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Out of Gas: Helpful Tips for Busy People

Woman with her face down on a desk

Are you physically or mentally running on E?

Are you racing “90 to nothing” in your daily life?   until something forces us to hit the brakes or the emergency brake is applied. Instead of clearing our plates, we add sideboards onto them so that we can accept more.

We wear many hats outside of work such as a family member, caregiver, volunteer, student, etc. Some days we find ourselves in foul moods where we lack comprehension, patience, and focus. Is it because we are hangry (hungry + angry) or just plain ole tired?  You’ve heard the saying; “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip”… or is that a beet?…LoL, you get the point. How do we avoid the breakdown that can and will happen if we keep pushing ourselves without intentional refueling?

Here are several tips to help you stay fueled and refreshed:

  • Block scheduling: I shared a photo of a tool that I use, but you use what works for you. The key thing is for you to understand where you can capture time for yourself to refuel.
  • Rest: Sleep on a regular schedule and take breaks during the day.
  • Eat well: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Have some fun: You are encouraged to have fun. Adulting is tough.
  • Take lunch: Go visit a local library, museum, or sit in your car at a local park.
  • Vacation: Plan for it, and take it. But leave some recovery time, so you are not rushing back to work the next day. Another option is weekend trips or a day-cations while kid(s) are at school.
  • Nurture your hobbies: When was the last time you ____________?
  • Guard your time: Once you’ve blocked it out, it’s yours.  Don’t let others guilt you into giving it back.

Slowly implement some of these tips into your life, and remember an empty tank is just that. Empty. You will be more productive by taking care of you, and you’ll be better able to wear all those hats.

Wildflower Seed Bombs: For those who garden AND those who don’t!

Two youth make wildflower seed bombs.

Wildflower seed bombs are a great indoor or outdoor project with unlimited potential for learning.

Wildflower seed bombs are the perfect project for kids itching to get outside.  Even if you don’t have a green thumb or you don’t have outdoor space or the weather isn’t cooperating, you can make seed bombs that will help beautify roadsides, vacant areas and neighborhoods.

Give Them a Toss!

These little beauties don’t get their name from any explosive properties but from the fun you have “launching” them around your yard or neighborhood. As you toss them into places that  aren’t frequently mowed, you beautify your neighborhood and provide an invaluable food sources for native Florida pollinators like bees, wasps, butterflies, and more.

Even though you may be more fond of some pollinators than others, there’s no doubt we need them all. Their pollination services are critical to fruit development in many of our fruiting crops. So if you like squash, cucumbers, melons, almonds and so much more, here’s what you can do to help:

Gather Your Materials

  • Air-dry clay
  • Wildflower seeds
  • Potting Soil

Make Your Seed Bombs

  1. Pinch off a small amount of air-dry clay – enough to make a ball about the size of a bouncy ball or about 1″ diameter.
  2. Work equal parts seeds and soil into the clay and form it into a ball.
    Amounts really are up to you. More seeds = more flowers.
    But, too much soil will keep the ball from holding it’s shape. If this happens, add more clay and either have a bigger bomb, or divide it into two smaller bombs.
  3. Store them in a cool dry place and let them dry out completely in an air-tight container until you’re ready to spread some wildflower cheer.
  4. Now for the fun part!  Toss them where you want flowers to grow.

Things to Consider…

  • The air-dry clay acts as a binder only. It’s natural, non-toxic, and when wet, it will soften and allow the seeds to grow.
  • Before storing in an airtight container, allow your seed bombs out to dry completely.  Even a little moisture will allow the seeds to sprout.
  • Be careful when throwing your seed bombs.
    1. Don’t hit people, animals, or other anything else with them – just the ground.
    2. Throw them where areas don’t get mowed very much.  Some people throw them out along roadways or in abandoned lots. If these places are mowed regularly, they won’t last long if they even get to bloom.
    3. Get permission if you’re throwing them in public places.

Resources

Gardening is just one of the many Florida 4-H programs.  To see what programs are available in your county, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office, or contact your 4-H Agent about starting a gardening program in your county.

Get More Value from 4-H Service Projects

Generosity is one of the four essential elements youth need for positive youth development. 4-H clubs should do at least one community service project a year as part of their plan of action. This benefits our high school students because most students need service hours as part of graduation requirements. But with all the “have-to-do’s” in life, service can become just a thing to check off and have no real value.

How can we help our 4-H youth get more value from service projects? 

Use the Experiential Learning model (Do-Reflect-Apply) used by 4-H programs across the nation. Incorporating the reflect and apply portion of the model does take some effort, but it is not hard to do. If your club does many community service activities, choose which ones to incorporate all the steps of the Experiential Learning model.

How to take it deeper beyond just a thing to do:

Get buy in from youth concerning the service project(s) planned for the year.

UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County 4-H Club members out delivering Thanksgiving baskets to families in need.

Pre-activity – Have youth do a presentation related to the service project activity:

  • Who we are helping: Details about the group/organization
  • What type of service(s) will be done for the group
  • How will our community service benefit this group/organization

Post activity – have a casual conversation:

  • Enquire about how they felt about the service activity
  • What was an ah-ha moment
  • What did they find challenging
  • What could we do differently for next project
  • What is something you learned by doing this project that you could use in other areas of your life.

Here’s a great article in the Florida 4-H Volunteer Training Series that really breaks down the process.   You can also give your local UF/IFAS Extension 4-H Agent a call for more help.

How can you keep up with the great things we’re doing in our 4-H extension district?

  • LIKE the 4-H in the Panhandle Facebook page – @volunteeringinthepanhandle
  • LIKE your county’s 4-H Facebook page
  • SUBSCRIBE to the 4-H in the Panhandle blog
Bring a Little Zen to Volunteers and Youth with 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs

Bring a Little Zen to Volunteers and Youth with 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs

Making lotions and bath scrubs, practicing relaxation and doing yoga…doesn’t this sound like a great 4-H club program?  Discover 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs are a great way to learn about homemade body products while learning relaxation techniques.  Youth create a day at the spa by making lotions, soaps, scrubs and lip balms while learning methods to relax like tennis ball massages, creating a happy list, doing yoga and creating a zen garden. An added bonus is homemade products are a fraction of the cost of purchasing and make great gifts for friends and family.

Make your own Luxurious Bath Salts

Ladies making homemade beauty products.

Naval Support Activity-Panama City staff learning how to making calm bags.

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 cup Epsom salt ( scented or plain)
  • Use 3-5 drops fragrance oil designed for soaps or diluted essential oil for plain Epsom salt
  • Mix ingredients
  • Spoon the mixture into storage containers (wide mouth jars, bowls or zip style bags work well)
  • Label your container with ingredients and direction for use – Pinterest has several cute label designs

Caution:  Essential oils are very strong and can be a skin irritant if applied directly to your skin. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommends diluting essential oils with a carrier oil:  use 1 teaspoon of  coconut, almond, olive, sunflower or jojoba oil with 2 – 12 drops of the desired essential oil. Then, mix 3-5 drops of the diluted oil to your bath salt mixture.  Bath salts are generally safe for most when used properly, but you should talk to your doctor before using bath salts if you have medical conditions such as skin diseases, heart disease or diabetes.

How to Use Your Bath Salts:  Fill your tub halfway with warm to hot water, and pour in about 1/2 cup (120 g) of bath salts. For a stronger concentration, you can always add more. If you prefer showers, take a handful and rub over desired area. Bath salts are great to exfoliate by removing dead skin cells leaving the skin smooth and fresh.  Tired achy feet or hands?   No problem!  Add salts to warm water in a dishpan, and immerse your feet or hands and soak away the pain.

Two women preparing homemade beauty products.

NSA-PC staff learning the 4-H Spa & Relaxation Curricula they will use in their 4-H programs.  

For more information on 4-H and other programs like this, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit Florida 4-H.  

Are you an adult looking for ways to coach, teach and mentor youth?  Contact the 4-H Agent in your county and enroll as a volunteer in 4-H Online.  Volunteering not only strengthens the 4-H club, but also shows young people how to live with integrity, optimism, hope, determination, compassion, responsibility and resiliency – skills that will help them succeed in life.

Resource:

Discover 4-H Spa and Relaxation Clubs curriculum 

Make Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Routine in 2019

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:  

  1. Purpose –  intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
  2. 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.
  3. 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):

Psychological Benefits

  • 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

Physiological Benefits

  • 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

Spiritual Benefits

  • 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

 

Handling the Holiday Blues

Christmas tree

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Sources: