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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:

2017 National Youth Science Day

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4. The 2017 4‑H National Youth Science Day Challenge is called Incredible Wearables!  This year’s challenge was developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln and incorporates the fast-evolving field of wearable technology, teaching kids to not only use technology but to create it and understand how it works.

From watches and eyewear to fashion and virtual reality headsets, wearable technologies are fast becoming the must-have accessory for forward-thinking people around the world. Wearable technologies didn’t start out as trendy however – one of the world’s first wearable technologies was the hearing aid! Wearable technologies are now used in industries around the globe, from education and sports, to health, fashion, entertainment, transportation and communication. In this year’s challenge, youth use the engineering design process to build a prototype wearable technology that will gather data to help solve a real-world problem. They will design and build their own low-cost wearable health monitor following the engineering design process. This process includes defining the problem, designing and building prototypes (solutions) then systematically testing and evaluating enabling them to redesign for optimization of wearability and functionality.

During the innovative, hands-on project, these future engineers must work together to design, build and refine a wearable health-tracking device that is easy-to-use and aesthetically appealing. In fact, youth from Bay County have been training with their adult leaders to teach this challenge to other youth in their community on National Youth Science Day. Jason Scott, from Scott Innovative Solutions and an engineer at NSA PC, teamed up with the Bay County 4-H Agent to teach youth and adult partner teams about this project enabling them to be able to share their knowledge with others on October 4. When participants will attempt to solve the problem of people not staying active enough to lead healthy lives. In fact, youth will build a prototype fitness tracking device that could ultimately be marketed and sold to consumers to positively affect fitness behaviors.

After completing the challenge youth will have had an experience of using the engineering design process to build a device to help them monitor their health so they can gather data to make better decisions. They will understand more about how wearable technologies like FitBits, Smartwatches and other wearable devices are made.

The field of wearable technologies continues to grow in both quantity and quality. New technologies are being developed and put on the market on a regular basis, including virtual reality and augmented reality devices, clothing and accessories, as well as health monitoring devices. The future of wearable technologies is limited only by the imaginations of those designing them. By studying STEM and participating in this National Youth Science Day Experiment, youth could use technologies to develop products and mechanisms we haven’t even thought of, but definitely desire! To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Comparing device to prototype

 

Bleeding Green with Senior 4-H’er Danielle Tinker

Danielle with her state officer team and Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and 4-H Alum.

Danielle with her state officer team and Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and 4-H Alum.

How do you 4-H? Through 4-H, youth can participate in clubs, mentorship, project mastery, competitions, local, state, and international trips, and service opportunities unlike any other youth development program in the country. Along with specific skills, 4-H also works to impart life skills, or workforce readiness skills, to its youth. One of the best ways 4-H teaches leadership and responsibility to youth is by giving youth the power to choose how involved they will be and take ownership over what their experience will look like. When youth choose in fully to 4-H, the results are remarkable and inspiring. When our Senior 4-H’ers (14-18 year olds) take advantage of all that is available to them, the impact is a rewarding one. One can observe Senior aged 4-H’ers youth who are both driven to challenge themselves and who take ownership of their own success in 4-H and of their county and state program at large. One such extraordinary example is State 4-H Council Treasurer, Danielle Tinker of Escambia County, FL. 

Danielle affectionately says she had to “beg” her mother to get her involved in 4-H. That kind of drive is indicative of the approach Danielle has taken in her 4-H experience overall. “One of the greatest things about 4-H is that it has given me opportunities to try so many new and different things. Some of them… I am glad to have been exposed to them and had opportunity to learn about those things…Then there are areas and events that have changed who I am and where I will end up in life.” Because Senior 4-H youth are able to define their experience, they can explore the depth of their interest area. Sometimes only by trying on various projects do youth find the field that drives them most of all. After pursuing projects like hiking, camping, drama, participating in the fair exhibits, and consumer judging competitions, Danielle got involved in leadership and livestock raising. Here Danielle found her niche. She has passionately pursued many leadership roles at the club, county, and state level and succeeded in her goal to be part of the process of improving the program and spurring others to be involved. Her love of leadership and livestock together have helped Danielle to define her goals in a way that captures both areas, saying that “Through 4-H I have discovered that I love raising livestock and I hope someday to have my own farm where I can raise and care for livestock.”13096312_10154159026847558_3125887732858775077_n Her entrepreneurial spirit, developing mastery in hog raising, and the leadership skills she has learned will translate into the lifelong values and behavioral change we see in many of our 4-H’ers that have let their experiences direct how they think of others, themselves, and their place in the world.

Being able to translate skills like leadership, responsibility, communication, resourcefulness, and being goal oriented from a specific task or project to all aspects of life is the type of behavior change positive youth development strives for. When asked about the benefits of 4-H, Danielle said,

4-H has helped me develop skills that I can use in my future such as self confidence, public speaking and time management…Maybe most importantly through the leadership opportunities, events, and trainings that I have had in 4-H, I will never be the same.  I have gained confidence, skills, and abilities that I can carry with me into whatever my future holds.”

Though all 4-H youth develop these skills, as youth age into being a Senior 4-H’er, many new opportunities become available that put them at the center of their county and state programming. Projects, leadership opportunities, and travel for this group is much more challenging and autonomous than the mentor heavy experience of younger 4-H’ers. Youth are able to meet with their peers throughout the state and nation who are delving into making what they experience in 4-H part of their lifelong vision and goals for themselves.

12295444_1008171835891965_3627116461056797003_nOne of the most important skills 4-H teaches is to use your head, heart, hands, and health not only for oneself but for club, community, country, and world. Years of community service through 4-H have helped to mold Danielle into an empathetic and thoughtful young woman.
I have learned about compassion for others through community service, and gained a passion for teaching and helping others get the most out of the opportunities afforded them through 4-H and that understanding will go with me in whatever I am passionate about as an adult.” While Danielle has pursued 4-H to the hilt, there is something to be gained through every experience.  

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Senior 4-H’ers can choose to be part of many incredible experiences that are exciting, rewarding, and continually challenge them in the moment as well as throughout their lives. 4-H is a program for all ages. Get on board. Contact your local county agent or look into all the incredible opportunities at the Florida 4-H website.

Grow Confidence with Blue Ribbon 4-H Public Presentations

4-H has given Cass Dillard the confidence to deliver his first illustrated talk at the Washington County 4-H Events.

4-H has helped this Washington County youth develop confidence to speak in front of groups.  Photo credit: Julie Dillard, UF IFAS

A 2001 Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans suffer from glossophobia, or fear of public speaking.  This statistic inspired the famous joke by stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld that at most funerals, “the average person would prefer to be the one in the casket rather than the one delivering the eulogy.”  Fortunately, 4-H offers an easy antidote through our public speaking program.  4-H public speaking helps youth:

  • Demonstrate mastery of a subject
  • Practice quality communication
  • Increase self-confidence when speaking in front of others.

How and where would you find a 4-H volunteer teaching public speaking? Almost anywhere you’ll find 4-H activities! Here are some examples:

The main public speaking education program supported by your 4-H Office is called County Events.

What is County Events?

County Events is a venue in which 4-H’ers can share what they have learned in their project work though several different contests, including demonstrations and illustrated talks. These are show-and-tell type presentations lasting 3-12 minutes in which a 4-H member shows mastery of a subject matter area. Some contest regulations include:

  • Talks must fall between 3-12 minutes for juniors and intermediates, and 5-12 minutes for seniors.
  • Team demonstrations must show active, equal participation of both members.
  • Presentation must fall under an approved category.

Creating a Presentation

  1. Topic Selection- should be age appropriate and preferably related to their 4-H project.
  2. Organizing Thoughts- points should be logical and support the main theme.
  3. Visuals- neat, attractive and easy to read
  4. Practice Strategies- club meetings are a great place to practice and practice makes perfect!

Creating Buy in

Last month our Make a Difference Monday online volunteer training addressed ways for club leaders and parents to get their youth excited about public speaking.  Regional Specialized 4-H Agent Stacey Ellison shared some creative ideas to encourage youth and families to “buy in” to the idea of public speaking:

  • Set expectations
  • Have older youth mentor younger youth
  • Use the team approach
  • Approach it as a game show or cooking show where they can highlight their knowledge or skills

Awards and Recognition

County Events combine two forms of achievement and recognition for youth. These are:

  • Peer Competition (a panel of judges subjectively identifies, in a concrete time and place, the best teams or individuals through ranking)

Through this dual recognition system it would be possible for a blue ribbon presentation to place third in peer competition. All 4-H’ers who achieve blue ribbon standard at the county level move forward to the district level of competition.

If you have a passion for public speaking, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We are in need of judges for our speech contests as well as speech coaches.  For more information on County Events please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Tips for Healthier Holiday Cooking

Tips for Healthier Holiday Cooking

Holiday MyPlateThe holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days. An added bonus, these small changes may help you to avoid those extra holiday pounds we all fear each year. Happy Cooking!

In the Kitchen:
• For gravies or sauces — if you are making pan gravy, first skim the fat off pan drippings. For cream or white sauces, use fat-free (skim) milk and soft tub or liquid margarine.
• For dressings or stuffing — add low-sodium broth or pan drippings with the fat skimmed off instead of lard or butter. Use herbs and spices and a whole grain bread for added flavor.
• For biscuits — use vegetable oil instead of lard or butter and fat-free (skim) milk or 1 percent buttermilk instead of regular milk.
• For greens — use skin-free smoked turkey, liquid smoke, fat-free bacon bits, or low-fat bacon instead of fatty meats.
• For sweet potato pie — mash sweet potato with orange juice concentrate, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and only one egg. Leave out the butter.
• For cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pancakes — use egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Two egg whites can be substituted in many recipes for one whole egg.
• Use unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter.
• Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half.
• Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt.
• Try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie.
• Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.

For meats and poultry (chicken and turkey):
• Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
• Take off poultry skin before eating.
• Broil, grill, roast, poach, or boil meat, poultry, or fish instead of frying.
• Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
• Chill meat and poultry broth until fat becomes solid. Skim off fat before using the broth.
• Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry, or fish. Breading adds fat and calories. It will also cause the food to soak up more fat during frying.
• Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.

When Shopping:
• Start with a lean choice.
• The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (round eye, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
• The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
• Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choice.

Use the food label to help you choose
• Choose extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least “90% lean.” You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.
• Processed meats such as hams, sausages, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake.
• Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __.”
• Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.

De-Saturate
• Use a nonstick pan with vegetable cooking oil spray or a small amount of liquid vegetable oil instead of lard, butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature.

Enjoy the Food, Fun, Friends and Family!
Cheers to Good Health
• Quench your thirst with low-calorie options. Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Offer seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.

Be the Life of the Party
• Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.

Give to Others
• Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season. Giving back is a great mood booster.

Make Exercise a Part of the Fun
• Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes, and reusable water bottles.

Enjoy the Leftovers
• Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless!

Be sure your family and friends enjoy the food and fun, but focus on the time together. Remember this season is all about the memories, not just the food. You will feel better and enjoy your holiday time with less worry if you focus on staying healthy this season.

Source: USDA United States Department of Agriculture – www.MyPlate.gov