Wednesday, December 6, 2017

If Thigh Gap and Hip Dip Weren't Enough, Now Women Are Supposed to Worry About Having 'Arm Vaginas'

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I’m a woman with three vaginas. You probably are too. Let’s check: Go to a mirror, take off your top, and see if there is any skin where your inner arm meets your upper body.

If there is—and there should be, because you are a human female—then you have “arm vagina.” We can thank Jennifer Lawrence for coining this phrase in 2014. “I know I have armpit fat,” she confessed on the red carpet at that year’s SAG awards. “It’s okay… it’s armpit vaginas, it’s awful!”

RELATED: These Are the Top Causes of Vagina Pain

Lawrence’s blithe self-deprecation served as the birth canal for a butterfly effect, spiraling women into despair and body dysmorphia. One celebrity stylist has even declared that this apparently unsightly and completely natural fold of skin is among her female clients’ greatest insecurities.

Some have even turned to cosmetic surgery. A plastic surgeon named Hagen Schumacher (because of course his name is Hagen Schumacher) told a UK newspaper that patients seek “correction of this laxity.”

Laxity? First of all, let’s not put the word “laxity” near the word vagina. That’s never good. Second, Dr. Schumacher, how can our arms move up and down if there is not a little bit of “give” in the area?

RELATED: 13 Body-Positive Influencers You Should Follow on Instagram

If you’re like me, you didn’t even know you had arm vaginas. I personally have always thought one set of lady parts down below was enough, although it would have been nice to have a back-up vagina during and after childbirth. Now when I think of how handy my armpits are for holding stuff while my arms and hands are otherwise occupied, I’ll congratulate myself on doing my Kegels.

Ladies? Do we really not have enough going on, what with muffin tops, hip dips, thigh gap, underboob, and side boob that we needed to hit ourselves with arm vagina?

I’m not sure I even understand the dis. Are we now supposed to loathe our body parts for merely existing? Because arm vaginas don’t necessarily have to do with excess fat. There’s an actual muscle underlying—or in some cases entirely comprising—your arm vagina. It’s called the “teres minor.” It flexes. So if you’re someone who does a few planks now and then, don’t be surprised when someone says, “Whoa, have you been working out? Your upper body’s looking…vaginal!”

And is calling something a vagina an insult? My real vagina has come in pretty handy and has produced more things than my armpits ever have. I have a pretty deep cleft in my chin, and someone once told me it looked like a vagina chin. I took it as a compliment but only after asking him to call it “yonic.”

RELATED: Kim Kardashian Says She Has Body Dysmorphia—but What Does That Really Mean?

Look, naming things is powerful. It can lead to solutions. For example, “Hey dude, when you spread your legs on the train, pretending that your bald-and-wrinklies deserve their own seat, that’s called manspreading.”

But when you name something for which there is no solution (even if you’re the beloved, irreverent J. Law), you’re not helping. You’re not helping women at large when you diminish us into body parts—parts which invariably fall short of anatomically impossible standards.

There’s a culinary movement called “nose to tail” in which folks pride themselves on consuming all parts of a pig. I feel like women have created our own nose to tail movement, except rather than using all our parts, we abuse them—making ourselves sexist pigs in the process.

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We’ve spent so much energy trying to keep predators and lawmakers out of the business of messing with our vaginas that the last thing we should be doing is identifying more of them on our bodies and attacking them ourselves.

And I’m sorry if I was the one who introduced you to the notion of arm vaginas. At least we aren’t expected to wax them.



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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How to Tell If You’re an Empath—Plus 3 Self-Care Habits You Need If You Are

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If you’ve ever felt happy for a newly promoted BFF or sad for a loved one who suffered a loss, you’ve been empathetic. But some people, called empaths, really feel those emotions. “Being empathetic is when your heart goes out to somebody when they feel joy or sadness,” explains Judith Orloff, MD, psychiatrist and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide. “But being an empath means you can actually feel their happiness or anxiety in your own body.” Best described as “emotional sponges,” empaths don’t have the usual defenses or filters as other people, so they feel everything.

There’s no clinical diagnosis for empaths. Dr. Orloff uses a self-assessment quiz consisting of 20 questions that can help people determine whether they fit the bill.

RELATED: 15 Ways Being an Introvert Can Affect Your Health

The quiz asks questions like:

  • Have you been labeled “overly sensitive” or introverted your entire life?
  • Do you prefer to take your own car to places so you can leave early if you need to?
  • Do you prefer one-on-one interactions and small groups to large gatherings?

If you answer yes to the majority of the queries, it’s likely you have strong empath tendencies.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Dr. Orloff, who is an empath and a psychiatrist (a tough combo!), says her ability to take on others’ emotions actually makes her a better therapist: “I’m able to tap into my gifts of intuition, depth of connection, and compassion to be really present with someone,” she tells Health.

Of course, absorbing others’ emotions is also taxing. “The key skill for an empath is to learn how to not take on the stress of others,” says Dr. Orloff. Here, she offers three simple self-care habits that can help you stay mentally healthy while you navigate your relationships as an empath.

RELATED: 9 Easy Ways to Practice Self Care This Week

Set limits

We all know people who drain us emotionally, whether they’re narcissists or psychic vampires. But empaths are especially affected by strong personalities, so it’s important to set limits.

The next time a friend is venting to you, kindly lay down some ground rules: “I suggest people do a five-minute phone call if their friend is in a ‘Poor me!' mode,” says Dr. Orloff. “Lovingly tell them that you are happy to help them with solutions if they want that, but you will have to put a five-minute limit on a conversation if they’re going to continue venting. Letting them go on and on will destroy an empath.”

If your friend balks at the time cap, explain that you are trying to be supportive while also practicing necessary self care.

RELATED: If You Struggle to Find Time for Self Care, These Clever Apps Can Help

Make your home a sanctuary

Since empaths tend to be sensitive to crowds and loud noises, it’s easy for them to get overwhelmed when they’re out and about. Making your home a safe haven can help you decompress.

“Be sure to have a sacred place at home where you can take deep breaths, calm down, and connect to yourself,” encourages Dr. Orloff. “Being alone can replenish an empath.” Candles, flowers, and soft music can also help turn your living space into the sanctuary it needs to be if you’re an empath who gets overstimulated during the day.

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Spend time in nature

According to Dr. Orloff, empaths love the outdoors. “Nature has so much positive energy that when empaths are around it, they start to feel better.” Make it a point to spend time in the woods or a park regularly–as opposed to a busy city.

Water is also healing for empaths, adds Dr. Orloff. “They get very replenished in a bath, shower, or hot springs,” she says. “Besides just cleaning off dirt, water cleanses your energy fields so you feel like a different person afterwards.”



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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Doctors Unsure if They Should Save Patient with 'Do Not Resuscitate' Tattoo

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

Emergency room doctors faced a confusing ethical dilemma when an unconscious man was wheeled into a University of Miami hospital with a “Do Not Resuscitate” tattoo.

The 70-year-old man, who was inebriated when he arrived, had a history of lung and heart diseases. Unable to reach his family as his heart pressure dropped, the medical staff started to attempt to revive him despite his tattoo, according to a case study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“We initially decided not to honor the tattoo, invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty,” wrote Drs. Gregory E. Holt, Bianca Sarmento, Daniel Kett and Kenneth W. Goodman. “This decision left us conflicted owing to the patient’s extraordinary effort to make his presumed advance directive known; therefore, an ethics consultation was requested.”

But after going over his case, ethics consultants told the doctors that they should follow the orders on his tattoo, which included what was presumably his signature.

“They suggested that it was most reasonable to infer that the tattoo expressed an authentic preference, that what might be seen as caution could also be seen as standing on ceremony, and that the law is sometimes not nimble enough to support patient-centered care and respect for patients’ best interests,” the doctors write.

The doctors stopped his care, and the man died later that night. But they were still concerned that the tattoo is not a legally binding contract like a true, signed Do Not Resuscitate order, and that the tattoo might just be a joke, or as the doctors put it, “permanent reminders of regretted decisions made while the person was intoxicated.”

Thankfully, their decision not to continue care was confirmed as correct when they found the patient’s written Do Not Resuscitate order.

“Despite the well-known difficulties that patients have in making their end-of-life wishes known, this case report neither supports nor opposes the use of tattoos to express end-of-life wishes when the person is incapacitated,” the doctors write.



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Friday, December 1, 2017

When to See December's Cold Moon, Which Is Also a Supermoon

This article originally appeared on TravelAndLeisure.com.

Have you ever seen a Supermoon rise above the eastern horizon at dusk? It’s one of the most spectacular natural wonders of all, and it will happen for the only time in 2017 at dusk on Sunday, December 3.

When our natural satellite rises fully illuminated in December it’s usually referred to as the Cold Moon. The falling temperatures in the northern hemisphere can make this full moon a challenge to observe, but this year it will be worth the effort.

A full moon occurs every month (once every 27.3 days, to be exact) when it’s on the opposite side of Earth as the sun, but some are more special than others. The moon orbits Earth in an elliptical path, so it has a furthest point (called lunar apogee, which occurred in June) and a closest point (perigee). It’s the latter that happens close to December 3, resulting in a disc that will look slightly larger than usual as it rises: also known as a Supermoon.

When is the Cold Moon in December?

The last full moon of 2017 will occur at precisely 15:47 Universal Time (UTC). At that exact time Earth will be directly between the sun and moon. That’s 10:47 Eastern Standard Time (EST) in the United States, and even earlier in the day heading west. However, to catch a glimpse of the beautifully pale orange Cold Moon rising, all you need to do — wherever you are — is to look east at dusk as the sun sets in the west.

Why is it called the Cold Moon?

December’s Full Moon has in the past been called the Cold Moon, and sometimes the Frost Moon, by Native American tribes for rather obvious reasons: It’s the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The lengthening nights and its timing just before the winter solstice have also led it to be called the Full Long Nights Moon.

Related: Where to Find the Darkest Skies in the U.S. for Serious Stargazing

When is the next Full Moon?

The next New Moon is on Monday, December 18, so look out for a beautiful Crescent Moon for a few days afterwards. However, precisely 27.3 days after the Cold Moon comes the next Full Moon on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. Known as the Full Wolf Moon by some Native American tribes, it’s also a Supermoon. In fact, the Full Wolf Moon is actually even closer to Earth than the Cold Moon, so it should appear even larger. It should be a fine sight to ring in the new year.



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Why This Blogger Says Becoming Fat Saved Her Life

20 Habits That Make Holiday Stress Worse

“He was our light. He made our life better”

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Man Who Inspired ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Dies at Age 46

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Anthony Senerchia Jr., who was an inspiration for the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, died on Saturday at the age of 46, ending a 14-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“He worked tirelessly to raise awareness for ALS and was directly responsible for the world-renowned Ice bucket challenge,” his obituary said, calling him “a fireball who tried everything in life.”

Senerchia was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2003.

“It’s a difficult disease and tough when you’re losing,” his wife, Jeanette, told the Journal News Media Group. “Your body is failing you. But he was a fighter… He was our light. He made our life better.”

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and raised $115 million during two months in 2014 — money that went largely to fund research. And Anthony Senerchia played a significant role in getting it started.

When Jeanette Senerchia’s cousin, golfer Chris Kennedy, was nominated early on to participate in the challenge, it was not yet specifically connected to ALS. But when Kennedy passed along the challenge to others, he chose the ALS Association as a beneficiary because of Anthony Senerchia’s battle with the disease. It took off from there.

“What started out as a small gesture to put a smile on Anthony’s face and bring some awareness to this terrible disease has turned into a national phenomenon,” Kennedy told TIME in 2014, “and it is something we never could have dreamed of.”



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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

4 Signs You Should See Another Doctor for a Second Opinion

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You leave your doctor’s office with a gnawing doubt. She’s the one with the MD, of course. But something’s not right. Should you get a second opinion? Yes, say experts, and don’t think twice. A fresh perspective can make all the difference for your health. Here, a few good reasons to schedule another appointment.

1. There’s been no mention of a specific diagnosis. Even before your doc IDs your ailment, she should be able to tell you what’s likely going on—or at least the range of possibilities, says Leana Wen, MD, author of When Doctors Don’t Listen ($13; amazon.com). “If she doesn’t, that’s a big red flag,” she says.

2. Your own research doesn’t match up. Once you have a diagnosis—and you’ve Googled the heck out of it—don’t be afraid to question your doc’s conclusion. “Does it really explain how you’re feeling?” says Dr. Wen. Do your symptoms align with the descriptions on reputable health sites? “If not, talk to your doc— and if you still have concerns, see someone else.”

3. You’re hearing about only one possible treatment. “In nearly every case, there is more than one treatment option,” says Dr. Wen. “And sometimes a viable option is watchful waiting.” Your provider should present multiple alternatives, along with their pros and cons, so you can decide what’s best for you.

4. You just don’t trust your doctor. If you don’t think she’s taking you seriously, or if you have any doubts about her competence, find a different expert, says Health medical editor Roshini Rajapaksa, MD. “It’s your body, so follow your instincts,” she says. “It never hurts to get a second opinion.”



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This Model Has Embraced Her Belly Rolls in the Most Playful Way

Friday, November 10, 2017

Aaron Hernandez's Brain Suffered Severe Damage From CTE, Doctor Says

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

(BOSTON) — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez suffered severe damage to parts of the brain that play an important role in memory, impulse control and behavior, a researcher who studied his brain said Thursday.

Dr. Ann McKee, director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said she could not “connect the dots” between Hernandez’s severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is linked to repeated blows to the head, and his behavior. The 27-year-old hanged himself in April, while serving life in prison for murder.

But McKee said she says Hernandez experienced substantial damage to key parts of the brain, including the hippocampus — which is important to memory — and the frontal lobe, which is involved in problem solving, judgment and behavior.

“In any individual we can’t take the pathology and explain the behavior,” said McKee, who has studied hundreds of brains from football players, college athletes and even younger players, donated after their deaths. “But we can say collectively, in our collective experience, individuals with CTE — and CTE of this severity — have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses or aggression, often emotional volatility and rage behaviors,” she said.

Hernandez hanged himself in prison days after he was acquitted in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston and just hours before his former teammates visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory.

Prosecutors claimed he gunned the two men down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him in a nightclub — and then got a tattoo of a handgun and the words “God Forgives” to commemorate the crime.

He had been serving a life sentence without parole in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd when he killed himself in April.

Hernandez, who said he was innocent, did not raise CTE in his defense at either trial.

But after his death and September CTE diagnosis, his attorneys filed a lawsuit against the NFL and football helmet maker Riddell, accusing them of failing to warn Hernandez about the dangers of football. The lawsuit, which seeks damages for Hernandez’s young daughter, said he experienced a “chaotic and horrendous existence” because of his disease.

Hernandez inherited a genetic profile that may have made him more susceptible to developing the disease, McKee said. She said Hernandez had the most severe case of CTE they’ve seen in someone his age. Hernandez was diagnosed with Stage 3, out of 4, of the disease.

While the outside of Hernandez’s brain appeared normal, the inside showed evidence of previous small hemorrhages, which experts associate with head impacts. Other parts of his brain had begun to shrink and show large holes in the membrane, McKee said.

“Individuals with similar gross findings at autopsy were at least 46 years old at the time of death,” McKee said.



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What Is Alopecia?

Alopecia is an umbrella term for many types of hair loss. Watch the video to learn what exactly alopecia is.

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Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman Reveals Sexual Abuse By Team Doctor Larry Nassar

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Aly Raisman, a six-time Olympic medalist and one of the most accomplished gymnasts in U.S. history, says she was sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar, who worked as the women’s gymnastics national team doctor for decades.

Raisman is the second member of the gold medal-winning 2012 Olympic women’s team to accuse Nassar of abuse. In October, her teammate McKayla Maroney tweeted that Nassar molested her for years, beginning when she was 13. Raisman disclosed the abuse in an interview scheduled to air Sunday on CBS’ 60 Minutes, as well as in her new book, Fierce.

Nassar, who worked as a volunteer doctor for USA Gymnastics, is currently in jail awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to child pornography charges in Michigan. He is also named in more than 100 lawsuits filed by gymnasts and athletes he treated while working with USA Gymnastics and at Michigan State University. Those suits claim he sexually abused athletes under the guise of medical treatment. Nassar resigned from USA Gymnastics in the summer of 2015.

In the interview, Raisman says she spoke to FBI investigators about Nassar after competing at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero in 2016, after an investigation by the Indianapolis Star revealed that USA Gymnastics had a policy of not reporting sexual abuse reports unless they were filed by the victims or a parent.

Raisman, who competed on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams and is the nation’s second most decorated female Olympic gymnast, is pushing for change at USA Gymnastics, which governs the sport and oversees the selection of world and Olympic teams.

“I am angry,” she said in the 60 Minutes interview. “I just want to create change so [that young girls] never, ever have to go through this.”

In a statement to the program, USA Gymnastics said it has adopted new policies that require “mandatory reporting” of any potential abuse. “USA Gymnastics is very sorry that any athlete has been harmed…we want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe.”



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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

When Is the Beaver Moon?

This article originally appeared on TravelAndLeisure.com.

It’s one of nature’s most arresting sights: a full moon slowly rising in the east as the sun sets in the west. Yet few people bother to look at this highlight of the lunar month.

November’s full moon is known as the Beaver Moon, or sometimes the Hunter’s Moon or the Frost Moon, and its rising this year is extra special because the moon will be closer to Earth than usual. This slightly bigger, brighter full moon is sometimes called a “supermoon.”

When is the full moon in November?

Though it will look very bright for a few days on either side, the moon is only full when it’s precisely opposite the sun, which will illuminate all of its Earth-facing side.

Related: Where to Find the Darkest Skies in the U.S. for Serious Stargazing

This moon phase will happen at 5:23 a.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. That’s 1:23 a.m. in New York (EDT), 12:23 a.m. in Chicago (CDT), 11:23 p.m. on Friday, November 3 in Salt Lake City (MDT), 10:23 p.m. in Phoenix and Los Angeles (MST & PDT) and 9:23 p.m. in Anchorage (AKDT).

However, that’s not when to look at the full moon. By the time it’s risen high into the night sky, it’s too bright to comfortably look at.

A far better time to observe the moon is as it rises, which it will do on November 3, at the same time as sunset. As well as being much dimmer, it will appear orange – for the same reason a rising or setting Sun looks orange – though a rising full moon is far paler.

This highlight of the lunar month is a gorgeous sight, not least because the moon will appear impressively large as it rises. Not because it’s a supermoon — the difference in apparent size is negligible — but because of the so-called “moon illusion” perspective, where things look bigger when they’re viewed close to the horizon.

Why is it called the Beaver Moon?

November’s full moon comes as the temperatures start to drop in North America, where it’s become known as the Beaver Moon.

It’s a name from Native Americans and early colonists that indicates that November was when they needed beaver furs to survive the coming winter months. They therefore laid beaver traps in rivers under moonlight, taking advantage of when the animals were at their most active.

Additional November Moon Names

The many Native American tribes all had different names for various full moons to track the passing of the year. The Cherokee on the East Coast and the Carolinas called November’s Full Moon the nu-da-de-qua, or Trading Moon, because it was a time when much trade was done between tribes for goods, while the Kalapuya in the Pacific North-West called it alangitapi, which translates as “moving inside for winter.”

Since it arrives at a time of year when it’s getting colder and just before the first frosts and freezes, there are many other Native American names that associate it with cold. The Assiniboine of the Northern Plains called it cuhotgawi, or the Frost Moon, while the Haida tribe in Alaska termed it the Snow Moon.

November’s Full Moon has also sometimes been referred to as the Hunter’s Moon, because it illuminates prey at night.

Whatever you call it, the rising full moon on November 3 will be a beautiful sight.

And there will be more reasons to gaze up at the sky in November: The Leonid meteor shower will peak on November 17.



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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

If You Struggle to Find Time for Self-Care, These Clever Apps Can Help

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Finding time for self-care can be tricky, especially in the always-on, digitally connected world we live in. Even when we mean to relax, there are often distractions like work emails or Facebook messages at our fingertips.But believe it or not, your phone can also be a tool to help you prioritize self-care—as long as you know how to make it work for you.

We’ve rounded up the best apps and tech for promoting personal health and making time to recharge your batteries, so you can fill your phone with tools that deliver good vibes only. Because, hey, if you’re going to have your phone around 24/7, it might as well help you take care of yourself.

RELATED: 9 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care This Week

Happify (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app lets you select the mental health and wellbeing goals you want to focus on (think reducing stress or building confidence), and then gives you quick games and activities to help you move the needle on these goals. You’ll track your overall happiness and how it changes with time on the app, too.

Shine Text (free; shinetext.com)

Sign up for Shine Text to receive a daily text message with motivational quotes, affirmations, positive psychology articles, and tips for how to start your morning in an optimistic mood.The company claims that 93% of people who use Shine Text report feeling more confident and happy than they were before. Also cool: If you refer 10 friends, you can score free swag.

Gratitude Journal (free; iTunes and Google Play)

Think of this app as a virtual journal that reminds you to record what you’re grateful for each day, with the option to share it with friends if you want. You can also take photos and tag friends and locations so you can look back on the people and places that made you smile.Practicing gratitude has been shown to make people happier, and having the ability to journal on your phone makes it even easier to find time to reflect on the stuff you’re thankful for.

Headspace (free for first 10 sessions; iTunes and Google Play)

This meditation app gets rave reviews for its short guided audio meditations on different themes, rangingfrom “learning to meditate” to “falling asleep.” The first 10 sessions are free, and after that you can access more meditations by subscribing for $13 a month or $96 a year. Meditation has been shown to help decrease stress and improve focus, and with this app, you can learn to meditate anywhere, at any time—you just need a few minutes a day.

Acupressure: Heal Yourself ($1.99; iTunes and Amazon)

Self-massage is a great way to relive tension and stress, and this app can help improve your skills. The easy-to-use app shows you how to massage various pressure points on the body with illustrated instructions.

Sleep Cycle (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app functions as a smart alarm that tracks your sleep habits and wakes you up at the optimal time (during your lightest sleep phase) so you feel more rested.Your phone doesn't have to be in bed with you, though; it uses sound analysis to track your sleep. To make sure you’re getting the best rest possible, you can also monitor snoring and other sleep stats.

Offtime ($2.99; iTunes and Google Play)

Your phone can actually help you stay on it (when you decide you want to) with Offtime. The app analyzes how you spend time on your phone to deliver honest insight, then you can set barriers to certain apps or features you find distracting, or block texts and calls (while allowing certain numbers to get through).Offtime gives you more control over how you use your phone, allowing you to have undistracted downtime, family time, or work time.

Yoga Studio (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app allows you to practice yoga literally anywhere—you download classes instead of streaming them so you can watch without an Internet connection. Plus, if you’re a beginner yogi, you’ll learn basic moves and can even piece together your own classes with your favorite poses and flows (the app turns them into a seamless video for you). As a bonus, youcan also easily schedule classes from the app onto your phone calendar to make sure you’re fitting in time for your practice.

Clue (free; iTunes) or Glow (free; iTunes and Google Play)

Keep track of your monthly cycle with Clue. This period tracker app allows you to monitor how you’re feeling, skin problems, and sexual activity, so you can notice any patterns in your cycle. This can give you the info you need to prioritize self-care before you’re in desperate need of it.Glow is another great period tracker that syncs with many fitness watches and apps, so it can help you find patterns in activity levels and your cycle.

Talkspace ($32 a week; iTunes)

If you’re ever felt too busy for therapy, this app is for you. Talkspace matches you with a licensed therapist through a free consultation. Once you’ve connected with a therapist, you can text them daily (they usually respond once or twice a day, depending on an agreement you set up with them). Even better: Couples can use it, too.



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Friday, October 27, 2017

Why You Should Never Feel Bad for Daydreaming During a Boring Work Meeting

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We’ve all been there: You’re at a dull work meeting or presentation, and your mind keeps wandering—to what to eat for lunch, your weekend plans, or what’s going on with the new season of Stranger Things.

Don’t feel so bad about all your daydreaming. Mind-wandering may be a sign of intelligence and creativity, according to a new study in the journal Neuropsychologia. And as long as your performance at work or wherever you are doesn’t suffer when your mind drifts, daydreaming may not be such a bad thing after all, the study authors say.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology wanted to study what happens to people’s brain patterns when they’re told to lie still and do nothing—a prime opportunity for mind-wandering. So they asked 112 study participants to do just that: lie in an MRI machine while starting at a fixed point for five minutes.

RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

The research team used those readings to identify which parts of the brain worked together during this type of awake but resting state, and they also compared the readings to tests the participants took to measure their creative and intellectual abilities. In addition, the participants filled out a questionnaire about how much their mind wandered in daily life.

The researchers made several interesting connections. People who reported more frequent daydreaming during the day scored higher on creative and intellectual tests. Their MRIs also showed they had more efficient brain systems—meaning different regions of the brain were more in sync with each other—compared to people who reported less frequent mind-wandering.

The finding that mind-wandering is associated with intelligence was somewhat surprising, says lead author Christine Godwin, a psychology PhD candidate. That’s because previous research has linked mind-wandering to poorer performance on memory and reading-comprehension tests, lower SAT scores, negative mood, and mental-health disorders.

RELATED: How to Trick Your Brain Into Eating Less

“But when you think about the possibility that mind-wandering can potentially be helpful at times for cognitive through processes—or at least not directly harmful—it makes sense,” Godwin tells Health. Other research has also suggested that daydreaming (along with night dreaming) may help people become better problem-solvers, and that daydreaming about the future “can be particularly beneficial in preparing individuals to obtain their upcoming goals,” the authors wrote in their paper.

The study didn’t measure whether people with more efficient brain processes—and more mind-wandering tendencies—required less brainpower to complete certain tasks. But, Godwin says, “it’s an inference we can start to make, especially since mind-wandering was correlated with intelligence, as well.”

“Some other research indicates that people who have high cognitive abilities are able to mind wander during easy tasks simply because they can—because they have extra brain capacity so to speak, and may be more efficient in their cognitive processes,” she adds. (If you can zone out of conversation or tasks and tune back in for the important parts, then congrats: That’s a sign of efficiency, the authors say.)

“The popular perception is that mind-wandering is bad and it’s harmful and you want to try to avoid it,” says Godwin. “And that’s certainly the case oftentimes; if you’re not paying attention to a complex task, your performance is probably going to suffer.”

RELATED: Bipolar Celebrities: Does It Make Them More Creative?

One example may be driving a car: While driving should require one’s full attention, it’s common for people to drift off in thought, especially if they follow the same route every day or find themselves on a long, monotonous stretch of road. Distracted drivers are a major source of traffic accidents and deaths, studies report, although some researchers say it’s still unclear how dangerous it is to daydream while driving.

There can be times, however, that mind-wandering does not impair performance— like when a person is completing a simple and low-risk task that’s done largely from memory, like folding laundry. “In those cases, it’s okay to embrace mind-wandering,” she says, “and the research suggests there may be some benefits to creativity and working memory and intelligence, as well.”

Godwin still recommends that people try to be mindful of tasks that require a lot of brainpower, and to be cognizant of whether their performance slips when their attention starts to drift elsewhere. “If you notice that’s happening, you may need to address that by taking a break or having something to eat—anything to help you get back on track, so you can stay focused now and let your mind wander later.”



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'Plus-Size' Resort Provides a Sanctuary for Curvy Beach-Goers: 'The Stigmas Are Gone'

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Olympians Jordyn Wieber & Nastia Liukin Open Up About Pressure to Stay Thin After Gymnastics Careers

You Asked: Is Watching Scary Movies Good for You?

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

The heart-pounding thrills of a scary movie may come with some health-related benefits, including a calorie burn and a happier mood. But how much you stand to gain from a scary movie seems to depend on how scary you find the film you’re watching—and how much you want to be scared in the first place.

In a 2012 study, funded by the former video subscription service Lovefilm, researchers from the University of Westminster in the UK asked 10 people to watch 10 different scary movies as they monitored heart rate, oxygen intake and output of carbon dioxide. The 1980’s film The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, topped the list of the calorie-scorching horror films. The person who viewed it jumped and shrieked themselves rid of 184 calories: roughly the number of calories a 140-pound adult would burn after 40 minutes of walking, according to the American Council on Exercise’s physical activity calorie counter. Jaws and The Exorcist took the second and third spots on the list, burning 161 and 158 calories, respectively.

A stressful stimulus—in this case, a scary movie—causes the release of the hormone adrenaline, which cranks up the nervous system’s fight-or-flight response, says Richard Mackenzie, author of the study, who is now at the University of Roehampton in London. Along with getting your heart racing, this response also draws energy from your body’s reserves so that you’re ready to fight or flee as the need arises.

The study was very small, and the findings were not published in a peer-reviewed journal. But there is other research that frightening flicks may proffer benefits. A 2003 study from Coventry University in the UK, published in the journal Stress, found that watching a horror film significantly increased people’s circulating levels of disease- and infection-fighting white blood cells. Again, the study team credits the movie’s ability to fire up the viewer’s fight-or-flight response, which includes a short-term increase in immune function.

It might be simpler to think of horror movies as a form of “good stress.” While stress gets a bad rap—and long-term stress is associated with everything from depression to heart attacks—brief bouts of stress have often been linked to improved immune function and activation, says Firdaus Dhabhar, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

A good scare can also elevate your mood. “The research my colleagues and I have done show a high-arousal negative stimuli improves mood significantly,” says Margee Kerr, a sociologist and fear researcher and author of Scream: Chilling Adventures In the Science of Fear. These can be activities like watching a scary movie, or visiting a pop-up haunted house or Halloween-season attraction.

Kerr says that after a scary experience, people feel less anxious, less frustrated and happier. “The different neurotransmitters and hormones released during the experience could explain that,” she says. Or, by voluntarily choosing to endure a scary or stressful activity—whether it’s watching a freaky movie or bungee jumping—you’re likely to experience a feel-good sense of accomplishment afterward.

But—and this is a big caveat—Kerr says her research only included people who wanted to partake in the scary experience. For those who don’t get a thrill out of a horror movie or who don’t enjoy being scared, there may not be any mood or anxiety benefits.

Some frightening movies or experiences may be too much for kids in particular. An older study from the University of Michigan found that 26% of college students who had experienced a media-based scare during childhood still had “residual anxiety” from the experience.

So wait until the kids are in bed before firing up the next horror flick in your Netflix queue. Based on the existing science, you may burn some calories and boost your mood.



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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

3 Strange Treatments Doctors Used to Think Were Good for You

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

The quest for a health is a natural human response to illness, but medical history provides plenty of reason to think twice before you try that miracle cure.

Case in point: medieval doctors would press a sacrificed puppy, kitten, rabbit or lamb on top of a tumor because they thought that cancer was like a “ravenous wolf” that would rather “feed off the sacrificed animal rather than the human patient,” as Dr. Lydia Kang and her co-writer Nate Pedersen put it in their new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything.

Sure, some of the stranger examples of old-time medicine would turn out to be useful; while cautery—heating an iron stick on hot coals and then pressing it onto a person’s body—didn’t end up curing broken hearts when the rod was pressed against the patient’s chest, the practice was a forerunner to electric surgical instruments. And while doctors were misguided in prescribing the poison arsenic to treat syphilis and skin conditions, a form of the chemical has been used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia.

But plenty of other techniques were downright useless, if not dangerous. Early women’s health recommendations included everything from naturalist Pliny the Elder’s insistence that consuming powdered sow’s dung relieved labor pains, to the medieval Italian advice that keeping weasel testicles near one’s bosom was an effective form of contraception. And in American history, misguided medicine ran rampant, especially before steps such as the 1906 Food and Drugs Act, the first major consumer protection law to crack down on misleading food and drug labels, and the formation of the Food and Drug Administration in the ’30s. Even today, despite increased consumer protection, misleading medical claims are still out there.

“We have to be really careful when we’re looking for an easy cure,” Kang tells TIME. “Generally things aren’t that easy, so that should make you a little bit suspicious.”

TIME spoke to Kang about some of the practices once touted as good medicine that are well known to be harmful today.

Tobacco

During a 1665 plague outbreak in London, schoolchildren were told to smoke cigarettes, which at the time were thought to be disinfectants. In addition, “tobacco smoke enemas”—the source of a common idiom about blowing smoke—were developed as a sort of 18th-century version of CPR by members of The Institution for Affording Immediate Relief to Persons Apparently Dead from Drowning. They would drag the victim out of the River Thames, strip him or her down, and use an enema to literally blow smoke into the person, either manually or with bellows. (Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was invented in the ’50s.)

In 1964, a U.S. Surgeon General report would label cigarettes deadly and urge people to stop smoking.

Cannibalism

The phrase “you are what you eat” can apply to this school of thought. Ancient Romans clamored for gladiator blood for strength and vitality, but it was also thought to be a cure for epilepsy. That rationale appeared to be maintained for centuries, based on Englishman Edward Browne’s 1668 observation that people attended executions to collect the blood of the victims. In the early 1600s, one German physician’s suggested cure for a range of conditions was making a jerky of sorts out of the corpses of 24-year-old redheads, chopping up their bodies and mashing the bits in wine, myrrh and aloe, before dry-curing them.

Now that it’s known that blood can carry disease, the risks of drinking it are obvious — but the use of other people’s body parts for medicine would be legitimized through the development of organ donation and transplantation in the mid-20th century.

Radium

In the early 1900s, when people walked into the spa by in Joachimsthal, Czech Republic, they immediately breathed in irradiated air circulating in the lobby. The source of the radiation was a hot spring that emanated radon. Patients soaked in irradiated water and inhaled radon directly through tubes. A few early studies had claimed that radium placed near tumors could shrink the tumors, so doctors at the time thought more was better. “It’s like the difference between treating something with a bomb and treating something with a scalpel,” says Kang.

Radon exposure is now known to be a leading cause of lung cancer. The invention of the Geiger counter in 1928 would help physicians better measure doses of the chemical, paving the way for medical breakthroughs that would enable radiation to be used for cancer treatments today.



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Las Vegas Victim, 27, Wakes from Coma and Takes First Steps After Being Shot in the Head

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Why It's Time to Stop Casually Calling People 'Schizophrenic' and 'Bipolar'

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There has been no shortage of insults during the first nine months of the Trump presidency—both those directed at members of the administration, and those dished out by the commander-in-chief and his staff. But one specific insult recently caught the attention of two psychiatrists, who blogged about it on the BMJ website.

In July, in a now-infamous phone call to reporter Ryan Lizza, then-Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci referred to then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as a “paranoid schizophrenic”—using the name of a legitimate mental health condition as an insult directed at someone who, as far as we know, has no such diagnosis. And while this was a highly publicized event, it’s just one example of a larger problem, says Arash Javanbakht, MD, director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research and Clinical Program at Wayne State University and one of the article’s authors.

It’s a problem that’s evident even without leaving the world of politics. On one side of the aisle, Trump himself has called people “crazy” and “psycho” in recent months. On the other side, psychiatrists have debated whether it’s appropriate to question the President’s own mental health. At least one psychiatrist says terms like dementia and narcissism are being thrown around without evidence, and are unfair to people who are truly ill. 

RELATED: 10 Signs of Narcissism

Javanbakht, and his co-author Aislinn Williams, MD, weren’t the only people to take issue with what Scaramucci said in July, or the way it was reported in the media. In their post, they reference a Teen Vogue op-ed that also points out “the profound problems” with how news organizations reported the phone call, with most never mentioning “how unacceptable and stigmatizing such a phrase is.”

About 1% of the world population actually has schizophrenia, Javanbakht and Williams note, and the disease affects several million Americans and their families and friends. “They are worthy of respect and should be met with support, but many of our profession’s top journals and the news media at large, remained silent in the face of this onslaught.”

Javanbakht spoke with Health about his blog, and about the larger problem of mental-health illnesses being used in such derogatory ways. “Anytime a medical diagnosis is used as an insult, it is basically an insult to an entire group of people that are not responsible for their condition,” he says. “You wouldn’t insult someone by saying they have diabetes, so why would you insult them by saying the have schizophrenia?”

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Using mental illnesses as insults can be directly harmful to people living with these conditions, and they can also spread inaccurate perceptions of what they really are, says Steven Meyers, PhD, professor of psychology at Roosevelt University.

For example, people may use the word schizophrenic to describe how someone can alternate between two different states, while the actual symptoms of schizophrenia involve poor reality perception, hallucinations, and confused thinking.

“Accurate information about the symptoms of a disorder can lead people towards diagnosis and treatment,” say Meyers, “while misinformation is more likely to promote stigma or cause us to dismiss or marginalize people.”

RELATED: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Javanbakht and Williams note that in recent years, it’s become socially unacceptable to make fun of people with illnesses like cancer, and that a public-relations campaign started by Special Olympics in 2008 has even had success reducing use of the “R-word.”

“As psychiatrists, we need to speak up alongside our patients and help people understand that using mental illness as a pejorative is equally hurtful and unacceptable,” they wrote.

“I’m a neurobiological researcher, and to me there’s no difference between a disease of the brain or a disease of the gut or any other area of the body,” Javanbakht says. “We need to help people see diseases like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder the same way they see diabetes, high blood pressure, or Crohn’s disease.”

RELATED: 8 Celebrities on Their Struggle With Mental Illness

That starts with education, he says. “We know that 30% of the general population deals with some form of anxiety and 20% deal with depression, so chances are you have a family member or friend dealing with a mental health condition,” he says. “If we can talk openly and learn about those conditions, we’ll be able to develop empathy and see them for what they really are.”

Meyers says there’s no widespread agreement about what is an offensive use of a mental health term, and that it always depends on context. “Saying that someone has a ‘crazy’ idea isn’t the same as labeling a person as a paranoid schizophrenic,” he says. But when in doubt, he says, people should think about how their casual use of certain terms could impact others—and if they hear those terms being used incorrectly, they should call it out.

“Derogatory words that were commonly used one or two generations ago in conversation don’t appear as often because they have been challenged by friends, family members, professional communities, and the media,” he says. “Slang and joking will continue to occur, but the goal is incremental progress stemming from greater awareness and the elimination of the most insulting or serious misuses of these terms.”



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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kim Kardashian Says She Has Body Dysmorphia, but What Does That Really Mean?

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Kim Kardashian is all about a perfectly posed selfie and expertly contoured face. But even she experiences a self-esteem plunge when she hears negative comments about her body. On the most recent episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim opened up about the toll being in the public eye has had on her body image.

In the episode, unretouched bikini photos of Kardashian went viral online. While dealing with the fallout, she admitted that her body insecurity has increased over the years. “You take pictures and people just body shame you,“ Kardashian said. "It’s like literally giving me body dysmorphia,” she also commented.

RELATED: Kim Kardashian Swears By This $500 Moisturizing Cream. Here’s Why a Dermatologist Says It’s Not Worth It

The term “body dysmorphia" has a buzz to it these days, and it's often thrown around by people who feel a little self-conscious about their appearance. But it’s actually a true mental health condition—and nothing to take lightly. Body dysmorphia is "the preoccupation of imagined defects in one’s appearance,” says Tom Hildebrandt, PsyD, chief of the Division of Eating and Weight Disorders at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. 

A person with body dysmorphia typically sees a specific body part or a group of body parts and thinks, my calves look weak or my face is so ugly and out of proportion. They become obsessed with these thoughts and let them take over their lives. “Obsessed” is not an exaggeration. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder. The International OCD Foundation says BDD affects 1 in 50 people, or between 5 and 7.5 million people in the United States alone.

Based on one episode of her show, it's hard to know if Kardashian has BDD or just doesn’t always like the way she looks. What signs can tell you that your body obsession truly is BDD? It’s more than being critical of your appearance from time to time. Says Hildebrandt: "For someone with BDD, their entire life’s balance hangs on whether they look okay or whether they’ve camouflaged their perceived flaw appropriately.“

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When a person believes she has body issues and is hyper-aware of them, she may avoid social situations to not draw attention to her so-called flaws. She might also go to extremes to hide the perceived flaw, say by walking around with her hair covering her face or going under the knife. "People with the resources may get plastic surgery and go back repeatedly for more, because it only provides a temporary release from the anxiety about their appearance,” explains Hildebrandt.

In KUWTK, Kim says that her body dysmorphia comes from all the body-shaming comments she receives from haters, trolls, and others in the general public. While negative remarks can make BDD worse, they aren’t typically the cause of the disorder, says Hildebrandt. 

RELATED: 10 Signs You May Have OCD

The actual cause of BDD isn’t known, but it may be similar to what triggers OCD. Hildebrandt says people with certain temperaments and ways of thinking are predisposed to BDD and may show OCD tendencies in other areas of their life. For example, a person who obsesses over her legs may also be obsessed with keeping a spotless home. “[It’s] a cognitive style that causes you to prioritize things that are out of place rather than the big picture,” says Hildebrandt.

Worried about a friend who displays BDD behavior? Take note of how often she tries to conceal parts of her face or body, or if she constantly seeks reassurance about a specific body region. If you or a loved one think you’re suffering from it, talking to a therapist or counselor is a smart option. Treatment includes antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy.

BDD shouldn’t be used carelessly as a slang term for someone who isn’t 100% pleased with her body. We all have moments when we wished we were slimmer, had more muscle tone, or were taller or shorter. But when a person’s entire life is dedicated to hiding and obsessing over perceived flaws, it’s a serious mental health issue that needs to be addressed.



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Friday, October 6, 2017

What Does It Mean to Have OCD? These Are 5 Common Symptoms

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Having obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) isn’t easy. The condition, marked by uncontrollable thoughts and behaviors, strikes about 2% of the general population—a figure that in the U.S. alone means nearly 6.5 million people. If you’ve made it past young adulthood without developing any symptoms, you’re likely in the clear.

You wouldn’t know that to hear people talk, however. In recent years, OCD has become the psychological equivalent of hypoglycemia or gluten sensitivity: a condition untold numbers of people casually—almost flippantly—claim they’ve got, but in most cases don’t. Folks who hate a messy desk but could live with one for a day do not necessarily have OCD. Nor do those who wash their hands before eating but would still have lunch if there was no soap and water nearby. Yet the almost sing-songy declaration “I’m so OCD!” seems to be everywhere.

Some of the confusion is understandable. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)—the field guide to psychological conditions—lists OCD among the anxiety disorders, and nearly everyone has experienced anxiety. The thing is, though, you’ve experienced headaches, too, but that doesn’t mean you know what a migraine feels like unless you’ve had one. Same with the pain of OCD, which can interfere with work, relationships and more.

“The brain is conditioned to alert us to anything that threatens our survival, but this system is malfunctioning in OCD,” says psychologist Steven Phillipson, clinical director of the Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy in New York City. “That can result in a tsunami of emotional distress that keeps your attention absolutely focused.”

No single fear defines the condition. There are familiar obsessions like washing your hands or checking the stove. But there’s also hoarding, hypochondria or a terrible fear you’re going to harm somebody. People with a common type of OCD can even have paralyzing anxiety over their own sexual orientation.

As with any mental illness, only a trained clinician can offer a reliable diagnosis. But here are a few behaviors that experts say can be genuine symptoms of OCD.

Bargaining

It’s common for people with OCD to believe that if they check the stove just once more, or Google just one more symptom of a disease they’re convinced they’ve got, then their mind will be clear. But OCD typically reneges on the deal. “The brain becomes biochemically associated with the thing you fear,” says Phillipson. “Performing the ritual just convinces it that the danger is real and that only perpetuates the cycle.”

Feeling compelled to perform certain rituals

Could someone pay you $10—or $100, or whatever is a relevant sum of money to you—not to do a ritual like checking the front door twenty times before leaving for work? If your anxiety can be bought on the relative cheap like that, you may have an idiosyncrasy—you worry about burglary a little too much, perhaps—but you probably don’t have a disorder, Phillipson says. For the person with OCD, he explains, the brain is signaling what feels like a life and death risk, and it’s hard to put a price on survival.

Being tough to reassure

For people with OCD, the phrase “yes, but” may be a familiar one. (Yes, your last three blood tests for this or that disease were negative, but how do you know they didn’t mix up the samples?) Since absolute certainty is rarely possible, almost no reassurance clears the yes, but hurdle, and that keeps the anxiety wheels spinning.

Remembering when it started

Not all people with OCD can point to the exact instant the disorder first struck, but many can, says Phillipson. OCD is a sort of free-floating anxiety before the initial symptoms strike, but then it alights on a particular idea—the fear you’re going to lash out at somebody with a knife when you’re making dinner, for example. These experiences tend to roll off of most people. But for someone with OCD, the bottom falls out, Phillipson says. “It’s the moment when a panic marries a concept,” he says. Like most bad marriages, it’s hard to end.

Feeling consumed with anxiety

OCD is a matter of degree, especially since there are real-world risks associated with nearly all obsessive-compulsive triggers. Houses do burn down, and hands do carry germs. If you can live with the uncertainty those dangers can cause—even if they make you uncomfortable—you likely don’t have OCD, or at least not a very serious case of it. If the anxiety is so great it consumes your thoughts and disrupts your day, you may have a problem. “The D stands for disorder, remember,” Phillipson says. “OCD causes your life to become disordered.”

There are proven treatments available for OCD. Medications, including certain antidepressants, are often a big part of the solution, but psychotherapy—especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—can be just as effective. One potent type of CBT is a protocol known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). As the name suggests, ERP involves gradual exposure to increasingly provocative situations—under the guidance of a therapist—while avoiding any rituals to undo the anxiety. Begin by touching a doorknob without washing your hands, for example, progress up the ladder of perceived danger—a handrail on a bus, a faucet in a public bathroom—and slowly the brain unlearns the fear.



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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Best Online Meditation Videos Under 10 Minutes

Whether you need to de-stress or get focused, there’s a quick meditation here to get you back on track.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

7 Things to Know Before You Donate Blood

In the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday night, at least 58 people were killed, and more than 400 others were transported to hospitals. Early this morning, the Las Vegas Police Department tweeted about the need for local blood donors, reminding us that in the wake of this tragedy—as well as the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey—helping out can be as simple as rolling up a sleeve. Last summer, Health spoke with Justin Kreuter, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Here’s what he wants potential donors to know:

Eligibility is always changing

The Red Cross maintains an alphabetical list of eligibility criteria for potential donors—from acupuncture (thumbs up) to Zika (thumbs down)—and can give you the latest information on whether or not you’re good to give.

RELATED: 4 Unexpected Benefits of Donating Blood

The FDA regulates donor blood just as aggressively as it regulates drugs

“It takes a lot of money to do the infectious-disease testing that we do [on donor blood], and when we create blood products out of the donation, that’s done to the same standards as any drug manufactured in this country. The FDA holds us to those same standards, so it’s a very high level of quality and also resources that are invested,” Dr. Kreuter explains. “These tests and high standards are what’s keeping the blood supply safe, so that if my wife or one of my daughters needs a blood transfusion, I can feel assured that I can just sit at their bedside and hold their hand rather than worry about what that might result [in] for them later down the road.”  

You’ll get a mini-physical before you donate

The flip side of donor blood screening (which ensures that it’s safe for the eventual recipient) is confirming the donor’s health (which ensures that the blood draw won’t have a negative effect on them). “We check blood pressure and pulse, we do a pinprick to check red blood cells to make sure they’re safe—we don’t want to make our donors iron deficient,” Dr. Kreuter says. He makes no specific suggestions about what you eat and drink prior to donation; just be sure you have breakfast and lunch under your belt, and take it easy on caffeine. “We all live on our daily espressos and whatnot, but we see donors who show up and haven’t eaten [meals] and they’ve only been drinking coffee, and they’re quite dehydrated. When you donate you’re losing circulating fluid, so the water that you drink before and after your donation is important.”

RELATED: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

You’ll hardly feel a thing—seriously

The needles used to collect blood are a bit larger than those you’d encounter when, say, receiving a flu shot, but the so-called ‘small pinch’ you feel at insertion is, truly, no big deal. “What we feel [at the start of a blood draw] is just on the surface of our skin. These needles have silicone on them, they’re made to glide and be quite comfortable. After that initial stick, you’re not going to feel anything,” Dr. Kreuter says. If needles give you the shivers, look away for the quarter-second in which yours is placed; then ask a staffer to cover up the insertion site for you. Since the “tough” part is already over, you can lie back and spend the next eight to 10 minutes zoning out.

It’s okay to have a cookie after you donate

“What’s healthy is to keep a balanced diet as you go forward in the day [after your donation],” Dr. Kreuter says. “We tend to stock our canteen area with things like water and juice and then salty snacks, because salt helps you retain a little more of the [water] volume that you’ve lost through donation. The cookies are there because [they’re] something the donor culture has grown up in—maybe not the healthiest option, but certainly an expectation. Believe it or not, I have meetings about cookies. I’ve seen shirts before that say ‘I donate for the cookies.’” Bottom line: Rewarding yourself with a treat isn’t going to do any harm, provided that you indulge in moderation.

Your blood could save patients who haven’t even entered the world yet

Though many of us are reminded of the importance of blood donation when tragedies happen, much of what we give does the quiet work of saving people who’ll never show up on the news. Since the need for blood doesn’t go away, the best way to save lives is to contribute regularly. “At Mayo, about 15% to 20% of our blood is going to trauma patients and being used in our ER; a lot of our blood gets used supporting patients through life-saving cardiac or cancer surgeries. Cancer patients [also need blood]—chemotherapy knocks down their ability to make their own red blood cells and platelets—and folks who have medical conditions like autoimmune diseases also need transfusions.”

Donations flow to delivery rooms, too: “If anemia is significant enough in utero we transfuse during pregnancy and sometimes immediately after delivery,” Dr. Kreuter explains. “A lot of kids need blood in the first couple of minutes of life. Sometimes with newborn babies an emergency platelet transfusion in the first few moments of life is absolutely necessary; in their situation the newborn brain is so delicate and fragile that having these platelets immediately available is the name of the game in order to prevent bleeding into their brains, which results in long-term disabilities.”

Note that platelets have a shelf life of just five days, while whole blood can be stored for up to six weeks. The immediate need for platelets—and platelet donors—is constant.

RELATED: 6 Iron-Rich Food CombosNo Meat Required

Donating your voice is vital, too

Those “Be nice to me, I gave blood today!" stickers aren’t merely a cute (and justified) humblebrag: They’re also a benevolent form of peer pressure, not unlike the "I voted” stickers we earn and wear on election days. “Hearing about blood donation from a friend or colleague is very motivating in getting [potential first-timers] to think about taking that next step,” Dr. Kreuter says. “Our donor population [in Rochester] has an older average age, and we’re trying to reach out to the younger generation to start having the same blood donation habits.”

Think about it this way: Taking your kids to see you strengthen your community’s heartbeat at a blood center is just as important as bringing them with you to the voting booth. Donate visibly, donate vocally, and donate as often as you can.



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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Woman Attacked By a Venomous Copperhead Snake At LongHorn Steakhouse

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

A Virginia resident was bitten by a venomous snake inside a LongHorn Steakhouse before she even made it to her table.

Rachel Myrick and her family were heading into the foyer of the restaurant for dinner earlier this month when she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her foot. “My left foot felt a bee sting, a hornet sting — something similar,” Myrick told Washington’s Top News. “So, I reached down to brush my foot off to keep walking.”

Once she did so, she was bitten a second time and immediately began screaming as she dropped her cellphone, wallet, and let go of her 13-year-old son Dylan’s hand. When addressing the pain between the bites Myrick said, “[The second] was significantly more painful than the first time.”

RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

After she was bitten a total of three times—twice on her toes and once on the side of her foot—the 8-inch-long copperhead stayed clung onto her foot until she was able to shake free.

“I freaked out,” Myrick told Fredericksburg.com. “I got bit! I got bit!” she recalls yelling out loud.

Her boyfriend, Michael Clem, who was with her at the time, knows a fair share about snakes. “I’ve bred and raised reptiles for 15 years… there was no question what it was,” he said.

Myrick was hospitalized and administered antivenin, morphine and benadryl for the severe swelling and pain.

A spokesman for LongHorn Steakhouse, Hunter Robinson, says the restaurant believes the snake may have come from a nearby retention pond and called the incident a “highly unusual incident.”

RELATED: N.Y.C.’s Trendy Raw Cookie Dough Shop Is Being Sued for Allegedly Making People Sick

“We are working with our facilities team to see how this may have occurred and we are taking steps to prevent it from happening again,” he added.

Myrick estimates it will take her about three months to fully recover.



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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How Long Will the Total Solar Eclipse Last?

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This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

The upcoming total solar eclipse, which you can watch live on TIME.combeginning at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, will cross the U.S. in less than two hours, and Americans in some states will only witness seconds of it.

The once-in-a-lifetime event on Aug. 21 will engulf parts of 14 states in sudden darkness when it moves from the West Coast diagonally down toward the East Coast. The path of totality, which starts in Oregon and ends in South Carolina, is about 70 miles wide.

It’s the first total solar eclipse with a trajectory exclusive to America, as well as the first total eclipse of the sun that will be visible from the contiguous U.S. since 1979. Total solar eclipses can be seen when the moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth and the moon completely covers the entire face of the sun.

Watch Live as the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Crosses the U.S.

Here’s what to know about the timeframe of the August total solar eclipse:

How long is the upcoming total solar eclipse?

The total solar eclipse, which has been dubbed “The Great American Eclipse,” will last for about an hour and a half overall, but each city that catches the eclipse will only see it for a matter of minutes or seconds. The moon’s shadow travels at roughly 2,400 mph over the face of the Earth, according to Bill Kramer, a well-known expert in the eclipse chasing community.

Which cities are the first and last to see the eclipse in totality?

Skygazers in Lincoln Beach, Ore. will witness the rare event first. A partial eclipse begins there at 9:05 a.m. PST and totality starts at 10:16 a.m. The eclipse then makes its way through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, clipping several other states on the way. It ends near Charleston, S.C. at 2:48 p.m. EDT, just about an hour and a half after it began.

Which city will see the eclipse for the longest?

NASA says the longest duration of totality will be near Carbondale, Ill., where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds. Some places, like Kansas City, Kans.— which is at the edge of totality — will only witness totality for about 20 seconds. The total solar eclipse will be visible in a hard-to-reach part of Montana for less than a minute. Here’s where you can see what the eclipse will look like for you.



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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Why Do People Say Namaste at the End of Yoga Class?

I was 14 years old when I went from flat-chested girl to voluptuous woman—almost overnight. Every girls dream, right? Not really. Having a D cup in your teens and a DD in your 20s is not so much fun.

Besides being uncomfortable naked and in a bathing suit, my neck and shoulders were killing me. And my belief that I looked OK in clothes was shot to pieces one day in my late 20s when I reviewed a taped segment of myself (I was an on-air TV reporter) and saw that I looked like I had two huge grapefruits under my sweater. I was horrified and never appeared on-screen again in anything but a business suit.

Life could have gone on like this—with me enduring the pain in my neck and rib cage, being tired of the sweat that accumulated at night between the two mounds of heavy skin while I tried to sleep, and strapping on several sports bras before every jog—if my mother hadnt met a woman whod had breast-reduction surgery. Id considered reduction mammoplasty, sure, but I really couldnt afford it. (The average cost is $6,000-plus, according to plastic surgery organizations.) But the woman my mother told me about had the surgery and loved it, and her insurance paid for it.

I had no idea my top-heaviness was a medical condition that might be covered. But I was about to find that out. Heres my journey and what you need to know.


The approval process
Insurance companies need to be convinced that breast reduction is medically necessary. And convincing them requires more than just a doctors recommendation. You need real proof. To get it, I went to see an aesthetic-and-reconstructive plastic surgeon. After a quick examination, he told me what I already knew. My breasts were large for my frame, one was a good deal larger than the other, and I had the typical indentation marks on the top of each shoulder where bra straps had pressed into my skin for years. In his opinion, I was a good candidate.

The next step was harder. I had to be photographed from the neck down, and the pictures were sent to my insurer. A panel of doctors would determine if a reduction was appropriate and, most important, if my bill would be paid.

Insurance companies typically make the call by relying on a set of charts that consider height, weight, and the amount of removable tissue in each breast, accord­ing to Amy S. Colwell, MD, a specialist in aesthetic-and-reconstructive breast surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The surgery is covered 90 percent of the time when the tissue to be removed meets insurers standard criteria. (It weighs between 400 grams to 2,000 grams, or about 1 to 4 pounds.) Women with DD, DDD, and H cups usually qualify. But Dr. Colwell says the criteria of different insurers can be fuzzy, and a recent study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that insurers breast-reduction rules arent always based on medical science.

Weeks passed as I waited to hear what a panel of strangers had decided about my naked body. When the call finally came, I was shocked and thrilled all at the same time: The insurance company had approved my surgery, and I would probably go from an overflowing DD to a B. At 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds, I thought that sounded a little bit small, but I knew I needed the surgery. And now, finally, at 30 years old, I could afford it. The cost? My small deductible of $150.

There are several ways to perform a breast reduction. In my case, tissue was removed from the bottom of each breast, and my nipples were moved up without disconnecting them from the blood flow, allowing me to quickly regain sensation. “Nobodys leavin till theyre even,” was my surgeons motto in the operating room.

What about the risks? They include infection, wound breakdown, scarring, and the need for re-operating. Studies suggest that 10 to 50% of women undergoing a reduction may have some complications. But the healthier you are, experts say, the more likely surgery will be a success. Dr. Colwell says most women are extremely satisfied.

With mild pain medication and a full week of rest, recovery was easier than I had anticipated. Early on, I had feeling in one breast but not the other. With time, sensation returned to both, just as the doc said it would.

Two years later, the scars around my nipple and the lower-middle section
of each breast are barely visible. The scars underneath each breast are light-colored and hidden by the natural shape of perky boobs. Because theyre around and below the nipple, they dont show in bikini tops or plunging necklines. To be honest, I love the scars. They are a reminder that I took control of a part of my body that was out of control.

 

Although it takes months for breasts to take on their permanent shape after a reduction, I quickly looked and felt different. The weight on my neck and rib cage was gone, and, for the first time in a long time, I felt proportional. And my bra size? I turned out to be a perfect 34D. (Once in surgery, my doctor was able to meet the weight-removal requirements set by the insurance company and still leave me with breasts that felt right to me.)

Now that Im out of the Big Bra Club and feel great, Im on a mission to convert other women whose large breasts are a health issue. They need to know that feeling top-heavy, uncomfortable, and embarrassed isnt just a part of life that they need put up with. They need to know its not normal to have to search constantly for a bra that fits or to have backbreaking pain. And although a reduction can limit a womans ability to breast-feed, its unlikely to affect mammograms. Ultimately, these women need to know that big-breast problems can be fixed. For good.



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What You Need to Know About Swimmer's Ear–Even If You Never Swim

The term “namaste” has become so popular it immediately conjures images of zen-like yogis, but have you ever wondered what the yoga phrase actually means?

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Sunlight Is So Good For You

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Even Hippocrates believed that the changing seasons had something to do with health—and that the key was how much available daylight there was during different times of the year.

Many centuries later, it’s clear he was onto something. As people spend more time indoors staring at computer and television screens, scientists are starting to appreciate how exposure to sunlight affects various body systems.

The most interesting support for our dependence on daylight emerged with a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The term was coined by Dr. Normal Rosenthal at Georgetown University to describe the so-called winter blues: the lethargy and feelings of sadness and hopelessness that come when the weather forces people to spend more time indoors and the season provides little opportunity for exposure to natural light. Some people have speculated that our modern lifestyle, which keeps people indoors under artificial light for so many hours, may be encouraging a form of SAD year-round.

Rosenthal found that while not everyone is as strongly affected by a lack of sunlight, for the people who are, light boxes that blast a few minutes of bright light in the frequency of natural sunlight each morning can help to elevate mood and re-energize them to face the day.

Studies of shift workers also support the possible role that exposure to sunlight has on mood. Messing up the normal light and dark cycles by sleeping during the day and being awake at night, under artificial light, can disrupt the body’s metabolism. That can have domino effects on nearly everything: how we break down energy from food, how strong our immune systems are and the vast array of brain chemicals and other substances that contribute to mood, weight, energy and more. People who consistently work night shifts, for example, tend to be heavier than people who don’t.

There is also intriguing evidence finding that people who work at night and don’t get exposed to daylight may produce less melatonin, a hormone that is dependent on light. Normally, people produce more melatonin toward the evening, as the body gets ready for sleep. As more light creeps in during the morning, the levels of the hormone start dropping again. In winter months when the days are shorter, melatonin levels may peak earlier or later in the day, which can lead to some of the mood changes linked to SAD. Studies in shift workers found that less melatonin may also lead to lower levels of important chemicals the body uses to repair DNA. That could potentially lead to more mutated cells that can trigger cancer.

Some studies also suggest that the light cycle may regulate the production of blood stem cells from the bone marrow. More research here is needed, but that could be important for the timing of bone marrow transplants for cancer patients, and hitting the transplant at just the right time of the light cycle may improve the chances of harvesting enough cells from donors.

MORE: You Asked: Is It Bad to Be Inside All Day?

Other work found that the dreaded risk of rejection of transplanted bone marrow cells might also be avoided with the help of light — in this case, ultraviolent light. Scientists treating mice who received skin transplants found that zapping the transplanted cells with UV light eliminated the group of cells most responsible for triggering rejection reactions.

The strongest support for the role of sunlight in health, however, comes from its effect on mood. Studies generally focus on the brain chemical that’s most directly linked to mood, serotonin: higher levels of serotonin correlate with better mood and feelings of satisfaction and calmness, and lower levels link to depression and anxiety. (Many antidepressants work by boosting levels of serotonin among brain neurons.)

One Australian study that measured levels of brain chemicals flowing directly out of the brain found that people had higher serotonin levels on bright sunny days than on cloudy ones. That effect remained no matter how cold or hot the weather was. Other autopsy studies found that people who died of non-psychiatric causes in the summer, when days are longer, tended to have higher levels of serotonin than people who died in the winter when sunlight is scarce

MORE: New Ways to Improve Wellbeing at Work

Other interesting research, this time of people using tanning beds, hints that ultraviolet light may trigger feelings of euphoria, which may explain why some people become dependent on getting regular sessions in the beds. There’s also evidence that UV light can push melanocytes—the cells that produce dark pigment in skin—to release endorphins, a feel-good chemical.

But the connection isn’t entirely clear yet. It would follow that sunlight, then, would be a good treatment for people with depression and low levels of serotonin. It works for some people with SAD, but whether the light therapy can help people with non-seasonal depression isn’t so obvious. For one, it seems that people who suffer from SAD don’t tend to show significant drops in serotonin levels, like people with depression. Studies also have not found differences in depression between sunnier and less sunny climes, either. What’s more, rates of suicide tend to climb as days get longer and decline as the days get shorter.

While there have been some rigorous studies looking at how sunlight can affect such non-seasonal depression, most show that if it can cause a lift in mood, it takes much longer than the kind that can occur with seasonal depression. While light therapy can improve mood in people with SAD in a few days, it may take several weeks for light have an effect on non-seasonal depression.

Doctors may not be prescribing sunlight therapy yet. But if you find yourself in the doldrums after hours at your desk, it might not hurt to get up and look for some light—as long as it comes from the sun, not the ceiling.



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Here's How to Take a Perfect Vacation

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Taking time off from work or the daily grind not only helps people de-stress and feel happier, but it also helps productivity and mood—as long as you do it right.

But the barrier to entry is high, since many Americans don’t even take their allotted vacation time. Fewer Americans are going on vacation now than in the past: Data suggests that Americans used to take nearly three weeks of vacation a year in 2000, but took just slightly more than two weeks in 2015. Even when people are on vacation, more than 60% say they keep working remotely.

Yet the benefits of vacation are clear. “We know that taking a break is extremely good for one’s mental health,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, an adjunct professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, who frequently writes about the benefits of vacation. “It puts you in a different frame of mind, gets you out of your standard patterns and can give you time with family.”

MORE: TIME Guide To Happiness

It also helps busy people hit refresh, in a sense. In one survey of 414 travelers, 94% said they had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip, and 55% who had a low-stress trip returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before.. “It’s good to just get out of the day to day drudgery,” says Whitbourne.

The type of vacation matters, of course. If planned poorly, a vacation can actually lead to more stress. According to a 2010 report, a vacation where there’s lots of travel stress, like figuring out transportation logistics or feeling unsafe, can make vacationers feel less happy and more frazzled than they were before the trip. Taking the time to plan the trip can help ensure things run smoothly. In that same survey, 28% of people who said they had a bad vacation also said they left planning to the last minute.

Managing expectations is also key to having an enjoyable break. Your happiness will fluctuate during a vacation, after all. “If you understand people have different happiness levels over the course of vacation, that can give you some ideas for how to spend it,” says Whitbourne. “Have alone time or take a break, then come back together.”

MORE: TIME Guide To Happiness

And don’t forget to document your trip on your camera. “Take pictures, so that you can look back on them and the memories of vacation,” says Whitbourne.

Even if your trip seems to be filled with more mishaps than good memories, all is not lost: you can usually turn weird, bad or disappointing experiences into family jokes. “Everyone has those nightmare travel stories,” Whitbourne says. “But those can really bond families or partners.”



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