Be mindful and enjoy the moment.
Now that the busy holiday season is over, it’s a time to reflect on the past but prepare and refocus for the new year ahead. As we focus on the new year, it is always refreshing to have a clean slate. As the year begins to unfold, there are tips to help you manage your day-to-day stress levels. It begins with mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)
Mindfulness is best thought of as a way of being rather than an activity Almost any activity can be carried out with mindful awareness.
Three Key Features of Mindful Awareness:
- Purpose – intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
- Presence – being fully engaged with and attentive to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future that arise are recognized simply as thoughts occurring in the present.
- Acceptance – being non-judgmental toward whatever arises in the moment. This means that sensations, thoughts, and emotions are not judged as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; they are simply noticed as “happening” and observed until they eventually pass (Naik, Harris and Forthun 2016).
Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that has been found to benefit both psychological and physical health. The primary psychological change that occurs during mindfulness practice is an increased awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. Over time, mindfulness practice can help you to become aware of the space between noticing experiences and reacting to them by letting you slow down and observe the processes of your mind (Black 2010).
The ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is for you to take advantage of this space so you can make more intentional decisions – to wake up from living life on autopilot, based on unproductive habits of mind
(Black 2010; Walach et al. 2007).
According to the American Psychological Association, some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include the following (Davis & Hayes 2011):
- Increased awareness of one’s mind
- Significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and negative emotions
- Increased control over ruminative thinking (a major cause and symptom of depression and anxiety)
- Increased mental flexibility and focus
- More working memory
- Decreased distracting thoughts
- Decreased emotional reactivity
- Increased capacity for intentional, responsive behaviors
- Increased empathy, compassion and conscientiousness of other’s emotions
- Enhanced immune system functioning
- Increased brain density and neural integration in areas responsible for positive emotions, self-regulation, and long-term planning
- Lowered blood pressure
- Lowered levels of blood cortisol (a major stress hormone)
- Greater resistance to stress-related illnesses such as heart disease
- Increased self-insight and self-acceptance
- Increased acceptance of others
- Increased compassion and empathy
- Increased sense of morality, intuition, and courage to change
- Increased control over automatic behaviors
- Increased self-discipline
The question is, how many of us would like to benefit from mindfulness if it provides these positive benefits? All of us should strive to lower our stress level and enjoy our daily lives with a more positive attitude and more attentiveness. So, how can we incorporate this into our lives? The majority of this practice is about familiarizing yourself with what it feels like to be mindful, and getting better at “remembering” to maintain mindful awareness.
Experiment with creating your own mindfulness practices throughout your day. Being mindful of the sensation on the soles of your feet as you walk to your car or the taste and texture of your morning coffee can transform routine moments into deeply satisfying practices. However, having a ritualized and structured practice can be beneficial. To find out more about practicing mindfulness and how to incorporate a more structured practice in your life visit read Mindfulness: An Introduction.
Sources: Mindfulness: An Introduction. 2013, 2016. Retrieved from the UF/IFAS Extension Electronic Data Information System: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1381. Publication #FCS2335
Aim to find JOY in this holiday season.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, many people are filled with extra holiday cheer and enthusiasm. Some are jolly but still overwhelmed with all of the activities, decorating, and shopping that needs to be completed. Then, there are those that find the holiday season as a reminder of things such as the death of a loved one, family feuds, divorce…the list goes on. If you are feeling this way, here are a few tips to make getting through the season a little bit easier.
- Feel your emotions – Many people want to suppress their sadness or anxiety, but this only makes it worse. We are all allowed to grieve, cry and feel mad at times. If you feel this way, let yourself feel your feelings. You will feel better once you have accepted and worked through the emotions. You also do not have to force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holiday season.
- Reach out to others – Instead of secluding yourself, spend time with others whether it’s at church, a community group or with family and friends. Spending time with others and socializing is good for the spirit.
- Volunteer – There are tons of volunteer opportunities during the holidays. Try something new and volunteer your time to a worthy cause. You’ll feel great about helping others and contributing to a cause.A national survey commissioned by UnitedHealth Group talked to 3,351 adults and found the majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.
The research showed:
* 96% reported volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
* 94% of people said volunteering improved their mood
* 80% of them feel like they have control over their health
* 78% of them said volunteering lowered their stress levels
* 76% of people said volunteering has made them feel healthier
* About a quarter reported their volunteer work helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them
active and taking their minds off of their own problems
* Volunteering improved their mood and self-esteem
- Be realistic – Realize that times and traditions change as families grow and age. Do not focus on things having to be the same every year. Be willing to accept changes, such as adult children may not be able to attend the family gathering, so utilize technology and talk through video conferencing, share pictures on email and/or Facebook. Find a way to make it work.
- Set aside differences for everyone’s sake. Aim to accept family and friends the way they are, even if they do not meet your expectations. Leave grievances at the door for the day and enjoy your family and friends. Share those grievances and talk at a more appropriate and private time. Also, remember they could be feeling the stress of the holiday too. So, be patient if someone is grouchy or sad as you celebrate. You may both be feeling the same way.
- Learn to say no – Be realistic in the number of activities you and your family can participate. Do not feel guilty because you cannot attend every party and event you are invited too. Graciously decline an invite and share that your schedule is booked, but thank them for thinking of you. A host does not expect that everyone will attend their parties.
- Take a breather as needed – If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, anger or sadness take a few minutes to be alone. Take 15 minutes to spend in the quiet to reduce the stress and clear your mind. For example: listen to soothing music, do a few mindful breathing exercises to slow yourself down or read a book to temporarily escape the stress.
- Seek professional help as needed – there are times when the emotions are just too overwhelming to sort through on our own. If you continue to feel sad, anxious, angry, etc. there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help of a doctor or mental health professional. It will only help you work through your feelings with a non-bias person. Helping yourself feel better will improve your quality of life and those around you.
Learn to take care of yourself first. Learn your limitations and accept them. Don’t t let other’s expectations overwhelm you. Just remember when you start feeling extreme levels of emotions and/or stress, take a few deep breathes and remind yourself to relax and feel the moment. Be mindful of your surroundings and remind yourself of your many blessings even when going through difficult times. Make it your personal goal to feel your feelings and enjoy what you can about the holiday season whether it is the twinkling lights, time with friends and family, the food or any of the many special holiday traditions.
Striving for and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an achievable goal and a National 4-H Council mission mandate for all of our 4-H members, families and volunteers. To learn more about healthy lifestyles and 4-H, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
A happy 4-H member’s smile is contagious in this face-friendly clover costume.
While Walmart has already jumped to Christmas season, many parents are still scrambling to figure out their children’s costume for October’s Halloween party. Now, all of us have the cutest pumpkins in the pumpkin patch, but none of our children want to dress up as pumpkins anymore! Gone are the simple days of our generation when white sheets with eye holes were the extent of our Halloween attire.
With the hectic schedule of the world and the complicated costumes of today, here are a few guidelines to follow when helping children choose Halloween costumes (and keep them safe safety during the spooktacular holiday season).
This little pumpkin has comfortable walking shoes for trick or treating.
If it Fits, it Flies Past Inspection
While cute or scary may be what the children are striving for, well-fitting costumes should be the goal for all parents. Ill-fighting costumes are a disaster waiting to happen. Costumes that hang loosely become a distraction. Capes, gowns, or any material in length that drags the ground can be a tricky thing to maneuver at any age so be sure to trim above the ankle. Speaking of ankles, shoes that are too high can cause unexpected hospital visits so keep shoes low to the ground and comfortable to walk in. Children (and parents) do a lot of walking to collect their candy treats. Shoes that are too large or too small can cause blisters and cranky children, all things to avoid on a fun night.
Can You See Me Now?
One of the scariest things about Halloween is not what you can see but what you can’t see! Not being able to see children in costume in poorly lit areas of the neighborhood can be scary for adults. Parents, remedy this by using inexpensive reflective paint or tape to make children’s costumes visible or giving them glowsticks to wear or flashlights to hold.
Be sure to think about if your children can see well in their costumes. Masks can be difficult to wear if they don’t fit well. Be sure that eye and breathing holes are extra-large. If a costume can be complete without a mask, consider skipping it and use makeup. If costumes are come with hats, scarves, or capes, secure them down with velcro to keep from hitting others.
Does my Makeup Look OK?
Children love face paint and makeup, and hair dye appears to be the latest trend. Halloween seems a good fit for these outlets, but use them with caution. More and more children are sensitive to pigments found in everyday items – makeup included. Your children may be going for the spooky look but not at the risk of it being itchy and painful. If your children will be using face paint, makeup and/or hair dye, do a simple test run at least a week before use to ensure there are no allergies to the ingredients.
Accessorize Everything…Or Not
Makeup that does not obstruct children’s view is essential to their safety.
You’ve probably heard that “accessories make the outfit,” but in the case of Halloween and children, accessories can be highly overrated. Parents usually end up carrying the accessories that went with their children’s costumes before the night is over. But if children insist their outfits are not complete without a Ninja sword or Katniss Everdeen’s bow and arrow, be sure they are easily distinguished toys. Those accessories should be soft and flexible.
Spooktacular Adventure Awaits!
Whether you get into Halloween with costumes or not, these tips are good reminders for all of us to look out for children and keep them safe. Enjoy the upcoming holiday seasons!
To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills to your children or to volunteer your time to work with children in your area, please contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.
Be Prepared and Have a Plan
This time last year, we were helping our 4-H friends all over Florida recover from Hurricane Irma. Hurricane season has been quiet in Florida so far, but that doesn’t mean we need to let our guard down – we still have two more months of hurricane season.
So,what would you do if you didn’t have electricity? How will you care for your 4-H project animals? Do you have an evacuation plan? Answers to these questions become major issues when dealing with disasters.
Disasters can be natural/weather-related, man-made or accidental. Regardless of the type, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan for you and your animals.
Plan for Your Animal’s Safety
Whether you evacuate or shelter in place, here are a few considerations:
- Be ready to leave once the evacuation is ordered.
- Evacuate animals as soon as possible.
- Your project animal won’t be able to stay with you in a shelter like a dog or a can.
- Know where safe livestock facilities are in your area or along your evacuation route.
- If you can’t evacuate, decide if you’re keeping animals confined to a barn or turning them out into pastures.
- Barn confinement may become dangerous and take away the animal’s ability to protect themselves.
- Pastures should be at least one acre in size with no potential hazards (barbed wire, power-lines, polls or items that can be picked up by the wind).
Disaster Preparedness for Livestock – Why Livestock Owners Need to Be Prepared
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has some suggested guidelines about preparing livestock and horses for disasters:
- Check with your local humane organization, extension office or local emergency management agency to read about your county disaster response plans.
- Determine safe evacuation routes for trailers and livestock.
- Prepare a Farm Disaster Kit and Basic First-Aid Kit. Remember, supplies during or after the disaster may be in short supply, or roadways may be blocked. Keep kits up-to-date, keep them on-site and in your vehicle.
- A vaccination and test records (Coggins, health certificates, etc.)
- A list of all animals, where they are located on the farm and feeding instructions/records
- Sanitation items, cell phone, flashlights, portable radios and batteries.
- Have feed, water, handling equipment, tools, veterinary supplies and a generator (with fuel) on hand if possible.
- Make a list of emergency numbers – veterinarian, neighbors, state veterinarian, animal shelter, county extension office,local volunteer organizations and someone outside of the disaster area.
- Make sure you have proof of animal ownership. Have temporary ID supplies on hand like permanent markers and plastic bands that are safe, durable and visible. ID should include your name, address, and telephone number.
- Poultry need access to high areas to perch if you’re in an area susceptible to flooding. Provide access to clean water and food.
- Remove barbed wire or other fencing so animals can move to areas of safety during flooding or high winds.
- Store water in large containers (enough for a week) suck as troughs, swimming pools or boats
- Secure items that might be picked up and thrown by the wind like pieces of metal, troughs, tanks or trailers.
- Ensure there is safe shelter, fencing or pens.
- Keep animals in groups they’re used to where they are securely contained and protected from the elements.
For more information about 4-H, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. If you are an adult or teen with skills or knowledge you’d like to share, ask about becoming a 4-H volunteer!
DID YOU KNOW that the sunniest place in Florida is Apalachicola? It sees an average of 241 days with sun…just one of the many reasons I love calling the Florida panhandle my home. I’m not exaggerating when I say I love being outdoors in the sun – going to the lake, fishing in the bay, kayaking down the creek, mowing the grass, picking blueberries, reading a book – I don’t want to imagine living anywhere else.
Along with my love of the sun comes the need for protection from its harmful rays. I’ve had my share of sunburns and learned the hard way how uncomfortable they can be. Sunburns happen quickly on summer days when the sun is closer to the earth – within the first 15 minutes of exposure. So check out these home remedies and tips to soothe your scorched skin when you’ve overdone it in the sun.
SOOTHE YOUR SCORCHED SKIN
- Take a cool shower or bath to calm your skin.
- Pour apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or cool milk on a soft cloth and gently apply to your sunburned skin.
- Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to a cool bath.
- Chill cucumbers, mash them into a paste and apply to a sunburned face.
- Drink lots of water to re-hydrate your body.
- Take an over the counter pain medicine like ibuprofen or naproxen.
RE-MOISTURIZE and RE-HYDRATE
Once you’ve soothed your aching skin, be sure to frequently re-moisturize your skin with aloe vera gel, petroleum jelly, coconut oil or lotions containing aloe vera or dimethicone. My brother, who is quite fair complected, even keeps aloe vera gel in the refrigerator. If your skin peels or blisters, leave it alone and allow it to heal! Never pick at or further peel your sunburn and certainly don’t pop blisters. Re-moisturize, cover your skin, allow it to heal and continue to drink plenty of water.
In 4-H, we believe in living healthy and equipping our youth with the knowledge and skills to prepare them physically, emotionally and socially to meet life’s challenges. To learn more about participating in 4-H healthy living projects, visit the Florida 4-H Projects Page or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
From candy to pumpkins to the costumes, Halloween is a fun-filled time for kids and adults alike. However, it can pose dangers. To help make this year’s trick-or-treat a safe and fun time, follow these simple safety tips complied by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flames.
Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. The makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant allergies on the big night.
When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are “flame resistant”.
If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by the accessories if he/she stumbles or trips.
Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
Review with children how to call 911 if they ever have an emergency or become lost.
PUMPKIN CARVING TIME:
Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then adults can do the cutting.
Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.
To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
Adults should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
Wet leaves and debris should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
Restrain pets so they do not jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
A responsible adult should always accompany young children during their neighborhood trick-or-treating.
Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and adults.
If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or-Treaters to:
- Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
- Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
- Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
- Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
- If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
- Never cut across yards or use alleys.
- Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
- Do not assume the right of way. Motorists may have a hard time seeing Trick-or-Treaters.
- Just because one car stops, does not mean others will!
- Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity
HEALTHY HALLOWEEN TIPS:
A good, healthy dinner prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage children from filling up on Halloween treats.
Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books, stickers, or pens and pencils.
Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween to prevent overindulging, which will lead to a stomachache and ruin the night’s fun.
Make sure the Halloween night is fun and safe with the suggested tips above. These tips will help guarantee you all a ghoulishly good time.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics