Tag Archives: Medical

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Is your job affecting your sleep?

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Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep could negatively impact your immune system. That’s in addition to other sleep-deprivation issues, such as a lack of focus and productivity. And let’s not forget that kids aren’t the only ones who get cranky when they’re sleepy.

But even if you sleep the recommended number of hours each night, you may not be getting “good” sleep, especially if you’re dreaming about work. A study by Health Sleep reveals that 79% of people have work-related dreams.

“Considering the significant amount of time we spend ‘on the clock,’” it makes sense for familiar places and everyday situations to creep into our dreams,” says Jennifer Martinez of Healthy Sleep. These types of dreams were more prevalent in intermediate, first-level, and mid- to senior-level management than in entry level employees who were 15% to 17% less likely to dream about work.

Types of work-related dreams

So, what type of work-related dreams are most frequent?

Making a huge mistake (34.9%) and being late to work (32.3%) topped the list. However, employees also dreamed about being unprepared, missing a deadline, facing a pile of work, and being humiliated.

Less frequent work-related dream scenarios include getting yelled at by the boss, being laid off or fired, and yelling at co-workers. Some people even dream about yelling at the boss or the company going out of business.

So, why are negative dreams so prevalent? “Nightmares and dreams can sometimes be strongly linked to our real-life experiences,” Martinez explains. “We can assume the prevalence of negative dreams may indicate how disappointing or embarrassing scenarios related to work can affect us, even while we are sleeping.”

However, not all work-related dreams are bad. A small percent of dreamers probably didn’t want to wake up. For example, 10.5% dreamed of receiving a promotion/raise, and 9.6% dreamed of getting hired for their dream job.

Also, 29.5% dreamed of having a normal day at work — although that could be negative or positive depending on the dreamer. And among the 15.75% that dreamed of being back at their first job, that could also be interpreted either way.

The salary link

“Our study found an interesting correlation between annual income and type of dream,” Martinez says.

While 41% of those earning $75,000 or more and 40.9% of those earning between $25,000 and $49,000 had negative dreams, those earning between $50,000 and $74,000 actually had fewer negative dreams (38.2%). In addition, those earning less than $25,000 had the fewest negative dreams (33.8%).

Another interesting tidbit: Those on commission were less likely to have bad dreams than those earning a salary.

In addition, remote workers had the highest percentage of positive dreams, perhaps because they have more control of their work environment and ability to maintain work-life balance.

Stress and nightmares

The study also reveals that 57% of employees reported having work-related nightmares. And as you might imagine, there’s a correlation between stress level at work and work-related nightmares. Only 46.5% of employees who were somewhat or not at all stressed had work-related nightmares, compared to 61.7% of those who were moderately stressed. However, 79.1% of employees who were extremely or very stressed reported having work-related nightmares.

The vast majority of those who had work-related nightmares (70% to 75%) listed the following sources of stress: insufficient job skills, poor relationship with co-worker(s), lack of autonomy, poor relationship with boss, inadequate work environment, and micromanagement.

Relatively high on the list (60% to 68%) were nightmares by people who were stressed about lack of job security, overwhelming workload, work-life balance, lack of proper resources, long work hours, and unfulfilling work. However, over half of respondents having nightmares were stressed over low pay or insufficient business, few promotional opportunities, and boring work.

Tips for better sleep

If you’re suffering from these negative work-related dream experiences, Martinez recommends the following tips:

  • Unplug devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) early in the evening.
  • Go to bed at an earlier time than usual.
  • Create a distinct workspace that is separate from your sleeping space (don’t work in bed).
  • Regularly relax away your work stresses and consider real-life options on how to resolve some of those issues.

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10 health hacks for 2020

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A new year is upon us and with it typically comes the desire to get healthy. Here are some health hacks to give your healthy resolutions a jump start!

1. Less is more.

With KonMari and the minimalism movement taking off, it is clear that clutter and owning too much stuff can be chaotic and overwhelming.

Selling, donating and consigning are all easier than ever and can also be fun. Collaborate with a friend to help each other downsize. Celebrate with a fun outing or dinner out afterward.

2. Water. Water. Water.

A recent survey by Quench showed that 80% of working Americans don’t drink enough water. In addition to not feeling thirsty, many people find plain water boring or bland. One way to make it more appealing is to dress it up a bit: flavor it with fresh fruit (lemons, strawberries, cucumbers) and serve it in an attractive container.

3. Get up and move!

If sitting is the new smoking, then it’s essential to find creative ways to move. Instead of setting aside time to stretch or move, double up! Stretch while waiting for your coffee to brew in the morning, take a 10-minute walk during your lunch break, do yoga while watching television or talking on the phone, dance while doing housework, etc.

4. Train your brain.

According to the American Heart Association, failing brain health is a public health epidemic with 3 out of 5 Americans developing a brain disease in their lifetime. The good news is that the brain is able to change and develop new pathways.

Some ways to strengthen your brain include: 1) learn something new such as a new language or new vocabulary words; 2) exercise your memory by not relying so much on your phone for directions or Google for information; and 3) try one of the many brain training apps available to challenge your thinking.

5. Unplug.

With time in front of a screen taking up a large portion of waking hours, it’s time for a break. As with anything else, unplugging requires planning.

Set aside a day a week, a half-day or blocks of time here and there in which you are completely away from all screens. Your eyes and your brain will thank you.

6. Sound.

Healing with sound has been around for thousands of years. In addition to listening to music, in most major metro areas, you can also attend sound healing events with crystal bowls, gongs and other instruments. Online, there are many options for sound healing in which you can listen to solfeggio frequencies or binaural beats.

7. Plant-based lifestyle.

A study by Harvard researchers found that swapping 3% of processed red meat for plant proteins reduces your chances of an early death by 34%. You don’t have to make the switch to meat-free completely; instead, try eating this way for one meal a day.

8. Sleep hygiene.

In a 2016 Consumer Reports survey 68% of U.S. adults had trouble with sleep at least once a week. To improve your sleep quickly, try listening to a guided meditation or sleep hypnosis recording. You can find them on Spotify, YouTube and other online platforms.

9. Get curious about sobriety.

There’s a movement afoot based on the 2018 book “Sober Curious” by Ruby Warrington that’s inspiring people to be social without alcohol.

Curiosity is the motivator as people discover what it feels like to engage with others without mood altering or numbing. Search for or start a Meetup group to find other sober-curious folks.

10. Rest and restore.

More emphasis than ever is being placed on the need to let the body recover after strenuous exercise. Don’t be surprised if you see more and more gyms offering “recovery fitness.”

When planning your exercise routine, not only should you leave enough time to do cool-down stretches, replenish nutrients with a smoothie or fresh juice and take some time to rest, but also fill some of your non-exercise time with activities to help your body recover. These include infrared saunas, massages, rolling, resistant bands, compression therapy, cold water therapy, and more.

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Infographic: The surprising effects of business vs. leisure travel on your well-being

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Whether it’s business, leisure or even bleisure, travel is something of a status symbol regardless if it’s for work or play. Exploring new places, learning about new cultures and tasting new foods are all part of the fun.

However, differences abound when we look at business vs. leisure travel, particularly in regard to personal health and well-being.

75% of business travelers report heightened levels of stress. On the contrary, a four-day vacation can actually negate the effects of perceived stress for up to 30 days. Check out the infographic below, which illustrates more of the details and statistics between these two types of travel.

Infographic courtesy Reservations.com

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3 easy-as-pie steps help you to a healthy year

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We all can agree that we want to be healthier. We don’t need a New Year’s resolution to decide that. The sticking point is the amount of effort required, the time needed to make a commitment last, or a variety of other factors that get in our way.

But it doesn’t have to be that hard. You can negate those holiday cookies and cakes with easy-as-pie changes to your everyday routine.

Stand up

Physical activity is the enemy of sedentary behavior. We’ve heard that term a lot in recent years, as study after study has taken on the topic.

Research subjects have covered demographics ranging from children to seniors, obese to average weight, and on and on. For individuals that sit a lot, or sit for long stretches, the negative health effects can pile up, including a heightened risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, excess body fat and increased cholesterol levels.

The Mayo Clinic analyzed 13 studies related to long spells of sitting and found that the risks of dying were comparable to deaths as a result of obesity or smoking. Fortunately, a solution is right at the end of our noses, or ankles, as the case may be. The University of Washington recommends 10 minutes of standing for every hour of sitting, even if you’re hitting the gym every day after work.

That’s not a hard goal to accomplish. Instead of doing all your communicating by email or instant messaging, get up and talk face-to-face with a co-worker occasionally. Don’t sit and stare at your phone while your lunch is in the microwave. Stand while it cooks. For that matter, stand while you eat it.

Stand and sit straight

You have probably heard that advice from your parents more often than your doctor, but it works. Proper posture can ease the strain on muscles and joints. Put less strain on your muscles and they’ll be more prepared to work when you need them. Standing and sitting correctly eases oxygen flow into your lungs, allowing you to be more alert and energetic.

“Simple things like the way we carry ourselves and the way we pay attention to our breathing can definitely influence our mood and our brain chemistry,” Dr. Sheela Raja of the University of Illinois at Chicago told Naperville Magazine.

Drink

As oxygen is needed to keep us alert, fluid keeps our muscles and joints going. Men should aim for 13 cups of fluid every day while women should shoot for nine cups daily, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Extensive study by H.H. Mitchell in the Journal of Biological Chemistry determined that about 60% of our bodies are water — not to mention the quantity in key components like the brain (79%), heart (73%) and lungs (83%). Staying hydrated is essential. That applies to everyday life and activities, not only while working out or in hot weather.

Water helps your body to process fluids. And water is everywhere. While you’re waiting for your meal to cook, have a drink of water. When you’ve been sitting too long, get up and get a drink of water. You’re achieving multiple benefits at the same time.

If you are planning to hit the gym or trails, drinking water throughout the day will help you there. Drinking before you work out ensures that your body has the nutrients it needs instead of depleting the supply through the workout, sports medicine physician Dr. John Batson explained to the American Heart Association. “Otherwise, you’re playing catch-up and your heart is straining,” he said.

These healthy activities are easy to accomplish, even amid hectic days. And they’re easy to remember, too, so there’s no need for a New Year’s resolution.

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The difficulty with goodbye

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“When those you love have passed away…” is how my mom begins her last goodbyes to us on her “Remembrance” memorial message. She’s not near dead yet, just preparing.

For her, death is simply a door opening into a glorious reunion with her God and loved ones who have gone before. Oh, if only it could be so jubilant for the rest of us — we often have difficulty with goodbye.

Goodbye comes in many forms: death, disease, divorce, family fallouts, moves, unrequited love, “ghosting,” natural endings, maturation, and violence, to name a few.

Rehab facilities and prisons are filled with those who have been left behind. Alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, gambling, technology addictions and the like temporarily soothe and distract us from such pain.

Disenfranchised youth join gangs seeking safety and security. Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries, details case after case in “Tattoos on the Heart.” Loss and grief need to be addressed.

In my end-of-life work over the years, I’ve seen people disengage in different ways.

My 41-year-old best friend with end-stage cancer was admitted to the inpatient care center at hospice needing to be palliative sedated because her physical symptoms were so out-of-control. Once she became unconscious, her husband left, never to return, stating, “She’s already gone.” Fortunately, family and friends held vigil at her side for days until she peacefully died.

In another case, an elderly husband could no longer bring himself to touch his wife of nearly half a century as she was dying. His son came cross country to sit with his mother and hold her hand. His father stayed, though, standing at the foot of her bed, watching.

Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and author, describes how discombobulating it can feel to be unilaterally disconnected in “Dear Therapist: My Friend Is Dying and Has Asked Me Not to Contact Her.” She exquisitely explains what happens as the terminally ill begin untethering from life.

Regardless of how or why the separation occurs, to paraphrase a Buddhist saying, “All suffering is the same.” So, how might we more healthfully deal with the difficulty of goodbye?

In her spot-on article, “How Do You Say Goodbye?” journalist and minister Ellen Debenport addresses this dilemma. She proposes that with mindfulness and gratitude we may more quickly and completely gain closure.

Here are a few more ways:

Feelings

It’s important to feel our feelings, whatever they are. For me, only now sadness is surfacing from an upsetting series of separations that happened months ago. Tapping into my Nonviolent Communication training, I know that underneath my anger lies sadness, hurt and fear. Accessing and acknowledging our true feelings is a means to moving on.

Cognitive Strategies

There are so many ways to shapeshift our thinking. Reflecting on both the positives and the negatives of the relationship may help in regaining perspective.

Before she died, I asked my aforementioned friend how she wanted me to remember her. She described in depth an earlier, happier time we spent together including exactly what she was wearing. I’ve hung onto this image to this day in celebration of all that we shared.

Self-Care

The shock, surrealness and sadness that often comes with a goodbye requires us to double down in our efforts to nurture and nourish ourselves. Take that bath, that nap — whatever helps you heal. This is not the time to be making big decisions about anything.

Support

Friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, colleagues — depending on your situation any of these folks may be available and appropriate to lean on. Hospice provides bereavement groups and resources to the community at large as well as for the patient’s survivors. So do places of worship, town centers, even libraries. Use them.

Eventually (it takes as long as it takes), a shift occurs. You’ve heard the saying, “When one door closes another one opens.” Endings become beginnings. Goodbyes become hellos — like my mother says.

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” — Joseph Campbell

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Are business travelers traveling too much?

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While it is not news that frequent travel can be bad for your health, studies by global corporate travel management company CWT findthat the psychological effects can be just as disconcerting as the physical erosion.

Independent research commissioned by CWT, the business-to-business-for-employees (B2B4E) travel management platform, has revealed that the concerns most frequent travelers have about their lives and lifestyles should be addressed. The two biggest worries that affect frequent business travelers around the world are home life deterioration and putting pressure on colleagues.

When it comes to their personal life, more than one in five (22%) of those surveyed in the CWT study believe their business travel commitments erode the quality of their relationships and homelife, while 21% worry their families think they prefer traveling for work more than their day-to-day home life responsibilities.

On the professional side, 22% admitted to feeling guilty that their colleagues have to bear the load of their work while absent. Some 21% expressed stress over spending too much time with co-workers or clients, and 14% discussed concerned about the difficulty of staying in touch with people in their main office.

“Even though the same research reveals that business travelers feel that positives outweigh negatives at work (92%) and at home (82%) when traveling for business, companies need to be aware of the concerns that business travelers face and help to address them head-on,” said Catherine Maguire-Vielle, CWT’s EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer. “Relationships are a fundamental part of a person’s wellbeing and companies have the obligation to ensure their employees’ travels are not jeopardizing them at home or in the office.”

Infographic courtesy CWT

When looking at regional differences amongst frequent business travelers, Americans are in general the biggest worriers versus their European and Asia-Pacific counterparts. Some 26% believe their home and personal relationships suffer versus 23% of Europeans and 18% of Asia-Pacific travelers.

Twenty-three percent claim that spending too much time with co-workers or clients on the road can be stressful versus the same percentage of Europeans and 19% of Asia-Pacific travelers. Twenty-two percent are concerned that their families think they enjoy traveling for work more than their day-to-day home life responsibilities versus 17% of Europeans and 23% of travelers from Asia Pacific.

That said, Americans are less concerned about the difficulty of staying in touch with people in their main office (13% versus 14% of Europeans and Asia-Pacific travelers) and coworkers picking up the slack (16% versus 25% of Asia-Pacific travelers and 24% of Europeans).

Generational differences

Boomers in Asia-Pacific and Europe are more likely to say that home and personal relationships suffer when they travel. However, in the Americas, Gen X travelers take the lead.

The Gen X travelers are also most worried about colleagues picking up the slack. They scored the highest percentage in the three regions.

Millennials score higher than the two other generations in every region when it comes to being concerned about their families believing that they enjoy traveling for work more than their day-to-day home life and responsibilities, and about the difficulty of staying in touch with people in their main office.

When it comes to the stress caused by spending too much time with coworkers or clients on the road, generational differences vary in every region. In Asia-Pacific Millennials come first; in the Americas, Boomers and, in Europe, Gen X and Boomers are even.

Farreaching effects

Seminal research from the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey concurs with these findings. A 2015 study found frequent travelers —here they are called “hypermobile travelers” — age faster, are exposed to excess radiation, have weakened immune systems from continued sleep disruptions, tend to be out of shape and overweight and often suffer from stress and mental health issues. The loneliness of the long distance road warrior is often dangerously combined with the anger and resentment of a spouse at home.

“One study found that employees of the World Bank who travel frequently for work have a threefold increase in psychological claims on medical insurance as opposed to nontravelers,” said Scott Cohen, deputy director of research of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey in a report published in Fast Company.

“[Business travel] has a wide range of physiological, psychological and emotional, and social consequences that are often overlooked, because being a ‘road warrior’ tends to get glamorized through marketing and social media. There is the stress of preparing for a trip, the fact that the time spent traveling is rarely offset through a reduced workload.

He suggests frequent travelers: “feel out whether there might be an opportunity to substitute a face-to-face visit with teleconferencing — often it is necessary to meet someone for the first time in person, but after that, teleconferencing can often get the job done.”

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Back it up: Let your death inform your life

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Death is the only wise adviser that we have.
— Carlos Castaneda

We’ve all heard about “bucket lists.” You’ve probably got your own. It may include ideas about what we want to see and do and where we want to go before we die. Some folks have thousands of items on their list and manage to get a bunch of them done; others not so much. Many simply dream.

These lists are great — I have a few of my own. At the top is returning to a particular hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Let’s dive a bit deeper, though, and stretch even further. Go straight to your death now. How you wish to be remembered may change how you live your life.

Here are five strategies to get you started:

Write your own obituary

Considering your own death can be daunting. Several of my friends are convinced they will live to be at least 120 years old. I know some brilliant young minds who are opting for cryonics, wanting to be frozen and revived in the future when better technology and medicine exist.

At some point, we will die. By writing your own obituary while you are still alive, you retake ownership of your biography. Imagine reading about yourself in the newspaper after you’re gone. Narrating how you wish to be remembered reminds you how to live.

Write your own eulogy

Why not sing your own praises, recount fond memories and celebrate your life while you’re still here? And share it with your family and friends? While a eulogy is often the speech given at a funeral, you don’t have to wait till then to do your own.

This past birthday, I had no intention of writing anything; my plan was to soak in some contemplative time before all the festivities. Yet, something like a eulogy bubbled up as I meandered in the woods that morning.

Dictating on my phone, it began with what doesn’t “define” me. Later, sharing it with each of the people mentioned within, that process became the best birthday gift — to us all.

Write your own epitaph

What do you want inscribed on your gravestone? My mom has said for years that her epitaph would be, “Peace at Last.” To sum up in so few words what you want to leave behind is quite a feat. Take time to ponder and consolidate your legacy.

Complete a life review

I first learned of a life review in my hospice work. By looking over your life and reflecting on the good and bad, you can shapeshift and heal the past, forgive and let go.

Though it may take some time and support, this kind of reckoning has the power to change not only yours, but your loved ones’ lives as well.

Discover your life song

Decades ago, I sourced mine at a Shamanic workshop at Esalen Institute. It seems to resurface when I am at my most lost. Listen to Switchfoot’s “This is Your Life” and come up with your own.

It takes clarity, courage and commitment to live your life through the lens of death. Pay attention. Start with your thinking. Take small, doable steps. Reap the rewards.

Back it up and leave this life as you intended.

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Study: Airplanes have dirty, unsafe water

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A new study is telling us that airplanes are incredibly disgusting and that travelers need to avoid certain things at all costs. Most importantly, avoid onboard water, except that which is from a sealed water bottle.

Don’t wash your hands with it, and certainly don’t drink it. That’s according to the 2019 Airline Water Study.

Developed by DietDetective.com and the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, the study tested the quality of water on 11 major airlines and 12 regional airlines. But water isn’t the only thing to make the weary wanderer even more, well, weary.

The studied water was rated on a scale of zero to five, with scores of three and higher constituting water that is safe enough to drink. The zero-to-five scoring is assigned on 10 criteria, including the presence of coliform bacteria or E. coli.

If you fly Alaska Airlines or Allegiant, as of this study, you’re in the best shape regarding flying health, as the two airlines tied for first place. Spirit and JetBlue, however, ranked last. Nearly all regional airlines, except Piedmont, have poor Airline Water Health Scores and a number of federal code violations.

For example, when an aircraft’s water sample tests positive for coliform, the federal government requires that the water be tested again to determine if E. coli is present. If E. coli is not present, the airline must take repeat samples within 24 hours, disinfect and flush the water system within 72 hours; or the airline can shut down the water system within 72 hours, then disinfect and flush.

If the sample is E. coli-positive, the airline must shut off public access to the water system within 24 hours and disinfect and flush. It’s not an easy process.

Perhaps the most shocking thing to come from the study is the researchers’ recommendations about what not to do with the water on the worst of the airlines measured. Other than recommending that people not wash their hands in the airplane bathrooms, they encourage travelers to skip the coffee or tea onboard; and that travelers should never drink water unless it’s known to have come from a sealed bottle.

Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier did not respond to any questions from surveyors. “Very weak responses” — and responses that didn’t address questions — were provided by American, United, and JetBlue, researchers said.

An aircraft flies to numerous destinations and may pump drinking water into its tanks from various sources at domestic and international locations. The water quality onboard also depends on the safety of the equipment used to transfer the water, such as water cabinets, trucks, carts, and hoses.

Oh, but there’s more to fear on an airplane than just the water. The aircraft are near-cesspools of germs and grime. Airplane restrooms are the worst places for germ contamination, according to a USA Today poll. According to Coverall Cleaning System, the bathrooms rarely are sanitized between flights. The tiny sinks make it hard to wash hands properly, and studies have found E. coli on almost every surface in the plane’s loo.

Outside the water closet, it might be a good idea to bring your own reading material along with you on the flight. Airline magazines and catalogs are also heavily contaminated. This is because people’s hands tend to naturally be dirty and the sinks in the restrooms don’t allow for proper handwashing (plus, the water isn’t fit for washing).

Finally, if attempting to navigate all these germ-ridden areas gets you exhausted, it’s probably a great idea not to reach for an airline pillow and blanket. About 5% of customers on a flight will have a cold or flu, according to USA Today, and many try sleeping it off while in the air. Pillows and blankets are not cleaned between flights, creating a potential risk for those boarding the plane.

As you gear up for holiday travel or a busy business season, know your airplane is one of the least healthy places you could be.

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Preventing ACL injuries in female athletes

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It’s basketball and soccer season. Athletes have been training all throughout the spring and summer in preparation for the final months of 2019 and the first quarter of the 2020.

The goal for most athletes is to have a breakout season. In doing so, an athlete must stay healthy. While this is the season for basketball and soccer, this is also the season for bad knee injuries.

For female athletes, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are among the most common. Often, those injuries happen in noncontact fashion. According to an article from Baylor College of Medicine, roughly 70% of ACL tears are noncontact injuries.

The ACL is one of the primary ligaments that assists with the stabilization of your knee joint. Changing direction, making lateral cuts, pivoting, and landing from jumping are why ACLs are so important.

For female athletes, ACL tears tend to rise.

“Female soccer players are one of the highest risk groups among athletes for ACL tears,” said Dr. Theodore Shybut, associate professor in the Joseph Barnhart Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Baylor. “In fact, studies have reported that female athletes are two to 10 times more likely to have ACL tears compared to male athletes.”

So why are ACL tears more common in female athletes? According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, female joints “generally have more looseness and range of motion” than male joints. To add, there’s less muscle mass around the knees of young female athletes, which could lead to instability — and an injury if a ligament is overstretched.

What exactly can be done to prevent ACL tears? That’s a tough question to answer, as these injuries can be unexpected and caused by the slightest irregular movement. But here are a few things that can be done the help prevent tears and other major injuries to the knee.

Make warmups a priority: You never want to start playing cold. It is mandatory to stretch and get your blood circulating. Make sure your joints and muscles are warm — before games and practices.

Develop muscles evenly: When working out, the one thing you don’t want to do is focus on one primary area. Make sure you’re training your body evenly, top to bottom. Don’t ignore an area.

Use proper technique: As you train, proper technique is everything. Whether it’s strength training or cardiovascular training, proper form can be the difference in an outstanding showing on the court or the field and a season cut short because of a bad injury.

The right diet counts: Did you know that improper nutrition can lead to a dip in endurance? Eating the right foods can result in performance improvement and focus enhancement.

Get enough rest: Playing to win, to some, means getting as much work in as possible — and then getting additional work in. Your body needs time to recuperate. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and alternating rigorous workouts with easier ones.

The last thing you want is to be sidelined with an ACL injury. Make sure you take these injury prevention tips seriously … and enjoy the season!

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The undeniable health benefits of writing

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I’ve been writing most of my adult life. I’ve been working with writers as a group facilitator and teacher for 30 years. In my experience, I can assert with confidence that writing changes lives. There is something healing about putting one’s thoughts, ideas, observations and wisdom onto the page. Some obvious benefits include:

It helps us organize and make sense out of what’s happened in the past or what’s current happening in our lives. It creates order out of chaos, giving us the temporary feeling of being in control of our world.

It allows us to bring buried feelings and deeply held perceptions to the surface so they can be seen and therefore understood. What we don’t know can often hurt us. Becoming conscious and aware of what’s inside opens up a multitude of possibilities to acknowledge, shift and heal ourselves.

If shared, writing helps us to connect with others at a deeper level. Hearing each other’s stories lets us see beyond the social masks we wear into the inner workings of another, fostering great compassion and empathy.

Writing can also be lots of fun. Using one’s imagination to create a story utilizes lots of aspects of ourselves that aren’t often used or expressed. A good story can take us on a playful adventure bringing us unexpected joy and inspiration.

Studies have shown that writing has many health benefits.

According to researcher and professor James Pennebaker, co-author of the book, “Opening Up by Writing it Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain,” writing about life’s challenges helps us heal physically and emotionally. He even goes so far as to say that writing can boost the immune system, helping those with illnesses including HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis.

Many other studies have been done that have shown similar results. Much of the research has focused on expressive or journal writing, which makes sense because real benefits come from moving pent-up stress and feelings from inside to outside. It’s kind of like decluttering the mind, so there is less unneeded junk lying around.

In her best-selling book, “The Artist’s Way,” author Julie Cameron asks her readers to write what she calls “morning pages” every morning. She defines them as follows:

“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

This practice beautifully captures the essence of using writing as a way to know ourselves, to free ourselves and to express ourselves — not for some specific goal or agenda, but to simply increase our awareness and ideally, create some space for inner peace.

My favorite class that I teach is my six-week memoir class. In a very short time, I see students that have a strong desire to write, but no clue about how to start, then blossom into students in love with writing and confident that they can do it.

Many are also facing numerous challenges in their lives. My joy as a teacher comes from knowing that at the end of their time with me, they will have learned how the process of writing returns them to themselves, and if shared, connects them with others.

The highlight of the class comes when my students share their stories out loud. They realize that they’ve not only written something, but they’ve also managed to summon up their courage to share it. They’re elated to have taken this big leap, and once taken, they’re hooked and want more. It is then that I know that my work is done.

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