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Archive for the ‘Healthy Relationships’ Category

February is American Heart Month but it’s also my favorite time of year and always has been since I can remember! And to make this month even more meaningful I had a special gift delivered on Valentine’s Day – a baby boy! What a gift he is!  But each day should be a gift, especially during heart month.

Woman writing "Love You" in a journal. Letters and chocolate bar.

So, in honor of the love month, I do a few special things starting with writing love letters. I write love letters to each of my children reminding them of my love and how proud I am of their accomplishments. I send these letters through regular mail on purpose – no email allowed – so they can see my handwriting and feel connected to me. I also take time to send Valentines to friends, family and the elderly. 

Something special happens when writing: the act of sitting down to write causes me to slow down and think of those I love for a moment. Other good benefits of handwriting letters are:

  1. You feel more in touch with the person you are contacting.
  2. You get to take a moment out of your hectic schedule to just breathe and write.
  3. You get to practice your handwriting.
  4. You can use all your fun stationery supplies for a totally legitimate reason!

The American Heart Association agrees that we should do simple things each day for our hearts. Aside from writing letters, you might:

  • Count your blessings
  • Stretch
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Clean up clutter (start with just one drawer)
  • Take a walk
  • Draw hearts on post-it notes and stick on someone’s coffee mug

It’s the little things in life that add up and make a big difference. We can all choose to do a little something each day to improve our health and share joy of the gift of another day with the people we love.

Have a wonderful February!

XOXO

Shari

Written by: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Licking County

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

Sources:

  1. American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org/
  2. Abrahamsen, Shelley. (2019). The Art of Writing Letters (and why you should start today!) https://littlecoffeefox.com/art-writing-letters-start-today/The
  3. Brencher, Hannah. The World Needs More Love Letters.  http://www.moreloveletters.com/

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Comfort zone is a concept that has kept reoccurring in different workshops, trainings, and conferences I have attended over the past couple years. In fact, our 2019 OSU Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Conference was titled “Growing Our Comfort Zones.” Though not a new concept to me, some people have probably not considered if or how often they get out of their comfort zone. Over the past few years, I have been questioning and ultimately growing my comfort zone through a variety of experiences, opportunities, and challenges.

For about 22 years, I was comfortable and content in my position as an exercise physiologist. Aside from a rare emergency, I pretty much knew what my day would look like even before I got out of bed. Now, every day of the week might look different depending on my schedule. This change took some adjusting, but I enjoy the variety now. I have grown more in the last few years than I had the previous 2 decades. Things that I would have never done, I don’t give a thought. While a few years may sound like a short time to some, it feels like a lifetime to me.

When the keynote speaker for our conference asked for a volunteer to help illustrate some of her points, I raised my hand. You see, while I am not exactly comfortable in front of a group, especially administrators and colleagues from around the state, I do like to have fun. I have learned to volunteer early, because the crowd is usually more forgiving. We performed an activity one way, then she changed it around to illustrate how being open to possibilities allows for so much more opportunities than defaulting to no. When we are open to new ideas, experiences, opportunities, and challenges, we are more likely to learn and grow as individuals, teams, and organizations.

This idea of moving out of your comfort zone might be easier said than done. For some people, the thought of doing something new or out of the ordinary may seem overwhelming, even paralyzing, while to others, it is exciting and exhilarating. What might be exciting to one person, might already be routine for another. We are all on a different journey and that is OK. More importantly, no matter what your comfort zone may be, you should continually look for ways to expand it.

Take me for instance, if someone had told me 4 years ago that I would present at the Ohio Statehouse and at national conferences in front of my peers, or apply for a leadership program that would require me to travel across the country and even to another country alone, I would have told them they were crazy! But, I have indeed done all of these things and SOOO much more. Things that I used to fear or that would make me nauseated before, no longer elicit this response. THIS is how you grow your comfort zone! Now, things that were not even on my radar, are the things that make me nervous. As I am able to grow my comfort zone, eventually, they too will no longer cause this reaction.

There are some valid reasons for getting out of your comfort zone. Stephen Schramm shares these:

  • Unlock your hidden talents
  • Know you won’t be perfect
  • Be ready for the future

According to Ann Latham, here are 16 more reasons you should get out of your comfort zone:

  • It won’t be as bad as you expect
  • Egos heal
  • No one is paying that much attention to you
  • Others are scared too
  • People with no more talent and no less fear than you are successfully doing the thing you are avoiding
  • There is no better way to grow
  • You might discover something you love
  • New challenges and experiences rewire your brain and make it more adaptable, stronger, and healthier
  • You will boost your self-confidence
  • You will be proud that you took the leap
  • Each milestone makes it easier to tackle another milestone
  • You will be more promotable and/or will earn more money
  • You will learn that failure is rare because the most common outcomes are success, learning, and growth
  • As your comfort zone expands, you will see new opportunities previously obscured by barriers of your own making
  • You will become more resilient and prepared for whatever comes your way
  • It could change your life by opening doors you never knew were there

So, if you are ready to expand your comfort zone, Andy Molinsky suggests you do these things:

  • First, be honest with yourself
  • Then, make the behavior your own
  • Finally, take the plunge

Leave us a comment about how you get out of or how you have expanded your comfort zone.

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Perry County

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

Photo Credit:

Sources:

Latham, A. (2018.) 16 Reasons Why You Should Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone Now. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/annlatham/2018/04/11/16-reasons-why-you-should-get-out-of-your-comfort-zone-now/#29b4047962e5

Molinsky, A. (2016.) If You’re Not Outside Your Comfort Zone, You Won’t Learn Anything. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2016/07/if-youre-not-outside-your-comfort-zone-you-wont-learn-anything?referral=03758&cm_vc=rr_item_page.top_right

Schramm, S. (2018.) Reasons to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. Duke Today. Retrieved from: https://www.today.duke.edu/2018/10/reasons-get-out-your-comfort-zone

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Do you find yourself seeing the negative in most situations? No matter where we are, the negative voice always seems to be louder than the positive one. Recently, I have been trying to see the joy in every day moments, even if they are difficult. This has freed me to laugh more and to find joy where it had been lost. Looking for the positive in a situation, no matter how small, makes a huge difference. Even when you are facing struggles, take a few minutes to laugh about something each day. You will find it easier to deal with your struggle if you take time for your own self-care, and laughter is a great self-care tool.

I encourage you to take time for yourself to engage in laughter and to reclaim what makes your heart sing. Research shows that laughter can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Laughter can also increase your pain tolerance and it even burns calories!

Identifying what makes your heart sing is another way to reclaim laughter. Are you listening to your body, to your mood, and identifying what makes your breath quicken or instills peace and joy? For me, dancing makes my heart sing. I love the freedom and the music and the movement. For others, it’s baking, hunting, roller-skating, reading, hiking, or snuggling a baby—-what makes you feel free? When did you last make time for this activity? Consider making a list of what brings a smile to your face and then find ways to incorporate these activities within the framework of your day, week, month, or year.

The Mayo Clinic Staff offers these tips for adding more laughter to your day:
• Make humor a priority. Seek out items that make you giggle and then place them in areas you will see them.
• Just laugh, and others will join in. Look for ways to laugh at your situation. Others will then follow suit. Try to see the positive and not the negative.
• Laugh with a friend. Be accountable with another person to share something that brings a smile to your face each day.
• Become child-like again. Pick up a joke book and let the snorts and guffaws follow.
• Set boundaries for inappropriate humor. Think twice before sharing humor that may be hurtful to others.

Laughter is contagious and helps to connect us with others. Lord Byron said, “always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.” So, I will leave you with this video of laughing babies to start you on your journey to laughing more every day.

 

Written By: Jami Dellifield, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University

Reviewed By:  Misty Harmon, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

PhotoCredit: https://pixabay.com/photos/smile-joy-happy-good-mood-cheerful-1391004/

References:

Louie, D., Brook, K., & Frates, E. (2016). The Laughter Prescription: A Tool for Lifestyle Medicine. American journal of lifestyle medicine10(4), 262–267. doi:10.1177/1559827614550279 Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125057/

Seppala, E.(2015), Seven ways laughter can improve your well-being, SCOPE published by Stanford Medicine.  Available at: https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2015/04/09/seven-ways-laughter-can-improve-your-well-being/

Mayo Clinic Staff (2019), Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

Scott, S. (2016) Why Is Laughter Contagious? Heard on TED Radio Hour Available at: https://www.npr.org/2016/03/04/468877928/why-is-laughter-contagious

Lord Byron, Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/laughter

Laughing Babies Video, Available at: https://www.wimp.com/the-funniest-laughing-babies-compilation/

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“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”   Winston Churchill

As we move into the new year let’s think about the “Power of Positivity” and the role that it can have for a potentially wonderful 2020.

smiling woman

Did you know that positive people are more resilient, adaptive, innovative, healthy and engaged in their work? They have more successful relationships too. Positive people also have fewer colds, longer lives, more successful marriages, have fewer heart attacks, a higher pain tolerance, and even have more friends. Makes sense, who wants to spend hours with people who grouch and complain all the time? Of course, if the negative person is your mother, you can’t say I’m never spending time with you again.

A study from Michigan State University found that negative workers become more mentally fatigued and defensive. They are also less productive. Several studies have found that those negative workers may cost the US Economy $250 to $300 million per year in lost productivity. Research also finds that positive teams are more effective, efficient, and successful. They outperform other teams in work speed and quality.

My personal favorite positivity author is Jon Gordon. He combines research with messages that are easy to understand and make me think. He has a number of books that you can borrow from your local library, download on an e-reader, or purchase if you really like them. He also has free online video’s and newsletters. In one of his more recent newsletters he challenged readers to “Be Positively Contagious”. He states that emotions are contagious – so sincere smiles, kind words, and encouragement will spread through your home, workplace, school, or organization. While negativity can infect others. If you are having a negative day, think about taking a sick day for an attitude adjustment. In the same way you don’t want to infect others with the flu, why infect them with your negative attitude?

I challenge you as we move into 2020 to find ways to build your own positivity and encourage others to be more positive too. Possible tools include:

  • Accepting that change is part of life.
  • Trying the “No Complaining Rule” – Can you avoid complaining for even a day? Build to a week?
  • Use the “Tell Me Something Good” Technique – When family or friends are sharing, encourage them to tell you something good that happened and not focus on the negative.
  • Watching positive/humorous shows, movies, or videos that make you laugh.
  • Use affirming/positive self-talk.
  • Let go of things you can’t control.
  • Smile more, even a fake smile will reduce your heart rate and blood pressure!

“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Tom Schulman

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County.

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Inhale. It means to breathe in. Slow or controlled breathing is often used to reduce heart rate, calm emotions, and lower stress. This controlled breathing technique has been around thousands of years in yoga, meditation, and other health practices. I saw this advice recently reminding me to inhale during this holiday season, and I loved it.

When I saw the admonition to inhale, I took it as a reminder to take it all in. That is the inhale; be purposeful in choosing what to take in and what to pass on. Our holiday schedule looked extra hectic this year with one daughter dancing in a professional nutcracker production, a new college student rejoining our family for her extended break, travel for work and a visit from my parents. I knew with all this I had to be extra careful about what I inhaled.

Taking that same definition of inhaling and applying it to our holiday busyness can be difficult. We are often rushing from event to event, and tackling a never-ending list of holiday fun. Advice is always easier to give than take in and follow. Several friends shared with me what they do to inhale the holidays. These can be simple, such as:

Spending a quiet morning before everyone is up, enjoying coffee and the Christmas tree and remembering why we celebrate the holiday. ~ Sarah

Making an effort to turn off the TV and put away phones so that family time can be enjoyed. ~ Amanda R.

Spending some quiet time and making sure to get quality sleep. ~ Jessica

Making an effort to start each day with an intention and not rushing out the door. ~ Amanda W.

Admiring a Christmas tree in the darkness and taking a moment to be grateful. ~ Lorrissa

Taking a few minutes after work to take some deep breaths, and reflect and center before joining family and evening activities. ~ Amanda B.

Other ideas included some simple planning to emphasize the events and traditions that matter most, such as:

Making a December bucket list of the most important activities and traditions and hanging it up for the family to see. This makes it easy to say, “This isn’t a priority for us” when things come up. ~ Becky

Make an effort and a plan to focus on small acts of kindness and simple holiday experiences.  Leaving treats for a mail carrier, dancing to Christmas music, or driving around to look at lights, have these things planned out so they can be included and enjoyed. ~ Amber

Besides having a plan and making simple changes, prioritizing and self-care can help with your holiday inhale. Other ways to inhale include:

Reflect on what is important to your holiday celebrations. Realize that this may change over time. Thinking about what is most important will help you to be intentional when choosing how and who to spend your time with. It is hard to make your holiday meaningful if you don’t decide before the rush starts what gives it meaning.

Ask for help. Let your family know how they can support or help with holiday tasks and plans. Accept their offers to contribute. This will help involve them, as well as lighten your workload. This can also be a way to share traditions or teach skills with children and other family members.

Keep in mind the holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, pace yourself. If adding an extra party or gift to your schedule causes you stress, then don’t. The parties, events, gifts that you do choose to participate in- inhale! Be present as you experience and participate in them.

Take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Extra social gatherings can be fun, but do not compromise your physical, mental or financial wellness by doing too much. Acknowledge that you cannot do everything for everyone. Practice saying “no” without guilt.

Do not throw out your routine. Do your best to make healthy food choices, relax, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Sticking to your routines will help with your endurance and patience as you manage the holiday.

Most importantly, whatever you do this holiday season, enjoy the inhale!

Writer: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewers: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County, Dunfee.54@osu.edu

Sources:

LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Butanis, B. (2014, June 9). Ten Tips for Enjoying the Holidays. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/stories/ten_tips_for_enjoying_holidays.html.

Keep it Real This Season. (2019, December 4). Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/12/05/keep-it-real-this-season/.

LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Russo, M. A., Santarelli, D. M., & O’Rourke, D. (2017, December 1). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Retrieved from https://breathe.ersjournals.com/content/13/4/298.

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Child in Santa hat looking out the window on a rainy day
Child in Santa hat looking out the window on a rainy day

It’s December and the holiday season is in full swing. For many, the holidays are a time of joy and excitement, but for others, the holidays are filled with sorrow and grief. While many of us look forward to get-togethers and celebrations with family and friends, others may dread these occasions because they are reminded of the losses they have experienced.

When we talk about loss and grief, most people think of the loss of a loved one, which is certainly a common reason for grief. However, there are many reasons people may feel loss or grief. I teach Successful Co-Parenting and we explain how going through a divorce may cause similar feelings due to the loss of all the things/ideas/plans/people the couple had together that are not going to happen now. When someone retires, they may have mixed emotions of happiness that they have more time to do the things they want and/or sorrow about feeling that they have no purpose or meaning anymore. With all the weather issues of the past couple years and with fluctuating commodity prices, many farmers/farm families have been forced to give up their way of life. Some have had to sell their farms and/or animals in order to survive the uncertainty that mother nature and the future brings. Loss of a job or unemployment can also trigger feelings of grief.

flooded farm field
Flooded farm field

According to the HelpGuide article, Coping with Grief and Loss, grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to loss—and the more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be.

So, as we go through the holiday season and beyond, it’s important that we recognize and understand that grief and the grieving process looks different for everyone. Here are some tips from AARP for dealing with grief during the holidays:

  1. Only do what feels right– decide which activities, traditions or events you can handle.
  2. Accept your feelings, whatever they might be– however you feel, accept it. And accept the inevitable ups and downs.
  3. Call on your family and friends– be honest about how you’d like to do things this year — if you want to talk about those who have passed, then do so, and let others know it’s OK.
  4. Focus on the kids– many holidays place special attention on children, and it often helps to focus on their needs.
  5. Plan ahead– create comforting activities in the weeks approaching a holiday so that you have something to look forward to rather than building up a dread of the pain the holiday could bring.
  6. Scale back– if the thought of many holiday activities feels painful, overwhelming or inappropriate this year, cutting back may help.
  7. Give– it’s amazing how in times of grief, sometimes the biggest comfort is to give to others.
  8. Acknowledge those who have passed on– when we are grieving a loss of someone very close to us, it can be helpful to participate in a related holiday ritual in his or her memory.
  9. Do something different– acknowledge that things have changed; indeed, the holiday will not be the same as it was ever again.
  10. Skip it– if you feel that it will be too much for you and you’d like to simply opt out of participation in a holiday, let family and friends know.

By using some of these tips, hopefully the holidays don’t have to be a time of sorrow and grief. If you or someone you love exhibits any of the following symptoms, seeking professional help is advised:

  1. Feel like life isn’t worth living.
  2. Wish you had died with your loved one.
  3. Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it.
  4. Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks.
  5. Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss.
  6. Are unable to perform your normal daily activities.

Here’s hoping that you can find some joy and comfort over the holidays and in to the new year!

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

Reviewer: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Sources:

Curiel, Ashley. (2016). The Least Wonderful Time of the Year? Good Therapy. Retrieved from: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/holidays-least-wonderful-time-of-year-1216164

Goyer, Amy. (2012). Dealing With Grief During the Holiday Season. AARP. Retrieved from: https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-12-2012/death-loss-christmas-holidays-goyer.html

Pappas, Stephanie. (2019). Unique pressures put America’s farmers under stress. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/farmers-under-stress

Smith, M., Segal, J., and Robinson, L. (2019). Job Loss and Unemployment Stress. HelpGuide. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/job-loss-and-unemployment-stress.htm

Smith, M., Segal, J., and Robinson, L. (2019). Coping with Grief and Loss. HelpGuide. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm

Photos:

https://pixabay.com/photos/rainy-christmas-grief-child-kid-83136/

https://pixabay.com/photos/arable-field-flood-wet-ground-406153/

https://pixabay.com/photos/pants-bag-list-wrench-job-search-1255851/

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Does the month of December have you in a rush or panic to achieve the perfect holiday? Can you adjust your ideal holiday to be more realistic, so you don’t set yourself up for stress, disappointment or exhaustion?

Set Priorities

Set priorities before the whirlwind begins. Separate tasks you truly enjoy from those you do merely out of habit or obligation. What can you trim from your schedule to leave more time for the traditions that are most meaningful to you?

Let Go

Let go, of expectations, perfection, guilt, and traditions that no longer have meaning. Perhaps those expectations you feel pressure to live up to are created by you… let them go. Stop trying to create the “ideal” holiday, just enjoy your family and friends.

Be Transparent

Keep this in mind… those posts you see on social media or those family cards of the perfectly decorated home and perfectly dressed family… those are just illusions. My favorite Christmas letters are those that are a real description of the family’s holidays… Like when the cookies burned, the kids are squabbling, and the cat knocked over the tree…

Keep Perspective

Remember that this is just a season. If something does not live up to your expectations, it’s not the end of the world. Focus on the things that ARE going right in your life and acknowledge that this stressful situation will pass.

Picture of gingerbread cookies ready to be baked

Trim Your Schedule

Decide ahead of time how many social events you’ll attend. Don’t feel as though you must accept every invitation and stick to gatherings that you’ll enjoy the most.

Simplify

Cut your holiday card list in half, cut back on the number of gifts. Be selective – the gifts will mean more. Most people won’t notice the difference and will appreciate being able to simplify the holidays for themselves.

To help yourself set realistic expectations this year, ask yourself these questions…

  • When you reflect on past celebrations, what is most meaningful to you and your family?
  • How can you design your holidays to focus on what is meaningful, while letting go of those traditions that no longer have the same significance?
  • Clarify where your expectations are coming from… are these your expectations or someone else’s?
  • What is something you’d be willing to do differently this year to decrease your stress?
  • What is one thing you’d really like to do for yourself this holiday season?

The American Psychological Association has an entire webpage dedicated to this season. It’s called the Holiday Stress Resource Center and provides some great ideas on how to keep your expectations and stress in check.


Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

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

Sources:

“Managing Expectations.” American Psychological Association. Retrieved 10/17/2019 from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-stress-managing-expectations

Wickam, J. (2014). “Coping with holiday stress — Keeping our expectations realistic.” Mayo Clinic Health System. Retrieved 10/17/2019 from https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/coping-with-holiday-stress-keeping-our-expectations-realistic

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