Woman holding head
Do you ever feel like a hamster in the wheel just spinning around and around? Or like the world around you is always demanding something more from you? Life has a way of swallowing us up if we don’t manage our schedules. As I look at my monthly calendar, I feel overwhelmed by doctor’s appointments, volleyball games, meetings and more meetings, evening work programs, my daughter’s high school homecoming, house repairs, conference presentations, deadlines, webinars, family obligations, and traveling out of town for work 15 out of 26 days. 

As part of my job, I encourage people to practice healthy time management and stress management. Clearly, I have fallen victim to NOT practicing what I preach. I would like to say without hesitation, that I have not experienced first-hand how life responsibilities and demands can quickly create feelings of stress. That would be a lie. I am keenly aware of the warning signs and symptoms related to increased stress in my life. Like many people, I sometimes choose not to listen to my body’s cues.

Headaches and muscle tension are symptoms I experience when I am overwhelmed. The Cleveland Clinic identifies these other physical symptoms related to stress:

  • Dizziness or a general feeling of “being out of it.”
  • General aches and pains
  • Grinding teeth, clenched jaw
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms
  • Increase in or loss of appetite
  • Muscle tension in neck, face, or shoulders
  • Problems sleeping
  • Racing heart
  • Cold and sweaty palms
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Upset stomach and/or diarrhea
  • Sexual difficulties

Do you know how stress affects you? I encourage you to take some time to identify the signs and symptoms you experience related to stress. Once you know your own warning signs, it will be easier to manage stress. There are a variety of ways to cope with stress.  The key is choosing what works for you and what fits your lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic offers these stress management tips:

  • Get regular physical activity
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or massage
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Set aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music

If you practice healthy stress management techniques but your symptoms continue or worsen, please seek assistance from a healthcare professional. If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available to anyone. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls are confidential.

Written by: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Belmont County, dunfee.54@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu




Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/clause-law-flood-stress-burnout-3213670/

It wasn’t until recently that I came to realize that I most likely experience the winter blues, which is more mild than Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I have never been a fan of fall (I know all of you fall-lovers just took a collective gasp) or winter. In fact, it is more accurate to say I despise them. Up until a few years ago, I never really connected the dots of my dislike of fall and winter to the possibility that I have the winter blues, or perhaps SAD.

In 2017 I became a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor. MHFA is designed to help regular people be able to recognize and better understand if someone they know is developing a mental health issue and how to help them. MHFA also teaches how to respond to someone having a mental health crisis. It wasn’t until I started teaching MHFA that I realized that the symptoms of SAD are similar to things I experience as fall approaches.

While I experience many of the symptoms of SAD, I am still able to enjoy my life and carry out my daily activities. The milder form of SAD is often called the winter blues. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms someone with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may experience include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

While fall and winter SAD are the most common, some people have symptoms during spring and summer. According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms related specifically to fall and winter SAD , also known as winter depression, are:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

The symptoms most often associated with spring and summer SAD, also known as summer depression, are:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

While the exact cause of SAD is not known, there are some factors that may come in to play. According to an article by Rush University Medical Center, these are some of the possible mechanisms:

  • Dips in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
  • Disruptions in circadian rhythms (your body’s internal clock), which help control sleep-wake cycles.
  • Alterations in melatonin, a hormone associated with both mood and sleep.

Some risk factors for SAD include:

  • Family history.
  • Having major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Living far from the equator.

Some treatments for SAD include:

  • Exposure to sunlight.
  • Light therapy.
  • Psychotherapy.
  • Antidepressants.

In addition to these treatments, a University of Rochester Medical Center article gives these steps you can take to help ease symptoms:

  • Get help.
  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression.
  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone.
  • Do things that make you feel better.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs.
  • Delay big decisions until the depression has lifted.
  • Realize that people don’t often snap out of a depression.
  • Try to be patient and focus on the positives.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

So, if you or someone you know experiences either the winter blues or SAD, there is hope beyond the longer, sunny days of spring and summer. Anyone who has severe symptoms should seek professional help, especially if there are ever any thoughts of suicide or harm. I have not sought professional help, as I do not have any severe symptoms. My symptoms mainly involve lack of energy, sluggishness, mild agitation, and cravings. I have made it a point to get more exposure to light, especially earlier in the day, and I try to eat as healthy as possible and be as active as possible. Being proactive in these ways is enough to help ease my symptoms.

Written by:

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

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

Photo Sources:




More Than Just the Winter Blues? Rush University Medical Center. Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2017). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Found on 10/20/19 at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved 10/20/19 from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00755

National Council for Behavioral Health. (2019). Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

A family reading children's books together.
My husband and I reading books with our son.

This past spring, my local thrift store offered a promotion where they gave away a free book to every child who walked through their doors on a specific day in April. While my son and I took advantage of the promotion, only later did I find out that this event was one of many planned across the nation the week of April 29 – May 5, 2019 in observation of Children’s Book Week! I had never heard of Children’s Book Week, but after doing a little research, I learned that this national literacy initiative was established in 1919 to celebrate children’s books and reading. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the initiative, and if you missed the spring celebration, you’re in luck! There is a second week of festivities planned in the fall, from November 4-10, 2019, during which schools, libraries, bookstores and more will offer events to cultivate and celebrate young readers.

Why is it important to encourage young people to read? First of all, reading to and with young children can help them learn language and early literacy skills. A recent study conducted at the Ohio State University, referred to as the “million word gap study”, found that children who are read five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than children who are not read to.

Secondly, researchers are discovering more and more how reading to and with young children can shape their social and emotional development. In a recent study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers found that 3-year olds who were read books while waiting in a doctor’s office were significantly less likely to be aggressive or hyperactive than peers who were not read to. Furthermore, when researchers followed up with those children 18 months later, they found that the observed effects on their behavior had persisted.

When reading to and with children, adults can create opportunities to cultivate emotional intelligence and other positive behaviors in children. When adults pause while reading to ask questions about characters, children learn to think about how others feel and how their actions can impact others.

Books can be used to encourage other healthy habits in children, too. When I teach nutrition to preschoolers, I often use books to help expose children to healthy food(s) in a positive way. When children see friendly characters trying and enjoying new food, they may be more likely to do the same!

What healthy habits would you like to encourage in your children? Are there specific books you could use to help you do so? Whether you have certain books in mind or not, know that any time spent reading with the children in your life is time well spent. Check out these ideas for more fun ways to celebrate Children’s Book Week and cultivate young readers!

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

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu


Barlage, L. (2019). What are you reading today? Live Healthy, Live Well, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences. https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/08/08/what-are-you-reading-today/

Every Child a Reader (2019). Children’s Book Week: 100th Anniversary Celebration Details. https://everychildareader.net/cbw/100th/

Klass, P. (2018). Reading aloud to young children has benefits for behavior and attention. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/16/well/family/reading-aloud-to-young-children-has-benefits-for-behavior-and-attention.html

Lindquist, S. (2012). Nutrition: Help kids eat better by reading children’s books. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/nutrition_help_kids_eat_better_by_reading_childrens_books

Science Daily (2019). A “million word gap” for children who aren’t read to at home. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404074947.htm

CBD: The Newest Food Craze?

At the start of 2019, in a survey of chefs across the country, CBD-infused food and beverages emerged as the most anticipated food trend for the year. 

Cannabidiol, known as CBD, is a chemical substance found in cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. Unlike Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical substance, meaning it does not create a feeling of euphoria or a “high” when consumed. While marijuana contains high levels of THC, hemp contains high levels of CBD and very low levels of THC. Hemp and CBD have gained much attention since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill which redefined hemp as a legal substance, granted that its THC content is less than 0.3%. In Ohio, Senate Bill 57, which passed in July, allowed licenses for hemp cultivation within the state.

Some individuals use CBD to treat anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, acne and other conditions, although more evidence is needed to support its health claims. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that more investigation is also needed to establish its safety, appropriate dosing, and how it may affect different groups of people such as children, pregnant women, and seniors. Questions about whether too much CBD could be toxic or how CBD may interact with prescriptions medications are largely unanswered. Furthermore, the FDA warns that some companies market products containing CBD in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, so consumers need to beware of misleading or false claims and inaccurate labels. 

If you want to try CBD, do so with caution. If ordering a CBD-infused food or beverage from a menu, know that you are paying extra for an unknown quantity of the substance, and there is limited scientific evidence that it will benefit you. Whether CBD-infused food and beverages prove to be a helpful remedy or another passing fad is yet to be seen. This is a topic worth paying attention to, however, as it holds promise for treating chronic ailments that affect many people across Ohio and beyond.

Written by: Lisa Hillmann, MS, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University

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


Essman, E. & Hall, P.K. (2019). Legal or Not? Growing Industrial Hemp in Ohio. OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program. https://farmoffice.osu.edu/sites/aglaw/files/site-library/HempLaw%20BulletinSept2019.pdf

Grinspoon, P. (2019). Cannabidiol (CBD) – What we know and what we don’t. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476

Hughes, T. (2019). Cannabis food, drinks to be 2019’s hottest dining trend, top chefs say. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/01/10/chefs-cannabis-food-drinks-2019-s-hottest-dining-trend/2520890002/ 

Ohio Department of Agriculture (2019). Hemp is Now Legal. https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/administration/resources/hemp-facts3

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2019). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd#othercbdapproved

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2019). What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis


I’ve heard references to plum pudding at Christmas time for years. If you’ve read or seen Dickens’ work “A Christmas Carol,” then you know he loved to write about food. In this popular holiday classic, Dickens waxed poetic about huge turkeys and flaming plum puddings. Eating plum pudding after Christmas dinner became an English obsession during Victorian times.


Apparently a lot of symbolism goes into this English dessert, but what’s ironic is that it doesn’t even have to contain plums. It looks like a big bee’s nest and contains a mixture of dried fruits and lots of brandy. The closest comparable food item I can compare it to is mincemeat. However, we can have our plums and eat them, too, as eating them fresh or dried is much healthier.


Plums are grown locally and at their peak in early fall. Their claim to fame nutritionally is that they are particularly high in the antioxidants known as phenols. Phenols help undo damage caused by free-radical cells, especially those that damage fats. This isn’t good, as some fats in our body have extremely important functions, and one of them is in our brain cells.


Fat makes up a large percentage of our brain cells (hence the term fathead), and it helps explain why it is so important for children under the age of two to drink whole milk. They need the extra fat to help build their brain cells.


Plums are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C benefits range from building healthy tissue to helping your body absorb more iron to building up your immune system. One antioxidant found in plums that I wasn’t expecting was lutein. Lutein is usually prevalent in plant foods that are yellow or green, so I was surprised to know that plums are a good source of this necessary compound. But that’s because I was picturing plums as purple (the skin), instead of the fruit itself. Eating a food high in lutein helps reduce your risk for developing macular degeneration.


Plums are classified in six different categories, so their size, color, and shape may vary from variety to variety. They contain about 40 calories per plum and are a good source of fiber. Plums are related to the peach family and have a hard, flattish stone pit in the center. If you dry or dehydrate a plum, it turns into a prune. Both plums and prunes can help stimulate your bowels, so keep that in mind if you are trying to prevent or cure a bout of constipation.


Prunes used to be made by letting plums dry on the tree naturally via the sun (like raisins), but now they are dried in forced air tunnels heated by gas. This helps make the fruit more uniform in size. You can eat them “dry” right out of the pouch, or “wet” in a prune juice liquid. I absolutely love dried prunes, they are better than candy.


When it comes to purchasing fresh plums, try to get ones that are ripe and ready to eat. You should be able to squeeze them gently and feel a little give. It they are firm, they can be ripened at home, but if they are picked too soon, they might not have as sweet of a taste. The best time to eat a plum is when it is fully ripened, as that is when it contains the highest level of antioxidants.


Plums, and especially prunes, are sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of fruits; they don’t get a lot of respect. But now that you know how great they are, consider them a much better gift than a plum pudding!





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


Too busy?  Late for a practice?  Another meeting?  Only way to eat is to go through the fast food lane.  Oh well, maybe they will have a quick healthy option.    

fast food meal bag

We know fast foods are usually high in fat, calories and sugar and many are also high in sodium.  Eating these frequently can have long-term consequences on our health increasing our risk of chronic diseases and obesity.  But when you are too rushed for time fast food seems to be the only option.  How can you eat healthy at fast food restaurants?  Some of the restaurants do have some healthier choices. With us buying more healthy choices and asking for additional healthy choices, they may start providing better options.  Start now to make healthier choices by following these guidelines:

  • Fill up your sandwich, salad, or bowl with vegetables, whole grains, beans, and/or seafood or other low-fat proteins.  Limit sugary items and high-starch items.
  • Aim for getting whole grains.  This is not easy as many fast food restaurants do not offer any whole grain options. For breakfast choose oatmeal. Other meals ask for a whole-grain bun or wrap.  The more people ask, the more likely it will appear on the menu. 
  • Small portions– choose the smallest portions.  Calories add up quickly.  Check out the calorie amounts on sandwiches, French fries and other fried food. Go with the smaller portion. 
  • Think non-sugary drinks.  Order water, low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, plain coffee, or sparkling or mineral water. Avoid the sodas, super coffee drinks, milkshakes and other sweetened drinks. Many have 600+ calories.   
  • Favor healthy side dishes.  Instead of French fries pick a side salad with low-fat dressing, baked potato, mini-carrots, fruit bowl or a fruit and yogurt option to your meal.  You can change a kid’s meal to have a fruit bowl, applesauce or sliced fruit.  At some places you can choose an apple, orange, corn on the cob or baked potato chips. 
  • Opt for grilled items instead for fried.  You will cut calories and fat.
  • Opt for a green salad with grilled chicken, shrimp, or vegetables.  Only add half the salad dressing or use on the side.  This will cut back on added fat, salt and sugar.  Skip salads in deep-fried shells or with breaded or fried ingredients.  To cut the calories reduce or skip the cheese and croutons. 
  • Decide to eat healthier.  You don’t have to take what comes with your sandwich or meal.  Ask for healthier options and substitutions. Busy day ahead, pack some mini-carrots and fruit, buy a salad or small sandwich, and you have a healthy meal. 


Salad with chicken, strawberries, nuts, oranges. Seasonal foods.
Seasonal Salad

If you see few or very limited healthy options at your favorite fast food restaurant, ask for them. The more people who ask for them the more likely the restaurant will provide some healthier options.  Calories add up quickly at fast food restaurants, so keep portions small. Enjoy your meal!

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



Sparks, D. (2019) Fast Food: Tips for choosing healthier options.  Mayo Clinic.  Available at https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/fast-food-tips-for-choosing-healthier-options/

Tufts University. (2018). Healthy Fast Food Choices?  Health & Nutrition Letter, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, 36(12). 1&3

Jiao, J; Moudon, AV; Kim, SY; Hurvitz, PM; Drewnowski, A.  (2015).  Health Implications of Adults’ Eating at and Living near Fast Food or Quick Service Restaurants. Nutrition and Diabetes 5(7) e171. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4521173/

Healthy Brain Aging

Older sitting at table playing card game

Nutrition and physical activity are key components to a healthy lifestyle. However, mental activity is another factor that plays an important role in a healthy lifestyle, as well as healthy brain aging. Mental activity maintains cognitive health. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are things we can do be doing to help reduce the risk of dementia and promote healthy brain aging. This includes staying physically active, eating a well balance diet, not smoking or drinking alcohol, getting adequate sleep, and exercising your mind.

Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and bananas in container on counter

First, I’ll zone in on diet and foods to add that are especially important for brain health. Foods to encourage include: berries, fresh vegetables (especially leafy greens), healthy fats (almonds, cashews, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil), and fish/seafood. Berries make a fruit parfait colorful and appealing, yet nutritious. Top your favorite oatmeal with some almonds or walnuts for some plant-based protein.  There isn’t one “magic food,” but they key is to include a variety of foods and color in your diet each day. Additionally, omega 3 fatty acids have been extensively researched and their positive impact on brain health should not be ignored. Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming ~8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood. If fish isn’t your favorite, other source of omega 3 fatty acids that promote healthy brain aging are walnuts, olive oil, canola oil and flax seed.

Not only is diet important for healthy aging but exercising your mind by challenging yourself is optimal for healthy brain aging. One strategy to sharpen your mind is to keep learning. Harvard Medical School indicates advanced education may be beneficial to a stronger memory by habitually being mentally active. Mental exercise is thought to activate processes that help to maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. In addition to taking on a new class, one could read or listen to a book, play chess, do Sudoku or crossword puzzles, play games, learn a new language, or cook a new recipe.

Whenever I go to visit my 94 year old grandma, we always have to play a game, or two, of Skip-Bo. She enjoys doing any type of puzzles, word searches, and various games.  Not only is it good for her to keep her brain sharp, she’s also able to engage in conversation and socially interact with others. The key is to try new activities that use skills you usually don’t use. Challenge yourself or your family member to think a different way. Maintaining brain connections is a continuing process, so make learning a priority throughout the life span.

In addition to a well-balanced diet, and exercising your brain, sleep is another important factor to consider that promotes healthy brain aging. Again, according to Harvard Medical School, there is a strong link between adequate sleep and cognitive health. Neurobiological processes that happen while we sleep influence our mood, energy level and cognitive fitness. It plays a vital role in memory, as well as enhancing attention, problem solving, and creativity. Try limiting your use of electronic devices before bedtime, as the blue light can interfere with your sleep patterns. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for adults (26-64) and 7-8 hours of sleep for older adults (65+).

As we can see, there are many different factors to consider in order to strengthen our mental skills and memory so we decrease our chances of cognitive delay. This short, two minute video, reminds us that we can keep our brain active by still doing things you love!

Written By: Shannon Smith, RD, Program Coordinator, smith.11604@osu.edu and Susan Zies, M.Ed, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County, zies.1@osu.edu

Reviewed By: Lisa Barlage, M.S., Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County


Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/

National Sleep Foundation, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/

AARP, https://www.aarp.org/