are for processing canned and frozen peaches. Ohio ranks 23rd in the US for peach production.

Amazingly, the United States produces only 5 percent of the world’s peaches. The peach tree is native to China, and that country produces 45 percent of the world crop.

When evaluating fresh peaches, look at the under color, which should be a deep yellow or creamy white. Peaches that are hard and green are immature and will never ripen properly. Peaches are either clingstone or freestone.  This term refers to how easily the flesh separates from the pit.

The best way to ripen peaches is to place them in a single layer in a loosely closed paper bag at room temperature for one or two days. If you stack peaches, the bottom ones will bruise from the weight. Store ripe peaches in the refrigerator for up to a week. Rinse peaches just before eating with cool, running water.

A medium-sized peach has about 60 calories and provides vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber.

Peaches are versatile because they can be eaten any time of day in an assortment of sweet or savory dishes. There’s peach cobblers and crisps, fresh peach salsa, peach glazed pork loin, peach and chicken salad, grilled peaches… the list is really endless! Here are three recipes for a cool peach treat.

A simple recipe for Peach Sherbet: Peel and slice 5 or 6 peaches, and then lay them on baking sheet lined with wax paper. Freeze the slices. Next puree the peaches and a can of sweetened condensed milk in a blender until the mixture looks like soft serve ice cream. You can serve it immediately or freeze in an airtight container until it is a firmer texture.

Scoops of orange colored sorbet or sherbet in a bowl

An easy Peach Sorbet recipe: Just blend 4 peeled and pitted peaches with 1 ½ cups orange juice and ½ cup low-fat vanilla yogurt. Pour this mixture into an ice cream maker and make it like you would any ice cream mix.

A foodie twist on the typical Peach Sorbet: Begin with roughly 3 cups of frozen peaches, ½ cup almond milk, 5 minced basil leaves, juice from half a lime and 4 tablespoons honey. Blend this until smooth and then freeze in an airtight container until solid.

No matter how you like them, I hope you will enjoy some peaches this summer!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Lucas County

Sources:

Shertzer, Julie Kennel. “Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Peaches”. Ohio State University Extension Ohioline. 2010. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5525

Kelly, Tammy and Stroud, Jennifer. “Juicy Fresh Peaches”. North Carolina Cooperative Extension. 2020. https://lenoir.ces.ncsu.edu/2020/08/juicy-fresh-peaches/?src=rss

Mean Girls

a girl crying

I have been dealing with “girl bullying” with my daughters. I even went to the school, but the teacher dismissed it and stated, “Oh, she wouldn’t do that! I can’t see her saying that.” At that moment I was angry that the teacher completely dismissed my daughter’s feelings and did not believe her. I instantly felt as if it was a waste of time having a discussion with her. I reminded her bullying is not just physical, it can be a look, a whisper, one person telling a group not to talk to an individual, or rumors and exclusion.

Bullying is not always physical, it can be emotional. Girls are more known for “relational bullying” which includes exclusion, forming cliques, gossiping, spreading rumors, nasty comments, cyberbullying, out casting, sharing secrets, and backstabbing. This usually involves recruiting others to do the same. Relational bullying can often have side effects. Some effects include depression, anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, missing school, change in behavior, suicidal ideation, PTSD, confusion, and anger. 

We are halfway through the summer, and I thought I had given my daughters the tools they needed to ease the situation. I was thinking, “Haven’t we all been bullied? Haven’t we all felt not good enough, not part of the team?” I was completely wrong! Parents, times have changed! When we were bullied and left for summer break, we may have not seen our bullies until school started again in the fall. Social media has changed that for our children. The bullying does not stop during the summer, it continues through Snap Chat, Instagram, TIK TOK, and group texts. The goal is the same: excluding and out casting the victim. I have now made it a priority to monitor screen-time and the apps my children are using.  I have began monitoring their phones and have discussed the dangers of social media with my children. 

How can we help our daughters build resilience when they are going through this difficult time?

  • Don’t overreact– It is hard for parents not to worry, but if our daughters see us worrying and reacting, they may feel as if it is their fault and that they are not living up to our expectations. We need to be strong and listen to how they are doing and feeling.
  • Communicate and Listen– Be a good listener. Do not make assumptions or interrupt. After they finish talking, ask questions to let them know you were listening. Help them come up with solutions and include them in brainstorming solutions. Ask them questions like “What do you think you can say next time?” or “What do you think might work?”  and “What will make you feel better?” 
  • Validate Anger- Your child has the right to feel angry. Make sure they know they are valuable, and find ways for them to cope and build resilience. Let them know they can expect better from a friendship. 
  • Seek alternatives– If the bullying is occurring at school, let your child develop friendships outside of school. Use community resources to find activities they are interested in.
  • Talk to the School– Even if your child is developing new relationships outside of school you still to need to inform the school. Let your child know if you contact the school. If your child fears that contacting the school will cause more ridicule, you may want to come up with a discreet plan. Most teachers are willing to talk, and teachers can call out behavior or help deter bullying behavior. Be mindful that teachers may be in a difficult position if the bully is a star athlete or a child of a prominent community member. Even if schools have anti-bullying policies some policies may privilege some students over others. If this is the case you may need to contact the superintendent, principal, or school board.
  • Allow them to figure it out– Discuss what a “good friend” is with your child. Role play how to deal with conflict.  Discuss reasons why someone who is bullying is suffering. Remind them they need to treat people with respect, but they don’t need to be friends with everyone!

Sources:

Schatt, D., (2018) Relational Bullying:  What Is It and What Can You do About It, JEM Foundation. https://thejemfoundation.com/relational-bullying-what-is-it-and-what-can-you-do-about-it/

Marrison, E. (2020) Teens and Screens:  What Parents Should Know.  Live Healthy Live Well blog, Ohio State University Extension. https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/06/25/teens-and-screens-what-parents-should-know/

Canty, J., Stubbe, M., Steers, D., Collings, S (2014) The Trouble with Bullying- Deconstructing the Conventional Definition of Bullying for a Child-Centered Investigation into Children’s Use of social media.  National Children’s Bureau. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/chso.12103

Written by:  Kellie Lemly MEd, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Champaign County, Lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Education, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Digital Minimalism

a computer with a reload icon that reads "reset"

With a year of COVID behind us, we found that not being able to have face to face meetings and events forced us into more digital means of connecting. Youth experienced online school, employees worked from home, and even our entertainment and socialization involved technology – and all of this technology in our homes caused a digital fatigue. While there was somewhat of a reprieve in the summer, our smartphones still kept us digitally connected.

In September 2020, I discovered a book by Cal Newport, a Computer Science Faculty member at Georgetown University, called Digital Minimalism. He defines digital minimalism as “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else”. Ironically, even though he teaches Computer Science, he has never been on social media. The other interesting thing I found was that he authored this book pre-Covid. Even though I enjoy technology and like to stay up on the latest digital gadgets, I was already feeling the fatigue of being attached to my phone 24/7. I decided to take his 30-day digital decluttering challenge consisting of three steps:

  1. Define your technology rules and limit your technology use
  2. Take a 30-day break from a specific technology, i.e., social media
  3. Reintroduce technology slowly

I decided to take a 30 day break from Facebook, which for those who know me is a challenging thing to do, as I have been on Facebook for 15 years. On October 4, I deleted the app off my devices and told my co-workers I would not be on Facebook for a month. While not intentional, my 30-day experiment ended the day after the Presidential election, so the biggest joy that I had was not having to see all the political banter. Overall, I only felt I missed two things while I was not on Facebook for 30 days: my daughter’s senior pictures that the photographer posted, and her senior night volleyball pictures, which my wife showed me on her phone. Prior to this experiment I was spending two hours a day on Facebook, or 1/12 of my day, or essentially one month of each year!

Cal Newport shares other ways of continuing in digital minimalism after completing the initial 30-day challenge, such as deleting apps on your phone that you frequent the most. I never put the Facebook app back on my phone after last November, and I now have to log in to a web browser to see Facebook. This extra step makes it harder to connect and I do not log on too frequently. Ultimately, most of us remember a time when we survived without being connected 24/7. I encourage you to set your own 30-day digital minimalism challenge, and then keep exploring ways to reduce your technology use and “happily miss out on everything else”.

Sources:

Alevizou, G. (2020). Virtual schooling, Covid-gogy and digital fatigue. Parenting for a Digital Future. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/parenting4digitalfuture/2020/04/08/virtual-schooling-covid-gogy/

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Mark D. Light, Ph.D., Leader, Ohio 4-H STEM & Digital Engagement Innovations

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Choices of peanut butter on a shelf

As an Extension Field Specialist, I have coached traditional food pantries where food is pre-selected to help them transition to a client-choice model where food is chosen based on preferences and needs. Client-choice pantries provide a more dignified experience for people and can be more efficient at preventing food waste since unwanted items aren’t discarded. For many low-income Americans, choosing where and how to grocery shop might be viewed as a privilege reserved for those with greater incomes. The same could be said for people living in developing countries where food, water, and material resources aren’t as abundant. For those of us fortunate enough to have the privilege of choice, we face the challenge of having too much choice. Whether it be food, clothing, TV stations, housing, spouses, lifestyle, investments, hobbies, or even medical procedures, having too many choices can lead to isolation, paralysis in decision making, anxiety, and depression. At the societal level too much choice might lead to waste, tribalism, and perhaps public health problems.

Sometimes we are faced with so much choice that we don’t know what to choose and we become almost paralyzed in our decision making. We are afraid to make the wrong choice, and feel as if we need to further investigate all of the options, which takes time (something I seem to have less of). As a result, we sometimes put off big decisions. I’ve been thinking about purchasing a new insulin pump for my diabetes but there are so many products. In addition, working with insurance to purchase the new product is a headache, so I have yet to make a decision.

Another challenge is choice inflates our expectations and sometimes deflates our satisfaction if we think we made the wrong choice. For example, I was trying to decide between two restaurants the other night, one Indian, the other Mexican. I went with the Mexican and it was good, but part of me wondered if the Indian would have been better. As a result of this thinking, I wasn’t as happy with my experience and I likely missed out on some of the enjoyment of the outing. Although this example seems trivial, all of the choices we make everyday and the sometimes resulting stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction could lead to mental and physical health problems.

At the societal level, too much choice contributes to many small and large-scale problems. Material goods such as food, electronics, and clothing are discarded because people have the option of newer and better choices. I’ve wasted leftover food because I’ve had the choice of eating out. Too much choice might lead to tribalism, isolation, and less cohesion. Growing up, my family had three channels on TV. We watched whatever was on as a family. Now, my three kids are plugged into their phones watching their own shows, etc. I hardly get to talk with them. Thirty years ago, our nation was more cohesive and less tribal. Everyone watched the world series for example, since there weren’t as many options for sports. In terms of public health challenges, we have so many choices for fast food, unhealthy snacks, etc that obesity is more common than ever. We can choose whether or not to get vaccinated, which places others at risk for disease.

What to do? There are two dimensions of wellness to consider for guidance: spiritual and environmental. Spiritual wellness can help people become satisfied and grounded with who they are and with choices they make. Some traditions teach that desires and cravings lead to suffering and seek to reduce these states of mind. Environmental wellness can help people reduce consumption, or reuse new products etc. and thus not feel stressed about getting the newest and greatest item out there.

Obviously, choice is a good thing, and I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where we don’t have any choices. However, we need to reflect on the consequences of having too much choice for our own health, and the health of our families and communities. In any event, I hope this was helpful in some way and I am glad you “chose” to read this…….

Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness Associate Professor, Ohio State University Extension, remely.4@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Sources:

Remley, D., Franzen-Castle, L., McCormack, L., & Eicher-Miller, H. A. (2019). Chronic Health Condition Influences on Client Perceptions of Limited or Non-choice Food Pantries in Low-income, Rural Communities. American Journal of Health Behavior43(1), 105–118. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.5993/AJHB.43.1.9

Schwartz, Barry. The Paradox of Choice. TED talk. Accessed on 7/20/21 at The paradox of choice | Barry Schwartz – YouTube

William and Mary University. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Accessed on 7/19/21 at The Eight Dimensions of Wellness | William & Mary (wm.edu)

Shedding Our Fat Bias

a woman smiling

Fat is a metabolically active tissue that plays a role in hormone control and regulation, keeps us warm, cushions our organs, and acts as storage for energy and vitamins. Fat is a vital and irreplaceable part of our bodies, and yet the word “fat” is almost exclusively used derogatorily. There are few words in our vocabulary that carry as much weight as the word “fat”. We live in fear of being called “fat”, go to extreme lengths to avoid gaining fat, and harshly judge others who we perceive to be “fat”. Though many individuals are choosing to reclaim the term “fat” as an objective descriptor of a body, much in the same way tall and short are used, fat bias is real and harmful.

Some studies suggest that fat bias, also known as weight stigma, is more prevalent and embedded into our society than discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Bias towards fat persons is on the rise, and it leads to poor social, mental, and physical health outcomes for those targeted by it. Many adverse health effects commonly attributed to obesity can be worsened or even caused by weight discrimination. People who have experienced weight discrimination have a 60% increased risk of death compared to those who have not, regardless of their BMI. This increased risk is attributable to several factors, one of them being the increased stress felt by those facing the discrimination. Another is the fat bias prevalent in the healthcare system. In a 2014 survey of medical students, two-thirds demonstrated overt bias toward fat patients, and half described them as “lazy, unmotivated, noncompliant, and unhealthy.” Whether this bias is conscious or implicit, studies show that doctors build less emotional rapport and spend less time with obese patients.

With fat bias being so ingrained into our society, dismantling the negative connotation of the word “fat” will not be easy. However, you can begin to dissect and act to change your personal biases using these steps from activist and author Aubrey Gordon:

  1. Acknowledge your own fat bias. It will be uncomfortable, but becoming aware of your attitudes and beliefs is the first step to changing them. 
  2. Diversify your social media. Fill your social media feed(s) with people of all shapes and sizes. We have grown up believing there is one ideal body type out there, and that is not realistic. Begin to immerse yourself in a world where bodies that don’t look like the traditional ideal are still deserving of love. 
  3. Do some research. Educate yourself on the wide-reaching effects of fat bias. Begin to break down some of the myths about size and weight that we have been taught to believe, such as “weight loss is easy if you just exercise and eat well”. Start with the studies linked in this blog, and then continue to learn more. 
  4. Have conversations with fat friends and family members. This one may be difficult, but it’s important to understand the experiences of those who may have experienced weight stigma. Ask how you can better support your loved ones in a world where they are or have been judged based on their size, and not who they are as people. 
  5. Speak up. When you see fat bias or become the target of it, do not just let it go on. Challenge the thoughts of those who make comments or openly discriminate. This not only brings awareness to those involved, but it sends a message to the fat people around you that you are an ally in this fight for equality. 

All people, no matter the size or shape of their body, deserve to be valued and treated equally. Let’s start taking the steps to make this a reality.  

Sources:

Gordon, A. (2020). 7 Ways to Uproot Your Anti-Fat Bias. Medium. https://humanparts.medium.com/7-ways-to-uproot-your-anti-fat-bias-54f01d76ec3b.

Gudzune, K.A., Beach, M.C., Roter, D.L. & Cooper, L.A. (2013). Physicians build less rapport with obese patients. Obesity;21(10):2146-2152. doi:10.1002/oby.20384 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3694993/

Hebl, M. & Xu, J. (2001). Weighing the care: Physicians’ reactions to the size of a patient. International Journal of Obesity;25:1246–1252. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0801681 https://www.nature.com/articles/0801681

Phelan, S., Dovidio, J., Puhl, R. et al. Implicit and explicit weight bias in a national sample of 4,732 medical students: The medical student CHANGES study. Obesity. 2014;22(4):1201-1208. doi:10.1002/oby.20687 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/oby.20687

Tomiyama, A., Carr, D., Granberg, E. et al. How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health. BMC Med 16, 123 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1116-5 

Written by: Maddie Gottfried, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

In a month, on my 49th birthday, my youngest child starts the first day of her last year of school. As a mom, I have mixed emotions. I’m excited for her and all she has and will accomplish, yet I am sad that my baby is a senior. Where did all of those years go? Just yesterday a social media memory reminding me that she passed her driver’s test popped up. It seems like yesterday when she was in the driveway practicing her maneuvering (parallel parking) over and over in preparation. Now, she drives herself wherever, whenever she wants.

My mom teaching my daughter how to drive her stick shift car

As she enters this year of “lasts,” I too will be entering a year of lasts. This will be my last year in my 40’s.  I can remember thinking about my last year in my 30’s. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be experiencing another birthday! As I have said, “I want to get older, but I don’t want to get old.” In my 22 years working in healthcare, I saw younger people who were much older than their chronological age and older people who were younger than theirs. I decided very quickly that I wanted to be the latter. I’m sure my children would say I am old, though.

This year of lasts will be filled with lots of happiness and joy, as well as LOTS of tears, especially on my part. My kids make fun of me for crying at the drop of a hat. My colleague recently wrote a blog about the benefits of crying, so as the tears stream down my face, and they for sure will, I will not worry so much about hiding my tears. While I certainly don’t want to rain on her parade as these exciting events occur, I am mourning these last moments with my last child. I find myself thinking about all the things I wish I would have done while my kids were young and here all the time. Had I known how fast time would pass, I would have made more emotional deposits. While it’s never too late to start, I wish I would have worried less about cleaning the house or whatever else I thought was important.

Though all of the decisions my daughter will face over the next year will be exciting for sure, they may also be stressful. The American Psychological Association gives these symptoms of stress that you may see in your child:

  • Irritability and anger:  Stressed-out kids and teens might be more short-tempered or argumentative than normal.
  • Changes in behavior:  Sudden changes can signal that stress levels are high.
  • Trouble sleeping: A child or teen might complain of feeling constantly tired, sleep more than usual, or have trouble falling asleep.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: An adolescent may suddenly drop the ball on homework, forget obligations, or start procrastinating more than usual due to stress.
  • Eating changes: Eating too much or too little can be reaction to stress.
  • Getting sick more often: Stress often shows up as physical symptoms. Children who feel stress often report headaches or stomachaches and might make frequent trips to the school nurse.
My mom, my 3 kids, and me

As my daughter and I navigate this next year, I want to support her as she prepares for the next stage of life. We toured one of her 3 college picks last month, we will be touring a second one next week and the final one during fall. As I have watched her two older brothers make a few mistakes along the way, I know she too will make her own mistakes. These tips from AARP can help parents to maintain a healthy relationship with their children as they enter into and navigate adulthood:

  • Observe respectful boundaries.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Do what you love together and intimacy will follow.
  • Set ground rules for how to disagree.
  • Make room for the significant others in their lives.

I’m not too worried about my daughter and her ability to handle this next year, though I’m not sure about me. While the ultimate job of parenting is to put ourselves out of a job, I hope my children always want me to be part of their lives even when they are responsible, productive, well-adjusted adults who no longer need my guidance or reassurance.

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Melissa J. Rupp, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County, rupp.26@osu.edu

References:

American Psychological Association. (2019, October 24). How to help children and teens manage their stress. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/child-development/stress  

Fishel, E., & Arnett, D. J. J. (2013, April). Parenting Adult Children, Friendship with Grown-Up Kid. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-04-2013/parenting-adult-children-family-relationships.html

Quealy, K., & Miller, C. C. (2019, March 13). Young Adulthood in America: Children Are Grown, but Parenting Doesn’t Stop. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/upshot/parenting-new-norms-grown-children-extremes.html?.%3Fmc=aud_dev&ad-keywords=auddevgate&gclid=CjwKCAjw3MSHBhB3EiwAxcaEu8XfiLpibGmTN7PCkXe2x6aXx8W8tmUtlXmcAUyEfZ_dgOyHSxt_NBoCVj8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. When people think about heart health, they often think about the impact of diet and exercise. However, a growing body of research has also established a connection with positive thinking, optimism, and happiness.

For example, do you tend to view the cup as half empty or half full? If you view the cup as half full, you are less likely to develop heart disease than if you view the cup as half empty. While negative emotions such as depression and anger are risk factors for heart disease, optimism and happiness seem to protect the heart.

In one study, people with the most negative emotions had the highest risk for heart disease while people who scored highest for happiness had the lowest risk. In another study, women with the highest levels of optimism had a 38% lower risk of death from heart disease than those with negative attitudes. In this study, optimism was defined as feeling hopeful and confident about the future.

Cheerful diverse people together in a park

How can the connection between positive psychology and heart health be explained? Three possible explanations are:

  1. Lifestyle: Happy people tend to sleep better, eat better, smoke less, and get more exercise; all behaviors that lower the risk of heart disease.
  2. Physiology: Happiness produces positive chemical changes and reduces stress hormones.
  3. Genetics: People who are predisposed to happiness may also be predisposed to have lower rates of heart disease.

If you tend to see the cup half empty, don’t despair! Research suggests that negative people feel happier when they:

  • Express gratitude on a regular basis.
  • Practice being optimistic.
  • Initiate random acts of kindness.
  • Engage in mindfulness activities.
  • Visualize their best self.
  • Savor joyful events.
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • Get outside.

Medical professionals advocate that you should devote 15 to 20 minutes a day doing something that brings you joy. What can you commit to doing every day to increase your happiness and take care of your heart at the same time? We would love to hear your ideas and plans.

If you still find yourself searching for happiness but not quite achieving it, you should reach out and talk to a health care professional. Together, you should consider environmental factors that could be impacting you, such as your diet, lack of sleep, or potential mental health side effects from medication.

To learn more about the importance of happiness and your health, join us for Happiness 101 on August 25, 2021 at 12noon. To register for this free, 30-minute Wellness Wednesday Webinar sponsored by Live Healthy Live Well, visit: go.osu.edu/WellnessWeds

Written by: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County, brinkman.93@osu.edu.

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 8). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Davidson, K. W., Mostofsky, E., & Whang, W. (2010). Don’t worry, be happy: positive affect and reduced 10-year incident coronary heart disease: the Canadian Nova Scotia Health Survey. European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1065–1070. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862179

Kim, E. S., Hagan, K. A., Grodstein, F., DeMeo, D. L., De Vivo, I., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2017). Optimism and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 185(1), 21–29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5209589

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1372–1378. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612445312

Pitt, B. & Deldin, P.J. (2010). Depression and cardiovascular disease: have a happy day—just smile!, European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1036–1037. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehq031

Five long years. That’s how long my mother lived with dementia. It was five years of watching that progressive disease take away the strong, stable and loving mother that I knew. Throughout those years, I found myself on an emotional rollercoaster. There would be days that she was mentally sharp that were followed by days of angry outbursts, vacant stares. My emotions were split between uncertainty, guilt, sadness, hope, frustration, and grief. While I understood most of the emotions, it was difficult for me to understand the emotion of grief. How could I be grieving someone who was still alive? What I have learned since her passing is that grieving someone who is still alive is a term called ambiguous loss.

Ambiguous loss can be experienced when a loved one is physically here, but may not be emotionally or mentally present in the same way they were before dementia. This type of loss is experienced by caregivers of loved ones who are living with such things as mental illness, brain injury and dementia. It is a profound sadness that lingers in caregivers who have lost a relationship with their loved ones.  Unlike grief that is experienced when a loved one dies, ambiguous loss can be difficult to cope with due to the frequent uncertainty of what has been lost or if the loved one will return to how they used to be. In the typical bereavement process grief tends to recede over time, and loved ones are able to have a distinct closure on the relationship. However, ambiguous loss is not a one-time trauma. It is an ongoing series of losses that occur as the disease progresses. In a sense, caregivers and loved ones are frozen in a fog of coping and grieving. This type of loss and grief can also bring the other aspects of the caregiver’s life to a standstill and can affect the caregiver’s career, friendships and other relationships.

As a way to manage the loss and grief that is felt while caregiving for a loved one with dementia, The Alzheimer Society suggests strategies for living positively with ambiguous loss and grief when caring for someone with dementia. Here are a few of their recommendations:

  • Reflect on the losses, and have someone who will understand and allow you to express your feelings.
  • Normalize and begin to accept your feelings of ambiguous loss by talking to others who have similar experiences.
  • Stay Connected with family and friends and support groups.
  • Look after your own needs. Eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. This may mean that you need to take a break from caregiving responsibilities.
  • Let people know how they can help.  Rather than thinking that your family and friends already know what you need.
  • Seek out information on dementia and what to expect. Empower yourself with knowledge.

Recognizing the emotions of loss and grief when caregiving for a loved one with dementia is the first step to help build resiliency throughout the caregiving process. Empowering yourself with knowledge and support systems will help you navigate the emotional tidal waves of ambiguous loss and grief.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County

Reviewed by: Kellie Lemly MEd. Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Champaign County

     Ambiguous Loss and Grief in Dementia: A resource for individuals and families. Alzheimer Society of Canada. Retried from https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/ambiguous-loss-and-grief_for-individuals-and-families.pdf#:~:text=Ambiguous%20loss%20is%20a%20type,the%20same%20way%20as%20before.&text=For%20example%2C%20you%20may%20feel,longer%20knows%20who%20you%20are.

      Boss, P. (2000) Ambiguous Loss: Learning to live with unresolved grief. Harvard University Press

     Boss, P. (2011) Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to find hope while coping with stress and grief. John Wiley & Sons

     Zaksh, Y. Yehene, E. Elyashiv, M. & Altman, A. (2019), Partially dead, partially separated: Establishing the mechanism between ambiguous loss and grief reaction among caregivers of patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness. Clinical Rehabilitation, Vol 33 (2), 345-356

Celebrating the 4th of July reminds us that we are amid the middle of Summer.   The warm weather and sunny days are a perfect time to think about improving our self-care.  Take a little extra care of yourself and change up your routine to enjoy all this season has to offer.  Here are some suggestions to help you get started, get outside, and enjoy the sunshine:

  • Abandon the couch and relax outdoors.  Take a blanket or lawn chair and something to read and set up a retreat to enjoy being outdoors on a beautiful sunny day!
  • Take a walk. A walk is a great way to clear your head and enjoy a warm summer afternoon.  Invite a friend and get your exercise while catching up.
  • Visit your local farmer’s market. Take advantage of seasonal produce and local vendors. A trip to the farmer’s market can be a great opportunity to try new foods,  incorporate healthier options into your diet and enjoy local produce.
  • Gardening is a great way to meditate, enjoy the outdoors and get some sunshine.   It is an opportunity to spend time with your family and make new friends.
  • Tidy one small space in your home or office.    Organize a drawer or your desktop– even having one space clean and free of clutter helps you feel calmer.
  • Make a summer playlist. There are many great summer tunes to enjoy.   Music is an easy way to improve your mood and motivate you to get moving.
  • Have a picnic. Enjoying a meal outside is an easy way to get fresh air and sunshine. 
  • Try a new exercise.  Try a new outdoor activity.  Hiking, pickle ball or swimming are frequent outdoor activities.  Remember to use sunscreen and bug spray!   
  • Participate in community events.  Search online or in the newspaper for events going on around town. Consider outdoor movies, yard sales, festivals, farmer’s markets, or concerts.  Making fun plans is exciting and gives you something to look forward to.
  • Start a journal. Writing can be a great way to express how you feel and check-in with your emotions. Or create a drawing or doodle journal.  Document summer1
  • Reconnect with someone. Call an old friend – family member or grandparent.
  • Go exploring.  Look into areas you have not visited in your community.  Find a new part of town you have never visited and visit. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Try meditation or create a list of 10 things you are thankful for daily.
  • Complete a needs assessment.   How was last week?  How can you make next week better?  Do you need more sleep?  Prepare some healthy meals in advance and freeze.  Take a moment to reflect and decide what is needed to take better care of yourself. 

Use these ideas to complete your own self-care checklist this summer.  Small changes to your routine can improve your self-care practice and overall mood. Focus on new ways you can be active, get outside and get involved with your community. Have a great summer!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Margaret Jenkins, OSU Extension Educator, Clermont County, jenkins.188@osu.edu

References

https://extension.illinois.edu/global/summer-self-care-series

Self-care: 4 ways to nourish body and soul – Harvard Health

Self Care 101 | Psychology Today