A State of Mind: Your Mental and Emotional Health

A State of Mind: Your Mental and Emotional Health

Have you thought about your mental and emotional health lately? If you haven’t, it’s a great time to take some time to invest in you. Emotional wellness is the ability to handle and overcome challenges and obstacles that we often must deal with in everyday life. It doesn’t mean you will always be happy, but you are aware of and in control of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions when you have negative feelings or setbacks. Research shows that emotional health is a skill. There are many ways to improve and maintain your emotional health so you can adapt to changes as they happen.

Tips for Emotional Wellness:

Spend time with loved ones to strengthen your relationship.
Photo credit: UF/IFAS

  1. Stay positive. Purposely develop a positive mindset and hold on to the positive emotions and appreciate the good times as long as you can. Focus on your outlook. Ask yourself: What gives me inner peace? What gives me purpose? Remember to forgive yourself and others for making mistakes.
  2. Reduce stress. Stress can push you to your limits. It can also motivate you with a rush of energy when needed. It is important to eliminate long-term stress, if possible, and strive for balance. Learn what relaxation techniques work best for you. Deep breathing, meditation, and exercise are healthy ways that could provide release. Set priorities and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
  3. Take care of your physical health. Plan to eat healthy meals, get enough rest, and exercise. Your physical health directly relates to your mental health. There are so many things we want to fit into a day but there’s not always enough time. Establish set times to help keep you on track. Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants, especially late in day when it could affect your nighttime routine.
  4. Strengthen your relationships. Build strong connections with your partner, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. These social relationships help us to find purpose and meaning. Join a group focused on a favorite activity or hobby. Take a class and learn something new. Volunteer in your community and share positive habits with others. Others can have powerful effects on our health and link us to opportunity.
  5. Think before you act. Be aware of your emotions and reactions so you can harness them when you are triggered, or something is bothering you. Notice what makes you happy, sad, or mad, and take a few minutes to think before you address or try to change a situation. It’s okay to express your feelings to others and not keep everything within. We must be mindful of how it comes across or affects the other person. Take a walk or some deep breaths and allow yourself to process during a difficult time.

How you feel can affect your daily activities and relationships. People who have good mental health can still have mental illness, so remember to consult your doctor for ongoing concerns. There could be chemical imbalances that need the right kind of treatment. There are also counseling and support groups that can help when you need extra support. It’s up to you to start making healthy choices and taking control of your overall wellness. I hope you feel encouraged and take steps to develop resilience in the face of adversity. For more information on healthy living or other Extension-related topics, you can contact your Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Sources:

https://www.nih.gov/health-information/emotional-wellness-toolkit

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_mental_health

Are you a climate smart Floridian?

Are you a climate smart Floridian?

Red flowers, an oak tree, pasture, and a pond.

Today’s Climate
Photo Source: UF/IFAS Photo Database

Many confuse the two words climate and weather. Weather is the day to day conditions of our atmosphere. Whereas, climate refers to the average of the weather over time. Weather depicts how we dress day to day and can change often. Climate refers more to the average weather over time. We generally must prepare for our climate by buying appropriate clothing and preparing our home for longer term weather conditions.

What causes the climate to change? There are three important greenhouse gases that have dramatically increased since industrialization: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. The increases are primarily due to our changes in land use over time. These factors make our earth’s surface temperature warmer which affects our loss of sea ice and longer fire seasons, and can contribute to extreme weather events.

Finger changing temperature on thermostat

Adjust the temperature
Photo Source: Julie McMillian

The question is, what can I do in my own world and community to help on an individual basis? There are several ways that we can reduce our energy use of electricity at home which will help us to contribute to the bigger picture. Some simple suggestions are when you are not using the television, computer, lights, heating and cooling, try to turn them off or down for a while. Purchasing shades or curtains for your windows can keep your house cooler in the summer and fans may be able to replace the air conditioner on some occasions. When running the air, heat or hot water heater check your thermostat for energy saving features. Try to only run the dishwasher or washing machine with full loads and be sure to clean out your lint trap in the dryer so it has good airflow. You will find you might even save a few dollars by being mindful of your energy consumption.

Next, let’s talk about reducing greenhouse gases in our yards. Composting food scraps is a great way to reduce waste from landfills and turns your waste into reusable soil. Planting trees and plants helps to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Plants store carbon and help to regulate temperatures in the home. Another thing to consider is, where does your water run off go? If water can be routed to your garden it is a win-win.
How do we plan our food system in our home? Reducing food waste has many benefits. We can save money, help our community, conserve energy and resources just by rethinking the way we plan our meals. If we buy more unprocessed foods, there will be less packaging. If we are able to grow our own food or just eat at home more, it cuts down on trips to restaurants and stores.

These are just a few ways to get you thinking about climate change in Florida. As a citizen, we can take action by staying informed and showing our support. If we hold ourselves accountable by looking at our personal impact, we may be surprised what we are leaving behind with our footprint. For more information on healthy living or other extension related topics, contact your local UF IFAS county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS Extension EDIS publications:

Science Support for Climate Change Adaptation in South Florida

Climate Change Adaptation: New Perspectives for Natural Resources Management and Conservation

Energy Efficient Homes

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Step by Step into Better Health

Step by Step into Better Health

What does your morning and evening routine consist of? Now that we are adjusting to our new normal of staying at home and social distancing, many routines are different than before. How about starting a routine of walking 30 minutes or an hour each day? There are so many positive benefits to even just adding 15 minutes to your schedule and most everyone, including children, can do it.

two people walking their dog

Walking is a great form of exercise that nearly everyone can do. (Photo source: Lyon Duong, UF/IFAS)

Walking improves your mood and reduces stress and anxiety. Who doesn’t need that kind of positive influence in their life right now? If you walk in the morning, it will provide you with energy for the rest of the day and walking in the evening helps you to sleep better at night. Taking a few extra steps each day can add some time to clear your head and add to your energy level while creating a positive mindset for other activities.

One of the other benefits of walking is burning calories. Burning calories may lead to weight loss. It seems that almost every American is always looking for a way to improve the fitness of their body. By exercising during a walk, you build stronger muscles, ligaments and tendons. Physically, walking can reduce your hips, tighten abdominal muscles, strengthen your arms, and tone your legs. Walking gives you a chance to improve balance, coordination and flexibility. Your feet can help to reduce the load on other joints while keeping knee joints healthy and lowering the risk of blood clots. Walking makes your heart stronger and reduces risk of stroke. A research team from the University of Michigan Medical School says that people who are in the 50s-60s age bracket who exercise regularly are 35 percent less likely to die in the next eight years than those who do not. Therefore, some walking each day could help you lead to a longer life.

Now that we have so many reasons to take a stroll each day, we must make sure to walk correctly to avoid injury. It is important to move freely and naturally while swinging your arms to avoid back problems. Keep your shoulder back with your head held high and eyes forward. Position your feet straight and push off with your hind leg to engage your hips. Watch for traffic if you are walking by a highway and of course practice social distancing for now. Maybe later ask a friend to join for a social aspect and to have accountability to someone. Keep a log to track progress. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to be considered active adults. That should add up to about 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day but if you can get 10,000, go for it! It is a great time to get into this daily routine and doesn’t require any special equipment or memberships.

So what are you waiting for? There is no better time to start stepping.

For more information on healthy living or other extension related topics, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.

Additional Resources:
Healthstyle: A Self-Test (UF/IFAS Extension)
Healthy Living: Beating Barriers to Physical Activity (UF/IFAS Extension)
Improving Savings, Health, and Happiness by Modifying How the Family Operates the Home (UF/IFAS Extension)
Walking: Your Steps to Health (Harvard Health)

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

The weather is great! Let’s go outside?

Can I go outside during the Coronavirus Pandemic? Is it a smart idea? As we are instructed by the CDC to isolate ourselves and embrace social distancing, we may start to feel a little restless or stir crazy after staying inside for a long period of time. Spring weather is great, especially in the mornings and evenings, here in Florida. Normally we would be entering a time when people are the most active outdoors. This year we must be a little more creative when deciding what we can do to enjoy daily activities outside of our home.

Family playing outside with bubbles

Family playing outside
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

Children usually need no encouragement to go outside. Youth that spend more time outside have positive outcomes with their health by interacting with their natural environments. They are curious about the world around them and their experiences outside will benefit them in regard to a positive attitude toward their environment. Adults have those same benefits but tend to forget or not have time in everyday life as it gets busy.

Therefore, the question is, what can we do that will keep us at a distance and be educational and productive? If you live in less populated areas, you might plant a garden, build an outside project that you have been putting off, enjoy a picnic, or hike and sight-see through the woods. If in the city and able, go for a walk or jog with your dog, take a bike ride or do some yoga especially if you are missing the gym. Your medical professionals will be glad you are participating in some physical activity and breathing in some fresh air. You might want to get in a lawn chair and just relax and soak up some vitamin D from a few minutes in the sun.

If you have recently become your child’s teacher, you can have learning activities outside. Science and math can be integrated by building a house out of natural resources, allowing students to collect materials and build while fostering creativity. Talk about ecosystems of trees and plants and how they might provide a home for insects or animals. Students could take a piece of paper outside and define what they see in their yard, integrating spelling and vocabulary, or write a short story based on what they hear and observe.

We are living and facing challenges today that we probably have not encountered before, so it is a good time to find an outlet to relieve stress and detour the onset of depression. The web is full of ideas for all ages if you run out of inspiration and some days we do. Remember to keep a safe distance from others, wash your hands frequently and follow your local guidelines but don’t be afraid to try something new that may be out of your ordinary routine. It might turn out to be your favorite hobby.

For more information on healthy living or other extension related topics, contact your local UF IFAS county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS Extension EDIS publications:

Kids in the Woods

Why is Exposure to Nature Important in Early Childhood

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.