Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning!

You probably have heard the term “spring cleaning” before and with good reason. The changing of the season offers an opportunity to declutter our homes and start fresh. In Florida, the weather is warming up and flowers are starting to bloom. It is time to store away the winter blues and embrace the new growth happening all around us.

It is time to deep clean the floors, windows, pantry, closets, and refrigerators, and time to throw out or donate items collecting dust in the house. It can be overwhelming to start thinking about cleaning everything in the house, so make it manageable by prioritizing what needs to be done first.  You could start by cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator. Toss the expired food away and donate those items you haven’t used in months that have not expired. Chances are, if you have not used them in months, you probably won’t any time soon. Look at your spice cabinet and take inventory of what is good to use and what is not. Yoss the expired spices away. Wipe down your cabinets and appliances.

Declutter your pantry by discarding expired products or donating still-good foods to a food pantry. (Photo credit: Tyler Jones)

Open your curtains or lift your blinds and start cleaning your windows and wash your curtains. It is amazing how much dust can build up on blinds and curtains. Take out a dust rag and dust those spaces that aren’t commonly used. Take down the photos on the wall and give them a nice wipe down as well. While you are at it with the dust rag or duster, get those ceiling fans and other hard-to-reach places. Don’t forget to clean the baseboards. There are a variety of ways you can clean them: wipe with a rag, mop, vacuum, or sweep them. Go ahead and wash that shower curtain and replace the curtain liner if it has been a while. Vacuum or wipe down your furniture to remove dust, hair, and crumbs. Take inventory of your closets and donate what you do not use or haven’t used in a long time. You could also have a yard sale to get rid of excess items in your house that you no longer want or need (and make a little cash at the same time!). Sweep or vacuum the floors, clean the rugs by washing or spot-cleaning them, and finish off the inside cleaning by mopping if you have hard floors.

Clearing your yard of fall and winter debris can help make it cozy for spring and summer fun. (Photo Credit: Melanie Southerland)

Now is a good time to do any DIY projects or hire someone to come in and touch up things that need to be done. You may need to touch up some paint, or re-caulk your tile or windows. Also, be sure to change your air filter on a regular basis to ensure proper air filtration and to help extend the life of your unit. Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Fixing small things around your house can have a huge impact on the overall condition of your house. Small changes make a huge difference.

Cleaning and decluttering can be a daunting task, but making a list and tackling items on that list one at a time can help get your house ready for the Spring season. Play music or an audiobook aloud to give you some motivation or encouragement while cleaning. You can even add a dance move in while you’re at it for a little extra exercise!

Finally, don’t forget the outdoors. You may have some projects you would like to do outside, and spring is a great time to mark those items off the list because the weather is typically enjoyable. Pressure or soft wash the exterior of the house to remove built up dirt and debris. Weed the garden, plant those flowers, put out that bird feeder, and enjoy your outdoor space. Create your own sanctuary by decluttering and cleaning your living areas, inside and out. Now you are ready to enjoy the spring season and all it has to offer!

Improve Brain Health Today!

Improve Brain Health Today!

Did you know a heart-healthy diet is a brain-healthy diet? A diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants is not only great for reducing the risk for heart disease and diabetes, but also for boosting brain function. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), research has shown that people who follow a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing dementia. A Mediterranean diet focuses on all the good food mentioned above and limits foods with added sugars, fewer portions of meat, and carbohydrates compared to a standard American diet.

Foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats slow down our brain function often causing us to be tired or feel sluggish. Eating these types of foods long-term may lead to lower cognitive function as well as increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables boosts brain function. Photo credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Lyon Duong

Physical activity is very critical for positive brain health. Research has shown that regular physical activity is beneficial for the brain because it may increase glucose metabolism, using glucose for fuel quickly, which could reduce the risk for cognitive disorders as you age. This is one reason it is important to strive for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Brisk walking is an example of moderate-intensity exercise, and it is generally cost-effective or free and does not require special equipment. So, while you may be walking to get ready for a vacation or an event, you are not only getting into physical shape but also boosting your cognitive function at the same time!

There are other ways besides diet and exercise that you can help boost your cognition. You may engage in activities such as sewing, quilting, reading, playing games, and socializing. These are great ways to challenge our brains while also having fun. Maybe you just learned someone you know is expecting a baby, so if you enjoy making blankets, make one for that person; maybe the local community center holds game nights – take a friend and go play some games! Try learning something new – if you enjoy dancing, try picking up a new style of dance or if you enjoy cooking, try different recipes or techniques in the kitchen. Trying something new can be fun and rewarding.

Managing stress is important when we think about our brain health. It is easy to get caught up in the stressors of daily life and if we do not have effective ways to manage this stress, it can take a toll on cognitive function. Taking a short walk, listening to music, reading a book, and talking with a friend can help manage stress. Engaging in meditation, prayer, or yoga can also help manage or reduce stress. It is important to take deep breaths and relax throughout the day so you can regain focus and tackle the issue(s) at hand. Stress is inevitable, so finding ways to manage or reduce the effects of stress on you can be beneficial to overall cognitive health.

Reading can boost your cognition AND help you manage stress. Photo credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

Keeping our brains healthy is a life-long task. It is never too late to start working on our cognitive health. The brain is continually changing every day so add in healthy foods, exercise, and activities to help grow your brain positively or beneficially. It is important to find ways to manage stress that work for you; this helps with decision-making, problem-solving, and overall cognitive function. Take brain breaks throughout your day to de-stress and recharge.

If you would like more information on diet and brain health, please visit the links below: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults


Let’s Get Moving!

Let’s Get Moving!

Physical activity is vital for all individuals. Everyone can benefit from being physically active throughout their lives. Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Chronic conditions may be manageable by regular physical activity. Being active can help people maintain a healthy body weight as they age or help people lower their body weight, if needed, when paired with a healthy diet. Physical activity can help with balance, which reduces the risk of falling and lessens the risk of injury if a fall does occur.

Socialize and stay on track with your wellness goals by exercising with others.
Photo credit: UF/IFAS Photo Library

How much physical activity is recommended? Some activity is better than none—small amounts of daily exercise like walking, folding laundry, grocery shopping, and gardening benefit health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. Moderate-intensity exercise increases heart and breath rate, but the person should still be able to maintain a conversation. Vigorous-intensity movement causes you to become out of breath and unable to hold an entire conversation. It is important to know that exercise is most beneficial spread throughout the week, for example, brisk walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Some people do not have time to set aside a 30-minute block during the day to walk and choose to do 10 minutes at a time three times a day, which counts for 30 minutes of exercise that day!

Physical activity can benefit overall health, including mental health. Grab a friend or two and plan to meet up a couple of times each week to socialize and exercise together. Group exercise can be a great way to maintain healthy relationships and physical health. Research indicates that people with an accountability partner tend to stick with their exercise goals longer than those who do not have an exercise partner. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans also recommend that adults should do at least two days per week of muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights and resistance training. You do not need fancy equipment; you can use food jars, cans of soup, milk jugs, etc., as your weights. Also, you can use your body weight for resistance training, such as push-ups, squats, and planks. When doing muscle-strengthening exercises, it is essential to work out all major muscle groups each week, including the legs, back, chest, and hips.

Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program. It is also essential to keep a few safety tips in mind: be aware of your surroundings, dress for the weather, stay hydrated, and ensure the area is well-lit to avoid fall or trip hazards.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans | health.gov

Meet Jefferson County’s New Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Meet Jefferson County’s New Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Melanie had a blast teaching kids about building a healthy plate at the 2022 Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, GA.
Photo source: Kendra Hughson

My name is Melanie Southerland, and I am the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Jefferson County. I started in my position on August 1, 2022. I come from Taylor County, FL where I grew up and still live today. I love living and working in a rural community. I bring my passion for health and wellness promotion and knowledge of social determinants of health, aiming to reach all areas where people live, work, play, and worship. Health is comprehensive; it includes physical health, emotional health, mental health, and financial health. In Jefferson, I will be focusing on providing education and resources for improving healthy lifestyles and food safety practices as well as improving economic well-being.

I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Science and Child Development and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Florida State University. I bring experience from working with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program for the last five years where I served as the Nutrition Program Manager for five rural counties in northeast Florida.

When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our family. I enjoy walking my dogs, reading, and fishing!

Please feel free to reach out to me by email at melmcafee@ufl.edu, or call our office at (850) 342-0187.  Please follow our Facebook page: UF/IFAS Extension Jefferson County.