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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

For better and for worse, we all inherit particular characteristics from our parents. Maybe it’s our mother’s eyes, or maybe our father’s temper. Some of that is directly the result of the DNA we’ve received, and some of it comes from the influence they exerted in our environment. When it comes to our health and wellness, it can be challenging to determine whether nature or nuture has more of an impact. In some cases, it may not really matter. But when it causes you to feel powerless or apathetic about how much you can change your condition, it definitely matters.

Results of a long-term study were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology. The study tracked data on more than 2,500 Americans who were followed from young adulthood in 1985 to 2010. One of their findings is that body mass index (BMI) as a young adult appears to be the best predictor of long-term obesity risk.

There have been other studies that have identified certain genes that have been shown to contribute to a person becoming overweight and obese. There are rare inherited causes of obesity, but this is not the case for most of the population. This recent study suggests that knowing our BMI is more beneficial than purchasing a genetic test.

Hopefully, this research can empower people to know that being obese doesn’t have to be someone’s destiny. Their healthy lifestyle choices – the foods they eat, their portion sizes, and physical activity – can result in a better quality of life.

As I reflect on my childhood, I watched my mother struggle with her weight. At one point in my early adolescence years, she lost a significant percentage of her body weight. This was mainly the result of strict dieting with little change to physical activity. Within a few years she had gained it all back and even more. She was obese for most of the years that I remember her.

My mom had a massive heart attack when she was 59-years-old. It forever changed my life and my brother’s life. She enjoyed being a grandmother to my son for 18 months, but her three granddaughters were born after her death.

None of us  know what the future may bring. We do know that research shows being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers. The healthy steps we take to reduce and maintain our weight can mean a better quality of life for us and for our families. May this be an encouragement today that you can make changes in your life, even if you need a little help.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013) Genes and obesity. at https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/resources/diseases/obesity/obesedit.htm

HealthDay: News for Healthier Living (2020) What matters more for obesity risk, genes of lifestyle? at https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/obesity-health-news-505/what-matters-more-for-obesity-risk-genes-or-lifestyle-753678.html

Live Healthy Live Well Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences (2019) Make healthy fast food choices. at https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/03/make-healthy-fast-food-choices/

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2020) Aim for a healthy weight. at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/

“Polygenic Risk, Fitness, and Obesity in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study,” JAMA Cardiology. DOI: 10.1001/jamacardio.2019.5220

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (2020) Nonsurgical weight management. at https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/weight-management/weight-management-nonsurgical

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/push-ups-exercise-fitness-workout-888024/

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

Good Mental Health is a Precursor to Good Physical Health

It’s no secret that our society is living longer.  Based on the U.S. 2017 Census Report, by 2040 the number of individuals 85 years old and over are projected to increase by 129%.  The thought of my friends and family living longer is certainly appealing to me.  However, with the aging process comes added physical and mental health concerns for caregivers.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the most common chronic physical conditions aging adults experience include:

            Health Disease

            Cancer

            Chronic bronchitis or emphysema

            Stroke

            Diabetes mellitus

            Alzheimer’s disease

Many of us are familiar with the physical conditions but did you know, mental conditions can be just as debilitating if not treated?  Mental health issues are often overlooked or viewed as a “normal” part of the aging process.  Let’s be clear, mental health problems are not a normal part of aging and should not be overlooked!  One in four (6 to 8 million) older adults age 65 or older experiences a mental health disorder and the number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030.  The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and depression/bipolar. 

Good physical health is a precursor to good mental health and good mental health is a precursor to good physical health.  To age at our full potential, we must place the same value for treatment of mental conditions as we do on physical.  Recognizing the warning signs and seeking treatment can improve quality of life.  Signs and symptoms can vary but examples include:

            Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

            Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

            Increased worry or feeling stressed

            Anger, irritability or aggressiveness

            Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain

            A need for alcohol or drugs

            Sadness or hopelessness

            Suicidal thoughts

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Engaging in high-risk activities

            Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

            Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

            Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself or a loved one, please make an appointment to discuss these concerns with your doctor.  Treatment works and the earlier the intervention the better the outcome for recovery and improved quality of life. 

Please remember if you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.  Both hotlines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls/texts are confidential! 

Written by: Lorrissa Dunfee, M.S., Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University

Reviewed by: Emily Marrison, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Older Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness – The State of the Behavioral Health Workforce. store.samhsa.gov/system/files/new_older_adults_living_with_serious_mental_illness_final.pdf.

“Older Adults.” Older Adults | Healthy People 2020, http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/older-adults.

“Behavioral Health for Older Adults: Mental Health.” NCOA, http://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health/.

“Older Adults and Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/older-adults-and-mental-health/index.shtml.

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/

a computer screen that reads "goals for 2020"

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Perhaps you vowed to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking, save money or get organized. According to John C. Norcross, a psychology professor who studies resolutions, about 40% of Americans make resolutions each year. Six months into the year, in Norcross’ studies, about 40% of those individuals have kept their resolutions. Norcross says that those who believe in themselves are 10 times more likely to change a behavior with a resolution, compared to non-resolution makers.

Setting a SMART goal is one way to set yourself up for success – and increase your belief in yourself – if you happened to make a resolution this year. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. In August, I posted a blog detailing a SMART goal I set for myself regarding physical activity. However, you might choose to write a SMART goal for a behavior in any of the nine dimensions of wellness. In her blog “How Well are You?” my colleague Misty explores these dimensions of wellness and suggests small and simple steps you might take to improve your wellbeing in any one dimension.

Some of my other colleagues have shared fun and creative SMART goals to improve wellbeing in these various dimensions:

Bridget set a goal to refrain from purchasing any new clothes for three months, as a way to improve her financial wellbeing.

Emily set a goal of completing a 5K race each month of the year in 2020, as a way to improve her physical wellbeing.

Alisha recently wrote a blog about her “Kindness Boomerang” resolution in which she set out to complete a daily act of kindness to improve emotional and social wellbeing.

Which dimension of wellness do you want to work on this year? Consider setting a SMART goal to set yourself up for success. I know that for me, writing a SMART goal and sharing it with others was a way to make myself accountable to working toward that goal!

Sources:

Harmon, M. (2017). How Well are You? Live Healthy, Live Well. https://livehealthyosu.com/2017/08/18/how-well-are-you/

Hetter, K. (2020). How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/01/health/keeping-new-years-resolutions-wellness/index.html

Lobb, J. (2019) Reclaiming Fitness. Live Healthy, Live Well. https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/08/22/reclaiming-fitness/

The Ohio State University, Student Wellness Center. Nine Dimensions of Wellness. https://swc.osu.edu/about-us/nine-dimensions-of-wellness/

Stanford BeWell. Achieving your SMART health goal. https://bewell.stanford.edu/achieving-your-smart-health-goal/

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

Reviewed by: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Growing a Good Heart

Food, specifically plant food, can be used as medicine to help reduce or lower your risk for certain diseases. One is heart disease. Two of the risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can be influenced by your food choices. If you are currently trying to lower one or both of those without having to resort to medication, you might want to try eating more plant foods.

Plant foods contain two different kinds of fiber. To lower your cholesterol, you need to consume more of the type we call soluble fiber. Soluble fiber combines with liquid in your stomach to make a gelatinous mixture that helps trap waxy particles of cholesterol. The mixture then proceeds through the digestive tract and leaves your body when you have a bowel movement. The most well-known source of soluble fiber is oats. Five to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day decreases your LDL cholesterol.

Other good sources of soluble fiber include dried beans and peas, nuts, barley, apples, pears, carrots and brussels sprouts. One excellent (but non-food) source of soluble fiber is psyllium, which is a plant used to make products that relieve constipation. One spoonful mixed in and cooked with your oatmeal everyday will do wonders for your cholesterol levels.

When it comes to lowering blood pressure, the first and most well-known food change you can make is to reduce the amount of sodium you eat. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain low amounts of sodium, which is a start in the right direction. But they also contain large amounts of potassium, a mineral that helps negate the bad effects of sodium. 

You should also try to consume 3500-4700 milligrams of potassium every day to help lower your blood pressure. However, taking potassium supplements is generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure.  A variety of potassium-rich foods should be eaten daily. The most well-known one, but actually not the best, is a banana.  Other good sources include potatoes (sweet and white), melon, peaches, raisins, tomatoes, pumpkin, and pears.

Many of the plant foods listed above are native to Ohio. Even though our availability of fresh, local produce is severely limited right now, start thinking about this spring. It is never too early to start planning for a garden. Growing at least part of your produce (even if it is just tomatoes and peppers) will give you superb tasting food that will help you maintain a healthy heart.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Sources:

Brinkman, P. (2017). Potassium. Ohio Line. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5588

Harvard Health Letter (2019). Should I take a potassium supplement?https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-i-take-a-potassium-supplement

Mayo Clinic (2018). Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192

If you live where it’s cold in the winter or in the hot desert, dry skin can be irritating and a problem.  Dry air can cause those fine lines to be more noticeable. Some areas of dry skin will itch, flake, crack and even bleed especially around fingernails.

What can you do to help prevent and heal dry skin areas?  The American Academy of Dermatology have these tips: 

  1.  Prevent showers and baths from drying out your skin more.  Follow these tips:
    • Keep your bathroom door closed when showering
    • Limit your shower or bath to 5 to 10 minutes
    • Use warm water instead of hot water
    • Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser
    • Apply only enough cleanser to remove oil and dirt. A big lather indicates you are using too much.
    • Blot your skin gently dry with your towel
    • Put on moisturizer immediately
    • Apply Moisturizer within a few minutes of washing and drying off.
    • Use a cream or ointment rather than a lotion. These are less irritating and more effective.  Look for one that contains an oil such as jojoba oil or olive oil.  Shea butter is another one that works well.  Ingredients that help to soothe dry skin include hyaluronic acid, urea, lactic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum. 

Keep some hand cream with you and apply it after each hand washing.  This can help relieve dry skin.  

  • Choose and use a lip balm that feels good on your lips.  Some may irritate or sting when applied, avoid using those. 
  • Use gentle, unscented skin care products.  Avoid products with alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) or deodorant soaps, when your skin is dry.
  • Wear gloves when doing dishes, cleaning, or going outdoors in the winter.  You can reduce your risk of dry, raw skin on your hands.
  • Wash clothes in a non-irritating laundry detergent.  If you have problems, look for a laundry detergent labeled “hypoallergenic.”  Try wearing cotton or silk under your clothing, especially when wearing wool or other material that is rough.
  • Don’t cozy up to the fireplace or a heat source as they can dry out your skin.
  • Use a humidifier if your room air is dry. Heating cold air can dry the moisture out of the air making it dry. 

If you try these tips and they don’t help, please contact your health care provider or a dermatologist to get relief from dry skin. 

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

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension

References:

American Academy of Dermatologists. (2019). Dermatologists’ Top Tips for Relieving Dry Skin.  Available at https://www.aad.org/skin-care-basics/dermatologists-tips-relieve-dry-skin?utm_term=Dermatologists%27%20top%20tips%20for%20relieving%20dry%20skin&utm_campaign=9%20skin%20care%20changes%20to%20relieve%20dry%20skin&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email&cm_mmc=Act-On%20Software-_-email-_-9%20skin%20care%20changes%20to%20relieve%20dry%20skin-_-Dermatologists%27%20top%20tips%20for%20relieving%20dry%20skinMayo Clinic, (2019). Dry Skin.  Available at https://www.aad.org/skin-care-basics/dermatologists-tips-relieve-dry-skin?utm_term=Dermatologists%27%20top%20tips%20for%20relieving%20dry%20skin&utm_campaign=9%20skin%20care%20changes%20to%20relieve%20dry%20skin&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email&cm_mmc=Act-On%20Software-_-email-_-9%20skin%20care%20changes%20to%20relieve%20dry%20skin-_-Dermatologists%27%20top%20tips%20for%20relieving%20dry%20skin