Meet Your FCS Agent- Claire Reach

Meet Your FCS Agent- Claire Reach

Photo Source: Auburn University IHSA Equestrian Team

Claire Reach is the UF/IFAS 4-H & Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Agent in Calhoun County, Florida. For 4-H, she specializes in animal handling, animal safety, and animal sciences. For FCS, she mainly specializes in food safety and healthy living, but has found a new opportunity to work with First Time Homebuyers and the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program (SHIP) in the county.

Claire grew up in Alabama, splitting her time between Birmingham and her family’s farm, L & L Angus Farm, in Auburn. The family farm is Claire’s driving force behind the passion that she has for agriculture, which is a large part of the work she is doing in Extension.

 

These pictures are of my family on the farm in Auburn, AL. Photo Source: Dave Davis.

Peep some of the cows in the background. Photo Source: Elise Reach.

With a family background in Ag, she decided to study Animal Science-Production Management at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. While completing her undergraduate degree, Claire competed for Auburn University’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, worked at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in a research barn, and continued to work on the family farm. She graduated in May of 2019 with her Bachelor of Science and a minor in Agricultural Business.

 

Several home cooking/canning classes offered in 2021. Strawberry jam, chicken, pepper jelly, salsa, and mozzarella cheese have been made! Photo Source: Claire Reach UF/IFAS.

 

The Calhoun County 4-H Horse Club recently started up! (The 2 horses on the right side of the image also belong to me.) Photo Source: Dave Davis.

Shortly after graduation, she moved to Florida to work for Deseret Cattle and Timber as a Heavy Machinery Operator, but soon realized that her passion was Extension. The position in Calhoun County became available and she jumped at the opportunity to apply for it. Having just started in May 2021, Claire has not been with UF/IFAS Extension long, but she cannot wait to see what the future holds for her county. Claire says that she aspires for the Calhoun County FCS Program to be the area’s leading program for adults in practical home practices, whether that be home canning or healthy eating, and healthy living. All the programs that she offers, whether it be 4-H or FCS, follow the same motto: ‘learn by doing’. This drives the experience of each program, allowing participants to fully understand a concept or ask questions when they do not.

 

These are the “goodest” dogs of all time! Evie (Chocolate Lab), Diesel (Black and White Mutt), and Hank (Bassett Hound-laying down) Peep the chickens, turkeys, cat, and horses in the back ground! Photo Source: Claire Reach UF/IFAS.

This is Chick! For a mare, she’s pretty special. We have a great bond and she trusts me to do just about anything with her (i.e. shoot a gun off of, rope cattle, stand on, lay on, or let little kids ride) Photo Source: Tanner Mayo.

When Claire is not at work, she says there is always more work to be done at home. Living on a functioning livestock operation, she has several animals, including: chickens (about 50 at the moment), 5 guineas, 4 turkeys, 2 cats, 4 dogs, and 3 horses. She hopes to be able to add cattle to the ever-growing “funny farm” soon! It isn’t always about work, though. In her spare time, Claire enjoys spending time with family, riding her horses, long walks with the dogs, dirt road riding, and paddle boarding at the beach!

Reaching for Success with Time Management and a Positive Attitude

Reaching for Success with Time Management and a Positive Attitude

Managing your time wisely can reduce stress.
Photo credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Sally Lanigan.

Time management plays an important role each day. All people have 24 hours in a day, but how those hours are used can be different for each person. Individuals can have more control of their lives, less stress, and more free time if they have good time management skills.

Many people may feel like they have too much work to do, which causes assignments and tasks to be completed late or not at all. Individuals are late to school or work, which can cause stress throughout the day.  Everyone would love to have more time to do their favorite things.

Time Management Tips

The key is to use time wisely so individuals will have time for both their needs and their wants. Time management tips will help structure their day. Each day, make a “To-Do List” – write down the items from the most important to the least important. Second, staying organized is a big time saver. Preparing for the next day before going to bed will reduce morning stress so you can enjoy your breakfast. A planner will track assignments, tests, and appointments. A wall calendar can help schedule significant events and deadlines.

On Sunday night, plan out the week and review time for each daily step in the schedule. When writing the schedule, include all appointments, practices, chores, and mealtimes; it will help show times for homework, studying, relaxation, and social activates.

Successful individuals use tips such as the ones below to help manage their time:

  • Use free time in school or work wisely.
  • Review time while waiting. An example of this is reviewing notes while waiting for a ride.
  • Create routines – good morning and nighttime routines can save time.
  • Say “No!” – do not let things get in the way of reaching a positive goal.
  • Sleep healthy – do not give up a good night’s sleep; this will increase stress.

There are 24 hours in a day/168 hours in a week, and it is up to the individual how they use their time. Planning for free time plays an essential role in time management. An individual needs to balance doing things alone or with their friends, managing time inside and outside, and prioritizing throughout their lives.

Positive Attitude

Everyone gets stressed out, discouraged, or overwhelmed sometimes. The idea is to keep a positive attitude and design ways to stay motivated. When people have a positive attitude, they will go far in life.

Sometimes, someone may give up on schoolwork, think negative thoughts, feel frustrated, or would like to have more optimistic goals.  When a person is having a rough time, they can surround themselves with positive people, believe in themselves, and move forward with positive energy.

Throughout life, they will come across all kinds of people. They will meet positive influences in their lives. People who have a great support system can achieve their goals and realize their dreams. Next, people need to believe in themselves by recognizing their talents and abilities and succeeding. Lastly, move with positive physical characteristics by walking tall, moving with confidence, and smiling with a positive purpose in life.

Setting Goals

When people plan for success, they can focus on setting goals. Goals will give direction and help guide the path toward what the individual would like to achieve. It would be great if short-term and long-term goals were in place throughout the person’s lifespan. Remember to focus on the strengths an individual may have, such as interests and talents. Everyone will have weaknesses, and it is essential to notice and work on improving each weakness. People can use positive “self-talk” to help change their attitude from a negative one, such as “I can’t write this assignment,” to a positive one, “I can write this assignment!”

Quote by Brian Cavanaugh
Photo credit: Gretchen Thornton

A person can stay engaged when they use motivating “self-notes:” Some examples are: “Day-dream Success,” “Turn a Frown Upside Down,” “Hit a Refresh,” and “Figure Out Yourself.” During the day, write motivating words or ideas on bright sticky notes and post throughout your home or office.

Time management is the ability to get the right things done effectively. Managing time will decrease stress and allow the person a healthier state of mind. Research has shown that long-term stress can lead to health problems. The idea of time management with positive goals can help reduce heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. An excellent remedy for stress is to follow a plan of success with time management and a positive attitude.

Source:

UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Document HR014: Managing Time in the Workplace

 

DIG IN for your Mental Health

DIG IN for your Mental Health

House plant

Some house plants are very easy to keep alive, even if you are a first-time gardener. Photo source: Melanie Taylor

As July begins, one mental health topic we repeatedly hear or read about is how stress is negatively affecting so many Americans right now. In these unprecedented times, many people are reaching out for guidance from their doctors, therapists, friends, and family. Depending on how your stress levels are affecting you, there are numerous suggestions ranging from exercise to therapy to medication and the list goes on. There may be one solution right at your fingertips that can help you begin to find a little peace of mind starting today. Gardening…. Let’s DIG IN!

Gardening does not have to be growing a large vegetable garden in the backyard. It can be planting flowers and plants in your landscape, maintaining potted plants on your front porch and deck, or growing houseplants inside your home. One easy way to start if you have never been a gardener is by growing herbs inside or out. Many people find gardening helps them escape to a place of peace as they dig in the soil and watch their plants and flowers grow and prosper.

This idea is not new. Horticulture is the art and science of growing plants. Horticultural therapy is the practice of engaging people in plant or gardening activities to improve their bodies, minds, and spirits. Research confirms that healthful benefits accrue when people connect with nature and plants by viewing and/or interacting with them.

Gardening with Friends

Enjoy socializing with friends and neighbors in the garden. Photo source: Julie McConnell

 

Horticultural therapy has been around for a very long time. In the 1600’s, the poor often worked in gardens to pay for their medical care. Physicians quickly noticed these patients recovered faster and had better overall health than patients who did not work in the garden. Today, many hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, prisons, schools, social-service facilities, and community centers use people-plant interactions as a form of treatment for persons with physical or mental disabilities. Horticultural therapy may include meeting with a therapist specializing in this area or trying something on your own or with family, friends, or a local gardening group.

 

 

Family garden time

Saturday mornings are family time at the local community garden plot. Photo source: Julie McConnell

Some benefits you may receive from gardening include:

  • Physical: Provides exercise at various levels. (Easy, medium, and strenuous levels – it all depends on what you decide to create.)
  • Emotional: Promotes and satisfies your creative side, increases your feelings of confidence and self-esteem, promotes a new interest and enthusiasm for it, and even relieves tension.
  • Physiological: May help lower blood pressure and heart rate, decrease cortisol levels, and ultimately relieve stress.

Even if you think you do not have a “green thumb,” you should try gardening on any level and see if it will be a healthy mode of stress release for you. Happy Gardening!

Source:

UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Document ENH970: Horticultural Therapy, Elizabeth Diehl and Sydney Park Brown.

I’m BORED!

I’m BORED!

 

I’m BORED!” is not a statement a parent/caregiver wants to hear just days into summer break!  Boredom is a feeling. The feeling of being unsatisfied or uninterested can lead to boredom. Boredom can also result from too much time on your hands. Boredom may occur when you do the same thing over and over again. Boredom can affect both physical and mental health and, let’s face it, it is not just kids who get bored!

Nevertheless, boredom, like any feeling, is important to recognize and manage. In fact, people who are good at noticing how they feel and adjusting (self-regulating) their behavior are more likely to do well in school and life, have healthy relationships, and manage difficulties and setbacks – boredom included.

How can we combat boredom? We can counter boredom with constructive activities. Constructive activities are those that require a bit of personal output, or something one actually has to do.

Therefore, before your summer vacation takes a nosedive, think of ways to ward off the doldrums. Know, too, that watching too much screen time can only make boredom worse because screen time, for the most part, is a passive type of activity/entertainment. While there is certainly a place for passive engagement (watching a movie, for instance, or reading a book), you do not have to do anything! Moreover, when the body and mind are not actively engaged for hours on end, things can go downhill… quickly.  Many find actively or constructively doing something satisfying can enlighten your body, your mind, and your soul.

Think about it… while reading a book is passive, your mind is 100% active; the same goes for a movie or your favorite show. However, being engaged, like talking to someone about what you are watching or reading, takes the passive activity to a new level; talking about the activity makes it more constructive because you get really involved in it by sharing. It’s the non-participatory part repeated hour upon hour that can cause the negative effect. The body needs a balanced diet of both passive and constructive activities.

Constructive activities help activate your body, mind, and soul. So, before boredom happens, take a proactive approach to finding a solution before the problem starts. Of course, the internet is full of ideas; some of them are quite good! Personally, I like the approach where the set up requires a few easy to use resources that can quickly engage the user.

Parents and caregivers should help model the behavior they want their charges to follow. Knowing a few tricks to turn passive activities into constructive ones will help the long, hot summer be the best one yet.

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

Your Pets Can Help Improve Your Health

Your Pets Can Help Improve Your Health

Did you know that over the past ten years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been a partner in research to determine the physical and mental benefits of having a pet? It turns out that pets not only steal our hearts, but they can contribute to better cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness to their owners. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Pets can also help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. This was helpful to many people suffering from loneliness during the pandemic. In fact, between March and July of 2020, there was a surge in pet adoptions and some shelters could not meet the demand. Since people had more free time, less socializing, and lots of alone time, many people found a pet was just what they needed to fill that void.

Black and Tan cat with green eyes

Cali, a tortoiseshell cat, posing to get attention.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor

Although many of us are slowly returning to the normal stresses of daily life, a pet can still give us those same health benefits. Just think about it: on those stressful days with busy work schedules, running kids around town to their activities, etc., what’s better than being greeted at your door in the evening by a dog with a wagging tail or a cat’s purr as they snuggle with you? Of course, do not forget those unique pets, such as birds, bunnies, hedgehogs, reptiles, fish, and lots of other furry and scaly friends of ours.They all greet you in their own special way.

On a safety note, always remember pets can carry harmful germs that can make us sick even when the pet appears healthy. People with compromised immune systems and pregnant women should always take extra precautions when interacting with pets. Some tips on staying safe and healthy around your pets are to always wash your hands after handling your pets and be sure to maintain your pet’s health by regular visits to the veterinarian. Also, practice good pet hygiene by keeping pets out of the kitchen, cleaning their toys, beds, food, water/food bowls, etc., regularly sanitizing areas the pets frequent, and, of course, cleaning a cat’s litter box daily and picking up dog poop outside and disposing of it properly. When pets are added to your family, always teach your children how to properly interact with the animal(s). Small children should always be supervised when interacting with any pets.

Orange cat with toy

Sonny, a tabby cat, enjoying play time with his mouse toy.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor

On a fun note, if you are a pet owner, you already celebrate your pet(s) everyday, but there is an annual day of celebration for our pets. National Pet Day is April 11, 2021. This is an extra special day to give your pet extra snuggles and maybe even an extra treat. Be sure to use this day to remember why your pet is so special to you and your family. Reminisce about your pet memories while giving him/her extra attention and maybe even share your special memories on social media. People love seeing pictures of pets. It makes everyone’s day brighter. Here are the top four ways people report making National Pet Day special for their pet, 1) I give my pet a special treat, 2) I tell my pet “I love you”, 3) I buy or make a special gift for my pet, and 4) I let my pet sleep in my bed with me. (https://nationaltoday.com/national-pet-day/)

So, be sure to remember your pet this National Pet Day in April.

To see the importance of pets in our lives and families be sure to check out the interesting insights below from surveys about people and their pets.

Interesting Insights about People and their Pets:

  • 95% of pet owners say their pets are part of the family.
  • 94% of families with an autistic child benefited from having a pet.
  • 67% of households in the United States have a pet. Americans spend approximately $75 billion a year on pet care and products.
  • 44% of people reported they would rather cuddle with their pet than their partner.
  • 22% of Americans are attracted to people who treat their pet like a family member.
  • 11% of Americans hang out with their pets (ex. watch TV, read books, etc.).
  • 10% of owners are allergic to their pets.
  • 10% of Americans consider their pet to be their best friend.
  • 10% of Americans talk to their pet in a special voice.
  • 10% of Americans carry on conversations with their pet.

As April approaches and spring weather arrives, be sure to get outside with your pets and enjoy some stress relief, feel the sunshine on your face, smell the fresh blooms, and take in the beauty of nature around you. It will provide positive health benefits for you and your pet as you take a long, relaxing walk together. If your pet is an indoor only pet, be sure to sit in the floor and play with your pet like you did when they were kittens, etc. They will love the extra time and closeness with you. No matter what type of pet you have, be sure to let them bring you happiness and relaxation, and you, in turn, can help them live their best pet lives possible.

Sources:

Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC):

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

National Today:

https://nationaltoday.com/national-pet-day/

The Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/12/adoptions-dogs-coronavirus/