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I recently re-read an older study that found those who had watches had higher levels of stress and heart disease. The conclusion was that those who checked their watches were more worried about being places, being on time, etc. This study reminded me of my behavior when I lost my watch, and felt lost for a while. In fact I kept checking my wrist to see what time it was. I can’t say that I was less stressed without my watch, or at least from my recollection. I wondered if the watch example relates to other monitoring, or checking activities we do every day like weighing ourselves, setting alarms, checking e-mails, getting dings on each new text, traffic alerts of a broken down car ahead, using a steps counter, monitoring heart rate, sitting time, blood pressure, or blood sugars? There are even devices that measure stress! Are all of these “feedback” devices important and necessary to our health and quality of life?

As a type 1 diabetic, I check my blood glucose about 3 times per day and make adjustments to what I eat, do, or how much insulin I take. I’ve been considering a continuous blood glucose monitor that will check my sugar automatically every 5 minutes so that I would be better able to manage diabetes. It should make me healthier, right? This watch study keeps popping into my mind as I contemplate purchasing this device. I should have better blood sugar levels, but what about my stress? Will my obsession with blood sugars numbers outweigh any gains with improved bio-metrics?

Like anything in science, we have to be careful about overgeneralizing one study and applying the results to other things in life. Comparing the stress of obsessing over time to blood sugar monitoring might be a stretch, but I think we need to be concerned about the broader context of the impact of technology on our mental health. Is it really important to know how many steps I got in before noon, or the sleep patterns that a Fitbit monitors? Do all of these things help us be healthier, or more stressed, and prone to anxiety and depression?

Mental health experts are all asking these very questions. Mindfulness exercises might be an approach that can help us deal with the frenzied pace of life, and the constant feedback that many of these devices offer. Mindfulness is a mind and body practice that centers on the connections between the brain, mind, body and behavior. Benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Decreased stress and anxiety and rumination
  • Improved attention, memory and the ability to focus
  • Reduced chronic pain
  • Increased immune system
  • Relationship satisfaction and promotion of empathy and compassion

Take a break from your  “devices” and practice the following:

  • Breathing exercises can be done individually, or by listening to an instructor or an audio guide of a breathing exercise. Unlike when breathing is an automatic function, this mindful technique encourages taking a moment to be present, and focus on completely inhaling and exhaling air in and out of the lungs. Afterwards, this exercise usually leads to the healthy default of deeper, slower breathing.
  • A Body Scan simply means noticing each part of the body without judgement. It can be done sitting or lying down and helps with awareness of each part of the body and how it feels at the moment.
  • Imagery exercises help picture a calming place for relaxation. This technique, also called visualization, focuses on a positive mental image to replace negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation includes tensing and relaxing different muscle groups of the body to decrease physical tension in the muscles. The tensing and releasing encourages letting go of physical stress.
  • Yoga, tai chi or other physical activity that helps focus on the body and current movements offer a physical focus on the meditation. They offer physical benefits as well as mental relaxation.
  • Mindful Eating promotes taking the time to slow down to enjoy food by using all the senses. This can encourage feelings of gratefulness, fullness and greater enjoyment of food.

Consider other stress management techniques and consider taking “digital device holidays,” immerse yourself in nature, go hiking, camping but be sure to unplug every now and then. Take off your watch, step counter, turn off your phone, TV, computer, and everything else that involves electronics. Set a goal to unplug a few times a week or month.

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

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

References:

Heer, C. & Rini, J. (2016). OSU Factsheet HYG 5242 “Stress Coping Methods” found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5242

Levine, R.V., Lynch, K., Miyake, K. et al. J Behav Med (1989) 12: 509. doi:10.1007/BF00844822

Powers-Barker, P. (2016).  OSU Factsheet HYG-5243-0 “Introduction to Mindfulness” found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243-0 

What do the grapefruit, tapeworm, cotton ball, and baby food diets all have in common? They do not work long-term and some of these diets can be extremely dangerous.  With fad diets quick and hefty weight loss may be experienced, but the pounds tend to come back and lead to greater gain.  A healthy lifestyle need not be difficult and not cause additional stress.  One healthy eating pattern that is not a “diet,” is the Mediterranean diet, and it can become a positive lifestyle.

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May is International Mediterranean Diet Month, a promotional campaign since 2009, and was started by the Oldways Mediterranean Foods Alliance. Unlike fad diets, the Mediterranean diet is good for you, and it can help reduce the risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.medppyramid

The image shows that being physically active is an important part of this diet.  In addition, the base of the pyramid includes: fruits, vegetables, grains (mostly whole), beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices and olive oil. Every meal should include foods from this section.

Fish and seafood have heart healthy benefits and are an important part of the Mediterranean diet as well.  The diet calls for fish and seafood at least twice a week.  Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt can be consumed anywhere from daily to weekly.  Red meats and poultry are at the top of the pyramid indicating they should be consumed less often.  Water and wine are also a part of the diet.  Wine can be consumed in moderation; however, it is not recommended that a person who does not currently consume alcohol start.  Wine can have some health benefits that include heart health and cancer prevention.  Foods at the top of the pyramid should be eaten less, because they may have higher fat, sugar, and sodium. med3

Healthy fats from fish, seafood, and oils are a big part of the Mediterranean diet.  Opinions on the consumption of fats and oils are always changing. We hear, “Saturated fat is good. Saturated fat is bad. Coconut oil is the perfect fat.”  The science changes so often it is hard to keep up with recommendations.  While recent research shows that saturated fat, including coconut oil, may not be strongly linked to heart disease, it is still suggested that we do not overconsume it.  It does not have any health benefits, and it is low in nutrients. The Mediterranean diet’s recommendation of olive oil relates to its low saturated fat level and being high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats we need.

As with any eating pattern, it is best to start slow. If this healthy plan sounds good, start by making small changes.  Make Monday meatless and consume smaller portions of the meat you do eat.  Choose healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts or seeds.  Eat more fruits and vegetables, and add other healthy options each day or week. After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Sources:

Oldways: Inspiring Good Health through Cultural Food Traditions. International Mediterranean Diet Month. https://oldwayspt.org/programs/mediterranean-foods-alliance/international-mediterranean-diet-month

Today’s Dietitian. Heart-Healthy Oils: They’re Not All Created Equal. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/021115p24.shtml

Image: flickr.com

Written by: Jessica Wright, Intern with Wood County Extension FCS, BGSU Graduate Student in Food and Nutrition, and Susan Zies, FCS Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Wood County.

Reviewed by: Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D. L.D, Program Specialist, SNAP- Ed , OSU Extension Northwest Region Office

Essential Oils 101

essential-oils-1433694_1920Increasingly, I hear friends and relatives talking up the benefits of essential oils. So, what are essential oils, and what makes them so magical?

Essential oils are oils extracted from plants. They come from various plant parts including roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits, although not all plants produce essential oils.

Essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes for centuries, and while there is little published research on them, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 160 essential oils “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) when they are used as intended.

Essential oils have a variety of purposes. They may help with:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Appetite suppression
  • Skin conditions
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • … and more!

If you’re interested in using essential oils, be sure to do your research as you choose which oils to use and how to apply them. Essential oils can be applied to the skin, inhaled or ingested, but methods of application vary in effectiveness and safety from one oil to another. For example, while wound care often involves topical application of oil to the skin, some oils require dilution before topical application or they will cause irritation. Additionally, ingestion is typically not recommended in the United States; oils should not be ingested unless you are directed to do so by a qualified health care provider. If you have children at home, make sure to keep essential oils out of their reach to avoid accidental ingestion. Use extra caution and talk with your doctor before using essential oils around children, while pregnant, or if you have a chronic condition like asthma, high blood pressure, cancer or severe allergies.

If you are new to essential oils and think you’re ready to give them a try, consider starting out by diffusing a common oil such as lemon or lavender throughout a room in your home. Depending on the oil you choose, you may experience its invigorating, relaxing or uplifting aroma while also reaping certain healing properties.

 

Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu

 

Sources:

University of Maryland Medical Center (2011). Aromatherapy. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/aromatherapy.

University of Minnesota (2016). What Are Essential Oils? https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-are-essential-oils.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2016). Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.20.

thunder stormDo you know what to do in a tornado, thunderstorm, fire or flood?  How about your children?  What if you are not home?  Do you have an emergency plan?  These are some difficult questions.  Now is a good time to start teaching your children how to be prepared.

The first step in developing a severe weather safety plan for your family is to determine the potential weather risks for your area. Once the potential hazards are identified, you can begin your plan. This should include:

  • Where to meet. Select a place in your home and practice with the children before a storm comes. If your family is forced from your home, determine an alternate meeting place, such as a school, community center or fire station. Share this information with caregivers as well.
  • Put together a safety and survival kit. You will want to include such things as water, nonperishable food, battery operated radio, flashlight, batteries, and blankets. The National Weather Service provides a detailed list of items you need.
  • Make a “safe place bag” with some items that can console a worried child. Things such as a toy or two, coloring books, a favorite stuffed animal, a couple books, and a battery operated radio/CD player.
  • Determine how you receive weather warnings and track the storm. Purchasing a battery operated weather radio will allow you to monitor the storm.
  • Establish some form of communication. While cell phones are the most likely way to reach loved ones, you also need to consider what to do if cell phone towers are damaged and not functioning.

Research tells us children that come from secure homes and families will be more prepared to tolerate any stressors, including severe weather.  Knowledge and understanding reduces fear, so empowering your children with a plan to react will help help them in a stressful time.  Begin at an early age to talk to children about weather.  Educate them about storms, dispel myths, and discuss reasonable safety measures.  Develop a family weather plan.  It will help them feel more in control and less helpless.

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Janet Wasko Myers, Program Assistant, Horticulture, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, myers.31@osu.edu

 

 

Do you find yourself running from one activity or commitment to another? Do you find it difficult to get everything done on your to do list? Do you get to the end of your week and wonder where it went? If so, maybe it is time to reestablish your priorities.

Many of us wear our busyness like a badge of honor when maybe instead it’s a burden that needs unloaded. Organizational and time management skills can help youcalendar-1868106_640 be more efficient. But even the best time management strategies aren’t enough to tackle a schedule that is just too full. David Goldsmith in his book, “Paid to Think: A Leader’s Toolkit to Redefining Your Future” recommends scheduling only up to 60% of your day. That leaves you a cushion of 40% for interruptions, delays and the unexpected. We tend to be over-optimistic about what we can accomplish in a day. This principle applies to both work and personal life.

There is no easy checklist for finding that balance, but here are some things to consider:

Set priorities… and that means making tough choices… letting something go. Before committing to yet another project or volunteer opportunity or an activity for your child… ask yourself if it fits into the 60% of your life. Does it align with your family’s priorities?

Get on the same page. Make sure your family agrees on priorities. Before you add a big commitment to the family calendar, check with your spouse to avoid unnecessary time crunches.

Realize you cannot do everything. As much as we try to do it all, we have limits. Be realistic with your calendar and your energy level on the number of commitments you have.

Say no. We probably kick oursfamily-2149453_960_720elves more often for saying yes when we should have said no. Such a little word and yet so much power to free up the schedule. There is a great Live Smart Ohio blog for points to consider about overscheduled kids .

 

Keep your focus. Reestablishing priorities is a cyclical process as we go through life. Make sure those priorities show up on your daily to do list, as a way of being intentional about keeping your focus on what is most important.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County

Sources:

Chapman, S & Rupured, M. Time Management: 10 Strategies for Better Time Management (C 1042), University of Georgia Extension, April 2014.

Goldsmith, D. Paid to Think: A Leader’s Toolkit to Redefining Your Future. BenBella Books, Inc., Oct 23, 2012.

I had a recent health issue that reminded me to pause and take time for my health. My knuckle on my right hand hurt and was swollen. Yes, it bothered me every day but I did not think too much about it. I saw a bone and joint specialist and they took x-rays. I was to follow up with them but a different health scare (which required a minor surgery) became the priority for me. That health event turned out fine and I moved on with my life. The holidays came & went and I still had discomfort in my hand. Fast forward to a visit with my primary care office. I mentioned my finger was still bothering me. The nurse practitioner looked in my test results and said, “No wonder it still hurts, your finger was broken”. I went back to the specialist and they buddy taped it to my other finger. My finger feels better but it is still swollen and I tape it most days. I will follow up with the specialist next week and will see the next steps.smallstepsournationshealth_infographic

Why do I share this story? Because even though I spend part of my workday promoting health and wellness through my job as a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, I missed an important health event in my own life. I decided to share this story in hopes that you will make time for your health.

What can we do to improve our health?

  • Eat more veggies and fruit. Research tells us that eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits may help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  • Move more. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. What if you think you don’t have time for 30 minutes? Break it up into 10-minute segments. Add variety to help keep it interesting.
  • Get a family doctor. Center for Disease Control and Prevention fast stats tell us that nearly 88% have a place to go for medical care. That is awesome news! If you do not have a primary care doctor, I would encourage you to get one. They get to know you, your body and illnesses and can assist you in maintaining your health status.
  • Do not ignore your body signals. Just like my broken finger, do not ignore signals from your body. My sister survived a heart attack – even though she had chest pain, she thought it was from her breast cancer reconstruction surgery.

There are other things that we can do to improve our health. Reduce stress, quit smoking, get adequate sleep, control our weight, monitor blood pressure, know our numbers (cholesterol & glucose) and get routine health screenings. Now that I’ve shared my little story, what can YOU do to “Make Time for Your Health”?

Post your comments on this blog.

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

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

Sources:

Cancer Prevention Recommendations,  American Institute of cancer Research.  http://www.aicr.org/can-prevent/what-you-can-do/10-recommendations.html

Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults, American Heart Association. http://heart.org/healthyliving/physicalactivity

Treber, M. (2016) I thought it was just my compression bra, I didn’t think it could be a heart attack. https://livehealthyosu.com/2016/09/06/i-thought-it-was-just-my-compression-bra-i-didnt-think-it-could-be-a-heart-attack/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know many people do not feel like they have the time or space to garden, but they love the taste of fresh vegetables and herbs in the meals that they prepare at home.

Container gardening is a great way to make this possible with minimal expense, space, and time.  This type of gardening is ideal for apartment balconies, window sills, small courtyards, patios, decks, and areas with poor soil.  They provide an ideal solution for people with limited mobility, in rental housing, or those with limited time to care for a larger landscape.  Container gardening is a way to introduce children to the joy of gardening while allowing them to experience the feeling of contributing to family meals with what they harvest.

As you begin to plan and prepare to set up your container garden, there are several things to consider:

  • Containers – clay, wood, plastic, metal5850315405_5156f7292e_n
  • Containers for vegetable plants must:
    • Be big enough to support plants when they are fully grown
    • Hold soil without spilling
    • Have adequate drainage
    • Never have held products that would be toxic to plants or people
  • Sunlight – the amount of sun that your container will get may determine which crops you grow
  • Drainage – no matter what container you choose it is important to consider drainage because plants will not grow successfully in soil that is continually waterlogged
  • Soil – it should be free of disease organisms, insects and weeds
  • Watering – container gardens require more frequent watering than plants that are planted directly in the ground. Evaporation is more likely to occur due the exposed sides of the container
  • Fertilizing – it is recommended that you mix controlled-release fertilizer granules into your soil mix when planting

2826571981_b4c46fb904_nWith appropriate containers and proper handling, anything that can be grown in the ground can be grown in a container.  Texas A & M provides a great resource for those who are considering vegetable gardening.  This information will provide you with support as you begin to set up your container garden.

Did you know that gardeners eat twice as many servings of vegetables as people who do not garden?  This is an added bonus to the joys and benefits of container gardening.

Happy gardening!!!

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

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

Sources:

Colorado University State Extension, http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/container-gardens-7-238/

Texas A & M Agrilife Extension,  http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/EHT-062-vegetable-gardening-in-containers.pdf

University of Illinois Extension, https://extension.illinois.edu/containergardening/choosing_material.cfm

University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6L3FFbKYjlI