person reading book with tea cup on table

Winter is upon us and those longer hours of darkness coupled with the colder temperatures can make many people experience those “winter blues.” Throw in a pandemic where we are isolating from others, and I’m afraid we are going to see more people experiencing those blues and maybe worse this season.

Most years, many strive to go home for the holidays. This year, many will spend their holidays in their own home. The home may be a place they live alone, a place with a significant other, a place with children, or a home filled with multi-generations.  Whatever home is for you, and however you are spending your time this year, things may be different.

Give Thanks pumpkin decoration hanging on front door

Thanksgiving celebrations may look different in 2020 for many people. I have had many conversations with friends and family about whether to gather.

This year our attitude needs to be centered on giving people grace about their decisions and focus on expressing gratitude and thankfulness in a variety of ways, even if the holiday looks a little different this year. 

Man, woman and child playing on phone

The holidays are fast approaching, and what is usually a fun time of preparation and anticipation for many is now clouded by uncertainty with COVID-19. With the surge in cases and the severity of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, suggests celebrating Thanksgiving with members of your own household who consistently take measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 or with others virtually to lower the risk of spread.

SEL social emotional learning tips for parents

Life has not been easy for most parents who have school-aged children. It has been unpredictable for some parents, not knowing from day to day whether their child(ren) will be in a school building or learning remotely from home.

Just recently a friend of mine got word that her daycare had to close for two-weeks because of COVID, which meant both her child attending that daycare and her older school-aged child had to stay home from school and quarantine. Forced quickly into shifting gears, my friend arranged to work from home so she could look after her children.

man and woman sitting at table

We all know someone who is providing care for someone else. They may be caring for an older parent, a disabled adult child, or a spouse suffering from a traumatic injury or chronic illness. Even parents raising children are considered caregivers. Caregivers give of themselves without expecting anything in return, and they rarely think of themselves first.

Two young girls hugging and laughing

Impulse control involves knowing how and when to express emotions like excitement, frustration, joy, disappointment, and anger. It is a process that develops as children mature and is critical for their success in making and keeping friends, which in turn boosts their self-esteem and school success.

The Illinois Early Learning Project has a great tip sheet that includes tips on how to help young children to develop impulse control. For infants to older preschool children they suggest:

What do genetic counselors do? While many have heard about genetic counselors, most have no idea what they do. Let’s look at the important role they play in the healthcare system and communities and how they can be utilized more often. Genetic counselors are used mostly during pregnancy, and they look at other genes and map out genomes that will affect one’s health and future. Then they educate patients with the next steps to help create a plan that will best benefit their health.

woman smiling

I am concerned for the older population right now. Data has shown that older adults are more vulnerable in this pandemic due to their weaker immune systems and higher likelihood of having chronic conditions including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and many others. The CDC reports 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been adults 65 years of age and older. This has prompted the encouragement of older adults to self-quarantine, or physical distance from others - family, friends, social circles - to protect their health.

flowerpot with plant and heart

In the last article I shared with you many characteristics of people who manage well during difficult times. I would like to highlight several more for you in this article. Again, when faced with adversity, resilient people:

scrabble tiles spelling resiliency

The World Health Organization identifies stress as the global health epidemic of the 21st Century – and that was BEFORE the current pandemic! Everyone experiences stress and sometimes it can be perceived as positive by helping to motivate us to get things accomplished. However, if we accumulate stress and do not manage it effectively, it can become chronic and result in negative effects on our minds and bodies.

bench with paper bag that has inspirational saying on it

Things have not been easy for any of us during these past few months – or “unprecedented times.” We may feel like we’ve had many losses: loss of security, loss of contact with others, loss of freedom to come and go where we would like, maybe even loss of health and loved ones, among many more. Many of our blog posts over this time have focused on stress reduction, mindfulness, and finding balance in our lives. I would like to focus this week more on gratitude and looking at the positives that are also going on right now.

People with Alzheimer’s may have difficulties communicating. Alzheimer’s disease makes a person forgetful and confused.  

Here are some reasons people with Alzheimer’s may have difficulties communicating: 

lemons on a blue background

Surely, you’ve heard the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” When I think about all the lemons, we’ve been handed this year, it can be difficult to see how to make the lemonade – especially for children. If you have a child in your life, stop for a moment and consider all the challenges they have had to face since March. The transition to remote learning, lack of interaction with peers, and cancellation of activities, events, and celebrations have created prime ground for our kids – and ourselves – to develop our resilience.

Reoccurring and distressing memories, flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding specific places or activities, feeling hopeless, memory loss, feeling detached from family or friends, always being on guard, trouble sleeping, and irritability are only a few of the extensive list of symptoms individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) face on a daily basis.

Quality time during early childhood is vital to the growth and development of children. Quality time between parents and children develops stronger communication, promotes interactions, strengthens bonds within the family, helps children become mentally and emotionally healthier, builds self-esteem, and instills values and experiences in your children to help them become better people overall.

When adults are stressed or anxious about our day to day lives and activities, we can find ways to cope through multiple outlets. Exercise, meditation, diet changes, sleep patterns, and venting to those around us are only a few examples of options to relieve stress. Children, on the other hand, need help to alleviate their stress and anxiety. According to Dr. Amy Przeworski of Case Western Reserve University, anywhere from 10% - 20% of school-aged children show symptoms of anxiety.

Between the chaos of work, balancing your family activities, and keeping up with household chores, when do you find the time for yourself? Do you check in with your mental well- being often? When do you find the time to relax?   

If you were to follow yourself for a day, would you be bone-tired by the end of the day or still have the energy to do a few more tasks? Did you have an overall productive day, or do you still have the feeling that you need to get things done? Now, follow yourself around for a week and consider the same questions. Did you just step off a rollercoaster or floated peacefully into the weekend?

Have you ever thought about how the online world affects us and why we should take a digital detox? Social media has become the number one activity on the internet. People are becoming more addicted to social media causing mental and physical issues. Taking a break from social media can help improve anybody’s life.

A digital detox is a period when an individual becomes disconnected from social or online media. This can include reducing the amount of time spent on social media or disconnecting completely.

father with child writing

I just love the Illinois Early Learning Project (IELP) website, which is a valuable source of evidence-based, reliable information on early childcare and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. It is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education and is housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the College of Education.

The effects of no separation between work, family, and no down time to decompress can vary from person to person. On top of that, having to work from home can be challenging and difficult to adjust to, especially if that’s not your norm. When this happens, it can create a stressful environment for you and those around you. It’s important to create boundaries for yourself to avoid letting that stress build up in you.

Here are some tips on how you can create a boundary between your work, family, and self-care to ease the transition of working at home!

Spending time with our kiddos is something we have had an abundance as of late. While this time was unforeseen, parents are suddenly faced with wondering what new activities to do with their children. Let us face it—taking the same walking route gets boring after a while, playing with the chalk gets messy, and there is only so much on TV we can watch on repeat. So, what else is there to do? Coloring is an ageless past time for children and adults alike, but there seems to be no more room on the fridge for the daily masterpieces being created.

photo of dog
infographic

Working from home has come with many adjustments, not only for human, but also for our "fur friend" pets at home. 

family sitting on bench

Since summer is almost here, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post this article about unplugging from our devices and enjoying our surroundings - especially our children! This is especially important lately with the shelter-at-home guidelines, which has created more screen time for many of us by working, homeschooling and socializing virtually.  

family walking in the woods on trail

Since mindfulness can also mean being intentional, we should have the conversation about whether we practice being mindful with our families. Most of us say that family is most important to us and that we put them first – but do we? A 2018 Nielsen report stated that American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media.

heart ornament with I am grateful printed on it

Another practice that goes along with being mindful is being grateful. Living life with an "attitude of gratitude" not only helps your current mood, but research shows that it helps you age well.

colored pencils and book

Another great suggestion for practicing mindfulness for this Mindful May is coloring! Well-known psychiatrist Carl Jung first recognized the benefits of coloring back in the early 20th century. Recently we have seen a rise in the availability and popularity of coloring books for adults. Adult coloring books often have more intricate patterns and designs where drawing skills aren’t necessary. However, it doesn't matter what you are coloring - whether it is a children’s or adult’s coloring book – it can be beneficial.

sunrise over mountains

It goes without saying that life as we know it has changed. The demands from working remotely, pressures from homeschooling, worries about finances, family, health, jobs, and security have caused us to experience an incredibly stressful period of time. Seemingly endless demands and concerns can put additional stress on our time and resources.   

person eating apple

Extension educator Kristin Bogdonas says mindfulness is usually associated with meditation and stress relief, but it can also be a powerful tool when choosing what we eat, how we're eating, and how our choices affect our health. She suggests we take a closer look at how we can apply mindfulness to our everyday eating behaviors.  

person hiking towards woods

I have always been an outdoorsy nature person. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time outside – my parents had the hardest time getting me to come back inside at the end of the day. My love of nature continues, and I share my passion for it with anyone who will listen! I always drag my family to state parks, zoos, and botanical gardens. However, times have changed drastically, with the popularization of technology, along with urbanization, and people spend way less time outdoors and around nature.

man with hat on smiling

We traditionally celebrate Older Americans Month (OAM) each May. When OAM was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. By 2017, around 47 million had reached that milestone. Why not observe our older population with this year’s theme of “Make Your Mark?” Around the nation, older adults make their marks every day as volunteers, employees, employers, parents, grandparents, mentors and advocates. They offer their time, talents and experience to the benefit of our communities.

profile of head with watercolors

Nearly 50 million adults in the United States face the reality of Americans managing a mental illness every day. During the month of May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) joins a national movement to raise awareness about mental health. May is officially National Mental Health Month, and highlights mental health issues and provides a time for our nation to acknowledge mental illness.

neon pink sign that says breatheIn today’s world, especially now, no one is immune to feeling stressed. Eustress or positive stress can help motivate us to do well and get things accomplished. However, according to University of Illinois Extension educators, if stress accumulates and is not managed effectively or there is no outlet for it – stress can become chronic and have adverse effects on our minds and bodies.    Chronic stress has potentially harmful effects across the lifespan on the brain, on one’s

In today’s world, especially now, no one is immune to feeling stressed. Eustress or positive stress can help motivate us to do well and get things accomplished. However, according to University of Illinois Extension educators, if stress accumulates and is not managed effectively or there is no outlet for it – stress can become chronic and have adverse effects on our minds and bodie

art of journal

Many people find journaling a great way to process feelings in a positive way.

When we cannot see friends or family members, remember there are many ways for us to still connect. Human connections promote wellness, here are ways to reach out to family and friends who may be alone. Reframe your thinking. Instead of focusing on the negative, flip the script and think about the positive ways you can use this time. Start by reaching out to those who are important to you and deepen your relationships.

Woman sitting at a desk writing notes with computer in the background

In a time when more people are working from than usual, we felt it might be helpful to offer some tips for working from home. Of course some of these tips are best when working from home and not while some are trying to both teach their children and do their jobs from home. We understand if some of these tips are the ideal and possibly not your current situation. Hopefully some of them will be beneficial for you the reader:

Set a Schedule

stack of books with a rolled up diploma and graduation cap

The teenage years revolve around friends, school, family, sports, and events. Cancellation and social distancing may have real effects on the emotional health of teens.

Look for:

person reading book and drinking coffee

There are over 34 million people in the US that provide care for someone over the age of 50. Although there tends to be an average profile for caregivers, their population is greatly diverse representing both genders and all races, cultures and ages. However, the majority of caregivers give of themselves without expecting anything in return, and they rarely think of themselves first. Caregiving is a rewarding experience for most, but also has many challenges and burdens that cause great amounts of stress. 

It is safe to assume that many adults today remember being told at one time or another by their disciplining parents, “You are grounded and are not to leave the house.” This typically meant separation from friends, playing outside, and taking part in planned activities. Even if it’s been a while since the age of being grounded, the social distancing plan underway may bring back feelings of “having one’s wings clipped.”

Many families with young children are seeking resources about learning at home with young children as the COVID-19 situation evolves in our communities. This is a trying time for early childhood programs and families as they work together to keep young children safe, healthy, and learning.

Many families with young children are seeking resources about learning at home with young children as the COVID-19 situation evolves in our communities. This is a trying time for programs and families as they work together to keep young children safe, healthy, and learning.

parents and baby

Raising kids, eating right, spending smart, living well—that’s the theme of a national Living Well Campaign that is being promoted by the Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, both at the national level and here in Illinois. The goal of the Living Well Campaign is to provide people with the education and information they need in order to “live well.”  

Minimizing sedentary behavior and participating in regular physical activity is essential for good health and wellbeing. Sedentary behavior is often interpreted as being physically inactive; however, there is a difference between physical inactivity and being sedentary. Sedentary behavior is anything that is done while sitting or lying down. This can be sitting at work or school all day, sitting and watching TV, and even sitting while driving. Behavior that the majority of people participate in every day.

We often hear about the importance of family mealtime, but do you know what all the fuss is about? As a parent, it is sometimes easier to dismiss this family routine and feed kids fast food or prepared food in the car coming or going to their multitude of activities and events. So let’s pause for a moment from the rush of family life and learn a little more about the importance of eating together.

hands on top of each other

With families so busy with work, school, extra-curricular activities, sports, church, civic groups, clubs, etc., they can find it difficult to spend quality time with each other. Because families can be so busy, they need to intentionally plan their time together.

Healthy Heart

When I think about February, many celebrations come to mind. Whether it is birthdays, the Super Bowl, or Valentine’s Day, we have something to celebrate. Not only do I think about the heart when someone references Valentine’s Day, but February is Heart Healthy Month.

Two older friends

I recently found this article on the National Institute on Aging website that reinforces a topic of my programming lately – that socialization or social engagement is beneficial for brain health and longevity. I have been focusing on the effects practiced in later life but this article expands that to midlife, so I would like to share it with all of you: