March is Living Well Month! The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) encourages families to live well through raising kids, eating right, and spending smart.
Physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally strong families provide strength for future generations and Extension initiatives enable Maryland residents to build the knowledge and skill to lead full and productive lives.
The University of Maryland Extension Family & Consumer Sciences team provides comprehensive education for individuals in a variety of areas including nutrition, physical activity, mental health, chronic disease prevention and management, personal finance, and so much more.
Celebrate healthy living and the great work FCS professionals do to educate individuals, families, and communities in Maryland, and across the country, by engaging in one of the Living Well Month activities!
Follow the recommendations of the NEAFCS, or come up with some of your own goals to start Living Well!
Beating over 100,000 times a day to pump 1.5 gallons of blood every minute through the 60,000 miles of vessels in the human body, our hearts are the do the most work for our physical and emotional well-being.
For 47% of Americans however, hypertension is a reality that puts their hearts at risk for stroke and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and only 1 in 4 adults experiencing high blood pressure have their condition controlled through healthy diets and activities.
The University of Maryland Extension offers workshops and programs to help people learn how to manage their uncontrolled hypertension through healthy actions. Especially designed for populations over 55 years, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH-Plus) plan incorporates a healthy diet plan with regular exercise tips, and self-measured blood pressure monitoring to ensure a comprehensive hypertension management plan.
The DASH-Plus system teaches participants nutritious recipes, how to reduce salt intake, the benefits of fruits and vegetables, how to prepare tasty but heart-healthy sweets, and even grocery shopping and budgeting tips. So for Valentine’s Day, give your loved ones, and yourself, the gift of a healthy heart.
The New Year has everyone thinking of ways to improve something about their lives. While New Year’s Resolutions are often focused on creating new individual routines, such as regular diet or exercise, couples should remember that enhancing their relationship routines is a great way to improve both health and life satisfaction. So, how might couples take the first step in enhancing their relationship routines?
First, it is important to understand why couple routines and rituals are an important focus. Research shows that couples benefit from establishing and participating in regular activities that add meaning to their relationship. When couples fail to make intentional efforts to spend meaningful time together, they tend to drift toward isolation from one another. This slow drift apart can be hard to detect amidst the noise and distractions of modern, busy family life.
Below we are sharing some ideas to add in some positive routines or traditions into your couple relationship during 2023. There is no need to try them all at once. Start with a practice that feels attainable to you, given your unique situation.
Actions to try out
Kiss each other hello and good bye
Spend some uninterrupted time chatting at the start or end of the day
Enjoy something relaxing together in the evening (e.g., a leisurely walk, tea, hot chocolate, snuggling under a comfy blanket)
Engage in a hobby together
Connect to the world as a couple via time in nature, community groups, or faith groups
Go on a date
Decide as a couple how you would like to celebrate important events such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays
Another great way to kickstart the enhancement of your relationship is to participate in a Couples Retreat hosted by University of Maryland Extension. The retreat is focused on business-owning couples, especially in the agriculture industry. The retreat will cover information like the content in this blog, as well as a variety of other couples enhancement activities. Furthermore, we will provide information on business financial planning and succession/estate planning for business-owning couples. All couples are welcome to attend. Click here to find more information about cost and registration.
This post contributed by UME Faculty Specialist Alex Chan.
Most of us don’t make fitness a priority during the holidays. We are busy, decorating, shopping, and preparing food for our jam-packed holiday calendar. We also look forward to spending time with family and friends, leaving little time for physical activity.
Instead of being a January 1st, ‘Fitness Resolutioner,’ delaying fitness/activity goals until the new year, why not start now? See my ‘12 Days of Holiday Fitness Tips’ for being active during the holiday and the new year:
Day 1: Develop a realistic plan and track you activity. Use a fitness tracker or write it down. Tracking progress motivates us to be more physically active and increase our activity levels.
Day 2: Commit to 15 minutes of daily activity of something you enjoy: walking, cycling, hiking, dancing, swimming, etc.
Day 3: Take a daily lunch break walk with a co-worker. Map a route outside, around your worksite’s parking lot or inside, in the hallways. Use the stairs instead of elevators.
Day 4: Holiday shopping? Park the car a distance from the store or mall. Take a lap around the parking lot or inside the mall before you start shopping. This will provide you with added energy for getting your shopping done. Use the stairs instead of escalators and elevators.
Day 5: Feeling tired, stressed and unmotivated? Ironically, physical activity boosts energy and relieves stress, Find an ‘activity buddy’ to keep you motivated. My running partner and I text each other weekly to get a 30-minute run (or walk) on our calendars.
Day 6: Hydrate! Carry a water bottle during your activity, especially if your outside. Proper hydration can generate heat to keep you warm.
Day 7: You’re halfway there! Add 5 minutes (or more) of physical activity to your day. You can do it!
Day 8: Plan an outdoor family and friends social activity. Ice skating, skiing or snowshoeing, hiking, or participating in an outdoor game keeps you active and reduces holiday stress.
Day 9: Traveling? Airports, train and bus stations are a great place to walk. After flying home from the Thanksgiving holiday, I walked 20 minutes around baggage carousels, waiting for my luggage. Also, forgo the ‘moving walkways’. You’ll burn more calories and strengthen your legs.
Day 10: Take a walk before or after a meal. I encourage my family (some members more than others) to take a walk after Thanksgiving dinner, before we indulged in dessert.
Day 11: Sign up for a local holiday walk/run. Organize a group and make it fun and wear holiday attire. Participating in a New Year’s Day walk/run is a great way to start the new year.
Despite the recent weather, October is the perfect time to get outside and celebrate Maryland’s official state exercise — walking! Officially, yesterday was Walk Maryland Day with events planned across the state, but all month offers opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fall.
Walking offers many health benefits, and among them getting out in nature can improve your mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, spending time outdoors can lead to improved attention, lowered stress, better moods, and even increased empathy and cooperation.
Maryland offers ample places to get out and spend time in nature, from state parks to local trails, and we’ve collected a list of localities where everyone can work on improving their physical, mental and emotional health, just by taking a walk amongst the trees.
To find the list of walking trails by county, go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/walktober and click on “County Walking Opportunities.” Also find more information about Walktober, how you can become a walk leader, or join in next year’s celebration.
As high school seniors are making their way across the graduation stage, their minds are turning to thoughts of leaving for college in the fall. Making the transition from living at home to living on campus can be exciting but also overwhelming.
During this shift, it is important for students to check in with themselves and regulate their mental health. Being away from home can lead to additional stress and strain on students because living on campus often means taking on more responsibilities. Freshmen must learn how to coordinate their schedules to attend class, study, show up to social events, and bear the responsibility of caring for themselves.
Since we all struggle with this balance, here are some resources and tips for improving and maintaining good mental health.
One of the most important resources available to students on campus is the counseling center. Students can visit the counseling center for mental health care including individual counseling, group counseling, couples counseling, career counseling, drop in hours, and referral services. The counseling center or the disability support center can also provide accessibility and disability services in order to accommodate students in their classes. It is important for students to keep in mind that professional mental health experts are available on campus because a busy semester could mean that students may not have time to seek these resources outside of campus.
Listed below are some mindful tips for taking care of your mental health during the semester.
Staying active. Physical exercise is a key component of good mental health. Taking time to go to the gym or going for a walk can be a good way to improve your mental health.
Reaching out. Maintaining regular social engagement whether it be with family or friends can be extremely beneficial to your mental health. Isolating during stressful times can lead to even more stress, so it is important to stay connected to your loved ones throughout the semester.
Eating and sleeping. Many college students skip meals and avoid sleep in order to get their work done, but a consistent diet and enough sleep is essential to maintaining good mental health. Eating and sleeping keeps our brains and bodies functioning as well as possible.
Meditation. During the rush of classes and assignments, meditation can be a simple practice to keep your thoughts focused and your mind at ease. A few minutes of meditation and quiet time on a daily basis can reduce stress and improve mental performance.
Seeking resources. Even when you’re trying your best to keep up with yourself and school, it can still be tough to deal with certain issues. Knowing what resources are available to you and seeking them out during times of crisis can help you solve a problem much easier.
This blog written by Mumtahina Tabassum, FCS senior intern, class of ’22
As an agricultural small business owner, I struggle with being on top of my business and employee needs. My family and I own the 7-acre Turkey Point Vineyard and the Tasting Room/Gift Shop retail space in the local town of North East, Maryland. So on top of being a county agent, a working mother and wife, I also own a small farm and I operate a retail business off the farm. My immediate family is a farming family, where all of us have employment off the farm, and my two employees are older retired females that have their own individual needs.
Running a farm, you experience many variables over time due to changes in regulations, weather, technology, and product demand. With the present economic pressures of labor shortages, supply shortages, wage increases, and price hikes, life on the farm has gotten even harder. Everyone experiences stress, but when stress overwhelms you, it can make you physically ill.
Farm and farm family stress is more accurately a form of distress, which is brought on by pressures experienced by members of the farming population, farming systems, and farming as a business. Extraordinary stresses experienced by farming families can threaten the future of their farm. In addition, as a small business owner, research has proven that small business owners have reported experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year on average, and the COVID-19 crisis appears to have exacerbated the problem.
How does one navigate these stressors?
How individuals, families and businesses handle stress demands and changes, will determine the outcome and the impact in the near future. In some cases, many will change their business, its product or processes, or even their family functioning. No matter what change occurs on the farm or in the business, the concept of resilience is the ability to recover from, or adjust to, change with its accompanying stress.
I once heard the saying that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do about it! When stress gets to be too much for me, I remember this saying and I try to live by this motto. The motto helps to keep me sane.
For more information on farm stress and how the University of Maryland Extension is working to assist farm families in managing mental health, check out our Farm Stress Management page.
This blog contributed by special guest blogger Doris Behnke, principle agent associate in Cecil County.