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Archive for the ‘Healthy Relationships’ Category

sun shining on a bed of wildflowers

As health restrictions are lifting from the pandemic, I have been able to interact with more people in person. When others ask how I’m doing, I say “fine” … but what I really want to say is “meh.” I’m doing okay… not depressed… but not great either. I find that I really have to psyche myself up for another week of work, and for certain tasks at work and home. I usually rise to the occasion, but it takes a lot of energy to overcome the urge to seek the solitude or even the isolation that I thought I couldn’t wait to escape.

A colleague pointed me to an enlightening article on languishing and it captured so much of what I have felt in the past few months. Psychologists describe languishing as slightly withered, wilted or faded. The pandemic has left a lot of people feeling this way. Initially, the pandemic may have incited feelings of fear, anxiety, dread and paralysis… and as these feelings have faded, they have left languish in their wake.

Emory University Professor Corey Keyes has been publishing about languishing since 2002, but it took the pandemic to bring greater attention to this work. Keyes describes languish as the absence of feeling good about life and lacking purpose or meaning in one’s life. Languish is the middle ground between depression and optimal well-being or flourishing. While depression is clinically diagnosable with the presence of certain behaviors, languish is feeling indifference, emptiness, and stagnation. Keyes’ research found languish to be a predictor of developing depression and anxiety as well as increased risk of suicide attempts. We need to acknowledge and treat languish so it doesn’t turn into depression later, and so we can live our best lives.

How do we move from languishing to flourishing? Thankfully, there are research-backed steps we can take. In fact, there are entire programs at universities dedicated to helping others flourish: The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma, and The Wellbeing at Work project at the University of Notre Dame. Here are some of their highlights:

Name your feelings – It helps to identify emotions and give them a name. Once you identify languish and name it, you can start to deal with it. You might start to notice examples of it all around you in family members, friends, co-workers.

Find your flow – Flow can be described as feeling fully engaged or even engrossed in an activity that motivates and excites you. For me recently, that has been home improvement projects, from the smallest detail like a broken switch plate cover, to larger re-wiring or painting projects. As long as I have something to keep me focused, I can find my flow. As one project concludes, I line up another. Perhaps the activity that will get you into flow is learning something new. The act of learning a new task or skill can engage your brain and sharpen your focus.

Free yourself from disruptions – Give yourself what your brain might be craving: time to become engrossed in an activity and let it captivate you. We find joy and purpose when we can gain a sense of progress on an activity or task.

Focus on a small goal – Is there a goal you can set to increase your skills or strengthen your resolve? Find a challenge that is meaningful to you and commit time to it each day.

Cultivate gratitude – Recognize and savor the good in your present situation. Imagine your best possible self, and volunteer or provide acts of kindness for others to make your best self a reality.

Start wherever you are… and if that is languish, decide to take a small step toward blooming and flourishing. If languish is like a fading photograph, then imagine steps toward flourishing as a color touch-up, bringing vibrancy back into your life. Share your journey with someone, as you just might help them out. It could be refreshingly authentic to answer ‘meh’ next time someone asks how you are doing.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

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

Sources:

Grant, A. (2020). There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing. New York Times. Published April 19, 2021, Updated May 5, 2021

Keyes, C.L. (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43(2), 207-222. doi:10.2307/3090197

Keyes, C. L., Dhingra, S. S., & Simoes, E. J. (2010). Change in level of positive mental health as a predictor of future risk of mental illness. American journal of public health100(12), 2366–2371. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2010.192245

VanderWeele, T.J. (2017). On the promotion of human flourishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 31:8148-8156.

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Summertime! What memories do you have of time spent as a child during June, July, and August? There may be summer chores that come to mind like tending the garden or mowing lawns. But I do hope that you have some freedom memories as well, like riding your bike, swimming, spending time in the woods, or other outside pleasures.

Child playing in spraying water

My first tendency is to create plans and then strategically schedule, schedule, schedule. How can we squeeze in this trip before that trip and still fit in camps? How can I make sure my kids are reading regularly and contributing to household chores?

Then, in the midst of this sea of questions, float images of my own childhood memories. Many of them are of the spontaneity of summer. Cannonball competitions at the community pool while 80s pop music blasted over the speakers. Swinging on the big tree swing at our family shelter by the river.

I want that for my children. In these transition years from child to adult, they are not little adults, they are adolescents. Play is so important that it has been recognized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as “the right of every child.” The American Academy of Pediatrics says that play, or free time in the case of older children and youth, is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.

Children paying ball outside in a grove of trees

This summer I want to intentionally let my kids be bored at times. Why is that such a button-pushing word for many parents? Have we really failed as parents if we hear “I’m bored” from our kids? We have many jobs as parents, but it is not our job to constantly entertain and provide things for our children to do. They will create their own play. Carrie Shrier, Michigan State University Extension, explains that complex play takes time to develop. It involves rules, conversation, negotiation, and organization on their part, not ours. Resist the temptation to give children something to do. You might be surprised how involved and complex their play becomes when adults don’t interfere.

In our home this summer, we will still have expected times to go to bed and rise and shine. There will also be expectations for barn chores, house chores, and yard chores. But, I hope my kids will be pleasantly surprised that their “rules making mama” expects them to play and explore in their own way – technology free – each and every day.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

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

Sources:

Shrier, C. (2016, June 8) Five rules for summer play. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/five_rules_for_summer_play

Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics, 142(3). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-2058

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When was the last time you fell in love? Maybe it was when you found a special someone, got a new puppy or saw a beautiful grand-baby for the first time. What about falling in love with nature? It only takes a moment to stop and notice things happening in nature, and the good news is you do not have to be a naturalist to reap the benefits of bringing nature into your daily life!

Experiencing nature can be a simple as stopping to notice the big, puffy white clouds in the sky or watching the sun set from your window. The other day I found beautiful bright pink pinecones on a tree that I walk by every single day and never noticed. When we stop and notice the little things in nature, we begin experiencing a deeper connection to something more.

Pink pinecones
Photo source: Shari Gallup, 2021. “Pink Pinecones.”

Nature has a way of calming and healing the human mind and body. Have you ever noticed that you feel happier when you spend time in nature?

Spending time in nature can reduce blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. Research done in hospitals, offices and schools found that the presence of a plant in a workroom can decrease stress and anxiety, and office plants have been shown to reduce employee sick days and improve work productivity.

It is easy to let daily life go by with the busyness of ballgames, work, and other activities, but it only takes a moment to stop and “smell the roses.”  If it is not possible to get outside, here are a few ways to bring nature inside:

Bring plants indoors: I keep a mint plant on my desk and between meetings, I scratch the leaf to release the oil scent and take a few deep breaths in through my nose. My eyes naturally begin to close, and I become calm. Plants help reduce stress and tension. Choose plants that you enjoy and that are easy to grow indoors, or bring in fresh flowers and place them in a container where you can see them.  

Bring the smell of nature indoors: Bring in aromatic flowers, herbs, or pinecones, or use diffusers, candles, or sprays in natural scents like pine, citrus, lavender, or lemon.

Watch the birds:  Set up a bird or suet feeder near a popular window, grab a pair of binoculars if you have one, and watch nature from indoors. There is a lot of great information available from the National Audubon Society if you are new to bird watching, and there are many benefits to becoming a bird nerd

If you want to fall in love with nature, start with something small at first, or choose just one of the suggestions above and go slow…that’s the whole idea!

If you would like to learn more, please join me for a free class on Nature and Nutrition on June 9th at noon!  Register at https://go.osu.edu/wellnessweds.

Written by Shari Gallup, MS, Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Licking County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County and Laura Stanton, MS, Family and Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Warren County.

Sources:

Beans, Laura (2014).  Study Shows Living Close to Nature Improves Mental Health. https://www.ecowatch.com/study-shows-living-close-to-nature-improves-mental-health-1881858780.html

National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (2015). #PlantsDoThat. https://consumerhort.org/plantsdothat-3/

University of Minnesota. Taking Charge of Your Wellbeing. Healing Environment. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-environment  

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Whether it’s ‘Mother,’ ‘Mom,’ ‘Mommy,’ ‘Momma,’ ‘Mum’, ‘Ma,’ or another name, the individuals who hold this role have an impact on society. Biological, adopted, step, assumed, pet, foster, etc., mothers and mother-figures have an enormous role in the lives of those who look to them for guidance, reassurance, assistance, comfort, knowledge, understanding, compassion, patience, and love.

This past weekend many celebrated Mother’s Day. While some are fortunate to still have mothers, others are not. Whether you spent time with your mother or not, hopefully, you were able to reminisce the past. I have fun memories of my mom from my childhood and beyond and I hope my children do with me. While I am not perfect, my goal as a mother has always been to guide, encourage, comfort and soothe, correct, and cherish and love each of them for the uniquely wonderful human beings they are. The love, or sometimes lack thereof, a mother provides is one of the most influential parts of children’s development. I regret many things, but I have tried to learn and do better. I want to show my children that life can be difficult, and we can overcome and be better.

Family, Love, Mother, Daughter
Woman hugging her mother

While it is common to be upset and even depressed with loss and or other difficult situations, it is important for mothers to take care of their own mental health for their own sake as well as to help reduce the negative impact it may have on their children. Some things that can help foster good family mental health include:

  • Regular involvement in activities that bring about positive emotions.
  • Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet.
  • Prioritizing developmentally appropriate sleep hygiene.
  • Seeking support from care providers as needed.
  • Using social support and participating in extracurricular activities that promote the development of positive peer relationships.
  • Caregivers remaining in contact with other care providers.
Women, Girlfriends, Nature, Walk, Friendship, Together
Three women walking holding hands

Having all three of my children here for dinner along with my parents, was the best Mother’s Day gift. While my daughter and my 23-year-old son live here, my 21-year-old son lives in an apartment while attending college. This is the first year he will not be coming “home” for the summer, and this momma is not prepared. As happy as I am that he is independent and self-sufficient enough to live on his own, I have sometimes wished he needed me a little more. I try to remember that this is typical for a young adult, but it’s not always easy to realize I have done my job of raising my kids to be the adults I always hoped they would become. Fortunately, my job as their mother will continue as they navigate life. It seems as though it was just yesterday that I brought them home from the hospital and watched them sleep. Now, one is a college graduate and working, one is a junior in college working part-time, and one is working a first part-time job while finishing junior year of high school and deciding what college to attend next fall. How is it possible that my babies are almost all grown up?

Mother, Son, People, Family, Hug, Portrait
Woman hugging her son

A few years ago I wrote a blog, “Mindful Parenting: Enjoy Every Moment.” I wrote about how fast time goes and why it’s important that we are present for our kids. As I re-read it preparing for this blog, I started to tear up at how fast time has passed. I often tell parents of young children to enjoy EVERY SINGLE MOMENT because time will pass fast! It’s important to enjoy even the tough and trying stages of their child’s development and not wish those moments away because one day they might be wishing their child would call or come home to visit. If you are wondering how to get started with mindful practices, my colleague wrote this blog about apps you can use. I hope you will take time to be present in all of your interactions, because one day you realize it was the little things that were the big things.

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

Reviewed by Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Lucas County

Sources:

Dryden, J. (2016, January 13). Mom’s love good for Child’s brain. Retrieved May 10, 2021, from https://source.wustl.edu/2012/01/moms-love-good-for-childs-brain/

Pugle, M. (2020, July 6). Children of Mothers with Depression More Likely to Develop Depression Themselves. Retrieved May 10, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/children-of-mothers-with-depression-more-likely-to-develop-depression-themselves

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Daughter and Mother Living with Dementia

Do you ever forget where you’ve placed your remote, or just can’t recall the name of acquaintance? When this occurs, do you wonder if you are starting to develop dementia? It’s common to become somewhat more forgetful as you age. The question is, how you can tell whether your memory lapses are part of normal aging or are a symptom of something more serious.

If you are in your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s, you may have noticed that you might need a bit longer to remember things, get distracted more easily or struggle to multi-task as well as you once did. You may worry that these are an early sign of dementia, it is important not to worry too much. While these changes are frustrating at times, they are a part of normal aging.  

By contrast, people with dementia have a loss of memory and other mental function severe enough that it affects their ability to live independently at home, interact is social activities and at work. While some memory loss, such as recall and recognition, is the result of the aging brain, dementia is some type of injury to the brain that goes beyond normal changes. For a variety of reasons, once-healthy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die.

Dementia can cause a significant decline in a person’s mental abilities by affecting their capacity for things like memory, thinking and reasoning.

Although people in the earliest stages of dementia often sense the something is wrong, the illness eventually deprives them of the insight necessary to understand their problems. So it’s usually up to a family member or friend to recognize the symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Association,  Know the 10 Signs brochure highlights a list of 10 signs that should not be ignored.

  1. Memory loss that is severe enough to disrupt daily life-for example, asking for information over and over again.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems, such as trouble following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure-for example, trouble driving to a familiar location.
  4. Confusion over time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, including difficulty judging distances and determining color.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing, including difficulty following or joining a conversation.
  7. Putting things in unusual places and being unable to find them again.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement-for example, giving large amounts of money to telemarketers or paying less attention to personal hygiene.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality, including becoming suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.

If after reading this list you are worried about yourself or someone close to you, arrange for a medical evaluation. Making a diagnosis of dementia requires a thorough examination by a physician. Many forms of dementia are not reversible, but early detection provides an opportunity to minimize other medical conditions that may bring on severe dementia symptoms earlier than they might otherwise show.

If you would like to learn more about your memory, please join us at 10a.m. on Wednesdays in May for the Virtual Master of Memory. These four sessions will be offered online. Sessions will include information on memory strategies, nutrition, medications, medical conditions, and exercise for the body and mind.

Sessions are free – but registration is required. You may register here: https://go.osu.edu/masterofmemory

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension-Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension-Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association, https://www.alz.org/

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Dementia-Information-Page

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Recently I was reading an article and the researchers explained that self-compassion is not, “merely a ‘Pollyanish’ form of thinking.” They were using “Pollyanish” as an informal way to say that self-compassion is not foolish.

Merriam-Webster defines Pollyanna as: a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything. They explain that the term was used in the early 1920s referring to Pollyanna, the young heroine of the 1913 novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. As the slang became more popular, the author later defended her work by stating, “I have never believed that we ought to deny discomfort and pain and evil; I have merely thought that it is far better to ‘greet the unknown with a cheer.'”

While the label Pollyanna or Pollyanish isn’t necessarily used as a compliment, we recognize the benefits of positive thinking. Research shows that positive people have better physical well-being and an increased lifespan. They have lower rates of depression and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Positive people have better coping skills during times of stress.

So why the criticism of Pollyanna? A main problem is when people insist on only allowing positivity. Stephanie Preston, University of Michigan Ann Arbor psychologist explains that toxic positivity is, “when people are forced to seem or be positive in situations where it’s not natural” or people don’t acknowledge or “deal with the fact that there is distress or need”. It’s not an all or nothing.

Being called a “Pollyanna” really isn’t an insult especially if you temper the positive with other realities. A recent paper advocated using, “positive psychology practices to be part of a multi-disciplinary approach.” They went on to explain that not only can we build on positive emotions but we can also build up our self-compassion and the capacity to cope with challenges. If we insist or rely only on positivity, we won’t allow ourselves – or others – time to experience other emotions or chances to learn and grow through struggles.

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

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County

Sources:

Barlage, L. (2019). The power of positivity. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/12/30/the-power-of-positivity/

Carter, S. (2021). Overcoming Pandemic Paralysis. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/01/28/overcoming-pandemic-paralysis/

Graham, R. (2013, Feb 26). How we all became Pollyannas (and why we should be glad about it). The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/02/how-we-all-became-pollyannas-and-why-we-should-be-glad-about-it/273323/

Neff, K, Kirkpatrick, K., and Rude, S. (2006). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007) 139–154. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/JRP.pdf

Marsh, J. (2012). The power of self-compassion. Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_power_of_self_compassion

Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. (nd). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

Stillman, J. (2020). ‘Toxic Positivity’ is a thing. A lot of us are experiencing it now. Psychology, University of Michigan. Retrieved from: https://lsa.umich.edu/psych/news-events/all-news/faculty-news/-toxic-positivity–is-a-thing–a-lot-of-us-are-experiencing-it-n.html  

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Are you still wearing your mask?  Do they really work?  Do you still have to wear one after getting the vaccine? 

a woman wearing a cloth face mask

We all want to get rid of these masks. So, do they really help? Sanja IIic, OSU Associate Professor and food safety state specialist, did some research with Case Western Reserve University to see if mask wearing made a difference.  IIic said the research was done to “demonstrate the droplet transmission and serve as an educational tool on how the viruses are transmitted and how we can prevent them in the community.”  

They tested single-layer and double-layer masks made of different materials. 

  • Most effective masks –  double-layer cotton, which was similar in effectiveness to surgical masks
  • Least effective – single layered polyester masks

These experiments showed that wearing a face mask is an effective way to prevent the transmission of droplets. But, masks need to be worn correctly to be effective.  Masks must:

  • Completely cover the nose and mouth
  • Fit snuggly against the sides of your face without gaps
  • Be two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
  • Ideally have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask

Masks help people not to touch their nose or mouth, limiting the spread of the virus. But it is also important to follow social distancing guidelines of staying six feet apart, so droplet transmission is less likely if someone sneezes or coughs. Be sure to wash your masks after use and wash your hands before and after putting on or removing a mask. 

Do you need to wear a mask if you have had the vaccine?  Yes, experts recommend you wear a mask after you have had the vaccine. 

  • The pandemic is not controlled until around 50%-70% of the population become immune due to the vaccine or having the virus. 
  • The vaccine was tested on preventing COVID-19 but not on whether a person could be a carrier of the virus. 

Thus, to help keep everyone safe, please wear a mask and practice social distancing until many more people have been vaccinated. Please consider getting the vaccine as soon as you are eligible.

Infographic available from cdc.gov/coronavirus.  "It's a two-way street. Masks protect you & me. When we all wear masks, we take care of each other.  Wear masks, avoid crowds, stay 6 feet apart, and wash your hands. Take all four steps for the most protection.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer:  Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension

Sources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021).  Your Guide to Masks https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html   

Landino, K. (2021). Dispelling the myths:  Face Masks Work to Prevent COVID-19. College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences News, The Ohio State University,  https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/dispelling-the-myths-face-masks-work-prevent-covid-19

Ohio State Insights. (2021).  Are These Coronavirus Vaccines Safe?  An Expert Weighs in”  https://insights.osu.edu/health/covid-19-vaccine-safety

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piggy bank

We can think of our relationship with our children as a bank account.  Just like a real bank account, we can make deposits and withdraws each day. We make “deposits” when we feed our relationship with love, hugs and kisses.  Spending time with your children, listening to them and showing encouragement all increase your balance. Unfortunately, as adults we also sometimes make “withdraws” out of our relationship account. This happens when we criticize, ignore, yell or break promises. As adults we need to make sure that our relationship accounts always have more deposits than withdraws.  Making more “deposits” serves as a proactive effort to ensure that the good times outweigh the bad.  A relationship with plenty of “deposits” also assists in building resiliency in kids.  Resiliency is the ability to handle stress and serves as an insulation to the inability to bounce back after adversity.

PAX Tools Manager Kathryn Tummino discusses Emotional Deposits in a short video that can be viewed here:  Emotional Deposits Pax Tools

“Researchers remind us that we need five positive interactions to every negative interaction to keep any relationship healthy. And since we spend so much time guiding — a.k.a. correcting, reminding, scolding, criticizing, nagging, and yelling — it’s important to make sure we spend five times as much time in positive connection.”


Dr. Laura Markham Ph.D., offers 10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship
1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day
2. Play
3. Turn off technology when you interact with your child
4. Connect before transitions
5. Make time for one on one time
6. Welcome emotion
7. Listen, and Empathize
8. Slow down and savor the moment
9. Bedtime snuggle and chat
10. Show up

Sources
Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/resilience/

Markham, Laura. “10 Habits to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 June 2017, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201706/10-habits-strengthen-parent-child-relationship.

PAX Tools. PAXIS Institute 2020, http://www.paxis.org/pax-tools.

PAX Tools – Emotional Deposits, 18 May 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=I80VhmAT2fU&t=138s

Written by Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Butler County

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

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Lately I have been feeling even more isolated and alone than I did at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have found myself retreating and not reaching out to others in the same ways that I did a year ago. But a couple weeks ago, some friends called and asked me to join them for a small girls’ night out dinner. We safely socially distanced from others, and the four of us enjoyed an evening at a hotel together. THAT event has changed my train of thought. I was feeling bad for myself and feeling very lonely, which is not easy as an extroverted person. But what I realized was that even if I cannot spend time with people physically, I do not have to wait for them to contact me. Connection is a two-way street. I can reach out even while staying “safe”.

Connection looks different in every relationship. Sometimes you have a connection because of chemistry with another. Sometimes it is a “forced” interaction because you are colleagues, in class together, or share a common interest. We communicate through verbal and non-verbal signals that can drive connection or cause disconnection. Social media is also a major form of connection for many of us.

YOU WERE MADE FOR CONNECTION. Even if you are an introverted person, I am sure you still have a small circle of people you trust and who are important to you. Interactions drive our daily lives. Connecting with others helps us remember that we matter. Our brains thrive from connection. 

We were also made to show connection through safe, physical touch. Hugging releases oxytocin* and dopamine* and directly impacts cortisol* levels. It is recommended that we should receive 10 second hugs– 8 a day for maintenance, 12 a day for growth, and upwards of 18 for optimal mental health.

  • Oxytocin promotes feeling of contentment, reduces stress, and promotes bonding.
  • Dopamine is linked to Parkinson’s disease (low levels) and Schizophrenia (high levels). Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. Lack of dopamine can lead to procrastination, self doubt, and lack of enthusiasm.
  • Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood and motivation.

In high stress states it feels like our body cannot contain emotion without someone to hold us. Touch is not a single sense. Having your back rubbed stimulates neurons that release oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol. Vicarious touch can help us to soothe ourselves. A hunger for touch means a need is not met.

We are also our own biggest barrier to connection. We tell ourselves we are okay. We tell ourselves that we can handle it. We tell ourselves we don’t want to bother anyone. I encourage you to please stop doing that to yourself. Think about how you feel when someone reaches out to you and wants to spend time with you. It makes you feel wanted and needed and important. 

Take control of your own well-being. Pick up the phone. Write a letter. Send a text. Make a list of who you miss and start putting “Connect with _____________________” on your to-do list every day. It will make a difference. I know it has for me.

Written by: Jami Dellifield, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Hardin County

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

RESOURCES

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Yahtzee, Yatzy, Play, Cube, Craps, Fun, Leisure, Tricky
Yachtzee-like game

This afternoon my daughter comes into the living room and asks, “Where is the Yahtzee?” I was a little miffed. Why would I be upset that my 17-yo wants to do something that doesn’t involve technology? Let me explain. My parents recently came home from Florida to get their COVID-19 vaccinations and for a couple medical appointments and they are staying with us. My mom likes to play Yahtzee, so the kids usually end up playing it with her. I was miffed because I would LOVE for my kids to play games with me! I have to basically beg or threaten them to get them to play a game. My “kids” are ages 23, 21, and 17.

Since my parents are usually in Florida during the winter, I am happy to have them here. As I listened to my older son, my daughter, and my mom laughing and hooting downstairs, I couldn’t help but smile. You see, it is moments like these that I realize, the little things really are the big things. As much as I wanted to go down and join in the fun, I didn’t want to interrupt this grandparent-grandchildren bonding time. So, I sat upstairs with a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart, listening to them play Yahtzee. I am very happy that my kids get to have the fun experiences they do with both sets of their grandparents.

Corona 19, Mask, Spring, In The Spring I'M Back, Family
Family with masks on

According to research by the American Psychological Association, happy memories from our childhood, especially of our parents, have been linked to better health later in life. I would never claim to be the best parent, but I hope that my children have more fond memories than not. That the times when I was or am frustrated with them or someone or something else are not overshadowed by the absolute love I have for them and incredible joy it has been and still is to be their mother.

I remember the day I brought each of my kids home. I could not believe that the hospital was just letting me walk out the door with this new life without some type of license or certification demonstrating some level of parenting proficiency. I mean, I can’t legally drive a car without a license. I had to take a class to learn how to save a life, but I was able to just walk right out the door with this tiny human.

When I hear parents of young children complaining or apologizing for their kid’s interruptions on Zoom meetings, I tell them that there is no need. When they are frustrated with their child, I remind them that it will pass. For those of us with grown children, we know all too well how quickly time passes. While you are wishing for them to sleep through the night, to say their first word, to become potty trained, etc. etc., you may be missing out on lots of little things. Little things that some day you will realize were the big things. As I read over this blog about mindful parenting that I wrote, I cannot believe it has been almost 3 years! Time ticks on.

As Bonnie Ware observed while working for hospice, the things people regret when they are faced with death, have little to do with the things we worry most about most of our life. When questioned about regrets patients had or things they would do differently, these were the five most common themes:

Pictures, Memories, Nostalgia, Saudade, Old Photos
Black & white pictures
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

So, as we continue to endure this pandemic and all the challenges, try not to forget to embrace the people and the moments that you have, instead of focusing on when we will get back to “the way things were.” Because I guarantee you, there are little things happening right in front of you, that someday you will realize were the big things.

Written by: Misty Harmon, OSU Extension Educator, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Roseanne Scammahorn, OSU Extension Educator, Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

References:

American Psychological Association. (2018, November 5). Happy childhood memories linked to better health later in life. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2018/11/happy-childhood-memories

Harmon, M. (2018, March 30). Mindful parenting: Enjoy every moment. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/harmon-416osu-edu/mindful-parenting-enjoy-every-moment/

Meyer, M., & Kandic, A. (2017, October 30). Grandparenting in the United States. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6177109/

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. (n.d.). How the Covid-19 vaccine works. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/features/coronavirus/patient-care/covid-19-vaccine/how-the-covid-19-vaccine-works

Ware, B. (n.d.). Dying regrets, wise advice and life lessons. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.aarp.org/relationships/grief-loss/info-02-2012/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying.html

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