Dealing with Stress at workplace


Stress at the workplace is common for an employee. Each employee is facing stress at the workplace, but the amount of stress is different from individual to individual and situation to situation. An incident for an employee may cause stress, but the same incident for other employees may not be the cause of stress.

Stress at the workplace not only affects the job satisfaction and performance of an employee, but stress also affects personal life, health and relationship of an employee.

What is stress?

“Stress is a reaction people have to pressure placed upon them and occurs when pressures exceed the individual’s ability to cope”

Stress may be positive or negative, if due to stress the performance of the individual is increased then it is positive stress, but due to stress when the performance is decreased it is negative stress. Stress is a normal part of life and every individual is facing stress in routine life. Stress has both implications, if stress is positive then it is good but if stress is negative then it is harmful. In other words, stress in a certain limit can be good but if stress exceeds the limit then it becomes harmful.

Factors Influencing Organizational /Work Stress.

The following factors directly or indirectly affect the stress level of employees.

  • Workload

The higher workload to the individual employee is a major factor for stress. If an employee is unable to complete the given work in a time frame, the level of stress increases.

  • Working Hour.

Too many working hours or odd working hours may become the major factor of stress.

  • Environment hazards

Some working places are prone to environmental hazards and adversely affect the health of an employee, for example, the chemical industry.

  • Poor Infrastructure at working place

Some working places do not have proper infrastructure facilities such as ventilation, proper seating arrangement, drinking water, toilet etc. which may become the cause of stress.

  • The drive for success

The employee may have a very high drive for success. Sometimes they cannot bear the little failure and create stress for them.

  • Changing work patterns.

Sometimes employees are used to doing work in a certain pattern but if there is a change in working patterns initially employee suffer stress.

  • Little job control.

Sometimes employees do not have any control over his job or have very little control which can also lead to stress.

  • Poor communication.

In an organization, proper communication is very important. Conflict will arise due to miss communication or poor communication, which may lead to stress in employees.

  • Lack of support.

In the organization, proper coordination and support are required. If there is no support from the superior or colleague, then an organization cannot achieve the targets which result in stress.

Early Warning Signs of Work Stress

There are various physical and mental signs of stress such as Headache, sleep disturbances, difficulty in concentrating, short temper, job dissatisfaction, low morale etc.

Stress Management Strategies

Stress can become a silent killer if it exceeds level for more time. So one should identify the stress and if it is negative for a long time, a remedy to control that stress must be searched out. Following are some strategies to control stress.

Recognize the Problem

The most important point is to recognize the source of negative stress. This is not an admission of weakness or inability to cope, but it is a way to identify the problem and plan measures to overcome it.

Stress Management Techniques

  • Change your thinking
  • Change your behaviour
  • Change your lifestyle

Change Your Thinking.

The best way to minimize the level of stress is to change the way you think about the incident. One can change the thinking by way of

(1)     Re-framing

Reframing is a technique to change the way you look at things in order to feel better about them.

(2)    Positive Thinking

Here one should think about the positive aspects of incidents and focus on strength.

 Change Behaviour

A person should express their thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly to others

  • Get Organized

Here one has to prioritize their objectives, duties and activities and make them manageable and achievable.

  • Ventilation
  • One has to talk with friends/colleagues about the problems.
  • Humour

Laughter is the best medicine and best way to relieve stress.

  • Diversion and Distraction

Get away from things that bother you.

 Change Your Lifestyle

  • Diet: Balanced diet is very important for healthy living. One should have proper calories, nutrition and vitamins. The healthy body can resist the stress easily.
  • Smoking and alcohol: One should avoid alcohol and smoking from routine life.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help to lower your stress level. Regular exercise gives positive effects on mood, resulting from lowering stress level.
  • Leisure and relaxation: Going out with family in natural places such as forest, beach, mountains etc. reduce the stress level.

 

 

To conclude one can say that stress is a part of life, we need to identify the sources of stress and need to manage stress so that one can have better performance and more productivity

16 Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy When You Travel A LOT, From People Who Do It


Small ways to stay grounded when you’re up in the air.
woman traveling with backpack

I woke up in four different countries during the month of August. I started in the U.S.—California to visit my family, then back home to New York after that—followed by a trip to England, then India, and then Costa Rica. By the time I reached Central America for that last trip, I was both exhausted and exhilarated.

“How can I get your life?” people often ask me.

“It seems like every time I see you on Instagram, you’re in a new country!” others say.

“Seriously, are you ever home??” people write underneath my photos.

“Dude, you are living the dream.”

As a freelance travel and wellness writer, I’m no stranger to these sorts of comments. I do travel a lot for work—about twice a month, I’d say—and I also understand the allure of the peripatetic lifestyle that prompts people to inquire about it in the first place. And of course I feel fortunate that I’m able to make a living traveling the world, staying in amazing hotels, and doing something exciting and awe inspiring that I truly love.

But even though I know I’m lucky to have such a lifestyle, it’s also true that traveling so much is not always easy. Most people know that frequent travel can take a toll on your physical health (what up, stale airplane air and boozy business dinners), but it can mess with your mental health, too. I have a friend who used to travel so much for work, she would often wake up in a dark hotel room and have to retrace her steps from the night before to remind herself what city she was even in—which, not surprisingly, started to throw her for a loop big time. While I’ve personally never had that extreme of an experience, I’ve definitely had moments of feeling unstable and a little shaky, like I was moving so quickly that I didn’t even have time to realize I was moving at all.

Fortunately, there are ways to sidestep the shakiness when your job requires loads of travel. I’ve developed quite a few good tactics myself over the years, which I’ve included below, but I also asked other frequent fliers in various professions for their advice on how to stay healthy while traveling, too. Consider this your ultimate guide to staying grounded, even when you spend a lot of your life up in the air.

1. Write in your journal as often as you can.

“In a life that moves so fast, it’s important that I keep track of what I’m experiencing and stay aware of how I’m feeling—which is why I keep a personal journal that allows me to gain insight, process my emotions, and establish goals. Journaling also helps me reduce any stress and or anxiety that may come with a life that is often seen from the outside as being unstable. To make sure I never let my writing habit slip, I carry my journal with me everywhere, along with a good pen, so that I can write in coffee shops, airplanes, or anywhere else.” —Ciara Johnson, 25, travel blogger who travels twice a month

2. Engage the local community to create a sense of connection and routine.

“Have a conversation with the local barista, a shop owner or a waiter. I find myself feeling more grounded in these borrowed moments of human connection.” —Erik Oberholtzer, 49, Tender Greens restaurant co-founder who lives between LA and NYC and travels frequently between both places

“Oftentimes for work, you are provided unhealthy food, especially if you’re traveling for a conference or meetings. That’s why I try to get out of schedules that are set for me and sneak in some time to connect with the location I’m in—and I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is through local food.” —Linden Schaffer, 40, founder of the wellness travel company Pravassa, who travels often overseas for up to three months at a time

3. Remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to travel at all.

“Having a sense of gratitude often helps me out of the ‘travel is a burden’ self-talk that can cause the inevitable micro-struggles of travel to appear more dramatic. Choose to celebrate the challenge of travel instead.” —Erik Oberholtzer

4. Develop an email system that works for you.

“I like to get at least three emails drafted each night and ready to send first thing in the morning. It makes me feel like I accomplished something and was productive even before getting out of bed, which is helpful when you’re traveling and you don’t have much control over timing.” —Elyse Eisen, 33, freelance publicist, travels two to three times per month, often internationally and across time zones

5. Embrace the joy of just…walking.

“I’m a Fitbit fanatic, and I try to get 12K steps every single day, no matter what I’m doing or where I am. When I’m at home, this goal often means I will take a night walk to the park near my apartment to ‘finish my steps,’ a term I both love using and also make fun of myself for using. And when I’m traveling, hitting this goal is a little easier, since I always make a point to explore the new city I’m in on foot. But while this Fitbit goal is certainly a good way to keep up my physical health no matter where I am, I’m actually more in it for the mental health benefit. It is oddly satisfying and soothing to look at my Fitbit chart and see that I am able to maintain consistency no matter where I am in the world. It makes me feel less nervous about not being home all the time when I see that I end up doing roughly the same thing no matter where I am.” —Annie Daly, 33, freelance writer who’s on the road about two times per month (and the author of this post!)

“I try to go on lots of long walks to clear my head, whether I’m listening to a podcast or trying to institute some silence/non-noise in my day. When I’m at home, I walk my dog a few times a day, which is really good for my mental health: It helps me get away from my computer screen and reset if I’m having a tough day or dealing with lots of deadlines. When I’m traveling, I remind myself to go on walks even when I don’t have a dog to force me to!” —Christine Amorose Merrill, 30, account executive who travels domestically for work weekly and internationally for fun a few times a year

6. Develop a consistent bedtime routine that works both at home and on the road.

“I try to drink chamomile tea every night before bed, whether at home or away. And I also try to be strict with myself and ban phone time while I’m drinking the tea. The combo of the routine, the lack of screen time before bed, and the tea itself really calms me and helps me unwind. If I’m being particularly on point, I’ll read fiction on my Kindle while drinking the tea—it helps me gain perspective and get out of my head.” —Bex Shapiro, 25, managing editor of Intrepid Travel, travels once a month for work and play

“I’m very dedicated to my sleep routine when I’m at home and when I travel; sleeping well can make such a huge difference in my mood and energy levels. So no matter how light I’m traveling, I always pack a super soft and luxurious eye mask. I also listen to either the same classical CD that I’ve listened to to fall asleep since I was a kid (my mom played it at my nap times!) or the Sleep With Me podcast, which is a newer discovery but can be helpful for me when I’m in strange environments.” —Christine Amorose Merrill

“I’ve been doing more or less the same thing every morning for about five years, no matter where I am in the world. First, I do a little stretching, and then I write in my dream journal (sounds cheesy, I know). I tend to write about my mental and physical state as well, which then acts like a log that I can go back to and read later. Then, I meditate for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on my schedule. If I’m feeling really out of it and wonky, I do breathing practices to quiet my mind (which is where I tend to live, especially when tired).

In doing this routine, I know that no matter where I am or how mentally or physically tired I feel, I can find a way to return to myself and know that I’m still me, just in a totally different place—and there’s a strength in knowing that. It helps that when I’m home, I still do it, so there’s always that sense of continuity in my life, which I think is what makes it so stabilizing. Having a routine is especially important in the face of constant change—something I think everyone experiences on different scales, whether they travel frequently or not.” —Yasmin Fahr, 35, founder of the membership club Loka Pack, travels about one to two times per month

7. Pack as lightly as possible.

“This sounds like a practical tip but, for me, it’s about feeling free. If I have a lot of stuff/ a suitcase with wheels, I find travel far more of a stressful faff. But the second I have a carry-on that’s light and easy to carry, I feel far less worried about travel logistics. I’m currently away for two weeks and have a small rucksack that makes me very happy!” —Bex Shapiro

“I have go-to travel outfits that I bring with me no matter where I go. I always wear the same thing on the plane, for example: black leggings, this stretchy black tank top that I’ve had for years, and a deep purple hoodie from Lululemon that has really good pockets. And then I have my go-to “night out” dress, which is blue and doesn’t wrinkle, and my yellow travel scarf, which I use as both a blanket on the plane and an accessory to dress up basically any outfit (pro tip: a yellow scarf matches anything). And even though that sounds like a plain old packing tip, it’s more than that because it’s about not having to think about packing. Thinking about packing can stress me out for days if I let it, so having a travel uniform eliminates the need to waste my precious mental energy on my wardrobe.” —Annie Daly

8. And once you arrive at your destination, unpack immediately.

“No matter how short my stay in my destination or hotel, I always fully unpack my suitcase and put away my clothes right away.” —Linden Schaffer

9. Bring little remnants of home with you when you travel.

“I always decant a bit of my favorite shower gel (LUSH’s Lord of Misrule) and bring it along just in case I luck into a good spot for a bubble bath. Its patchouli-peppercorn-vanilla smell and deep green color creates a little cauldron of home when I’m on the road.

“I also keep a plastic animal or two in my purse. Being the millionth person to take a photo of a vista or monument doesn’t feel very special, but snapping one along with, say, the little fennec fox my nephew gave me a few years ago is the best. He’ll often send me a photo back, with his matching fox perched wherever I am on his globe. Those little ‘hey, I’m thinking of you’ shout-outs are an ongoing mental connection that collapses physical distance, and a reminder that I control my emotional geography; if I love my people and they love me back, we’re close no matter where I am.”—Lauren Oster, 40, freelance writer, travels once a month, frequently overseas

10. Or seek out the same souvenir wherever you are in the world.

“Whenever I travel, I make a beeline for the nearest bookstore and ask if they have a copy of George Orwell’s 1984. I have 15 at the moment, in languages and editions from all over the world. It’s an odd title to collect, perhaps, but it always starts a conversation, and I love meeting the people (and shop cats) keeping print alive. Plus, I love how that glorious smell of a well-loved bookstore is the same around the world, as are many of the things we worry about and hold dear. And sharing a literary cultural touchstone is lethal to loneliness. ” —Lauren Oster

11. Make a point to catch the sunrise or the sunset on the first few days of your trip.

“Not only does this help reset my circadian rhythm—not sleeping is one of the fastest way to ruin your mental health!—but it shows me the beauty of the place I’m visiting.” —Linden Schaffer

12. Stay in touch with your community as much as you can.

“It can be easy to isolate yourself when you’re constantly traveling for work, but I make an effort to put my relationships first. I’ll call friends whenever I need advice, and I go out of my way to build meaningful relationships in the places I visit, too. Knowing that I have bonds both at home and abroad brings me a lot of relief, especially in moments where I feel alone.” —Ciara Johnson

“I FaceTime with my loved ones as often as I can when I’m on the road. We often underestimate the role that community plays in our mental health, so connecting face-to-face whenever possible is a key way for me to keep loneliness at bay.” —Linden Schaffer

13. Use your time on the plane to take care of yourself.

“Before I even get to my destination, I check in with myself on the plane. How? I carry a ‘stuff’ bag (the bag literally says ‘stuff’ on it), which contains spa-like items to sooth me on my journey. It includes eucalyptus oil, which I’ll rub into my hands and then breathe deeply, cupping my hands over my face; tiger balm to relax my muscles; lip balm; hand lotion; and yes, even some crystals. Plus, most people around me tend to love the smells, because who doesn’t love feeling like they’re in a spa?” —Jessica Wade Pfeffer, 34, president of JWI Public Relations, who travels about once a month

14. Actually do something with your photos when you get home.

“One of the things that is both the best and the worst about the iPhone camera is that there is so much storage, you can let your photos just sit in there and not really think about them except for when you are at a bar and want to show someone a photo from that trip you took two years ago. I know a lot of people do that, but I find that making the time to load my photos onto my computer and edit them there—even if they’re just from a business trip!—helps me process the whole experience on a deeper level once I return. Taking time to go through your photos is a great visual reminder to think about your past experiences and intentionally remember what you learned from each trip, rather than letting those lessons just slide into your memory and hope that they make their way to the surface at some point.” —Annie Daly

15. Try, as much as you can, to actually live in the moment.

“The one thing that’s helped me stay sane when I travel so much is to just be where I am. I try to submerge myself in the experience completely, and try to not think about what’s going on anywhere other than where I happen to be. To make this happen, I try to be as organized with my time as possible when I’m at home, so that I don’t have any loose ends floating around out there when I’m on the road. And I have a daughter, so staying connected to her is key, as well, and the only way I can do this. A daily phone call or a few texts will do it.” —Maria Luisa, 41, interior designer at Pegasus Hotels, who travels every other week between San Francisco and New York, and internationally every 10 weeks

16. And in the end, instead of thinking of travel as an escape from your routine, try thinking of it as a time to create a new routine.

“As the PR director for the digital nomad brand Selina, I am on the road more than I am at home. And that’s why I think it’s best to create a routine when you’re traveling rather than trying to recreate the one you have at home. For me, my on-the-road routine involves making a point to meet new people, trying to work in as many remote locations as I can, and taking the time to walk around and explore each new city I’m in. I still get tired and long for home, of course, but doing these things really helps a lot.” —Maca Capocci, 28, PR director for Selina, who travels twice a month


Dementia or something else? See which health conditions that are often mistaken for the degenerative disease


Image: Dementia or something else? See which health conditions that are often mistaken for the degenerative disease

(Natural News) The Alzheimer’s Association defines dementia as “a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life.” However, over 40 percent of dementia diagnoses are actually wrong.

Here are seven health conditions that are often confused for dementia or Alzheimer’s.

  1. Side effects of artificial flavors, food colors, and sweeteners – These artificial additives are linked to dementia symptoms. Studies have determined that aspartame, an artificial sweetener, can impair cognitive function and cause memory loss.
  2. Inflammation from food allergies, low-level infections, Lyme Disease, and mold – Inflammation occurs when the body tries to get rid of toxic elements or organisms. Studies imply that neuroinflammation may cause mental disorders.
  3. Mercury or other heavy metal poisoning – Silver amalgam fillings contain 50 percent mercury that isn’t stable or inert. The mercury in filling “off-gasses, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and destroys neurons even without contact.” It’s hazardous to remove these fillings unless mercury-safe protocols are observed. Annual flu shots also contain heavy metals like aluminum and mercury.
  4. Nutritional imbalances and deficiencies – Deficiencies of folate (vitamin B9), magnesium, omega 3s, probiotics, selenium, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, and other nutrients may cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. To address deficiencies, follow a balanced Mediterranean-style diet to slow down cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Coconut oil can boost brain health while turmeric can improve your memory.
  5. Prescription medication side effects – Drugs, like pain medications, psychotropic drugs, statins (for lowering blood cholesterol), and sleep medication may severely disrupt cognition and increase the risk of dementia.
  6. Stress and stagnation or inactivity – Stress will elevate cortisol levels, and this causes inflammation. Inflammation then results in cognitive impairment, delayed healing time, hormone imbalances, hypertension, increased blood sugar levels, and susceptibility to disease. The body’s self-healing mechanisms requires the unimpeded flow of blood, lymph, and other fluids, which are improved with exercise. However, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, cells in your body may shut down or become blocked, which can impede the natural healing process. Misdiagnosis linked to stress and inactivity often occurs in individuals with depression or alcohol addiction. (Related: The many ways stress makes you sick.)
  7. Thyroid and other hormonal imbalances – Individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia often have low T3 thyroid hormone levels, which aren’t measured in standard thyroid tests. At least 10 to 15 percent of residents in all nursing home residents are misdiagnosed due to low T3 levels.

https://www.brighteon.com/embed/5805404356001

Determining a cure for dementia

Experts from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging are collaborating on a new program that can help individuals with dementia, which may prevent misdiagnosis in patients with other conditions.

The research team reported that this is the first study of its kind and that it can prove that natural therapies may help slow the progress of dementia and even reverse it. Data from the paper, titled “Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A novel therapeutic program” and published in the journal AGING, revealed that out of the 10 participants diagnosed with dementia, nine “got their minds back.”

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As people grow older, their fear of developing cognitive decline increases. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the several types of dementia. An individual with the disease may have problems with their behavior, memory, and thinking. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s tend to develop and worsen gradually until they interfere with simple daily tasks.

At least 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s while 30 million people worldwide are diagnosed with the condition. Experts posit that by 2050, 160 million individuals around the world, including 13 million Americans, will have the disease. To date, Alzheimer’s, the third leading cause of death in the U.S., can’t be treated.

Dr. Dale Bredesen, the study’s lead author and a professor of neurology at The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA, supposes that different factors affect the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. For the study, Dr. Bredesen and his colleagues developed personalized and comprehensive protocols to address memory loss in 10 patients.

The study results were positive, and nine of the 10 participants showed improvement in their memories after being on the program for only three to six months. Out of the 10 patients, six patients have discontinued working or were struggling with their jobs when they joined the study. Once they joined the program, the six participants were able to work again or continue working with improved performance.

Five of the participants had memory loss linked to Alzheimer’s while the rest had amnestic mild cognitive impairment and subjective cognitive impairment. Only one patient with late-stage Alzheimer’s didn’t improve.

Doctors used a “systems approach” to treat the patients who joined the program. This “complex, 36-point therapeutic program” included:

  • Brain stimulation
  • Comprehensive changes in diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep optimization
  • Specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins

The program also involved other steps concerning brain chemistry. Dr. Bredesen concluded that even if the program is complex and involves many lifestyle changes, the protocol is worth implementing since its only side effect was “improved health and an optimal body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”

You can read more articles about natural cures for the different conditions mistaken as dementia at Health.news.

Sources include:

GreenMedInfo.com

ALZ.org

How Your Stress Affects Your Kids


A bad day at work. Money worries. A fight with your partner. Even bad traffic when you’re running late. Life is full of big and small stresses. You may think your kids are too young or not mature enough to know that something is going on. But often, the opposite is true.

“Kids can be especially sensitive to their parents’ moods,” says Stephanie Smith, a licensed clinical psychologist in Erie, CO.  “It doesn’t mean we, as parents, shouldn’t show our emotions — but it does mean that we should be mindful of how we manage them.”

Your kids won’t always see you calm and happy. Stress, sadness, frustration, and other negative emotions are a normal part of life, and it’s good for children to know that, Smith says. But what’s most important is for parents to model how to find healthy ways to deal with stressful times.

Kids Catch Your Stress

Stress that builds up without relief can start to affect how you interact with your children and how they feel.

You might snap at your kids or spend less time with them. Ongoing stress, such as financial worries, can wipe out the patience and energy it takes to be a nurturing, engaged parent. Even when you’re with your kids, you might not be paying attention to them.

“You might not be able to set aside those worries to focus on playing a game, cooking together, or going outside, kicking a ball, or playing with the dog. These are the things that kids respond to and look forward to,” says clinical psychologist Paul J. Donahue, PhD.

Stress also makes it easier to create unhealthy family habits, like eating fast food because you don’t have the energy to cook. Researchers have found that children of parents who feel stressed — because of health problems, financial strain, or other concerns — eat fast food more often, exercise less, and are more likely to be obese.

When you do try to wind down, you might be tempted to choose unhealthy ways to feel better, like bingeing on ice cream or zoning out in front of the TV. Kids learn how to handle stress by watching their parents. When you lean on food, screens, or other bad habits, you’re communicating to your child that those are the best ways to relax.

Talk It Out, Have a Plan

Of course you can’t banish stress from your life. So how can you keep it from affecting your kids? Experts say the best thing to do is to be honest with them about how you’re feeling and talk about a healthy strategy you’re going to use to feel better.

Think about your approach to stress relief, and plan ahead for some healthy strategies to use when the pressure’s on. Instead of burying your head in your smartphone, try some exercise to burn off the day’s frustration. Rather than staying up late with the TV on, calm your mind with a good book so you can get sleepy and get to bed on time.

Your kids will notice the positive ways you’re choosing to ease stress. You can even ask for their help.

Smith says you can try something like: “I’m feeling irritable today because I had a tough day at work.  Would you like to go on a bike ride with me after dinner? That always helps me feel better.” It’s also OK to let your kids know you need some alone time to read your book or go for a run because that relaxes you.

If you’re dealing with a long-term stressful situation, have brief, age-appropriate conversations with your kids about what’s going on. Reassure them about what you’re doing to make the situation better.

That shows your child that “people can go through hard times and be OK,” says Jamie Howard, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.

Dark Chocolate Reduces Stress and Inflammation, Boosts Memory and Mood


Story at-a-glance

  • When it comes to chocolate, its cacao content — which is bitter, not sweet — the amount of sugar added, and the processing chocolate undergoes, makes a huge difference in terms of whether it has any health benefits
  • Raw cacao gets its bitter taste from the polyphenols present, and these plant compounds are also responsible for most of the health benefits associated with dark chocolate
  • The cacao bean contains hundreds of naturally occurring compounds, including epicatechin, resveratrol — two powerful antioxidants — phenylethylamine (which boosts mood) and theobromine, which has effects similar to that of caffeine
  • Human trial data reveal chocolate helps improve stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immune function, but it must contain at least 70 percent cacao and be sweetened with organic cane sugar
  • A number of other studies have confirmed cacao can benefit your heart, blood vessels, brain and nervous system, and helps combat diabetes and other conditions rooted in inflammation

By Dr. Mercola

Throughout its history, which dates back at least 4,000 years,1 chocolate has been a symbol of luxury, wealth and power. During the 14th century, the Aztecs and Maya even used cacao beans as currency. Modern research has also revealed chocolate has significant health benefits — provided you’re willing to give up the now-familiar sweetness of modern day milk chocolate.

Its cacao content — which is bitter, not sweet — the amount of sugar added, and the processing chocolate undergoes, makes a huge difference in terms of whether it has any health benefits. Raw cacao gets its bitter taste from the polyphenols present, and these plant compounds are also responsible for most of the health benefits associated with dark chocolate. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, has few, if any, redeeming qualities, as it is loaded with sugar, containing very low amounts of flavonol-rich cacao.

Cocoa Contains Hundreds of Health Promoting Chemicals

The cacao bean contains hundreds of naturally occurring compounds with known health benefits, including epicatechin (a flavonoid) and resveratrol, the former of which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is thought to help shield your nerve cells from damage.

Norman Hollenberg, a professor of medicine at Harvard who has spent years studying the Kuna people of Panama who consume up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, believes epicatechin is so important it should be considered a vitamin.2 The Kuna have less than a 10 percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes, which are the most prevalent diseases ravaging the Western world.3 Kuna elders also have very low rates of high blood pressure, a feature attributed to their high cocoa consumption.

Resveratrol, a potent sirtuin activator, is known for its neuroprotective effects and has been linked in many recent studies to work synergistically with NAD to increase longevity. It has the ability to cross your blood-brain barrier, which allows it to moderate inflammation in your central nervous system (CNS). This is significant because CNS inflammation plays an important role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Research also shows resveratrol is an exercise mimetic, producing similar mitochondrial benefits as exercise by stimulating AMPK and PKC-1alpha, which increase mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy. Another compound found in cacao is phenylethylamine, which has been shown to boost mood in a way similar to that of tryptophan, which your body converts to serotonin.

Theobromine, meanwhile, has effects similar to that of caffeine, but without the jitteriness. Cacao is also rich in important minerals such as magnesium, which promotes muscle relaxation and is needed for bone health, iron for red blood cell production, and zinc, needed for cell renewal.

Just be careful and avoid the mistake I made. I assumed since cacao is so wonderful you can take it every day without a break. I used raw cacao nibs in my smoothie for the better part of a year and developed a sensitivity to it. It is best to take a few days off a week so you don’t develop a sensitivity.

Dark Chocolate Supports Brain Health

Most recently, human trial data from Loma Linda University, presented at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego, reveal chocolate helps improve stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immune function. The caveat? It has to contain at least 70 percent cacao and be sweetened with organic cane sugar. According to Loma Linda University:4

“While it is well-known that cacao is a major source of flavonoids, this is the first time the effect has been studied in human subjects to determine how it can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health … These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.”

In the first study, 70 percent cacao chocolate consumption was associated with upregulation of several intracellular signaling pathways that are involved in the activation of T-cells, the cellular immune response, and genes involved in the signaling between brain cells and sensory perception. In other words, not only was it found to improve immune function, but dark chocolate may also boost brain plasticity, improving your ability to learn, process and remember new information.

In the second study, which used 70 percent organic cacao chocolate, they assessed the brain’s response to eating 48 grams of dark chocolate using electroencephalography (EEG); first 30 minutes after, and then two hours after. As in the first trial, the dark chocolate was found to enhance neuroplasticity.

Bitter Chocolate Is a Sweet Treat for Your Heart

A number of other studies have confirmed cacao can benefit your heart, blood vessels, brain and nervous system, and helps combat diabetes and other conditions rooted in inflammation. As noted in a paper5 published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity:

“Cocoa contains about 380 known chemicals, 10 of which are psychoactive compounds … Cocoa has more phenolics and higher antioxidant capacity than green tea, black tea, or red wine … The phenolics from cocoa may … protect against diseases in which oxidative stress is implicated as a causal or contributing factor, such as cancer. They also have antiproliferative, antimutagenic, and chemoprotective effects, in addition to their anticariogenic effects.”

One 2012 meta-analysis6 found that eating chocolate could slash your risk of cardiovascular disease by 37 percent and your stroke risk by 29 percent. Another meta-analysis7 published that same year found that cocoa/chocolate lowered insulin resistance, reduced blood pressure, increased blood vessel elasticity, and slightly reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

A 2015 study8 published in the journal Heart — which also included a systematic review of nine other studies — also found a correlation between chocolate consumption and a lower risk for cardiac events and stroke. The initial analysis included data from nearly 21,000 men and women and had a median follow-up of nearly 12 years. According to the authors:

“The percentage of participants with coronary heart disease (CHD) in the highest and lowest quintile of chocolate consumption was 9.7 percent and 13.8 percent, and the respective rates for stroke were 3.1 percent and 5.4 percent … A total of nine studies with 157 809 participants were included in the meta-analysis.

Higher compared to lower chocolate consumption was associated with significantly lower CHD risk … stroke … composite cardiovascular adverse outcome … and cardiovascular mortality …

Cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events, although residual confounding cannot be excluded. There does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk.”

Flavonol-Rich Foods Can Be Beneficial for Diabetics

Polyphenol-rich cacao can also be beneficial for diabetics. In one study,9 patients consuming 100 grams of dark chocolate for 15 days showed decreased insulin resistance. In another, high-flavonol instant cocoa powder was found to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetics when consumed three times a day.10 After one month, their blood vessel function was brought from severely impaired to normal.

In fact, the improvement “was as large as has been observed with exercise and many common diabetic medications,” according to the authors, who believe the vascular improvement is largely caused by increased production of nitric oxide, which relaxes your blood vessels. It’s worth noting that the cocoa beverage used here contained much higher amounts of flavonols (321 milligrams per serving) than what you’ll find in your local grocery store.

As noted by lead author Malte Kelm, professor and chairman of cardiology, pulmonology and vascular medicine at the University Hospital Aachen in Germany, “The take-home message of the study is not that people with diabetes should guzzle cocoa but, rather, that dietary flavanols hold promise as a way to prevent heart disease.”11

“Patients with Type 2 diabetes can certainly find ways to fit chocolate into a healthy lifestyle, but this study is not about chocolate, and it’s not about urging those with diabetes to eat more chocolate. This research focuses on what’s at the true heart of the discussion on ‘healthy chocolate’ — it’s about cocoa flavanols, the naturally occurring compounds in cocoa.

While more research is needed, our results demonstrate that dietary flavanols might have an important impact as part of a healthy diet in the prevention of cardiovascular complications in diabetic patients.”

Cocoa Benefits Mood

As mentioned, cocoa also contains chemical compounds shown to boost mood. One study,12 published in 2013, found the polyphenols in cocoa (a dark chocolate drink mix) helped reduce anxiety and induce a sense of calm when consumed daily for one month.

Participants received a cocoa drink standardized to contain either 500 milligrams or 250 milligrams of polyphenols, or a placebo drink with no polyphenol content. After 30 days, those receiving the highest dose reported significantly increased calmness and centeredness, compared to the placebo group. Those receiving the lower dose (250 milligrams) did not experience any significant effects.

The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Chocolate

While there’s plenty of science vouching for the health benefits of dark chocolate, it’s important to realize that none of these benefits are transferable to milk chocolate, which is what most people crave. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate, meaning the more cacao it contains, the more flavanols it contains, and this is the primary source of its health benefits.

Milk chocolate, which is low in cacao and high in milk and sugar, has little redeeming value and will only promote insulin resistance and related ailments. Additionally, the standard manufacturing process of milk chocolate destroys about one-quarter to one-half of the available antioxidants, thereby diminishing its benefits even further.

So, while you’d be better off getting your antioxidants from fruits, berries and vegetables, should you decide to indulge in chocolate, I recommend restricting your intake to dark, organic chocolate, which contains the most flavanols, and avoid milk chocolate. Your best option would be raw cacao nibs, which are relatively bitter since they contain no added sugar.

Additionally, consume chocolate in moderation, even the dark kind, and avoid even dark chocolate if you’re struggling with serious disease such as cancer, which feeds on sugars.

How Cocoa Beans Are Transformed Into Chocolate

Last but not least, you may be curious as to how chocolate is made. The International Cocoa Organization offers the following summary of the 14-step process required to turn cacao beans into a mouth-savoring treat:13

Step 1. The cacao beans are cleaned to remove all extraneous material.
Step 2. To bring out the chocolate flavor and color, the beans are roasted. The temperature, time and degree of moisture involved in roasting depend on the type of beans used and the sort of chocolate or product desired.
Step 3. A winnowing machine is used to remove the shells from the beans to leave just the cocoa nibs.
Step 4. The cocoa nibs undergo alkalization, usually with potassium carbonate, to develop the flavor and color.
Step 5. The nibs are then milled to create cocoa liquor (cocoa particles suspended in cocoa butter). The temperature and degree of milling varies according to the type of nib used and the final product being made.
Step 6. Manufacturers generally use more than one type of bean in their products and therefore the different beans have to be blended together to the required formula.
Step 7. The cocoa liquor is pressed to extract the cocoa butter, leaving a solid mass called cocoa presscake. The amount of butter extracted from the liquor is controlled by the manufacturer to produce presscake with different proportions of fat.
Step 8. The processing now takes two different directions: The cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate, while the cocoa presscake is broken into small pieces to form kibbled presscake, which is then pulverized to form cocoa powder.
Step 9. Cocoa liquor is used to produce chocolate through the addition of cocoa butter. Other ingredients such as sugar, milk, emulsifying agents and cocoa butter equivalents are also added and mixed. The proportions of the different ingredients depend on the type of chocolate being made.
Step 10. The mixture then undergoes a refining process by traveling through a series of rollers until a smooth paste is formed. Refining improves the texture of the chocolate.
Step 11. The next process, conching, further develops flavor and texture. Conching is a kneading or smoothing process. The speed, duration and temperature of the kneading affect the flavor. An alternative to conching is an emulsifying process using a machine that works like an egg beater.
Step 12. The mixture is then tempered or passed through a heating, cooling and reheating process. This prevents discoloration and fat bloom in the product by preventing certain crystalline formations of cocoa butter developing.
Step 13. The mixture is then put into molds or used for enrobing fillings and cooled in a cooling chamber.
Step 14. Lastly, the chocolate is packaged for distribution.

 

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Supercharge Your Insulin Sensitivity Naturally with These 5 Proven Daily Routines


 

Insulin sensitivity refers to the biological response of target tissues such as muscle to the actions of insulin. In other words, insulin sensitivity refers to how well insulin performs its role of transporting and storing fuels in specific cells in the body, particularly glucose.

Insulin sensitivity varies between individuals and is reduced in people with diabetes.

Medication aside, lifestyle plays an important role in helping boost insulin sensitivity and prevent impaired tissue responses (insulin resistance), which, in turn, supports blood glucose disposal and improves diabetes management.

Lifestyle choices do this in a number of ways:

  • Strength training increases muscle mass which serves as a major storage house for glucose.
  • Walking and other forms of low-intensity exercise can reduce blood glucose.
  • Stress management including meditation and a good quality sleep pattern help control excess production of counterregulatory stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which increase blood glucose levels.

All of the above help improve the action of diabetes medication and whatever is left of natural insulin production. Obviously, the effects of each lifestyle factor will vary depending on how often they are conducted, their intensity and, of course, inter-individual physiology and genetics.

Treat this article like an accountability checklist.

If you live with diabetes and aren’t following any of the five lifestyle behaviors listed, you might be missing a few tricks for improving health, managing your diabetes, and building that body you always wanted.

Daily Routine #1 – Perform at Least 20-45 Minutes of Anaerobic Exercise Every Single Day

Anaerobic exercise is defined as physical exercise that is intense enough to generate lactate.

You know you have generated lactate when you start feeling a burning sensation in your muscles. High rep squats and sprint intervals get you burning pretty quick. Strength training and high-intensity interval training are prime examples of anaerobic exercise.

The human body responds differently when trained with anaerobic exercise compared to aerobic exercise. The adaptions that occur to the muscle energy systems are of particular interest and benefit to people with diabetes.

Anaerobic training increases insulin sensitivity and stimulates skeletal muscle tissue to absorb glucose from the bloodstream independently of insulin. This is achieved through the stimulation of specific glucose transporters called GLUT-4. The more anaerobic work a muscle fiber has to contend with, the greater number of GLUT-4 rise to the surface of a muscle cell for the purpose of glucose extraction. Once glucose is absorbed from the bloodstream it is stored as muscle glycogen.

Increased insulin sensitivity is just one of the many benefits of anaerobic exercise. There are plenty more, which I will cover another time.

How often and how much anaerobic training should I perform?

Perform anaerobic training at least 3 times per week in the form of:

  • 20-60 minutes of strength training – whole body, body part splits, etc.
  • 10-20 minutes high-intensity interval training – skipping, spinning, battle ropes, sprints etc.

All of these training bouts will improve glucose uptake and improve blood glucose management in people living with diabetes.

Daily Routine #2 – Get and Stay Lean

It is well-established that high levels of body fat result from living in a calorie surplus for a prolonged amount of time. Excess body fat accumulation is not only unsightly, but highly inflammatory and detrimental to the effectiveness of your insulin.

Also proven is the fact that the biological response of target tissues to the actions of insulin (insulin sensitivity) are majorly affected by adiposity, or the amount of body fat one carries. 1

The leaner you are, the better your insulin will work. Period.

5 top tips for getting lean with diabetes:

  • Create a calorie deficit by sensibly increasing your physical activity and reducing food intake in a controlled way.
  • Strength train at least 4-5 times per week.
  • Manage your diabetes.
  • Achieve at least 7 hours sleep each night.
  • Aim to lose between 0.5-1% of your body weight each week.

Daily Routine #3 – Have a Toolbox of De-Stressing Activities

In today’s modern day age, we are increasingly exposed to more chronic stress than ever before: mobile phones, social media, traffic, bills, etc.

Stress stimulates a flight or fight response within the body, a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. The body responds to stress by activating the sympathetic branch of the central nervous system. Stress increases muscle tone, constricts blood vessels, and increases the production of counterregulatory stress hormones which increase blood glucose.

In small doses stress is healthy. It can save your life.

However, excessive stress is unhealthy and works against diabetes management.2

The greater and more prolonged the stress, the more insulin is required to balance blood glucose. It is well established that stress can influence whole-body glucose metabolism and promote insulin resistance. 2,3

Any forms of stress management, like meditation, massage, yoga, breathing exercises, or personal development, are worthwhile if they help reduce stress. Reducing your daily stress is a surefire way to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce incidents of high blood glucose.

Even Apple have cottoned on to this with their new “take a minute to breathe” reminder on their Apple Watch.

Daily Routine #4 – Have a Structured Sleeping Plan

Sleep could also be considered a form of stress management, especially for individuals who are highly active and live with diabetes.

I hate to tell you the obvious, but sleep is essential for good health and diabetes management.

Many laboratory and epidemiological studies suggest that sleep loss may play a role in the increased prevalence of insulin resistance and diabetes.4,5,6,7

One of the best pieces of advice is to set a fixed bedtime and wake time. Not only does this provide structure for your day, but it ensures you get enough restorative sleep for health and optimal diabetes management.

Again, the major tech company Apple and their recent focus on health tech apps have included a set wake/bedtime function in their alarm clock.

At Diabetic Muscle and Fitness, we take sleep seriously. We even developed a 3.5+ hour video module on sleep optimization for improving hormone profiles and body composition.

Daily Routine #5 – Perform Aerobic Exercise Daily

Aerobic exercise such as a light jogging or a brisk walk can increase glucose disposal and lower blood glucose levels – independently of insulin.

One of the main reasons aerobic exercise lowers blood glucose levels so well is due to the fact that there is little to no counterregulatory hormone response like that which occurs during high-intensity anaerobic exercise.

Please bear in mind, it is important to monitor insulin intake around aerobic exercise in order to avoid hypoglycemia.

I highly recommend buying an activity monitor like a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Garmin. These are awesome for building the habit of doing more aerobic exercise throughout your day.

Take Home

Each and every daily routine I’ve shared in this article will improve insulin action and help your body clear glucose easier. Each and every one of these routines is a prerequisite for a great looking body and high levels of mental and physical performance.

Identify which areas you need to work on and get to it!

References

  1. Wilcox G. Insulin and insulin resistance. Clin Biochem Rev. 2005 May; 26(2):19-39.
  2. Li L et al. Acute psychological stress results in the rapid development of insulin resistance. J Endocrinol. 2013 Apr 15;217(2):175-84.
  3. Nolan et al. Insulin Resistance as a Physiological Defense Against Metabolic Stress: Implications for the Management of Subsets of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Mar 2015, 64 (3) 673-686;
  4. Kripke DF, Garfinkel L, Wingard DL, Klauber MR, Marler MR. Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59:131–6.
  5. Ayas NT, White DP, Manson JE, et al. A prospective study of sleep duration and coronary heart disease in women. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:205–9.
  6. Ip MS, Lam B, Ng MM, Lam WK, Tsang KW, Lam KS. Obstructive sleep apnea is independently associated with insulin resistance. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2002;165:670–6.
  7. Punjabi NM, Shahar E, Redline S, Gottlieb DJ, Givelber R, Resnick HE. Sleep-disordered breathing, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance: the Sleep Heart Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;160:521–30.

How To Manage Stress In Today’s World


Chances are, if you’re an adult, you most likely experience a certain level of stress on a daily basis. While certain stresses are more overwhelming than others (i.e. trying to find a parking spot in LA which is nearly impossible, vs. losing your job), it all has a far greater negative effect on your physical and mental health, than you might realize. Stress is how our body responds to certain environmental stimuli, and it’s completely normal for all of us to experience bouts of it from time to time. It actually developed as a way for early humans to be inspired to take an immediate action (such as to run away from a predator), but today it’s often an unnecessary emotion that harms us – rather than helps us.

The cause of your stress can be an endless stream of things that aren’t necessarily easy to overcome, such as being overwhelmed at work, school, or by personal/relationship problems. I have always been a worrier. I’ll wake in the night worrying about the silliest of things, and I’ve had times in my life when stress has seemed overwhelming. And now being a new mother as well there’s even more to juggle – as exciting and rewarding as it is, like most new mums I’m still learning on the job too! I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights, my appetite fluctuates, and my ability to concentrate has also been affected. Par for the course!

I know stress is almost unavoidable in today’s culture, but with my fair share of experiences, I’ve managed to condense some of my tips on how to manage and decrease your stress levels. It sounds easier said than done, but believe me, if you give yourself a chance to breathe and take it one step at a time, it can be over before you know it. Below are some tips on how to manage stress and gain some relief – and yes, some acts of self-indulgence and spoiling yourself are included.

Make Positive Thinking A Habit

The ability to see the glass half full in every scenario is always a good thing to keep in mind. If you can always see the silver lining or the light at the end of the tunnel, you can prevail through almost any situation. Mackenzie is bloody good at this – he will make me laugh in the most annoying of situations and make me lighten up! ‘Thinking positively’ is a big trend these days, with Instagram inspirational quotes abound. But surprisingly, it can actually be much harder than you think when life throws you lemons, so it’s a habit that needs to be practiced like anything else. When you catch yourself having negative thoughts and feelings, make a conscious effort to replace them with something positive, even if you don’t believe it in the moment. Fake it till you make it, as they say. List 5 things that you’re grateful for in this moment. You’ll be surprised how grounding this is in moments of stress.

Move & Nourish Your Body

Eating healthy and exercising at least a few times a week is always a good way to give your body some physical and mental relief. Physical activity gives you a rush of endorphins, which are natural pain killers, and even aid with sleep – which in turn helps you feel less stressed. It’s a wonderful cycle! If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, hit the gym, go for a run or walk, or sign up for your favorite class or even just take 5 minutes at home to deep breathe and stretch (that’s what I’m reminding myself to do each day at home with baby Honor, as I’m not able to exercise yet). After your workout you’ll most likely feel ten times better, as science actually proves that exercise improves mood. Follow a balanced diet with lots of nutrients and avoid junk and processed foods at all costs (a good rule of thumb? if you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the back of the packet, it’s probably not worth eating), especially those high in saturated fats and refined sugars as they tend to increase tension. Our brains need a healthy balance of essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3 in order to operate properly, and eating loads of junk food can cause chemical changes in your brain that may lead to depression or anxiety.

Take Yourself On A Date

Take a little time off for yourself – this is a big one that mums especially can find pretty difficult to do. It’s easy to put others’ needs before your own, but when you take time to pamper yourself every now and then, everyone in your life benefits. I love treating myself to a nice facial or massage, a blowout, a glass of red wine, or even just a stroll through one of my favorite stores. And I love to buy myself flowers! Pampering yourself can give you a big confidence boost when you’re feeling low, and can certainly be a great distraction from stress. If you’re a mum and you absolutely can’t have a partner or babysitter help out, light some candles and sit in the bath when everyone has gone to bed. Even if you’re interrupted by your kiddos, a few minutes of relaxation are better than none!

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

In today’s lightning-fast culture, people take sleep for granted. Our bodies generally need at least 6-8 hours of sleep to fully recover and prepare for another day. If we’re not fulfilling our need to sleep because of stress, it can actually lead to sleep deprivation, which can put you at risk for health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or diabetes. A lot of people tend to lose sleep because they have a million things on their to-do lists and feel stressed about not being able to get it all done. My tip? Set an alarm not only for when you should wake up, but also for when it’s time to go to bed. Anything that you haven’t gotten done by then (unless it’s an emergency) must then wait until the next day. It’s easy to get caught up in our tasks or sucked into a Netflix show as a means to wind down, and then all of a sudden it’s 1am. Make this a strict rule and stick to it!

Get Friendly With Saying No

Don’t be afraid to say “no” before you take on way too many commitments. It can be easy to spread ourselves thin, especially when we have many important obligations in life, such as family, friends, work, school and so on. Always know what to prioritize – what must absolutely get done today, and what can wait? Women are superheroes, but being able to do it all doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. Being able to say “no” doesn’t make you a bad person, it just indicates that you value your precious time. It may make some people in your life uncomfortable at first if they aren’t used to hearing you say it, but hey – if they really care about you, they’ll get over it!

Get Support

I feel so grateful to have such a wonderful support system in my life. Mackenzie is an amazing partner to me when I feel overwhelmed, and I am so lucky to have had my parents here helping us through the first few weeks of Honor’s life. I have got quite good at giving everyone tasks – and it really helps keep me calm knowing that dinner is being made or the washing is on! It’s a huge weight off your shoulders when you have loving people in your life to help you carry the load. Reach out, ask for help, get real with those around you if you’re in a time of need. If you don’t have anyone close to you that you feel you can count on, seek help from a professional. Discussing your problems without the judgment of others is always very cathartic, and sometimes putting it all out there and having someone listen is just what you need, and they can often provide practical, helpful solutions.

Plan It All Out

I don’t know about you, but I always have a million things whirring through my mind at any given moment. My to-do’s, my goals for myself and my family, fears, and the like. I find it extremely helpful to map out everything I’m feeling and everything I want to accomplish. Buy a planner or a white board to pencil in every single important detail of your life. It can really put your schedule in perspective and lets you know what days you will be overbooked and what days you can commit to other tasks. It also helps to put them in your smartphone calendars to give you more reminders – that way, you won’t be late too! Trust me, these babies take you a long way.

Let Go of Negative Emotions: Guided Meditation


Let Go of Negative Emotions: Guided Meditation

When you let go of negative emotions, you communicate to yourself and the whole world that you are serious about creating a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life and that you no longer want to settle for less than you are worth. And that’s when all kind of wonderful and miraculous things start to happen To you, because of you!

Let Go of Negative Emotions

If you are willing and ready to go of negative emotions and take the first step in creating a life that is filled with joy, purpose, clarity, love, and fulfillment, this powerful guided meditation will be a great place to start.

Use this guided meditation to let go of any negative emotions you might be holding onto and transform them into feelings of love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, health, and well-being,

Before you begin, remember to first, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for the next 12 minutes. Second, find a comfortable position to sit – it can be in a chair, crossed legged or on your knees, or lay down and when you’re ready, press play. Once the meditation session is over, you can share your experience with all of us by commenting below.

Enjoy 🙂

Let Go of Negative Emotions: Guided Meditation

💫

P.S. “If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness, and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.”

Do you work more than 39 hours a week? Your job could be killing you


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Long hours, stress and physical inactivity are bad for our wellbeing – yet we’re working harder than ever. Isn’t it time we fought back?

When a new group of interns recently arrived at Barclays in New York, they discovered a memo in their inboxes. It was from their supervisor at the bank, and headed: “Welcome to the jungle.” The message continued: “I recommend bringing a pillow to the office. It makes sleeping under your desk a lot more comfortable … The internship really is a nine-week commitment at the desk … An intern asked our staffer for a weekend off for a family reunion – he was told he could go. He was also asked to hand in his BlackBerry and pack up his desk.”

Although the (unauthorised) memo was meant as a joke, no one laughed when it was leaked to the media. Memories were still fresh of Moritz Erhardt, the 21-year-old London intern who died after working 72 hours in a row at Bank of America. It looked as if Barclays was also taking the “work ethic” to morbid extremes.

Following 30 years of neoliberal deregulation, the nine-to-five feels like a relic of a bygone era. Jobs are endlessly stressed and increasingly precarious. Overwork has become the norm in many companies – something expected and even admired. Everything we do outside the office – no matter how rewarding – is quietly denigrated. Relaxation, hobbies, raising children or reading a book are dismissed as laziness. That’s how powerful the mythology of work is.

Technology was supposed to liberate us from much of the daily slog, but has often made things worse: in 2002, fewer than 10% of employees checked their work email outside of office hours. Today, with the help of tablets and smartphones, it is 50%, often before we get out of bed.

Health at work illo 2

Some observers have suggested that workers today are never “turned off”. Like our mobile phones, we only go on standby at the end of the day, as we crawl into bed exhausted. This unrelenting joylessness is especially evident where holidays are concerned. In the US, one of the richest economies in the world, employees are lucky to get two weeks off a year.

You might almost think this frenetic activity was directly linked to our biological preservation and that we would all starve without it. As if writing stupid emails all day in a cramped office was akin to hunting-and-gathering of a previous age … Thankfully, a sea change is taking place. The costs of overwork can no longer be ignored. Long-term stress, anxiety and prolonged inactivity have been exposed as potential killers.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center recently used activity trackers to monitor 8,000 workers over the age of 45. The findings were striking. The average period of inactivity during each waking day was 12.3 hours. Employees who were sedentary for more than 13 hours a day were twice as likely to die prematurely as those who were inactive for 11.5 hours. The authors concluded that sitting in an office for long periods has a similar effect to smoking and ought to come with a health warning.

When researchers at University College London looked at 85,000 workers, mainly middle-aged men and women, they found a correlation between overwork and cardiovascular problems, especially an irregular heart beat or atrial fibrillation, which increases the chances of a stroke five-fold.

Labour unions are increasingly raising concerns about excessive work, too, especially its impact on relationships and physical and mental health. Take the case of the IG Metall union in Germany. Last week, 15,000 workers (who manufacture car parts for firms such as Porsche) called a strike, demanding a 28-hour work week with unchanged pay and conditions. It’s not about indolence, they say, but self-protection: they don’t want to die before their time. Science is on their side: research from the Australian National University recently found that working anything over 39 hours a week is a risk to wellbeing.

Is there a healthy and acceptable level of work? According to US researcher Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, most modern employees are productive for about four hours a day: the rest is padding and huge amounts of worry. Pang argues that the workday could easily be scaled back without undermining standards of living or prosperity.

Health at work illo 3

Other studies back up this observation. The Swedish government, for example, funded an experiment where retirement home nurses worked six-hour days and still received an eight-hour salary. The result? Less sick leave, less stress, and a jump in productivity.

All this is encouraging as far as it goes. But almost all of these studies focus on the problem from a numerical point of view – the amount of time spent working each day, year-in and year-out. We need to go further and begin to look at the conditions of paid employment. If a job is wretched and overly stressful, even a few hours of it can be an existential nightmare. Someone who relishes working on their car at the weekend, for example, might find the same thing intolerable in a large factory, even for a short period. All the freedom, creativity and craft are sucked out of the activity. It becomes an externally imposed chore rather than a moment of release.

Why is this important?

Because there is a danger that merely reducing working hours will not change much, when it comes to health, if jobs are intrinsically disenfranchising. In order to make jobs more conducive to our mental and physiological welfare, much less work is definitely essential. So too are jobs of a better kind, where hierarchies are less authoritarian and tasks are more varied and meaningful.

Capitalism doesn’t have a great track record for creating jobs such as these, unfortunately. More than a third of British workers think their jobs are meaningless, according to a survey by YouGov. And if morale is that low, it doesn’t matter how many gym vouchers, mindfulness programmes and baskets of organic fruit employers throw at them. Even the most committed employee will feel that something is fundamentally missing. A life.

Why Some People Respond to Stress by Falling Asleep


Why Some People Respond to Stress by Falling Asleep
Last month, my wife and I found ourselves in a disagreement about whether or not our apartment was clean enough for guests—the type of medium-sized disagreement that likely plagues all close relationships. In the midst of it, there was a lull and, feeling exhausted all of a sudden, I got up and left the living room. In the bedroom, I immediately fell face down into the sheets. The next thing I knew it was 20 minutes later and my wife was shaking me awake. I hadn’t meant to fall asleep; I just felt so fatigued in that moment that there was nothing else I could do.

This wasn’t new for me. A few weeks earlier, I had come into conflict with an acquaintance over some money. We were exchanging tense emails while I was at my office, and I began to feel the slow oozing onset of sleep, the same tiredness that came on when, as a child, I rode in the backseat of the car on the way home from some undesired trip. A sleepiness that overtakes the body slowly but surely and feels entirely outside of your control.

Though this has happened many times before, my response to conflict still seems strange to me. After all, as everyone knows from 9th grade biology class, when faced with stress—an acute threat—our bodies enter fight-or-flight mode. It’s supposed to be automatic: the adrenal cortex releases stress hormones to put the body on alert; the heart begins to beat more rapidly; breathing increases frequency; your metabolism starts to speed up, and oxygen-rich blood gets pumped directly to the larger muscles in the body. The point is to become energized, to prepare to face the source of the conflict head on, or, at the worst, be ready to run away, at top speed.

Of course, you don’t actually want the stress response system to be too reactive. If you were constantly in fight or flight mode, constantly stressed, it could actually have long-term effects on your neurochemistry, leading to chronic anxiety, depression, and, well, more sleeplessness. Even so, it seems like a good idea to sometimes be on high alert when dealing with stressful situations.

But that’s not what my body did. My body shut down.

If, during early development, a living thing comes to understand that it is helpless, it will continue to perceive a lack of control, no matter if the context changes.

I asked around, and found out that many others experience the same thing. For example, Dawn, a family counselor in Columbus, Ohio, told me that her husband Brad often “starts yawning in the middle of heated discussions, and will even lie down and go right to sleep.” One time their toddler son fell down the stairs (he was fine), and Brad left the room and went to bed. Brad has had this kind of stress response for all 24 years of their relationship; Dawn says she’s used to it by now.

Even though dozens of people told me similar stories, I began to wonder what was wrong with us—what was wrong with me. Why was my body, in the face of conflict, simply acquiescing? Where was the fight in me?

There’s a concept in psychology called “learned helplessness” used to explain certain aspects of depression and anxiety. It’s fairly old, having been first recognized and codified in the 1970s, but has remained largely relevant and accepted within the field. The name (mostly) explains it all: If, at a very early stage in development, a living thing comes to understand that it is helpless in the face of the world’s forces, it will continue to perceive a lack of control, and therefore actually become helpless, no matter if the context changes.

In the early studies, dogs were divided into two groups: The first half were subjected to electric shocks, but were given a way to stop the shocks (they just had to figure it out themselves). The second group of dogs received shocks but had no way to avoid, escape, or stop them. The experience, sadly, had long-term effects on the animals. When faced with stressful environments later on in life, the first group of dogs did whatever they could to try to deal with it; the second group simply gave up. They had been conditioned to respond to stress with acquiescence.

This type of learned helplessness isn’t limited to animals; many of the adults I spoke with all mentioned childhood anxiety stemming from uncontrollable situations.

“When I hit high school and stress levels became higher in my life (messy divorce between my parents and lots of moving), I began escaping into sleep,” says LeAnna, a 25-year-old from Washington state. “As an adult, I still have ‘go to sleep’ impulses whenever I feel overwhelmed.” Daniel, from Baltimore told me that “whenever there was any kind of ‘family strife’ I would just go to my room and sleep.” Daniel is now 51, and starts yawning any time he encounters a stressful situation.

“Our feelings are always in the past. This is something that’s really outlived its adaptive value.”

My parents divorced by the time I hit high school, but before they did, they fought a lot, usually in the kitchen beneath my bedroom. What I remember feeling most was powerlessness—not anger or sadness, but a shrug-your-shoulders, close-the-door, shut-your-eyes type of response because what was I going to do? Tell them to break it up?

That coping mechanism worked for me back then. I was able to compartmentalize those stressful experiences and move on with my life. I stayed in school and kept my grades up; I had friends and was relatively well-rounded. Things went well. But now, at 28, I still deal with interpersonal conflict by shutting the door and going to sleep. I act on feelings that are no longer relevant to the situation.

“Our feelings are always in the past,” says John Sharp, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. “This is something that’s really outlived its adaptive value.” As an adult I should have control over my current situation, but I don’t. Am I like those lab dogs, shocked into helplessness?
At first glance, sleep might seem like quintessential avoidance, like burying your head in the pillow is no better than burying your head in the sand.

But I don’t feel as though I am not helping myself. After all, going to sleep isn’t like turning the lights off; the truth is that there’s a lot still going on while your eyes are closed. While we might be able to temporarily stave the flow of conflict by falling asleep, we’re not really escaping anything. In fact, sleep in some ways forces us to not only relive the emotional experience but to process and concretize it—by going to sleep I may be making the fight with my wife more real.

If you’re like me, you probably imagine memories work pretty simply: you have an experience, it gets stored somewhere, and then you retrieve it when you need it. But that leaves out a key step, memory consolidation, and that’s where sleep comes into play.

Here’s how it really works, according to Dr. Edward Pace-Schott, professor at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine: When an experience is initially encoded as a memory, it rests in the brain’s short term storage facilities, where it is fragile, easily forgotten if other experiences come along quickly. In order for the experience to last, it needs to go through a process of consolidation, where it becomes integrated into other memories that you have. That’s why when you think of, say the 1993 baseball game between the Yankees and Orioles, you also think of bright green grass, the smell of peanuts and beer, your dad, and Bobby Bonilla, and not thousands of random bits and pieces.

Of course, not every experience is worth remembering. Only the highly intense experiences—positive or negative—are prioritized for storage later on. “Emotions put a stamp on a memory to say ‘this is important,’” says Pace-Schott. It makes sense: the color of the grocery store clerk’s shirt is significantly less essential than, say, your mother’s birthday.

If we didn’t shelve our memories appropriately, everything would be a jumble, and without consolidation, we would forget it all. Life would have no meaning, and more importantly (at least from an evolutionary standpoint) we would never learn anything—we’d be helplessly amorphous, easy prey.

“You can be driven to sleep simply by having a lot of emotional memories to process.”

Here’s the conundrum, though: the same experiences that are stamped as emotionally important can overwhelm your brain’s short term storage facilities. Dr. Rebecca Spencer, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Department of Psychology, likens it to a desk where “whatever is stressing you out is this big pile of papers, but there are also other memories piling up on you.” With more and more papers landing in front of you all day, you’ll never effectively get to them all. And emotionally rich experiences are all high priority messages, screaming to be dealt with right away. So what happens next?

“You can be driven to sleep simply by having a lot of emotional memories to process,” says Spencer. It takes sleep to provide the space needed to sift through the days’ experiences, and make permanent those that matter.

Studies show that sleep enhances your memory of experiences, and the effect is multiplied for experiences with the stamp of emotion. In fact, the memory-consolidation process that occurs during sleep is so effective that some scientists, including Pace-Schott and Spencer, have suggested that it could be used to treat PTSD. Spencer posits that keeping someone from sleep following a traumatic event could be good in the long run. “If you force yourself to stay awake through a period of insomnia,” Spencer says, “the [traumatic] memory and emotional response will both decay.”

On the flip side, when it comes to the majority of the negative things we experience in life—the things that aren’t necessarily traumatizing like, say, a fight with your significant other—we want to go to sleep, because that protects the memory and emotional response.

And Pace-Schott points out that sleep disruption may prevent consolidation of potentially therapeutic memories, sometimes termed ‘fear extinction’ memories. These are memories that can dull the effect of a traumatic experience by creating more positive associations with specific triggers.] This means that improving sleep quality following traumatic events may be crucial to preventing PTSD.

The nap following a fight with my wife should, ideally, teach me how to better manage interpersonal conflict.

Ever wonder why little kids nap so much? Researchers believe that it’s not just because they’ve been running around all day—it’s also due to the fact their short-term memory storage space is so small, and they constantly need to unload experiences and consolidate memories more often. One recent study, in fact, found that “distributed sleep” (a.k.a. napping) is critical for learning at an early age. The nap that follows a 4 year-old child getting burnt on a hot stove should help him learn from the experience.

Similarly, the nap following a fight with my wife should, ideally, teach me how to better manage interpersonal conflict. The benefits of sleep on memory don’t go away.

When we wake up from sleep, we feel different. It’s not just that time has passed; we’ve undergone a real chemical response. When we sleep, all the stress systems in our body are damped down, letting it relax, so that tenseness you felt, the sickness in your stomach, the frayed nerves, will all be gone in the morning. “It’s almost like we are different people when we wake up,” says Pace-Schott.

One particular neurochemical, called orexin, may hold the key to the puzzle. Orexin, which was discovered only about 15 years ago, is unique in that it plays a very clearly defined dual role in the body. First and foremost, it’s a crucial element in your daily sleep/wake rhythm. You get a boost of the stuff when you wake up, and it drops before you go to sleep. Studies in rats show that if you take all of an animal’s orexin away, it can no longer effectively control sleeping and waking. Since its discovery, orexin has become one of the key diagnostic criteria for determining narcolepsy—those with the sleep disorder essentially have none of the neurochemical.

And then there’s the second function: It’s part of the stress response system.

“The orexin system is absolutely hardwired into the sympathetic nervous system,” says Philip L. Johnson, a neuroscientist at the Indiana University School of Medicine. If everything is working normally, when you are faced with a stressful situation, your orexin system kicks in and triggers the stress responses that you expect: fight or flight.

In other words, the same exact neural pathway that handles wakefulness (we can’t even get out of bed without orexin kicking in) also handles a key aspect of our stress response.

Think about this: while narcoleptics do sometimes just nod off randomly, strong emotions are, most often, connected to onset of sleep. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true, says Johnson. For many narcoleptics, strong emotions associated with stress can cause a complete collapse.

Of course, this should sound familiar—it’s not so different than what happens when Brad, LeAnna, Daniel, I, and so many others go head to head with stress. The science on this is still in its infancy, and it remains unclear exactly what’s going on at a chemical level here, but there does seem to be some connection.

In the meantime, sleep doesn’t seem too bad. The problem may still be there when you awake, but you’ll have a better understanding of it, and hopefully, a clear slate to handle it.

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