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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

sun shining on a bed of wildflowers

As health restrictions are lifting from the pandemic, I have been able to interact with more people in person. When others ask how I’m doing, I say “fine” … but what I really want to say is “meh.” I’m doing okay… not depressed… but not great either. I find that I really have to psyche myself up for another week of work, and for certain tasks at work and home. I usually rise to the occasion, but it takes a lot of energy to overcome the urge to seek the solitude or even the isolation that I thought I couldn’t wait to escape.

A colleague pointed me to an enlightening article on languishing and it captured so much of what I have felt in the past few months. Psychologists describe languishing as slightly withered, wilted or faded. The pandemic has left a lot of people feeling this way. Initially, the pandemic may have incited feelings of fear, anxiety, dread and paralysis… and as these feelings have faded, they have left languish in their wake.

Emory University Professor Corey Keyes has been publishing about languishing since 2002, but it took the pandemic to bring greater attention to this work. Keyes describes languish as the absence of feeling good about life and lacking purpose or meaning in one’s life. Languish is the middle ground between depression and optimal well-being or flourishing. While depression is clinically diagnosable with the presence of certain behaviors, languish is feeling indifference, emptiness, and stagnation. Keyes’ research found languish to be a predictor of developing depression and anxiety as well as increased risk of suicide attempts. We need to acknowledge and treat languish so it doesn’t turn into depression later, and so we can live our best lives.

How do we move from languishing to flourishing? Thankfully, there are research-backed steps we can take. In fact, there are entire programs at universities dedicated to helping others flourish: The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma, and The Wellbeing at Work project at the University of Notre Dame. Here are some of their highlights:

Name your feelings – It helps to identify emotions and give them a name. Once you identify languish and name it, you can start to deal with it. You might start to notice examples of it all around you in family members, friends, co-workers.

Find your flow – Flow can be described as feeling fully engaged or even engrossed in an activity that motivates and excites you. For me recently, that has been home improvement projects, from the smallest detail like a broken switch plate cover, to larger re-wiring or painting projects. As long as I have something to keep me focused, I can find my flow. As one project concludes, I line up another. Perhaps the activity that will get you into flow is learning something new. The act of learning a new task or skill can engage your brain and sharpen your focus.

Free yourself from disruptions – Give yourself what your brain might be craving: time to become engrossed in an activity and let it captivate you. We find joy and purpose when we can gain a sense of progress on an activity or task.

Focus on a small goal – Is there a goal you can set to increase your skills or strengthen your resolve? Find a challenge that is meaningful to you and commit time to it each day.

Cultivate gratitude – Recognize and savor the good in your present situation. Imagine your best possible self, and volunteer or provide acts of kindness for others to make your best self a reality.

Start wherever you are… and if that is languish, decide to take a small step toward blooming and flourishing. If languish is like a fading photograph, then imagine steps toward flourishing as a color touch-up, bringing vibrancy back into your life. Share your journey with someone, as you just might help them out. It could be refreshingly authentic to answer ‘meh’ next time someone asks how you are doing.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County

Sources:

Grant, A. (2020). There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing. New York Times. Published April 19, 2021, Updated May 5, 2021

Keyes, C.L. (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43(2), 207-222. doi:10.2307/3090197

Keyes, C. L., Dhingra, S. S., & Simoes, E. J. (2010). Change in level of positive mental health as a predictor of future risk of mental illness. American journal of public health100(12), 2366–2371. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2010.192245

VanderWeele, T.J. (2017). On the promotion of human flourishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 31:8148-8156.

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It has been almost a year working from home. I look back on the year and have realized how much I have grown practicing self-care. I am going to be honest I can promote and share self-care practices, but it doesn’t come easy for this mom of four! Looking back on the first few weeks working from home learning all the technology, transitioning the kids to virtual schooling, I remember feeling scattered, unable to focus, nervous, and completely overwhelmed! These feelings made me even more frustrated because I am a working mother of four, and an educator. I take pride in my ability to be flexible and adaptable in any given situation. They now have a term for this feeling, pandemic paralysis, a loss of function or movement of your limbs or an emotional way, where you procrastinate, you can’t move, you can’t act, and you’re not doing the tasks that you need or have to do.

One day in the afternoon when I was feeling overwhelmed, all I could think of was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In our house a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not the literal sandwich that you may be thinking of! I have 12 yr. old triplets and at one time I could hold all three of them in my lap. Since they have outgrown my lap we have come up with a ‘peanut butter and jelly sandwich’. I am the sticky peanut butter and two of them are the slices of bread and then we have the jelly on top! Feeling anxious, I stopped everything I was doing went and laid on my bed and said, “I need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich”, and they came running and we laid there with our legs and arms all intermingled. We giggled, smiled, and talked as we laid there all snuggled together. Afterward I felt so much better. I no longer felt anxious and was able to go back to working.

Did you know when you are hugged it relaxes muscles, increases circulation, and releases endorphins.  This can reduce tension and soothe aches and pains. Hugging increases levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. These are the happy hormones that promote positive feelings like pleasure and happiness which boost our mood and relieves stress and anxiety. Research has shown that hugs can boost immunity, lower stress, increase self-esteem, and reduce depression.

The day I was feeling the need for a hug I had my children. But if you are feeling the need for a hug and have no one to hug, you can trick your brain and give yourself a hug.  By hugging yourself your brain will release the same hormones and you will have the benefits of a warm hug.

How To Hug Yourself:

  1. Wrap your arms around yourself. Bring your left arm across your chest and place your left hand on your right shoulder or upper arm. Bring your right arm across your chest, placing your hand on your left shoulder or upper arm. You can reverse the order, just find a position that is most comfortable for you.
  2. Give yourself a nice big squeeze. Press both arms into your body. Mimic the pressure that you feel when you get a reassuring bear hug.
  3. Hold for as long as necessary. Sometimes a quick hug is all you need, while other times you might want a lingering, gentle hug.

References:

Dunfee, L. (2019). Am I in Control or is My Stress? Live Healthy Live Well Blog, Ohio State University Extension.  Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/04/01/am-i-in-control-or-is-my-stress/

Carter, S. (2021). Overcoming Pandemic Paralysis. Live Healthy Live Well Blog, Ohio State University Extension.  Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/01/28/overcoming-pandemic-paralysis/

Lamburg, E., (2020). Health Benefits of Hugging, Backed By Science.  The Healthy. Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/benefits-of-hugging/

Ocklenburg Ph.D., S., (2018). 3 Surprising Ways Hugging Benefits Your Well-Being, Psychology Today.  Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-asymmetric-brain/201812/3-surprising-ways-hugging-benefits-your-well-being

Written by:  Kellie Lemly, MEd, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Dr. Roseanne Scammahorn, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Darke County, Scammahorn.5@osu.edu

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Lately I have been feeling even more isolated and alone than I did at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have found myself retreating and not reaching out to others in the same ways that I did a year ago. But a couple weeks ago, some friends called and asked me to join them for a small girls’ night out dinner. We safely socially distanced from others, and the four of us enjoyed an evening at a hotel together. THAT event has changed my train of thought. I was feeling bad for myself and feeling very lonely, which is not easy as an extroverted person. But what I realized was that even if I cannot spend time with people physically, I do not have to wait for them to contact me. Connection is a two-way street. I can reach out even while staying “safe”.

Connection looks different in every relationship. Sometimes you have a connection because of chemistry with another. Sometimes it is a “forced” interaction because you are colleagues, in class together, or share a common interest. We communicate through verbal and non-verbal signals that can drive connection or cause disconnection. Social media is also a major form of connection for many of us.

YOU WERE MADE FOR CONNECTION. Even if you are an introverted person, I am sure you still have a small circle of people you trust and who are important to you. Interactions drive our daily lives. Connecting with others helps us remember that we matter. Our brains thrive from connection. 

We were also made to show connection through safe, physical touch. Hugging releases oxytocin* and dopamine* and directly impacts cortisol* levels. It is recommended that we should receive 10 second hugs– 8 a day for maintenance, 12 a day for growth, and upwards of 18 for optimal mental health.

  • Oxytocin promotes feeling of contentment, reduces stress, and promotes bonding.
  • Dopamine is linked to Parkinson’s disease (low levels) and Schizophrenia (high levels). Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. Lack of dopamine can lead to procrastination, self doubt, and lack of enthusiasm.
  • Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood and motivation.

In high stress states it feels like our body cannot contain emotion without someone to hold us. Touch is not a single sense. Having your back rubbed stimulates neurons that release oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol. Vicarious touch can help us to soothe ourselves. A hunger for touch means a need is not met.

We are also our own biggest barrier to connection. We tell ourselves we are okay. We tell ourselves that we can handle it. We tell ourselves we don’t want to bother anyone. I encourage you to please stop doing that to yourself. Think about how you feel when someone reaches out to you and wants to spend time with you. It makes you feel wanted and needed and important. 

Take control of your own well-being. Pick up the phone. Write a letter. Send a text. Make a list of who you miss and start putting “Connect with _____________________” on your to-do list every day. It will make a difference. I know it has for me.

Written by: Jami Dellifield, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Hardin County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Perry County

RESOURCES

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Last year, I transformed into a self-proclaimed bird nerd. The change started in the spring of 2020 when I started working from home because of COVID. I placed my desk next to a window and in April, I noticed a robin building a nest. Watching the robin sit on her nest for hours upon hours was fascinating and I was quickly hooked.

In May, bluebirds visited my suburban backyard for the first time and after putting up a bluebird house, we hosted the pair of bluebirds and their 3 adorable babies several weeks later. I was fascinated by the whole process, from the nesting, feeding, and successful fledging (developing wing feathers that are large enough for flight). I cheered the first day the babies flew out of their box and also experienced sadness when they left their house for good. My sorrow was quickly replaced with joy when a pair of Baltimore orioles passed through for a couple of days. I was enthralled watching the colorful birds eat the grape jelly I set out. Summer brought ruby-throated hummingbirds and warblers. This winter, I am enjoying a barred owl who lives nearby and occasionally graces me with his majestic presence.

Picture of a Barred Owl by Laura Stanton.
Barred Owl
Photo by Laura M. Stanton

Although the joy of birding happens right outside my window most days, whenever possible, I safely visit different habitats to expand the variety of birds to watch. Whether I am inside or outside, I notice so much more than just the birds. I notice positive changes happening within.

The benefits I have experienced from watching our feathered friends have been confirmed by research. Why is birding good for your health? Watching birds:

  • Is a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. Whether you are birding inside or out, you are in the “here and now” which has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improve attention, memory, and focus. In addition, mindfulness can reduce chronic pain.
  • Requires stealth and silence. Spending time in silence lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and enhances sleep. Silence can also be therapeutic for depression.
  • Encourages meditation. During meditation, you eliminate the “noise” in your mind, creating a sense of calm and peace that benefits your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  • Relies on your sense of sight and hearing. A study found that just listening to bird song contributes to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Click here to listen to a sample of common bird songs.
  • Prevents nature-deficit disorder, a phenomenon related to the growing disconnect between humans and the natural world. Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.
  • Benefits your heart. Regular exposure to nature is associated with improvements in cardiovascular disease and longevity.
  • Stimulates a sense of gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Sources
Carter, S. (2016). Nature deficit disorder. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/carter-413osu-edu/nature-deficit-disorder   

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC.

Powers-Barker, P. (2016). Introduction to mindfulness. Ohioline. Retrieved from
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Barred Owl. JPEG file.

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Noises off: The benefits of silence. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from
https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence

Written by Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu

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

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Box of Singulair/Montelukast Prescription Medication

Do you or a loved one take Singulair (generic name is Montelukast) for asthma or allergies? Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged serious mental health side effects related to this popular medicine, prescribed to over 35 million people. The side effects include suicidal thoughts or actions, agitation, hallucinations, and depression. Since March 2020, the medication now requires a Black Box warning, due to the overwhelming evidence of serious mental health side effects.

According to A Guide to Drug Safety Terms at FDA, a black box warning “appears on a prescription drug’s label and is designed to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks.” Medline Plus, a website operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, has the following information about Singulair/Montelukast:

Montelukast may cause serious or life-threatening mental health changes while you are taking this medication or after treatment has stopped. You should call your doctor right away and stop taking montelukast if you experience any of the following symptoms: agitation, aggressive behavior, anxiety, irritability, difficulty paying attention, memory loss or forgetfulness, confusion, unusual dreams, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), repeating thoughts that you cannot control, depression, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness, sleep walking, suicidal thoughts or actions (thinking about harming or killing yourself or planning or trying to do so), or tremor (uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body). Be sure that your family or caregiver knows which symptoms may be serious so they can call the doctor if you are unable to seek treatment on your own.

~ National Institutes of Health

If someone you know takes Singulair/Montelukast, encourage them to contact their doctor to discuss whether they should continue taking the medication.

Benefits vs. Risks
Medicine, whether over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription, has side effects. In the best case scenario, the benefits of any drug should outweigh the side effects. However, the FDA found that the benefits of Singulair/Montelukast often did not outweigh the risks.

To educate yourself about the side effects/adverse reactions of any FDA-approved medication, visit DailyMed, a website maintained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). To help you make the best decisions related to your health, read Think It Through: Managing the Benefits and Risks of Medicines, a guide written by the FDA.

Report Adverse Reactions
If you or a loved one have taken Singulair/Montelukast and have experienced any adverse reactions, you are encouraged to make a report to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. To do this, visit MedWatch to submit a report online or to download a reporting form.

Written by: Laura Stanton, MA, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, MS, CHWC, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu.

Sources:
DailyMed- Singular/Montelukast: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=8c166755-7711-4df9-d689-8836a1a70885#S5.1

FDA requires Boxed Warning about serious mental health side effects for asthma and allergy drug montelukast (Singulair); advises restricting use for allergic rhinitis; Risks may include suicidal thoughts or actions: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-requires-boxed-warning-about-serious-mental-health-side-effects-asthma-and-allergy-drug

Finding and Learning about Side Effects (adverse reactions): https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-information-consumers/finding-and-learning-about-side-effects-adverse-reactions

A Guide to Drug Safety Terms at FDA: https://www.fda.gov/media/74382/download

MedlinePlus- Singulair/Montelukast: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a600014.html

National Institutes of Health: https://www.nih.gov

Singulair (montelukast) and All Montelukast Generics: Strengthened Boxed Warning – Due to Restricting Use for Allergic Rhinitis: https://www.fda.gov/safety/medical-product-safety-information/singulair-montelukast-and-all-montelukast-generics-strengthened-boxed-warning-due-restricting-use

Think It Through: Managing the Benefits and Risks of Medicines: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-information-consumers/think-it-through-managing-benefits-and-risks-medicines

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Towards the end of each calendar year, I contemplate about the upcoming year and think about what personal characteristics I hope to emulate. This year I picked “KIND” as my word of the year and I’ve enjoyed having my “word” as a reminder of how I want to be.

Be Kind words writtten in chalk

Be Kind

The definition of Kindness, according to the Oxford Dictionary is:

Kindness (noun): the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

In this blog, I will share how practicing kindness can enrich your life and some tips to help you get started.

According to a Harvard Health blog, kindness starts with being kind to yourself. This may mean practicing forgiveness, self-care or eating a healthy meal. I encourage you to “think outside the normal” when you consider ways to practice kindness and to start with being kind to yourself.

The “On Our Sleeves” movement focuses on children’s mental health. Their kindness challenge has some simple tips to help you get started. It shares tips for teaching your kids about kindness but remember these suggestions apply to anyone. In my experience, every time I practice kindness, I gain a positive experience in my life.

Practicing kindness can help you in many ways: It can:

  • Help reduce stress
  • Increase your sense of happiness
  • Help reduce negative emotions
  • Help you feel more connected to others

Are you looking for more inspiration? Visit University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center for articles and suggestions for creating good. This 15 minute Loving-Kindness meditation is a wonderful way to strengthen your kindness initiative.

With all these benefits, what are you waiting for?

Please comment below on ways you are practicing kindness.

Sources:

Broderick, M. (2019, April 18). The heart and science of kindness. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-heart-and-science-of-kindness-2019041816447

Loving-kindness meditation(Greater good in action). (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2020, from https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/loving_kindness_meditation

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

Reviewer:    Susan Zies , Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County, zies.1@osu.edu

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About a year ago, I wrote a blog titled Fall: A SAD Time of Year. I talked about my experience with the winter blues, a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I contrasted symptoms of winter blues versus SAD, and I reviewed things you can do to alleviate symptoms. As I write this today, once again I find myself struggling with the change in the seasons. The shorter days, overcast skies, colder temperatures, dying plants, and turning leaves make me yearn for the long, hot, sunny days of summer. I know many people love fall, football, pumpkins and pumpkin spice everything, sweaters, cool temps and everything else this time of year brings, but I dread it.

dark foggy autumn woods

I don’t remember exactly when I started to loathe fall, but it was likely in my early 30’s. Research suggests winter blues or SAD usually begins between the ages of 18 and 30 but can begin at any age. I knew I dreaded fall more and more each year but I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally realized why I dislike fall so much, and it made so much sense. While symptoms of winter blues or SAD usually start in late fall to early winter for most people, I start noticing the effects in late summer to early fall. Summer is my favorite season, so I knowing it is ending likely adds to my earlier onset of symptoms.

man running along the roadside in the country

By the time winter sets in, I have taken steps to help reduce the effects of the winter blues. Once I quit resisting and dreading and loathing the change in seasons, and start being proactive, I notice a marked improvement in my mood, energy, motivation, and overall well-being. One critical component for me is exercise. I use exercise all year round to help with my mental health and overall well-being, but it’s even more critical during the fall and winter months. Running outside is my favorite, which is a win-win, if I can run during the day, since exposure to bright light can also help with symptoms. I worked as an exercise physiologist for 22+ years, so I am well-aware of the benefits of exercise but finding the motivation and energy this time of year is still sometimes a challenge. I am presenting a webinar on November 4th at 11am titled No Gym? No Problem where I will provide tips and tricks to work activity and exercise in to your day with little or no equipment.

This year, I notice that I am more tired than usual as the seasons are changing. I have tried sleeping more and sleeping less, but I have yet to find my sleep sweet spot right now. As I am adjusting, I am giving myself grace and permission to be OK with not being OK. We are all living in unprecedented times, and everyone has struggled in one way or another. This season is a struggle for me even in a good year, so there is no reason to beat myself up, especially this year! I hope you will give yourself and those around you some grace and allow yourself and others to be OK with not being OK. Of course, if you feel like you need professional help, please don’t hesitate to seek out that assistance. Mental health is critical to overall health and well-being and I want us all to have both now and well into the future.

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

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Sources:

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

Rush University Medical Center. (n.d.). More Than Just the Winter Blues? Retrieved from https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues

Robinson, L., Segal, J., Ph.D., & Smith, M., M.A. (2019, June). The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved October 07, 2020, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. (2020, September 11). Personal and Social Activities. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html#event

Bohlen, A. (2020, September 17). Pizza for dinner again! Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/09/17/pizza-for-dinner-again/

Carter, S. (2020, August 31). Beating the Pandemic Blues. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/08/31/beating-the-pandemic-blues/

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There are a lot of things going on in this world right now that can make us feel anxious, worrisome, sad, upset, angry, and even defeated. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t felt any of those feelings in the last several months. Maybe you’ve experienced one of the following scenarios.

Pepperoni pizza in takeout box
  1. Showered a few minutes extra to cry so no one would see or hear you.
  2. Locked yourself in the bathroom to get a few extra minutes of tranquility.
  3. Felt like you can’t continue and just want to feel like yourself again.
  4. Cried in your room for a quick minute when everyone left just to let go.
  5. Ordered pizza for dinner because time escaped and you’re just too tired and emotionally drained to cook anything.
  6. Felt alone, even with others around you.
  7. Felt upset that something you were looking forward to was canceled.

The truth; I have done/felt all of those things over the last several months and I am here to tell you that you can find joy and even build hope. Once I wiped my tears away I began to use positive self-talk to tell myself that I am enough and that I can overcome any obstacle in my way. I wasn’t going to let my stress control me. The Mayo Clinic reports that if we continue to not deal with our stress then it can contribute to many health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Some of the strategies I have used to help me has been to:

Letter blocks spelling “rest”
  • Take a walk
  • Listen to a mediation
  • Take some deep breaths
  • Laugh- a lot
  • Talk with friends and family
  • Read a book
  • Listen to positive, uplifting songs
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat healthier foods
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Practice yoga

Please know that if your symptoms continue then you need to seek professional help. A healthcare provider may want to look into other causes or refer you to a counselor who can help you identify your stress and offer new coping tools. Several years ago I was in a very stressful job situation.  I let this stress go untreated. My personality changed and I needed to seek medical help. I felt defeated but my healthcare provider was very supportive and encouraging. She was able to prescribe me a medication to help me through that situation. It’s okay to ask for help, and pizza for dinner again is okay too.

You have worth.

You are important.

You are wonderful.

You are enough.

Bohlen, A. (2019, July 22). Finding joy Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/07/22/finding-joy/

Mayo Clinic . (2019, April 4). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

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

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

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As the world finds its way through the uncharted waters of this pandemic, you may find yourself navigating your own course. With stay-at-home orders, canceled events and limited gatherings, we are all experiencing isolation and loss on some level. Perhaps you have even suffered from depression at some point this year. You’re not alone.

Person sitting with hands folded, displaying stress symptoms

A mid-summer poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported over half of US adults indicated the pandemic has affected their mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the stress from pandemics can bring about these responses:

  • Fear and worry about health (your own and loved ones’)
  • Fear and worry about your job or finances
  • Concern about loss of support services you depend upon
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Decline of chronic health conditions
  • Increase of mental health problems
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances

With all of these stressful thoughts, it’s no wonder we may be feeling anxious, which can lead to depression. And while there is so much that is out of our control, there are some things we can do to take care of ourselves and those around us.

Cope with stress

  • Learn the facts about COVID-19. Just knowing the facts can reduce stress and help you feel more empowered.
  • Learn what to do if you are sick. The first step is to contact your healthcare professional.
  • Find out where to get treatment, support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take a break from news and social media. Constantly hearing news of the pandemic adds to your stress.
  • Distract yourself from the stress of the pandemic by taking up a new hobby or something that adds purpose or joy to your life.
person walking on road near woods

Take care of yourself

Connect with others

  • Talk with people you trust about your feelings and concerns.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting in different ways: online, social media, phone or mail.

This pandemic won’t last forever, even though it may feel endless at times. Until then, use these tips to take care of yourself and to live healthy AND well!

Sources:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html  

Robinson, L. and Smith, M. “Dealing with Depression During Coronavirus.” HelpGuide.org. Last updated: May 2020. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/dealing-with-depression-during-coronavirus.htm

Panchal, N. et. al. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” The Kaiser Family Foundation. August 2020.  https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.

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

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Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on Pexels.com

Over the last few weeks I have been pondering a difficult decision. With all the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, I honestly do not know how I feel about my children returning to school – whether that means virtual learning or in the classroom.  

Many of these feeling came when our school district distributed a survey regarding back to school. I assumed it would be a survey with many questions regarding the return to school with several questions regarding virtual and classroom attendance. I was surprised the survey was one question: Are you sending your child to school or will they be doing virtual learning? This left me with racing questions! How can they have 75 students on a bus and social distance? How can they logistically serve the whole school lunch and maintain social distancing and food safety? If one student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19 are they going to quarantine that class or the whole school? If I choose virtual learning, how engaging will it be?  

The decision of sending my children to school or learning virtually has been difficult. My husband and I are not alone. Parents across the world will make this decision, and even if it is different than ours, I am sure that this has been difficult for all parents! As parents navigating in an uncertain world, we need to support each other and our children. Here are some tips to help support your child going back to school whether they are returning to school or learning virtually:

  •  Empathize with your child(ren) and understand they may be feeling anxious or worried about COVID-19. Remind them that there are many effective things we can do to keep ourselves and other safe such as washing our hands, not touching our face, and social distancing. 
  • Children do better with structure. Routine gives children a sense of security so even when there are abrupt changes, they know some things in their day will be the same. Allow your children to help design the schedule.  
  • Encourage your child(ren) to feel their emotions. Just like us they are missing out on events that are important to them. Acknowledge their feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness when they have missed out on ball games, dances, sleepovers with friends, etc. In a child’s eyes these are major losses. Tell them it is ok to feel the way they do. 
  • Find distractions and balance. Kids need relief from feeling frustrated. Be creative with your distractions. You can have a family game night, picnic supper outside, virtual play date with friends, or listen to music and dance!

As parents we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious too. Make sure you exercise self-care, so your children can rely on you to provide safety and security. 

Written by: Kellie Lemly, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Dr. Roseanne E. Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Resources:

Bailey, B. (2020, March 18).  COVID-19:  Five Helpful Responses for families.  Retrieved on July 23, 2020 from https://consciousdiscipline.com/covid-19-five-helpful-responses-for-families/?mc_cid=2df75cbd90&mc_eid=ca6418d16f

UNICEF, (2020). Supporting your child’s mental health as they return to school during COVID-19. Retrieved on July 23, 2020 from https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/supporting-your-childs-mental-health-during-covid-19-school-return

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, (2020). Schedules and Routines. On Our Sleeves. Retrieved on July 23, 2020 from https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/giving/on-our-sleeves/find-help/tools-for-you/coronavirus/schedules

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