Livestock, Programming

Nebraska Grazing Conference

Challenges from COVID-19 have required changes be made to many programs everywhere. This year’s 20th Nebraska Grazing Conference (NGC) will be held as a virtual event instead of the traditional in-person event.

close up photo of white and brown cattle
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

According to the website:
The online conference will be held from 11:30 AM to 5:00 PM on both Tuesday, August 11 and Wednesday, August 12. Organizers hope the online version of the conference will be a convenience to a broader audience who will be able to participate from their home or office. Opportunities for interaction among participants and to ask follow-up questions of speakers have been built in to the online event. Additionally, several watch parties have been organized around the state for groups of 25 or less to gather and participate in this virtual conference. This option may assist those who do not have stable Internet service in their area.

Watch party sites include:

  • Northeast Research & Extension Center, 1010 E Centre, Hartington, NE. Host, Ben Beckman, Beef Systems Assistant Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, (402) 254-6821 or ben.beckman@unl.edu
  • Zion Lutheran Church, 318 E 4th Street, Ainsworth, NE. Host, Hanna Greenwell, Beef Systems Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, (402) 387-2213 or hgreenwell2@unl.edu
  • Panhandle Research & Extension Center, 4502 Avenue I, Scottsbluff, NE. Host, Mitchell Stephenson, Panhandle, Forage Management Specialist/Extension Specialist, Nebraska Extension, (308) 632-1230 or mstephenson3@unl.edu
  • Fillmore County Fairgrounds, 641 N 5th Street, Geneva, NE. Host, Sydney O’Daniel, Beef Systems Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, (402) 746-3417 or sydney.odaniel@unl.edu
  • Buffalo County Extension, 1400 E 34th Street, Kearney, NE. Host, Brent Plugge, Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, (308) 236-1235 or brent.plugge@unl.edungc-schedule-2020.jpg

 

Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock

Hail Know: Resources To Remember This Growing Season

Screen Shot 2020-05-22 at 2.14.03 PMWhen hail strikes and growers have questions, Nebraska Extension has new resources to answer them at Hail Know located online at cropwatch.unl.edu/hailknow. Videos, infographics, and articles by a team of Extension experts in climate science, agronomy, engineering, agricultural technology, economics, and disaster education have been developed to build upon and expand Extension’s hail-related programs. Hail Know focuses on six key topics: Hail formation and storms; damage assessment; crop insurance and risk management; replanting considerations; managing a recovering crop; and cover crops.

In the aftermath of a hailstorm visit Hail Know for the answers and certainty, you need to make sound, research-based decisions to manage your crop. Hail Know is also on social media. Follow @HailKnowUNL on Twitter at twitter.com/HailKnowUNL and like Hail Know on Facebook at facebook.com/HailKnowUNL for all the latest information and updates.

Hail Know is a section of CropWatch.unl.edu, Nebraska Extension’s crop production and crop pest management website. The development of Hail Know was funded by a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Smith-Lever Special Needs Grant with matching funds from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The column was co-written with Ashley Mueller, Nebraska Extension Disaster Educator. While you cannot prevent hail, you can prepare for and respond quickly when dealing with hail damage to crops. Nebraska Extension is here to help you make informed, timely decisions. Know your crop, know your tech, know your bottom line.

Crops, Livestock

COVID-19 Ag Producer Best Management Practices

Spring is a busy time of year for our farmers and ranchers and this year is no different. What is different however is the impact that COVID-19 has had on our rural communities. With kids home and schooling from home, some farm/ranch spouses working from home or not able to work at all, the stress is very real for many. Those of us in agriculture know the work we do to produce food for the world is essential but be sure to take  precautions to protect you and your family during these uncertain and unprecedented times.IMG_8692.jpeg

Recently I came across an article written by Brian Van Der Ley, Veterinary Epidemiologist Extension Specialist with Nebraska Extension. He provided the following are guidelines and recommendations that can be used to implement COVID-19 control in agricultural systems.

  • Stay Informed
    Follow federal, state, and local direction to reduce personal risk for contracting COVID-19 and to limit further transmission if you or your employees become infected. Stay informed at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov
  • Make a written plan by addressing the following:
    • What are the essential activities of the operation? (Feeding, farm work, etc.)
    • Who is primarily responsible for completing those activities?
    • How those activities are accomplished? (What basic skills are needed for the activity)
    • Who is available to complete those tasks if the primary individual becomes unavailable?
    • How may essential activities have to be modified if primary individuals are unavailable?
    • Write down the plan in as much detail as possible and make team members aware of the plan to insure continuity of business if COVID-19 infections begin to have a direct impact that disrupts normal management channels. Consider worst case scenarios for this situation (e.g. all team members are in quarantine due to exposure) and how essential operations can continue (e.g. asymptomatic team members self-quarantine at the operation to continue operations) and the logistics required for that plan.
  • Develop plans to separate the teams/family members/hired personnel to prevent transmission. Separate duties and use personal distancing of employees while at work and not at work. Examples – processing livestock, filling planters, brandings, etc.
  • Hold Virtual Meetings
    Consider conducting employee meetings virtually – ZOOM, FaceTime, others. If in person, follow CDC guidelines.
  • Clean High Touch Areas
    Limit use of common areas-use only with social distancing and hygiene guidelines going into and coming out of high touch areas, like meeting rooms, common kitchens, common restrooms, sinks, refrigerators, etc.
  • Clean and disinfect high touch areas frequently
    • Bleach may be used to disinfect surfaces, but the concentration is higher for COVID-19 than for everyday sanitation: 5 tablespoons bleach per gallon of water
    • Clean Vehicles, Tractors, Implements, and Tools.
    • Place hygiene supplies (hand sanitizer, disinfect and/or disinfectant wipes in equipment and other shared areas (e.g. shop). When changing operators/users – when entering and leaving or before and after use.
    • Disinfect hands using sanitizer.
    • Disinfectant all high touch areas (e.g steering wheel, control handles, door handles, syringes, etc.)
    • Consider disposable covers for porous surfaces like seats and other upholstered surfaces.
    • Allow for 3 hour down-time to allow virus to die in confined spaces (e.g. cabs), if possible.
  • Communicate with People Coming to your Location (consultants, veterinarians, dealers, mechanics, etc.)
    • Set up appointments that include time, meeting place, and a plan for transmission control (social distancing, cleaning/disinfection, personal protective equipment, etc.)
    • Confirm that individuals are feeling well and have not traveled to high risk locations prior to departure for visit.
  • Coordinate Delivery of Products and Inputs (feed, medicine, supplements, pesticides, others).
    • Develop non-contact delivery methods (e.g. drop off locations)
    • Wash hands after handling packaging, consider wearing gloves.
    • Consider disinfection of non-porous packaging.
    • For deliveries that require person-to-person interaction:
    • Develop physical reminders for social distancing (tape on floor, barriers, etc.)
    • Practice hand sanitizing/washing before and after interaction
    • Inventorying and back-up planning essential.
    • Identify essential supplies and consider increasing inventory
    • Develop contingency plans if essential supplies become unavailable

(Source: IANR News & author: Brian Van Der Ley, Veterinary Epidemiologist Extension Specialist with Nebraska Extension)

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock

Farm Family Transition & Stressors

The agricultural economy is no stranger to stress. Stress from difficult weather, stress from low commodity prices, production risks and many other reasons contribute to the stress for our farmers and ranchers. One of the constant pressures and stressors family operations deal with is the successful transition of the family business to the next generation.

Recently, Dr. Ron Hanson spoke at a Farmers & Ranchers College program on “Strategies for Family Farm Success in the Shark Tank.” Hanson has been working with farm families for over 40 years and reminded participants that money, wealth and property, especially land always put a family’s relationship to the test. His analogies to sharks indicate that some families have “predator sharks” that lurk parents’ property or belongings, waiting to make a move and take a “bite” into family wealth or estate. An effective management strategy is to put yourself in the shark tank and begin addressing difficult situations and questions that might arise from uncertainties in agriculture.

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

In order for families to be successful in transitioning the family farm or ranch, contingency planning must occur. Contingency planning, sometimes referred to as business continuity plans simply account for planning for the unexpected. “Developing and then implementing a business management plan to overcome unexpected changes to the ownership structure and management leadership is crucial for the continued success of the operation” (Hanson, 2020). Contingency planning is not easy and can result in a lot of emotional stress and even conflict, but families that are willing to work through and plan this before a life-altering situation occur are more likely to ensure their farming or ranching legacy will continue for future generations.

Hanson reminded participants that some adult children in the family may already feel they are entitled  and that their parents’ estate is the children’s estate. Parents have the right to divide their estate as they wish and letting everyone involved know before they die can prevent huge family fights or court fights down the road. It is sad that family wealth can destroy family relationships and put an end to a family farm legacy. Transparency in estate planning is important for all involved.

Handling the stress and potential conflict upfront can reduce the stress, fights and issues that might occur when a tragedy, family illness or death occur. Dealing with large and unexpected events is stressful enough, so why not make a plan in advance so time and focus can be spent on the situation at hand? Hanson recommends farm and ranch families adopt five guidelines or planning steps to accomplish this process.

white laptop female hand note pen phone desk
  1. Adopt a vision. What is the vision for the future of the family farm/ranch? What is the legacy the parents wish to leave? This starts with the parents.
  2. Draft ideas into a plan. This is where the parents must sit down with family members and discuss expectations of each family members. A planning document must be put in writing.
  3. Organize planning resources. Families must work with an accountant, farm loan officer, estate or wealth planning specialist or an attorney. These people have the expertise and can assist the farm family implement the plan.
  4. Clarify family member assumptions. Arrange for a family meeting so all adult children are aware of the plan. Any existing jealousies and resentments should be resolved and feasible solutions found.
  5. Take control and set deadlines. Take action and get the planning process started. Break down the plan into stages so that the planning goals make the plan become a reality.

Family farming and ranching has many external stressors which cannot be controlled such as commodity prices and weather. Don’t let lack of planning create additional stressors in your life.

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Youth

Disaster Anniversaries

Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are days to celebrate annually with joy and happiness. If you are like me, I’m sure there are also dates that might bring feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness. For example, I’ll never forget where I was when September 11, 2001 happened. I’ll never forget days that various people in my life were impacted by serious illnesses or passed away. Many Nebraskans will never forget March 15, 2019 when the ‘bomb cyclone’ hit causing massive and historic flooding in the state. This date forever changed the lives of many and will take years for many to recover. As March 15, approaches, our Nebraska Extension team put out resources which I decided to share in my column this week.

gray scale photo of trees
Photo by Ian Turnell on Pexels.com

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has the following tips for how to cope with these trigger events.

  • Be aware that special days may be difficult. It’s common for some stress and other emotional reactions to happen around the anniversary of an event. Simply recognizing that your feelings are normal will help. Dealing with some of your losses and the new realities you’re facing after a disaster can be challenging. Try not to be too hard on yourself.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Show yourself the same kindness and patience you’d give to others during this time. Allow yourself to feel angry or sad and recognize that these emotions are natural.
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy. This may be different depending on the individual. Some people like to reflect in solitude while others may prefer spending time with family and friends for support. Some of these activities may include: singing, prayer, meditation, attending a spiritual service, going to the movies, or just getting together with loved ones to share a meal.
  • Talk about your losses if you need to. If you want to talk about your losses since the disaster, you can. If you want to talk about the future, you can do that, too. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. That can be a friend or family member or a health care professional.
  • Draw on your faith/spirituality. For many, faith and other spiritual beliefs are a source of strength and comfort every day, and most especially during difficult times. Reach out to your faith adviser, spiritual community, or anyone that you feel comfortable talking with about your beliefs to support and console you.
  • Accept kindness and help from others. Support from family and friends is essential to healing. It’s often difficult for people to accept help because they don’t want to be a burden to others, or don’t want to appear weak. Allow the people in your life to show their care and concern.
  • Help others. For some people, volunteering is a healthy way to heal and they get a great deal of satisfaction from helping others. Some activities can be as simple as donating food, clothing, and other items.

    beach depression sad tattoo
    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While it is hard to cope with these trigger dates, know that you are not alone and you are cared about, especially by Nebraska Extension. Nebraska Extension, along with numerous other partners has recently created the “Nebraska Needs You” campaign and is working to support others in times of difficulty. We have the Rural Family Stress & Wellness Team, that I am a part of which participates in activities supporting the wellness of rural Nebraska communities by working with community partners and the University of Nebraska. Resources can be found at ruralwellness.unl.edu.

(Source: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock

2020 Crop & Cow-Calf Budgets

Two decision-making tools created by Nebraska Extension for agricultural producers across the state have been updated for the new year. The 2020 Nebraska crop budgets (https://cropwatch.unl.edu/budgets) and representative cow-calf budgets (https://go.unl.edu/cow-calfbudgets) are now available to provide producers with cost-of-production estimates.  Both sets of budgets are available as PDFs and Excel files, which feature tools that allow users to enter information into worksheets to calculate estimated production costs.

black calculator near ballpoint pen on white printed paper
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Both the crop and livestock budget files are made available online so producers can download, then modify, production and expense figures to more closely match their various enterprises. Glennis McClure, a Nebraska Extension educator in the Department of Agricultural Economics takes the lead on completing the budgets and reminds producers that understanding enterprise cost of production in agriculture is important in product mix decision-making, pricing, marketing and financial analysis.

The crop budgets include 82 production budgets for 15 crops produced in Nebraska, along with cost data for power, machinery and labor. They were compiled by a team led by Robert Klein, an extension crops specialist, and McClure, utilizing a template created by Roger Wilson, a retired extension farm and ranch management analyst.

There are five cow-calf budgets that offer representative herd data for different regions of the state. Background stories are included to assist producers with information relevant to each budget, which may guide producers in determining their own costs. McClure led the cow-calf budget effort, which was compiled from information gathered from producer panels that have met as part of the university’s multidisciplinary Beef Systems Initiative.

 

Livestock, Programming

Cow/Calf College – January 28

Farmers and Ranchers Cow/Calf College – January 28

The annual Farmers and Ranchers Cow/Calf College “Partners in Progress – Beef Seminar” will be held at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center near Clay Center on January 28, 2020 with registration, coffee and donuts starting at 9:30 a.m. The program will run from 9:55 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. This program is sponsored by Nebraska Extension’s Farmers and Ranchers College and will feature several outstanding speakers discussing issues and management strategies that can affect the profitability of all beef producers. There is no cost for the event and the public is invited. It does include a noon meal, which means that early registration is necessary to reserve materials and a meal. 1-15 F&R College.jpg

The “Cow/Calf College” will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a welcome by Dr. Mark Boggess of USMARC. Dr. Mary Drewnoski will kick off the program with “Do Your Herd & Your Bank Account a Favor – Test Your Hay”.  She will discuss the benefits and proper techniques for testing your hay and the advantages that can serve in your operation. Mary is part of an interdisciplinary team evaluating economic systems for integrated crop and livestock production in Nebraska.

Glennis McClure, Nebraska Extension Agricultural Economist will present on annual cow costs and provide updates on basic beef economics. Her responsibilities include publishing livestock and crop enterprise budgets, surveying and publishing the Farm Custom Rates Guide, and assisting with special economic analyses in the department.

Lunch is provided and will be handled with a rotation system featuring a session on: “Questions to Ask Your Vet Before Calving Season Begins” with Dr. Halden Clark, veterinarian with the Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center (GPVEC).  Dr. Clark’s duties at GPVEC include teaching veterinary students, engaging in research projects at GPVEC and providing extension service to beef producers and veterinarians.

The afternoon session will start with “Blockchains: Connecting Consumers with their Food” by a representative from IMI Global. IMI Global specializes in verification and certification program for the livestock industry to enable producers, feeders, growers, packers and processors to meet the ever changing needs of both domestic and international consumers.  Wrapping up the program will be a presentation by Dr. Alison L. Van Eenennaam on “Alternative Meats and Alternative Statistics: What do the data say”.  We’ve heard a lot in the news about alternative meats, how they are produced and how the nutrition compares to real meat, but what does the research really show?  Dr. Van Eenennaam from the Dept. of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis will join us via the web to provide insight on her work in this arena. Alison is an animal geneticist who discovered it is possible to splice the “hornless” gene from Aberdeen Angus cattle into the widespread black-and-white Holstein dairy cows so they are born without protrusions.

All presenters will then pull everything together, give their final thoughts and considerations and provide a coffee-shop style panel discussion during which participants can ask questions and get answers on questions that came to them during the day’s sessions. A chance for door prizes will be awarded to those that stay for the entire event.

Please pre-register by January 21st, to the Nebraska Extension Office in Fillmore County or call (402) 759-3712 to assure a seat and lunch. Walk-ins are accepted, but may not get a lunch. You may also complete your registration online on fillmore.unl.edu or http://go.unl.edu/farmersrancherscollege.  Remember, your contact information is required to be on the U.S. MARC property, so pre-registration is helpful and will save you time at the door!

Crops, Livestock

Characteristics of a Successful Producer

A new year often brings a sense of hope for new opportunities and bright beginnings. For many Nebraskans, the year 2019 brought many challenges and hardships so a new year is welcomed. Last month, the Farmers & Ranchers College conducted a program with Dr. David Kohl titled “Agriculture Today: It Is What It Is… What Should We Do About It”. He provided many insights on key economic indicators that will impact agriculture. What I also appreciate about his message is how he points out key characteristics of what makes a farm or ranch successful. Goal setting is so important and also so under-utilized. I’ve heard and presented the importance of goal setting for years and it was refreshing to hear him emphasize some key points. Dr. Kohl pointed out that 80% of Americans don’t have any goals and of those who have goals, 4% that have written goals obtain more money and success than others who do not write their goals down.

marketing school business idea
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In any business, it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. Those who pre-market their grain are generally more successful than those who do not. Kohl mentioned that the culture of a workplace or farm is also important. Many leadership development speakers and researchers emphasize the importance of culture in the workplace. For example, in her book, Dare to Lead, Brene Brown points out the importance of a daring leader to cultivate a culture of belonging, inclusivity and diverse perspectives. She states that, “Only when diverse perspectives are included, respected and valued can we start to get a full picture of the world: who we serve, what they need and how to successfully met people where they are.” For years, Dr. Kohl has pointed out that farmers and ranchers need their own advisory board that involves people who will challenge you and differ from your thinking. If we only hear from people who always agree with us, you won’t be challenged to improve your operation.

With a passion for leadership development, I appreciated Dr. Kohl’s message that interpersonal skills will continue to be critically important. He also noted the importance of having a positive attitude and the need to invest as much in human capital as in technology. Effective communication and being able to interpret data with critical thinking skills are also critically important for the future generation.

Finally, I’ve leave you with a checklist of business IQ management factors and critical questions for crucial conversations that Dr. Kohl has created. In the checklist, the most successful producers have the following written down: cost of production, cost of production by enterprise, goals (business, family & personal), record keeping system, projected cash flow, financial sensitivity analysis and understanding financial ratios and break evens. Also, those who regularly work with an advisory team and lender have strong management skills. Successful producers have a marketing plan written and execute it, in addition to a risk management plan. Successful managers have modest lifestyle habits and a family living budget. Progressive businesses also have a written plan for improvement with strong people management, have a transition plan, attend educational seminars such as extension programs and also have a proactive attitude.

For more information about the next Farmers & Ranchers College program which will be the Cow/Calf College on January 28th go to fillmore.unl.edu.

Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock, Youth

New Year’s Resolutions

If you are like many nearly half of the American population, you probably have a New Year’s Resolution set for 2020, while 38% of Americans absolutely never make New Year’s Resolution according to research by University of Scranton, 2016. A majority of those resolutions are self-improvement or education related resolutions (47%), weight related (38%), money related (34%) or relationship related (31%).  University of Southern California’s John Monterosso who is an expert on psychology and neuroscience of self-control offers insight on how to achieve setting those resolutions.

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Monterosso suggests thinking of a resolution as a special kind of plan and visualizing your future-self. If you have already made that resolution or still working to tweak it, he suggested keeping the following in mind:

  • Failed resolutions are not harmless. Most people don’t like to fail; in fact it hurts our confidence and can actually lead to worse behavior. Keeping this in mind and accepting the fact that one might not have accomplished all that was planned is important. If you get off track, you can always start again and don’t have to wait until a new year.
  • Resolutions work by linking single decisions to a bigger picture. For example, if you have a goal of quitting smoking or eating unhealthy foods and let a craving lead to poor decisions, you might think, “it’s just one cigarette or just one meal of fried foods” which may or may not lead to the continuation of a bad habit. If one takes a resolution seriously, think about the health consequences and the potential “relapse” that could occur.
  • Consider being less ambitious in your resolutions. We tend to be overly confident when making a resolution and think we can change our behavior overnight. While it is good to be confident with your goals, be careful not to make overly ambitious goals. For example, if you plan to work out one hour/day every day of the week and have an already packed life with a career, community obligations and a family, consider starting at 20 minutes/day and work up to more minutes if time allows. Setting a good resolution requires being realistic.
  • Resolutions should not be vague. If you set a resolution of “eating healthier.” What does that mean?  Does it mean drinking 64 oz. of water/day?  Does it mean to include a fruit or vegetable at every meal?  Write down a SMART goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
  • The New Year is a fresh start. Setting resolutions/goals at the first of the year helps us “clean the slate” and put past failures away. It gives us a sense of confidence and optimism. Capitalize on that.
  • Even successful resolutions can be mistakes. If you set restrict your diet to the point of starvation or over-exercise to the point of hurting yourself, you must be able to adapt, know yourself and use common sense and wisdom to correct the resolution.

In summary, Monterosso suggests that done correctly, “resolutions play a role in great human achievements.”

Extension’s Help with Resolutions

As stated above, almost half of resolutions made include education or self-improvement. If you need any educational resources or materials on nearly any subject, Extension has resources. Whether it is information on a website, talking with an extension professional, utilizing an app from your smart-phone, attending a face-to-face program, participation in a webinar or many other avenues, Extension works to solve complex problems for clients. If you haven’t been to Extension’s website recently, I encourage you to go to extension.unl.edu. There you will find an abundance of resources on topics such as food, nutrition and health, cropping & water systems, community vitality, community environment, learning child, beef systems and 4-H youth development. Consider attending a program or utilizing a resource to help you achieve a resolution or goal you may have.

For a list of extension programs in the area, visit our website or call our office at (402) 759-3712.

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Managing Stress During the Holidays

I love the holiday season! It is a great time for getting together with friends and family and a time to reflect on the year. Holiday baking, looking at Christmas lights, and showing appreciation to those in your life by giving gifts are just a few of the many things I enjoy.  While I enjoy many things and truly do love the holiday season, it can also be a stressful time. Situations may be challenging, especially if there are increased financial stressors.

selective focus photography of ceramic mug near candy cane
Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

For farm and ranch families, the stress is also very real – someone still has to break the ice and feed the livestock, manage financial recordkeeping, tax preparation, evaluate crop yields, and plan for the next growing season; there is lots to do. The downturn in the agricultural economy and weather-related disasters have only compounded the stress many agriculturalists have had to endure. This can make one’s situation seem hopeless. My colleague, Holly Hatton-Bowers shared an article that pointed out the American Psychological Association found that in the US people tend to feel more stressed around the holidays.

Before you become dragged down by negative feelings and stress, try to sprinkle your winter holiday with these seven tips compiled by my colleague, Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers. Doing these practices may help you manage your stress and even find some moments of joy during the holidays.

  1. Challenge Your Thinking – Often when we are faced with challenges, failures or even criticism, we begin to tell ourselves stories that lead to more stress. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “Is this True?” “Am I being Kind to Myself?” “What can I learn from this experience?” It can also be helpful to remember that feelings come and go. Acknowledge your feelings and also take note that they are not here to stay.
  2. Set Your Intentions to Eat for Gains, Sleep, and Move – During the Winter Holidays, many of us take joy in eating sweet, sugary and fatty foods. Sometimes our family and friends bake our favorite pies and cookies. Enjoy these foods in small amounts and also be intentional in eating foods that give you energy or a “net gain” for your wellbeing. Before drinking that next sugar filled coffee or soda, choose water. Choose a side of vegetables instead of French fries. It’s is also important to not skip meals which can lead to headaches, draining your energy and lead to you feeling more down. Set your intentions to get sleep. Turn-off technology an hour before bedtime and wake up at the same time each morning. Finally, set your intention to move your body. It is recommended to move your body every 20 minutes for at least two minutes.
  3. Reach Out and Connect with Your Support System– If you are feeling lonely, sad, or overwhelmed, you are not alone. Sometimes we need a friend or family member to listen or offer us support and help. Expressing your thoughts and feelings with those you trust may be helpful and deepen your relationships. Plan for difficult days by having an activity planned or by checking in with a relative or close friend. If you are having a lot of difficulty, reach out to a mental health expert. If you are feeling very isolated and having serious thoughts of self-harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  4. Plan and Budget Expenses – It may feel daunting to stick to a reasonable budget during the holidays. In the moment you may think, I can just charge this and pay it later. Often these impulsive buys can lead to more stress later. Miriam Caldwell in her “Get Tips on Making and Sticking to a Holiday Budget” suggests listing out your holiday expenses, stick to a spending limit, and making a shopping list so that you are less likely to overspend.
  5. Embrace the Messy – At time we may have expectations for how events and activities will go. We plan celebrations and expect them to be filled with complete joy and fun. Often these expectations may not go as planned. Let go and be ok when this happens. Stop and breathe. It can be helpful to breathe in for a count of 5 and breathe out for a count of 7. Practice this breathing a few times and then tell yourself to embrace the mess.
  6. Create a To-Do or a Done List – Write down four things you can accomplish and do it! If a to-do list sounds stressful, then try a DONE list. Write down the things that you have accomplished today.
  7. Cultivate Gratitude – Practicing gratitude can help you de-stress by focusing on what you have, and what you value. Make a list of 5 things/people/experiences you are grateful for.

What will you do to combat your stress during the Winter Holidays? Take time to be present and find ways to intentionally create holiday experiences that are less stressful and a little more pleasant and meaningful.