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When my March 19th blog Certainty in Uncertain Times posted, I was unsure what was going to happen with my work, my community, our state, or our nation. With so many unknowns, I could not allow myself to go down the road of “what if’s”, so I chose to focus on things I knew were steadfast. Even as I wrote that blog, I realized I have many privileges. I have realized even more over the past several weeks just how fortunate I am.

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While we have learned a lot about Coronavirus and flattening the curve, there are still many unknowns. When will a vaccine be developed? How long will we have to maintain social distancing? Am I or my family going to contract the virus? How will the economy rebound? All these unknowns and more can cause anxiety and other emotions. It is important to recognize and try to manage these thoughts and feelings if we are to move through these challenges.

My husband and I are fortunate to work for organizations that are supportive of their employees and our overall health and well-being. My supervisor checks in with me regularly. We are encouraged to do things to take care of ourselves and our families. Rearranging our work hours if needed, taking time off, engaging in professional development opportunities (virtually of course), adjusting our workloads, and other reasonable accommodations are all possibilities.

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My children are older and can take care of themselves, do their own homework, and even help around the house, so I have been able work from home with little to no interruptions. Some colleagues and many of you have young children who need more time and attention. My kids understand the reasons for all the changes, though they are not happy about them. We have conversations about the different ramifications of our current situation and what the future might look like.

It was no surprise when our governor announced that schools will not resume this year. My high school sophomore daughter is not happy, but she is a high-performing student, so completing school on-line is not really an issue. This is not the case for many. The adjustment for her and my college sophomore son has been the hardest part for me. Neither of them expected to end the year this way, but at least they have two more. For the seniors and their parents, it’s a different story. They have not had the celebrations and the closure that comes from all the “lasts”.

As restrictions are starting to lift in several areas, many people may be anxious about transitioning back to work and back to the usual routines of daily life. I am co-chair of the Work/Life/HR sub-committee of the COVID-19 Transition Team for our college. The concerns of faculty, staff, and students about returning to work or school is critical to our planning. NAMI Ohio gives these tips to help with the transition back to work:

  1. IT’S OKAY TO BE ANXIOUS
  2. GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT
  3. EMBRACE THE RETURN TO STRUCTURE
  4. GET SOME SLEEP, PET YOUR DOG

As our team and thousands of similar groups across the state and the nation begin to plan for a return to work, the health and safety of employees is at the forefront. Many organizations are considering the physical safety of their buildings, as well as the cultural and social aspects of returning to “business as usual.” These are just a few of the things our team will be considering as we provide recommendations to our Dean. While I must consider many unknowns as part of this team, I remain focused on the present and on the things I can do right now to help myself, my family, my colleagues, and my community to continue to be resilient in the face of the challenges we still face.

What have you found effective in coping with the COVID-19 changes?

Writer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County.

Reviewer: Dr. Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). How to Improve Mental Health https://medlineplus.gov/howtoimprovementalhealth.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=april_22_2020

Grabmeier, J. (2020). Survey shows how Ohioans’ views on COVID-19 have evolved. Ohio State News. https://news.osu.edu/survey-shows-how-ohioans-views-on-covid-19-have-evolved/

Harmon, M. (2020). Certainty in Uncertain Times. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences. https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/03/19/certainty-in-uncertain-times/

Johnson, A. (2020). Tips to Manage Anxiety When Returning to Work. NAMI Ohio. https://mailchi.mp/namiohio/helpathome-1389521?e=93084d4f8d

O’Neill, S. (2020). Coronavirus Has Upended Our World. It’s OK To Grieve. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/26/820304899/coronavirus-has-upended-our-world-its-ok-to-grieve

Allen, J. & Macomber, J. (2020). What Makes an Office Building “Healthy.” Harvard Business Review.  https://hbr.org/2020/04/what-makes-an-office-building-healthy

Scammahorn, R. (2020). A Time to Build Resilience. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences. https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/04/27/a-time-to-build-resilience/

How are you feeling today?  Are you overwhelmed, anxious or even feeling lost?   

You are not alone…

Try not to think about events of today, or tomorrow or the next month…only focus on this moment, right now. And in this moment, YOU have the power within to calm yourself with one small thought, touch, or breath. 

There are techniques you can use when you need a moment of calm that you can do anytime, anywhere with no special tools required. Two of my favorites include:

A Simple Touch

Human touch matters. Research shows that our body releases a hormone called, oxytocin, often referred to as the love hormone, when the skin is touched. Have you ever heard about the “20 Second Hug?” When hugged, the body releases oxytocin which provides us with a sense of security, soothes stressful emotions, and sends calm to our body. 

But what if you do not have someone near to hug? Then you can hug your dog or animal! Yes…oxytocin is produced from hugging and petting our animals too! And if you still don’t have anyone to hug there is more good news! Our body does not recognize if someone else is hugging you or you are hugging yourself!  Here’s how:

  • Cup your hands in your face and say “It’s going to be ok” or
  • Cross your arms and give yourself a hug and say “May I be strong.”
  • Put your hand over your heart and say “May I be safe.”

This may feel awkward at first, but the body responds to our self-compassion by physical touch from ourselves or others!  So… hug away when stressed

2. Just Breathing

The “4,7,8 Breath” also known as the tranquilizer or relaxing breath is one of my favorites, because it works! This is the “perfect, portable stress” reliever and can also be done anywhere, anytime, and no equipment needed.  Here’s how:

Steps to the 4, 7, 8 Breath:

  1. Completely exhale through your mouth making a WHOOSH noise.
  2. INHALE through your nose for a count of 4.
  3. HOLD your breath for a count of 7.
  4. EXHALE through your mouth making a WHOOSH sound, for a count of 8.

These 4 steps are considered one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. It is a simple as that…and you are on your way to calm.  By practicing these remarkably simple and easy tools, you will learn to quickly and easily comfort yourself during times to stress.

Here is a fact sheet with these techniques all on one sheet which I hope you will use. Which technique do you think you will try when you need a moment of calm? Do you have any other favorite techniques to share?” I would love to hear from you.

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

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Sources:

Embrace the 20 Second Hug for Better Health – https://enell.com/blogs/blog/embrace-the-20-second-hug-for-better-health

Hugs Heartfelt in More Ways Than One: Harvard Health – https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/In_brief_Hugs_heartfelt_in_more_ways_than_one

Neff, Kristen – Self-Compassion – https://self-compassion.org/

Learning to Keep Calm fact sheet – https://licking.osu.edu/covid-19-resources

Video: Breathing 4,7,8 Breath – https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

 

 

One of my friends posted this quote on her Facebook timeline followed by an encouraging word to use this challenging time to build resiliency.

My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.” – Mizuta Masahide

That quote got me thinking, “Do I even really understand what resiliency is or what it looks like?”  

Resilience is “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens” (English Language Learners Dictionary). This indicates, we are somehow able to achieve a positive impact from a negative experience. So how does this happen? What can I do to build resilience?

Although there are many ways to build resiliency, here are five we can focus on:

  1. Change our perspective. When something bad happens, we should shift our focus away from the negative and try to see the positive in the situation. This is called rewriting our narrative. Instead of seeing the struggles and obstacles, we start to look for the opportunities and the blessings. A hopeful outlook empowers us to expect good things will happen to us.
  2. Practice mindful wellness. Without judgement or self-deprecation, acknowledge what we are feeling. Acknowledging our emotions and the impact it has on our mind, body and spirit brings us more into the present. This way we can use mindful practices such as breathing, imagery, body scan or muscle relaxation to cope with negative emotions as they arise, as well as, fully embrace the moments of joy.
  3. Form a social support network. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests having both inner resources in addition to being active civic organizations or faith-based groups helps us to better handle stressful events successfully. These groups can offer us support, reclaim our joy, and give us peace of mind during a difficult time.
  4. Find a purpose. According to the APA, when we are proactive or task oriented, we are no longer a bystander waiting to see what will happen. We are looking for issues that can be changed and then taking charge of them. We can help others, create new goals for ourselves, and look for opportunities for self-discovery. Finding a purpose can be empowering. 
  5. Be Flexible. Thinking on our feet, going with the flow, and accepting change is a part of life is key to maintaining psychological strength. Accepting that certain goals or ideals may no longer be within our grasp, helps us to focus on the aspects of our lives that we can alter.

Being resilient is more than just one of the above-mentioned skills, it is a holistic outlook that encompasses many possibilities. If you find that one of these suggestions doesn’t work for you, try another one. There is no “one size fits all” solution to coping with adversity. You must find what works best for you and you can realistically incorporate into your life. Just remember, your current pain or misfortune is not your destination, it is just your launching point.

Written by: Dr. Roseanne E. Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County

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

Sources:

Building Your Resilience, (2020). American Psychological Association – https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience

Introduction to Mindfulness – https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Three Ways to Rewrite Your Story and Embrace the Future – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-and-gratitude/201206/three-ways-rewrite-your-story-and-embrace-the-future

References:

English Language Learners Dictionary. (2020) Definition of “Resilience” Retrieved on April 10, 2020 from http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/resilience

Meichenbaum, D., (2012). Roadmap to Resilience: a Guide for Military, Trauma Victims and Their Families. Clearwater Florida: Institute press

Moore, B. (2014). Keys to Resilience. Retrieved on April 10, 2020 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-camouflage-couch/201401/keys-resilience

Sterling, D., (2011). Five Tips to Increase Resilience. Retrieved on April 10, 2020 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ask-dr-darcy/201102/5-tips-increase-resilience

Virelli, R., (2013). Learning to be Resilient. Retrieved on April 10, 2020 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201305/learning-be-resilient

Watson, R., (2012). Three Ways to Rewrite Your Story and Embrace the Future. Retrieved on April 10, 2020 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-and-gratitude/201206/three-ways-rewrite-your-story-and-embrace-the-future

Photo Credit: Image by Susan Cipriano from Pixabay

We have all been impacted one way or another by the Coronavirus pandemic. During a health crisis, taking preventative measures is important. The CDC has listed precautions people should be taking right now. These include washing your hands, staying away from people who may be sick, and protecting your nose and mouth with an appropriate mask. Another way to protect yourself from sickness is keeping your immune system strong, which is your body’s defense against illnesses.

The Cleveland Clinic notes 3 vitamins to boost your immune system:

Vitamin C: found in many fruits especially melons, berries, and citrus, bell peppers, and dark leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, anFresh Vegetablesd spinach.

Vitamin B6: found in chickpeas, green vegetables, chicken, and fish.

Vitamin E: found in spinach, seeds, and nuts.

Additionally, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states these nutrients listed will also help boost your immune system:

Vitamin D: found in fortified milk and juice, eggs, and fatty fish.

Zinc: found both in animal and plant sources such as meat, beans, tofu, and nuts,

Beta carotene: found in plant foods such a potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and mangos.

Probiotics: found in cultured dairy and fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut.

Protein: both animal and plant-based sources, such as nuts, eggs, meat, beans, and fish.

Eating healthily during a pandemic can be tough but having long-lasting food on-hand is a great way to ensure you and your family are fed when practicing social distancing. There are also ways to focus on consuming the food listed above to keep those immune systems in tip-top shape. Before you stock up on all the frozen and non-perishable foods you can find, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Frozen meals: Be sure those frozen meals include some of the foods listed above, for example fruits and vegetables.

Pasta: Add some razzle dazzle to pre-packaged pasta meals such by adding vegetables to the dish or pair it with your favorites on the side. You can also try this stir fry recipe that includes meat and vegetables with packaged ramen noodles for a yummy twist.

Canned goods: great way to add some fruits, vegetables, and beans to any meal. And make sure your canned soup has vegetables in it for extra nutrients, and always look for the no-salt added version.

Smoothies: Make a smoothie with your favorite frozen fruit and be sure to use a little yogurt and orange juice for some added nutrients.

Snacks: Snacking is inevitable! Snack on things such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds, hummus, raw veggies, and more!

Below are two family fun snack and meal recipes that are sure to give you those nutrients that could give your immune system that extra boost!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Fruit and Veggie Snacks

All in all, you eat your way to a stronger immune system. Note that supplements are not recommended unless necessary. And always consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian first. We will get through this uncertain time together!

About the author: Carmen Bell is a senior Nutrition and Food Science-Dietetics student with a Health and Human Performance minor at Middle Tennessee State University. She is a part of the MT Nutrition Team where she works to provide nutrition education to children, students, faculty, and staff on campus. Beginning summer 2020, she will be an Iowa State University Dietetic Intern and upon completion of the program will continue her process of becoming a registered dietitian. In the future, she will obtain her master’s degree in Leadership in Nutrition and wants to work will all ages on their health.

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

Missing your gym? Not sure you are doing a good job working out? We know being active is important as it: reduces our risk of illness, reduces stress levels, and helps us sleep better. It’s probably more of a challenge now for many. My home does not have the machines and all the weights I used at the gym. I ask myself am I getting in a good workout? 

You may have received some online links you can use for working out. I have found some work better than others for me. When I started looking to find some good programs, I discovered some gyms are allowing anyone to use their online workouts right now. Check out the free online videos from the YMCA. They have a variety of types and offer categories for different levels of fitness and/or ages. If you choose one that is too hard, you can always modify it to fit your fitness level by slowing down your tempo or doing less repetitions. Check with your health care plan as some are offering free online options right now. If you have not been working out in the past, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before you start a new routine. 

Your workout routine should optimally include cardio, strength and stability, and flexibility. Getting your heart rate up is the important thing during cardio. Walking in place or dancing can work inside, while running or biking are better suited for outside. If you have a treadmill or bike you are in luck since you can use them anytime in any weather. Since I do not have machines at home, using some inexpensive videos helped me kick up my routine. Besides the above guidelines, the American Heart Association has these suggestions:

CARDIO EXERCISES

feet of person walking up stairs
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Squat Jumps
  • Jogging or Marching in Place
  • Stair-Climbing or Step-Ups
  • High Knees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Star Jumps
  • Burpees

Add some strengthening exercises, to keep muscles and bones strong. Below are some you can do without any equipment:

STRENGTHENING AND STABILITY EXERCISES

Person doing a push-up starting in the top position and then at the bottom position
  • Plank and Side Plank
  • Pushups or Modified Pushups
  • Sit-Ups or Crunches
  • Hip Lift or Bridge Position
  • Triceps’ Dips on a Chair
  • Lunges
  • Squats or Chair Position
  • Wall Sits

Check out the American Heart Association handout as you can do the above exercises as a circuit to incorporate cardio and strengthening into the same day.  Don’t forget to stretch after you warm up with some light walking in place perhaps, and before you really start exercising, then finish your session with some stretches. After a workout is the best time to stretch since your muscles are warmed up.

To increase your flexibility, try some Yoga, Pilates, or a similar type of workout. It seems as we get older, we are not as flexible as young kids. I don’t know how or when I lost it, but I can’t do what my granddaughter does. Flexibility is important to reduce our risk for injuries, so make sure you make time for it.

Our Live Healthy Live Well team is offering a one-time online session on exercising at home without any equipment.  Please join us on Thursday, April 30 at 12:30 pm at osu.zoom.us/j/93822958724                                             

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

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension

References:

American Heart Association. (2018). https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-infographic

American Heart Association. (2020). https://www.heart.org/-/media/aha/h4gm/pdf-files/home_choose_circuit_workout_infographic.pdf?la=en&hash=91B1E339932789FB796B6E5D28100F87E5B48DF6

Department of Health and Human Services. What’s Your Move? https://health.gov/themes/custom/healthgov/src/microsite_resources/myw_microsite/pdf/PAG_MYW_Adult_FS.pdf

Nieman, D. C. (2011). Moderate Exercise Improves Immunity and Decreases Illness Rates. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 5(4) 338-345. Available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1559827610392876

YMCA.  (2020). NewsCenter. Available at:   https://www.ymcasd.org/about-y/news-center/general-health-membership-miscellaneous/virtual-membership-work-out-anywhere-anytime

pinwheel

COVID 19 has added stress to our lives in a way that just a few month’s ago was unimaginable. Now more than ever, it is important for parents to take care of themselves so they can take care of their children. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We know that when families are experiencing stress, children are more likely to be abused or neglected.

Protective Factors are “conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities”. Strengthening Families identifies 5 Protective Factors to help families build resiliency and support:

  1. Parent Resilience: No one can eliminate stress from parenting, but building parental resilience can affect how a parent deals with stress.
  2. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Having accurate information about raising young children and appropriate expectations for their behavior help parents better understand and care for children.
  3. Social and Emotional Competence of Children: A child’s ability to interact positively with others, to self-regulate, and to effectively communicate his or her emotions has a great impact on the parent-child relationship.
  4. Social Connections: Friends, family members, neighbors, and other members of a community provide emotional support and concrete assistance to parents. Social connections help parents build networks of support.
  5. Concrete Support in Times of Need: Parents need access to the types of concrete supports and services that can minimize the stress of difficult situations, such as a family crisis, a condition such as substance abuse, or stress associated with lack of resources.

We all face challenging times in our lives, but when we have supports in place, we have the tools we need to accept, adapt or overcome them.  Building your own resilience is one way to support your child because it gives them stability and confidence in knowing that they can rely on you. Creating this type of environment for your child makes them feel safe and builds self-reliance, problem solving and self-regulation which are skills they will use throughout their lives. For more about resilience check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r8hj72bfGo.

For ideas and strategies to maintain your sanity and support your children during the pandemic, check out this Parent’s Guide to Surviving COVID-19 from the Brookings Institute or these resources from our co-workers at Iowa State University Extension https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/disaster-recovery.

Writer: Heather Reister, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Sources:

Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Strengthening Families (2018). About Strengthening Families and the Protective Factors Framework. https://cssp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/About-Strengthening-Families.pdf

Gail Innis, Protective Factors: What are they and how can they help families? February 17, 2014, Michigan State University Extension, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/protective_factors_what_are_they_and_how_can_they_help_families

A toddler sitting in the grass with plastic Easter eggs

Yesterday was Easter. Under normal circumstances, my family would gather at my grandparents house in observance of the holiday for an after-church lunch, and then an egg hunt for the little ones. This year was noticeably different. My husband and I watched a live-streaming church service from home and then ate lunch in our kitchen with our 1 year-old son. We did, however, take our son out for his first egg hunt! My grandparents watched from their porch while my husband and I helped our son find eggs they “hid” in their yard.

Reflecting on Easter 2020, I found the activity of naming gratitude and loss to be a helpful way to identify and process the various emotions I have experienced this season. We all have experienced loss this season, with some losses being bigger than others. Many have felt the impact of canceled vacations, sports seasons, concerts and other events. Some have lost loved ones. Family traditions and celebrations for holidays, birthdays, weddings and other events have been modified. It is normal and natural to experience grief associated with these losses. Naming your losses is a way to identify and validate the emotions you feel as you grieve.

Don’t stop with naming losses, however; take time to make a list of things for which you are grateful as well! Pairing a list of gratitude with your list of losses does not minimize the impact of your loss, and it can help you remain hopeful and optimistic during difficult times. Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact of gratitude practice on overall health, ability to cope with stress and outlook in general.

In my reflection regarding this holiday weekend, I took time to appreciate the opportunity I had to visit with my grandparents, even though it was a non-traditional visit. My son is happy and healthy, which is a true blessing.

What are you grateful for this season?

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

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu

Sources:

Griffin, B.R. (2020). Naming loss and gratitude with young people in these uncertain days. Fuller Youth Institute. https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/naming-loss-and-gratitude-with-young-people

Miller, K.D. (2020). 14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science. https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-gratitude/