What is Stress Anyway?
The traffic is awful, a report is due, the laundry is piling up, and the kids are fighting. Life is full of stress! According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is how the brain and body respond to any physical, mental, and/or emotional demand. Not all stress is bad. For example, stress can help motivate us to get things done. When faced with a threat or stressful event, our bodies produce hormones such as epinephrine, which can cause a temporary rise in our heart rate and blood pressure. Chronic, un-managed stress can cause long-term symptoms including headaches, high blood pressure and even problems sleeping.
Identify the Sources of Stress in Your Life
Feeling stressed is normal, but some people cope with stress better than others. Our thoughts, lifestyle and emotions can affect how much stress we endure. We must identify the causes of our stress before we can begin to manage them. Although the causes of stress are similar for both men and women, it is how we recognize and manage our stress that makes us different.
Common Causes of Stress:
• Work or unemployment
• Money, finances
• Drug or alcohol abuse
• Family breakdown
• Health issues
• Major life changes
What are the Symptoms of Stress?
Our bodies automatically respond to stressors in our lives. However, constant and uncontrolled stress can lead to serious physical and mental consequences. No matter how stressful your life seems, we must recognize the warning signs of stress and take action.
Watch out for the following warning signs:
• Feeling tired, not sleeping properly
• Loss of concentration and an inability to complete projects
• Irritability, low self-esteem or mood swings
• Feeling tense or anxious
• Feeling unmotivated
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Excessive drinking and/or drug use
• Physical signs such as headaches, chest pains, high blood pressure, digestive problems or aches and pains
Men and Woman Handle Stress Differently
How stress affects you may depend upon your gender. Men and women recognize and react to stress in different ways, both mentally and physically.
When feeling stressed, women reach out to friends and family. They seek support to lower their stress and find a solution to their challenges. By talking about their emotions, women are able to process their feelings and share the pressure of their situation.
When men experience stressful situations, they are likely to hide their feelings or change the subject to escape a stressful situation. Men find it hard to talk about their feelings or ask for help when faced with pressures from their job, family issues or money worries. Men prefer to play sports or listen to music to manage stress.
Stress Reduction Strategies for Men and Women
Stress is a normal part of life, but chronic stress can be bad for our health. Stress management means taking control of your thoughts, emotions, and lifestyle. Making simple changes in your life such as maintaining a network of close friends, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep can help reduce your overall stress.
The American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2010/gender-stress
The National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
The Electronic Data Information Source of UF/IFAS Extension. EDIS: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY51700.pdf
To learn more about how to cope with stress, contact Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Gadsden County (850) 875-7255 or Osgoodlb@ufl.edu
Stay hydrated this summer.
Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than an ice-cold glass of water! Water is an essential component to good health. In fact, it makes up 60% of your body’s weight and is involved in various metabolic processes throughout your body. Without it, you could not survive. As summer approaches, it is important to be mindful of the increasing temperatures outside since the chances for dehydration are much greater than other times of the year – especially if you are planning to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Dehydration happens when your body lacks enough water to carry out normal processes. It often occurs when you are expending more water (usually through sweat & exercise) than you are consuming, and is accelerated in warm humid climates. Dehydration is no joke, and can lead to serious medical complications such as heat stroke, heat stress, and even death. Common signs and symptoms that may indicate you are dehydrated include fatigue, headache, dry mouth, little to no urination, constipation, vomiting, muscle-weakness, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Most susceptible to heat stress and complications from dehydration include infants, older adults (65 & up), people who are overweight, and people who are excessive sweaters during physical activity. If you fall into any of those categories, try to be mindful about how much fluid you are consuming throughout the day.
How can you prevent dehydration?
While many people think they may be drinking enough, that is often not the case. Your own thirst mechanism isn’t always the best gauge to make sure you are properly hydrated. According to the National Academy of Medicine, women should consume an average of 9 ½ cups of water per day and men should be consuming 12 cups. For older adults over the age of 70, the rule of thumb is about 7 cups per day. That includes all fluids from water, coffee, and juices.
Keep in mind that needs may be different for each of us. One simple way to check your hydration status is to look at the color of your urine. If the color of your urine is a light lemonade color, you are in the clear! However, if your urine color is a dark orange, you need to start drinking some fluids to get back to a hydrated state to avoid any health complications.
Additional ways to reach your fluid intake without refilling your water bottle
Did you know water makes up the largest component of many of the foods we eat? By adding some more fruits and vegetables to your diet such as watermelon, strawberries, melons, oranges, broccoli, bell peppers, and lettuces – you are not only increasing your fluid intake but getting your necessary vitamins and minerals as well! According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should be consuming an average of 2 cups of fruits and vegetables per day.
Other factors that can influence your hydration status
Alcohol – Alcohol acts as a diuretic – meaning it turns down a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH) which tells your kidneys to absorb/retain fluids. In other words, drinking a lot of alcohol will make you expel more fluids from your body. Make sure to drink extra water while enjoying alcoholic beverages to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Diet – Consuming a high-sodium diet is another cause of dehydration. Sodium is necessary in our diets, but only in very small amounts. When we consume excessive amounts of sodium, this disrupts the body’s filtration system and the kidneys begin holding onto more and more water. This leads to dehydration, bloating, edema, hypertension, and cardiovascular stress. Drinking extra water can help bring things back into balance and re-hydrate your thirsty cells!
Older Age – As we get older, thirst sensations decrease and risk for dehydration increases since older adults do not feel the need to drink as much. Additionally, many medications can influence fluid needs in the body.
Caffeine – Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not dehydrate you. When you drink coffee, or other caffeinated beverages you are also consuming fluids. High fluid consumption leads to higher frequency of urination.
Learn to LOVE Water
Water by itself can definitely get old if it isn’t your beverage of choice. There are plenty of ways to add flavor and sweetness to your drinks without packing in tons of extra calories and sugar. Fruit infusions are a very simple way to make a boring beverage much more delicious. Try some of these delightful, thirst-quenching recipes!
Raspberry Orange Mint
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 orange sliced up
- Mint leaves
Lemon Lime Thyme
- 1 lemon sliced
- 1 lime sliced
- 1 large sprig of fresh thyme
Blueberry Lemon Mint
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 lemon sliced
Spring has sprung! Have you? One way to shake off those groggy winter hibernation feelings is to Put a Little Step In Your Spring.
Regular Brisk Walking
- Means you can talk but maybe not sing. You may be slightly out of breath.
- Improves overall health.
- Can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Prevents chronic health conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
- Strengthens bones.
- “Boosts” or increases muscle power and endurance.
Ready to walk to the top (of Mt Vesuvius) Photo Source: Richard Waid
Strive for 10,000 Steps a Day
- Spring clean your house.
- Mow the lawn.
- Dance around your living room.
- Take the stairs.
- Park in the farthest spot in the parking lot from your destination.
- Wear a pedometer or electronic fitness device to measure how many steps you’ve gone.
- Try for at least 30 minutes a day. If you can’t – break up your walking into smaller segments.
- Vary your intensity – speed up, slow down. Then repeat.
- Vary the view. Try different settings to walk – your neighborhood, the beach, or the woods.
Make It Social
- Let your dog take you for a walk. (Be sure to bring cleanup bags with you and have your best friend(s) on a leash.)
- Walk with friends.
- Make it a family routine.
- Join a walking club.
- Compete with a group to see who can get the most steps.
- Walk in the mall or a park. And say hello to people as you pass by.
- Mindful walk – notice the colors around you, how your feet feel as they step down on different surfaces, the variety of sounds you hear on your walk. Meet someone along the way. Learn their name…and remember it. For info on mindfulness, check out this UF/IFAS publication: Mindfulness: An Introduction.
Always remember to walk in a safe environment, wear comfortable walking shoes, and check with your medical provider for the best walking strategies for you.
So this spring, see how the flowers pop in color. Hear all the different sounds the birds make or enjoy some of your favorite music. Feel the wind and sun on your face. You can do all that and more when you Put a Little Step in Your Spring.
As we get older, our risk of falling increases. In fact, falling once doubles the chances of falling again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five falls causes serious injury such as broken bones or head injury. Over 300,000 people aged 65 or older are hospitalized each year for hip fractures caused by falls.
Properly installed handrails in bathrooms and other high traffic areas can greatly reduce the risk of falling. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)
Most fall injuries occur in the home. We think of our homes as our safe space and sanctuary, often overlooking potential dangers. Here are six common hazards that occur in the home that can contribute to an increased risk of falling.
Clutter. Items that block or limit walkways in the home can be tripping hazards. Having to navigate around excess furniture or boxes can be difficult for someone with limited mobility. Clear out the clutter and keep walkways free of extraneous items. Wide open hallways and other spaces in the home will reduce potential tripping hazards.
Rugs. Rugs large and small can be tripping hazards. People can catch their toes underneath a rug’s edge or the rug itself can slip out from under them, causing a fall. Remove any rugs that are not necessary, such as rugs set out strictly for decoration. Apply slip-resistant backing to rugs to keep them from sliding across the floor.
Lighting. Dim lighting can make it difficult to see potential tripping hazards. Install brighter lights, especially in walkways and stairwells. Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms to help navigate more easily at night.
Storage. Many falls occur when people are trying to reach items that are stored out-of-reach. Rearrange items, especially those used most often, in cabinets and on shelves so they can be reached easily without needing a step ladder.
Handrails. The lack of handrails or handrails that are broken or installed incorrectly can contribute to falls. The extra support and stability provided by handrails is vital, especially for those with limited mobility. Installing proper handrails in the bathroom (including the toilet and shower) and on stairs can greatly reduce the risk of falling.
Pets. Small pets can contribute to falls by inadvertently acting as a tripping hazard. Be aware of where pets are and tread carefully around them. When walking a pet, keep them on a tight leash and do not let them wrap around feet or legs.
Another great way to help reduce the risk of falling is through exercise. Strength and balance exercises such as Tai Chi help improve leg strength, balance, and flexibility. Some people also may benefit from calcium and vitamin D supplements, which can improve bone strength. Always consult a physician before taking any supplement.
Important Facts about Falls (CDC)
Fall Prevention (UF/IFAS Extension)
Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.
One way to be more sustainable when shopping for groceries is to use reusable shopping bags. They’re durable and sturdy and can help reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the landfill each year. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)
Sustainability should not just be a buzzword during Earth Month. The fact that everybody either shops for or eats groceries means the whole grocery shopping experience is a good time to reflect and improve upon what we can personally do to embrace issues of sustainability.
This year in April, the Earth Month theme focuses on Returning to Nature. There is no better place to start a quest for personal sustainable improvement than the grocery store! Grocery shopping truly embraces the three main areas of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. In fact, it has been well documented that the average family wastes about 25% of the food it purchases. (Much of this ends up in a landfill and creates problems of its own.)
With a bit of forethought, meal planning before grocery shopping can help individuals and families apply sustainable best practices for environmental, economic, and social well-being. In fact, many of the principles of sustainability can be effectively applied to both meal planning and grocery shopping.
RESPECT yourself. Good nutrition is one of the keys to a healthy life. Improve health by keeping a balanced diet. Vow to make healthier food choices for personal health and the environment.
REFUSE to use food products that do not fit your principles of sustainability. This may mean buying food with less packaging, eating more locally-grown fruits and vegetables, or looking for foods labeled as more responsibly sourced.
REDUCE the amount of food thrown out. Planning meals ahead of time and writing out a grocery list are excellent ways to start living sustainably. Planning not only saves money on groceries, it can save time and decrease the amount of personal food waste a family contributes. (Remember, freezing products can prolong their life, so if you find that you’ve overbought, try preserving some of your bounty for later use.) Reducing the number of trips to the grocery store also can help save on fuel and transportation costs.
REUSE /REPURPOSE food for another occasion. Careful meal planning helps ensure that leftovers from one meal can be incorporated into the next one, thereby reducing food waste.
RETHINK! Healthy, nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive grocery choices can be found in every food group. Not all food has to be prepackaged. In fact, with a bit of planning, dinner can be on the table in 15 minutes. (That’s less time than it takes to wait in line at a fast food restaurant.)
BE RESPONSIBLE! Use what you buy.
Stock up on low-cost healthy grain products like whole-wheat noodles, brown rice, and store-brand cereals and oatmeal.
Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and cost less. In addition, do not forget that frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables can play an important part in meal planning.
Buy the largest size you can effectively use before it reaches the expiration date – and look for the items with the latest dates. Purchase store brands or generic brands whenever possible. Keep in mind smaller containers tend to cost more, no matter what the food group. Buying larger packages and dividing them into smaller portions can save money and reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in the landfill. Investing in small, reusable storage containers will save money and reduce waste in the end.
Practice Meatless Monday. The protein group provides inexpensive protein sources like beans, lentils, and eggs, which can be substituted for meat in many meals.
Protein does not have to be the most expensive item purchased. Consulting the store’s weekly sales flyer during meal planning can help you plan meals around meat and poultry items that are on sale.
Prepare food your family will actually eat. There are two schools of thought here: preparing just enough for one meal or preparing big-batch recipes that provide leftovers which can be frozen for later use. Either practice can be sustainable. Freeze leftovers only if you’re going to use them. Otherwise, cut down on the amount of food cooked to help reduce food waste.
Learn how to cook. Prepare and eat more meals at home. It is sustainable, good for you, and delicious. Meals cooked at home are more nutritious, less expensive, and result in less overall waste, such as packaging.
Two additional ways to be more sustainable when grocery shopping are to use reusable shopping bags and to stop using single-use plastic produce bags. Plastic grocery bags choke our landfills and end up in our water bodies. They are not biodegradable and can last thousands of years virtually intact. Reusable shopping bags are made from recycled materials and can drastically reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the trash each year.
For more information on making your grocery shopping more sustainable, check out these related articles:
Freezing: Nature’s Pause Button (UF/IFAS Extension)
What’s in your FREEZER? (UF/IFAS Extension)
Best Practices for Shoppers at the Farmers’ Market (UF/IFAS Extension)
Sustainable Grocery Shopping (University of Northern Iowa)
UF/IFAS Family and Consumer Sciences Agents Heidi Copeland and Samantha Kennedy
I love spring cleaning. Well, I love spring. I wish someone else would do the cleaning. It does feel nice to have everything clean and sparkling for those sunny spring days. According to a 2018 survey by the American Cleaning Institute, nearly 76% of households engage in spring cleaning each year. These spring cleaners report deep cleaning and clearing clutter as the top two reasons for this annual springtime spruce up.
If you want to join the springtime cleaning craze but aren’t sure how to start, here are a few ideas:
Clear the Clutter
Get ready for the springtime spruce up. Photo credit: Kendra Zamojski
Personal belongings hold a host of memories and other emotional attachments. This means stuff can accumulate in closets, drawers, cabinets, and other places. In my own life, I try to get rid of items I haven’t used in the last year. Others may use different criteria. Pick a closet, cabinet, or other area to de-clutter and start by sorting. Separate items into boxes or baskets labeled: Keep, Donate/Sell, Recycle, Trash. This is also a great way to help children make decisions about their stuff. It always makes me feel better to clear the clutter and organize a messy cabinet or closet.
Deep cleaning involves going through each room and cleaning it to a higher standard or reaching dirt that might get missed in a regular cleaning routine. On deep cleaning days, wash window and shower curtains, wash windows and mirrors, scrub floors, wash or wipe down walls, baseboards, and doors. Dust or wipe down light fixtures, ceiling fans, furniture, and shelves. Other tasks might include vacuuming under furniture, cleaning the carpets and rugs, and cleaning under and behind appliances.
Spring cleaning takes a little extra elbow grease compared to the regular cleaning routine. If you find this overwhelming, start small by choosing a room or even smaller by choosing a closet or cabinet. Once you see the difference, it will motivate you to tackle the next job.
Healthy Homes: Dealing with Household Clutter. 2015.
Available at: https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201067_1.PDF
Spring Cleaning Tips
Available at: https://lancaster.unl.edu/home/articles/2005/springcleaning.shtml