Insult to Injury: U.S. Workers Without Paid Sick Leave Suffer from Mental Distress

Only seven states in the United States have mandatory paid sick leave laws; yet, fifteen states have passed preemptive legislation prohibiting localities from passing sick leave. Despite this resistance, paid sick leave is starting to gain momentum as a social justice issue with important implications for health and wellness. But what are the implications for the mental well-being of Americans without paid sick leave? Little was known about their relationship until now.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State University are the first to explore the link between psychological distress and paid sick leave among U.S. workers ages 18-64. Results of their study, published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, illuminate the effects of exacerbated stress on Americans without paid sick leave who are unable to care for themselves or their loved ones without fear of losing wages or their jobs.

The researchers found that workers without paid sick leave benefits reported a statistically significant higher level of psychological distress. They also are 1.45 times more likely to report that their distress symptoms interfere “a lot” with their daily life and activities compared to workers with paid sick leave. Those most vulnerable: young, Hispanic, low-income and poorly educated populations.

“Given the disproportionate access to paid sick leave based on race, ethnicity and income status, coupled with its relationship to health and mental health, paid sick leave must be viewed as a health disparity as well as a social justice issue,” said LeaAnne DeRigne, Ph.D., co-author of the study and an associate professor in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry. “Even modest increases in psychological distress are noteworthy for both researchers and policy makers since we know that even small increases in stress can impact health.”

The study included 17,897 respondents from the National Health Interview Survey(NHIS), administered by the U.S. government since 1957 to examine a nationally representative sample of U.S. households about health and sociodemographic variables.

“For many Americans, daily life itself can be a source of stress as they struggle to manage numerous responsibilities including health related issues,” said Patricia Stoddard-Dare, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of social work at Cleveland State University. “Making matters worse, for those who lack paid sick leave, a day away from work can mean lost wages or even fear of losing one’s job. These stressors combined with other sources of stress have the potential to interfere with workplace performance and impact overall mental health.”

The researchers used the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6), considered the gold standard for assessing psychological distress in population-based samples in the U.S. and internationally. With a theoretical range of 0 to 24, higher scores on the K6 represent increased psychological distress and scores above 13 are correlated with having a mental disorder of some type.

Results from the study showed that those with paid sick leave had a lower mean distress score compared to those without paid sick leave, who had significantly higher K6 scores, indicating a higher level of psychological distress. Only 1.4 percent of those with paid sick leave had a K6 score above 12 compared to 3.1 percent of the respondents without paid sick leave.

The most significant control variables indicated an increase in the expected psychological distress score among those who were younger, female, in fair or poor personal health, had at least one chronic health condition, were current smokers or did not average the recommended range of seven to nine hours of sleep per day.

Approximately 40 percent of respondents in the NHIS sample did not have paid sick leave; approximately half of the respondents were female; more than half were married or cohabitating; three-quarters indicated that their highest level of education included at least some college; and 62 percent were non-Hispanic white. The mean age was 41.2 years. Most of the respondents (79.1 percent) worked full-time and 82.7 percent had health insurance coverage. Respondents were in families with a mean size of 2.6 persons and 39.3 percent reported having children in the family. Approximately 32 percent had an annual family income of $35,000 to $50,000, and more than one quarter were below the poverty threshold.

DeRigne and Stoddard-Dare caution that even though there is concern about the potential burden on employers if paid sick leave laws are passed, it is important to be mindful of the overall situation regarding productivity loss and workplace costs associated with mental health symptoms and psychological concerns among U.S. workers. Furthermore, the personal health care consequences of delaying or forgoing needed medical care can lead to more complicated and expensive health conditions. U.S. workers with paid sick leave are more likely to take time off work and self-quarantine when necessary, without the worries of losing their job or income while also not spreading illness to others.

“Results from our research will help employers as they think about strategies to reduce psychological stress in their employees such as implementing or expanding access to paid sick days,” said Stoddard-Dare. “Clinicians also can use these findings to help their patients and clients as can legislators who are actively evaluating the value of mandating paid sick leave.”

SNAP Benefits Aren’t Enough to Afford a Healthy Diet

A new study from North Carolina State University and the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, only covers 43-60 percent of what it costs to consume a diet consistent with federal dietary guidelines for what constitutes a healthy diet. The study highlights the challenges lower-income households face in trying to eat a healthy diet.

“The federal government has defined what constitutes a healthy diet, and we wanted to know how financially feasible it was for low-income households, who qualify for SNAP benefits, to follow these guidelines,” says Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, co-author of a paper on the study and an assistant professor of agricultural and human sciences at NC State.

This can be a tricky question to answer, as federal dietary guidelines vary based on age and gender. SNAP benefits also vary, based on household income and the number of adults and children living in the household. For the purposes of this study, the researchers used average monthly SNAP benefits for 2015.

To address their research question, the researchers looked at the cost to follow federal dietary guidelines based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly retail price data from 2015 for fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. They calculated costs under a variety of scenarios. For example, what would it cost to comply with dietary guidelines if one only ate produce that was fresh, not frozen? What if one only consumed fruits and vegetables that were frozen? What if a household followed a vegetarian diet? The researchers also included labor costs associated with shopping and preparing meals, based on 2010 estimates produced by other economics researchers.

“We found significant variability in the costs associated with following federal dietary guidelines,” Haynes-Maslow says. “For example, it was most expensive to consume only fresh produce, and it was least expensive to consume a vegetarian diet.”

To place this in context, consider a four-person household that has one adult male, one adult female, one child aged 8-11 and one child aged 12-17 – all of whom qualify for SNAP benefits. They would need to spend $626.95 per month in addition to their SNAP benefits if they ate only fresh produce as part of their diet. That same household would need to spend $487.39, in addition, to SNAP benefits if they ate a vegetarian diet.

“Many low-income households simply don’t have an additional $500 or $600 to spend on food in their monthly budget,” Haynes-Maslow says.

The researchers did find that SNAP is sufficient to meet the healthy dietary needs of two groups: children under the age of 8 and women over the age of 51. However, SNAP was insufficient to meet the needs of older children, younger women, or men of any age.

“Even though SNAP is not designed to cover all of the cost of food – it’s meant to be a supplemental food program – this study makes it clear that there would be many low-income households that would not be able to cover the gap needed to eat a diet consistent with federal dietary guidelines,” Haynes Maslow says. “Even without including labor costs, a household of four would need to spend approximately $200-$300 in addition to their SNAP benefits to follow the dietary guidelines.”

How Massage Can Relieve Workplace Pain And Stress

Massages are not only limited to luxury spas and health clubs. You have access to massage therapy in clinics, hospitals, and even airports. Some business centers like Google offer massages to their employees at work, so they remain energetic and fresh to perform efficiently and add to the progress of the company. Massage can do much more than relieving pains and soothe sore muscles. It is only a matter of understanding that massage therapy is just like a moment of relaxation and enhance the overall physical and emotional well-being. There are different types of massage therapies; such as:

  • Shiatsu massage therapy
  • Trigger point massage therapy
  • Swedish massage therapy
  • Deep massage therapy
  • Sports massage therapy

All of these therapies are based on different theories and are done using different techniques. But, all of them are effective and have long lasting effects.

When you are at work and have to sit in a cramped office chair with a bright computer screen at the front, you get tired and stressed. Employees with more workload have more chances to get stressed and have adverse effects on their health, but people with lesser work are prone to stress as much as the others. Remaining restricted to your work area makes you vulnerable to back, neck and shoulder pain. However, massage therapy can help you relieve all the pressure, aches, pain and stress. There are a lot of researches going on to examine the impact of massage therapy as an intervention for health care. Following are a few issues that are faced by people while they are at work; we will tell you how massage can be helpful in treating them.

Carpel tunnel syndrome

When you are sitting in one posture for long hours and continuously typing on keyboard along with operating the mouse, you are most likely to suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome. It is a musculoskeletal injury where your body’s movements are affected due to bad posture or excessive movement of one part of the body. More than a million American employees have to call in sick at work due to work-related injuries and stress. People are advised to have weekly massage therapy to deal with inflammatory injuries and discomfort.

Reduce anxiety

Swedish massage therapy is well known to be the most effective in dealing with anxiety and depression. Shorter deadlines and urgent presentations increase anxiety leading to depression in employees. According to medical science, when an individual is under stress, he is unable to perform the way he could have performed otherwise. Moreover, it is diagnosed that male workers suffer from higher intensities of depression as compared to female workers.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure was only common in the age group of 45 and above, but with the increased work and social pressures, people of younger age groups are also suffering from high blood pressure. Trigger point massage and chair massage, both are helpful in dealing with blood pressure problems. Some workplaces have massage chairs for their employees, and each employee is advised to have a 15-minute massage break each day so they can take care of their blood pressure.

Massages decrease the heart rate along with systolic and diastolic blood pressure. When the blood pressure is within a normal range, there are lesser chances of getting prone to heart issues and nervous breakdown. Individuals that opt for weekly massage sessions are reported to have a better mental state in comparison to the people who do not go for regular massages.

Massages are beneficial for everyone; irrespective of age and gender. However, there are a few things you must tell your massage therapist so he can guide you likewise and opt for an appropriate technique. Some of the major points you must discuss with your therapist are:

  • If you have or had any fractures
  • If you are on blood thinners
  • In case you have any bleeding disorders
  • If you have any deep vein thrombosis
  • In case there are any healing wounds
  • If you are a patient of thrombocytopenia
  • If you are suffering from osteoporosis

Just like you don’t hide anything from your medical health practitioner, you do not have to hide anything from your massage therapist as well.

Massage therapies are known to have a positive impact on the physical, mental and emotional state of an individual. Massages improve the blood circulation and relieve the stress that your body takes by being in the same posture for long hours at work. An employer’s life is very complicated; he has to be efficient at work and make time for his family and friends as well. Having a massage once in a while can improve his health condition and keep him fresh and energetic to meet the social and personal requirements.

Why the Use of Scare Tactics to Promote Sexual Health For Youth May Backfire

Many adults do not like to think about youth engaging in sexual activity, but the reality is that the majority of young people have had sex before they graduate from high school. Exploring one’s sexuality is a normal part of adolescent development, but risks also accompany sexual behavior. Although people in American society have strong and divergent feelings about adolescents and sex, most will agree that research can and should guide efforts to help young people to stay safe and healthy as they navigate their journeys into adulthood.

Sexually transmitted infections (also called sexually transmitted diseases) are one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions in the United States. More than 110 million people in the United States live with such an infection. After years of decline, sexually transmitted infections are now on the rise, with young persons aged 15 to 24 disproportionately affected.

The good news is that many of these infections are curable, and all are treatable. However, if left undiagnosed, they can lead to serious conditions including infertility and cancer. In addition to their health toll, sexually transmitted infections also carry a financial burden, with $16 billion spent annually on treatment. Given such high costs, it is important for researchers to examine efforts to prevent sexually transmitted infections to ensure that they are implemented as effectively as possible. One approach questioned by research is the use of graphic pictures meant to scare young people about the suffering and disfiguration having a sexually transmitted infection might entail.

Sexually Transmitted Infections and Youth Education

The majority of young people in the United States receive school-based sexuality education, including information about sexually transmitted infections. Older adolescents may also get such instruction in collegiate settings, such as classroom-based health courses or at forums held in residence halls or fraternities. Often, instructors display graphic PowerPoint slides, initially developed for use in medical training, portraying real but atypical sexually transmitted infections that have led to visually disturbing symptoms such as severe genital warts.

Many sexuality educators have strong feelings about integrating such images into their programs. Educators who use graphic pictures feel that young people should be aware of potential consequences of unprotected sex, or of sex in general. They also want young people to be prepared to recognize sexually transmitted infection symptoms. But on the other hand, educators who do not use graphic images find them misguided, in that most sexually transmitted infections have no visible symptoms at all. What is more, these reluctant educators worry that graphic images may lead young people to think that sexually transmitted infections are rare, when instead they occur frequently in less visible forms.

Public health educators are expected to use evidence-based practices, but surprisingly, the impact of sexually transmitted infection graphic images on young people’s sexual health has been unknown until recently. While understanding the impact of these pictures may seem inconsequential, most people would never feel comfortable taking a medication if its efficacy had not been tested. The same standard should be used for public health interventions.

Pros and Cons of Instilling Fear about Health Issues

Scare tactics, also called fear appeals, are intended to make people think about the worst-case scenario that can follow from a problematic health behavior. The intention is to cause mental distress in order to prompt healthy behaviors that will minimize the health threat. Fear appeals are not new in public health; they have a longstanding place in health communication campaigns – such as the infamous, decades-old “this is your brain on drugs” public service announcements.

Research reveals mixed effects from fear-inducing strategies. A well-known large-scale study found that fear appeals can be useful at changing attitudes and behaviors when people feel susceptible to the health problem and confident in their ability to take action to prevent it. Yet for people who don’t meet these two conditions, fear appeals can backfire – indeed, such tactics can induce even more risk-taking behavior. Although this research is compelling, little attention has been paid to the ethical implications and potential unintended consequences of fear appeals.

A key issue is that many fear appeals portray possible but rare and unlikely maladies in ways that may mislead. People with sexually transmitted infections are more likely than not to exhibit no symptoms at all. Because educators are supposed to impart factual information, fear appeals pointing to atypical symptoms could be seen as deceptive. Fear appeals also put the full responsibility for decision-making on individuals without recognizing or working to change root causes, the underlying reasons why many people take health risks. This can be stigmatizing to already marginalized groups in society.

In 2016, I conducted an experiment with young people enrolled in a large public Midwestern university. Participants watched one of two randomly assigned web-based sexual health programs, one with graphic sexually transmitted infection images and the other without such images but otherwise identical. I then compared the two groups of participants to assess their knowledge, beliefs, and behavioral intentions related to sexually transmitted infections. Overall outcomes were the same, but when I asked participants to provide feedback, more than a quarter of those that saw the graphic images expressed disgust and dismay. These results suggest that presenting such images may prompt stigma – without having any health benefit.

What Now?

Because sexuality education is an important tool to help prevent sexually transmitted infections among young people, it is vital for programs to be crafted with great care. Given the mixed evidence, the use of graphic sexually transmitted infection images should be reevaluated. Parents, policymakers, and community members should learn more about what kind of sexuality education is being taught in local schools, and if scare tactics are used, assess whether they may be more harmful than helpful.

Community Health Workers Lead to Better Health, Lower Costs for Medicaid Patients

As politicians struggle to solve the nation’s healthcare problems, a new study finds a way to improve health and lower costs among Medicaid and uninsured patients.

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania showed that patients who received support from community health workers (CHWs) – trained local residents who provide tailored support to high-risk patients– had 30 percent fewer hospital admissions in one year compared to those who did not receive CHW support. The results, published today in the

The results, published today in the American Journal of Public Health, also showed reductions in cigarette smoking, obesity, diabetes severity, and mental illness. This is the second clinical trial to demonstrate improved health and hospital reductions with the IMPaCT (Individualized Management for Patient-Centered Targets) CHW program. The annual return on investment for the program was $2 for every dollar invested.

The IMPaCT program pairs CHWs with chronically-ill patients from low-income neighborhoods. CHWs meet with patients regularly to encourage healthier behaviors, and otherwise provide support for the patients’ own health goals.

Emblematic of the kind of patients who benefit from CHW interventions, one young woman was unemployed, struggling with low self-esteem, and had tried for years to lose weight before she met CHW, Saphia Allen. Saphia helped the patient find affordable interview clothes and went with her to job fairs. Saphia also connected the patient to other neighborhood women and twice a week attended get-togethers with the group where the women would go for walks and share their real-life challenges. With her newfound community, the patient lost 10 pounds and successfully gained employment.

In the new study, the Penn team focused on 302 mostly Medicaid-insured individuals who had multiple chronic diseases. Half received regular support from IMPaCT-trained community health workers. After six months, the patients who had received support from CHWs showed better outcomes on several measures, including lower blood sugar levels, lower body mass index and reduced cigarette smoking. Patients in the intervention group also showed greater improvements in mental health, and were 20 percent more likely to rate their primary care as comprehensive and supportive of their self-management of disease.

“This is the second clinical trial that shows improved health and lower hospital admissions for the IMPaCT community health worker program,” says senior author Shreya Kangovi, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and executive director of the Penn Center for Community Health Workers.

In 2014, Kangovi and colleagues found evidence that the IMPaCT model improved mental health and lowered hospital readmission among patients recently discharged from the hospital. “We now have evidence for state Medicaid programs or health systems looking for proven strategies to improve health and lower hospital use.”

Based on the reduction in hospitalizations seen in the studies, the University of Pennsylvania Health System estimates a return on investment of $2 for every $1 spent on IMPaCT.

“As a nation, we have spent years arguing about healthcare. We need to focus on getting people healthy while reducing spending,” says Ralph Muller, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “This program accomplishes both of these goals and shows us a way forward.”

3 Reasons to Add Meatless Mondays

Vegan Pizza

Going vegetarian or vegan can be a daunting task, but there’s no reason to jump in head first! Meatless Mondays (or Wednesdays or Saturdays) can change the world, and its great for the environment, your health, and the animals!

Environment

You might be surprised by how much water it takes for the food to get to your plate.  The food we eat makes up about 80% of America’s total water footprint. Virtual water is what makes up this water footprint.  Virtual water is the amount of water that is embedded in products needed for its production, so this includes the water used in cleaning and transporting for example.  Pound for pound, meat has a higher water footprint than vegetables, grains or beans. For instance, a single pound of beef takes, on average, 1,847 gallons of water. It adds up around the world to a range of 7-305 pounds per person per year.

Assuming everyone eats equal amounts of meat each day, adding Meatless Monday will bring that number down to 6-262 pounds per person per year (divide by 7 and then multiply by 6) and that’s a big difference!  Beyond water footprint, let’s talk about carbon footprint!  Beef produces 13 times the emissions of vegetable protein (beans, lentils, tofu, etc.)  Once again that’s a big difference!  This is very simplified and does not consider all the pollution that comes from animal agriculture!

Health

Pant-based meals, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate the most red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who ate the least amount of red meat. Other processed meats also increased the risk plenty, but the people who ate the least meat were least likely to die in the 10-year period.

Vegans and vegetarians do get enough protein no matter what the stereotypes say. Make sure you eat enough calories and you are sure to get enough protein.  If you eat the same amount of vegetables as you would meat, that’s not going to work!  Most meat-free food is less calorie dense than meat so keep that in mind.  Don’t forget variety and you shouldn’t have a problem with protein, iron, vitamins, or anything else you might be worried about!

Animals

This is the reason most people suspect when you say you’re eating less meat or going vegetarian.  After all, modern agriculture commonly keeps animals in overcrowded stalls, cages, crates, or sheds where they are often unable to turn around or take even a single step in their entire lives.  Deprived of care, exercise, sunlight, and grass, the animals suffer tremendously before even coming to the slaughterhouse.  It is important to remember that the animals are living, breathing, thinking, and feeling beings.  The meat industry kills more than 25 billion animals each year.

In modern factory farms, animals are routinely injected with hormones and stimulants to make them grow bigger and faster.  Some of these injections have been proven to cause cancer and other diseases.  Feedlots are crowded, filthy, stinking places with open sewers and choking air. The animals would not survive in the filthy and crowded conditions without the unnatural amount of antibiotics used.  At some farms, cattle are fed dead ground up cows.

What now?

Add some meatless meals to your diet! And you don’t have to do it on a Monday, but Meatless Wednesdays just doesn’t sound as good.  Do what works best for you!

Self-Care Is Easy To Fit In A Busy Schedule

Zumba Class

Every day when you wake up, you have to face the world again. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can seem never-ending from getting your kids ready for school, getting off to work, meeting deadlines or staying late, picking up your children from school, PTA’s, and extra curricular activities. Not to mention playing Superman or Superwoman at work in an effort to guide your client as they battle day-to-day difficulties.

When you finally get home tired with aching muscles, dinner still needs to be made, kids still need help with their homework, or maybe you have noisy roommates who have friends over, perfect timing Jack and Jill. Your days are like a busy highway, and you need some time where your highway has less congestion even if it is just for a few hours.

Self-care seems impossible at times with so many work and family responsibilities in our every day lives. It seems more and more people are balancing family, career, school and/or another part-time job which leaves very limited to no time to take care of themselves. Without self-care, the outcome will only result in burnout and total exhaustion. This can be avoided, but why is it so hard to fit self-care into our schedule?

According to a Huffington Post article, “Self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short and longer term health and well-being.”  It’s important to understand that self-care is not always taking a vacation to a tropical island or taking a week cruise. Self-care can be simple everyday activities which can help you maintain a healthy work life balance, and here are few self-care ideas you may have never thought about:

Sleep

During the night-time our bodies need sleep, and while we are sleeping our bodies recover from being tired.  When we are tired, our body does not function as well as it should, and our mood appears different from our normal usual self. Lack of sleep can cause us to feel overworked, moody, sluggish, angry, stressed and forgetful. I recommend going to bed early three nights a week for at least 8 hours of sleep, and you will begin to feel better. Of course, there is the second option called power napping.

Exercise

I am quite sure many of you did not think of exercise as a form of self-care rather mostly to enhance appearance. However, many people go for walks, jogs, meditation and the big one known as the gym in order to help alleviate stress. You are not obligated to exercise every day, but at least three days minimum a week, although five days sounds better.  Don’t forget, you can always take a Zumba, dance or soul cycle class or two. Exercise can be your outlet to release stress.

Art

Another great way to spend quality self-care is to paint a room in your house or apartment or attend a wine and painting events. Remember, there is always the museum where the prices are right, also known as free entry.

Dinner and drinks

Book your reservation or simply grab dinner with a group of friends, or significant other at home. Play trivia night, do taco Tuesday’s at home, have a wine night with the girls, sports night with the boys or even have a mixed crowd for an evening of cooking and wine. Dinner and drinks are so easy to arrange, and it is a great way to spend time with friends or a companion with laughter and socializing.

Book a flight or cruise

OK, now you are to take a flight to the destination you have been dreaming about all year, take a cruise on the Atlantic or do both if you can afford it.  Take a break from the hustle and bustle of work and your city, and enjoy the warm weather and sandy beaches of Jamaica, the history of Cuba, skiing in Switzerland, and the delicious foods Italy has to offer.  You can go anywhere in the world that your heart desires, or maybe take a drive.

But, start giving yourself some care.

7 Scientifically-Baked Ways to Get Rid of Worries

When it comes to being a healthy person, most of us think about having a good physical health only. While it’s important to prevent illnesses, mental health also plays a significant role in your overall well-being that affects your mood and motivation. Believe it or not, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S these days, and the number of stress-inducers is growing rapidly: difficult work schedule, tough deadlines, a misunderstanding with friends and family, troubles at home, an imbalance between work and life, etc.

Balanced Healthy Nutrition

Proper nutrition guarantees a good number of vitamins that keep your body physically and mentally well. It also protects brain cells by increasing blood flow to your brain, and you start thinking better. When you’re about to burn out, your body may deny eating, but it’s important to keep a balanced diet to get all significant elements, minerals, and vitamins.

A list of products that help to remove stress and anxiety:

  • avocados
  • chamomile or green tea
  • walnuts
  • dark chocolate
  • blueberries

A healthy diet is not just about keeping fit; it’s also about enriching your organism with important vitamins to keep its proper work on fighting against various diseases, including mental ones.

Have Enough Sleep Daily

Sleep allows you to recharge the brain and let the body rest. It helps to reduce stress and keep your body energetic. If you’re about to burn out, your body has a set of signs to fight against this state. In fact, worries and anxiety cause sleep problems, but having enough sleep daily is a way out to prevent stress. It seems to be a closed circle. As most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per day, you need to ensure that your body gets a proper amount of rest daily.

Create a Perfect Environment at Work

You spend around 10.3 years of your life working, and that’s what matters. Your workplace has an impact on your well-being, and it’s important to create a perfect environment, an atmosphere that will stimulate and motivate you. To organize a good workplace, you need to think about everything, including the smallest details: the color of the walls, a comfortable office chair, well-organized table with shelves for keeping stuff, an inspirational corner, and much more.

Key takeaways:

  • blue and green are the most effective colors to diffuse anxiety
  • cactus and aloe are the most common plants for your office desk
  • keeping everything at its place enhances productivity
  • proper lighting at work reduces eyestrain and improves overall well-being
  • having motivational things at the workplace boosts inspirational

While most people try to create a comfortable house, just a few of us think about having a comfortable workplace at the office. To reduce the risks of burning out, create a perfect environment that is aimed at improving your physical and mental health.

Develop Self-Knowledge and Awareness

It goes without saying that all people are different, and every of us has habits that affect our normal life. If you know that it’s in your nature to think much about worries, you can work on it in order to get rid of a bad mood. The more you know your character and typical behavior, the better. To develop self-knowledge and awareness, you need to work hard by discovering more about yourself. If you know a lot about yourself, it’s easier to detect what worries are just a figment of your imagination.

Establish Deep and Reliable Relationships

Humans are social creatures, no matter what type of person you are. It’s in our nature to communicate with other people, and this process is important for your well-being. If you’re an introvert or extrovert, you need to have good relations with family, friends, and colleagues to feel safety as it’s a proof of being a member of a group. Once anxiety comes, communication with reliable people helps to identify the roots of this disorder and find solutions for fighting against it. Having deep and reliable relationships is a must for humans.

Own a Pet

Since ancient times, humans have had relationships with animals. Keeping a pet at home is a common practice nowadays, but it also lowers stress even if you don’t think about. One study finds that keeping dogs as pets help children reduce stress. At the same time, taking care of someone requires consideration, responsibility, and time. In other words, you stay focused on carrying about pets instead of thinking much about potential worries.

Take an Action

If you’re interested in finding out ways to get rid of worries, it’s a good sign that you’ve accepted this problem. Once you know that anxiety hits you, take an action. Although understanding the problem is good, the best way to solve it is to work on finding solutions. Many scientists claim that fears and problems are nowhere but in your head, and if you can accept this fact, you’re about to stop worrying once and for all. If any additional proof needed, pay attention to the fact that 85% of what you worry about never happens, a study reveals.

Mental health maintenance requires a lot of work, and to get rid of worries, you need to have a desire to do it. If you understand that worries prevent you from living a good and happy life, its high time to find what works well for you when it comes to staying calm and satisfied.

Two Out of Three U.S. Adults Have Not Completed an Advance Directive

Advance directives are the primary tool for individuals to communicate their wishes if they become incapacitated and are unable to make their own health care decisions, particularly near the end of life. Despite this, 63 percent of American adults have not completed one, reports the most comprehensive study to date on the subject from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania this week in the July issue of Health Affairs.

A systematic review of studies from 2011-2016 led by Katherine CourtrightMD, MS, an instructor of Medicine in the division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care and the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research (PAIR) Center at Penn, found that among more than 795,000 Americans who were part of 150 different studies, 63 percent had not completed any advance directive. Only 29.3 percent had completed a living will that contained specific end-of-life care wishes, and 33.4 percent had designated a healthcare power of attorney.

Completion of advance directives was nominally higher among patients with chronic illnesses (38.2 percent) than among healthy adults (32.7 percent), and was much higher among patients age 65 and older (45.6 percent) compared with younger adults (31.6 percent). One of the primary means to ensure medical teams treat patients according to their end-of-life care preferences is through an advance directive – a legal record signed by a competent individual that guides care decisions when a patient’s poor health prevents them from making the decisions on their own.

“Most experts agree that some form of written directives are a key component of advance care planning, and yet rates of completion are low and do not appear to be increasing,” Courtright said. “We need to address common barriers to completing these important documents on a national level, particularly among chronically ill patients who are at higher risk for critical illness and death.”

The authors note that detractors of advance directives cite the inability of living wills to capture all of the situations one might face near the end of life, whereas proponents of living wills note that many patients wish to protect their loved ones from having to make such burdensome end-of-life care decisions.

The research team makes a few recommendations to address these low rates. First, content and format of advance directives must better represent the issues discussed in advance care planning conversations – such as patient values and goals, along with care preferences. Second, legal barriers to executing an advance directive should be simplified. Finally, efforts to increase advance directive completion should focus on populations at high risk for poor end-of-life care outcomes.

“The treatments most Americans would choose near the end of their lives are often different from the treatments they receive,” Courtright said. Unfortunately, this disconnect can lead to unnecessary and prolonged suffering. Advance directives remain the primary tool for people to communicate their end-of-life care wishes and appoint surrogate decision makers, but improvements to the documents and completion process are clearly needed.

Report Briefing Puts Human Face to Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Challenges

National Black Women Reproductive Justice Agenda on Capitol Hill, Washington DC Photo Credit: @BlackWomensRJ

WASHINGTON — In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda launched its groundbreaking new report on the state of Black women and reproductive justice. The report offers firsthand accounts of the lived experiences of Black women, giving voice to issues including abortion access, the Affordable Care Act, maternal health and equal access to contraception.

“We held listening sessions with Black women across the country,” said Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice. “This report documents the real-life barriers to reproductive health that Black women face and examines the impact of these barriers on our lives.”

The report, “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices: The State of Black Women and Reproductive Justice,” exposes how both political parties give short shrift to the needs of Black women. One party consistently fails to address police violence against Black people even as we witness yet another Black woman — Charleena Lyles — being murdered in front of her own children.

And the other party ignores our needs in its frantic push to attract more white male voters into its ranks. “But let us be clear, a vision of economic equality that does not also address the multiple facets of racial and gender inequality is not progress — it’s Jim Crow,” Howell said.

“The time is now for Black women to use the power of our vote and our lived experiences to inform real policy change,” Howell added.

After introducing the report, Howell turned the program over to a panel, which delved more deeply into the issues of Black women and the criminal justice system, abortion access, and HIV/AIDS among Black women. The panelists were Deon Haywood (executive director, Women with a Vision), Marsha Jones (executive director, The Afiya Center) and Masonia Traylor (founder and CEO, Lady BurgAndy). Heidi Williamson (CEO of Idieh Consultant Group) moderated the panel.

At the end of the briefing, Howell outlined an agenda for action stemming from the report. The action agenda includes prioritizing voter engagement and GOTV efforts; collaborating with local advocates to develop and support policy change that promotes reproductive justice; investing in Black women leaders, financially and otherwise; building coordinated responses to injustice across movements, organizations, communities and systems; and above all, calling for Black women to tell the stories of their lived experiences and leadership.

“Black women need equity, but we also need to take charge of our own lives by continuing to lead in activism, run for office, finance other Black women candidates and be our own best experts in organizing for policy change,” Howell said.

For more information about “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices: The State of Black Women and Reproductive Justice,” or to schedule an interview with Marcela Howell or one of the panelists, contact Amy Lebowitz (amy@caminopr.com or 212-255-2575).

What About a Welfare Challenge?

In recent years, to draw attention to the plight of food insecurity in America, advocacy groups and community organizations have promoted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “food stamp” challenges.  Aimed at highlighting the difficulties in living on a “food stamp budget,” (about $4-$5 per day) these challenges encourage participants to better understand the realities faced by those who rely on food assistance to meet nutritional needs.

Over the past decade, policy makers, journalists, celebrities, and regular folks across the country have participated in these challenges and shared their stories, which generally share a common refrain: It’s hard. Purchasing sufficient quantities of quality food for a family on such a budget is near impossible.

Moreover, a considerable number of SNAP families report zero income, meaning that there are no additional funds to act as a buffer when the food stamps run out. These types of challenges are important in drawing attention to the very real problem of hunger in our country, and have the potential to raise needed funds for food pantries and anti-hunger advocacy groups.

While recently reading about a SNAP challenge experience, I got to thinking: why not a welfare challenge? Much like food stamps, today’s cash assistance program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF) is a widely-misunderstood government benefit, and stereotypes about recipients abound. Why not challenge celebrities, politicians, and community members to live on a “welfare budget” for a month?

The guidelines for my proposed challenge would look something like this:

  • Welcome to the welfare challenge! Imagine your family has fallen on hard times. Before you get started, freeze all of your assets. No access to savings, credit cards, or investments for a full month. Remember, millions of poor families lack access to a formal bank account, and most lack any financial safety net. For this month, you have nothing to fall back on.
  • Now, live on a budget of $400 for the next 30 days. This is about the average monthly cash assistance benefit in the U.S. (though you could be living on as little as $200 per month if you live in certain states). This $400 should cover all of your non-food expenses, including utilities, toiletries, cleaning products, clothes, transportation costs, school fees, and anything else you and your family may need for survival. Hope for no parking tickets, car repairs, or other unforeseen expenses!

Don’t forget that due to overwhelming need, federal housing assistance doesn’t reach many low-income families. In fact, in many areas, public housing applicants face excessive waiting lists or must participate in lotteries to obtain access. So you’d better plan to budget for your housing this month too.

  • Try to avoid accepting other forms of assistance to help meet your family’s needs, as these aren’t always available to every family.
  • Set aside 30 hours per week for your required work assignment, which is required through the program. This may include volunteer work, job search assistance, or another type of work activity, though be aware that data suggest this will not likely prepare you for a living wage job in the future. However, without participating, you can set your budget back to $0 as families receiving cash assistance can be sanctioned (i.e. thrown off the program) for failing to comply. In many states, this means that the whole family loses their cash benefit, including children. Don’t be late!
  • Next, experience the struggle of living in poverty and relying on welfare benefits to support your family. Be prepared for the inevitable fallout, which may include losing your home, your car, and running out of diapers, tampons, or toilet paper (which can’t be purchased through food stamp benefits). Be prepared to tell your kids “no” a lot. Fear every bill that lands in your mailbox. Expect your physical and emotional health to suffer.  You may even struggle to think clearly and problem solve.

Ready to sign up?

Rest easy, do-gooders.  Promoting such a challenge would be irresponsible, even reckless.  To expect families to live on $400 per month is ludicrous, yet across the country, we expect just that from hundreds of thousands of households. Children suffer tremendously as a result.

Speculation about such a challenge is already largely inconsequential, as cash assistance itself is a dying concept. It’s been well documented that welfare is dead. Across the country, the rolls are dropping precipitously, as sanction policies become stricter and more punitive while funds continue to be supplanted to plug state budget holes. In my state of Ohio, with a population of over 11 million, only about 100,000 recipients remain (mostly children), despite the fact that nearly 1.8 million people and 340,000 Ohio families live in poverty.

Fighting hunger in America is an area of shared commitment. While people have a range of opinions on the best approach, those on both sides of the aisle generally agree: hunger is bad. This is especially evident around the holidays. We collect cans, serve meals to the homeless, and write checks making donations to pantries. However, poverty is more complicated, and too often we allow personal judgements and stereotypes to cloud our ability to feel empathy to the poor.

All too often, we cease to remember that being poor means more than not getting enough to eat. Poverty is pain, shame, and struggle. Hunger may be easier to put a Band-Aid on, but it won’t end altogether unless we tackle the source.

My welfare challenge is, for good reason, a nonstarter. Asking others to demonstrate compassion for those in poverty is not. Supporting policies that allow families to live with dignity is not. Let us all try to do better.

May is Mental Health Month – Risky Business Theme Highlights When Behaviors, Habits May Be Unhealthy

May is Mental Health Month (MHM) was started 68 years ago by Mental Health America (MHA) to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. This year’s theme for MHM—Risky Business—is a call to educate ourselves and others about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves.

When you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health concern, sometimes it’s a lot to handle. It’s important to remember that mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. Yet, people experience symptoms of mental illnesses differently—and some engage in potentially dangerous or risky behaviors to avoid or cover up symptoms of a potential mental health problem. Activities like compulsive sex, recreational drug use, obsessive internet use, excessive spending, or disordered exercise patterns can all be behaviors that can disrupt someone’s mental health and potentially lead them down a path towards crisis.

This May, MHA is encouraging people to educate themselves about behaviors and activities that could be harmful to recovery – and to speak up without shame using the hashtag #riskybusiness – so that others can learn if their behaviors are something to examine. Posting with our hashtag is a way to speak up, to educate without judgment, and to share your point of view or story with people who may be suffering—and help others figure out if they too are showing signs of a mental illness. Last year, MHM materials were seen and used by 22.3 million people, with more than 8,500 entities downloading MHA’s tool kit.

“When we engage in prevention and early identification, we can help reduce the burden of mental illness by identifying symptoms and warning signs early—and provide effective treatment Before Stage 4,” said Paul Gionfriddo, MHA president and CEO. “We need to speak up early and educate people about risky behavior and its connection to mental illness—and do so in a compassionate, judgement-free way.”

MHA has developed a series of fact sheets (available at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may) on specific behaviors and habits that may be a warning sign of something more, risk factors and signs of mental illness, and how and where to get help when needed. MHA has also created an interactive quiz at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/whatstoofar to learn from Americans when they think specific behaviors or habits go from being acceptable to unhealthy.

Most New to Medicaid Have No Other Option if Affordable Care Act Repealed

“Lots of Ohioans support the ACA — but where do @ohiogop #OHGOV candidates stand on Medicaid expansion? #SaveACA” via Twitter @kirstinalv

Almost everyone covered through Ohio’s Medicaid expansion would have no other viable insurance option should the Affordable Care Act be repealed, a new study has found.

Law and public health researchers from The Ohio State University determined that 95 percent of newly enrolled beneficiaries would be without a plausible pathway to coverage. The research appears online in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Many of these people have nothing else to turn to,” said Eric Seiber, lead author and associate professor of health services management and policy in Ohio State’s College of Public Health.

“Their choice is Medicaid or medical bankruptcy.”

Ohio is one of 31 states (and Washington D.C.) to expand Medicaid eligibility as part of the Affordable Care Act. The move, which came in January 2014, made eligible those adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. (In 2015, that was about $16,243 earned annually for an individual.)

Prior to the ACA, Ohio generally did not grant Medicaid eligibility to childless adults unless they were pregnant or disabled. Parents qualified for Medicaid only if their family income was below 90 percent of the federal poverty level. By October of last year, enrollment under expansion in Ohio had reached about 712,000 people.

Efforts to repeal or substantially restructure the ACA reforms are under way.

Seiber and Micah Berman, assistant professor of public health and law at Ohio State’s College of Public Health and Moritz College of Law, evaluated data from 42,876 households that participated in Ohio’s 2015 Medicaid Assessment Survey. The telephone survey includes a set of questions to identify coverage immediately before Medicaid enrollment.

The new Ohio State research was driven by this question: “If the ACA is fully or partially repealed, who would lose their coverage and what would happen to them?”

The researchers found that the vast majority would find themselves without insurance in the case of a full ACA repeal.

Though 17.7 percent of survey participants had private health insurance prior to Medicaid enrollment, most had lost their jobs (and their coverage) or were ineligible for employer-sponsored group health plans at the time of enrollment. The researchers found that 4.8 percent of the new Medicaid recipients were eligible for insurance through their jobs, leaving 95.2 percent of new enrollees with no feasible alternative.

Seiber and Berman also found that a rollback would predominantly affect older, low-income whites with less than a college education.

“The impact of insurance is about a lot more than health care,” Berman said. “For people newly enrolled in Medicaid, it means that should they have a major health-related event, they can still pay for food, have stable housing, get out of debt. These are all things that make a huge difference in quality of life.”

A recent Ohio Medicaid analysis, which was conducted with help from Seiber and Berman and mentioned in the new study, found that that the expansion increased access to medical care, reduced unmet medical needs, improved self-reported health status and alleviated financial distress – all results found in other states that have expanded access to government coverage.

The new study shows that the majority of adults newly enrolled in Medicaid did not drop private insurance in favor of the government coverage, Seiber said.

“These are very low-income adults, many of whom lost their jobs and have nothing to go back to,” he said.

Said Berman, “It counters this perception that people have health insurance but then go on Medicaid to save money. That’s just not what the data show.”

That did happen, to an extent, with expansion of Medicaid coverage for children. But that was a different scenario because children’s eligibility begins at much higher family income levels than those in place for new adult enrollees, Seiber said.

Seiber and Berman said they hope the study offers some scientific data that will be useful during discussions of ACA repeal or revision and what it could mean for Americans now covered by Medicaid.

“I don’t think everyone realizes that if you repeal the ACA, that at the same time eliminates the Medicaid expansion,” Seiber said.

One potential weakness of the study is that the researchers were not able to evaluate how many people on Medicaid had the option to move to private insurance – because they were newly employed, for instance – but did not go that route. That type of analysis was not possible with the state-gathered data, Seiber said.

“While it is possible that some portion of these enrollees have since been hired by an employer that offers (insurance), it is unlikely that this would meaningfully improve the insurance outlook for this population,” he and Berman wrote.

The researchers said it’s important to consider the demographics of those covered under Medicaid expansion, including the fact that many are older and already have chronic health conditions that will become more costly and problematic without regular care.

“It’s a really broad cross section, and tends to be older and whiter and more rural than many would expect,” Seiber said.

The Challenges of Coping with the Addiction of Someone You Love

As I have gone through the drama, tragedy, stress and shame that comes along with watching a loved one battle addiction, I have finally grown to understand that addiction is not merely a lack of willpower accompanied by a series of horrible decisions. I have had such a misunderstanding of addiction that I have needed to educate myself, if only to better understand the affliction. What I learned is that I have work to do in order to learn how to cope with her addiction.

There are many myths about drug addiction. In order to not add to the problem and to help myself make good choices, I dedicated myself to learning about the disease. I discovered that opioid addiction, which my sister suffers from, and it is considered to be one of the 5 largest public health concerns facing our nation. I learned that addiction is not just a weak-willed response to adversity, but a disease that is often developed along with mental health issues.

My learning wasn’t merely acquiring information about addiction. I was forced to confront my inability to cope with my sister’s addiction, and the challenges that it created for me. Most of what I had to understand was counter-intuitive and went against my nature. For example, I found it nearly impossible, at first, to maintain strict boundaries. I have always felt the need to provide and protect this person, and I learned that doing so wasn’t helping. This was a brutal realization. By ‘helping’ I was prolonging the necessary “bottoming out” that is ugly and brutal, but critical.

In order for an addict to truly take the steps towards recovery, they often need to feel like they have exhausted their options, otherwise, their addiction poisoned mind will continue to manipulate and bargain to maintain substance abuse. This was difficult to accept, because I love my sister and know the part of her who wasn’t manipulative or duplicitous. But that version of my sister was lost in a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that wouldn’t allow her to surface until she had no other choice. I worried that she might die, considering 78 people die every day in America from opioid addiction.

After several stints in rehab centers and the hospital, she is doing much better. She is clean and appears to be committed to her sobriety. But life has a funny way of testing one’s resolve. She just had an MRI and discovered that she has a torn ACL. She will have surgery and the tear, although complete, is repairable. The problem is that it is a significant surgery, which will require pain killers after the surgery is done. This will require her case worker and all of us who care about her to become familiar with the signs and dangers of her using opioids to deal with the pain. There is an array of complex treatments for pain, but the addiction must be constantly and vigilantly monitored, otherwise we risk sending her back into a severe usage spiral.

This is similar to what happened with people like former San Diego Chargers’ quarterback Ryan Leaf, who is now in prison for stealing painkillers because he became addicted due to the violent repercussions of playing football. Then he seemed to have his addiction under control, but needed surgery to remove a tumor. He vowed to have the operation without anesthesia due to his addiction, but now he is doing a seven year sentence as a result of his crimes.

Now my research has pivoted to the topic of helping my sister stay sober, without enabling her and allowing her to have a necessary operation to fix her knee. What the knee surgery seems to do is pile on to the complex and confusing circumstances that accompany addiction. I feel like this is new territory, and I have no experience to draw from.

But, I have learned that I need to keep growing. I now go to Alanon meetings and continue to ask questions because my first instinct is to help which may be the wrong response. There probably are no perfect responses in this complex process, but working to be more effective with the steps I take is critical. Otherwise, I am part of the problem and not the solution.

5 Super Foods To Help You Become Healthier

When we think about healthy living, we tend to focus primarily on avoiding unhealthy foods and incorporating lifestyle choices that are aimed at overcoming our health concerns.

But why should we take such a reactive approach when maintaining a healthy body and mind can be as simple as incorporating delectable and enjoyable super foods in our everyday diet.

Super foods surpass regular foods in that they possess an unparalleled and almost astonishing amount of nutrients, disease-fighting compounds, proteins, fiber and healthy fats that not only provide healing benefits for the body but also prevent diseases.

So, what are these superfoods? Here we have listed the 5 most potent super foods that can allow you to gain and maintain a healthy body and mind:

1. Lemon:

Calling lemons a super food would be an understatement as they boast a plethora of health benefits and can also transform any dish into a savory delight. The flavonoids that are present in their juice are packed with antioxidants, allowing them to be effective in treating as well as preventing countless ailments. Here is how you can incorporate lemons into your daily diet and pave the way for a healthier you:

  • Consuming just half a cup of lemon juice a day protects against kidney stones by effectively raising citrate levels in urine.
  • Lemons mixed with honey help in soothing a sore throat.
  • It significantly catalyzes the weight loss process owing to the presence of a soluble fiber called pectin that facilitates digestion.
  • Lemon juice when added in hot water or cup of herbal green tea makes for the perfect breakfast beverage as it gives you 100% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C while stimulating your digestive track.
  • Studies have also indicated that lemons can be used to treat and prevent cancer. This is due to the activity of citrus limonoids that are compounds that prevent damage to cells that lead to the development of cancerous cells.
  • Lemons are also a potent source of potassium as they contain nearly 80 milligrams of this essential nutrient. Therefore, consuming lemons in your daily diet can allow you to stay nimble and strong.
  • Drinking lemon juice helps bring the fever down faster.

They are an excellent source of alkaline food and assists in balancing your body’s pH.

2. Broccoli:

Broccoli in addition to other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale are all worthy additions to the daily diet. Here are some of the most amazing benefits of this super food side dish:

Broccoli is rich in folate, potassium that helps in preventing anemia. The vegetable also possesses vitamins A, B6, C, and K. It contains compounds such as isothiocyanates and sulforaphane which may help to fight liver, prostrate, skin, bladder and stomach cancer and also help suppress ineffective tumors while boosting healthy ones. Broccoli is a great energy source and is satiating as contains as much as 2.4 gms of fiber in one cup.

This cruciferous vegetable is also free of fat and sodium and contains only 55 calories in one cup.

In order to preserve up to 90% of broccoli’s vitamin C component, you should microwave it instead of boiling or steaming which leave behind only 66% of the nutrient.

3. Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate with its alluring savor and the addictive appeal is actually filled with an array of health benefits including the following:

Dark chocolate can improve blood platelet activity similar to a baby aspirin, relaxing the inner lining of blood vessels and increasing the production of nitric oxide which causes arteries to dilates.

Regular consumption of dark chocolate leads to a lower propensity of cardiometabolic disorders which are a combination of risk factors that lead to the development of diabetes and heart disease. It also decreases mortality rates in patients who suffer a heart attack for the first time, reduces chances of cardiovascular disease by 37% and diminishes the risk of a stroke by 29%.

Dark chocolate exerts most of its health benefits via its flavanoid compounds that have antioxidant capabilities, improve circulation, reduce inflammation, curtail blood pressure, inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol and counter the damage done by free radical.

It is also rich in oleic acid (fatty acid) which helps in lowering LDL and total cholesterol levels.

The key to acquiring the health benefits of dark chocolate is moderation which means eating only a square or two every couple of days.

4. Salmon:

This delicious, versatile and readily available fish is a powerhouse of nutrients. It tantalizes the taste buds and also helps prevent several ailments, here’s how:

Salmon is among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which are essential for the body and must be acquired from external sources as they cannot be developed inside it. Both EPA and DHA lead to lower blood pressure, decreased inflammation, lower risk of cancer and enhanced arterial function.

It is loaded with high-quality protein which helps the body recover from injuries, maintain muscle mass during the aging process and weight loss, and secures bone health.

Salmon is rich in B vitamins that develop and repairs DNA, helps the body turn food into energy and reduces the inflammation that triggers heart disease. B vitamins are also excellent in facilitating optimal nervous system and brain functioning.

This fatty fish is also a great source of potassium, selenium, and astaxanthin (antioxidant) which of which are crucial for maintaining a healthy body.

It also helps in preventing heart disease by increasing levels of omega-3 fatty acid and reducing levels of triglycerides and omega-6.

For optimal results, two servings of salmon are recommended every week.

5. Blueberries:

Blueberries owe their enticing color to the presence of powerful antioxidants that scavenge the body for injurious molecules that lead to the development of cancer and damage DNA. Here we have highlighted how these flavorsome berries can help boost your health and well-being:

They also improve concentration and memory in otherwise healthy individuals. Blueberries are rich in fiber content and polyphenols which facilitate in digestion and improve the intestinal environment.

These berries are extremely beneficial for hair as they reverse the effects of pernicious anemia (a condition that causes hair to gray prematurely) and contain proanthocyanidins which stimulate hair growth.

Super foods are easy to add to your daily diet and will be well worth the effort as they offer invaluable and long-lasting benefits.

Self-Connection Through Yoga

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I have never thought of myself as flexible ~ at least not physically flexible. I don’t think I have ever been able to touch my toes without bending my knees.

So, when I first began to learn yoga, it was mostly for the benefits that I knew my body would love in terms of stretching and improving my flexibility. It all began with a video I used to practice at home a few times a week.

Even at that time, I came to realize that the benefits exceeded improved flexibility ~ cardio and strength training were part of the practice as well.

It wasn’t until many years later when I was introduced to Moksha and Bikram Yoga practices that I realized the benefits that went beyond the physical.

Both practices are done in a heated room and follow a specific set of postures that are completed in 1 – 11/2 hour sessions.

Benefits Beyond the Obvious

The first thing I noticed was the focus on breath. There was no way I could survive the practice if I didn’t remind myself to breathe deeply. I was so used to shallow breathing ~ breathing from the back of my throat as opposed to the deep lung and belly breathing promoted in yoga.

I learned that breathing deeply has great impact on physical processes ~ slowing down the heartbeat and blood pressure ~ increasing oxygen flow throughout the body ~ especially the brain.

Over time, I found myself naturally using my breath differently and I noticed that my physical endurance had improved and rather quickly.

Breathing also brings me back to this moment ~ this breath. It can become a mantra in that way. Many times in yoga practice, the instructor would remind us to come back to our breath ~ to breathe as we went into the posture, held it and came back out.

Isn’t it amazing that we often need to be reminded to breathe? Many of us have the habit of holding our breath ~ almost all the time ~ but especially during more intense emotional moments and in times of physical pain.

Maybe even beyond all of these benefits, I recognized a calmness in my mind. And this occurred quite quickly ~ it didn’t take weeks or months of practice to feel this benefit. One session made a difference for me.

So much focus was required to withstand the heat, to maintain balance and to physically attain and hold the postures. If I let my mind wander, I would lose balance or become physically overwhelmed ~ so I learned to keep coming back to the moment and to my body.

Get Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Speaking of body ~ yoga is an amazing way to ground yourself. And if you are anything like me, grounding can be a challenge. I tend to be in my head ~ my thoughts and my daydreams ~ much more readily than in my physical vessel.

Did you realize that your emotions are felt in your body? This is a recent epiphany for me. I became aware that for the last several years, I have been doing my best to think through my emotions ~ even to think my emotions ~ as opposed to feeling them.

One day not long ago, I really felt myself come into my physical body as I landed in my hometown. You know how our long-term childhood homes can evoke strong memories and stir the emotions? Well, that is what happened to me. It was in that moment, though, that I realized “of course, I must be in my body if I am committed to feeling my emotions instead of thinking them ~ where and how else can they be felt?”

Join The Conversation

Self-Connection Through Yoga is the topic of the next episode of Serving Consciously on Friday November 25 at 12:00 noon (PST) on www.ctrnetwork.com.

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Santoshi Davis

I am excited to introduce you to my guest for that show ~ Santoshi Davis.

Santoshi Davis is a Certified Executive Coach, a Certified Akhanda Yoga Instructor and a graduate student working towards a Masters in Psychotherapy, Spirituality and Art (Art Therapy Specialization).

She holds a degree in Disability Studies and Certifications in Positive Psychology and Addictions Studies.  She is a leading expert in performance management, work-related rehabilitation and conflict resolution.

Santoshi is the founder of Upward Frog Executive Coaching and Consulting and an avid volunteer. You can contact Santoshi at upwarddfrogyoga@yahoo.ca.

I hope you can join us for what promises to be an informative and exciting conversation. Whether you are a yogi or not, I know you will find nuggets of wisdom to help you self-connect. Just make your way over to www.ctrnetwork.com and click on Listen Live!

Battling for Balance

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When I left the Marine Corps, I had a hard time carving a new identity for myself. I was terribly invested in what others thought of me. My public story was of crisp uniforms, physical fitness metrics, and successes. I always looked good on paper. My private story involved destructive choices, broken doors and holes in the walls, hiding weapons in the house, and getting dragged across the living room floor by my hair.[/caption]

I had no words to explain the disaster that had become my personal life and felt crippling shame about being one of “those people” with disordered drinking behavior going through a violent divorce.

I would have fit right in on the Jerry Springer show.

Right now we are losing more veterans to suicide than to combat. I’m a pretty decisive person with limited ability to ask for help and zero trouble taking risks; there was a time I could have become one of those statistics.

I stumbled quite by accident into three things that helped me regain my footing and become more resilient. I’m grateful for that stumble and always will be. Later, I learned that the research supports mental fitness training in the pre-incident space. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn until I was decidedly in the “post” camp.

First, I started treating myself in a healthy way again. I ate a little cleaner and made time for physical movement.

Not my typical physical movement, the kind where I used throwing up or a stress fracture as evidence that I was working hard enough – REAL, wellness-building movement that strengthened my body rather than punished it. I found myself on a yoga mat and never wanted to leave. In truth, I came to yoga as an athlete looking for something challenging, a fitness fad to master, and something to help me bend my unyielding muscles a bit more easily. What I found on the mat changed my life entirely. I found a practice that was about more than my body.

Be still and know that I am God –Psalm 46:10

For me, a huge part of self-care involved slowing down enough to listen. I spent a little less time talking and a lot more observing. That made space for faith and for a focus on other people. All of a sudden, my energy was redirected. I could be generous with myself and with the people I cared about. I found a new tribe of healthy people who shared those service ethic values.

And that was my beginning.

We can weather storms much better than I did – we don’t have to wind up tearful and alone with only a six-pack of beer to help us mourn. Resilience can be taught. Self-care modalities, social support cultivation, and spiritual practices are the components upon which we must rely to build our foundation in advance of the storm.

So if you’re left asking what it means to practice wellness?

Spoiler alert – it ain’t about your biceps’ size.

What Can We Do About Stress and Associated Health Risks?

By: Oliver Beer and Sheena Asthana

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In 2009, CNN Money rated social work as the number one most stressful job that also pays badly. Today, there is still a growing concern about the levels of stress among social workers which can also induce both short and long term health problems. Individuals facing stressful work conditions, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout may turn to alcohol, drugs, or comfort eating as a coping mechanism to deal with daily stressors. Long term stress is also known to produce metabolic effects related to cholesterol levels, central obesity and increased risks for coronary heart disease as well as other effects include anxiety, depression, and poorer immune function.

As part of our recent research, we surveyed 427 social workers across 88 local authorities, from the private and the third sector in England. Participants were asked whether they have used alcohol, illegal drugs or emotional eating to cope with work-related stress over the past 12 months and whether they displayed characteristics (difficulties in sleeping, emotional exhaustion, burnout) of chronic stress.

The results were disturbing. 88% of respondents said they felt stressed by their job as a social worker; 75% reported that they were concerned about burnout; 63% had difficulties sleeping and 56% said that they were emotionally exhausted. A further 35% said they already felt unable to cope at work.

Given that they have a duty to care for their employees, what can social work organizations and managers do to tackle stress among social workers? This research provides a number of pointers.

  • Demonstrate that your organization values and supports the mental health of its employees by facilitating the type of culture where it is OK for employees to speak up. People need to know that they will be supported and not stigmatized or worse if they are struggling.
  • Introduce mechanisms for monitoring levels of stress. Plenty of tools are available, including the kinds of items we used in this research. Care needs to be taken in how you use monitoring tools and interpret their results. Staff should not feel that they are being further scrutinized or mistrusted.
  • Be aware of the links between stress and health risks. 57% of our respondents had used emotional eating as a mechanism to cope with work-related stress. Despite known health risks, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, and raised cholesterol, few employers are sensitive to the fact that emotional eating can signal wider difficulties. Similarly, 35% of respondents reported using alcohol to cope with work-related stress, with men reporting higher levels (45%) compared to women (33%). Due to concerns about stigma and losing their jobs, social workers are very likely to want to conceal risky behaviors – for example, only 6% of our study participants said they had used drugs in the past 12 months to cope with work-related stress, a result that may have been affected by social desirability bias. Against this background, it may not be helpful to directly ask for information of this kind. Providing awareness-raising training and opportunities for confidential counselling may be more fruitful.
  • Provide training to help managers identify the causes and symptoms of stress among social workers and to effectively support their staff. We found that feeling valued and agreeing that there was effective leadership was significantly associated with positive job satisfaction and with key symptoms of stress, such as difficulty in sleeping.
  • Provide social workers with the time and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. In our study, caseload size played a clear role in the risk of stress and this is not helped by the fact that the majority of respondents felt that their ability to work with clients was hampered by the bureaucratic demands of the job. 40% of respondents felt they did not have enough social workers in their team and just 12% felt they have enough time to complete their work.

These research findings are suggestive of a social work system that doesn’t currently work for social workers. Overall, the evidence implies that it is not individual characteristics, nor social work departments, that play a role in the health and well-being of practitioners. It is in fact the system itself that social workers practice in that is a threat to their health, such as caseload size, diminished funding, and quality of management.

Most people are aware of the risks funding poses to clients such as vulnerable older people, at risk children, and indeed other sectors such as the British National Health Service and police force. Less attention has been paid to the human cost of service cuts, and managers themselves are struggling with a mismatch between service demands and resources.

Legislatures and policymakers need to recognise that the social work sector is in crisis. Social workers should be treated as an invaluable resource to society and not as cannon fodder for austerity. Clearly more needs to be done by employers to address the issues identified in this study. Perhaps brave decisions need to be made about what becomes an essential service and what is a Bureaucratic demand going too far.

Elder Abuse in the Twenty-First Century

baby-boomers

In this “silver tsunami” era, elder populations are outnumbering the younger workforce. This creates significant inequity and more than enough opportunity for people to take advantage. Whether financially, neglectfully, emotionally, physically or sexually, seniors in the United States are at a high risk for exploitation.

Seniors can be abused by underpaid and overworked employees. Nursing shortages, along with an explosion of senior populations, lead to less competent care resulting in bedsores, malnutrition, falls, sepsis or other damages from neglect. In addition, economic woes lead to a rise in physical and financial abuse perpetrated by family members, caretakers and even outsiders. Older people are more susceptible in giving of information without asking questions, which makes financial abuse a low-risk, high-reward crime area. Having adequate representation can be a problem as well.

Social Security and other government assistance is typically managed by a person with power of attorney, but occasionally the government will designate someone to perform economic functions. The potential for abuse necessitates records to be very exact and reported regularly. Social security, wills, estate management, retirement portfolios and such accounts are difficult for most clear thinking people. It has been reported that any older person, much less those with dementia, make bad financial decisions.

Trends

Knowledge of elder abuse is not up with the times, decades behind the experts in the field. It’s difficult to even get a report filed. The myriad of potential problems is worsened due to many inappropriate state laws being slow in prosecuting offenses. Institutional Review Boards don’t commonly deal with such cases and there are not many federal regulations. Meanwhile, seniors don’t always have a great memory for testimony to help their cause in getting charges.

It is going to be hard for the courts to catch up with the times. Currently, elder abuse is acknowledged by WHO as a human rights violation with one in ten seniors falling prey to some crime. That ratio becomes one in two concerning people with dementia. As bad as the current populations trends look now, the future looks worse. 85+ is the fastest growing age group in the United States and the 60+ population is expected to double to over 2 billion people by the year 2050.

What to do?

Local district attorneys need tougher laws that focus on stopping predators and ways to enforce those laws. Whether with state or private agencies, seniors need more representation in housing placements or other living transitions and their monetary affairs.

Elders need younger people to show interest. Nursing home staff is going to be more careful with people they know are being checked on. Other relatives that are taking care of a loved one, should be helped out too. Stopping by or ask about older family members shows that someone is cared for, reducing the abuse risk. Importantly, it also breaks the cycle of care and provides everyday caretakers with the knowledge that they could get a break if needed.

The marks of abuse need to be more commonly known and easy to identify. Upwards of 500,000 seniors are victimized, but very few of these cases are ever identified, much less reported and charged. It helps to have advocates who can sense physical harm, negligence, medical malpractice and other atrocities. Physical and sexual abuse are easier to spot than most neglect, so it takes a concerned loved one to spot personality changes or injuries that are inconsistent with the individual.

Mistreatment is more likely to occur to seniors who have experienced past abuse, in part because those people are frequently left in bad situations and never given much help. Senior women are more victimized than men, as are people in poorer health and those with lower incomes. Many other obvious risk factors and tell tale signs exist to make others aware. We need to be more empathetic and better educated.

The onus is on the concerned relatives to care about what facility seniors are placed in. For-profit corporate chain nursing homes often have less than ideal conditions for staff or residents. Relatives should take the time to tour various homes, make observations, and find the right fit. The most important way to combat elder abuse is by being involved. We just can’t put elders into homes and forget about them. It’s not supposed to be a prison for people we can’t help anymore. Nursing homes are expensive places that should be treating residents like royalty. It takes our effort to keep things as they should be.

To facilitate better treatment, we need to listen to both seniors and caregivers. We need to be attuned to what seniors needs and worries are. We need to speak up and file charges when something has happened. One in ten reported cannot be acceptable. If a caregiver is stressed or burned out, we need to make sure they can get the breaks they deserve to provide the best care, just as we must make sure caregivers are getting paid adequately for the grueling work they put in.

As with raising a child, it takes a village to care for our elders. We need to impress upon society in general that it is everyone’s responsibility and how this needs to happen. We are all going to be in this position someday, we should be doing everything we would want others to do for us as we become more helpless.  

The Rising Danger of Fentanyl Abuse

effects-of-fentanyl-abuse

In recent years, the United States and Canada has seen an increase in fentanyl related overdoses. Fentanyl is a pharmaceutical drug classified as an opiate. It is a whitish powder that can be found in the form of tablets, in capsules, and cut with other drugs. The drug’s infamous potency and accessibility has attracted many buyers and sellers.

Fentanyl was first used as an anesthetic during operating procedures.  It is currently being used to treat pain symptoms from a variety of medical conditions. Fentanyl produces a feeling euphoria and a sense of well-being, the effects can last up to 6 hours. A primary cause of addiction is the high tolerance after the first use. This leads to higher doses constantly needed to reproduce the initial high. The discomfort from ‘coming down’ is another leading factor in addiction, users will avoid withdrawal symptoms by simply dosing again. Other side effects include weight loss, hallucinations, shaking and sweating.

Opioids are the leading category in overdoses and fentanyl is steadily rising with people looking for drugs that are more accessible and more potent. Fentanyl has the same high inducing effects as morphine, only stronger. “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Like any synthetic drug the potency is only an estimate but could easily be more as a result the likelihood of death is also higher. In Sacramento county 53 fentanyl related overdoses resulted in 12 deaths. Fentanyl, along with other prescriptions, can cause noticeable impairment that puts others at risk, particularly while driving. Drug dealers aren’t sure of the potency and users have no way to tell what they are consuming. Most fentanyl seized has been illicitly created.

For producers, fentanyl is relatively inexpensive to make. A kilo of fentanyl can be made for cheaper than it takes to produce a kilo of heroin. Fentanyl from China and Mexico has been found in the United States, with similar cases in Canada, both pharmaceutical grade and illicit. Fentanyl’s strength allows for the sale of smaller quantities to more people since the drug is highly addictive it results in a consistent demand. It can also be bought and sold over the internet on black market websites, it is a lucrative business for drug dealers.

Non-illicitly created fentanyl is sold from people with prescriptions or by those with access to the drug. According to Drug Abuse, “Because Fentanyl is frequently administered in a hospital setting, people with easier access to the drug (those working in or around a healthcare setting) may fall prey to fentanyl addiction.” Since it is accessible and prescribed to patients, law enforcement have found it difficult to prevent abuse.

Most labs and law enforcement are not equipped to detect fentanyl since its use is still gaining momentum. During 2013-2014, the CDC found there were over 400 percent more cases of fentanyl use than the previous year. With a high estimate for unreported cases, its various forms and mixture with other drugs make it difficult to be detected. It has been found mixed with heroin, OxyContin, and cocaine.

Withdrawal from fentanyl is non-lethal but it has similar painful withdrawal symptoms as other drugs in its category. Its potency make users particularly vulnerable to relapse. Support groups, clinics, and medication is available for fentanyl users to overcome addiction. Unfortunately, fentanyl related incidents are expected to increase in the next few years.

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