Tag Archives: Mental Health

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How successful women avoid burnout: You need a tribe

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Achieving success is a praiseworthy feat that usually requires a certain level of sacrifice. But women may pay an additional price for their career achievements.

Research reveals that women are more likely than men to suffer from depression. This could be related to the stress of balancing work and family responsibilities, feeling isolated at work, and/or a host of other reasons.

Many successful women end up experiencing burnout, but is it necessary to choose between your career goals and your health and happiness?

No, according to Nisha Jackson, Ph.D., hormone expert, gynecology health specialist, and the author of “Brilliant Burnout.”

“But the reality is that we overachiever-superwomen-stress-junkies spend quite a bit of time being ‘plugged in’ and in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, maneuvering strategically between one highly pressurized situation to the next,” Jackson says.

This type of lifestyle is like a time bomb, she says. “While our bodies are meant to react to perceived stress occasionally, they are clearly not capable of withstanding longer periods of flight or fight without some sort of breakdown.”

You need a tribe

Fortunately, there are ways to handle such unsustainable levels of stress, but you can’t do it alone. “Successful women are often loners and don’t gravitate to those who truly see them, let alone understand or support them,” Jackson says. “This is a problem, as it creates sadness, resentment, and distrust, and usually leads to retreating further into work”

She believes that women need to build a tribe to be successful and remain sane. “Behind every brilliant woman is most likely 10 other brilliant women supporting her.”

Jackson admits that this type of support system isn’t built overnight, but she says it’s a necessary ingredient for a healthy heart, mind, and soul. “To be clear, your tribe isn’t just helping you get work done, their role is much deeper than that,” Jackson says.

These are people that see you as you really are. She says they love you unconditionally, will confront you when you’re doing something wrong, and are there when you feel you can’t take another step. “These are the people who have your back when you can’t pull your load, will provide for you when you can’t, will prop you up, will defend you, go to bat for you, or cry with you when you need it.”

It’s so important to find people who can see you as you really are, since they’re in a prime position to help you find your way when you’re lost. “The value of a tribe for a brilliant woman is in providing a sense of nurturing that women on fire need and is vital to their success,” Jackson says.

And, she says a good tribe isn’t there to judge you, just help you become the best version of yourself. “There is a deep sense of safety that comes with people in whom we feel we can connect with and trust.”

Building your tribe

Now that you’re fired up about having a tribe, how can you build one? Jackson offers several tips:

1. Start with a clear intention and a desire to have the group you want. Find common threads in those women out there whom you feel you can share things with to help you find more people who might be able to relate to you.

2. Start small and stay focused. Think of the qualities you want a member of your tribe to have. For example, she doesn’t judge, she has a sense of humor, she is an artist. Look for one or two potential tribe members who don’t freak out about the small stuff, which is important to have in a high-stress woman’s tribe.

3. Take an inventory of your current friends, family, etc. This will help you determine if there is already the start of a tribe right in front of you. But don’t feel obligated to include someone just because you have known them your whole life.

4. Listen to that “gut” feeling about a person. Do you feel drawn to them right away or do they make you put up your guard?

5. Pay attention to their social media posts. This is a great way to root out the crazies.

6. Consider doing something you are passionate about (besides working): go to a class, join a club, or learn something new that you have always wanted to learn. This is a way to meet others with similar interests.

7. Begin spending time with these women to see if you want them in your inner circle. Ask them if they want to meet for coffee or a glass of wine before going home, or if they want to go on a Saturday hike.

8. Then you can all meet for dinner and see how it feels. It’s like a friendship pyramid scheme.

9. Find a common interest between you and your potential tribe members. This could be a book club, hiking group, entrepreneurial group, retreat, etc.

10. Find a time that you all can meet regularly, or an event that you do regularly as you are forming your group.

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New study shows compelling case for link between autism, antidepressant use during pregnancy

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According to theAutism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, about 1 in 59 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder. The new estimate represents a 15% increase in prevalence nationally from 1 in 68 children two years ago.

This disorder is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is about four times more common among boys than among girls. From 2006-2008, about 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. Although many causes have been proposed, the cause is still questionable and ultimately unknown.

However, a recent study shows a potential link between autistic-like behavior in adult mice and exposure to a common antidepressant in the womb. One of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants is fluoxetine (Prozac), a serotonin reuptake inhibitor.

Fluoxetine can cross the placenta and is also detected in breast milk. According to Associate Professor Hyunsoo Shawn Je, from the Duke-NUS Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Program, a causal relationship between antidepressant exposure during pregnancy and children with autism and attention deficit disorder has not been pinpointed in studies so far.

The researchers investigated adult mice born to mothers treated with fluoxetine over a 15-day time period, which corresponds to the second trimester in humans, compared with those born to mothers given normal saline. They noted specific differences in behavior.

For example, the unexposed mice normally explored all three arms of a Y-shaped maze over a 10-minute time period and, over the courses of multiple arm entries, mice usually enter a less recently visited arm, while the fluoxetine-exposed ones were less inclined to explore the unvisited arm.

In the second experiment, the mice were introduced to two juvenile mice, one after the other. When the second new mouse was introduced, mice that were not exposed to fluoxetine were more likely to only sniff the newly introduced mouse, recognizing that they had already met the first mouse. But the fluoxetine-exposed group sniffed both mice, indicating that they had impaired social recognition.

Next, the team examined nerve signal transmission in the prefrontal cortex, which moderates social behavior.

They found impaired transmission caused by an overactive serotonin receptor. Treating fluoxetine-exposed mice with a compound that blocks the receptor alleviated their behavioral problems and improved their working memory.

Next, the researchers want to examine autistic children born to mothers treated with antidepressants using positron emission tomography scans. If the scans also show enhanced serotonin receptor activity in the same area of the brain, the team plans to test whether serotonin receptor blockers can normalize their behaviors.

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If you haven’t tried EFT, you’re missing out on a great stress reliever

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I first learned about the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) more than 10 years ago at a class being offered at a metaphysical library in Seattle. Though I had experienced personal benefits from acupressure, acupuncture and reflexology, I didn’t really appreciate this new approach to working with energy and the meridians of the body.

Fast forward to October 2018. My mom died after a long, horrendous mental decline due to Alzheimer’s disease. Shortly after that, my business began to show signs that I needed to make some drastic changes to keep it viable.

Then, to top it off, I learned my good friend, whom two years ago had happily invited me to live in a house she owns, informed me that she was selling said house and I had to move.

Death. Business pivot. Move. All in a matter of a few months.

Needless to say, my stress response was off the charts, and my anxiety at an all-time high. Many of my tried-and-true tools and techniques just weren’t cutting it.

In the midst of this personal turbulence, I began to notice that classes and conferences on EFT kept showing up in my email, Facebook News Feed and conversations with friends. I took this as a sign and decided to finally give it a try. I certainly had nothing to lose.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with EFT (aka energy psychology or tapping), it is a healing modality that involves systematic tapping of specific end points of the energy meridian system (some of the same ones used by acupuncturists and acupressure practitioners) to diffuse the intensity of stressful emotions and create a state of overall well-being.

EFT was founded by Gary Craig, who learned Thought Field Therapy from Dr. Richard Callahan, a clinical psychologist, in 1991. Four years later, Craig released his first EFT training and guide. There were other students of Dr. Callahan’s that have also made contributions to this innovative healing approach.

Since then, numerous studies have shown that EFT works.

Research conducted at Harvard Medical School over a period of 10 years found that tapping on meridian points decreases arousal in the amygdala (the part of your brain that triggers a “fight or flight” stress response in the body). EFT doesn’t suppress the feelings that are triggered. Instead, it brings them into your awareness and then through tapping, sends a signal to the brain which reduces the stress response.

Dawson Church, Ph.D., Executive Director of the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare in Fulton, California, and fellow researchers surveyed 448 EFT practitioners about their experience using EFT to treat PTSD. A total of “63% reported that even complex PTSD can be remediated in 10 or fewer EFT sessions.

Initially, I thought EFT would be complicated to learn. To my relief, I learned that there was an app (of course) called The Tapping Solution, making it super easy to jump in and receive the benefits right away. The app has tapping exercises for all kinds of issues. Some are free and some are part of their premium service.

According to The Tapping Solution’s website, “The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you. While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 12 of the body’s meridian points. Tapping on these meridian points — while concentrating on accepting and resolving the negative emotion — will access your body’s energy, restoring it to a balanced state.”

I’m happy to report that after using the app, I felt immediate relief! I plan on continuing to make EFT a regular part of my self-care routine.

There are lots of great sources of information and classes to learn more about EFT. Here are few to help you get started.

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Travel2020: Finding your inner Buddha at 30,000 feet

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A 2013 survey by Carlson Wagonlit Travel said it all when it comes to measuring the toll that travel takes on today’s road warriors. CWT found that travelers can experience stress for as much as “6.9 hours per trip,” as measured in “lost time, or time unavailable to travelers to work or rest.”

The number at that time, which was the first time an algorithm has ever been placed on this condition, showed a financial loss of as much as $662 per trip.

The study reviewed more than 15 million CWT air trips in a one-year period and saw that each trip produced 22 potentially stressful activities from pre-trip through post-trip actions. Each of those 22 stressors were measured according to duration and perceived stress intensity for each activity. And the results?

The largest stresses on a business traveler’s time are felt flying in economy class on medium- and long-haul flights. The getting to the airport or train station proved to be the second-most stressful part of the trip.

Sadly, the intervening years have not been kind business travelers, either. A global study released in March by IHG with help from associates from Harvard Medical School, reported that business travelers lose some 58 minutes of sleep per night while away and sleep an average of only five hours and 17 minutes while on the road. The complications of sleeping in different environments, dealing with unfamiliar noises and changes in working hours all contribute to what can be a hot mess for anyone who cycles through time zones for a living.

While many of the factors that contribute to this particularly insidious strain of stress cannot be helped, there are a few tricks and tips one can apply to one’s travels and daily navigations that can make anyone’s journey through life and their destinations a little more bearable.

Doctor Onboard

On a recent trip to Turkey taken with TV medical personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, the focus was on optimizing health in the air and integrating easy habits that any flyer can adopt. The famed cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University professor whose syndicated talk show, “The Dr. Oz Show,” usually highlights weight-loss methods and ways to manage pain, had plenty of advice for passengers — many of them frequent flyers — about how to minimize discomforts and stay well during long-distance travel.

Suggestions flew from seat yoga to drinking a sour cherry brew to keep boredom and sickness at bay. But the key concern here was how to keep the auto-immune system boosted through 15 hours of time in a packed tube and use it for some well-needed detox from daily pressures.

Among other things, Dr. Oz suggested popping an aspirin before a flight to prevent pulmonary embolism for those at risk; also a vitamin supplement should be considered, and an oft-overlooked piece of the wardrobe should donned: a scarf. The added cloth can serve as blinders, a blanket, an aroma blocker, a pillow and protection against airborne bacteria.

As for finding those often elusive hours of sleep in a crowded aircraft, Dr. Oz suggested melatonin and rescheduling the body long before arriving.

“Traveling across time zones can be particularly taxing on the mind and body,” said Dr. Oz. “That’s because our circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that lets us know when it’s time to wake up and sleep, takes a few days to catch up. As soon as I board a flight, I change my watch to the destination time zone. I also try to adjust my body to the new time zone straight away, by staying up until the normal bedtime of my destination instead of taking a nap. And if you can’t sleep that first night, take an over the counter sleep aid to help get some rest. Natural sleep aids, such as melatonin and valerian, do the trick for some people.”

The Space Center in Houston helps astronauts — who, for training purposes, must fly frequently among international space agencies in Russia, Japan and Germany — overcome jet lag two to three times faster than other travelers. Among their recommendations for the long-distance travelers:

First, understand the direction you are traveling. Know that flight has only been aloft for around 100 years, so that fact that people are capable of jumping time zones with speed is a relatively new phenomenon. Begin by determining whether you are traveling east or west, he said. Most people have an internal body clock that makes it harder for them to travel east.

Second, schedule your exposure to light and be aware of when to avoid it (wearing sunglasses, even on a flight, helps). Usually, it takes a full day to shift one time zone internally. To do this faster, you will have to regulate your exposure to light — both natural and artificial — and darkness.

Another Dr. Oz do is: Don’t fly dry. “Did you know the air in here is about 66 percent drier than the air at sea level?” Dr. Oz discussed this question with passengers as he walked through the aisles.

He went on to explain to those nearby that most planes fly at 35,000 feet where the air is thinner and easier to navigate, but cabins are pressurized to resemble an altitude of roughly 7,000 feet. At that air pressure, lower blood oxygen levels cause fatigue and brain fog as well as headaches and dizziness.

Gas expands in the body with these environmental changes to swell intestines and cause bloating. Avoid junk foods, he says, eat slowly, and skip the sodas as they make bloating worse.

The best flight diet, and indeed the best long-haul life diet, is the Mediterranean diet he suggested. Passengers might try dining on such foods as nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil with whole grain bread, legumes and beans (especially lentils and chickpeas used to make hummus), fish dishes for entrees, and fresh fruits and vegetables (especially leafy greens like spinach and kale, and non-starchy veggies like eggplant, cauliflower, artichokes, tomatoes and fennel). They can also enjoy a glass of red wine with the meal, and finish it all off with herbal or mint tea.

What else can passengers do to make the going a little more palatable? Drink water, wear loose clothing and move around … a lot. Stuck in the middle seat?

“Stand up at your seat, grab your foot and stretch. Or, kneel on your seat facing the back of the plane and lean back or onto your heels,” said Dr. Oz. “Your neighbor might look at you like you’re crazy, but when he or she gets a leg cramp later on in the trip, you’ll be having the last laugh.”

Meditation as Medicine

Beyond eating right, drinking much and moving around to keep the circulation buzzing on a 15-hour flight, there is only so much ingesting and circulating to be done. And while sleep is often a fickle friend on these journey, meditation is medication and a powerful elixir that can do much more than bring on ZZZs.

Dr. Daniel Siegel, who received his medical degree at Harvard and now teaches at UCLA Medical School, is a well-known name in the field of meditation. He has pioneered research on the subject and written more than a dozen books on neurobiology and the science of mindfulness and meditation.

In his latest book, “Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence,” he looks at the science that underlies meditation’s effectiveness and teaches readers how to harness the power of the principle, “Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows.”

This wisdom can be immensely helpful to travelers, he said, especially when looking at the very definition of stress that is measured by elevations in heart rate, respiration, and muscle tension. “Studies from a range of fields suggest that it is how we relate to our experience that is more important than the absolute experience itself—and this is true with regard to bodily states as well as mental activities such as thoughts, feelings, and attitudes,” he said.

“Traveling has many things at stake that matter: getting somewhere on time, getting there alive, getting there without getting an infectious illness. So yes, it is stressful — especially with air travel and the fear created with security measures. Add to this the physically unnatural ways we have to sit in a tube on a plane or in a car, and it is physically painful. And in addition, we may be leaving the proximity of our loved ones.”

These are challenges that layer over the stale air, poor food choices, and the radiation from being higher up in the atmosphere.

If you realize that your mind can change your brain, that’s a good start, he added. And the way to do that is through meditation.

“Meditation is simply a word that means training the mind. Research I review in my latest book, Aware, reveals how the three pillars of mind training: focused attention, open awareness, and kind intention can lead to improvements in each of the factors that stress worsens. Inflammation is reduced, immune function is enhanced, cardiovascular health factors improve, telomerase levels are optimized, and stress hormone levels decrease. Add to this that you are increasing the growth of integrative fibers in your brain — the basis of well-being — and that’s pretty good for a way your mind can transform how you deal with stressful experiences, such as traveling, and even traveling through life,” Siegel said.

App Naps

While meditation should become a practice in daily life, a seat on a plane for hours on end may be a good place to get a start on this habit.

Several interesting technical gadgets had surfaced of late to make meditating all the easier, calming body and soul.

The Muse headband, which first appeared at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, may be the most advanced of the electronic meditation aids available. The item, available on Amazon, is a headband with sensors that reads brain activity and tells the wearer, through a smartphone app, whether he or she is in a calm state of meditation or dancing around with monkey mind.

After listening to a short, guided meditation session, the Muse offers peaceful sounds that actually signal whether the wearer is in a state of meditation. The constant neurofeedback helps the wearer return to states of alpha or theta when brainwaves jump back to monkey mind.

Another item debuting at this year’s CES is the Dreamlight Zen mask. The compact, lightweight and very comfortable mask fits snugly around the head and rhythmically pulses soft orange light (the only hue that does not contain stimulating blue light) at a rate that is supposed to help bring the heart rate down.

Image: Dreamlight

A device on the side flap is pressed and guided meditation sessions begin in quiet stereo that no one else can here. All sight and sound is blocked except for what comes through the mask. The item pairs easily with Bluetooth for using smartphone meditation apps instead of what the manufacturer provides. With the Dreamlight, whether for meditation or relaxation, one is completely encased in a world by yourself, no matter the surroundings.

Divine Detox

The very act of travel — moving from one destination to another — provides ample opportunity to detach and detox from our daily, digital-heavy lives. While stress will never abate — it is waiting patiently to grab us at the airport on arrival, sit with us through groggy meetings and meals, and haunt us in our hotel rooms — the time in transit can be a glorious moment of turning everything off.

“I personally just like to sit and either tune out the world or tune into one little aspect of it at a time. I find it calming and centering,” said Sara Clemence, whose book, “Away & Aware,” delves into mindful travel with tips and advice for disconnecting from devices and connecting with the destination.

“Apps can be a great way for beginners to get into the habit of meditating — things like 10% Happier, Headspace. Once you get the hang of it, I think it’s more enjoyable to do it on your own,” she says.

Similarly, just listening to music is a great way to relax the brain. Listening to the right music can help to shift consciousness and change the brain chemical activity, added Dr. Oz. Do a little self-massage on scalp, temples, arms and legs (cross your legs to work out the kinks in your hips and thighs), add a little positive self-talk, and you have some life-changing therapy going on a flight. Suddenly, life doesn’t seem so stressful.

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How to seamlessly integrate mindfulness into any classroom with tech tools

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Today’s educators recognize that they are not just teaching a subject; they are teaching life skills to students so they can successfully navigate academic, career, and social-emotional challenges as they arise. Integrating developmentally appropriate mental health and wellness strategies into all content area subjects is increasingly as commonplace as integrating study skills strategies.

Did you know that teaching well-being and preparing students for careers have not always been perceived to be mutually exclusive goals? Founding father John Adams said, “There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.”

How can educators today integrate mental health and mindfulness into the classroom? There are free, engaging tech tools that are many educators’ go-to resources!

GoNoodle is a website, smartphone and smart TV app with a compilation of interactive videos encouraging movement and mindfulness for kids and adults.

The “Melting” video provides an engaging visual of body relaxation. While it’s geared toward younger children, the strategies are helpful for any age. Many people struggle with staying focused during relaxation sessions, and the video is beneficial to follow along and to keep a strong visual aide in mind while relaxing one’s body.

Sign up at no cost on GoNoodle and find more videos on mindfulness, body relaxation, deep breathing, and more in the “Flow” section.

Stop, Breathe, Think is an app available for iOS and Android. The app provides a guide to meditation and mindfulness training used to shift attention and develop focus, kindness, gratitude, and compassion. With guided meditation, self-assessment, measurement tools and reminders, Stop, Breathe, Think (SBT) is useful, helping users develop and support a mindfulness routine.

Users can begin with a check-in, “How are you?” The app guides the user to pause and survey themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. From their SBT will recommend several guided meditations that may be beneficial. Clicking on preselected meditation such as “Joy” or “Gratitude” will allow the user to listen to soothing voices and be taken through an exploration of the concepts of the title.

The guided meditations last between 1-15 minutes depending on the concept. Upon finishing, users can “favorite” or “share” the meditation; check-in to monitor emotional or mental change; view their progress; or pick another track.

With the use of these tech tools, educators don’t have to experts in mental health and wellness. They don’t have to worry about the right “wording” to guide students through a relaxation or deep-breathing exercise and have the opportunity to be the guide and learn alongside students rather than being the sage on the stage.

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Housing America part 6: Cohousing

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This is the final part of a six-part series. For the earlier parts of the Housing America series, please click here for part 1; here for part 2; here for part 3; here for part 4; and here for part 5.

Speculative housing development and the single-family home have been the norm for the large part of the last century. It’s all many of us know about housing works.

But a new wave of cohousing communities across the U.S. features experimenting with a new model of living that places the emphasis back on shared space and shared prosperity.

In this final part in the “Housing America” series of articles, I look at why these communities set up, whether the planning system is equipped to help them thrive, and whether their lessons can be applied more widely to how we build communities.

What is cohousing?

The concept of communal living is an ancient one, but the roots of modern cohousing are usually traced back to 1960s Denmark, where today a reported 1% of people live in cohousing schemes. It was only later imported to the U.S. by a couple inspired by what they had seen overseas, where it is now an embryonic but growing phenomenon. There are said to be over 60 schemes across the country.

To the uninitiated, cohousing can provoke associations with the “hippy” communes that had a brief heyday in the 1960s. But, while they both advocate a more communal way of life, there are significant differences.

Cohousing communities are intentional communities set up to provide a balance between the autonomy of private space and the advantages of shared community living by setting smaller-than-usual individual houses and flats around a set of shared facilities. These usual include a communal community building and might also include laundry facilities, tools and workshops, community allotments, playrooms and shared kitchens.

Each community is unique; however, the design principles tend to promote social interaction. Like a less contrived variant of New Urbanism, you might think? Well, not really.

While some communities are more radical than others, cohousing has a transformative potential that goes further than design. By enabling more collaborative lifestyles and greater interdependence, it offers a radically different, more collective notion of citizenship, based on shared responsibility.

Communal meals, for example, are a feature in many communities (although often on an opt-in basis). With generally around 20-30 households in a settlement, if each family cooks a meal once a month in the communal dining room, they can simply turn up and dig in for most of the other evenings in the month, paying around $2.50 to $3.50 per person.

Escape from suburban isolation

Co-housing’s new popularity did not come out of nowhere. We are all familiar with the unintended consequences of the single-family home existence that has become the norm across the West in the late 20th century — Americans don’t know their neighbors any more, children spend a fraction of the time their parents did playing outside, and 1 in 3 older Americans admits to being lonely. Cohousing offers something of an antidote for those with a renewed thirst for community.

For families in particular, cohousing is seductive. Indeed, the first ever community set up outside Copenhagen was in response to a newspaper article, titled “Children Should Have One Hundred Parents.”

In many villages outside the West, childcare remains a shared endeavor — with children eating in whichever house they happen to run into after playing. For many in the West, cohousing offers the chance of a richer, more sociable childhood.

There is also some evidence that cohousing can help reduce our environmental footprint. This depends on the decisions of the individual communities — not all push for “passivhaus” standards. But by living in smaller homes and sharing the type of things usually fenced off in individual homes, cohousers need fewer material and energy resources to support their lives.

Appeal across the generations

There are some demographics that are particularly drawn to cohousing. The so-called “baby boomers” left with capacious empty nests but are somewhat disillusioned with suburban subdivisions. But the cohousing way of life fits the millennial profile, too, for those looking for more purpose and connection.

While some schemes are targeted at a specific age group, I see one of cohousing’s major promises as offering hope for more integrated, intergenerational communities — increasingly touted as a solution to the country’s epidemic of loneliness and isolation among the old and the young alike.

Working out the ownership model

Cohousing itself is quite a loose design methodology and does not specify a certain form of ownership arrangement. Some communities — like Takoma Village in Washington, D.C.— are based on much more conventional owner-occupier relation, similar to a condominium.

However, others see cohousing as an opportunity to develop a very different relationship with shelter. This tends to lead to more cooperative-style arrangements, or experiments with new forms of tenure.

The pioneering LILAC development in Leeds, England, explicitly seeks to provide an alternative to speculative housing— a mission to de-commodify shelter. It is set up as a “Mutual Home Ownership Society,” where residents become members and pay in 35% of their net income in return for equity, with no individual mortgages.

The barriers to cohousing

Cohousing communities take years upon years to recruit members, so the “perserverance test” can be the first hurdle for communities.

But beyond that, the planning system is not always able to keep up with the demands of this new type of housing and can be more of a hindrance than a help. The lofty intentions of members often have to be compromised with the reality of the planning system.

There are two major issues to trip up on in the U.S. Firstly, the country’s zoning system — which sets out what type of development can be built where using a set of codes — does not seem to know quite how to deal with cohousing communities, which are neither strictly single-family, nor multifamily housing.

The zoning ordinances can also cause roadblocks in how they deal with zoning the communal building and the minimum parking standards that are only begrudgingly being reformed in more progressive cities. This can get in the way of the pedestrian-friendly open spaces that many cohousing communities create at the heart of their complex.

Secondly, subdivision regulations — a set of standards for everything from pavement widths, to drainage and vehicular access — can pose a serious obstacle for the unconventional site designs often required, and for the collective management of infrastructure that is often sought.

Another more comprehensive challenge is how to keep cohousing inclusive. The original schemes in Copenhagen have become a victim of their own success, and the demand means that young families struggle to afford them due to the premium on prices. In the U.S., too, these communities are, so far, overwhelmingly white, middle-class affairs. And, one might say, a Californian one.

All of these issues need shifting if cohousing is to progress from a grassroots phenomenon to a mainstream one.

Applying the lessons of cohousing

Cohousing is certainly nothing new. It picks up on a thread of communitarianism that has weaved in and out of our societies with changing political winds.

Indeed, a more communitarian approach has been called for by some to bring back the sort of reciprocal obligations that characterized the post-World War II days as a response to modern-day environmental and social crises.

In many ways, cohousing seeks to go backwards rather than forwards — reestablishing a village environment set around community spaces like the church and village hall. But the attraction of cohousing is that it provides a more empowering balance between privacy and social interaction.

This more pragmatic approach lends itself to wider applications in how we design communities outside of the “cohousing” label — can we use both the design principles, the resident-led management setup, and the holistic environmental agenda they promote to rethink how we deliver other communities? There are certainly lessons to be learned, but it must not be forgotten that those who volunteer themselves to live in cohousing communities do not necessarily reflect the priorities and lifestyle aspirations of the average American.

The founder of the first cohousing community was, tellingly, not only an architect but a psychologist. The external form of these settlements can often be modest and unspectacular, but it is less the physical form that is the focus of attention than the relationships that thrive within it, and the unconventional ownership model that often underlies it. As one architect-resident points out, as in any community “everything is not rainbows and unicorns in cohousing,” but it is certainly a new experiment in living that is worth learning from.

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The stroke sign you might ignore — but shouldn’t

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Your right eye goes blurry out of the blue. You blink, but the blurriness doesn’t go away immediately. Ten minutes later, boom — it’s gone. No big deal, right?

Think again — you could have just had an eye stroke. Eye strokes are brief episodes of blurred vision or vision loss that last from a minute to a half-hour, then clear. You might chalk one up to a smudgy contact lens or just being tired, but any kind of diminished or missing vision should be taken very seriously. You should go to the ER if you experience it.

And when you get there, push for a full stroke work-up. Why? According to the American Heart Association, only half of 5,600 patients who suffered an eye stroke were properly evaluated for a full cerebral stroke during their course of treatment.

This is unacceptable, because eye strokes can be a sign that you’ve had a full-blown stroke — or a can be a precursor to one. The AHA also reports that one in 100 patients who have an eye stroke experience a full-blown stroke within three months.

Here’s everything you need to know to identify the condition and seek help if you need it.

What is an eye stroke?

There are a number of conditions that fall under that condition, but let’s look at a very common form of the condition, as follows.

An eye stroke can also be identified as non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION). It happens when blood flow stops to the optic nerve, which connects your eye and brain.

Often, this happens because of a blockage, such as a blood clot, although the exact cause of an eye stroke is not fully understood. Sometimes there’s total blockage of a blood vessel that feeds the optic nerve, but often simply inadequate blood flow to one-half of the nerve is enough to cause an eye stroke.

When your optic nerve’s nutrient and oxygen supply is halted, your nerve tissue is damaged, and you lose your vision partially or fully in that eye.

Often people will have an eye stroke very abruptly. You might wake up to find you can’t see out of one eye but you are experiencing no pain. You could suddenly see a dark area or shadow in the upper or lower half of your vision.

Other symptoms include loss of contrast and light sensitivity — your vision will be blurry. Seeing double can also be a worrisome sign. Even if these symptoms only last a couple of minutes, play it safe — go to the ER immediately.

How is an eye stroke diagnosed?

A doctor will check to see if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea or high cholesterol, which are risk factors for an eye stroke. You’ll get an eye exam, including dilation of your eyes to examine your optic nerve and retina.

If your optic nerve looks swollen, you could have had an eye stroke. And again, a full work-up for stroke is essential, as an eye stroke can, in some cases, herald a full-blown stroke at a later time.

Typically, in NAION, the optic nerve will appear swollen. Another type of eye stroke, giant cell arteritis, could affect your other eye as well, so it needs to be ruled out. You also could have experienced a retinal migraine, a rare form of migraine that can cause visual disturbance in just one eye and can mimic an eye stroke.

How is an eye stroke treated?

It is essential to take care of any underlying conditions that could have produced the clot or blockage that caused your eye stroke. Once you’ve had an eye stroke, you need to consume a healthy diet, take your prescribed medications, and exercise to lose weight if your doctor recommends it.

An overall healthy lifestyle is your best bet to prevent further issues — and help you live your best life.

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Consumers share their top healthcare concerns, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch

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Many Americans say they are worried about the future of the Affordable Care Act for people with preexisting conditions, according to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll. Almost 70 percent (68%) of respondents said they want to keep preexisting condition protections, and the KFF report suggests that a majority of respondents (54%) want to keep the healthcare law entirely as is, even if insurance plan costs increase.

Those who responded said they’re all for price increases as long as their healthcare provisions are met. But who should pay for the possible increases is another thing altogether: About 43% of respondents said the burden of payment should be on the insurance company alone, and 47% said they believe insurance companies and providers should share any increased cost.

Of course, economically, those are not feasible assumptions nor should they be expected outcomes. Costs will ultimately be passed onto patients.

The most pressing healthcare concerns

The most pressing healthcare payment-related issues of the Americans interviewed include: prescription drug costs, 68% and protections for preexisting conditions, 64%. The “Medicare-for-All” tax plan permeates with 31% of respondents.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s poll shows that 38% of those interviewed hold unfavorable views of a Medicare-for-All plan or the ACA. Party lines seem to show us a lot, too. About 75% of Democrats love the ACA. 77% of Republicans don’t care for the law.

In fact, the majority of the members of the conservative party (52%) think repealing Obamacare should be a top priority. Meanwhile, 47% of liberals say Medicare for All is the top priority. This legislation, if passed, would give the government a greater role in everything from setting health prices to deciding what benefits get included in an insurance plan.

The concerns listed in this most recent report were said to have been felt equally between Democrats and Republicans. The majority of Republicans want the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA, but only 44% said they want protections for people with preexisting conditions overturned.

“If you’re really sick and have high drug costs, it would be hard not to benefit from these bills,” says Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation who recently co-authored a report comparing the different Democratic plans to expand public coverage.

The Medicare-for-All plans currently floating in the House and Senate would eliminate employer-sponsored coverage completely, and all Americans who currently get insurance at work would transition to one big government healthcare plan. The government already finances two major health coverage plans: Medicare and Medicaid. Taken together, these two programs cover one-third of all Americans: 19% of Americans get their coverage from Medicare, and 14% from Medicaid.

What’s more, both of these programs are popular. One recent poll found that 77% of Americans think Medicare is a “very important” program.

As time passes, more Democrats think the program is great while more Republicans think it’s not so good. But, much of the perception for such a program might have more to do with branding, and as Shakespeare pondered, the importance of a name.

For example, 63% of respondents said they viewed “universal coverage” and “Medicare for All” positively. Support dropped to 59% when it was described as a “national health plan,” 49% for a “single-payer health insurance system” and 46% for “socialized medicine.”

Most Democrats report wanting Congress to increase spending on Medicare (65%) and Medicaid (61%). And Republicans are more divided, with about 58% wanting spending on Medicare to remain the same and 52% wanting Medicaid to remain the same, according to the poll.

How to pay for it? Well, the Affordable Care Act was financed through taxes that hit health insurers, medical device manufacturers, hospitals, wealthy Americans, and even tanning salons; or, in other words, everyone. These fees, economically, are passed down to consumers, ultimately.

That gives relevance to the old phrase, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

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Should you leave stability and join a healthcare startup?

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Healthcare is a $3.5 trillion market that is not renowned for its efficiency. Yet, because there are so many very different facets to the healthcare market, like drug discovery, technological innovation, health improvement, and systems change, it is ripe for opportunity.

Millions of dollars are being invested in startups in all areas of the market, and growth is expected to continue as investors and companies become more sophisticated. Could this be the time to leave a stable position and jump on board a startup?

Why consider a startup?

Startups offer a few alluring contrasts to work within traditional healthcare organizations. A few of those include the opportunity to work in a number of different areas of the business while still contributing in our area of expertise; smaller, nimble and/or less bureaucratic environments; very progressive, often cutting-edge projects; and the opportunity for big rewards when success is achieved.

On the flip side, there is often less stability. From schedule to job security, startups often require a significant amount of tolerance and flexibility while still demanding high-quality work and a strong commitment to the end goal.

Who succeeds in startups?

With this information, the next important step is to figure out whether our temperament meshes with that of the startup culture. While most of us are used to working long hours and being on call, we also often enjoy the clarity and peace of mind that comes with being able to schedule vacations, plan our paychecks into the future and benefit from professional advancement that is possible within a more structured, traditional environment.

On the other hand, if the structure of the environment feels stifling, the impact of our day-to-day work appears nonexistent, or there is lack of ability to directly reap the rewards of our brilliant ideas that positively impact the organization, then a startup environment is one to consider.

What opportunities are there?

If it seems appealing enough to look further, then the next thing to consider is what type of startup and the ideal role we can play within it. For example, teams like this one benefit from having practitioners, technology experts and product facility team members, while other teams, like this one, are more heavily research-based.

Investment organizations, professional trade groups and industry events are great ways to learn more about the local, regional and national healthcare startup landscapes. Like any other position, informational interviews, web research and networking are the best ways to answer key questions about the organization’s goals, culture, funding status and leadership team.

Next steps

Many of us reach a point in our careers where we want to make a greater impact, more directly reap the rewards of our efforts, and have a higher tolerance for risk. This is a great time for anyone at that point in their career working in the healthcare market to consider transition to a startup.

The market is growing, becoming more sophisticated and expanding into even more niches, and it needs experienced leaders and experts now.

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Advice from a learning-disabled individual: Part 2

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For part one, please click here.

I have learning disabilities. There … I said it. Was it hard? No, not at all. You wouldn’t know by looking at me.

I don’t carry a neon sign above my head with an arrow pointing down and the words learning-disabled flashing continuously. I didn’t have cards made up with the words, “My name is Amy Temple. I have learning disabilities,” so I could pass them around to whoever would care.

I also have fine motor skills issues, which is pretty common for people with learning disabilities.

There are some things that take me longer to do, things some might take for granted:

  • I tie slow. It takes a nondisabled individual no more than a minute to tie their shoes, but for me, it takes several. I simply can’t get my fingers to work. So I wear shoes with zippers, Velcro or slip-ons.
  • I type in an unusual way. Though I rest all 10 fingers on the keyboard, I just use the first two or three fingers. Even with this arrangement, I type 60+ words per minute.
  • I can’t wink nor snap my fingers like others can.

·My speech is also affected. I’m definitely one of those people who has to talk slow so people can understand me because the faster I talk, the less articulate I become. Personally, I have found out that if I think of what I want to say and taking a breath before speaking helps, too.

To me, these are just facts of life. I have accepted it.

Have there been times I wished I didn’t have these difficulties? Oh, sure.

But I have discovered the more you wish you weren’t the way you are, the more you risk losing sight of what really matters.

I can’t do anything — we, my fellow learning disabled — about our condition. That’s the way God made us.

Don’t let that deter you from doing whatever you want to do. Don’t let ANYONE stop you!

Unfortunately, we are going to have to really fight to prove we are worthy. Society has pretty much given up on us.

I have been blessed to have parents who have always been encouraging and supportive. They have always allowed me to live a normal life. They give me space.

They are truly my biggest supporters and when I am tempted to believe my naysayers…Mom and Dad won’t hear of it!

  • “No, no! Don’t! You can do it!”
  • “Don’t listen to them. They don’t know who you are and what you can do.”

And they are right.Nobody knows what you can do but you!Trust yourself. Believe in yourself.

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