A group of Kansas 4-H’ers and volunteers are taking the organization’s motto to “Make the Best Better” pretty seriously with an ambitious online program that debuts to the public on April 27.
They will be producing a weekly series dubbed “Mindful Monday Mornings” in which they will help people of all ages find creative ways to deal with stress during the current pandemic.
The pre-recorded series will appear each Monday at 10 a.m. on the K-State Research and Extension Facebook page.
“We’re really trying to find practical ways to reduce stress during the day so that people can make sure that they are communicating effectively and actually feeling healthy during a challenging and stressful time,” said Aliah Mestrovich Seay, a Kansas 4-H youth development specialist for culture and communication skills development.
Mestrovich Seay has developed curriculum she calls Mindful Moments that will drive the series, which is hosted by Kansas 4-H members, volunteers, K-State alumni and community partners across the state.
The April 27 show will feature a three minute video introducing ideas that people of all ages can use to relieve stress. In coming weeks, ‘Mindful Monday Mornings’ shifts to focusing on different stages of human development, including stress relief for pre-schoolers (ages 2-5), youth up to age 18, then adults and the entire family.
The fourth week will feature an interview with an expert talking about mindfulness, or intentionally making time to relieve daily stress.
Currently, the series is scheduled to run for three months, through the end of July, with sessions for pre-schoolers, youth, and adults each month.
“One theme that I am hearing from experts and I am witnessing as I have the privilege of coordinating this program, is being intentional about lowering our expectations,” Mestrovich Seay said. “What we are used to doing is not what we are able to do right now. We have to transform and reframe the way we are doing life and doing work in order to be healthy.”
As an example, Mestrovich Seay said the videos for pre-schoolers “focus on parents or professionals that are home with their children right now, and resources that may be around the house to model what is important at this time, build a sense of togetherness and help children learn how to deal with stress and talk about their feelings.”
“We will offer a variety of research-based curricula,” she said. “We also have a lot of different curricula that can be found online, related to mindfulness and reducing anxiety and stress that are easily accessible.”
Mestrovich Seay said several groups are helping to produce the videos, including extension agents, youth, volunteers and citizens. She added that the program is receiving guidance from the K-State Research and extension rural stress team, one of three issue-based groups formed in late 2019 to address concerns important in Kansas communities.
The K-State Research and Extension communications team is assisting with production using such distance technology as teleconferencing, home videos and – in some cases – cell phones.
“With the introduction of COVID-19, we recognized the need for people to feel connected with each other and find ways to deal with tough moments,” said Taylor Kennedy, the digital media specialist for K-State Research and Extension. “When we heard about Aliah’s program, we thought it is one way to serve those needs.”
She adds: “This is one of the first extended social media campaigns and curriculum we have worked on with our extension professionals and look forward to additional opportunities to bring digital extension into the hands of Kansans.”
Mestrovich Seay said the program came together very quickly and she is impressed by the responsiveness of the university’s communications team as well as 4-H’ers, volunteers and community members.
“It really has been fun working with youth and volunteers on this project,” Mestrovich Seay said. “Youth are so coachable. It’s really been an inspiration to be able to work with them.
“We’re hoping to develop a sense of community through this as people try it. We want to see what works, see what they like and what they want more of.”