Mosquitoes got you down?

Here’s How to Have a Happier and Healthier Summer

By Lili’a Uili Neville

I hate mosquito repellent.

It seems like every time I put on mosquito repellent, I’m nowhere close to a sink to wash the chemicals off my hands. And even if I am close to a sink, somehow I end up getting the repellent back on my hands or worse—in my eyes or on my food.

Traditional mosquito repellent stings, burns and tastes horrible because it contains highly toxic chemicals. Most repellents include safety guidelines for children and pregnant women, and there are documented studies on detrimental health effects of using repellent containing DEET.

Camping TripTwo summers ago my husband and I took a four-day weekend camping trip at Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. After that trip, I reached my breaking point with DEET repellents and the like. It occurred to me that there must be other repellent options.

After that camping trip, I decided to avoid the gross-tasting and toxic situation entirely by becoming a bit more “green” (remember—while we are aiming for our skin, we also spray these chemicals into the air). I did some research online and made my first batch of eco-friendly, essential oil-based mosquito repellent.

It is true that essential oil-based repellents evaporate and soak in your skin quickly, but I never need to worry about chemical side effects when I re-apply. Plus, it smells great and is tasteless. A complete win all around!

You can customize this recipe to your own preference once you get familiar with the oils and scents.


INGREDIENTS

Carrier Liquids: Carrier liquids are necessary because you don’t want to put essential oils directly on your skin, and you need your oils to bind together.

I like using witch hazel, grapeseed oil and vodka for my carrier liquids. Witch hazel and grapeseed oil are great for your skin and can be found at your grocery store of choice (grapeseed oil is stocked by the other cooking oils). Vodka acts as a preservative, but it also has mosquito-repelling properties.

Don’t use flavored vodka or any preservative with sugar in it. If you’re averse to using vodka, you can use vegetable glycerin.

Essential Oils: Essential oils have natural mosquito-repelling properties and smell great. Pick your favorites from the list below:

  • Catnip
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea Tree
  • Geranium
  • Peppermint

 Tip 1: Catnip is one of the most effective and longest lasting oils. Plan on this oil being the ESSENTIAL essential oil.

Essential OilsMy favorite essential oil combinations are catnip, tea tree, rosemary, clove, eucalyptus and lavender. The more oils you use, the stronger the repellent and better it smells. And remember that catnip oil is the strongest, so make sure almost half your overall drops are catnip oil.

 


DIRECTIONS

Spray BottlePour 4 ounces of distilled water into a spray bottle. I use an 8 ounce (purse-sized) aluminum spray bottle that I bought in the beauty aisle at the grocery store.

Add half a tablespoon of grapeseed oil and one teaspoon of vodka. Then, add 25-30 drops of catnip oil and another 20-30 drops of each of your selected additional essential oils.

If you spill a little or lose track while counting, don’t worry. This doesn’t have to be an exact science.

Fill the rest of the spray bottle with witch hazel.

Tip 2: Leave a little room at the top so it doesn’t overflow when you screw the nozzle back on.

Shake bottle, then spray and rub into skin. Re-apply as needed, roughly every 60–90 minutes.

Tip 3: Test a little at a time with kids—the strength of the lemon/lemongrass and eucalyptus essential oils can sometimes irritate the skin of very young children.


Lili'a Uili NevilleLili’a Uili Neville  Contact
UT Knoxville

Lili’a Uili Neville is a runner, environmentalist and health nut. Lili’a is the communications director in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity at UT Knoxville. When she’s not at work, she is underestimating how long it will take her to complete a craft project, telling funny stories about her dog and cat or having a classy date night with her husband.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Reaching a Goal Requires Setting One

By Gina Stafford

As busy as we all are with work, family, social and personal obligations, there’s often no choice but to skip deliberate physical activity when our schedules get overcrowded. At least, that’s true for me.

Whether walking, hiking or going to the gym, I really enjoy getting to spend some time exercising. Recently, though, that time was consumed by the need to support my husband, Bill, as he underwent knee replacement surgery. We both knew it was a big deal, but I had no idea how much of my days were going to be filled at the hospital, the inpatient rehab facility, traveling to physical therapy and tending to our household completely solo.

For three full weeks, I lived in the world of caregiving. In that world, as anyone who’s spent time there knows, your otherwise normal routine disappears, household chores fall by the wayside, and you eat from a vending machine or a drive-thru. And for me, let’s just say poor food choices and getting no exercise were a bad combination for weight management, and leave it at that.

Bill’s knee replacement surgery was on May 5, 2015. He has had the best experience possible and is recovering quickly, for which I’m very thankful. I’m thankful, too, that I’ve been able to resume a near-normal routine, with some time for periodic exercise.

I’m also looking forward to the time in the future when Bill can join me in some of our favorite active pursuits—a list topped by hiking. In fact, while still a rehab inpatient, Bill set a goal of hiking to the top of Mount LeConte next year, on the first anniversary of his new knee.

Bill on Alum Cave Trail en route to Mount LeConte in 2014
Bill on Alum Cave Trail en route to Mount LeConte in 2014

At an elevation of 6,593 feet, Mount LeConte is the second-highest peak on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with Clingman’s Dome the highest at 6,644 feet. LeConte is one of the park’s most beautiful, signature hiking destinations, accessible to the public only on foot via challenging trails. In my experience, Clingman’s Dome is more of a driving destination, where people park at the base of a paved, one-mile walkway and make that very steep trip on foot to the impressive observation tower.

Hiking Mount LeConte can be one of those “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” activities, thanks to a small-scale store operating in a lodge atop the mountain. Each year, a new “LeConte Lodge” T-shirt design – complete with the current year’s imprint – is sold only on top of the mountain. Bragging rights and avid hikers are good for T-shirt sales.

Bill 2015, Post-opWhen my husband wore his 2014 shirt to post-op physical therapy, he was the talk of the group. His therapists were impressed that a knee replacement patient had ascended LeConte with what had to have been a very damaged and painful knee just 11 months earlier.

That inspired Bill. Having learned that total knee replacement requires 12 months for full, complete recovery, he decided he would celebrate the one-year mark by ascending LeConte again, via the 10 miles roundtrip Alum Cave Trail. I was pleased his experience was going so well that he was already looking forward to returning to hiking, and a big hiking challenge, at that.

We have a long way to go, and he has a lot of physical therapy ahead to prep for us to take on that challenge, but I’m eager and confident it will happen. I’m also reminded of the importance— to exercising regularly—of setting goals. I don’t know anyone who decided to run a marathon and ran one the same day. I never have and am confident I never will run a marathon, but I have set activity-related goals, and every time I did, they were the catalyst to better fitness.

Setting goals is motivating and helps you stay focused. Goals give you a reason to stick with and track your physical activity. Checking off a goal—whether it’s walking five miles a week or running five miles a day—brings a satisfying sense of accomplishment and can encourage you to set more challenging goals. Among family members, setting goals can encourage participation and friendly competition. Goals can start anywhere—wherever is most realistic—and without them, it can be hard to start at all.

The American Heart Association has some good tips to help you introduce routine exercise into your life in its “Five Steps to Loving Exercise…Or At Least not Hating It.”

If you’re older and it’s been a while since you were active, you also might enjoy the wealth of great information in the National Institute on Aging’s “Exercise and Physical Activity” guide. It’s a comprehensive resource on various types and benefits of exercise – and identifying and setting goals.

In my house, Mount LeConte is on the figurative horizon until May 2015, when I’m counting on seeing its actual horizon.


Bill and GinaGina Stafford  Twitter  Contact
UT System Administration

Gina and her husband, Bill Phelps, are outdoor and hiking enthusiasts who especially enjoy venturing into new territory. They share a love of all things Vols, baseball and travel. Gina is assistant vice president and director of communications for the UT System Administration.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Hit the Trail and Ditch the Stress

By Gina Stafford

As a little girl growing up in the country, I spent summers in the woods. Climbing trees, wading creeks and exploring. When I grew up and moved to the city, I left the woods, but the woods have never left me.

Fortunately, I live only 50 miles from about a half-billion acres of woodlands in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Even though it’s the most-visited national park in the country, it’s still plenty big enough to offer the peace, quiet and beauty that draw me to the woods. I go there to hike, my favorite combination of stress reliever and physical activity.

Hiking is something almost anyone can do, and you don’t have to live near a national park to take advantage of it. Besides the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee has another National Park Service site, the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, along with 56 state parks. Those, combined with greenway systems in many Tennessee cities, make up almost 1,000 trails and walking routes accessible throughout the state. That’s a lot of opportunity to get out of the house, away from the office and into a happy place.

There, parents can spend time with their children, friends can spend time together, but you don’t have to spend any money. Tennessee’s state and national parks are open seven days a week, year-round, and they don’t charge entry fees.

No special equipment or knowledge is required, either, but here are some basic tips for hitting the trail:

Know the distance and degree of difficulty—most park or trail maps have labeled routes according to the challenge presented. Beginner trails are usually suitable for all fitness levels.

Check the forecast—being unprepared for weather conditions makes for a bad experience. Even if the forecast is clear, it’s still a good idea to take along rain gear if you may be out most of the day.

Footwear and gear—sneakers or athletic shoes are OK for flat, smooth surfaces, but more challenging terrain or hikes much longer than a couple miles call for comfortable and waterproof hiking shoes or boots. Apply insect repellent and sunscreen before hitting the trail, and dress in layered clothing suitable for the temperature.

Food and water—plan to have snacks or food and water appropriate to the amount of time and distance you want to cover. A good rule of thumb is to bring enough water so that you can drink 8 ounces (one cup) for every 15 minutes you’re on the trail, and a healthy snack for every 60 to 90 minutes.

Start short—beginners can easily overestimate how far they can go. It’s not only no fun to run out of steam mid-hike, it can be a health or safety risk. Know your limitations and those of anyone joining you. Start with an easy trail and limit the distance, to maybe 2 miles or less.

Don’t go it alone—it’s best not to take chances on having a problem and no one to help. Those new to hiking, especially, should go in pairs or small groups. Take your cell phone—though signal is not always available in state or national parks—and let someone know when you expect to return.

Barred OwlMy husband and I really enjoy hiking and our relatively close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We go often with friends—hiking 600-800 miles a year—and you never know when you might make a new friend, such as this Barred Owl watching over us once as we passed along a trail below his perch.

For more information on walking and hiking trails in Tennessee, visit:


Gina Stafford and Bill PhelpsGina Stafford  Twitter  Contact
UT System Administration

Gina and her husband, Bill Phelps, are outdoor and hiking enthusiasts who especially enjoy venturing into new territory. They share a love of all things Vols, baseball and travel. Gina is assistant vice president and director of communications for the UT System Administration.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Why I Schedule Time for Family Activities

By Sabrina Soltau

Why I Schedule Time for Family Activities:
“Because I value time with my family and try to make them a priority every weekend.”

My motivation:
“It’s all too easy to get caught up in work-related issues and emergencies during your off time. I work very hard while I am at work to ensure I don’t need to take work home with me.”

My wellness goal:
“Since we will be adding to our family in August, my immediate goal will be to carve out some time for myself while successfully juggling a baby, toddler, family commitments and my job. Please wish me luck!”


Sabrina Soltau  Contact
UT System Administration
Interim Director of Contract Administration, Office of the Treasurer

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Don’t Misunderstand: Interpreting Grief Behaviors

By Erica Jenkins

Most employees can function at work when grieving, but there will likely be behavior changes supervisors and co-workers may notice. Paying attention to these behaviors and understanding that they are related to the grief experience is the first step to being supportive during the grief process.

For supervisors responsible for employee performance, monitoring employee behavior during grief is especially important, as it allows the supervisor a way to be accommodating but also provides an empathetic avenue to address performance issues related to grief if the behavior persists.

It must be noted, that in order to correctly evaluate employee behavior, a supervisor must know the employee’s work habits and characteristics prior to the loss.

Dr. Laura Wheat, a clinical assistant professor in UT Knoxville’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences explained the following common grief behaviors employees may exhibit and the reasons behind them.

1. Extreme, Yet In-Character Behavior

When grieving, we turn to our natural coping mechanisms because they make us feel better. Naturally shy and withdrawn co-workers may isolate themselves more. More outgoing co-workers may spend a lot of time joking around at the water cooler or finding reasons to have a meeting because that interaction is comforting and provides a distraction.

2. Reduced Productivity or Preoccupation

Employees in grief may appear preoccupied or have reduced productivity because they are processing the loss and trying to make sense out of it, especially with a death loss.

3. Arriving Late or Leaving Early

Depending on the type of loss, an employee may arrive late or need to leave early. A loss can create a change in the family routine that may take time for the employee to adjust.

4. Calling in Sick

You may observe a co-worker in grief getting sick and taking more sick days. While some may think the employee is faking illness to get out of work because they’re sad, grief takes a lot of energy and actually lowers the immune system’s ability to fight off infection

This is Part 3 of 4 from our first series of stories about grief and loss. Read parts 1, 2, and 4.


Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Doctors’ Orders: It’s OK to Be Sad

By Erica Jenkins

“Loss can be any experience that demands the surrender of something that is personally significant or familiar,” explained Laura Wheat, a clinical assistant professor in UT Knoxville’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. And grief is how we express and acknowledge our loss.

The personal nature of grief also makes it a difficult topic for many to address in the workplace, said Laura Miller, a health communication researcher in UT Knoxville’s School of Communication Studies.

“There’s something about the workplace setting that seems to confuse people about how to deal with grief,” Miller said. “It confuses grievers too, because they’re not sure if they are allowed to have their human experience out in public in the workplace.”

This is Part 2 of 4 from our first series of stories about grief and loss. Read parts 1, 3, and 4.


Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.