Handling the Holiday Blues

Handling the Holiday Blues

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, and 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 is at church, a community group or with family and friends. Spending time with others and socializing is good for the spirit.  In addition, there are tons of volunteer opportunities during the holidays.  Try something new and volunteer your time to a worthy cause.  You will feel great about helping others and contributing to the cause. Research such as this one conducted by UnitedHealth Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience. The research showed:

  • 96% reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
  • 94% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood
  • 80% of them feel like they have control over their health
  • 78% of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 76% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier
  • About a quarter of them reported that their volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and taking their minds off of their own problems
  • Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem

3. Be realistic – Realize that times and traditions change as families grow and age. Do not focus on everything 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7.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.

Do not let the idea of the holidays turn you into a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge.  Learn to take care of yourself first. Learn your limitations and accept them.  Do not let others’ 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.

Aim to find JOY during this holiday season.

Sources:

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. www.mayoclinic.org,

Signs and Symptoms of Depression http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY10000.pdf

Depression and Older Adults  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY95200.pdf

12 Tips for the Holidays

12 Tips for the Holidays

Red and green Christmas tree ornaments in a clear bowl

Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

The holiday season is here and, with it, many colorful decorations, delicious treats, and fun events.  There also are hidden dangers that can mar this special time of year if we aren’t careful.  Follow these twelve tips for a safe holiday celebration:

  1. To reduce fire risk, do not connect more than three strings of incandescent lights.  Follow label guidelines for stringing together LED lights.  Check lights for frayed or exposed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets and replace as needed.
  2. Place candles on stable surfaces away from trees, curtains, and other flammable items and out of reach of children.  Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle.  Consider using battery-operated candles.
  3. Use caution when decorating with “angel hair” and artificial snow.  Angel hair is made from spun glass and can irritate eyes and skin; always wear gloves when handling or use non-flammable cotton instead.  Artificial snow can irritate your lungs if inhaled; follow package directions carefully.
  4. Keep kids and pets in mind when decorating the tree.  Place breakable ornaments or ones with metal hooks near the top out of reach of little hands, playful paws, and wagging tails.
  5. Use a sturdy step ladder, not chairs or other furniture, to reach high places.  Get someone to “spot” you and assist with handing or taking items.
  6. If you use a fireplace, have your chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year by a certified chimney sweep.  Cleaning removes soot and other by-products that can lead to chimney fires and carbon monoxide intrusion into your living space.
  7. Use special care when giving toys that use coin lithium batteries to children.  Older children’s devices with these batteries can be enticing to young children.  Ingestion of button batteries can cause serious injury or death.  Lock away spare batteries and closely supervise young children around products with button batteries.  In case of ingestion, contact the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline, (800) 498-8666.
  8. If you want to fry a turkey, consider using an oil-less turkey fryer or purchase a fried turkey from a professional establishment.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that since 2002, there have been 168 turkey-related fires, burns, explosions, or carbon monoxide poisoning incidents, 672 injuries, and $8 million in property damage.  Don’t add to the statistic count!
  9. Use a food thermometer to ensure meat reaches a safe internal temperature.  Click here for a convenient temperature chart.
  10. Refrigerate food within two hours. Cut leftover meat in small pieces and store foods in shallow containers so they will chill quickly.  Use leftovers within four days or freeze or discard.
  11. Reheat sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil before serving.
  12. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water to reduce your risk of illness.

Have a happy, healthy holiday season!

Sources:
National Safety Council
Chimney Safety Institute of America
Electrical Safety Foundation International

Stress Less for the Holidays

Stress Less for the Holidays

Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress
Photo source: Dorothy Lee

Tis the Season Merry and Bright:

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve there are greater incidences of stress and tension related headaches and migraines. Family stresses, long shopping lines, and unrealistic expectations are enough to trigger tension headaches even in people who are not headache prone. To avoid these aches and pains a strategic plan may be necessary. 

Planning is crucial not only at the holidays but throughout the year.  Having a plan and being organized makes everything easier and more manageable.  The key is to start early and don’t wait until December. This is where Christmas in July becomes useful thinking. 

The following are some tips to help avoid stress during the holiday season.  Make a schedule that includes all tasks you have to complete, how long you think each task will take, and when each task needs to be completed.  This is why Santa makes a list and checks it twice.

  •             Start shopping early to reduce time wasted in long lines with early-bird hour sales
  •             To avoid long period of times wrapping, shop in stores where gift wrap is free
  •             Shop on-line while drinking your coffee in your pajamas
  •             Track your purchases in a notebook or in note section of your cell phone
  •             Prioritize your social events and don’t spread yourself too thin
  •             Use your computer for online postal mailing to avoid lines at the post office
  •             Instead of mailing gifts, order gifts on-line, and have gifts directly sent to gift recipient
  •             Practice relaxation and stretching to reduce stress
  •             Establish a spending limit and stick to it

Be realistic about how much you can do as nobody likes a cranky Santa.  By following these tips, you will be as jolly as old Saint Nick.

Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends as it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  And remember, laugher is the best medicine for stress! 

Happy Holidays!

 

       

 

           

      

 

Cleaning Your Refrigerator After a Power Outage

Cleaning Your Refrigerator After a Power Outage

Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

After an extended power outage, your refrigerator and freezer may develop unpleasant odors from spoiled food. To get rid of these odors, remove all food items and clean the inside, including drawers and bins, with a mild cleaning solution of dish soap and water.  You also can use a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 4 cups warm water.  Strong cleansers may affect the taste of food or ice cubes or damage the interior finish. Rinse with a bleach solution of one tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water to sanitize. Lemon juice and water solutions are not strong enough to sanitize effectively. Leave the unit unplugged with the door open for 1-2 days to air out.  Spray disinfectant around hinges, locks, and into any openings.

If odors persist, try one of these methods:

  • Spread activated charcoal, clean cat litter, or baking soda on trays and place on refrigerator or freezer shelves.  Activated charcoal is extra dry and absorbs odors more quickly than cooking-type charcoal.  It is available at drug or pet supply stores.  Run the appliance empty for 2-3 days.  If the odor remains, replace with new charcoal and repeat.
  • Place trays of freshly ground coffee on appliance shelves and close the door.  Run the appliance empty for 2-3 days.  If a slight coffee aroma remains, wash and rinse shelves and the aroma should dissipate.
  • Pack each shelf with crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle the newspaper with water.  Allow appliance to run for approximately 5-6 days.  While this method is time-consuming, it is effective in removing strong odors.
  • Use a commercial product designed for refrigerator and freezer odor removal.  These products are available at hardware, grocery, discount, and variety stores.

Once the odor is gone, rinse and dry the appliance.  Don’t forget to clean gaskets with a mild cleaning solution and warm water; rinse and dry.  Dirt and spills can prevent the gasket from sealing well, resulting in a loss of cold air and higher utility bills.  Also, clean the coils and front grill with a brush or vacuum cleaner to remove dirt that can hinder air flow to the condenser.

Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer.  The refrigerator should be between 33˚F and 40˚F and the freezer at 0 degrees or below.

If there is still an odor after trying these steps, it is possible meat or fish drippings have seeped into the insulation.  An appliance service technician may need to remove the liner and replace the insulation or the appliance may need to be replaced.

Sources:
My Florida Home Book – University of Florida/IFAS Extension
Solving Odor Problems in Your Refrigerator or Freezer – University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension
When the Power Goes Off – Clemson Cooperative Extension
Cleaning the Fridge – North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension

 

Peanut Butter Helps Hurricane Victims

Peanut Butter Helps Hurricane Victims

You want to help but don’t know how? Maybe you don’t have much money and you don’t have skills, time, or transportation to get to hurricane Michael victims for clean up or rebuild. One easy, low-cost way to help is peanut butter.

 Yes, peanut butter helps hurricane victims

Peanut butter tastes good. It is safe at room temperature – no need to refrigerate or heat. Great when there is no electricity. And it’s super easy. Spread on bread or nosh on a spoonful.

Nutty for Peanut Butter
Photo Source: Angela Hinkle

“I am so hungry. What are we going to eat?”

These words were repeated throughout affected areas of the Florida panhandle after the Michael disaster ripped through towns. Peanut butter was the answer for many. A great filler upper loaded with important protein.

The Peanut Butter Challenge

During the months of October and November, UF/IFAS Extension offices in the Florida panhandle are collecting peanut butter for the Peanut Butter Challenge. Peanut butter is dropped off at collection sites by gracious donors – like you. Then at the beginning of December, the peanut butter is distributed to hungry families in need at local food pantries. Because so many of our family, neighbors, and friends were affected by hurricane Michael, much of this peanut butter will also be headed to them this year.

Peanut Proud

Peanut Proud and others have already donated 36,000 jars of peanut butter to affected areas. While many jars will be “spread” throughout all Florida panhandle county pantries, much peanut butter will be distributed to hurricane Michael affected areas.

Gift Cards

Looking for other ways to help. Gift cards to Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, Walmart, etc. are greatly appreciated. These cards allow people to get what they need. No guesswork involved.

To find out how and where to donate as well additional recovery information, contact your local Northwest District UF/IFAS Extension office. University of Florida IFAS directory

After the storm, recovery begins

Downed trees after Hurricane Michael

Downed trees and other debris should be handled carefully. Use proper equipment and follow all safety precautions to avoid injury. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

Hurricane Michael was a storm of historic proportions, slamming into the Florida Panhandle and wreaking havoc on millions of people across the Big Bend region. Now that the storm has passed, the recovery phase has begun. Damage assessment, debris removal, structural repairs, and food safety concerns are just a few aspects of storm recovery, as people seek to rebuild their lives and return to a sense of normalcy.

There are a lot of things to think about after a disaster and it can be overwhelming. The first priority should always be basic necessities: food, water, and shelter. Make sure any structure is safe enough for habitation.  If the structure’s integrity is compromised, seek alternate living arrangements.

Heed all boil water notices, if applicable. If boiling water is not possible, stick to using clean, bottled water for drinking, food preparation, and personal hygiene. Do not assume that because the food in the refrigerator is cool to the touch, that it is safe to eat.  Perishable food must be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered safe. If it is uncertain as to whether that temperature was maintained while the power was out, the food should be discarded. Discard any perishable food from refrigerators after a power outage longer than 4 hours.

Be careful when assessing damage after the storm. Wear sturdy shoes and avoid wading through floodwaters. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen when out in the sun. Drink plenty of clean water and maintain energy levels with small, nutrient-dense meals and snacks. Damaged tree limbs may continue to fall after the storm, so take heed of potential falling debris. Standing water can harbor snakes, fire ants, and other potentially dangerous critters, so take proper precautions at or around puddles or floodwater.

Use tools such as chainsaws and generators correctly and practice proper safety precautions.  Do not run a generator inside and store gas cans a safe distance from both the generator and the living space. Allow others more skilled with using a chainsaw to help with debris collection and removal. If dealing with large amounts of mold, be sure to wear protective clothing and the proper respiratory mask to avoid contact with spores.

Unfortunately, many dishonest people take advantage of situations such as natural disasters to prey on those in need. Beware of people offering to help with repairs quickly and/or for an extraordinarily low price. Only hire reputable licensed contractors, even if that means having to wait for services. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation myfloridalicense.com  maintains a list of licensed contractors in the state of Florida. The Better Business Bureau provides ratings for a variety of businesses, including contractors. Use these resources as a guide to finding the right contractor.

Contact insurance companies as soon as possible after the storm to get the claims process rolling. Have the policy on hand when the call is made to make the process easier. It would be helpful to document any damage and have those photos available to share with the insurance agent or claims adjuster.  Post-disaster is an extremely busy time for insurance companies, so be as cooperative and patient as possible during the process.

Disaster recovery is a very stressful time for everyone, often leading to confusion, anger, and helplessness. Reach out to existing support systems such as family, friends, churches, or other groups for emotional support. Practice self-care, such as regular meals and breaks. Establish a new normal routine and stick to it, especially for children. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and others during this difficult time.

The University of Florida IFAS Extension Service is a local resource for post-disaster education and assistance. More information about each of these topics and more can be provided by your local extension office.

The UF/IFAS Disaster Preparation & Recovery blog is a comprehensive resource to help with disaster recovery: http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/.

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.