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Enjoy the Inhale

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.

Lighten Your Christmas

Light box that says "have a break"

The time of year is upon us where the sun is setting between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. It can really take a toll on us mentally and physically. In October, fellow blogger Misty Harmon shared a personal story about experiencing the winter blues in Fall: A SAD Time of Year. She went on to share the symptoms, risk factors and treatments associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). One of those treatment options is light therapy. Research shows that light therapy is a highly effective addition to a person’s treatment routine. For some individuals who experience milder symptoms of SAD, light therapy may be sufficient.

How do light boxes work?

The purpose of a therapy light box is to mimic outdoor light to create a chemical change in your brain. The theory behind the box is that it will lift and lighten your mood easing other symptoms of SAD. In order for light boxes to be beneficial, they need to provide a certain amount of lighting. Lighting requirements are usually measured in units called lux. The light boxes need to have an exposure of 10,000 lux of light and emit as little UV light as possible.

When is the best time to use a light box?

The best time to use a light box is within the first hour of waking up in the morning. A person should sit about 16 to 24 inches away from the light with their eyes open for 20 to 30 minutes. Please do not look directly at the light. When you purchase a light box, make sure it is specifically designed for treating SAD. You can find a list here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing SAD, I would encourage you to try a light box. It might just make this Christmas a little brighter.

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

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

Sources:

Harmon, M. (2019, October 21). Fall: A SAD Time of Year. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/

Leister, J. (2019, December). Lighten Up this December. Retrieved from https://osuhealthplan.com/content/lighten-december?utm_source=osu_health_plan_yp4h&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=201903_corp_myhealth&utm_content=20191212

My Future Self

There are several ways that we can help our future self with better planning and preparation today.

A couple of years ago I started to hear and read what was a new phrase for me: Future Self. The older I get, the more I consider how the things I do today will affect who I am tomorrow. And that may just be the definition of maturity.

This is by no means a complete list of everything to consider for your future self. But as we enter full swing into a season when we are encouraged to immerse ourselves in indulgence, may this be an inspiration (and even permission) to be kind to your future self. Here are some themes that I am currently tackling or have on my list to accomplish in the coming year.

Meal planning: The stress of quickly coming up with dinner once I get home from work results in a not-so-fun-mom. I’m sure that once upon a time I was better at planning out meals for the week ahead. So a present for my future self is to make meal planning a routine habit. My goal is to sit down the last week of each month and plan for the next month. That may sound like a lot, but as a co-parent with tween kids, we always know about 90% of our schedule for the next month. Planning this way allows me to see which days should be a slow cooker meal, which evenings we can cook together in the kitchen, and which nights are going to be a creative use of leftovers. There are some great resources to give you a planning template, menu idea inspiration and some recipes to vary your protein, which could be just what you need for a change of pace.

Family meetings: We recently started doing this at our house. My oldest chairs the meeting and the youngest takes minutes. It keeps them engaged and gives us some great laughs. Our main goal is to discuss our calendar for the next month. It has significantly reduced the night before realization that there is a schedule conflict tomorrow. We also talk through expenses that are coming up and how are we are doing with our budget. Here are some other good tips for family meetings.

If not now, then when?: Planning is a theme here. I recently taught a money management class to a group of employees at a local manufacturing company. During the last lesson we discussed several of the things that we know are important, but since they don’t seem urgent, we don’t act on them. Having advance directives like a living will, identifying power of attorney, and understanding life insurance are examples of things that your future self and your family will appreciate.

Exercise: Since turning 40 I know that I am more physically fit than I have probably ever been in my life. I made the choice to make it a priority. I thought about the future self I wanted. Not to fit into a certain size clothing. My goal is have a healthy lifestyle that gives me the best opportunity to live long enough to be a part of my great-grandchildren’s lives.  It is never too late to increase your physical activity . It can be one of the best presents you give to your future self.  

Sources:

Galloway, A and Starnes, J. Advance Directives. University of Tennessee Extension at https://farmlandlegacy.utk.edu/pubs/AdvancedDirectivesSP743C_Gray.pdf

Iowa State University Extension (2016) 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet. at https://iastate.app.box.com/s/nwecdndbm5ighioz3suu

Iowa State University Extension (2016) Meal Planning Calendar. at https://iastate.app.box.com/s/6a073s9g34gfia0thev88mu1bp4rzfw2

Kansas State University Research and Extension Department of Human Nutrition. Vary Your Protein Recipe Series. at https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/humannutrition/nutrition-topics/eatingwell-budget/meals-documents/VYPRecipeBook.pdf

McCoy, J. Family Meetings Foster Good Communications. University of Illinois Extension Parenting Again Newsletter Issue 29. at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/grandparents/article.cfm?ID=5171&IssueID=5213

Rapaport, L. (2019) Maintaining or starting exercise in middle life tied to longer life at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-fitness-middle-age/maintaining-or-starting-exercise-in-middle-age-tied-to-longer-life-idUSKCN1UC2E9

Rivette, C. (2013, June 15) Planning ahead: Power of attorney – part 1. Michigan State University Extension at https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/planning_ahead_power_of_attorney_part_1

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/board-school-forward-front-2525247/

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

Reviewed by: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Belmont County

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/

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

Family enjoying a meal together

Family Mealtime

December 3rd is Family and Consumer Sciences Day.   The theme for the 2019 “Dine In” for Healthy Families is, “Neighbors as Family”. This December, I encourage you to host a “Dine In” meal with your neighbors of choice. This might be neighbors in an apartment, college dorm or friends from across town. Your “neighbors” might be people you see regularly from work, the gym or other community settings. Your meal can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Interested? Look at the meal prep tips and recipes listed below.

Why should you say “YES” to Family Mealtime?

A “family meal” is when the people you live with or consider “neighbors” come together to eat and talk. Why should you add this to your routine?

  • Eating together can be an opportunity to have conversations with family and friends.
  • Regular family meals create a routine that may help children feel more secure.
  • Eating together can provide the opportunity to teach and learn basic food preparation skills.
  • Make it a positive place for conversation – place your devices (phone, tablets, etc.) away from the table. Focus on positive interactions with those at your table. Not sure what to talk about? Iowa State Extension shares Mealtime Conversation Starters to help you get started.

Would you like some ideas to help you get started on the Meal Prep side of things?
Here are a few tips for prep day:

  • On your meal prep day, focus first on foods that take the longest to cook: proteins like chicken and fish; whole grains like brown rice, quinoa; dried beans and legumes; and, roasted vegetables.
  • Also consider preparing staple foods that everyone in the family enjoys and which you can easily add to a weekday meal or grab for a snack: washed greens for a salad, hard-boiled eggs, a bowl of chopped fruit, cooked beans.
  • If you prefer not to precook proteins, consider marinating poultry, fish, or even tofu (in the refrigerator) on your prep day so that you can quickly pop them into the oven or stir-fry later in the week.
  • Multi-task! While foods are baking or bubbling on the stove-top, chop vegetables and fresh fruit, or wash and dry salad greens for later in the week.
  • As you find favorite ‘prep-able’ meals, watch for sales and coupons to stock up on frequently used shelf-stable ingredients like pasta, rice, and other whole grains, lentils, beans (canned or dried), jarred sauces, healthy oils, and spices.
    Need more Inspiration? Check out these easy-to-make recipes. 

Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup

 Skillet Lasagna

 Veggie Crockpot Lasagna

 Southwest Shredded Chicken

 Egg Roll in a Bowl

Remember to enjoy time with family and friends. Enjoy conversations over mealtimes. Have fun making the meal. Remember to relax, talk and enjoy the time spent with your “family” – whether it is your family, friends, co-workers or neighbors.

Sources:

“Dine In” With Us! Family & Consumer Sciences Day. https://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home

Mealtime Conversation Cards. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/Mealtime-Conversation-Cards

Writer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewers: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County, powers-barker.1@osu.edu

Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Holiday baking is in full force, and it wouldn’t be the same without the occasional licking of the spoon from the raw cookie dough that so many of us do without thinking! I remember as a child waiting anxiously for my grandma to give me the beater off her kitchen mixer so I could taste her amazing chocolate chip cookie dough. Although many share fond baking memories, there are serious warnings from the CDC and FDA to not eat any kind of raw dough, and for good reasons!

Most people know that the raw eggs used in doughs can contaminate foods with salmonella, but it may come as a surprise that consuming raw flour is associated with E. coli, a serious foodborne illness that can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever. 

Why flour?

Flour is a raw, agricultural product that has not been treated to kill bacteria, germs or other contaminates. According to Leslie Smoot, a senior FDA advisor, “if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.” 

If raw dough is not baked to kill off bacteria or germs, then… bingo…we may consume contaminated food and can get sick. The CDC and FDA have issued many warnings against eating items with raw flour because raw ingredients are meant to be cooked before eating.

It is also important to remember that any dough, not just cookie dough, made with raw flour has the potential to be harmful. Other raw doughs may include breads, pizza, tortillas and even play dough and papier-mâché or ornaments made with flour. 

The risk is real, especially for children under the age of five. Their immune systems may be more sensitive or not yet fully developed, putting them at higher risk for illness. To keep kids safe, the CDC instructs parents to always bake cookies according to directions and keep flour out of kids’ crafts.

During this holiday season remember that there is a reason for cooking raw dough beside the obvious baking that takes place.  If you are one that likes to nibble on raw cookie dough and don’t think you’ll be able to resist, you can heat-treat your flour before baking and try a recipe for edible cookie dough.

Happy baking…and enjoy!

Author: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Say No to Raw Dough! https://www.cdc.gov/features/no-raw-dough/index.html

Tane, S. (2016). How you can safely eat raw cookie dough despite recent recalls. Cooking Light. https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/safe-to-eat-cookie-dough

Turner, T. (2017). Chow Line: Don’t Eat Uncooked Flour. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-don%E2%80%99t-eat-uncooked-flour

Turner, T. (2018). Chow Line: With Holiday Baking Season in Full Swing, a Reminder from the CDC to Just Say No to Eating Raw Dough. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-with-holiday-baking-season-in-full-swing-reminder-from-cdc-just-say-no

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017). Raw Dough’s a Raw Deal and Could Make You Sick. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/raw-doughs-raw-deal-and-could-make-you-sick