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Posts Tagged ‘stress reduction’

Did that title spark your interest? As a mom of three small children, I find myself stressed at times because of my kids’ behaviors. The behaviors I am referring to are typical behaviors for their ages however when multiplied by three it is enough to make you want to pull your hair out at times. I know my children are not the only ones that struggle with the following:

  • Act overly silly or “out of control”
  • Have tantrums or meltdowns
  • Experience difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Struggle being in close proximity to others
  • Move too quickly or with too much force
  • Act on impulse by grabbing, throwing, or touching things
  • Experience difficulty walking or waiting in line
  • Have problems during social interactions like talking too loudly or standing too close to others

If you have noticed some of those struggles with a child in your life then they may need help learning how to regulate. Self-regulation is “control [of oneself] by oneself. It is a skill that effects a person’s ability to handle disappointments, failures, and tolerate unmet wants or needs with the outcome being success. The key word is SKILL. Self-regulation is taught and then children need time to practice using this skill. The more they practice the better they become.

There are four types of games/activities you can do to teach children how to self-regulate. The purpose of the games is for children to practice managing their impulses and self-control.  

  1. Red light, green light- have a start line and a finish line, one child is the cop and says green light for the rest of the children to go and red light for them to freeze. If they move after red light has been said then they move back to the start line. First person across the finish line wins and gets to be the new cop. Reverse rules, stop when the cop says green light, and go when the cop says red light.
  2. The Freeze Game- dance to music and then freeze when the music stops. Dance fast to fast-paced songs, slow to slower-paced songs, and then reverse the rules.
  3. Wacky Relay- have children work with a partner to move an object from the start line to the finish line using elbow to elbow, palm to palm, hip to hip or forehead to forehead. The larger the object the easier it is.
  4. Self Control Bubbles- allow children to pop bubbles as you blow them, then tell children not to touch the bubbles at all, even if they land on their face. Praise children as they refrain from touching the bubbles.
blowing bubbles
Blowing Bubbles

Just a few minutes a day can really help improve their self-regulation.  Games and activities are great ways to help children reflect on their own ability to self-regulate in various situations. Children can learn self-awareness for handling stress and emotions that will carry them through their teenage and adult years while saving your sanity.

Sources:

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/self-regulation/

https://www.acesconnection.com/g/Parenting-with-ACEs/clip/5-incredibly-fun-games-to-teach-self-regulation-self-control-early-childhood-development-8-minutes-kreative-leadership

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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One of my goals for this year is to explore mindfulness. In this blog, I want to share a few things that I’ve learned about this life changing topic.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in American mindfulness,
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Path in forest I enjoy being outside in nature. I have often wondered why this is relaxing for me. Why is it that I breathe deeper and feel a sense of calmness come over me while enjoying the beauty of nature?

I have learned that it has to do with the focus on my surroundings and mental relaxation that I experience from being in nature. Moving mindfully provides us with several benefits and can help increase the awareness of our bodies and the surroundings around us. According to the American Heart Association, some benefits of mindful movement may include:

  • Manage stress, depression and insomnia
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve balance and stability
  • Relieve chronic pain
  • Improve quality of life and mood in people with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses
  • Motivate you to exercise more and eat healthier

One reason that I enjoy exploring mindfulness in nature is that I am paying attention to my surroundings and experiencing several senses: sight, smell, touch, and hearing. Watching the way that a blade of grass blows in the wind, feeling wind in your face, hearing the rustle of leaves, watching clouds drift across the sky are all examples of ways that we can pay attention to the details in nature. You can also enjoy these visual cues while looking out your window.picture of woods with trees, wildflowers

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Integrative and Complementary Medicine website offers several Mindfulness practices for you to explore. Click on the link and check out their resources.

Take time during your busy life to check out nature as I did this past weekend. I visited one of my favorite spots in the town where I live. A 90-year-old man has 4 acres of paths and trails through his back yard. You can walk and explore the Hosta plants and wildflowers he has planted over the years. One year he shared with me he planted 3,000 daffodil bulbs!  Imagine all those beautiful flowers!

Share in the comments how you enjoy mindfulness in nature.

Sources:

Dreskin, M., Smith, S. & Kane, D., Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors. Retrieved from: https://m.kp.org/health-wellness/mental-health/tools-resources/mind-body-wellness/movement-benefits

Powers-Barker, P., 2106. Introduction to Mindfulness. Ohioline Factsheet number HYG-5243. Ohio State University. Retrieved from: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Suttie, J., 2018. Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation is Good for your Health. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_mindfulness_meditation_is_good_for_your_health

Hostas courtesy of Cory’s Wildflower Gardens, Chillicothe, Ohio.

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

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

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The last couple of weeks have been spent moving from a home with 20 years accumulation of “stuff” to a new home. While it has been exciting, it has also been exhausting.  I realized a few days ago that I was staying up later than usual to unpack and rearrange items and then not falling asleep when I did go to bed. My mind kept racing thinking about everything I needed – or wanted – to do the next day. The result was a tired, somewhat grumpy version of me!

Eating well and being physically active are two basic activities that we think of when we discuss being healthy.  Something that is often overlooked is the importance that a good night’s sleep plays in our overall health. Research has shown that insufficient sleep increases the risk of disorders, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke and depression. It’s also associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Most of us have heard that all adults need 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. That generally holds true but it is important to remember that the quality of your sleep is just as, if not more, important than the quantity!  You should feel rested when you wake up in the morning. It is important to listen to your body’s biological clock which is set by the hours of daylight where you live. This should make it easier for you to stay awake during the day and sleep at night.

There will be times that you find it more difficult to fall asleep than others. If you are under stress, experiencing pain from an injury or illness, consuming excess caffeine or alcohol, you may find that falling and staying asleep are difficult. In that case, recognizing the reasons and making some adjustments to your daytime activities should help you sleep more soundly.

Some suggestions for improving your sleep:

  • Create a comfortable, calming sleep environment. This could include room darkening window coverings.
  • Avoid electronic devices in your bedroom – computers, tablets, games, etc. should be shut down before bedtime.
  • Establish a routine that you follow each evening to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Have a consistent bed time – even on the weekends.

There are small changes you can make to your daytime activities that may lead to better sleep.

  • Try to spend some time outdoors every day.
  • Exercise earlier in the day instead of later in the evening.
  • If you nap, limit yourself to 20 minutes or less.
  • Avoid both caffeine and alcohol close to your chosen bed time. Do some experimenting to find the cut off time for you – everyone will be a little different!
  • If you smoke, quit! Nicotine in cigarettes can make sleep more difficult.

If you continue to have sleep problems, it might be wise to visit your doctor to be sure you don’t have a more serious sleep disorder.

While sleep is not a guaranteed cure all for you, it doesn’t hurt anyone to establish sleep habits that help you consistently get a good night’s sleep!

 

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

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

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/10/cover-sleep.aspx

https://healthfinder.gov/healthtopics/population/men/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#the-basics_2

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/ask-the-doctor-right-amount-of-sleep

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watch.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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The term Nature Deficit Disorder was coined by author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods” to describe the phenomena of children and youth becoming disconnected from nature. Adults can certainly suffer from nature deficit disorder, but chances are, most adults spent more time outside as children than our kids do today. Research is linking nature deficit with some disturbing child outcomes, such as increases in obesity, attention disorders and depression as well as diminished use of one’s senses.

Some of the reasons for this disconnect with nature in recent decades include urbanization and disappearing green spaces, spending more time indoors, and increased use of technology and electronic communications. These trends contribute to a devaluing of independent play and what health experts are calling the “epidemic of inactivity.” The time kids spend outdoors is increasingly spent in structured play or organized sports, instead of ‘playing in nature.’ Unstructured play in nature allows for developing problem-solving, creativity and emotional development, according Dr. Stephen Kellert of Yale University. In his book “Building for Life: Designing and Understanding Human-Nature Connection,” Kellert urges community leaders and urban designers to consider green space and creating opportunities for children to have positive interactions with nature on a daily basis.

nature unpluggedWe can reverse this nature deficit disorder for ourselves and our children. Connecting with nature can have physical, mental and social health benefits for adults and children alike. Research results found that spending time in nature can help prevent cancer cell development, strengthen the immune system and aid in stress reduction. The Children and Nature Network is dedicated to connecting children, families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources, and collaborative efforts. The Children and Nature Network’s Toolkits offer these ideas to get your family connected:

Nature is everywhere. You can find nature by planting seeds in a pot on the front porch or sketching a tree as well as by venturing into a wild preserve.
Be prepared. In order to get the most from your time outdoors, bring along snacks, water, sunscreen, and even a change of clothes in case your kids get wet or cold.
Embrace the elements. Dress for the weather, stomp in a puddle, enjoy a rainy or snowy walk in the park.
Model curiosity. If you see plants or animals or holes or nests you can’t identify, show your curiosity. Kids have a natural sense of wonder and this can lead to some awesome discoveries. You can look things up together when you get home.
Bring friends. Your family can bond in the company of other families; in fact, you might have even more fun!
Create stories. At the end of the day, have each family member talk about their favorite part of the time spent outdoors. These will become part of your family lore. You can revisit those places and support the wonderful connections you’ve built together outdoors in nature.

Make it a goal to spend an hour outside each week, connecting with nature and with others. See this PBS article for more ideas on how to help your kids get plugged into nature. You can also check out your local parks for nature education programs. Richard Louv offers a Resource Guide full of ideas for connecting with nature.

Get outside.   Get connected.   Get into nature.

WRITTEN BY: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

REVIEWED BY: Candace Heer, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County

PHOTO CREDITS:

  • Photo taken and edited by Shannon Carter; original idea for text on picture taken from popular press

SOURCES:

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This time of year is always magical from a gardening perspective. Perennials and bulbs are blooming, greenhouses are open and neighbors are planting their annuals. Nothing brings us out of our winter blahs faster than the scent of hyacinths and lilacs or the beauty of daffodils and tulips. Did you know that flowers serve more than just an aesthetic purpose? They also can improve our overall well-being.

Lilacs

Planting or keeping flowers around the home and in the workplace greatly reduces a person’s stress levels. Natural aesthetic beauty is soothing to people, and planting ornamental flowers around the home environment is an excellent way to lower levels of stress and anxiety. People who keep flowers in and around their home feel happier, less stressed, and more relaxed. As a result of the positive energy they derive from the environment, the chances of suffering from stress-related depression are decreased as well. Overall, adding flowers to your home or work environment reduces your perceived stress levels and makes you feel more relaxed, secure, and happy. Flowers can help you achieve a more optimistic outlook on your life; bringing you both pleasing visual stimulation and an increase in your perceived happiness.

Having plants, going for a walk in the park, or even looking at a landscape poster can produce psychological benefits, reduce stress, and improve concentration. Flowers cut from the garden add a pop of color to the living areas in the home. Bringing potted plants into your work space helps improve productivity, as well as an increase in creativity and job satisfaction.

Flowers

Don’t have a green thumb, struggling with some plants, or just beginning to plant?  Want some creative tips for new projects? The National Gardening Association has tons of information to help you out.  Allow the outdoors to bring out your natural beauty. Behold the powers of flowers!

Sources:

http://ellisonchair.tamu.edu/health-and-well-being-benefits-of-plants/#.VzyCdrgrK70

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-mindfulness/200903/plants-make-you-feel-better

www.garden.org

www.onegreenplanet.org

Written by:  Melissa Welker M.Ed., B.S., Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County, Maumee Valley EERA, welker.87@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Donna Green, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA, green.308@osu.edu

 

 

 

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When my daughter was a toddler, she had a talking toy Bullwinkle Moose that said “walking is good for you!”  For years it was a bit of a family joke and every time we went for a walk, someone had to quote Bullwinkle.      walking_focus_destress

Now, science is firmly behind the concept that walking really is good for you!  Among others, the American Heart Association promotes the positive benefits of walking. The simple of activity of walking can:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids profile.
  • Maintain your body weight and lower risk of obesity.
  • Reduce your risk of osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer.
  • Reduce your risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes.

What do you need to start walking?  Basically you just need comfortable supportive shoes and a safe place to walk.

The Mayo Clinic gives some suggestions for starting and maintaining a walking habit.

  • Set yourself up for success! Have a simple, attainable goal. Maybe the first week you plan to walk 5 minutes at lunch time.  Once that becomes a habit, gradually add time to your walk.
  • Track your progress. It can be very motivating to see how many miles you have walked in a week, month or year. You can record this in a journal, a spreadsheet or an online app.
  • Make it enjoyable. Some people like to walk alone, listening to music or just enjoying some “me” time. Others prefer to walk with a friend or two. Find out what works for you.
  • Vary your routine. Plan a couple of different routes – walk outside when possible or join others walking at the gym or local mall. If you’re walking alone, let someone know where you will be walking. Keep your cell phone in your pocket for emergency calls! If you have a light or whistle, take it with you.
  • If you miss a day or two, don’t give up! Remind yourself how good you felt when you were walking regularly and ease back into it.

While walking is a relatively low risk activity, you still want to think of preventing injuries to yourself. If you haven’t been active, start slow and gradually add to your time, distance and speed.  To avoid blisters, some studies have shown that synthetic fiber socks can be better than cotton socks which absorb moisture and increase friction. Shin splints (pain on the front of your lower leg) and knee pain can be prevented or minimized by wearing proper, supportive footwear and stretching and strengthening the supportive muscles.

Remember, every step you take helps you lead a healthier life. So, get up, lace on your walking shoes and get going!

walking shoes

Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, FCS, OSU Extension, Franklin County rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, FCS, OSU Extension ,Pickaway County treber.1@osu.edu

Sources:

The Mayo Clinic. Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health.
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261?pg=1
The American Heart Association.  Walking, Take the first step.

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walking_UCM_460870_SubHomePage.jsp

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