Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Healthy coping during holiday stress

The holiday season can be a stressful time. With the combined stressors of holiday shopping, financial strain, difficult relatives, travel stress and a busy schedule of demands, many people find themselves more stressed than usual. Women, who often shoulder the bulk of the added holiday burden as far as baking, shopping, coordinating, party-throwing and planning are concerned, are often particularly stressed during this time.

This added stress can come out in many different ways. Some people respond to stress emotionally, either feeling anxiety, depression or anger and frustration. Others respond with a weakened immune system, getting sick more frequently (which is more of a danger during this season anyway, as people crowd indoors and swap germs in airports and malls). Others just power through and find themselves battling burnout by the end of the year.

As people try to cope with all these stressors, relatively few people take the time to learn new stress management practices; most just use their regular coping tactics, but to a greater degree. This is fine for people who normally cope with stress in a healthy way. For many people--people who do use some healthy coping techniques--also cope with stress in unhealthy ways, either with 'comfort food', a glass of wine, a shopping trip or something similar. These behaviors aren't the healthiest coping techniques to begin with, but they aren't generally as harmful as when they're taken to an extreme. Under increased pressure, mildly unhealthy coping becomes emotional overeating, excessive drinking, chain smoking, compulsive buying, and the like. And these responses to stress generally add more stress.

How does one deal?

By replacing unhealthy coping with healthy stress management techniques.

First, finding some healthier ways to reduce stress can make quite a difference here because, when there is less stress to react to, unhealthy responses can diminish. Also, when healthy coping skills are substituted for unhealthy ones, it's easier to let go of unhealthy habits. Finally, after working harder at healthy stress management (which can include ideas mentioned in the resources below), if you still find yourself feeling overwhelmed with stress or coping in a way that causes problems in other areas of your life, it might be a good idea to talk to someone and find resources to help.

Holiday stress can be a bit daunting, but it can also be just the thing you need to cause you to reexamine your lifestyle and your reactions to stress, and create healthier habits for the coming year, and for your future. Here are some resources to help.

Handling Family Conflict
Going to see your family (or your partner's) can be wonderful and stressful, all at once! While it might be really special and fun seeing everyone (or not--some of you know what I mean!), it can also be stressful for a number of reasons. There might be a relative that you love, but can only take in small doses. You may find yourself or your partner acting differently around your families of origin, and not know how to adjust. You may stress about gifts, alliances, roles, events or any number of things. Or you may get homesick because things are just so darn fun when you see your family! Whatever the stress you may face, I think I have a resource or two here that can help you diffuse stress from the situation. Check out the articles below.

Research shows that supportive relationships are good for our mental and physical health. However, dealing with difficult people and maintaining ongoing negative relationships is actually detrimental to our health. It’s a good idea to diminish or eliminate relationships that are filled with conflict. But what do you do if the person in question is a family member, co-worker, or someone you otherwise can’t easily eliminate from your life?

The following are tips for dealing with difficult people who are in your life, for better or for worse:
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Ongoing

Here's How:Avoid discussing divisive and personal issues, like religion and politics, or other issues that tend to cause conflict. If the other person tries to engage you in a discussion that will probably become an argument, change the subject or leave the room.

In dealing with difficult people, don’t try to change the other person; you will only get into a power struggle, cause defensiveness, invite criticism, or otherwise make things worse. It also makes you a more difficult person to deal with.

Change your response to the other person; this is all you have the power to change. For example, don’t feel you need to accept abusive behavior. You can use assertive communication to draw boundaries when the other person chooses to treat you in an unacceptable way.

Remember that most relationship difficulties are due to a dynamic between two people rather than one person being unilaterally "bad." Here’s a list of things to avoid in dealing with conflict.

Do you do any of them?Try to look for the positive aspects of others, especially when dealing with family, and focus on them. The other person will feel more appreciated, and you will likely enjoy your time together more.

However, don’t pretend the other person’s negative traits don’t exist. Don’t tell your secrets to a gossip, rely on a flake, or look for affection from someone who isn’t able to give it. This is part of accepting them for who they are.

Get your needs met from others who are able to meet your needs. Tell your secrets to a trustworthy friend who's a good listener, or process your feelings through journaling, for example. Rely on people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and supportive. This will help you and the other person by taking pressure off the relationship and removing a source of conflict.

Know when it’s time to distance yourself, and do so. If the other person can’t be around you without antagonizing you, minimizing contact may be key. If they’re continually abusive, it's best to cut ties and let them know why. Explain what needs to happen if there ever is to be a relationship, and let it go. (If the offending party is a boss or co-worker, you may consider switching jobs.)

Tips:Try not to place blame on yourself or the other person for the negative interactions. It may just be a case of your two personalities fitting poorly.

Remember that you don't have to be close with everyone; just being polite goes a long way toward getting along and appropriately dealing with difficult people.

Work to maintain a sense of humor -- difficulties will roll off your back much more easily. Shows like "The Office" and books like David Sedaris' Naked can help you see the humor in dealing with difficult people.

Be sure to cultivate other more positive relationships in your life to offset the negativity of dealing with difficult people.

Combating holiday overeating
The holiday season is a notoriously bad time for the waistline. In fact, just thinking about December makes some people swear they've put on a pound or two! While this tends to be a time of year that people want to look their best--most people see family and friends galore at holiday parties and gatherings and want to look nice dressed up, or be remembered as looking their best--it's also a time when staying svelte is most difficult. Think about it; in addition to the regular causes of stress-related weight gain, we have these other factors to contend with:
More food. Better Food.Yes, with all the holiday parties and nice dinners with family, people are often presented with more opportunities to gorge themselves with really delicious (and often more fattening) food. More food is served socially this time of year, and there are also generally more sweets being passed around. This makes for more times when we have to 'be good', and we're bound to slip up a little extra.

More Emotional Stress.
The holidays can bring social and emotional stress as we face family gatherings where there might be some unresolved conflict, or attend office functions with people we might not choose to hang out with socially. There's also the stress of buying gifts (often on a tight budget), fitting in all the activities of the season, and other stressors that occur during the holiday season. (Read more about those stressors in this article on holiday stress.) Because stressed people tend to eat more, and gain more weight, this can take a toll.

More Excuses
People who are celebrating often indulge more than they would in their regular lives. When celebrating the holidays, there are several occasions where people might relax their dietary standards a little, in the name of celebration. These celebrations, however, can be rather plentiful during the holiday season, and the indulgences ("Oh, look--the neighbors made us fudge!" "Hey, it's a party! Why not have another piece of pie?" etc.) can add up.

So what's a body-conscious person to do? Obviously, you can't cancel the holidays!

The first step is to be aware of these triggers, and notice them before they catch you off guard again this month. Have a plan for parties (you can eat a little--not a lot--and try to throw in some extra exercise, for example), and watch your holiday stress levels. And follow regular guidelines for combatting emotional eating, of course.

Tools and Guidelines for Combatting Emotional Eating:

Take The Stress and Weight Gain TestStress can contribute to weight gain in several ways. If you're having trouble with your weight and wonder what role stress may be playing, or if you just want information and resources for healthy change, this is the quiz for you! The following 10 questions are each designed to help you assess a different aspect of your lifestyle to determine if you may benefit from some simple changes that can help you keep your weight under control when you're stressed. At the end of the quiz, you'll find resources that pertain to your specific situation.

What Causes Emotional Eating?Even if we know what we're supposed to be eating, there are additional factors that influence how much and what type of food we consume. One of these factors is stress, which is linked to increased emotional eating. Emotional eating has many causes. Learn about the main reasons--besides hunger--that stressed people eat, and find resources to stop emotional eating.

How To Stop Emotional EatingAs anyone who's watching their weight will tell you, hunger is just one of many reasons that people eat. If you're an emotional eater, you may find yourself eating to deal with uncomfortable emotions, using food as a reward when you're happy, and craving sweets or unhealthy snacks when stressed. This article can help you to cut down emotional eating and develop healthier eating habits--even when stressed!

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., Guide to Stress Management

Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Safeguarding your sight:5 common eye myths dispelled

Although aging puts people at greater risk for serious eye disease and other eye problems, loss of sight need not go hand in hand with growing older. Practical, preventive measures can help protect against devastating impairment. An estimated 40% to 50% of all blindness can be avoided or treated, mainly through regular visits to a vision specialist.

Regular eye exams are the cornerstone of visual health as people age. Individuals who have a family history of eye disease or other risk factors should have more frequent exams. Don’t wait until your vision deteriorates to have an eye exam. One eye can often compensate for the other while an eye condition progresses. Frequently, only an exam can detect eye disease in its earliest stages.
What steps can you take?
You can take other steps on your own. First, if you smoke, stop. Smoking increases the risk of several eye disorders, including age-related macular degeneration. Next, take a look at your diet. Maintaining a nutritious diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables and minimal saturated fats and hydrogenated oils, promotes sound health and may boost your resistance to eye disease. Wearing sunglasses and hats is important for people of any age. Taking the time to learn about the aging eye and recognizing risks and symptoms can alert you to the warning signs of vision problems.

Although eyestrain, spending many hours in front of a television or computer screen, or working in poor light do not cause harmful medical conditions, they can tire the eyes and, ultimately, their owner (see below). The eyes are priceless and deserve to be treated with care and respect — and that is as true for the adult of 80 as it is for the teenager of 18.

5 common eye myths dispelled

Myth 1 : Doing eye exercises will delay the need for glasses.Fact: Eye exercises will not improve or preserve vision or reduce the need for glasses. Your vision depends on many factors, including the shape of your eye and the health of the eye tissues, none of which can be significantly altered with eye exercises.

Myth 2: Reading in dim light will worsen your vision.Fact: Although dim lighting will not adversely affect your eyesight, it will tire your eyes out more quickly. The best way to position a reading light is to have it shine directly onto the page, not over your shoulder. A desk lamp with an opaque shade pointing directly at the reading material is the best possible arrangement. A light that shines over your shoulder will cause a glare, making it more difficult to see the reading material.

Myth 3: Eating carrots is good for the eyes.Fact: There is some truth in this one. Carrots, which contain vitamin A, are one of several vegetables that are good for the eyes. But fresh fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, which contain more antioxidant vitamins such as C and E, are even better. Antioxidant vitamins may help protect the eyes against cataract and age-related macular degeneration. But eating any vegetables or supplements containing these vitamins or substances will not prevent or correct basic vision problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Myth 4: It’s best not to wear glasses all the time. Taking a break from glasses or contact lenses allows your eyes to rest.Fact: If you need glasses for distance or reading, use them. Attempting to read without reading glasses will simply strain your eyes and tire them out. Using your glasses won’t worsen your vision or lead to any eye disease.

Myth 5: Staring at a computer screen all day is bad for the eyes.Fact: Although using a computer will not harm your eyes, staring at a computer screen all day will contribute to eyestrain or tired eyes. Adjust lighting so that it does not create a glare or harsh reflection on the screen. Also, when you’re working on a computer or doing other close work such as reading or needlepoint, it’s a good idea to rest your eyes briefly every hour or so to lessen eye fatigue. Finally, people who stare at a computer screen for long periods tend not to blink as often as usual, which can cause the eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable. Make a conscious effort to blink regularly so that the eyes stay well lubricated and do not dry out.

Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Positive Psychology

Tough economic times are the perfect setting to begin using positive psychology to your advantage, says a new report from Harvard Medical School. Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, personal strength, and mindfulness is a guide to the concepts that have made "Positive Psychology" the most popular course at Harvard University, and teaches how to put positive emotion to work in your life.

Positive emotions have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well being in numerous scientific studies. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease, as people react to these feelings with raised blood pressure and stiffening blood vessels. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that people who are generally hopeful were less likely to develop hypertension, diabetes, or respiratory tract infection than those who were less hopeful.

Using positive psychology can help you in the following aspects:
Using the positivity in your life as a moral strength
Finding and using your inner character strengths
Achieving the “flow” experience
Putting mindfulness to use toward well being
Developing gratitude
Savoring pleasure
Finding the meaningful live

Positive emotions and the brain

Is there a biological dimension to happiness? Why does your heart seem to “jump for joy” or your eyes “light up” when you feel happy? Researchers now agree that there is a biomolecular aspect to happiness and that the brain is command central for the chemical and physiological changes that occur in the body with positive emotions. While many researchers have studied positive emotions by observing human and animal behavior, others are trying to discover what is happening inside the brain at the structural and molecular levels.

Since the middle of the 20th century, neuroscientists have investigated the mechanisms of positive emotion in the brain and body. Before that time, positive emotions were regarded as too subjective for rigorous scientific study. But a better understanding of the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters and increased ability to use technology to create images of the living brain opened new opportunities for study.

In the 1950s, psychologists identified a “pleasure center or reward area” in an area of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. They found that laboratory animals would press a lever to deliver an electrical stimulus to their own brain’spleasure center repeatedly until they were exhausted—undeterred by hunger, thirst, or pain. When researchers stimulate the nucleus accumbens of people, they smile, laugh, and report feeling pleasure, happiness, or euphoria. Later, by mapping connected areas, the researchers identified a reward circuit in the brain that involves the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) and several underlying areas, including the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala ( the center for emotion, so said).

The chemical basis of these pleasurable sensations also came under investigation. While the interactions are extremely complex and variable, some patterns have been described. Researchers found that the neurotransmitter dopamine activates the reward system and is associated with positive emotions, exuberance, and desire. On the downside, the dopamine reward system may also be associated with addictions, in which people develop uncontrollable urges to repeatedly engage in pleasurable but harmful behaviors, ranging from taking drugs to gambling excessively. Children and adult with more reward neurotransmitter, as endorphin, don't involve in social interactions and to a layman this condition is called Autism.

Another group of chemicals, the internally produced opiate-like chemicals called endorphins, are also associated with pleasurable feelings, such as those created by eating chocolate or a runner’s high. Endorphins released in the brain also increase the release of dopamine.

When people feel happy, they often feel physical sensations—a rush of passion, a flutter of joy—that correspond to brain signals to nerves of the heart, circulatory system, skin, and muscles. These physical sensations are accompanied by chemical changes in the brain and are interpreted as pleasurable.

Scientists have used modern brain imaging methods to help determine exactly which areas of the brain correspond to sensations of pleasure. This approach has revealed distinct patterns in both the cortex and underlying structures when people feel negative and positive emotions. In the 1990s, researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) scans to produce three-dimensional images of people’s working brains. They observed that positive and negative emotions activated different parts of the brain, and that areas activated by happiness were deactivated by sadness and vice versa.

Another technique, electroencephalography, revealed striking, emotionally-based asymmetries in the activity of the prefrontal cortex. In these studies, the brains of generally happy people showed greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex, and this area became more active when people were exposed to amusing video clips. The right side, on the other hand, became more active when people experienced negative emotions.

The development of a new brain imaging technology, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), spurred a large increase in the number of brain studies, contributing to some confusion about which areas of the brain were associated with happiness and sadness. Results of these many studies suggest that the brain may be even more complex than once imagined by earlier researchers. Nonetheless, many studies support the notion that the left side of the brain is generally associated with positive emotions and the right side with negative emotions. They have also identified the anterior cingulate cortex as active in emotional regulation, and that part of the brain is often called the “affective division” of the cingulate cortex.

Why do humans have these pleasure centers in the brain? Experts theorize that because human survival depends on achieving basic goals such as finding food and procreating, a rush of pleasurable sensations associated with eating or having sex would positively reinforce these behaviors, leading us to repeat them and hence increase the chances that we will survive and reproduce.

Source: Harvard Medical School
Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cognitive Therapy for Depression

Are your thoughts dragging you down?

Almost everyone has dark thoughts when his or her mood is bad. With depression, though, the thoughts can be extremely negative. They can also take over and distort your view of reality.
Cognitive therapy can be an effective way to defuse those thoughts. When used for depression, cognitive therapy provides a mental tool kit that can be used to challenge negative thoughts. Over the long term, cognitive therapy for depression can change the way a depressed person sees the world.

Studies have shown that cognitive therapy works at least as well as antidepressants in helping people with mild to moderate depression. Treatment with medication and/or psychotherapy can shorten depression's course and can help reduce symptoms such as fatigue and poor self-esteem that accompany depression. Read on to see how cognitive therapy or talk therapy might help you start thinking and feeling better if you are depressed.

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A Thinking Problem

Cognitive therapy was developed in the 1960s as an alternative way to treat depression, says Judith S. Beck, PhD. Beck is director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research located just outside Philadelphia. She tells WebMD that the principle underlying cognitive therapy is "thoughts influence moods."

According to cognitive therapists, depression is maintained by constant negative thoughts. These thoughts are known as automatic thoughts. That means they occur without a conscious effort. For example, a depressed person might have automatic thoughts like these:

· "I always fail at everything."
· "I'm the world's worst mother."
· "I am doomed to be unhappy."

Beck says automatic thoughts "may have a grain of truth. But," she adds, "the depressed person distorts or exaggerates the reality of the situation." This negative distortion helps fuel the depression.

With cognitive therapy, a person learns to recognize and correct negative automatic thoughts. Over time, the depressed person will be able to discover and correct deeply held but false beliefs that contribute to the depression.

"It's not the power of positive thinking," Beck says. "It's the power of realistic thinking. People find that when they think more realistically, they usually feel better."

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: How It Works

Cognitive therapy posits that most problems have several parts. Those parts include:

· the problem as the person sees it
· the person's thoughts about the problem
· the person's emotions surrounding the problem
· the person's physical feelings at the time
· the person's actions before, during, and after the problem occurs

The way cognitive therapy works is a patient learns to "disassemble" problems into these various parts. Once a person does that, problems that seemed overwhelming become manageable.

During regular cognitive therapy sessions, a trained therapist teaches the tools of cognitive therapy. Then between sessions, the patient often does homework. That homework helps the person learn how to apply the tools to solve specific life problems.

"They make small changes in their thinking and behavior every day," Beck says. "Then over time, these small changes lead to lasting improvement in mood and outlook."

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Evidence It's Effective

How well does cognitive therapy for depression work? And how well does it stack up when compared to other treatments for depression?

Robert DeRubeis, PhD, is professor of psychology and associate dean for the social sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. He tells WebMD, "The evidence is consistent and convincing that cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for depression. And," he adds, "[that means] not just the milder forms of depression."

Large, well-designed studies that include hundreds of subjects have shown the following:

1. Cognitive therapy works as well as antidepressant medicines alone to improve mild to moderate depression.

"When conducted well, cognitive therapy works as quickly and as thoroughly as antidepressant medications," says DeRubeis, who has led several large studies of cognitive therapy for depression. "Used consistently, cognitive therapy may work better than antidepressants in the long run," he adds.

2. Cognitive therapy works as well as antidepressant medicines at preventing depression relapses.

DeRubeis tells WebMD that when a person continues using the skills he learned with cognitive therapy, those skills help prevent relapses, a common problem with depression. "Cognitive therapy appears to prevent the return of symptoms as well as taking medication," he says. "And it does it without medication."

3. Cognitive therapy reduces residual symptoms of depression.

After a "successful" treatment for depression, many people continue to have mild depressive symptoms. Adding cognitive therapy to the treatment plan helps reduce these residual symptoms.

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: With or Without Antidepressants?

Cognitive therapy has become the standard "talk therapy" used to treat depression. In addition to its high rate of success, it is also cost-effective. The benefits from cognitive therapy often come in weeks rather than months or years, as may be the case with other treatments.
But can cognitive therapy replace antidepressant medications? For some people, says DeRubeis, the answer is yes.

"The data show that, when conducted well, cognitive therapy is a reasonable alternative to medications even for more severe forms of depression," DeRubeis says. This assumes a patient is able to participate in a cognitive therapy program.

But it doesn't have to be an "either-or" decision. In some studies, cognitive therapy for depression worked even better when combined with antidepressants.

Because everyone's situation is unique, the decision about how to use cognitive therapy should always be made by the patient and the mental health provider together.

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Think Well, Feel Better

Depression demonstrates how closely linked the mind and body are. People who are depressed, frequently feel bad physically, not just sad or "down." Besides helping to improve a person's mood, cognitive therapy can also improve the physical symptoms of depression. It does this by:

· improving a person's overall energy level
· increasing the quality and duration of sleep
· improving appetite and restoring the pleasure of eating
· heightening a person's sex drive

Cognitive therapy can also relieve chronic pain. Many people with chronic pain also have depression. According to Beverly E. Thorn, PhD, cognitive therapy treats both at once." Thorn is professor of psychology at the University of Alabama and author of Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain. She says that after a course of cognitive therapy for chronic pain, "patients' symptoms related to depression are reduced as well."

The effects of cognitive therapy are often longer lasting than pain medicines. "Pain medications have all kinds of side effects and can actually add to depression," Thorn says. With cognitive therapy, patients learn coping skills and how to apply them. When they do, there is less need for pain medications.

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: How to Start

If you feel you might be depressed, the first thing to do is call your primary care physician (or email at He or she can probably refer you to a professional therapist or psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about cognitive therapy.

If not, you can find a cognitive therapist in your area by contacting one of the following professional organizations:

Academy of Cognitive Therapy

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

The Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research

Klub Psychology: For Psychosocial Services

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: 5 Questions to Ask Your Provider

Here are questions to ask your provider if you are considering cognitive therapy for depression:

1. Should I take antidepressants if I'm trying cognitive therapy?
2. How do I find a therapist who practices cognitive therapy?
3. Will my health insurance cover cognitive therapy?
4. When can I expect to start feeling better?
5. How will I know cognitive therapy is working for me?
By Matthew Hoffman, MD
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dealing with difficult people

Use the following strategies to end the emotional tug-of-war, once and for all.I like to imagine that I’m a kind, patient person. That I embody calm when confronted with prickly personalities. That their aggravations roll off me like water off a duck’s back. But this delusion is quickly dispelled every time I have a run-in with a difficult person.

Take last week: My friend (let’s call her Liz) and I decided to meet at noon for lunch. She’s often late, so I took my time walking over to the café. But mid-stroll, I became paranoid that Liz would be punctual for once, so I rushed to be there on the dot. She was nowhere to be seen. I breathed deeply, rationalizing that now I had some coveted alone time. That lasted all of four minutes. At 12:08, I called Liz on her cell, convinced I’d given her the wrong address. She never picked up. Ten minutes later, she showed up with a big smile and zero apology.

“Oh, don’t be mad at me. You know I’m always late,” she said. “It’s just part of my personality. Besides, haven’t you enjoyed all the great people watching?" My reaction was less like a duck, more like a rabid dog. The worst part was that my emotional equilibrium had been knocked off-kilter. It took me a good 15 minutes to calm down enough to actually enjoy spending time with my friend.

Trying personalities like Liz’s are everywhere — in your home (possibly sharing your bed), at the office, in your book club. They may even be complete strangers. What makes them difficult may be an undisputed character flaw — they’re sycophantic or self-centered or perpetually gloomy — or simply a quirk that rubs you the wrong way. But inevitably, a brush with them leaves you fuming or at least out of sorts.

Instead of devising elaborate avoidance schemes or barbed comebacks, you can change your dynamic with these sanity stealers. Use the following strategies to end the emotional tug-of-war, once and for all.

Turn the Spotlight on You
“You must change how you react to people before you can change how you interact with them,” says Rick Kirschner, N.D., coauthor of Dealing with People You Can’t Stand. That requires some self-examination.

People who irritate us usually have something to show us about ourselves. “Ask yourself: How is this person holding up the mirror to me?” suggests Sandra Crowe, author of Since Strangling Isn’t an Option. For example, being around my chronically late friend reminds me how quick-tempered and impatient I can be — not my favorite traits. Reminding myself of this may keep me from bouncing off the walls when I find myself waiting for her yet again.

If it’s a good friend or intimate, think, too, about your own behavior in the relationship. Have you contributed to the strain by saying yes instead of no too many times? Did you neglect to signal early on that something was bothering you? “If you don’t look at your own actions, you end up making the other person 100 percent of the problem,” explains Susan Fee, author of Dealing with Difficult People: 83 Ways to Stay Calm, Composed, and in Control. That also puts the solution squarely in her hands — and out of yours.

Delving into the root cause of your frustration can turn up problem-solving insights. Fee provides an example from her own life: “When I first got married, my mother-in-law drove me crazy. She was always hovering and intrusive. But after asking myself again and again why she bothered me so much, I realized what was going on: Her behavior was foreign to me because I never knew what it was like to be mothered — when I was 12, my mom had a debilitating stroke. It became clear that this was just my mother-in-law’s way of showing her love for me. Once I understood that, our relationship improved.”

Switch Perspectives
“Most of the time, difficult people just want something different than we do,” says Ronna Lichtenberg, author of Work Would Be Great If It Weren’t for the People. “Or they handle things differently.”

It’s no surprise, then, that you may be your difficult person’s difficult person. It could be a matter of opposite outlooks: Super-friendly people, for instance, may be at odds with all-business-all-the-time types — and vice versa. The same goes for laid-back folks and workaholics. Understanding those basic differences gives you a glimpse of someone else’s viewpoint, which may help temper your irritation.

If you’re having trouble feeling empathetic toward someone you care about, try analyzing her behavior. This strategy worked for Alicyn Mindel, a mom of two from Providence who struggled for years with her friend “Dina,” who was a terrible listener. “Whenever I started talking about my personal problems, she would turn the conversation around to herself. Then, one day, a different pal was talking about attention-starved people, and I realized Dina fit the description perfectly. From that moment on, every time Dina and I got together, I gave her a big, long hug. The transformation was amazing: She became warmer, more open, and over time, she started asking me about my life — without segueing into her own issues.”

Choose Your Approach
Armed with your insights, you now need to decide whether to confront the perpetrator. As a general rule, you should talk things over only with someone you’re close to, whether that’s your husband or a longtime colleague. It’s probably not worth stirring the pot if you only see him once a month, like an in-law or acquaintance on the PTA board. (For people you don’t know at all — say, the salesclerk who’s more interested in her cell phone chat than in helping you — you’ll need a different strategy.)

You can also skip the conversation if you know it will fall on deaf ears, or if you suspect it will be taken the wrong way. That was the case with Mindel: “I never addressed the issue with Dina because she tends to be defensive. I knew I’d have a better chance of fixing our friendship by changing my actions.” A good litmus test for determining whether or not to start a conversation is first to imagine the worst-case scenario. Then ask yourself, Will our relationship survive? If you’re confident it will, set up a time to talk. If it won’t, try a tactic that’s less confrontational.

Start a Dialogue
Before you say anything, you have to do a little homework. How exactly do you want the behavior to change? In the long term, what are you expecting from this relationship? Until you can answer those questions, you’re not ready to talk to anyone.

If you fear a bad reaction, plan ahead: “Figure out in advance how you’re going to respond,” advises Fee. “Will you walk away? Breathe deeply until he calms down?” This exercise can also help you focus on what might trigger a heated response.

Make sure no one will interrupt the conversation and pick a time when you’re not hungry or tired, so you can give it your full attention.

And Follow These Talking Tips

· Start the conversation with sincere flattery — it’s especially effective if you’re afraid you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings. With loved ones, “explain that the reason you’re having this talk is that you care so much and want to improve the relationship,” suggests Fee.

· Call out the behavior, not the person. “You need to learn how to separate the individual from the act,” Lichtenberg explains. “Confronting someone is not so different from disciplining a kid. You don’t say to your child, ‘You’re bad!’ You say, ‘It’s bad that you drew on the wall"

· Cite specific examples of what’s bothering you. Avoid vague comments like, “You’re such a snob.” Instead say, “Last week, you made three disparaging comments about the clothes I was wearing.”

· Spell out what you want to change. The next time your Freud-wannabe friend tries to be your personal shrink, you can say, “I appreciate your advice, and I know you want to be helpful. But most of the time, I really just want an ear. I’m telling you this because I want to be able to share things with you.”

· Request feedback as soon as possible. If you don’t, it can turn into a lecture. Right away ask, “What do you think about what I’ve said?” Or, “Have you been feeling the same way?”

· Pay attention to more than your words. “Only 7 percent of communication is what you’re actually saying — the rest is your tone of voice, expression, and body language,” says Kimberly Alyn, author of How to Deal with Annoying People.

Take a Less Direct Approach
Sitting down for a heart-to-heart won’t work with everyone. At times it’s better to resolve an issue in a more roundabout way, even with loved ones. For example, humor can be especially effective. If your sister has a habit of psychoanalyzing you every time you chat, Alyn suggests saying, “Wow, I feel like I should be lying on a couch for this. How much do I owe you?” Here, more ways to fix those frustrating interactions:

· Put the difficult person to good use. When Bette Walter, an entrepreneur in Blue Bell, PA, is considering a new business move, she turns to a friend who always shoots down her plans: “I ask her what she thinks before she can tell me what a dumb idea it is. She’s very logical, so it’s helpful.” For know-it-alls, steer the conversation toward a topic you’re interested in, so you can at least learn something until you can make your getaway.

· Remember this rule: If you can predict it, you can plan for it. “If you see an incessantly forlorn coworker walking your way, get up and leave your desk,” says Kirschner. “Or pick up the phone and pretend you’re speaking to someone. If you stop listening to her, she’ll eventually stop coming over.”

· Get the last word. If someone is giving you unsolicited advice, saying “Thanks” will usually put an end to her rant. When you’re around a braggart, just smile, advises Crowe. Then reply, “Wow, that’s really great. I’m so happy for you.”

Plan an exit strategy. When you can’t get a chatty person off the phone, pretend.
My ultimate strategy is to remind myself that every strength is a weakness and every weakness, a strength. Yes, my friend Liz is always late, but her time-isn’t-an-issue attitude also makes her relaxed and carefree — and that’s what I love about her. The next time we meet, I plan to bring a good book. Or maybe I’ll just tell her to meet at 11:40 instead of noon, so that we both show up right on time.

By: Sarah Felix
Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Childhood adversity may affect processing in the brain’s reward pathways

New research shows that childhood adversity is associated with diminished neural activity in certain regions of the brain.

Harvard researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor brain activity as participants played a game involving cues that predicted monetary re-wards and penalties.

“We found that, in comparison to community controls, young adults who had experienced childhood adversity showed weaker responses to reward-predicting cues in left hemisphere regions of the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is important for orchestrating goal-directed actions,” says Diego Pizzagalli, the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Psychology.

The research is published in the current issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry, and was conducted by Pizzagalli and Karlen Lyons-Ruth, associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. The lead author is Daniel Dillon, a postdoctoral researcher working with Pizzagalli, and co-authors were Avram Holmes and Nancy Brooks of the Department of Psychology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Jeffrey Birk, a graduate student at Tufts University.

“In the group that had childhood adversity, two structures in the left basal ganglia were not responsive to reward cues, which differed from what we saw in the control group,” says Dillon. “There weren’t any differences between the controls and maltreated participants in response to cues that predicted either penalties or no incentive outcomes. In other words, the group that had experienced childhood adversity only showed a weaker response to the reward cues.”

Participants also rated their experiences of positive and negative arousal in response to the cues while in the MRI scanner. Relative to controls, the participants who had experienced child-hood adversity rated the reward cues as less positive, consistent with the weaker brain response to these cues.

Most of the study participants did not currently meet criteria for any psychological disorder, but childhood adversity, such as emotional, physical, or sexual maltreatment, is known to increase the risk for psychopathology, particularly depression. Many previous studies have suggested that the link between childhood adversity and depression might be related to dysfunction in brain regions that are involved in regulating stress, which would contribute to the excessive sadness and negativity that characterize depression.
By contrast, according to the researchers, this study highlights another potential link: by weakening the brain’s response to rewards, childhood adversity may contribute to other important symptoms of depression, such as apathy, low motivation, and a reduced ability to experience pleasure.

By identifying specific regions of the brain impacted in certain types of psychological disorders, the researchers hope to contribute to the development of more effective treatments for these disorders.

“Eventually, we hope that this type of research will help fine-tune these interventions in much more personalized and hopefully effective ways,” says Pizzagalli.

The 13 maltreated individuals who participated in the study were young adults who had been followed since childhood as part of a study from the Cambridge Health Alliance, led by Lyons-Ruth. The participants had experienced childhood abuse that met state guidelines for maltreatment, but most were not currently experiencing any symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress, or other disorders.

Pizzagalli underlined the fact that while childhood adversity increases the risk for depression, it is not a one-to-one relationship: Other mitigating factors, such as genetics and social support, can counteract the risk.

“This is a serious problem, and we are just starting to grasp what the potential neurobiological consequences will be,” says Pizzagalli. “It’s not a direct pathway: Somebody who was exposed to early adversity will not necessarily develop depression. But an important first step to improving treatment is to try to understand what the changes in the brain might be, so that we can know how and when to intervene.”

The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Society Scholars program, and the Talley Fund.

By: Amy Lavoie
Faculty of Arts and Sciences


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Research: Lose the weight to save your brain.

There is somewhat shocking report on obesity: Researchers have found that people who are overweight and obese are actually losing brain tissue and have brains that are aged prematurely!

"The brains of obese people looked 16 years older than their healthy counterparts while [those of] overweight people looked 8 years older," says UCLA neuroscientist Paul Thompson, senior author of a study published online in Human Brain Mapping. The study also found that clinically obese people had 8% less brain tissue than those considered to be in the 'normal' weight range, and overweight people had 4% less brain tissue than those who were not overweight. Because roughly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese (36% and 30% respectively), this may be a widespread problem.

Consuming a healthy diet is generally agreed to be the most important factor in maintaining a healthy weight, with exercise also playing an important role. Eating a healthy balance of fresh fruits and vegetables, with lean meats and whole grains, all in moderate portions, is key. Most of us know this. However, many of us lose sight of this when stressed and busy. Why is that?

Perhaps it's because stress can make us crave sweets and less-healthy fare. And People consumes more chocolate/ sweets in a stressful day!Or perhaps it's because, when we get too stressed and busy, we may settle for convenience food rather than cooking healthier meals. Or perhaps it's because we eat to feel better, or to fill a void we feel inside. If any of these are sounding familiar to you, you're not alone; stress can affect weight in several ways.

So it is recommended to eat healthier when stressed, and stay fit in other ways as well. It is improtant to know that exercise is a great stress reliever.


Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Make a Midlife Crisis Work for You

Rather than letting fear and anxiety restrict your life choices and leave you in a rut, experts say you can look at a midlife crisis as an opportunity for personal growth.
Linda Sapadin, author of Master Your Fears: How to Triumph over Your Worries and Get on with Your Life, recommends these steps for using a midlife crisis to your advantage:

1) Do one gutsy thing. Do something despite feeling uncomfortable or fearful about it. "That's one way to move outside of your comfort zone, rather than be depressed, anxious, or dissatisfied, which is the essence of a midlife crisis," says Sapadin.

2) Use children as role models. Most people are ashamed to admit they're jealous of their kids. But you could look to them as role models during this time. If they're not afraid to take a risk or do something, you may be able to learn from them and become more socially and physically active.

3) Delight in difficulty. Reframe how you think about difficulty. Rather than thinking of something difficult as exhausting or that you can't do it, think of it as an opportunity to pick up skills you never thought you'd have, such as taking up a new sport or hobby. You can do it as an individual, couple, or as a family.

"When people at midlife stop worrying so much about pleasing others and measuring themselves by other peoples' standards, then they begin to think more about what they want, and that is a positive aspect of a midlife crisis," says Sapadin.

By Jennifer Warner
Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Removal of stain

10 Rules for Stain Removal

Stain removal is one of the most crucial parts of handling your family's laundry. These 10 rules are basic for any type of stain removal.

Take care of stains as soon as possible. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than those over 24 hours old.

First things first
Blot up any excess stain liquid with a clean white cloth or paper towel. Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a dark-colored cloth. You may make matters worse. Remove excess solids by gently scraping with a dull knife or metal spatula. With some solids, such as mud, removal may be easier after the stain has dried. Brush off the excess before the garment is submerged for washing.

Check before washing
If you do the laundry for the whole family, they may not have told you about a stain. Teach your family to tell you about stains or mark them with a clothespin. Always check before washing, many stains need pretreatment.

No soap
Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap which sets many stains.
Check before washing
If you do the laundry for the whole family, they may not have told you about a stain. Teach your family to tell you about stains or mark them with a clothespin. Always check before washing, many stains need pretreatment.

Check again
Stains slip by us all. But it helps to inspect wet laundry before drying. If a stain is still evident, do not dryer dry. The heat of the dryer makes the stain more permanent. Same principle applies to ironing - no heat should be added to stained areas.

This is only a test
Before starting on the stain, test the stain removal agents on a seam or hidden area of the garment to be sure they do not affect the color or finish of the fabric.

A gentle touch
Avoid excessive rubbing unless the fabric is tough and durable. Rubbing can spread the stain and damage the fabric. However, gentle to vigorous rubbing under running water helps remove dried food, blood or oil stains from shirts or jean-weight fabrics made of cotton or cotton blends.

Separate and conquer
Wash heavily stained items separately. Soil and stains can be redeposited on cleaner clothing during laundering if too little detergent is used, water temperature is too low, washing time is too long or the wash is overloaded. Never wash family clothes with pesticide-soiled clothes.

Go for the cold
Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg or blood.

Except sometimes
Use the water temperature recommended on stain removal products and detergents. Hot water should be between 120 and 140 degrees F, warm water between 85 and 105 degrees F and cold water between 65 and 75 degrees F. Water below 60 degrees is too cold for detergents to be helpful.

By Mary Marlowe Leverette,

Remember a stain on you cloth or character leaks your self esteem.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Best & Worst Foods for Your Sex Drive

Simple changes in your diet will go a long way.

It's no secret that the unhealthy American diet is contributing to an epidemic of obesity. But there's another hidden epidemic that our fatty diets are at the root of: a national sex crisis.

In 1996, the average American had sex 138 times a year. Compare that to 2007, when people reported having sex just 85 times a year. That's a staggering 38 percent decrease in a little more than a decade. Furthermore, psychologists estimate that as many as 1 in 5 couples are in a sexless marriage, which means sex less than 10 times a year. In other words, our sex drive is in a deep dive.

One of the big culprits, for both men and women, is obesity. As a person's weight soars, their libido plummets due to biochemical changes that result in diminished blood flow—there's simply no sex without strong blood flow. And even when Americans do manage to have sex, the extra weight they're bringing to the bedroom also hinders their ability to have children—with men, it's damaged sperm; with women, it's ovulation problems.

The good news: With some simple changes to your diet, courtesy of Eat This, Not That!, you can revitalize your sex life and reinvigorate your relationship. How? First, as you consume filling foods with fewer calories, you'll begin to shed the weight that's dragging down your desire. Then, because these foods also contain ingredients and nutrients that strategically boost sexual attraction and performance, you'll squeeze even more satisfaction out of each and every sexual encounter.

* Reinvigorate: Impart vigour, strength, or vitality to.

For the hormone rush

Eat This: Dark chocolate

Per 1 oz: A unit of weight equal to one sixteenth of a pound or 16 drams or 28.349 grams

1 pound= 453.584 gram

  • 162 calories
  • 11 g fat (6 g saturated)
  • 10 g sugars

Chocolate is full of anandamide and phenylethylamine, two compounds that cause the body to release the same feel-good endorphins triggered by sex and physical exertion. Cocoa also contains methylxanthines, which make skin sensitive to every erotic touch. A team of U.S. and Canadian researchers found that chocolate stimulates the same brain centers that respond to cocaine, but that eating too much can eliminate the effect. Aim for dark chocolate, which packs more cocoa than lighter milk chocolates, and keep portions small.

Not That: White Chocolate

White chocolate isn’t technically chocolate, since it doesn’t contain any actual cocoa—which means no heightened skin sensitivity, or rush of feel-good hormone serotonin.

For energy

Eat This: 6-oz. sirloin steak

  • 414 calories
  • 24 g fat (10 g saturated)
  • 46 g protein

Protein has been shown to naturally boost levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, two chemicals in the brain that heighten sensitivity during sex. Your steak is also packed with zinc—a mineral that boosts libido by reducing production of a hormone called prolactin, which may interfere with arousal.

Not That: An energy drink

While the caffeine and sky-high sugar content will initially leave you bursting with energy, you’re setting yourself up for a major crash not far down the line. Additionally, Canadian scientists found that maintaining a diet high in sugar can temporarily lower your testosterone levels, which in turn can sap your sex drive—whether you’re a man or a woman. See, the more testosterone you have, the higher your arousal levels. That means greater lubrication for women, stronger erections for men. Too much sugar sends your T/ testosterone into hibernation—and your libido will go with it.

For excitement

Eat This: Chilies

Per 1 pepper

  • 18 calories
  • 0 g fat
  • 1 g fiber

Pop a caliente chili pepper in your mouth to keep things hot: They contain capsaicin, a chemical compound that causes your heart to race and your skin to flush—a sure sign that blood flow is on the fast track. They dilate blood vessels and help all of that blood get where it's needed.

Not That: Non-fat popcorn

The carbohydrates in popcorn will release serotonin, which, while it makes you feel good, also makes you feel sleepy. You want to experience a rush of endorphins, not drowsiness.

For power

Eat This: Vanilla ice cream

Per half cup:

  • 137 calories
  • 7 g fat (4 g saturated)
  • 14 g sugars
  • 2 g protein

Ice cream has high levels of calcium and phosphorus, two minerals that build your muscles’ energy reserves and may help boost your libido. All that calcium—200 milligrams in the typical bowl—can also make you more sexually charged, since the muscles that control sexual response need calcium in order to contract properly.

Not That: Tomatoes

They’re great for you in other ways, but tomatoes’ lycopene and phytofluene can decrease testosterone levels. The effect isn’t dramatic, but you may be better off skipping the marinara sauce if you want to get saucy.

For performance

Eat This: Blueberries

Per 1/2 cup of berries:

  • 40 calories
  • 10 g carbohydrates
  • 7 g sugars

Forget Viagra. Mother Nature's original blue potency capsules may do even more for you. Blueberries are high in soluble fiber, which helps remove excess cholesterol from the blood before it gets absorbed and deposited on artery walls. Blueberries also relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. What that means, of course, is that more blood enters the penis to produce stronger erections. For maximum potency and performance, eat a serving of blueberries at least three or four times a week.

Not That: Soda

Soda pop will weaken your sex drive. Too much sugar will lead to spikes and crashes in your blood glucose, ultimately weakening your testosterone levels (and your sex drive).

For a sexy mindset

Eat This: Oysters

Per 6 medium oysters:

  • 50 calories
  • 1 g fat (0 g saturated)
  • 150 mg sodium
  • 4 g protein

These slippery shellfish have been shucked in the name of love for centuries, but it wasn’t until 2005 that a team of researchers identified two amino acids in shellfish that had been linked in another study to increased sexual hormone release in rats. If that’s not a tenuous enough link to love, consider that oysters are also high in zinc, which regulates some sexual hormones and boost semen production. Critics question just how potent the shellfish really are, but the history of shellfish as a heralded aphrodisiac could contribute to a small psychosomatic boost.

* Shuck: Remove from the shell; withdrew.

Not That:

Phallic foods

Suggestive staples—bananas, avocados, strawberries—can prompt provocative thoughts, but so far no scientific research has shown them to offer any physical benefits.

For relaxation

Drink This: A glass of wine

Per 5 fl. ounces:

  • 125 calories
  • 0 g fat
  • 1 g sugar

It’s true: A glass of wine really does take the edge off. University of Toronto researchers discovered that one alcoholic drink caused people’s blood vessels to relax. Booze acts as a depressant in the brain’s cerebral cortex, lowering inhibitions that could otherwise restrain arousal. Cerebral cortex main function is to inhibit the emotional functions. So when the function of the cerebral cortex is inhibited there is much more emotional release or sexual arousal.

Not That: A bottle of wine

The University of Toronto researchers who found out about wine’s relaxation effects also found that drinking two glasses of alcohol began to reverse the effects. And research from the University of Washington found that intoxicated men with blood alcohol levels of 0.08 to 0.1 percent (about two or three drinks) had lower “peak erection levels.”

By : Dave Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, Men's Health

Our motto: One step ahead, everyday.