Posts By: Matthew Golden

Turn on your daydreams again…

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Sometimes we must admit to ourselves that we’re not always at our best. I mean I’m doing things. I’m getting my work done, but I’m dry! The enthusiasm is not bursting! For me too much working from home is like being lost in the desert. I want the morning commute. The community that lives in these streets is my motivation to live and write. So, I decided to set myself free in these streets. When I see life, talk to people, and read other’s words I write more. I apologize for not sharing more, yet I will use the pandemic one last time as an excuse. I promise. No more excuses.

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

A recent article I read on spending time in Nice, France made me drift away. One’s mind is powerful, allowing us glimpses of what life can be if we are as fearless in real life as we are in our daydreams. Ah Epiphany.

I thought about how I use my mind. I assumed it was time well spent daydreaming about the material things I don’t have and maybe don’t need, things I want to accomplish and visualizing the me without flaws. My daydreams are elaborate and I’m always victorious. This led me to do a little research and I learned daydreaming can be a form of mindfulness. “Daydreaming associated with playful, vivid, wishful thoughts, and free from psychological conflict is positive constructive daydreaming. This is what we want.” (Sam Brinson)

A funny thing happens to me physically in my daydreams. I become energized. I feel joy. I feel alive like I lived it. But wait I imagined it? What? LOL!! Now I want it. Scientifically during daydreams alpha brain waves increase thereby lowering stress, reducing anxiety, decreasing depression, and improving creative thinking. I feel good and I start to gain confidence…

My dreams meet my reality as a self-fulfilling prophecy. I see the rooms that I want to live in. I daydream about the relationship I want to have with my wife. My daydreams are practice. They are an easel holding a canvas I can erase if I don’t like what I see. Eventually there is a vision, a plan, steps. Then parts of the plan become priority.

I don’t know how it happens, but it does. I get what I want. What I dreamed. It’s not always perfect. Sometimes it doesn’t look right on the first try. But eventually it does.

Turn on your daydreams again and promise to never give up.

As former players we rise to the occasion repeatedly. We can’t help it, we get up… sometimes on our own sometimes with help from a teammate. Here grab my hand and get me up. I will get you next time. I promise.

Daydreaming is prophesizing. Daydreaming is planning. Planning is action and action creates an opportunity to see who you want to be and the life you want to live.

Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Rely on Coping Skills in Stressful Times

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

It’s an honor to be old. I’m not quite there yet, but I want to live well past 90 years! For I know it will take that long, and likely even more time, to figure out what ‘LIFE’ actually is.

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

Even though the world and its order seem to be crumbling around us, we still have our lives to live the best we can. It’s about understanding the ‘predictable paths’ we choose and the ‘same poor decisions’ we make repeatedly are chances to grow and mature. Owning our truths, like who we ‘really’ are is an opportunity to advance and gain peace. Finding our true self is a virtue.

With the pandemic seemingly easing, another twist comes our way as the atrocities of war rears an ugly head. Giving us yet another chance to look inward.

The Ukraine conflict has the world wondering ‘How?’, especially with the sophistication of society and technology connecting the people of the world as never before. Instagram has shown the world how similar and human we are.

Yet we still must try and go on…life happens, children are born, life is celebrated, success is revered, and humility understood.

Identifying coping skills to help us through these emotionally stressful periods is wise.

Here are 5 things I do to make sure I can function in my world even with all the difficult things happening around me.

Journal Your Prayers: It’s nice to look back on what you prayed about and prayed for.

Exercise: Exercise doesn’t make us tired. Exercise gives us energy. Physical stamina promotes mental stamina.

Stay Informed: Seeking truth and knowing what real news is versus made up stories may put your mind at ease.

Set Boundaries: Learn to say no. In the famous words of John Hanson Beadle… “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Have compassion for others: Life is hard, and we have a responsibility to one another.

Stay focused: Your catch is as close as the other side of the boat… Coping Skills Create Resiliency and Action Creates Opportunity.

Here’s to creating your opportunity,

Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Take Care and Take Stock this Holiday Season

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Can it really be December already? Another Thanksgiving come and gone. Another holiday season in full swing with Christmas over the hills and through the woods. I insist if you don’t force yourself to stop and look around you’ll miss it. See the lights of the season that represent sharing, giving and family. Hear kids laughing and hoping out loud at the anticipation of toys and time off. Embrace the hustle of making plans that celebrate life.

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

Take this opportunity to breathe in the chill of the December air. Allow yourself time to slow down just a bit, to be present with your surroundings and the people or strangers that come in and out of your life every day. Be focused on the joy they bring you and be an ‘awareness giver’ and trust that a smile or helping hand will make all the difference in the world. This holiday season recognize those moments and be present.

Mindfulness is the state of being aware, acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts. A core principle of mindfulness thinking is being in the moment.

A wakefulness and understanding of who you are and where you stand undoubtedly will create an opportunity to be a better person. Your mental wellbeing is important and action creates opportunity. So, take inventory on self; pause and feel the energy around you.

From all of us at the PAF, wishing you a joy filled holiday season!

Andre Collins

What I Discovered amid the Pandemic

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

I’m 50ish. I still think young and I’m excited to get up every day. Work from home mornings start out with lots of enthusiasm, but then I see how things go. This pandemic offers a fresh perspective on the workday, but then after a third cup of coffee and two rounds of CNN I’m looking for lunch and distractions have set in. It’s easy for my mind to wander at home. For years I’ve successfully separated work from home.

But now, I keep track of the week by trash days. And Friday is “hey where can I shove all this work junk” to get it out of my sight, so I can pretend to be home and not at work.

At the start of the pandemic, I had a million personal goals. I did buy lots of stuff on Amazon and finished my backyard landscaping. But the goal of figuring out my life has fallen a bit short. Did I really expect to figure out my life by staying up ‘til 4am and overindulging on Netflix… (by the way, the greatest invention since the wheel)

I learned the hard way, Netflix after midnight is not the curriculum for personal development.

Fast forward…

I discovered the sounds around me… sounds I wasn’t focused on before. The sounds of the streets on my long pandemic walks. Cars going by, kids playing, machinery pounding. It reminded me that life happens every day. I want to be a part of that energy. That rotation of movement. That sense of purpose and progress. It was nice to notice those things, the unassuming scenes of humanity. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 19 years. And never have I ever seen those faces. The guy jogging by in the black sweat suit. We started to say hi. The slew footed power walker in her purple shoes at the same time everyday meant the world was in order.

I survived these times. I don’t stay up late anymore. I’m setting my alarm clock again. I won’t oversleep, and distractions are less. You can’t figure out your life, but you can LIVE life.

I will welcome and accept life’s events.

I’m human. I didn’t accomplish all my pandemic goals. But I accomplished being present with myself, realizing I have too many holey socks, that I love frozen pizza and living in the moment… letting negative energy pass through me, turning down the noise in my head …eating something delicious, and reveling in my happiness, because I’m allowed…

Action Creates an Opportunity to get to know yourself.

Hurricane Ida Assistance

We continue to closely monitor the weather events in your area due to Hurricane Ida. FEMA Emergency Assistance is now available. Affected individuals residing in the designated red counties (see map) in need of additional support may qualify for an emergency grant from the PAF. To inquire, please reach out with the following information:

To: paf@nflpa.com
Subject line: HURRICANE IDA ASSISTANCE

  • Photos of damage to home or vehicle
  • FEMA application confirmation
  • Proof of residency (lease/mortgage statement)
  • Picture of photo ID


Once received, you will be contacted by a PAF team member with next steps. As always, we encourage you to follow your state and local safety warnings and suggestions in their entirety. As conditions progress, we will provide additional information as it becomes available. 

How to Speak to a Someone at the IRS

Getting through to an IRS representative takes time, so before you call, look for answers online at irs.gov. Start with Tax Information for Individuals or try the IRS’s list of Complex Tax Topics for more complicated situations. For refund questions, search the Tax Season Refund FAQ page and use the embedded search feature. 

If the IRS website doesn’t answer your specific question, here’s what to know about speaking to a representative at the IRS.

WHICH NUMBER TO CALL AT THE IRS

The main IRS phone number is 800-829-1040, but the agency maintains different departments with their own phone numbers to help callers with specific areas. Help lines are open Monday through Friday. Here’s a list of primary departments to call:

Note: Alaska and Hawaii residents should follow Pacific time. Puerto Rico phone lines are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. 

  • Individuals: 800-829-1040, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
  • Businesses: 800-829-4933, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
  • Nonprofit taxes: 877-829-5500, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time
  • Estate and gift taxes (Form 706/709): 866-699-4083, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time
  • Excise taxes: 866-699-4096, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time
  • Overseas callers should use the International Services page
  • Callers who are hearing impaired: TTY/TDD 800-829-4059

If you have a question about something even more specific, like a missing child tax credit payment or how to order a tax transcript, the IRS has additional phone numbers for those kinds of questions. NerdWallet maintains an extensive list of lesser-known IRS phone lines. 

WHAT TO EXPECT AND BEST TIME TO CALL THE IRS

Unfortunately, it’s not easy getting a live person at the IRS on the line to talk to you—the agency received more than 100 million calls in 2020. Don’t give up, but do be strategic. 

Hold times during tax filing season (January-April) will average around 13 minutes, according to the IRS, while post-filing calls (May-December) average 19-minute wait times. But if you call at peak times, you could wait up to an hour or longer. 

Extended holds are difficult to avoid, but East Coast callers have found that calling early, before 9 a.m. local time, may reduce the wait time. On the West Coast, calling after 5 p.m. can help. 

INFORMATION TO GATHER FOR YOUR IRS CALL

Because tax information is highly confidential, you’ll need to be prepared to verify who you are once you’re speaking to an IRS representative. Gather the following documents so you can refer to them during the call. You’ll likely need to answer some highly specific questions to proceed:

  • Social Security numbers (SSN) and birth dates
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for taxpayers without a Social Security number
  • Filing status — single, head of household, married filing joint, or married filing separate
  • Prior-year tax return 
  • Tax return you’re calling about
  • Any correspondence the IRS sent you

If you’re calling about specific forms or accounts, you’ll want to have as much information on hand as possible. 

CALLING THE IRS ON BEHALF OF ANOTHER PERSON 

If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, you’ll need authorization (either verbal or written) to discuss their account. For verbal consent, that person must be on the line with you in order to authorize the discussion with the IRS representative. Verbal consent, also known as an oral disclosure, is limited to the current conversation – you’ll need verbal consent every time you start a new conversation with the IRS. 

On top of that, you’ll also need:

  • Their taxpayer name, and SSN or ITIN
  • Their tax return you’re calling about
  • Valid Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization or Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative
  • Your preparer tax identification number or personal identification number (SSN or ITIN)

If you’re calling about someone who is deceased, you’ll need a copy of that person’s death certificate and either a court approval letter or a completed copy of IRS Form 56 (Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship).

HOW TO HANDLE THE CONVERSATION WITH AN IRS REPRESENTATIVE

When you do call, keep in mind that IRS representatives handle basic questions and issues related to your tax return. They may not be able to help with particularly complex questions. And just like many other industries, the IRS is experiencing processing delays due to the pandemic. That might also affect your experience on the phone. Bring your patience. 

Taxes are stressful, but IRS representatives aren’t your enemy. They want to help you. The more prepared you are going in, the easier and more productive the conversation will be. Know what you want before the call starts.

If you’re calling to set up a repayment plan for back taxes, it’s important to understand you can’t negotiate the outcome. The IRS has very specific guidelines for how plans are constructed. The representative should be able to walk you through your options.

WHEN TO CONSULT A TAX PROFESSIONAL

If the online or phone resources don’t address your issue, you may be better off scheduling a face-to-face appointment with your local IRS office. 

Taxes can be complicated. If you have multiple sources of income, own your own business, have investments, or have accounts in foreign countries, you likely would benefit from working with a CPA or other certified tax expert.

Medical Myths: All about stroke

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year, and around 610,000 are first strokes.

In 2019, stroke was the second leading cause of mortality globally, accounting for 11% of deaths.

There are three main types of stroke. The first and most common, accounting for 87% of cases, is an ischemic stroke. It occurs when blood flow through the artery that supplies oxygen to the brain becomes blocked.

The second is a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a rupture in an artery in the brain, which in turn damages surrounding tissues.

The third type of stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is sometimes called a “ministroke.” It happens when blood flow is temporarily blocked to the brain, usually for no more than 5 minutes.

While stroke is very common, it is often misunderstood. To help us dispel myths on the topic and improve our understanding, we got in touch with Dr. Rafael Alexander Ortiz, chief of Neuro-Endovascular Surgery and Interventional Neuro-Radiology at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Stroke is a problem of the heart

Although stroke risk is linked to cardiovascular risk factors, strokes happen in the brain, not the heart.

“Some people think that stroke is a problem of the heart,” Dr. Ortiz told MNT. “That is incorrect. A stroke is a problem of the brain, caused by the blockage or rupture of arteries or veins in the brain, and not the heart.”

Some people confuse stroke with a heart attack, which is caused by a blockage in blood flow to the heart, and not the brain.

Stroke is not preventable 

“The most common risk factors [for stroke] include hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, trauma to the head or neck, and cardiac arrhythmias,” said Dr. Ortiz. 

Many of these risk factors can be modified by lifestyle. Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can reduce risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. 

Other risk factors include alcohol consumption and stress. Working to reduce or remove these lifestyle factors may also reduce a person’s risk of stroke.

Stroke does not run in families 

Single-gene disorders such as sickle cell disease increase a person’s risk for stroke. 

Genetic factors including a higher risk for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors may also indirectly increase stroke risk. 

As families are likely to share environments and lifestyles, unhealthy lifestyle factors are likely to increase stroke risk among family members, especially when coupled with genetic risk factors.

Stroke symptoms are hard to recognize 

The most common symptoms for stroke form the acronym “F.A.S.T.“: 

  • F: face dropping, when one side of the face becomes numb and produces an uneven “smile”
  • A: arm weakness, when one arm becomes weak or numb and, when raised, drifts slowly downward
  • S: speech difficulty, or slurred speech 
  • T: time to call 911 

Other symptoms of stroke include: 

  • numbness or weakness in the face, arm, leg, or one side of the body
  • confusion and trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • difficulty walking, including dizziness, loss of balance and coordination 
  • severe headaches without a known cause

Stroke cannot be treated 

“There is an incorrect belief that strokes are irreversible and can’t be treated,” explained Dr. Ortiz.

“Emergency treatment of a stroke with injection of a clot busting drug, minimally invasive mechanical thrombectomy for clot removal, or surgery can reverse the symptoms of a stroke in many patients, especially if they arrive to the hospital early enough for the therapy (within minutes or hours since the onset of the symptoms),” he noted. 

“The longer the symptoms last, the lower the likelihood of a good outcome. Therefore, it is critical that at the onset of stroke symptoms — ie. trouble speaking, double vision, paralysis or numbness, etc — an ambulance should be called (911) for transport to the nearest hospital,” he continued. 

Research also shows that those who arrive within 3 hours of first experiencing symptoms typically have less disability 3 months afterward than those who arrived later.

Why Starting a New Job Feels So Awkward

Starting at a new job in a new workplace is exciting, but it can also be uncomfortable. Regardless of how many jobs you’ve had before, you may suddenly feel like the new kid in class, with all eyes on you. How can you overcome the awkwardness of those first few weeks? Is there any way to feel at ease when you’re brand new? And if you’re the one welcoming a new person to your team, what can you do to smooth the way for them?

It’s helpful to know a bit about what makes these transitions so difficult so you can mitigate the awkwardness.

Your prediction engine fails.

The most significant source of awkwardness is that you just aren’t sure what to expect. The brain is a prediction engine. It wants to accurately forecast what’s going to happen, and a lack of confidence about the future creates anxiety. (That’s the same reason why foreign travel is often more fun in retrospect than it is in the moment.)

When we’re uncertain about what will happen, we default to inaction. This is for two reasons. One, our anxiety motivates us to avoid potential threats or calamities. Two, when we do experience bad outcomes, we’re more likely to blame actions we take rather than things we fail to do. So we convince ourselves that not doing anything is less likely to cause problems. As a result, when you’re not sure what’s going on, it can be difficult to start conversations with new colleagues or to speak up.

This tendency to remain silent is made worse by concerns that you’ll say the wrong thing. Even when we’re talking to people we know well, we tend to avoid saying things we think might be misinterpreted. As it turns out, in reality, people focus mostly on the intent behind what you say rather than the specific words you use to say it. So, new colleagues are unlikely to form a negative impression of you, because they rarely notice the things you were concerned would be awkward. It really is ok to chat with your new colleagues and to ask questions when you’re confused.

To help ease the way for a new colleague, try to make things feel more certain. Introduce them to others in the office. Let them know how the workday ebbs and flows. If you’re working remotely, leave yourself a note to reach out to your new colleague at least once a day so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

You don’t know the language.

Even if you’re ready to speak up at work, there’s a whole set of jargon you’re probably unfamiliar with. Every organization has its acronyms for particular departments or processes — not to mention its own terms for people, places, and things. Those first few weeks at a new job can feel like you’ve been dropped into a country in which you speak enough of the language to feel like you ought to understand more of what’s being said around you.

It’s uncomfortable to stop people whenever they use a new term to get them to define it. And people who are fluent in their office jargon can spit out sentences that are completely incomprehensible to the uninitiated. (“I had to get EVPP and VPR to approve a PAR before sending it to OSP.”) So, it’s useful to get a translator. See if a colleague can put together a cheat sheet for you of commonly used acronyms and phrases in the company. (Some smart organizations even include this in their onboarding materials.) Then, get their permission to email or text them when a new phrase comes up that you don’t know. It will be reassuring to know you have a lifeline when you’re not able to fully follow ongoing conversations.

If you’re working with someone new, try to wrap your head around the beginner’s mind. It can be difficult to remember how steeped you are in your organization’s way of speaking. When you find yourself using some of the local jargon, use the term (so that your new colleague gets used to hearing it) and then define it (so that you don’t confuse them completely).

You don’t have a squad — yet.

Perhaps the hardest part of starting a new job is that you don’t have a group of people you feel comfortable with yet. Research suggests that having positive social connections at work is crucial to happiness and job satisfaction. You may see groups of people spending time together and talking about shared experiences, which can make you feel like an outsider, or even isolated. And, chances are, you don’t have a lot of practice integrating yourself into a pre-existing social structure, unless you’ve relocated a lot in your life. We generally only meet a lot of new people when everyone is in the same boat and creating a new social group (such as arriving at college as a first-year student).

Remember that it takes time, and everyone else there was new at one point too. You can start out by having conversations with a few people. Get to know them, and find out how the group engages. Are there coffee breaks or shared lunches? An easy way to meet a group of people is to get someone to serve as your ambassador and to introduce you to others. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you to meet your new colleagues. People are generally happy to agree to simple favors like this for their colleagues, especially new ones.

When you have a new colleague at work, help them to get settled into the social scene. You don’t have to commit to being a close friend or to spending time with them outside of work. Just help them to meet a few other people and include them in workplace conversations. It’s particularly valuable to make these introductions when people in the organization are working remotely. Most social interactions in remote workplaces have to be explicitly arranged, so it is easy for a new person to get left out entirely. Ensuring that new hires get connected to others also helps to improve retention.

Ultimately, remember that you are more worried about the awkwardness of being new at the job than anyone else is. The rest of your new colleagues are just going about their daily routines. The best part is that in six weeks or so, most of your anxiety will fade. You will develop new habits, you’ll discover you understand at least half of the new jargon that gets thrown at you, and you’ll have a couple of people who can guide you through the social scene.

How to Be There For a Partner With Anxiety

Relationships thrive on concessions and acclimation. On the one hand, you’re human — stubborn and proud, enjoying things a certain way. On the other, you’re human —  forgetful and malleable, able to navigate new roads and think they were always the fastest route. To balance these two things is important for any relationship — and absolutely crucial if one partner suffers from anxiety. 

There are countless examples of what partners of people with anxiety experience. Maybe you drive hundreds of miles to visit family because you know your partner won’t step foot on an airplane. Or maybe you’ve accepted that food shopping is your job because they get overwhelmed in grocery stores. Maybe when that nice dude you chat with at the playground invites you and your partner to a meet-up with other local parents, you start running through the bank of unused excuses in your head, because you know your better half would never go for it. At first glance, these concessions can seem arduous and frustrating. Research suggests that when one partner has anxiety, it can cause a significant strain on relationships. But experts say that if couples learn to navigate anxiety in a healthy, collaborative way, it can make the relationship stronger.

Anxiety disorders are common, affecting 19 percent, or 40 million adults in the US, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There are many different types: Anxiety is an umbrella term for different anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), says New York City clinical psychologist Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, an advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. 

Anxiety itself is not necessarily a disorder — it’s a normalemotion everyone experiences on some level, Lira de la Rosa says. We study for a test to quell nerves telling us we won’t do well, for example. Anxiety becomes a diagnosable disorder when it’s persistent and begins to interfere with someone’s social, emotional, and psychological functioning.

That interference can have a significant effect on partners, both as individuals and on their relationship as a couple. Some studies suggest that anxiety tends to rub off on partners: When wives suffered anxiety, husbands reported feeling distress as well, the authors of a 2010 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found. The anxious women in the study rated the quality of their relationships lower, and their husbands did, too.  

In a review of the literature published in 2017, the authors noted that the impact of anxiety disorders on marital and partner life isn’t well understood. They also wrote that the link between anxiety disorders and family relationships can go both ways: Psychological problems adversely affect the relationships of people with anxiety, and the attitudes of the partner towards the person with anxiety can sometimes exacerbate the anxiety. 

“Anxiety can be contagious. We may feel like we’re taking on other people’s anxiety,” Lira de la Rosa says. “Partners may begin to worry they’re going to make their significant other’s anxiety worse if they let them know that they’re feeling anxious as well. They may hide their stress and other worries out of fear they’ll exacerbate their partner’s anxiety.”

Depending on its severity, anxiety might also affect the way the partners live their lives, such as by avoiding certain situations or social gatherings, says Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D., a relationship researcher and marriage and family therapist in New York City. The partner with anxiety may pull back at times as they try to navigate their feelings and emotional experience, she says. In a long-term relationship, there can be pressure on the partner who doesn’t have anxiety to know exactly how to handle the anxiety situation or support their partner without being told. This, per Cohen, can feed the vicious cycle.

When your partner has anxiety, neither ignoring it, getting angry about it, nor making constant concessions to help them avoid anything that makes their anxiety worse will help. What will: understanding their specific anxiety, communicating about it in the right way, supporting them properly, and drawing healthy boundaries. One finding of the 2010 study mentioned above is that good communication and support between couples dealing with one partner’s anxiety may be protective for them. Meaning? Anxiety was less likely to have a negative impact on relationship quality day to day among couples who communicate effectively. So, if your partner has anxiety, here is some expert advice to keep in mind.

1. Study Up

How your partner experiences anxiety is individual. But it can help you to empathize if you educate yourself about the type of anxiety they have.  

“It’s important that when your partner tells you they suffer from anxiety, you don’t diminish it or exaggerate it,” says Brooke Bralove, a licensed clinical social worker in Bethesda, Maryland. “Learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatments. The more basic knowledge you have, the better.”

Also important, however, is not to weaponize what you learn when talking to your partner about their anxiety. You’re looking for understanding that can help you be compassionate, not to become an expert about how your partner feels and what they need to do to “fix” their anxiety.

2. Talk Through Anxiety-Related Issues Together

When your partner has anxiety, it helps to acknowledge their feelings and make a game plan that might include compromises. Cohen says to encourage them to talk about their anxiety, such as potential triggers (if any), symptoms they experience, and ways in which they typically prefer to work through it.

It’s possible that someone with anxiety might not know what they need at the moment even if you were to ask them. You can also try asking if they need you to just listen or if there’s anything you can take off their plate to help them feel less anxious, Lira de la Rosa says. 

“Or perhaps they need you to just be present while they’re doing something that causes them to feel anxious,” he adds. 

3. Learn How to Be the Right Kind of Helpful 

It’s important to not offer solutions unless explicitly asked by the person experiencing anxiety, says Cohen. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Once you’ve talked with your partner about their triggers and what tends to be most helpful to quell their anxiety, however, then you can ask what would most help them at that moment.

“Offer specific suggestions for things they could do to ease their symptoms. You could recommend a five-minute meditation, box breathing, a brisk walk, or listening to their favorite song,” suggests Bralove. “Distraction and physical movement can be lifesavers when someone feels overwhelmed with anxiety. When in doubt, tell them to breathe, breathe, breathe.”

Many people with anxiety don’t find reassurance, such as saying, “It’ll all be OK, don’t worry,” very helpful. It can make them feel like you don’t understand them or you’re sick of hearing about their issues with anxiety. 

“If reassurance worked, no one would have anxiety,” says Bralove. “Acknowledge that you don’t fully understand their anxiety, but that you believe them and feel empathy toward them.”

4. Set Boundaries

While it’s important to be patient and compassionate with your partner if they suffer from anxiety, you also need to set boundaries for the sake of your mental health. 

Say your parents want to come visit for a week, but your partner insists she can only handle two days of them being around, Bralove says. You can say something like, “I know you get anxious when my mom visits, but we also know it’s good for our children to have a relationship with grandma. Let’s put our heads together to figure out how this can go smoothly,” she suggests. 

Resiliency Is a Philosophy: A Life Span Approach

Every time I type the word “resiliency,” spellcheck seems to prefer the word “resilience.” It made me question whether or not the word “resiliency” exists. When I searched the definition for “resiliency”, it redirected me to the definition of “resilience.” Is there a difference between the words? According to Oxford’s definition, “resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” 

What then is resiliency? I am not a linguist, but I would submit that resiliency is the practice of being resilient. Resiliency is a philosophy that believes in embracing difficulties and seeing them as opportunities for growth. Resiliency does not submit to fear. 

Resiliency is practiced by getting up every time you are knocked down. The practice of resiliency is clearly on display by the people of Ukraine, as they are being attacked by a supposedly more formidable opponent. They refuse to give up. When the United States offered President Volodymyr Zelenskyy an opportunity to escape via helicopter, he stated, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Zelenskyy’s acts of resiliency are infectious and admired, as videos of Ukrainian citizens standing in front of Russian tanks or taking up arms to defend their country has gone viral. 

By all reports, Putin has underestimated the resiliency of the Ukrainian people. Historically, Ukraine has struggled for independence. They have been occupied by several countries including Nazi Germany and Russia. Their people have faced repeated attempts of extermination. On January 21, 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians organized a human chain for Ukrainian independence between Kyiv and Lviv. Ukraine’s dream of independence became a reality on August 24, 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union. By practicing resiliency in the face of prior adversity, the Ukrainians are well prepared for what they are currently facing. 

How do the lessons of the Ukrainians apply to practicing resiliency within a child’s development? I am reminded of Dr. Rabbi Abraham Twerski’s story of the resilient lobster. While Dr. Twerski was waiting at the dentist’s office, he read an article about how the lobster gets a new shell. As the lobster grows, it experiences pressure and discomfort, confined by its shell, Dr. Twerski tells us. “So it goes under a rock, casts off its shell, and produces a new one.”

“The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is to feel uncomfortable,” Dr. Twerski points out, adding that, “if lobsters were able to go to a doctor, they would be given a Valium or Percocet and never grow.” 

Research supports Dr. Twerski’s lobster’s story of resilience. A recent study found that, contrary to the researcher’s expected findings, the more intimately exposed you were to Covid-19, the more resilient you were.

Resiliency is in our DNA. On average the male produces 100 million sperm to fertilize one egg. Of the 100 million sperm, only one survives and fertilizes the egg. Fertilization is an example of resiliency. 

If resiliency is in our DNA, then why do we have so much difficulty coping with stress? Once the fetus is formed, it becomes dependent on the mother for its nutrition via the umbilical cord. After the child is born and the umbilical cord is detached, the opportunity for the practice of resiliency becomes real. 

The child’s ability to practice resiliency is often thwarted by the best parental intentions. No parent likes to see their child suffer. The paternal impulse is to protect the child from the bully, the mean teacher, and the missing homework. However, when a parent shields a child from the natural consequences of his actions, he could be undermining his opportunity to experience some discomfort and shed his shell. 

I am not suggesting placing a 6-month-old child in the middle of traffic. To cultivate resiliency it is necessary to take a developmental approach. A scaffold is a temporary support structure that is surrounded by the construction of a building. This metaphor has been used in early education but is applicable in raising a resilient child. As a child matures, he is faced with new obstacles. Depending on his level of development, he has the necessities to face certain stressors. The scaffolding provides the necessary support. The scaffold eventually goes away and the child should be able to stand on his own.

A parent’s role is to provide a child with the necessary skill set to face his difficulties and not escape them. President Zelenskyy did not want a helicopter to escape, he wanted the support necessary to face his enemy. That is the philosophy of resiliency.

Want to Refinance Your Mortgage?

Some people can still get a lower rate on their current home loan, however — and save some money in the process.

An estimated 472,000 well-qualified homeowners can still refinance their mortgages by at least 0.75 percentage points, according to the data and analytics company Black Knight. Doing so would save these homeowners an average of $309 per month on their mortgage payments — or about $3,708 per year.

Outside of cost savings, there are other reasons why refinancing now could make sense. If you are nearing the end of the fixed-rate period on an adjustable-rate mortgage, refinancing into a fixed-rate loan lets you lock in a steady rate that won’t change periodically. Another option is a cash-out refi, which allows you to use the equity you’ve gained in your home to pay off higher-interest debt.

Mortgage refinancing isn’t a quick process: the average closing time on a refi loan was 52 days in June, according to ICE Mortgage Technologies. So if a refinance makes sense for your budget, the sooner you start the better.

Here’s exactly how to do it, broken down into seven steps to help move the process along.

1. Set a refinancing goal

Most homeowners refinance in order to get a lower interest rate and, as a result, reduce their monthly payments. However, that’s not the only reason to refinance.

Different loan types offer different advantages.

You may want to switch from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage to guarantee a permanently lower rate. Maybe you want to switch from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan to pay off your mortgage faster. If you have enough equity, you may also be able to save on mortgage insurance by switching from an FHA loan to a conventional mortgage.

Perhaps you’ve recently run up against major medical bills, unexpected home repairs or other expenses that are weighing you down financially. If you’ve built up enough equity in your home, a cash-out refi will not only let you refinance your loan but also take out extra cash.

Knowing what you want to accomplish with a refi will help you determine the type of mortgage product you need. Consider all the options to see which works best for you.

2. Check your home equity

You may be able to qualify for a conventional refi loan with as little as 5% equity in your home, according to Discover Home Loans. However, most lenders prefer you have at least 20% equity.

If you have more home equity, you may qualify for a lower interest rate and lower fees, as lenders will view borrowers who have higher equity as less of a lending risk. More equity also means that you are less likely to end up owing more than the home is worth if home prices fall.

To get an estimate of your home equity, subtract your current mortgage loan balance from your home’s current market value. The result will be your home equity. Contact a knowledgeable local real estate agent to get an idea of your home’s value. Zillow’s home price estimate can also be a rough starting point too.

You should also prepare your home for an official appraisal, which will be part of the refinance application process. Have documentation about any improvements you have made to the home handy. (For example, did you add a bathroom or replace an old roof?) It won’t hurt to clean and organize your home to get it in showing condition.

3. Check your credit score and credit report

Before making any loan decisions, it’s important to check your credit score, as well as your credit report.

Your credit score will in large part determine how favorable a rate a lender will offer. The higher your score, the lower the rate you’ll qualify for and the lower your monthly payments will be. If you have a low score, look for ways to improve your credit score well before applying for a loan.

Your credit report shows the information your score is based upon. It’s where you can check if there are any errors that may be negatively affecting your credit score. If you find mistakes in your report, you can contact the credit bureaus to have these items removed. Be prepared to provide documentation proving the mistake.

As part of the consumer protections put in place by the CARES Act, you can get a free weekly credit report from any of the major reporting bureaus until December 31, 2022. (Typically, you’re entitled to one free report from each credit reporting company per year.)

You should also be aware of what factors could cause a temporary hit to your credit score. Applying for credit cards, personal or auto loans just before, at the same time, or just after applying for a refi will lower your score, albeit temporarily.

It’s all in the cup (or two)

Coffee contains many beneficial compounds for health, including caffeine, diterpenes, and chlorogenic acid. 

Studies show that habitual coffee consumption is linked to the prevention of chronic and degenerative conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

Caffeine, the most commonly studied compound in coffee, exerts positive effects on kidney function, and daily coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of chronic kidney disease. 

Although other compounds in coffee are less studied, compounds such as chlorogenic acid and trigonelline are known to reduce generalized inflammation and oxidative stress.

Knowing more about how coffee consumption affects the incidence of other kidney-related conditions could help policymakers take steps to reduce people’s risk of developing progressive kidney disease. 

Recently, researchers investigated the effects of coffee consumption on acute kidney injury (AKI), when the kidneys lose all or part of their function suddenly. 

AKI represents a public health problem with around 0.25% of the general population experiencing AKI, which rises to 18% among individuals who are hospitalized annually. 

From their analysis, the researchers found that higher coffee intake is linked to a lower risk of incident AKI. 

The study was published in Kidney International Reports.

The most beneficial amount of coffee 

For the study, the researchers used data from 14,207 adults ages 45 – 64 from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. 

The researchers assessed the participants’ coffee consumption during their first visit via a food frequency questionnaire. In total, they found:

  • 27% never drank coffee
  • 14% drank less than a cup of coffee per day
  • 19% drank 1 cup per day
  • 23% drank 2-3 cups per day 
  • 17% drank more than 3 cups per day 

To define acute kidney injury, the researchers looked at rates of hospitalization, including an International Classification of Diseases code indicating AKI throughout a median period of 24 years follow-up. They noted 1,694 cases of incident AKI during the follow-up period. 

After adjusting for demographic factors, they found that individuals who consumed any amount of coffee had an 11% lower risk of developing AKI compared to individuals who did not consume the beverage.

The researchers further noted a dose-dependent relationship between AKI and coffee intake, with those consuming 2-3 cups of coffee per day experiencing the most substantial risk reduction.

How to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown

Humans are wired to fear the unknown. That’s why uncertainty—whether at the macro level of a global economic, health, or geopolitical crisis or at the micro level (Will I get that job? Will this venture be successful? Am I on the right career path?)—can feel nerve-racking, exhausting, and even debilitating. However, that gut reaction leads people to miss a crucial fact: Uncertainty and possibility are two sides of the same coin.

Consider the achievements you’re most proud of, the moments that transformed your life, the relationships that make your life worth living. We’ll bet that they all happened after a period of uncertainty—one that probably felt stressful but that you nevertheless pushed through to accomplish something great. When we moved abroad, for example, we faced uncertainty about making less money, paying higher taxes, doing more-challenging work, and introducing our children to new schools, a new language, and a new culture. But seven years later we are so grateful for all the possibilities the move opened up.

Our modern-day heroes all have a similar story. Rosa Parks faced great uncertainty when she refused to give up her seat, igniting the Montgomery bus boycott and paving the way for desegregation. Nearly everyone initially thought that Elon Musk and his team would fail when they set out to revolutionize electric vehicles and push the world toward a more environmentally friendly future. They couldn’t have achieved their breakthroughs if they had been afraid of uncertainty.

Uncertainty doesn’t have to paralyze any of us. Over the past decade we have studied innovators and changemakers who’ve learned to navigate it well, and we’ve reviewed the research on topics like resilience and tolerance for ambiguity. The findings are clear: We all can become adept at managing uncertainty and empower ourselves to step confidently into the unknown and seize the opportunity it presents. Applying the following four principles will help you do that.

1. Reframe Your Situation

Most people are loss-averse. Multiple studies demonstrate that the way you frame things affects how you make decisions. The research shows, for instance, that if one treatment for a new disease is described as 95% effective and another as 5% ineffective, people prefer the former even though the two are statistically identical. Every innovation, every change, every transformation—personal or professional—comes with potential upsides and downsides. And though most of us instinctively focus on the latter, it’s possible to shift that mindset and decrease our fear.

One of our favorite ways of doing this is the “infinite game” approach, developed by New York University professor James Carse. His advice is to stop seeing the rules, boundaries, and purpose of the “game” you’re playing—the job you’re after, the project you’ve been assigned, the career path you’re on—as fixed. That puts you in a win-or-lose mentality in which uncertainty heightens your anxiety. In contrast, infinite players recognize uncertainty as an essential part of the game—one that adds an element of surprise and possibility and enables them to challenge their roles and the game’s parameters.

Yvon Chouinard, the cofounder of Patagonia, is an infinite player. As a kid he struggled to fit in, running away from one school, almost failing out of a second, and becoming a “dirtbag” climber after he graduated. But rather than seeing himself as a failure, he recounts in his book Let My People Go Surfing, he “learned at an early age that it’s better to invent your own game; then you can always be a winner.”

Chouinard not only created one of the world’s most successful outdoor-apparel brands but also changed production norms by adopting more-sustainable materials, altered the retail model by refitting old buildings for new shops, and challenged traditional HR policies by introducing practices like on-site childcare. Some of those innovations created uncertainty for the business. For example, Patagonia adopted organic cotton before it became popular, when it was expensive and hard to source. When a financial downturn hit, outsiders encouraged the company to buy cheaper materials. But using organic cotton was in keeping with its values, so Patagonia persisted, despite the cost and the supply risks, and in the end grew its sales while its competitors saw their sales fall.

Chouinard has learned to face uncertainty with courage—and in fact to be energized by it—because he views his role as improving the game, not just playing it. “Managers of a business that want to be around for the next 100 years had better love change,” he advises in his book. “When there [is] no crisis, the wise leader…will invent one.”

Of course, when uncertainty is forced upon us, we often need help reframing. Consider Amy and Michael, a professional couple with four children who moved from the United States to France in 2017 for Michael’s job. When the pandemic started, his position was eliminated, and then companies that initially promised him job offers started stalling. In July 2020, Amy and Michael were scheduled to fly home to the United States, but three days before they left they still didn’t have jobs or even a place to live. Family and friends were asking for updates, and their teenagers harangued them: “You are the worst parents ever! How can you have no clue where we’re going next?”

Two days before their flight, Amy confided to us over lunch that Michael had been offered a job, but neither of them wanted him to accept it. “Should we just take the bird in hand?” she wondered aloud. “I feel like we are such losers.” We encouraged her to reframe. She and Michael were showing resilience and bravery by exploring all possible next steps and holding out for the right one. How lucky their kids were to have parents bold enough to know what they really wanted and wait for it! The couple returned to the States with curiosity and courage and, by summer’s end, had both found jobs they loved as well as a fixer-upper home in a fun location.

2. Prime Yourself for New Risks

Although innovators often talk about eating uncertainty for breakfast, if you dig deeper, you discover some curious habits. When Paul Smith—a designer known for daring color combinations—travels, he always stays in the same hotel, often in the same room. Others we’ve studied book the same airplane seat for every flight, follow the same morning routine, or wear the same clothes. Steve Jobs had a lifetime supply of black turtlenecks.

All those habits provide balance. By reducing uncertainty in one part of your life, they prime you to tolerate more of it in other parts. Some people ground themselves with steady, long-term relationships, for instance. As the serial entrepreneur Sam Yagan, one of Time’s 100 most influential people and the former CEO of Match.com explains, “My best friends are from junior high and high school. I married my high school sweetheart. Given how much ambiguity I traffic in at work, I do look for less in other areas of my life.”

You can also prime yourself for uncertainty by getting to know the kinds of risk you have a natural aversion to or an affinity with. Case in point: Back when Nathan was pursuing a PhD in Silicon Valley and Susannah had started a clothing line that wasn’t yet making money, we had four children to support and were still living off student loans in a few hundred square feet of on-campus housing. At lunch one day, Nathan told his mentor, Tina Seelig, “Let’s face it, if I really had any courage, I would become an entrepreneur, but I’m just not a risk-taker.” Tina disagreed. She explained that there are many types of risks: financial, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and so on. In Nathan’s situation, avoiding financial risk by pursuing a stable career as an academic—while still taking intellectual risks—was a prudent choice. The important lesson is that knowing which risks you tolerate well can help you see where to push more boldly into the frontier, while knowing which you don’t will help you prepare so that you can approach them with more confidence.

Just as important, you can increase your risk tolerance by taking smaller risks, even in unrelated fields. Consider Piet Coelewij, a former senior executive at Amazon and Philips. When he was thinking of leaving the corporate track to head the expansion of Sonos—then a start-up—in Europe, he decided to take up kickboxing. Coelewij describes himself as “naturally fearful of physical confrontation,” but trying kickboxing helped him build up his muscles for dealing with uncertainty, which made him “more comfortable with higher-risk decisions in other settings with less complete information,” he says. “Once you are in a cycle of lowering fear and developing courage, you create a virtuous circle that allows you to continuously improve.”

3. Do Something

Taking action is one of the most important parts of facing uncertainty, since you learn with each step you take. Research by Timothy Ott and Kathleen Eisenhardt demonstrates that most successful breakthroughs are produced by a series of small steps, not giant bet-the-farm efforts. Starting modestly can be more effective and less anxiety-provoking than trying to do everything at once.

How (And Why) to Stop Keeping Score In Your Marriage

In this particular session they were arguing about an issue that’s quite common in my office: Who does more for our family?

The day before our session, one of their children had gotten sick at school. The school called Darron who didn’t pick up his phone and then Eunice who did —someone needed to pick up their kid. Eunice left work and grabbed their 4-year-old daughter and brought her home. When she entered the house, she was seething with anger.

“You’re literally home right now and you didn’t even answer your phone,” she said to Darron. “I am so sick of this! Why do I do everything for our family?”

Darron, waking up from a much-needed nap after a 12-hour shift, looked at her surprised and confused. Then, he got defensive.

As the couple recounted this argument to me, they each accused the other of doing too little while admiring themselves for doing a lot. The litany sounded like this:

“I make the most money.”

“I do all of the housework.”

“I am the only one who cleans the house!”

“I keep us on schedule every day!”

“I am the only one who cares about our family social calendar!”

“Well, I am the only person who saves money!”

“So, we are arguing about who does more for the family,” I said. “You’re keeping tally?” 

They both looked at me.

The Trouble With Scorekeeping

No one wants to keep score in their relationships. Yet, many of us do.

In relationships, we unconsciously give and take. When I clean the dishes I am giving you the opportunity to pick up a clean bowl from the cabinet when you are hungry. When you pick up the kids from school, I get to take advantage of some free time to take a rest and watch my favorite show. Give and take is actually one of the main advantages of having a partnership.

Within this system, however, we tend to create “entitlements.” We start to believe we are owed something because of what we’ve given — “I cleaned the dishes, so you owe it to me to vacuum the living room”; “I get the kids from school, so you owe it to me to take over at dinner time.” And so it goes.

Again, this is natural. It’s human to negotiate how we can make the activities in our home life feel fairer. When the giving and taking in the relationship is fair, there aren’t major complaints. No one comes into my office to talk about how fair things feel.

However, when things feel unfair and out of alignment, people start to keep score just like Darron and Eunice. And line items are used as ammunition in marital spats.

How to Stop Keeping Score

So how do we stop creating ledgers and create partnerships instead?

1. Make sure your partner feels seen in their efforts

Whether it’s the mental load or the financial burden, when labor is perceived as unappreciated and unfair, people will tally everything they do. To combat this, make a conscious effort to be clear with your partner that you see all of their efforts and that you appreciate them. You might think you already do this, but research shows otherwise — people tend to underestimate the importance of receiving gratitude and appreciation, and overestimate that the person will judge them for doing it too often.

2. Make your efforts obvious

This might feel like bragging. You don’t need to be theatrical about it but you do need to make sure your partner knows how much you do. It doesn’t help the relationship to be a quiet martyr. Make your work visible, especially if you’re feeling burdened by it.

3. Create better boundaries with each other — and yourself

If you’re arguing about who does more in the family, there’s likely an issue with boundaries. You’ll need to work on self boundaries — that is, having limits that you don’t cross. For example, if you feel resentful every time you pick up after your partner, stop picking up after them. Or if you quietly cancel your Friday afternoon art class because your partner sprung something on you at the last minute, don’t cancel. That’s a self boundary.

It’s also crucial to have boundaries with your partner. In practice, this means letting them know you have a stance. For example, it’s saying, “Hey I can’t be the only one picking the kids up. We need to come up with a new solution”.

Which Well-Being Approaches Work Best?

So, it’s not surprising to see more and more workplaces appointing chief well-being officers to build a culture of health across their organizations. But what are the best approaches when it comes to caring for workplace well-being?

“With so many well-being theories and concepts available, it can be difficult to decipher which we should choose in any given setting,” explained Dr. Scott Donaldson, a senior researcher in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, when we interviewed him recently. “Our meta-analysis of 20 years of research found that multidimensional well-being theories demonstrated the strongest relationship with improving desirable work outcomes like well-being and engagement and lowering undesirable work outcomes like turnover intentions and stress.”

For example, one of the most popular multidimensional well-being theories studied was Dr. Martin Seligman’s PERMA theory of well-being, which suggests that there are five factors related to well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Scott and his colleagues found that drawing upon theories and measurement tools like this can be helpful when developing well-being strategies in organizations as they provide evidence-based guideposts on how to measure and care for our well-being, in contrast to single well-being interventions like mindfulness or gratitude.

Scott and his colleagues also found that the delivery method of workplace well-being support can have an impact on workers’ outcomes. For example, when trying to improve well-being, group settings had the greatest impact. However, when trying to mitigate negative outcomes, individual and group coaching sessions appeared to be more effective at achieving the desired goal, perhaps due to their higher levels of psychological safety.

What might this all mean practically for your workplace well-being approach?

Scott recommends that we:

  • Choose a multidimensional well-being approach. Multidimensional theories like PERMA, Psychological Capital, and Strengths are more likely to have a significant impact on workplace outcomes. Multidimensional well-being approaches provide more freedom and flexibility for people and teams to focus on the well-being approaches that serve them best based on their needs, hopes, and resources. Which multidimensional well-being approach might serve your people best?
  • Be mindful of the best mode of delivery. When it comes to improving engagement and well-being at work, large group settings appear to be the most effective mode. However, when it comes to reducing turnover and stress, individual coaching appears to be more effective. Issues that are more sensitive—like navigating stress—may be difficult for people to discuss in more open forums. Based on the levels of psychological safety your workplace changes may require, consider what will be the best mode of delivery.
  • Invest in measurement. To confidently demonstrate the value of your well-being approaches and know when you need to continue experimenting because you’re not where you want to be yet, measurement of your workplace well-being efforts is essential. Look for validated tools and scales to help you reliably assess the impact you are having.

How are you supporting well-being in your workplace?

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Breakfast literally means “to break the fast.” It is the first meal of the day after a stretch of not eating overnight. 

Breakfast earned its title as the most important meal of the day back in the 1960s after American nutritionist Adelle Davis suggested that to keep fit and avoid obesity, one should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

Though around 15% of people in the United States regularly skip breakfast, many still believe it to be the most important meal of the day. Breakfast provides the body with important nutrients, to start the day feeling energized and nourished. Many also believe that it can promote weight loss.

But is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

As with most things in nutrition, the answer is complex. While some research suggests that skipping breakfast is not harmful, other research suggests otherwise.

Eating regular meals and snacks, including breakfast, allows for more opportunities throughout the day to give the body the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimally. 

However, as long as a person can fit their nutrients in during other meals, breakfast may not be the most critical meal of the day.

Here is what the science says.

Evidence in support of eating breakfast

Most of the claimed benefits of eating breakfast are primarily derived from observational studies, which cannot prove cause and effect. 

For example, one 2021 systematic review of 14 observational studies found that those who eat breakfast seven times per week have a reduced risk for:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • abdominal obesity
  • cardiovascular-related death
  • elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Again, this particular group of studies can only suggest that those who eat breakfast are more likely to have a reduced risk for the cardiovascular and metabolic diseases mentioned above. It cannot prove that breakfast is what is causing it.

However, an analysis of data on over 30,000 North Americans shows that people who skip breakfast may miss out on important nutrients. 

The most common nutrients those who skipped breakfast fell short on include:

  • folate
  • calcium
  • iron
  • vitamin A
  • vitamins B1, B2, B3
  • vitamin C 
  • vitamin D.

What is more, one randomized control trial published in 2017 that included 18 participants with type 2 diabetes, and 18 healthy participants found that skipping breakfast caused disrupted circadian rhythms in both groups.

Those who skipped breakfast also experienced larger spikes in blood glucose levels after eating. The authors of the study thus suggested that eating breakfast is vital for keeping our internal clock running on time.

25 Pieces of Marriage Advice From Couples Who’ve Been Together 25+ Years

So, what is some honest, real advice from couples who’ve been through the long haul? We recently asked 25 people who have been married for 25 plus years about what makes their relationship work. Cliches didn’t enter the equation. Instead, their answers reflected a simple truth: long-term relationships are both easy and hard, but made better by honesty, fun, and a shared sense of unity. They urged communication and clarity. They underscored the importance of shared meals and spicing things up with dirty jokes. They emphasized appreciation and attention to detail. Here’s what they said, and why it’s helped them stay together for the long run.

1. Accept and allow

“This is a mantra I picked up early on in our marriage, and it’s one my husband and I have come to live by. I forget where I heard it, but it’s basically a nice way of saying, ‘You knew who your partner was when you got married, and you can’t change them.’ There were many things I wished I could change about my husband after we’d been married for a little while. But I realized I loved him, and it was a waste of time to dwell on them. I needed to accept him for who he was, and allow him to be himself. That doesn’t mean we can’t get upset, or voice concerns. It just means that we’re committed unconditionally to the person we married, even when they drive us crazy.” – Lynne, 62, Florida (married 31 years)

2. Imagine life without your partner

“My wife and I talk about this all the time. We imagine what our toughest days would be like without each other. Truthfully, we always agree that we’d make it through. Realistically, we’re each independent and strong enough that we’d be fine. But, it would be terrible. That’s the takeaway: life would be possible without each other, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun, special, or full of great moments. It’s not uncommon for us to ask each other, ‘Can you imagine if I wasn’t here?’ The answer is usually some variation of, ‘Yeah. It would suck. I’m glad you are.’” – Jerry, 56, Maryland (married 30 years)

3. Crack jokes

“We got married when we were both almost 40, and our sense of humor has gotten more juvenile every year. Maybe it’s just us, but I don’t think so. We laugh at rude noises. We roll our eyes at each other’s terrible jokes. We love raunchy movies. It’s just that primitive, human sense of humor we both have. So many couples seem to lose that the longer they stay married. There’s this weird pressure to become more civilized or dignified as you get older. We never got that memo, it seems. And when it’s just the two of us, we’re usually cracking up. We’ve stayed in love so long because we’re too busy laughing to be fighting.” – David, 68, Michigan (married 30 years)

4. Choose your own adventure

My marriage has never been easy but it’s always been an adventure. Best advice I can give – getting married is like going to a theme park. Know who you are and what ride you want to go on. If you want to go on the carousel (stability and serenity) marry that. If you want to go on the roller coaster (risk and adventure) don’t marry someone who’s afraid of speed and heights. The key is to know yourself and what you want before you pledge yourself to a partnership. Then, once you’ve found your match, run your marriage like a good company. Identify each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and delegate those responsibilities accordingly..” – Kathleen, 57, Nebraska (married 31 years)

5. Don’t be so damn stubborn

“Don’t insist on always having the last word. It’s never not worth it. What you think is a fundamental, bedrock principle might actually be just a personal preference not worth having a spat or holding a grudge about. Be open to that possibility. Even if you get your way, it will take a toll. And if you agree to something, abide by the mutual decision. The loss of trust is also not worth getting your way. We’ve learned to be responsible for and take ownership of our decisions and actions, and we always try to avoid criticizing or guilting. It never helps. Instead, we try to have constructive conversations about specific behaviors that might be troubling, and we’re each willing to listen to each other’s concerns – even if they seem trivial.” – Claude, 68 (married 33 years)

6. Do the work

“Everyone has heard the phrase, ‘opposites attract’, but you don’t really hear the phrase, ‘opposites keep people together.’ They can, though, if you learn how to navigate them. Opposites can create a great deal of conflict over time if you don’t learn how to accept them. It can be a difficult process, but it’s necessary to stay happily married long term. Good marriages don’t just happen. They require a great deal of work and intention. The English language has one word for love. I love my wife and I love spicy food. There is no comparison. Since the term ‘I love you’ is so confusing and vague it makes sense to define what that means to both of you, even if you’re total opposites.” – Monte, 64, Florida (married 40 years)

7. Bite your tongue

“My rule is: bite your tongue for at least 24-48 hours after before speaking when tensions are high. If you are overly emotional and/or upset about something, doing so gives you time to cool off and then reflect on the situation with greater space, perspective, calmness, and clarity. If you still want to talk about it, schedule a mutually agreed upon time to do so. Say something like, ‘I am upset about what you just said/did, but I want to think about it before we talk.’ Mentally, you’ll be in a much better place.” – Romy, 52, California (married 26 years) 

8. You won’t always be on the same page

“And that’s okay. Patience and communication are key to any successful relationship, but especially a long-term one. It’s important to remember that you’re not always going to agree about everything. There will be times when you need to listen more than you talk, and times when you need to communicate openly and honestly. You can do this by making time for each other, even when life gets busy. Whether it’s taking a walk after dinner or spending a weekend away together, do everything you can to keep the bond strong.” – Steve, 49, Arizona (married 26 years) 

9. Keep each other guessing 

“My husband is a quiet man. Me? Not so much. I was surprised when he told me how much he loves the fact that he never knows what I’m going to do from one minute to the next. And I appreciate his willingness to try different things. As our unofficial ‘social secretary,’ I’ve planned trips where he hasn’t really known where we’re going until we get on the plane. Our secret really is just keeping our life interesting. Otherwise, life becomes stale and boring. Do something unexpected from time to time and you’ll learn how much you cherish each other’s company.” – Carol, 72, Georgia (married 49 years)

Financial Stress Leads to Symptoms of Depression, PTSD

The origins of mental illness are varied and complex. There are a nearly limitless number of reasons why mental illness happens, from biological causes to environmental influences.

One contributing factor that has the potential to impact nearly everyone at some point in their life is personal finance. Researchers have repeatedly found a clear link between mental and financial health.

In many instances, that link is cyclical – poor financial health leads to poor mental health, which leads to increasingly poor financial health, and so on. But researchers have also concluded that mental health issues – including depression, anxiety, and certain forms of psychosis – are three times more likely to occur when an individual is in debt.

Additionally, a data analysis by personal loan company Payoff found that 23 percent of respondents to a financial health survey reported experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to their personal finances. These respondents admitted to irrational or self-destructive behavior motivated primarily by a desire to avoid the reality of their financial problems.

The implication here is not simply that poor financial health may lead to poor mental health. Much more important is the logical inverse: that taking active steps to ensure our financial health is very likely to pay positive dividends on our mental health as well.

COMMON SIGNS OF DEPRESSION

Are your personal finances having a negative impact on your mental health? That may not be immediately clear.

Per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these are the most common symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms

Regardless of whether or not your particular symptoms are rooted in financial distress, if any of this sounds like you, it’s important that you speak with as qualified mental health professional.

If you’re feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24/7. 

STEPS FOR DEALING WITH FINANCIAL STRESS

If your finances are causing you mental harm, there are steps you can take to reduce the noise, refocus your attention, and start making positive changes.

FIGURE OUT WHAT MATTERS THE MOST TO YOU

If your finances are causing you mental distress, a good first step is actually a step backwards.

“Take the time to clearly define your financial goals and understand your values, both as an individual and as a family,” suggests Maura Attardi, MMI Director of Financial Wellness. “Defined goals help us understand if our spending habits are pushing us in the right direction, while our values help us determine if our goals are realistic and meaningful. Also, there may be conflicting values within a relationship or family, which can cause a lot of stress. Getting everything in alignment relieves stress, reduces interpersonal friction, and makes financial decision-making much easier.”

Once you’ve reached consensus on your financial priorities, you can begin to address the specific causes of your mental distress.

“Taking an honest and open look at why we spend money the way we do can also be helpful in alleviating stress and determining the steps we need to take,” says Attardi. “If the issue is overspending, try to determine what inner voids you’re trying to satisfy through spending money, and then replace your expensive coping techniques with something that might be easier on your pocketbook, like free yoga classes, reading, or exercising.”

BEGIN THE CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE YOU TRUST

“In addition, finding someone that you can be completely honest and open with about your financial situation can help,” says Attardi. “Where we may only be able to see the bleakest possible financial future, a credit counselor, a friend, or an objective family member can help open our eyes to some of the positive options we have available.”

Simply talking about your stresses and anxieties can offer incredible relief. You’ll realize quickly that you’re not alone – many of us struggle with money in one way or another. But perhaps most importantly you’ll be released from the burden of feeling like you’re hiding something.  

MAKE A PLAN AND KEEP IT SIMPLE

A little progress can make a world of difference. Simply feeling like things are moving in a positive direction can reduce stress and create a growing sense of contentment.

Once you’ve identified your values and goals and unburdened your soul a bit, you can get to work. Create a plan to help you achieve your goals. Make the steps small, clearly defined, and reasonable. Set yourself up for success by creating a series of achievable benchmarks that will slowly but surely guide you to your destination. And don’t hesitate to celebrate your wins. Feel good about all the boxes you check!

GET PRIVATE, CONFIDENTIAL SUPPORT

If you need help finding a positive financial path, consider speaking with one of MMI’s certified credit counselors. Debt and budget counseling is always free and can go a long way toward alleviating your financial stress by providing you with expert, judgment-free advice and access to helpful resources.

Mental illness is very common and no one should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they need help. Once again, if you or someone you know is dealing with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, please seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional in your area. For helpful mental health resources, visit MentalHealth.gov (a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) and NAMI.org.

Letting Go of Being “Right” Can Allow You to Enjoy Other People More

In full disclosure, I admit that over the years, I’ve experienced a lot of my own all-or-none thinking. Even nowadays, this judgmental “rightness of view” raises its ugly head. Maybe this form of thought will never really leave, but at least I’ve learned to recognize and step back from it a little bit, instead of it becoming fused with my identity.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) all-or-none thinking is considered a “thinking style” or “thinking error” that leads to cognitive distortions. Let me provide a couple examples of how all-or-none thinking can act like a bully that pushes you around (not to mention others).

I once worked with a client whose all-or-none thinking style made it difficult for him to be around others. His mind would tell him in no uncertain terms, “I’ll always be stuck in this job,” and, “there’s no way I can pass the training needed for a promotion.” He even had body-related thoughts, such as, “I’ll never lose this weight and get in shape.”

As a result, he avoided situations where he felt he would not measure up. Other than going to work, he avoided being around people because he feared being criticized.

Over time, this person’s world shrunk and he rarely went outside because his all-or-none thinking bullied him into thinking that he wasn’t good enough. He ended up ruminating on these thoughts and getting depressed and anxious as a result. Since he avoided going to the trainings necessary for getting promoted, his thinking style became a self-fulfilling prophecy that held him back. 

Mindfulness Produces Diversity of Thinking

Mindfulness is a tool for recognizing thoughts, and in this way, helps us notice them in a more objective way. This means we can get curious about those thinking styles instead of buying into them. This shifts our relationship to the thought and even the emotion that the thought elicits. 

A recent literature review published in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity described how mindfulness supports creativity and in educational settings “can benefit learning, creativity, and wellbeing.” The article also explores how mindfulness promotes a deliberate, or intentional, state of mind that promotes openness of thought. 

Openness of thought is almost the opposite of a fixed all-or-none thinking style. Keep in mind that all-or-none thinking might be steeped in a protective belief system, or schema. In other words, having a fixed ideology or belief may seem to protect one against the barrage of information and belief systems that we would otherwise need to consider.

With the rise of so much competing (and divisive) information on almost every topic—COVID is a good example—having a singular point of view might seem easier. But keep in mind that a singular view may be a major distortion and unhelpful. And if you stick to it, those who are stuck on the other side will seem less relatable, to say the least!

Is it really worth bullying yourself and others with all-or-none thinking? If you find that your viewpoints have others running for the exits, consider the advantages of diverse thinking. Being right might feel good, but it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. Or at least not the best option. 

3-Part Mindfulness Practice to Counter All-or-None Thinking

As with any skill, exercise, or practice, you want to start by taking small steps. You can’t run a marathon without doing a lot of training. So, to begin, pick out one of the all-or-none thoughts that dog you, that follow you around and rattle incessantly in your head. Usually, these thoughts have words like “always” or “never” attached to them. Those are clues that these are one-sided thoughts. 

  1. Do an experiment and see how many times you can notice this all-or-none thought throughout the day. You’re not trying to change anything here. You’re just trying to practice observing the thought. Do this noticing practice for a week, writing down the number of times that you caught your all-or-none thought. 
  2. For the next week, you can continue to notice the thought, but now, whenever you hear it, mentally say to yourself, “This is just a thought, it’s not who I am. It’s not a fact.” By doing this, you’re separating yourself ever so slightly from the thinking style.
  3. For the third week, you can write down a statement that is not so all-or-none that is more honest and truthful. Is there evidence, for example, that refutes your all-or-none statement? Surely, you have sometimes succeeded or followed through on something that invalidates the all-or-none thinking style.

If your thinking style is judging others in a harsh all-or-none way, look for evidence that helps you recognize that others are just people with frailties and worries who are trying their best to make their way in a challenging world! We’re all pretty much the same in that regard. See if you can soften your all-or-none statement.

Make Summer Happen Early

The problem with spring is that it isn’t summer. We’re not knocking the season — full of hope and birds and flowers and the like. But it also has its downsides. In mountainous regions, this means mud. If you’re lakeside, it usually means cold snaps and rain. Hell, much of the country is still experiencing temperatures in the 30s and 40s. There’s an easy solution: go south, find an island, or just get out and find somewhere where it’s blissfully hot. Because, let’s be honest, that’s actually what you want right now. Whether you’re craving an adventurous family getaway at a far-off locale or some rest and relaxation stateside, here are six spring break 2022 trips to consider.

1. The Florida Keys

Prefer not to pull out your passport? Play it safe and beeline it to the southernmost stretch of the continental United States. In Key West — along with any of the other Florida Keys you pass through on your way to the end of the chain — an early spring day is normally in the mid-70s.

Land at the international airport in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or even West Palm Beach and rent a car to break further south still for the 125-mile-long chain of islands linked by 42 bridges along the Overseas Highway.

Key West has all the family vacation activities you could want — from trolley rides and a treasure museum and aquarium to sunset catamaran cruises and calm beaches with shallow waters. But you might find some of the other Keys in the chain even more mellow and fun.

The ocean and bayfront campsites at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key make for a perfect basecamp if you’re looking for a rustic and affordable stay (there are cabins for rent here, too). Or you can splurge at a spot like Isla Bella Beach Resort on Marathon (pictured), with several oceanfront pools and a private beach set on over a mile of waterfront as well as an onsite marina from which you can head out on snorkeling and fishing excursions. And while famous parks like John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park steal the spotlight, there are all kinds of other tucked-away nature spots to stop at as you road trip through the Keys, including the National Key Deer  Refuge and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center on Tavernier.

2. Tahiti

Hear us out on why you should try here over Hawaii for your next big family vacation.

For roughly two hours longer in the air from Los Angeles than it takes to get to Honolulu, you can find yourself landing in Papeete in the Islands of Tahiti. That’s right, board an overnight flight from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui and about eight hours later (and hopefully a full night’s sleep for the gang) you’ll land in French Polynesia.

And if you’re wondering if the storied destination lives up to the hype, we can confirm the 118 islands and atolls here are well and truly among the most very beautiful and welcoming tropical isles on Earth (the kids might also love that these are the islands that inspired Disney’s Moana)

Leave the honeymoon crowd to pricey Bora Bora and base in Tahiti (the main island) or Moorea, right next door and just a 30-minute ferry ride away. Lodging options run the range from affordable family-run pensions to full-on hotel chain resorts with swim-up bars and kids clubs. Introduce the kids to French fare (the islands belong to France, after all, so the influence is everywhere) like a goat cheese salad or moules frites. Be sure to try the ubiquitous French Polynesian take on ceviche called poisson cru.

If you’re feeling intrepid and want to see more of the islands, hop an Air Tahiti flight for an hour to reach the Tuamotu Archipelago, where you can head out on excursions to snorkel with baby lemon sharks and reef sharks in sheltered lagoons in Rangiroa where they’re born, learn about black pearl farming or go scuba diving at some of the most incredible atoll passages on Earth in Fakarava. Among the family-friendly, waterfront places to stay in the atolls are Havaiki Lodge, Le Tikehau by Pearl Resorts, and Hotel Maitai Rangiroa.

3. Puerto Rico

Closer to home, time spent thawing out under the Caribbean sun in Puerto Rico is a great place to shake off any lingering winter chill. Do the kids like to surf? Or maybe that’s your thing, and you want to entice them with some skimboarding or boogie boarding in the shore break. Either way, surf towns like Rincón,Aguadilla, and Playa Jobos on the island’s northwest corner have a chill vibe and plenty of vacation rentals and inexpensive hotels to make your home base. Rincon Beach Resort and Villa Montaña Beach Resort are both popular with families who come for sun and surf.

How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Theft

Last fall, I received an email that appeared to be from my web host. The email claimed that there was a problem with my payment information and asked me to update it. I clicked on the link in the email and entered my credit card number, thinking that a recent change I’d made to my site must have caused a problem.

The next morning, I logged onto my credit card account to find two large unauthorized purchases. A scammer had successfully phished my payment information from me.

This failure of security is pretty embarrassing for a personal finance writer. I know better than to click through an email link claiming to be from my bank, credit card lender, or other financial institution. But because the email came from a source that wasn’t specifically financial (and because I was thinking about the changes I had made to my website just the day before), I let myself get played.

Thankfully, because I check my credit card balance daily, the scammers didn’t get away with it. However, it’s better to be proactive about avoiding credit card theft so you’re not stuck with the cleanup, which took me several months to complete.

Here’s how you can protect yourself from credit card theft. 

Protecting your physical credit card

Stealing your physical credit or debit card is in some respects the easiest way for a scammer to get their hands on your sweet, sweet money. With the actual card in hand, a scammer has all the information they need to make fraudulent purchases: the credit card number, expiration date, and the security code on the back.

That means keeping your physical cards safe is one of the best ways to protect yourself from credit card theft. Don’t carry more cards than you intend to use. Having every card you own in a bulging wallet makes it more likely someone could steal one when you’re not paying attention and you may not realize it’s gone if you have multiple cards.

Another common place where you might be separated from your card is at a restaurant. After you’ve paid your bill, it can be easy to forget if you’ve put away your card (especially if you’ve been enjoying adult beverages). So make it a habit to confirm that you have your card before you leave a restaurant.

If you do find yourself missing a credit or debit card, make sure you call your bank immediately to report it lost or stolen. The faster you move to lock down the card, the less likely the scammers will be able to make fraudulent charges. Make sure you have your bank’s phone number written down somewhere so you’re able to contact them quickly if your card is stolen or lost.

Recognizing card skimmers

Credit card thieves also go high-tech to get your information. Credit card skimmers are small devices placed on a legitimate spot for a card scanner, such as on a gas pump or ATM. 

When you scan your card to pay, the skimmer device captures all the information stored in your card’s magnetic stripe. In some cases, when there’s a skimmer placed on an ATM, there’s also a tiny camera set up to record you entering your PIN so the fraudster has all the info they need to access your account.

The good news is that it’s possible to detect a card skimmer in the wild. Gas stations and ATMs are the most common places where you’ll see skimmer devices. Generally, these devices will often stick out past the panel rather than sit flush with it, as the legitimate credit card scanner is supposed to. Other red flags to look for are scanners that seem to jiggle or move slightly instead of being firmly affixed, or a pin pad that appears thicker than normal. All of these can potentially indicate a skimmer is in place. 

If you find something that looks hinky, go to a different gas station or ATM. Better safe than sorry.

Protecting your credit card numbers at home

Your home is another place thieves will go searching for your sensitive information. To start, you likely receive credit card offers, the cards themselves, and your statements in the mail. While mail theft is relatively rare (it’s a federal crime, after all), it’s still a good idea to make sure you collect your mail daily and put a hold on it when you go out of town.

Once you get your card-related paperwork in the house, however, you still may be vulnerable. Because credit card scammers are not above a little dumpster diving to get their hands on your credit card number. This is why it’s a good idea to shred any paperwork with your credit card number and other identifying information on it before you throw it away.

Finally, protecting your credit cards at home also means being wary about whom you share information with over the phone. Unless you’ve initiated a phone call of your own volition — not because you’re calling someone who left a voicemail — you should never share your credit card numbers over the phone. Scammers will pose as customer service agents from your financial institution or a merchant you frequent to get your payment information. To be sure, you can hang up and call the institution yourself using the main phone number.

Keeping your cards safe online

You should never provide your credit card information via a link in an email purporting to be from your financial institution or a merchant. Scammers are able to make their fake emails and websites look legitimate, which was exactly the reason I fell victim to this fraud.

But even with my momentary lapse in judgment about being asked for my payment information from my “web host,” there were other warning signs that I could’ve heeded if I had been paying attention. 

The first is the actual email address. These fake emails will often have a legitimate looking display name, which is the only thing you might see in your email. However, if you hover over or click on the display name, you can see the actual email address that sent you the message. Illegitimate addresses do not follow the same email address format you’ll see from the legitimate company.

In addition to that, looking at the URL that showed up when I clicked the link could’ve told me something weird was going on. Any legitimate site that needs your financial information will have a secure URL to accept your payment. Secure URLs start with https:// (rather than http://) and feature a lock icon in the browser bar. If these elements are missing, then you should not enter your credit card information.

Daily practices that keep you safe

In addition to these precautions, you can also protect your credit cards with the everyday choices you make. For instance, using strong, unique passwords for all of your online financial services, from shopping to banking, can help you prevent theft. Keeping those strong passwords safe — that is, not written down on a post-it note on your laptop — will also help protect your financial information.

Regularly going over your credit card and banking statements can also help ensure that you’re the only one making purchases with your credit cards. It was this daily habit of mine that made sure my scammers didn’t actually receive the computer they tried to purchase with my credit card. The fact that I check my balance daily meant I was able to shut down the fraudulent sale before they received the goods, even though I fell down on the job of protecting my credit card information. 

Get Seven hours of consistent sleep

For middle-aged to olderpeople looking to get the best sleep possible, seven hours of consistent sleep may be the sweet spot, new research suggests.

The study, published April 28 in the scientific journal “Nature Aging,” involved 498,277 people between ages 38 and 73 from the UK Biobank, a large-scale database with genetic and health information of U.K. participants.

Participants answered questions about how long they slept, completed an online mental health questionnaire and did problem-solving and memory exercises. Brain imaging and genetic data was provided for some participants as well.

“We wanted to know what is the perfect time that you should be sleeping for most middle-aged to older-aged people,” said Barbara Sahakian, a professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Cambridge who worked on the study. “How does that relate to other measures, for instance, your brain structure and your cognition, and your mental health?”

As people sleep, their brains work to consolidate memories and process things learned during the day, particularly during what’s called deep sleep, she said. Deep sleep may also allow people to purge toxins from their brains – and reduce the harmful deposits of an abnormal protein, amyloid.

But too little or too much sleep can create chronic stress. It can also cause changes in the hippocampus, a part of the brain vital to learning and memory, Sahakian said.

Researchers found participants performed better after seven hours of consistent sleep, she said. Those who got less or more had poorer cognitive performance and smaller brain volume, area and thickness.

But the study has its limitations, including the fact that participants reported only sleep duration versus sleep timing, sleep efficiency and circadian rhythm. Participants also reported their own sleep, leaving room for bias. They also recorded sleep times by the hour, not minutes.

How to Get Your Big Ideas Noticed By the Right People

When I ask my undergraduate students at Brandeis what they hope for in their future jobs, their answers typically involve making an impact. They have big, sometimes revolutionary, ideas around how to address climate change and social justice issues. They talk about ways we can improve our efficiency by updating outdated communication systems, and even pitch solutions that could help big corporations market their products to younger consumers. But most of all, they are excited to put their pitches into practice — that is, until they get their first jobs and realize they have much less power than they had imagined.

I feel for them, and for anyone making their way into the corporate world for the very first time. It’s not easy to turn an idea into a reality, especially when you are in an entry-level role with limited resources and connections. The people who do have the power to make big decisions often have their own beliefs and assumptions about how to do business based on what has, and has not, worked in the past. If those people are not on your side, they can present you with some serious roadblocks.

So, how do you work around them and get your big ideas noticed, especially as a young person in the workforce?

I’ll tell you what I tell my students: You don’t. You work with them. To make a real impact, you need to get the right people — people with decision-making power — to listen and believe in you.

Here’s how.

First, figure out who holds the power to implement your idea.

Before you pitch your idea, ask yourself: Who has the power to decide whether or not it will be implemented, and what they will base their decision on?

Sometimes this question will be easier to answer than others, depending on what kind of company you work at. Organizations with a clear, hierarchical structure are more likely to have a well-defined process around who needs to approve an idea before it is executed. But organizations with a flat structure, in which there is no real “person in charge” at each level, can be more difficult to navigate.

Take the time to study these dynamics at your own company. There are a few tools you can use to help you diagnose who holds the ultimate decision-making power. One of the most common is called a RACI matrix. The acronym “RACI” stands for the four roles people usually play on a team or project. Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Responsible: the people who are in charge of completing tasks or reaching an objective.
  • Accountable: the person who must sign off on the work of the group mentioned above, and give final approval.
  • Consulted: the people who need to give input in order for the group in charge of completing tasks to do their work.
  • Informed: the people who need to be updated on the status of the project and the decisions that are being made.

Creating this matrix will help you clarify the roles and responsibilities at each level of your organization. Most likely, the person you identify as “accountable” is the one who will say ultimately say “yes” or “no” to your idea.

Note that it’s rare for one person to have all the deciding power. More likely, it will be broken up among different leaders who are accountable for different teams, projects, or people.

For example, let’s say you have a fresh idea around how to engage a new audience for a particular marketing campaign. It may be easiest (and fastest) to look for the person who drives your overall engagement strategy. This could be the leader of the marketing division, or someone who works closely under them. Using the RACI matrix, you may discover that this person makes the final decisions on engagement initiatives, but also relies heavily on specific members of their leadership team for input, and considers market data before making big decisions.

Whatever team, project, or division your idea falls under, get to know what leaders are involved in those areas of your company, and ask around to learn about what factors they consider when making choices.

Choose your champion.

Even after you identify the decision-maker, it’s unlikely that you will get direct access to them. Few young professionals have the social capital to get their ideas immediately noticed by the right people. That’s why you need a champion — someone to advocate for your idea in the high-level meetings and discussions that you probably won’t be invited to.

Picking the right champion will depend on the magnitude of your idea. If it’s a smaller idea, or one that won’t cause significant disruption (like experimenting with a social media post, or reaching out to a new type of client), you might be able to find a champion who has the direct power to put your idea into motion. But if your idea is more disruptive (updating an age-old business model or restructuring a team’s entire workflow), you might need to find a different kind of champion: someone who has acquired a level of informal power that allows them to exert influence over those who are formally in charge.

Take the previous example of engaging a new audience for a marketing campaign. Your champion might be the chief of staff to the head of the marketing division. While this person won’t have direct decision-making power, they still have influence over the person who does.

That said, before bringing your big idea to a champion, you first need to build a foundation of trust with them. This will take time, and it will need to be developed over a series of projects in which you prove your ability to pitch good ideas, provide evidence that give those ideas merit, and consistently follow through on your assignments or tasks. You need your champion to to respect you as a professional, and believe you are credible if you want them to be your advocate.

To fast-track your relationship, study and analyze your champion’s management style. Then adapt your ways of working to fit their style. By doing so, you will increase the odds of producing work they are aligned with and proud of. When they speak, listen with intention, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Proactively set up feedback sessions with your champion and leverage this feedback into clear goals for improvement.

Do your homework.

Once you build that foundation of trust with your champion, you may feel ready to share your big idea. But wait. It’s critical to stress-test the idea first. This process will allow you to create a more robust and thorough pitch with fewer holes and logic gaps.

Start by gathering feedback from various stakeholders. A stakeholder could be someone directly involved in the decision-making process (who you identified earlier using the RACI matrix), or someone in your organization whose work might be directly impacted by your idea.

Sticking with our previous example, a key stakeholder might be the head of sales. Although the head of sales does not influence decision-making within the marketing division, they may be able to provide you with a perspective you had not considered before, especially if your marketing and sales teams work closely together. Another stakeholder might be a trusted peer or manager on the marketing team whose responsibilities may shift should your idea be implemented. This person may raise or problem or concern you can now address.

Stakeholders often have access to critical information that can strengthen your pitch. Connecting with them can also help you develop advocates throughout the organization.

How to Successfully Shift From “Work Mode” to “Family Mode”

The added flexibility of the work-from-home movement is revolutionary for many reasons, including how it enables more working parents to be with their families. But experts agree that there are many times that it doesn’t feel great. “We’ve all had the experience where we’re not fully present as a father because we’re thinking about work and vice versa,” says executive coach Ian Sanders, author of 365 Ways To Have a Good Day. “There are no magic wands for putting boundaries around family life and work life,” says Sanders. It just takes effort and focus. Here’s how to flip the work and home switch.

1. Build Transitions into Your Day

In three different conversations with three different work-life balance experts, I heard one piece of advice three times. To prevent the whiplash that occurs when you step between work and home modes, you need to build in a transition — something that replaces the mental decompression granted by a commute. “Bookend your day with two 15-minute walks around your block, or read a chapter of a book — anything that helps you be present and get focused on what’s next, whether it’s work or home life,” says Kaylee Hackney, an employee well-being expert and Assistant Professor at the Baylor University. Whatever it is, stick to it to ensure you have some routine that lets you know that “Okay, I’m not at the office anymore.”

2. Get a Room

Some unsurprising news: Both your work and home lives will be better served if you have a dedicated workspace, whether it’s a full-on home office or even a glorified closet. And the benefits aren’t all about eliminating distractions. “When your kids see you in your workspace, they have a better sense that you’re in work mode,” says Hackney. “You’re sending a signal to your brain by being there, too, and at the end of the day, you can shut the door and not have to be reminded of work every time you walk by it.”

3. Manage Your Notifications

We’re in an alert boom. There’s that text thread where the neighbors are talking about what went down on Friday night. There’s another where your buddies send the strangest memes. Not to mention, there are the non-urgent messages from your school’s PTA, your kid’s aftercare program, and their sports team, sent on apps like Konstella, GroupMe, and more. Consider silencing many of these alerts during your work hours to maintain your focus, and consider replying to texts at just a few distinct times during a day. Time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders does: “I have a strategy where I go through all the text messages from the prior day once in the morning, and if I haven’t responded yet I do. And then I don’t really answer personal texts until after work,” she says. The reverse goes for work communications, she says: “You don’t want to be giving your kid a bath while your smartwatch buzzes about some report, taking you out of the moment.”

4. Close Out Your Workday with Rituals 

Instead of simply wandering away from your screen when the workday is done, go through a checklist. Write down what you didn’t get done today and what will carry over to tomorrow. Scan your email or your Slack and quickly respond to the messages that truly need it. By tying up loose ends and doing some basic planning for the morning, you’re doing two things: giving yourself some ease of mind when heading into family time, and ensuring that you’ll hit the ground running in the morning. “It makes being present with your family a lot easier,” says Sanders, who adds one element: “The Germans have this expression called the ‘Feierabend,’ where you crack open a beer at the end of the workday. It’s a signal. If that’s not your thing, find a ritual that resonates with you.”

5. If You Have to Work at Night, Establish Guardrails

Many of us have added “night shifts” in the last few years, necessitated by daytime hours spent on parenting tasks. At night, you might steal away to the office (or couch) to do the deep work you missed during the day. Chances are, this occasionally has to happen. But experts warn to not make it a routine. “You want to set limits. One or two nights a week, maybe two hours, not messing around,” says Saunders. “Otherwise it’s a recipe for burnout.”

6. Be Realistic

If you have work to do on the weekend but don’t want to take time away from your family, you might mentally underestimate it. You’ll just find some quiet time on the fly, right? Wrong. As the weekend unfolds, time evaporates. You have other tasks to do. And once you do jump into your work, you realize that what you wanted to get done might take you six or seven hours instead. Saunders refers to this as magical thinking. “It’s common. But reality always wins.” If you don’t want to spend time away from your family working on the weekend, then you might need to start being brutally honest about your schedule and your workload, reprioritizing and weeding out tasks. “It’s doable,” says Saunders. “It just takes a lot of intention on the part of a parent.”

4 Principles to Develop Next-Level Leadership at Your Company

For a company to be successful, it must find a way to develop talent. It isn’t always possible to hire leadership from the outside. Being able to develop leaders within the ranks will help the company to grow and fill future needs that come about organically.

When I worked for a company that was growing, we knew we had to spend time with our staff to help them grow into the leaders we needed. I created a training format that we used over and over to coach up emerging leaders and prepare them to take on more responsibility.

This training was ongoing. We instilled four principles in their work. This translated the core values of the company into their daily actions. It gave them a foundation to build their individual leadership style.

It didn’t mean that everyone could take on a leadership role. Some people naturally make better leaders. Some people enjoyed keeping their technical focus and didn’t want to change. Others wanted the additional money but not the extra work.

To be able to take on more, the individual also had to show that they could handle their current responsibilities. The example I would use is that the third string punter on a football team wouldn’t be voted captain. While talent isn’t the only requirement, there had to be enough ability to do their job at a high level. If someone isn’t at the top of their game, they would not be viewed as a leader.

We were able to go from a staff that wanted the extra benefits of leadership (more money, promotions, authority to make decisions, etc.), to a staff willing to do what was necessary to improve as leaders. Instead of just showing up and checking off a box, they put in the work to get better.

But for those with leadership potential and the drive to grow their skills, we could provide them foundational knowledge they can rely on to be successful. Here are those four principles:

Principle 1: Take ownership

The first principle was to take ownership. They needed to own their tasks. They had to own the processes and procedures. They had to own the outcomes and the production output.

This is different than being in charge. If they are in charge but don’t own it, they will always find others to blame when things go wrong. They won’t step up to do the extra work necessary when something gets fouled up.

The reality is that there are always going to be outside factors to blame. It is easy to find a scapegoat, because today’s business processes are complex and interconnect with other areas. This gives us plenty of places to point the finger when mistakes happen.

Instead, leaders need to make it their job to keep pushing things forward. They don’t sit back and wait for tasks to be given out to them. They search for ways to improve the team and catch mistakes early to prevent them from turning into major problems.

We emphasized that this was the antithesis to the “us versus them” attitude. We broke down silos by having leaders willing to step beyond their area to work with other teams to solve problems and improve efficiencies.

When everyone takes ownership, people are willing to do what is needed without finding ways to skirt responsibility. By taking ownership, this also meant consistency. It was more than one-time effort. It was exemplified in the habits, routines and patterns, not just in the one-off.

3 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Brain Health Today

There’s just no way around it: our brain health is about the most valuable thing we own. When our brains are unhealthy, we can’t think straight. Our mental health is poor. We simply can’t enjoy life as well. With this in mind, finding ways to prioritize brain health every day is vital. So what are some of the most scientifically sound, easy ways to make sure you’re helping care for your brain? Here are three of the best:

1. Prioritize Good Sleep

Why it’s key: You’ve probably heard people diminish the importance of sleep by saying things like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But if you don’t prioritize sleep, you’re doing your body and especially your brain a great disservice. Pick just about any disease and you’ll find that it’s more prevalent or more severe in people who don’t get good sleep. For example, we now know that people with Alzheimer’s tend to have issues sleeping. Poor sleep may also increase the risk of developing dementia. When it comes to mental health, these same trends hold. Sleep issues are very common in people with mental health issues, and are also thought to increase one’s risk for developing these conditions. 

Tips for better sleep: Many are seeking quick fixes for sleep issues, especially insomnia. But while some people may benefit from short-term use of drugs, there are mounting concerns about the side effects and efficacy of prescription sleep aids. To this end, finding non-pharmaceutical methods of promoting healthy sleep are likely a better long-term solution for most people. Simple strategies to facilitate better sleep include winding down with a regular routine that minimizes blue light/screen exposure in the hours before bed. Also, consider sleeping with your room a bit cooler, as this may promote better sleep. Try cutting out caffeine after 2 p.m. (or earlier) and consider avoiding alcohol before bed, as this throws off sleep quality. Lastly, consider speaking to your physician about an evaluation for sleep apnea, especially if you are male, overweight, or someone who snores. Sleep apnea is a very common condition that majorly compromises sleep quality and is often missed. 

2. Move Your Body

Why it’s key: Study after study shows that regular exercise is linked to better brain health. People who move more tend to think better and have better mental health. In fact, a recent review in JAMA showed that exercise may act as an antidepressant. So why is exercise such a brain booster? It may lower inflammation (which damages brain function), increase molecules like BDNF (which promotes healthier brain function and growth of new brain cells), and it does great things for our blood sugar (higher blood sugar may damage brain health).

Tips for physical activity: You don’t need to train for a marathon or become a professional athlete to get the brain benefits of exercise. This is all about sustainability, and if you hate or get injured when you’re exercising, it’s unlikely you’ll stick to it. Instead, look for ways to make physical activity enjoyable. A walk with a friend, some yoga, lifting some weights, or going for a swim—it’s all great stuff. The best exercise is the one you enjoy because it’s what you’re most likely to keep doing. So, find something you can look forward to. 

3. Clean Up Your Diet

Why it’s key: The foods you eat are the literal building blocks for your brain. Food is also what turns into neurotransmitters. Your diet significantly influences your immune and endocrine (hormone) systems that play key roles in your brain health. Food is also one of the best opportunities we have to influence our health on a day-to-day basis because we absolutely have to eat, but we get to choose whether that food is a vote for a healthier or a less healthy brain.

Why Keeping Your Money in the Stock Market Is Especially Important Right Now

If you’re invested in stocks and constantly checking on your portfolio, you probably haven’t had a great few weeks. The S&P 500 dipped into bear market territory on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down around 15% for the year, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq has fallen 28% in 2022.

Even though the market declines may make you feel uneasy, keeping your money in the stock market now is likely a good move long term. That’s because the market’s best days tend to happen right around the market’s worst days. Between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2021, seven of the S&P 500’s best days occurred within just two weeks of the index’s 10 worst days, according to J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s 2022 “Guide to Retirement” report.

“The pendulum in the stock market swings very, very wildly,” says Jack Manley, a global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “When things get out of whack, they swing back very quickly.”

Why the stock market’s best days are so close to the worst days

Markets today are fundamentally different from how they were 10 years ago, Manley says. That’s because technological innovation has led to developments like high-frequency trading, which involves large volumes of shares being traded at high speeds. But it’s also led to a boom in retail investing.

We especially saw that boom during the pandemic. COVID-19 kept many people at home, where they took up investing as a hobby. Stimulus checks from the federal government gave retail investors more money to buy stocks, cryptocurrency and such, or it provided them with funds to invest for the first time.

Meanwhile, online trading platforms like Robinhood made commission-free trading easy and allowed people to buy fractional shares, meaning they could invest in a company like Tesla(which has traded at more than $1,000 per share) with as little as a single dollar.

“Information moves a whole lot more quickly,” Manley says. “It is that much more easy to be an investor in today’s world.”

The combination of fast-moving information and more market participants means that the stock market in general is more volatile than it used to be, Manley says.

Just take a look at the last month. The S&P 500 was down 3.6% on April 29, which marked one of the worst days of the year for the index. But just a few days later on May 4, the index was up nearly 3% for one of its best days, according to data from J.P. Morgan Asset Management. And back in 2020, March 12 — the S&P 500’s second worst day of the year — was immediately followed by its second best day of the year.

The market is used to being overbought or oversold, meaning there’s no real “happy medium,” Manley adds.

Can CBD, herbal supplements affect the heart?

People’s use of supplements has increased in recent years. Many supplements may carry a certain amount of health benefits, but as they are not regulated, people should also exercise caution. 

A recent case report published in Heart Rhythm Case Reports demonstrates that the excessive use of certain substances such as hemp oil could lead to severe cardiac problems. 

Herbal supplement popularity

Supplements are readily available to consumers and can offer various health benefits. For example, dietary supplementsTrusted Source provide more of the substances found in food, such as specific vitamins or minerals. 

Unlike medications, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not offer as much regulation for dietary supplements. 

Dr. Edo Paz, cardiologist and vice president of Medical at K Health, who was not involved in the study, explained the issue with supplements to Medical News Today:

Because the FDA regulates supplements differently than medications, the supplements are not well-studied, so the precise characteristics and side effects are not well known. You may even see variations in the preparation based on the distributor and batch.”

Dr. Paz said he encourages his patients to avoid supplements, out of a lack of solid data. 

“If they do plan to use them, I do my best to research the possible side effects and drug-supplement interactions, but this is not always possible given the lack of data,” he added.

A few examples of common supplements include calcium, vitamin D, garlic, and ginkgo. Sometimes, supplements are a combination of many compounds, such as the supplement berberine, which may be helpful in the improvement of heart problems and gut health.

The CBD market

One group of supplements that have become quite popular is those derived from cannabis. A few examples of cannabis derivatives include hemp oil and cannabidiol (CBD). 

Hemp oil has many potential benefits, including helping reduce muscle tension and stress and pain relief. Similarly, CBD may help with pain relief and may even help to reduce anxiety. 

Currently, the FDA has only approved one derivative of CBD oil for medicinal use, Epidiolex, which can be used to treat seizures. Different derivatives of cannabis are still available as supplements, meaning that people can buy and use them without supervision from a medical professional.

The Inner Critic: Loving Yourself With Curiosity

Loving ourselves: It is so much easier said than done, isn’t it? Yet it is so necessary for our healing and wellness. When we emotionally beat ourselves up for feeling down, we will only continue to feel down. So how do we go about changing that narrative? I believe it’s about greeting the inner critic with curiosity.

Most people might suggest ignoring the inner critic or attempting to get rid of it altogether, but in my experience that has not been successful. The inner critic is often the internalized voice of someone else and over time the brain has held on to the messages and has carried those messages with us. Our job is to learn how to not only turn down the volume but also to gather data on what it might be trying to protect you from. Protection, you might ask? Yes, protection. The inner critic may be attempting to keep you out of feeling raw, vulnerable, and uncomfortable, and so it may grasp on to criticism and perfectionism to keep you from feeling that way. But here is what we know: Discomfort is where change most often happens, so maybe, just maybe, that inner critic is actually working hard at preventing change. Learn to work with it and you may grow in ways you never dreamed of.

Perhaps taking steps towards a more loving inner monologue may shift the power of your inner critic.

Practicing daily affirmations, reading and listening to inspiring podcasts, writing yourself a loving and kind note or greeting card, engaging in self-care activities, taking time to practice breathing exercises, engaging in gentle movement with your body such as stretching or yoga, exploring a new hobby or revisiting one you used to love, or taking time to create art or journal about your fears. These are all some ways to take good loving care of ourselves, especially when we are feeling down, defeated, or stuck.

If we simply sit and listen to the critic on repeat, we will feel powerless, defeated, unappreciated, and paralyzed. One small step towards shifting the inner dialogue and doing an activity to shift our thinking may just help us all get back to center and to appreciate the humans that we are versus the human the critic tells us that we are not.

Be kind and gentle with yourself, take one small step towards reframing your thinking, and stay curious.

6 THINGS YOU COULD DO TODAY TO START BEING A BETTER DAD

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as fail-proof parenting. We all experience our share of failures. It’s inevitable. We’ll unleash overflowing frustration on our kids after a long day at work, we’ll forget to embrace the moment because our adult brain is fixated on what’s coming next. We’ll never be perfect, but we can be better. Even with our failures, we can be great.

What makes a great dad? 

We all strive to be great dads. Dads whose children trust and rely on them, building a bond that lasts well past childhood. But how do we get there? Every single day we’re faced with choices, ones that dictate how our children see and interact with us. In order to make those choices, first and foremost, we have to show up. We have to show up consistently, actively, and without judgment. From there, becoming a great dad is a process, one that lasts a lifetime. Your only competition is yourself. Your only goal today is to be a better dad than you were yesterday. How, you ask?

Well…

[1] JUST BE A FAN. JUST BE A FAN.

Kids receive constant feedback from the world around them. Teachers evaluate their ability to learn, peers evaluate their ability to socialize. Kids are told what’s normal and what’s abnormal, they’re compared to set expectations and held to set standards. At home though, in the one space where kids can be fully and unabashedly themselves, kids don’t need those limitations. They don’t need to be told that their dreams are unrealistic, they don’t need to hear that their favorite TV show sucks. What they need is a fan.

A fan is always there, cheering loudly during the best times and the worst. Kids don’t need you to fight their fights for them, or to tell them what they’re doing wrong. They need someone who’s willing to say “yes, you can” even when they don’t fully believe it themselves. Someone who roots for them no matter what, because nobody else in the world will. Someone who loves them fully and unconditionally, who’s willing to step back and let them make mistakes for the sake of growth and self-discovery. And when they fall, they can feel safe in the confidence that their biggest fan is waiting to help them back up. 

[2] YOUR JOB IS TO BOTHER

As long as doors have existed, teenagers have been slamming them. Kids want independence. They want you to stay out of their business, to stop telling them that you love them in front of their friends. If kids had it their way, parenting wouldn’t be such an all-encompassing task. But our job as parents is to push through those barriers, to let them know we’re there even when they don’t necessarily want us there. 

It’s not a coincidence that father rhymes with bother. That’s our job. To be up in their business.

Being up in their business isn’t the same as being overbearing, and it certainly isn’t permission to stifle their independence. Bothering simply means being involved, showing interest, and reminding them that we care about them unconditionally. Sure, they’ll resist at times. They’ll roll their eyes. They’ll groan. But they will never, no matter how hard life gets, worry that nobody cares. Be a bother to them. Be a father to them.

[3] START THE CONVERSATION

Nearly every coming-of-age TV show references “The Talk,” an idea that bleeds, for better or worse, into real life. The idea of “the talk” is shrouded in mystery and discomfort, hinged on the idea that it’s a parent’s responsibility to tell their children everything there is to know about life’s most difficult topics in a single agonizing chat. 

It’s taken us our entire lives up to this point to learn about drugs. To learn about sex. To learn about loss. And yet, we’re expected to impart all of our worldly knowledge in a movie-worthy montage filled with awkward muttering and not-so-subtle glances at the clock? At best, it’s deeply inadequate.

Parenting is an ongoing process, it’s a job that never ends. These talks, like many aspects of parenting, should evolve as our kids grow. They should become deeper and more involved as our kids become more deeply involved in the world around them. It may be uncomfortable at first, partly because it means our kids are no longer seeing the world with wide-eyed innocence. 

But these talks are essential. They mark the beginning of conversations that will last a lifetime, conversations that our children will one day have with their own kids. Start the conversation now, start it right, and make sure to keep it going. 

Stop Rambling in Meetings — and Start Getting Your Message Across

Has this ever happened to you: You debrief from a strategic meeting, only to find you can’t remember anyone besides yourself sharing ideas or contributing input? Many leaders need to be coached to speak up. But what if you have the opposite problem — and you can’t seem to stop talking? This can lead to frustration all around — your team members become frustrated because they want to share their own ideas, and your manager grows frustrated because they want to hear other viewpoints. Your ideas get lost because stakeholders lose patience with your habit of dominating the conversation — and start to tune you out.

If you suspect you may be monopolizing the conversation in meetings, experiment with these tactics to help get your message across.

Measure exactly how much you’re talking.

Take time to reflect after meetings. If you feel like you have been sharing too much, look back and consider who else contributed. Ask yourself honestly: “Did I talk over people?” Estimate how much of the meeting you were speaking.

For example: “I spoke up about one third of the time and talked over Jim twice.” Note that there isn’t a specific set point for how much you should or should not talk. You will need to use your gut. If you notice you have a pattern of talking over others, it’s time for a reset. Moving forward, make an effort to prioritize listening over talking.

Make a rule for yourself regarding when to share. For example: “I won’t speak until at least two other people in the meeting have shared their input,” or “I will limit my sharing to one point.” Or, “I will time myself and allow only three minutes of speaking.”

Of course, this advice won’t work all the time; your input will be needed and solicited when the stakes are high. But for routine meetings, practice pulling back and letting others have the floor. I coach clients to over-index on sticking to their allotted speaking time. While you don’t want to limit your speaking time forever, adhering to the time rule in the beginning will help you build the habit of yielding the floor.

Consider using other ways to share your ideas.

If you excel at creativity, you may come alive in a brainstorming session and quickly generate a wealth of ideas. However, if you tend to ramble when describing those ideas, you could come across as scattered and ill prepared. Consider other ways to organize your ideas and communicate them to audiences. For example, can you keep a running list of your brilliant insights on your computer so you’re better prepared to share them in the next meeting? Or, can you share ideas in a non-meeting setting — for example, in a follow-up email or an internal chat platform?

Use whatever forms of communication are at your disposal to help organize your thoughts. You’ll then communicate well-thought-out concepts when you do share. One client I worked with had many fantastic ideas; however, in her review, her supervisor noted that my client’s ideas got lost when she attempted to verbalize those ideas. This client wasn’t succinct enough and monopolized senior leadership meetings. To help regain her credibility after this review, my client only shared one point of view at a time that was fully flushed out so that she looked more strategic and organized. For important matters, she followed up afterward with another meeting or an email. This strategy helped her regain control of how she spoke in meetings.

Practice compressing your thoughts.

When speaking, make sure that what you’re saying is necessary and impactful. You can even think of your sentences in tweet form: How would I communicate this idea if I were tweeting and facing a character limit? How can I cut my message down to its essence? 

You can also try writing down the thoughts you plan to discuss in a meeting. This will help you see the cadence in how you deliver ideas. Once you establish a rhythm for compressing your thoughts, you won’t need to take much time to prepare and practice.

Think of yourself as an editor eliminating words and ideas that don’t communicate the essence of what you want to share. I worked with one leader who found that she could reliably scale back each of her sentences by about five words. While that may not sound like a lot, those extra words made for more muddled communication. She delivered messages with a more significant impact by trimming back her sentences.

Build in pauses.

Are you giving your colleagues enough time to digest what you say and to ask questions? If not, give yourself a signal to pause.

One client I worked with decided that when he needed to slow down and stop talking, he would pinch himself. This was a signal to take a breath, stop talking, or ask the group questions. This straightforward tactic can be amazingly effective. By slowing down and taking deliberate pauses, you’ll be able to regulate your impulse to overshare, and your message will have a better chance of landing.

Ask for help.

It may be hard to know in the moment if you’re oversharing. A fresh perspective can offer insight. Ask a trusted colleague or advisor to provide insights into how you’re meeting your goal of talking less and listening more.

Request specific feedback: “Did I share my ideas in three minutes or less?” The answer you receive could provide additional insights that you can use for future conversations. One client I worked with decided to have a reciprocal agreement with a trusted peer.  They would make sure to notice each others’ patterns and would then meet once a month to share their perspectives.

While it’s important to share your point of view, it’s critical to know when and how. Experiment with some or all of these tactics to make sure your input is being heard.

3 Strategies for Leading Through Difficult Times

For the past two years, leaders have been performing a high-wire act: seeking stable footing while dealing with a disruptive and unpredictable pandemic, struggling to hire amidst a 15-year high in talent shortages, and revamping policies to meet employee demands for more flexibility at work. Multiple waves of coronavirus variants and an outbreak of war in Europe have left leaders in a daunting place — trying to reassure and focus employees in the face of constant uncertainty while having no real clue what will happen next. They are being told to “embrace uncertainty” as if that’s a natural and easy thing to do. (It’s not.) And their own struggles with stress and burnout often take a back seat as they address the rising mental health challenges of their employees.

So many leaders are now caught in the middle of wanting to provide a clear and upbeat message to employees and yet are having to back-pedal and pivot quite frequently as conditions change. It’s an exhausting proposition.

More than ever, leaders need practical strategies for taking care of themselves and their teams. At Potential Project, we have coached thousands of leaders, and we start in a somewhat unexpected place – helping them to understand and manage their minds.  Unfortunately, none of us can physically control our mind which neurologically has its own patterns and default modes, but we can train it so that it’s working with us and not against us.

Here are three things we recommend to leaders to lead in these uncertain times.

Beware of your ego.

Though most of us like to see ourselves as having the best interests of others in mind, the truth is that our ego is a powerful force, committed to our self-interest and self-preservation.

As we rise up in the ranks of leadership, our ego can naturally become inflated. When it does, this puts us at higher risk of poor decisions and missteps. An inflated ego narrows our vision and makes us look for information that confirms what we want to believe. We lose perspective and end up in a leadership bubble where we only see and hear what we want to rather than the full picture. And, in the face of setbacks and criticism, we find it harder to admit and learn from our mistakes.

Last summer, we witnessed a good example of ego in action. Despite the appearance and then surge in the Covid delta variant, James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, confidently asserted that his employees would be back in the office by September. He even threatened pay cuts for those who didn’t follow the plan and return to the office. When his vision failed to materialize, Gorman at least had the good sense to admit publicly that he was wrong rather than doubling down on a failed plan. “I was wrong on this,” he told CNBC in December.” “I thought we would have been out of it and we’re not. Everybody’s still finding their way.”

Ego can kill our ability to be agile in an unpredictable world. Keeping it in check gives leaders the freedom to be wrong, to make mistakes, to admit to being human, and to move on.

Choose courage over comfort.

As human beings, we’re hardwired to embrace certainty and safety and to avoid danger and discomfort. In fact, sometimes we’ll do nearly everything we can to convince ourselves that staying in our comfort zone is the best thing to do. This is where courage comes in. Courage is different from fearlessness. We can still experience fear about making a difficult decision or delivering negative news, but we find the inner strength to overcome the fear, to shift out of our comfort zones, and to move forward.

Pamela Maynard, the CEO of Avanade, a 45,000-person global technology company, shared with us her experience with fear. In 2020, just six months into her role as CEO, she needed to deal with the realities of the global pandemic. Many organizations were reducing workforce numbers to keep their business afloat. But early on, Pam committed to protecting jobs, even as that felt like a risk. “As a new CEO, it felt challenging to make this decision because I wanted to come in as a leader, drive growth, and hit my targets,” she said. “But in this truly once-in-a-lifetime situation, my most important responsibility was to take care of our people. There was no other option and no greater priority.”

Pam removed chargeability requirements for consultants in the early months of the pandemic and lifted PTO limits as people needed to step away. As a leader, she saw an opportunity to demonstrate real courage to steer the ship through difficult times. She shared a principle that has guided her throughout her career: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” In this moment, she faced her fear of negatively impacting company performance and disappointing her stakeholders and demonstrated Avanade’s values in action.

Choosing courage over comfort puts us in a vulnerable position because we will likely take heat and make mistakes as we venture into uncertain territory. But this vulnerability opens the doors for others to be vulnerable too. If we face our fears and mess up sometimes, we allow people to see our humanity and invite them to share theirs too.

Practice caring transparency.

McKinsey has reported that more than three-quarters of the C-suite executives they surveyed expect the typical employee to be back in the office at some point for three or more days a week. At the same time, nearly three-quarters of the 5,000 employees surveyed indicated that they would like to work from home for two or more days per week. It’s understandable how leaders view a return to the office as a positive thing. For some, it signals an end to the chaos, a return to the known and manageable. For others, it may seem the best solution to the real experience of disconnect and fatigue that working remotely has burdened us all with.

But the disconnect in expectations and the public communication of plans that run counter to employee sentiment is a dangerous brew that can erode trust.  The answer is not for leaders to avoid strategies and plans that are unpopular but necessary; this is often the hard work of leadership. But the caring and compassionate approach is to be as transparent as possible.

Caring transparency means getting ideas and thoughts out in the open — to make visible what can often be invisible, under the surface. It means being open and honest about what is on our minds and in our hearts. We don’t hold back important information out of fear of how it will be received or how we will be viewed. By doing this, we strip away the power that comes with exclusive knowledge and level the playing field. As a result, people know where they stand and what comes next and can better plot their course in life. Transparency is distinct from candor in that you can be candid and still conceal information. When you are transparent, people know what is on your mind. And when you add caring to transparency, people also know what is in your heart.

Are We What We Eat? Nutritional Psychiatry and Brain Health

Many folks start their day with a cup (or two or three) of coffee and that’s about it. They try to make it to lunch, perhaps inhaling a muffin if they are really hungry. But our bodies and brains in these situations are starving for proper nutrition. Research from nutritional psychiatry suggests there is much we can do to improve upon this situation. Here are a few principles that you may find helpful.

1. While our brains are only 2% of our body weight, they consume 20% to 25% of our energy when we’re active (Wilson, 2022). Our brains need sustenance, and if not fed properly, they go hungry. Nutrition has powerful impacts on our health in general, and brain health, specifically. We need to feed it regularly and nutritiously to be our best.

2. What we eat is strongly connected to brain and mood health. It matters what we put in our bodies. Some foods are high in antioxidants and help our body to protect itself from free radicals and oxidative processes, thereby reducing inflammation. In contrast, some foods cause inflammation, which has been linked to incidence of cancer and also mood disorders like depression. Poor and irregular eating can lead to drops in blood sugar, irritability, and struggles with cognitive performance (Wilson, 2022). We can become easily stressed, anxious, and confused when our brains are not properly fed. What are some examples of foods we should be getting more of?

3. Eat more fish. Fatty fish, like cod, trout, Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and herring are highly recommended by nutritionists. Why? There are good kinds of fats and bad kinds of fats, and fatty fish are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids that are essential fats (i.e., our bodies do not produce on their own). Omega-3s work to decrease inflammation and cut the risk of heart disease. They’re important for prenatal development in babies, too. At least two servings of these fatty fish per week are recommended by nutritionists and dieticians (Wilson, 2022). Because I really like all of these fish, I initially thought I must be doing well in consuming the recommended portions; a review of my eating habits in the past month revealed that I eat only about three portions a month. (By the way, avoid fish with high levels of mercury contamination, such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish). Baked and broiled fish are healthier than fried. Folks often find themselves eating burgers, steak, and tacos, but it’s a good idea to mix it up and have healthier options every week, as these foods are high in cholesterol and saturated fats, are highly inflammatory, and, eaten to excess, are terrible for your heart.

How to Avoid a Utility Shutoff

CONTACT THE UTILITY COMPANY

First, reach out to the utility company directly and let them know your situation. There are humans on the other end and if you can’t afford to make payments they might have some options to help keep the lights on. 

Depending on the company, they might lower your payments, temporarily take you off the hook for upcoming payments, or drop late fees. For instance, PG&E, which is located in Northern California, offers relief options such as reduced payments. The Florida Public Utilities has expanded billing options and payment options for those experiencing financial hardship. Do some poking around to see if your utility company offers similar routes. 

If you were in good standing and paid your bills in a timely manner, there may be a better chance that they’ll be open to working with you on coming up with solutions. 

APPLY FOR A RELIEF PROGRAM

There might also be information on the websites of the utility company. Depending on where you live and your situation, different forms of relief might be available. Along the same lines, relief programs and assistance agencies might be able to provide help should you need it. You can also try 211.org and FindHelp.org for a listing of local organizations and resources that can help meet your basic needs in a crisis. 

Besides letting you know what forms of financial relief are available, these assistance agencies can also help you stay informed of any changes at the national or local level that could impact your rights and protections.

SEE IF AVERAGE BILLING IS AN OPTION

As we use more gas in our homes during the winter months and more electricity in the warmer months, we tend to see our bills spike in tandem. Many utility companies offer what’s known as budget billing or average billing, which looks at records of the total amount you paid in utilities over the course of a year. That number is then divided into 12 equal payments. The average that’s calculated will be what you pay each month (with changes to account for any significant fluctuations). 

Average billing could come in handy in a number of ways. First, it bumps down the amount you paid during typically peak seasons. Next, it makes for easier planning. Instead of anticipating your utility bills to be $75 one month, $200 the next, paying the same each month means you can aim to set that money aside ahead of time, and won’t fall short with another bill. 

TRACK YOUR ENERGY USAGE 

To get a better idea of how much it will cost you over the course of a year, track how much gas and power you are expending. You can track your usage using affordable devices such as a handheld wattage meter or by way of a smart app that measures the energy usage in your home. By tracking your usage, you can get a better idea of how much energy you use in your home, and make tweaks to be savvier with your usage. 

REDUCE ENERGY USE 

To save on energy, make it a habit to turn off lights and devices when you’re not in a room. You can also look into a smart plug, which you can schedule to turn and off at certain times, but could also track how much energy you’re using. Just be sure to wait for a sale so you can scoop up the best deals on smart plugs. 

Another tactic? Think up creative solutions to using energy. For instance, if it’s safe to do and you have the space to accommodate it, consider using a propane gas tank in lieu of a standard stove. And LED lights typically are more energy-efficient than standard lightbulbs. Try using candles, a camping lamp every so often, or those little tea lights that are powered by a small cell battery. There are also inexpensive ways to insulate your home. Every little bit can help.

LOWER YOUR LIVING EXPENSES

Ok, so you’ve found ways to cut back on your energy use. To free up money to help afford to pay your utilities, expand your money-saving savvy to include overall living expenses. You might’ve already done a round of cutbacks when you were first laid off or furloughed. 

Look for unexpected ways you can cut back further. Nix subscriptions, find ways to save on groceries, cut back the costs of staying physically fit — let no expense go unexplored of its money-saving potential! 

Not having enough to keep the lights on and the heater going during the cooler months is a scary, unsettling thought indeed. But know there are resources at your disposal, and things you can do in your power to prevent it from happening.

You can’t exercise away poor dietary choices, study finds

There has been a lot of conversation — and a great deal of research — attempting to determine whether exercise or a healthy diet is more important for longevity. A new study led by researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia analyzing UK Biobank data may provide the answer.

Researchers found that people who engaged in high levels of physical activity and also ate a high quality diet had lower mortality risks.

For anyone who believed that one can exercise away poor dietary choices, this study suggests otherwise.

People who engage in one or the other lowered the risk of mortality to a lesser degree. Study corresponding author, associate professor Dr. Melody Ding, told Medical News Today:

“These groups still do better (and statistically significant) than the group with poor diet and lowest physical activity, but the group with the best diet and moderate or high physical activity levels do the best!”

The study focused on deaths due to all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and adiposity-related (PDAR) cancers.

Cardiology dietician Michelle Routhenstein, who specializes in heart health, and was not involved in the study, told MNT:

“The study results are no surprise to me. Many people have come to see me in my private practice after suffering a heart attack when training for their fourth or fifth marathon, or right after doing a CrossFit exercise.”

“When I do a comprehensive evaluation of their lifestyle, it is apparent that they thought their intense daily exercise regimen would make up for their poor, unbalanced diet, and it simply doesn’t.”
— Michelle Routhenstein, cardiology dietician

The study is published in BMJ Sports Medicine.

Analyzing exercise and diet habits

The researchers analyzed existing health records for 346, 627 U.K. residents that enrolled in the UK Biobank between April 2007 to December 2010. The health of these individuals was followed for an average of 11.2 years. For this study, the UK Biobank data were linked to the National Health Service death records until 30 April 2020.

For the purposes of their analysis, researchers considered the number of minutes people engaged in walking, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and vigorous-intensity physical activity (VPA). For both MVPA and VPA, they used a 1-4 ranking system.

A high quality diet consisted of 4.5 cups or more of vegetables or fruit per day, two or more servings of fish weekly, and less than two servings of processed meat or less than five servings of red meat weekly.

The selection of target foods reflects recommendations from the American Heart Association, with the authors noting:

“These food groups were selected as markers for overall diet quality because other important dietary components and/or nutrient groups, such as whole grains and dairy, were not measured during baseline assessment.”

The researchers rated the individuals’ diet quality poor, medium, or one of two levels of best.

The best results

Compared to physically inactive individuals who ate the lowest-quality diet, those engaging in the highest activity levels and eating the highest-quality diet reduced their risk of all-cause mortality by 17%. They also reduced their mortality risk of cardiovascular disease by 19% and of PDAR cancers by 27%.

Does Alcohol Make You Feel Better?

I get it. I love the idea of a drink at the end of a long day, too. But does it really make us feel better? The answer is complicated.

There’s no question that alcohol is a large part of our society. In many cities, it feels like there’s a bar on every corner. And it’s a rare party, cookout, or get-together that doesn’t include wine or beer. Our society tends to normalize and even encourage alcohol, which makes it difficult to avoid.

Unfortunately, too many people don’t want to avoid it, which often leads to adverse mental and physical outcomes. Alcohol is classified as a depressant, which means it can cause or worsen depression, especially if used in excess. It can also exacerbate nearly every other psychiatric condition, as well as significantly increase your risk for cancer of multiple organs, heart disease, liver disease, dementia, insomnia, and a long list of other conditions. While these conditions can take time to develop, more immediately, most people don’t feel as well the day after a night of drinking, even if it was only a couple of drinks.

Why do we do it? 

A theory, which isn’t hard to accept, is that alcohol makes you more social, and humans need to be social to survive. It’s easier to build shelters, fend off predators, and raise our young when we work as a group. Being social also makes us happier, and helps us live longer. And alcohol is the ultimate social lubricant. After a drink or two, people tend to feel happier in the moment, conversation flows more readily, and connecting with others comes more easily. Alcohol helps us attain a necessary goal in life, both for the individual and for the community.

There is, of course, a large caveat. While a couple of drinks on a Saturday night with friends may boost your mood, there is a narrow therapeutic window. Drinking too much in one sitting or drinking too frequently can quickly convert the benefits of alcohol into a detriment. Daily use, especially more than two drinks per day, can lead to, or exacerbate, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and anger. As mood worsens under the effects of consistent alcohol use, regular drinkers no longer look towards alcohol for euphoria, but rather to relieve their suffering. This creates a downward spiral that doesn’t stop until the alcohol does. 

Context matters as well. Drinking in a social setting can increase feelings of closeness and positivity, as mentioned above. However, when drinking alone, the euphoria is more muted, or absent altogether. According to Dr. Kasey Creswell, an alcohol researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, ”Several studies have shown that drinking alone does not produce the same positive effects as drinking in social settings.” It’s just not as much fun to drink alone. Plus, there are no social benefits. 

But even if drinking with friends brings you happiness and joy, this comes at a price. The more you enjoy it, the higher your risk of slipping into alcoholism, and ultimately worsening your overall mood. “In some instances, the people who derive the greatest mood enhancement from alcohol, compared to if they were not drinking alcohol in the same situations, also may be those most vulnerable to subsequently developing a drinking problem,” warns Dr. Michael Sayette, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Need a Business Idea?

Looking to launch a successful business but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Today, tens of thousands of people are considering starting their own business, and for good reasons. On average, people can expect to have two and three careers during their work life — and with the great resignation in full effect, many are looking to become their own boss or a small business owner. Those leaving one career often think about their second or third career move being one they can run out of their own home. The good news: Starting a home-based business is within the reach of almost anyone who wants to take a risk and work hard, as are a plethora of other low-cost ideas. Here are some business ideas to get you started.

1. ACCOUNTANT

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Create a flier outlining your services. Before you do that, you need to know what those services will be. Do you want to simply do bookkeeping for a small business? A more involved level of accounting would be to work up balance sheets, income statements, and other financial reports on a monthly, quarterly, and/or annual basis, depending on the needs of the business. Other specializations can include tax accounting, a huge area of potential work.

2. BICYCLE REPAIR

n many parts of the country, this business tends to be seasonal, but you can find ways around that. Rent a storage unit and offer to store people’s bicycles over the winter after you do a tune-up and any needed repairs on them. If you want to cater to the Lance Armstrong wannabes, you can have business all year round. These road race riders are training through snow, sleet and dark of night. Some of them work on their own bicycles, but many of them don’t, so you can get their business all year. And if you keep Saturday shop hours, you can be sure you will have a group of enthusiasts coming by to talk all things cycling.

3. BOAT CLEANING

Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Boats that are hauled out of the water for the winter or even just for mid-season repairs will need the hull cleaned. And depending on the type of boat, it is a good time to give a major cleaning everything else too–the decks, the sleeping quarters, the head, and the holds. Start by approaching homes that have a boat sitting in the yard. Or you could market your services to the marina to contract you to do the boat cleaning it offers to customers.

4. BUSINESS PLAN SERVICE

Has expansion possibilities

Offer a soup-to-nuts business plan, including market research, the business plan narrative and the financial statements. Plan your fee around the main one that the client will want and offer the others as add-on services. You can give clients an electronic file and allow them to take it from there, or you can keep the business plan on file and offer the service of tweaking it whenever necessary. Have business plan samples to show clients–and make sure to include your own!

5. RIDE-SHARING DRIVER

Getting paid to drive during your free time is a great way to make extra money. It won’t likely replace a full-time paycheck but can be a lucrative extra revenue stream or side hustle. According to Nerd Wallet , here is a break down of the income you can expect: “To make an annual income of $50,000, the average Uber driver needs to provide 60.21 rides each week, while those working for Lyft need to give 83.76 rides a week, and Sidecar drivers would have had to provide 72.03 rides in a week.”

Stocks Are Rallying

The S&P 500, an index commonly used to measure how stocks are doing overall, jumped 2.8% Tuesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the the Nasdaq Composite closed up 2.4% and 3.1%, respectively. Tuesday marked the largest one-day percentage gains since June 24 for all three indexes, and a welcome relief for investors. The S&P 500 was up around 0.9% during trading midday Wednesday as well.

While financial markets for much of the last two years were buoyed by stimulus money from the government and near-zero interest rates, stocks have been struggling after hitting their peak in January amid sky-high inflation and rising interest rates.

The S&P 500 fell into a bear market in June and was still down around 18% for the year at Tuesday’s close.

The truth is that rallies like Tuesday’s during an overall downturn are common, and they certainly don’t mean stocks have hit bottom or are going to recover all their losses in a hurry.

“Bear markets are typically thought of as periods of relentless declines in the market where stocks do nothing but trade lower,” analysts at Bespoke Investment Group wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “The reality of bear markets, though, is that they often include periods of extreme countertrend rallies, sucking investors in along the way.”

What past stock market downturns tell us

If history repeats itself, rallies as big as even 5% or more don’t necessarily mean the bear market has bottomed.

Look at the dot-com bust. Between the S&P 500’s peak in March 2000 to its low in October 2002, the index lost 49% — but along the way it saw 11 different rallies of 5% or more, according to Bespoke.

It’s a similar story around the financial crisis of 2008: The S&P 500 experienced 12 different rallies of at least 5% between October 2007 and March 2009, when it lost 57% of its value.

The Power of Believing in Yourself

Years ago, right before starting on a big new project, I bought a framed note that spelled with golden letters: 

She believed she could so she did.

I didn’t know who she was and what she did, but somehow, the words offered encouragement for my own undertaking.

The contract that humans draft with their loftiest dreams is surprisingly straightforward. Yes, we need skills to accomplish our goals. Yes, we need effort, strategy, resources, creativity, character, and even luck. But before we set the world in motion, we need the blessing of an inner ally, who, whether with a coy wink or a full-blown orchestra, makes us believe that we can

This confidence in our abilities in specific life domains is known as self-efficacy. After studying self-efficacy for decades, psychologist James Maddux concluded that believing that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish is one of the most important ingredients for success. Indeed, countless research studies have shown that having high self-efficacy can help us pursue our goals, cope effectively with stress, engage in health-promoting behaviors, and have better psychological well-being. 

Why do our thoughts and convictions have such a consequential hold on us? Is it the courage they impart to dream in the first place? Is it the resolve they extend when we stumble? Or is it because when we believe in ourselves, we can “risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit,” as poet E.E. Cummings writes.

Here are 8 insights from Maddux on the key role self-efficacy plays in our lives. 

Self-efficacy can be more adaptive than self-confidence 

Traditionally, psychologists have defined and measured self-confidence as a global construct that is consistent over time and across situations. It’s almost like a personality trait that people tend to have to varying degrees. The trouble with thinking of ourselves in global terms, such as having high or low self-confidence, is that it’s very easy to mis-predict outcomes.

Research shows that when it comes to our ability to predict behavior, situation-specific measures (i.e., self-efficacy beliefs) outperform global measures such as self-confidence. Thus, if you are considering setting a new goal, you’ll be better off breaking down your general self-confidence into components and thinking about your abilities in various specific situations. This is particularly important for people with low self-confidence, which can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, in cognitive behavioral therapy, the client who complains of low self-confidence is invited to explore some areas in life where they actually do well. This exercise can help individuals think about their particular competencies in various situations that they feel good about and move away from self-defeating thinking patterns.

Self-efficacy is a key ingredient of self-regulation

Self-regulation refers to the way we guide our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions in the pursuit of our goals, desired outcomes, and values. It involves using our past experiences and knowledge about our skills as reference points to develop expectancies about future events and states. Consider self-regulation as a circular process where complex networks, factors, and predictions interact with each other and unfold over time.

Being a good self-regulator is an acquirable skill that includes learning how to generate better self-efficacy beliefs, setting and pursuing effective goals, incorporating feedback, and having adaptive self-evaluations of performance. Self-regulatory skills (as well as the belief that one is a good self-regulator) is fundamental for psychological well-being because they can usher a sense of agency over one’s life.

Self-efficacy is not wishful thinking or a fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude

Self-efficacy is best viewed in terms of having confidence in your ability to apply your skills in particular situations. It is a much more nuanced concept than a blind belief of “I believe I can do it, and therefore I will succeed.” Notably, it entails having a clear understanding of your skills. Skills and beliefs about skills usually go hand-in-hand. This is why overconfidence without actual preparation (or lack of skills) can set people up for failure. 

Self-efficacy can help in challenging and uncertain times 

A powerful source of self-efficacy is actual performance—things you’ve done well in life. Often, when people encounter what appears to be a new problem, they see it as being entirely different from what they have experienced before. That’s rarely the case. Any challenge, if you live long enough, will have some similarity to other challenges you’ve faced and overcome before. If you stop and think about the ways in which a current challenge is similar to other challenges you successfully dealt with in the past, you can draw upon your experience and boost your sense of self-efficacy for managing this “unprecedented” circumstance. It can also attenuate the fear of uncertainty and of encountering something you have never encountered before.

What Is The Ideal Age Gap For A Happy Marriage?

A young, attractive spouse won’t make you happy in the long run, according to a new study. Researchers found that the thrill of a wide age gap tends to wear off within a decade, leaving mismatched couples unprepared for marital bliss. The perfect fling might be half your age — but the perfect life partner probably is not.

“Marital satisfaction declines more rapidly over time for both men and women who have large age gaps with their spouses, compared to those with small age gaps,” says study co-author Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “This decline in satisfaction erases those initial higher levels of satisfaction at the beginning of marriage for men and women with younger spouses.”

Easy come, easy go. Besides, prior studies suggest that desire for a much younger partner is largely a guy thing. In 2001, for instance, Dutch social scientists asked men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s what they considered the ideal age for a long-term partner, and a casual fling. Both women and men preferred age-appropriate spouses, but men alone opted for significantly younger suitors when it came to brief affairs.

For this new study, McKinnish and colleagues analyzed 13 years of data from 8,682 households in Australia. They found that men and women with younger partners were the most satisfied with their marriages initially, and both men and women with older spouses were least satisfied. Unfortunately, these satisfied men and women with younger spouses have nowhere to go but down. After their marriages reached the six-to-10-year mark, larger age gaps saw a much sharper decline in satisfaction — especially when there was money trouble.

“It is likely that such couples with age gaps are more vulnerable to economic shocks, as they have relatively lower household income compared to similarly-aged couples, and are also more likely to be single income households,” co-author on the study Wang Sheng Lee of Deakin University in Australia told Fatherly.

As for the precise age gap for marital bliss, Lee and McKinnish are unsure. A previous study indicates that the sweet spot may be around one year. Couples one year apart had a 3% chance of splitting, researchers found, compared to 18% for couples five years apart, 39% for 10, and 95% for 20.

Still, these numbers represent averages and trends, not predictors of marital success. “If one is conservative and believes in statistics on averages as a guide, then having a smaller age gap makes it more likely one will not experience drops in marital satisfaction,” Lee says. But “there will always be exceptions to the norm.”

3 Reasons to Avoid Farmed Salmon

Not so long ago, Atlantic salmon was an abundant wild species. Born in the rivers of northeastern United States and Canada, after a couple years in freshwater they embarked on an epic migration, navigating 2,000 miles across the Atlantic to feed and mature off western Greenland. Millions of salmon travelled up to 60 miles a day, fending off predators and feeding on zooplankton and small fish. When the time came, instinct and the earth’s magnetic fields led these magnificent fish back to spawn in the precise rivers of their birth.

Today, wild salmon are an endangered species, gone from most rivers in the U.S. There are many culprits, from polluted waterways and habitat destruction to overfishing and climate change. In the last 20 years, however, a new threat has emerged: floating feedlots on the ocean known as open-net salmon farms. The $20-billion-a-year farmed salmon industry is the world’s fastest growing food producer, and it has made farmed Atlantic salmon the most popular fish on dinner tables North America. But at what cost?

This new fish is an industrialized imposter that risks our health and damages our planet. Farmed salmon are bred to grow fast in cages so crammed that they are rife with parasites and disease. The fish eat pellets of fishmeal, vegetables, and animal byproducts; they are doused regularly with pesticides and antibiotics.

We spent more than two years investigating the global salmon farming business and the multinational companies that control it for our book, Salmon Wars. We interviewed scientists, physicians, fishers, activists, and those in the business of aquaculture. We read academic studies, court papers and previously undisclosed investigative files. We identified and tried to answer three critical questions swirling around farmed salmon.

First and most important, is eating farmed salmon healthy?

Doctors recommend salmon for protein, nutrients, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association suggests consuming at least two servings of fish a week. But they rarely spell out the kind of salmon you should eat or warn of the dangers.

Many experts and scientific studies cast doubt on the blanket claim that salmon should be part of a healthy diet when the fish comes from open-net farms. Some farmed salmon may be safer than other types, but consumers rarely have enough information to make that choice. Labels are unlikely to disclose that the salmon was farmed, let alone identify the chemicals used to raise it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t even have definition for organic salmon.

“It is confusing, and I suspect there is willful confusion out there,” Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University, told us. “We know that every fish is a trade-off between omega-3 content and toxic content like PCBs. From the perspective of salmon in general, the balance favors consumption of that fish. Now the challenge here is that I can’t tell which salmon is farmed the right way or the wrong way.”

As early as 2004, scientists found levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen known as PCBs, seven times higher in farmed Atlantic salmon than in wild salmon. More recent studies found high levels of other chemicals and antibiotics in farmed salmon. Researchers at Arizona State University discovered increases in drug-resistant antibiotics in farmed seafood over the past 30 years, leading to concerns about increased risk of antibiotic resistance in humans. Toxins often wind up in salmon flesh and accumulate in people who eat the fish.

Some studies warn that a single meal per month of farmed Atlantic salmon can expose consumers to contaminant levels exceeding standards from the World Health Organization. The risk is greatest for infants, children, and pregnant women because of the potential harm from contaminants to developing brains.

Seafood Watch, an independent guide to fish consumption affiliated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, recommends avoiding most farmed Atlantic salmon because of excessive chemical use and disease. Nutritionists generally recommend eating wild salmon over farmed salmon.

Second, is farmed salmon sustainable?

Salmon farmers often advertise their fish as sustainable and naturally raised. These assertions are deceptive.

Salmon are carnivores. Fish meal and fish oil from anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring, and other small forage fish comprise 25 to 30 percent of most salmon feed. Fully a quarter of the fish harvested from the world’s oceans winds up in feed for aquaculture and pets. To meet growing global demand for salmon, huge trawlers pillage the fisheries off the coast of West Africa and Peru, robbing subsistence fishers of their livelihood and increasing food insecurity.

“You take the food from the plates of people in West Africa to feed the people of Europe and the United States and other countries,” Dr. Ibrahima Cisse of Greenpeace told us.

Salmon farmers argue that they fill the need for protein as the global population grows. Depleting fisheries in low-income countries to provide an unsustainable fish for richer countries sets a dangerous precedent.

Efforts to develop alternative protein sources are under way in university laboratories and start-ups. So far, there is no end in sight for the industry’s exploitation of small fish.

Ultra-processed foods linked to heart disease, cancer, and death, studies show

The food we eat can play a much greater role in health and longevity than many people may realize. In fact, previous research suggests that 1 in 5 deaths around the world could be prevented by improving diet. 

Now, two new studies recently published in the journal The BMJ examine the effects of ultra-processed foods on certain health conditions. 

In one study, researchers from Tufts University found that a diet high in ultra-processed foods increases the risk for colorectal cancer in men.

Another study from a research team at IRCCS Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy says that adults with the lowest-quality diet and highest ultra-processed food consumption have an increased risk for heart disease and all-cause mortality.

What are ultra-processed foods?

Ultra-processed foods are a category of the NOVA food classification system designed by researchers from the Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition at the School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The NOVA system classifies foods into four different groups: 

  • Group 1: unprocessed or minimally processed foods
  • Group 2: processed culinary ingredients (oils, fats, salt, and sugar)
  • Group 3: processed foods
  • Group 4: ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods include products made in an industrial setting from ingredients that are mostly or entirely made in a laboratory or extracted from foods. 

In general, ultra-processed foods can be identified in a product if at least one item on its list of ingredients is characteristic of the ultra-processed food group, which is defined by the following:

  • ingredients commonly found in processed foods, like sugars, fats, and preservatives
  • additives designed to imitate natural unprocessed foods
  • flavor enhancers, colorings, and other additives
  • ingredients made through the synthesis of food constituents, like maltodextrin, high-fructose corn syrup, modified starch, and hydrogenated fats

Examples of ultra-processed foods include: 

  • sodas and sweetened juices
  • sports and energy drinks
  • energy bars
  • powdered and instant soups
  • margarine
  • mass-produced and packaged bread and baked goods made with hydrogenated fats, sugar, and additives
  • pre-prepared meals such as pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks
  • infant formulas
  • meal replacement beverages 
  • mass-produced ice cream
  • candies
  • sweetened yogurt

8 Tips to Keep Your Mindfulness Practice Going

A new study has found that nearly 60 percent of people who subscribed to a popular meditation mobile app stopped using the app within a year. Mobile meditation apps are a helpful way to learn meditation and have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. However, many people find that staying engaged with meditation and mindfulness apps can be challenging.

The study examined a random sample of 2600 new subscribers to the mobile app Calm in 2018. While 83 percent of people used the app at least one more day, by day 350, 58 percent of users had stopped using the app. For those who did continue to use the app, the average amount of meditation was about 4 minutes and about every 3 days. 

Creating a new habit can be challenging and the benefits of meditation are not always immediate. Our digital attention span has also become bite-sized bits of 8 seconds or less. Some marketing teams have shown that our ability to stay engaged has shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to a mere 8 seconds in 2013. It’s likely even less now. This has created an even greater need to improve our attention span through practices like mindfulness, and yet finding a way to integrate mindfulness into one’s daily life can feel daunting.

Here are eight tips to keep a daily mindfulness practice going.

1. Build a little at a time—even one minute a day.

Start with practicing mindfulness for as little as one to five minutes a day. Listen to what your body and mind need, and go at your own pace. If it feels like time is the limiting factor, make it convenient and short so that it does not feel burdensome. Simple breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing or audio-guided meditations found at websites like the Free Mindfulness Project or on streaming services are accessible throughout the day. 

2. Schedule a recurring time on the calendar for mindfulness.

Making time for your mindfulness practice starts with getting that time on the calendar. Scheduling the time is a helpful reminder and ensures the time for it exists—even if it is just five minutes—and lets others who have access to your calendar know that this is protected time. The key is to establish a regularity to the practice, so it feels like a natural part of your day. 

When should you schedule this time? Ask yourself about your natural rhythm of stress—this can help you find the right time to schedule your practice. If you wake up feeling anxious, it can be useful to schedule the time as a morning meditation. If you tend to have difficulty with winding down at night and feel stressed before bed, body scan meditations are useful as part of your nighttime routine.

Can zero-calorie sweeteners raise your risk for cardiovascular disease?

While artificial sweeteners may seem like a good alternative to sugar to reduce caloric intake, a study published in The BMJ suggests there may be a connection between such sweeteners and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including stroke. 

The research, conducted by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, is not the first study to suggest a connection between artificial sweeteners and increased risk for heart disease, however, it is the largest to date. The study included data from more than 100,000 participants. 

Is it OK to consume artificial sweeteners?

When people try to cut sugar out of their diets, for reasons such as trying to lose weight or trying to control their blood sugar, they may turn to artificial sweeteners. 

Artificial sweeteners have been around for more than 100 years. Saccharin, for example, which is found in the sugar substitute Sweet’N Low, was first discovered in 1879. Since then, researchers have discovered numerous other artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, aspartame, stevia, and xylitol. 

There has almost always been controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners. As the Harvard School of Public Health notes, concerns include the development of type 2 diabetes and weight gain but the evidence is varied and inconclusive.

Despite the concerns, the Food and Drug Administration considers the approved sweeteners generally safe to use, as long as people do not exceed the acceptable daily intake for each type. 

For example, with sucralose (which is found in Splenda), a 132-pound person could consume 23 packets before going over the recommended limit.

3 Simple Rules To Raise Kind Kids

But raising kids who are kind takes more than scolding them when they’re mean. Kind kids must be attuned to the emotions of others and have a genuine concern for their wellbeing. Where niceness meets empathy, kindness is a seriously challenging lesson for parents to pass on to their kids.

Luckily, it is possible to train kindness into kids. For a recent study, researchers from the Center for BrainHealth had 38 mothers lead their kids aged 3 to 5 through the online kindness training program “Kind Minds with Moozie.” The kids completed five short modules, in which a digital cow named Moozie described creative exercises that parents can do with their kids to teach kindness, such as playing a game of charades where family members take turns pretending to engage in different acts of kindness. The researchers found that the preschoolers were both more kind and empathetic after the kindness training.

“Kindness is sometimes taken for granted,” says Stephanie Barca, J.D., a social service therapist and board member of the anti-bullying nonprofit Children’s Kindness Network. “But it really is a skill that can allow any kid to make a huge contribution to those around them. That, in turn, helps them feel so good and so proud of themselves.”

Here are three things parents who raise kind kids make a habit of doing.

1. Building Emotional Intelligence

Although people tend to think about kindness as a specific character trait, it’s grounded in the multifaceted concept of emotional intelligence — a set of skills that allow people to monitor their own and others’ emotions, as well as the ability to use emotions to guide one’s own thoughts and actions. An emotionally intelligent person can accurately perceive and evaluate what others are feeling and appropriately control their own emotions as a situation dictates.

Helping kids develop an emotional vocabulary that allows them to identify feelings and emotions is foundational to helping them become kind people. And if the rise of emojis has taught us nothing else, it’s that even very young children easily understand visual representations of emotions.

It’s a strategy the Moozie curriculum utilizes to great success when teaching kids how to perceive what others are feeling. Kids are presented with situations and then asked to identify the characters’ feelings. But you don’t need Moozie to do this. When watching a children’s show with your kid, you can pause at any point to ask what a character is feeling.

“It’s a nice way to introduce these concepts because the expressions are simple and straightforward,” Barca says. “In the real world, those signs may not be as strong for someone who has difficulties interpreting those social cues.” Visual representations like emojis and fictional characters are tools for learning emotions that are easy for kids to grasp, especially when they’re bright and easy to interpret.

Cell phones conveniently provide parents with everything they need for a quick game of name-that-emoji when looking to kill a few minutes. The Feelings Book by Todd Parr and its corresponding flashcard set are more tangible tools that provide a vibrant and screen-free take on the emoji idea.

2. Celebrating Kindness As It Happens

Parents aren’t starting from scratch when teaching kids how to be kind. Anyone who has had a preschooler give them a dandelion or received a dozen slobbery kisses from a toddler is well aware that kind intentions start early, even if the execution is lacking.

Taking time to notice and affirm such moments of kindness highlights for kids the capacity they already have while creating a positive feedback loop that encourages kindness moving forward. A kid shows kindness, an adult notices this and compliments them, and then the praise triggers a positive neural response that encourages the child to repeat acts of kindness.

“Learning to get along and contribute to the greater good is crucial to a functioning society, and those are things that any child can do. Noticing and celebrating those moments allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment, which is huge in helping them make kindness a habit,” Barca says.

Obviously, parents need to discourage their kids from being unkind by imposing negative consequences when kids say hurtful things. But finding opportunities to give rewards when they build up a run of kind words or actions can be a powerful tool for positively reinforcing kind words and actions. Using reward charts provides a visual reminder to kids and gives them an easy way to track their progress as they work to make kindness habitual.

3. Practicing Kindness Together

Barca makes learning and reinforcing kindness interactive with her kids by using a puppet to roleplay how to be kind in various situations. Instead of simply giving kids examples of how to be kind, they can participate in the creative process at their own speed. “For younger kids, the puppets are really good at role-playing positive social interactions with an engaging character,” she says. “And it sets up situations where kids can receive affirmation for the times they give good suggestions about how [the puppet] can respond to others with kindness.”

Another option for practicing kindness is to have kids brainstorm kind alternatives when they see fictional characters speak unkindly to others in books, television shows, or movies. Putting the focus on a third party in a low-stress situation can be more engaging than having kids do a real-life “do-over” after they’ve been unkind to someone and emotions are still high. Taking in an entire scenario from a third-person perspective can help remove some of the pull to justify retaliatory hurtfulness amid conflict.

For older kids, service and volunteering can be pathways to reinforcing kindness. “Even small gestures of kindness can make a big difference,” Barca says — a good reminder during these times when kindness feels like a fleeting art. Doing the next right thing — or in this case, the next kind thing — is an attainable goal that can have powerful effects.

Setting Career Goals When You Feel Overwhelmed

In many organizations, it’s the season for individual and team goal-setting. Deciding on a goal is generally something we want to be a rational and evidence-based exercise, combining a careful consideration of possibilities, resources, and obstacles with just the right amount of stretch. But what do you do when you feel like you have a very limited sense of what’s possible? When new obstacles seem to pop up around every corner and the sands are always shifting? When the idea of stretch seems laughable given how stressed and overwhelmed most of us are?

Setting goals in times of uncertainty and burnout can feel pointless, but it isn’t. Research shows that to engage our motivational systems and direct our brain’s energy to the right actions (both consciously and below our awareness), we need to have a clear sense of where we are, where we’re going, and whether we’re closing the gap between the two at the right rate. Without goals, we make bad choices and miss opportunities to act. But just as important, we can’t feel effective, which many psychologists believe is the most powerful source of life satisfaction and well-being humans have.

To set goals that make sense and motivate ourselves and others in such strange and often discouraging times, we need to set them with a growth mindset. And by that I don’t mean just “believe you can improve” or any of the other common oversimplifications of growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is a bit more nuanced (and more powerful) than simply believing that improvement is possible.

Your mindset is what you believe to be the larger meaning or purpose behind the work you do every day. A growth mindset is about believing that developing and making progress is the point of what you’re doing. As I’ve said before, it’s about getting better as opposed to just being good. And it’s about engaging in specific growth mindset strategies and habits to help keep you focused on the potential for growth in everything you do.

When you approach goal-setting through the lens of a growth mindset, you become more comfortable with uncertainty and more willing to entertain the idea of longer-term goals. Here are two strategies to help you get there that you can use for yourself or with your team.

Use growth-mindset trigger words to frame your goals.

When researchers want to study the effects of a growth mindset, one of the ways we do this is to describe the goal or task that someone is about to perform using certain words that evoke the idea of getting better rather than being good: improve, develop, over time, progress, become, and of course, grow.

These words serve as both explicit and implicit “primes” to your thinking. In other words, they shift the very meaning of the goal to being about developing, and they shift your mindset along with it. To use them, start by writing out your goal the way you would normally think about it. For example, your goal might be to “be an effective communicator” or to “increase sales by 5%.”

Then, rewrite it again using one or more growth mindset triggers. “Be an effective communicator” is now “become an effective communicator,” and “increase sales by 5%” is “develop our network of leads to improveour sales by 5%.”

This way of framing your goals isn’t about lowering the bar or being okay with poor performance. In fact, research shows that people who approach their goals with a growth mindset set more challenging stretch goals for themselves, not less. For example, in one study of medical supplies salespersons, researchers found that those who approached their work with a stronger growth mindset set more ambitious sales targets, put in more effort, engaged in more territory and account planning, and ultimately sold more units.

Establish progress and pivot points.

In such uncertain times, it’s important to explicitly establish progress and pivot points on a timeline right at the outset, so you can monitor both your rate of progress and the need to shift in light of new information along the way.

It can be all too easy to lose track of your goals, or to not think much about them until you get closer to the time you expected to reach them. When that happens, you may fail to adjust when progress is slow, or cling to a goal you should have revised when resources or customer expectations started shifting. For example, you may set a goal for yourself of developing a specific skill or reaching a particular sales target by year’s end. To succeed, what should you accomplish in the first month? At six months? If you don’t know, you won’t be able to course correct and, if necessary, try a different strategy or set a revised goal to have the impact you want to see for yourself or your team.

By using these two strategies to prepare for and engage in your goal-setting conversations, as a leader or a team member, you start out with a firm growth mindset foundation that you can then sustain as you pursue your goals through uncertainty, setbacks, and challenges of all kinds — something we all need now more than ever before.

What to Know About Getting a Loan if You’re Unemployed

Applying for a Personal Loan

To apply for a personal loan, you’ll typically need to provide information about your finances, and, most importantly, information about your income. The loan company will also expect you to submit to a credit report pull. The lender will review your information to determine whether or not you qualify for the loan. 

What if I’m Unemployed? 

Getting a loan when you’re unemployed is tricky to do and may not be possible. The number one criterion that lenders consider when they evaluate your loan application is your ability to pay the loan back on time. If you don’t have an income, you are an extremely risky bet, and you’re likely to be turned down. That makes traditional lenders, like a bank or a credit union, an unlikely option for a personal loan. 

However, it still may be possible to get a personal loan. If you have excellent credit and some source of income, such as child support, alimony, disability, rental income, or something else, you may still have a chance.

But if you have no income at all, you may be limited to using your property as collateral to obtain a loan. That means you may be limited to title loans or pawn loans. With a title loan, you’re using your car’s title as collateral. With a pawn loan, the item of value you offer the pawn shop, like jewelry or electronics, serves as collateral for the loan. In both scenarios, failing to repay the debt in the required amount of time can result in you losing your property. Both types of loans are extremely risky.

What About Payday Loans? 

Payday loans (also known as fast cash loans) are not a good option if you’re unemployed. These are loans structured to be paid back on your next payday. Even though lenders might not check your credit, they’ll still typically want proof that you have a source of income. 

If you’re unemployed, you likely won’t qualify for a payday loan. If you do somehow receive a payday loan despite not having a steady source of income, the terms will almost certainly not be favorable. 

It’s important to understand that these loans need to be repaid quickly to avoid rolling over and adding extremely costly interest charges. If you’re unemployed, you should avoid payday loans as they can spiral into high-cost interest you can’t afford.

What Else Can I Do?

The bottom line is that taking out a loan while you’re unemployed is nearly impossible. If you have savings, now is the time to fall back on those funds. That includes using retirement savings, though you should evaluate the risks of depleting or borrowing against your retirement. The next best option is to use your credit card if you have one. It’s better to use your available credit limit than to try to get funds through a loan. Using a credit card may also be preferable to tapping your retirement account.

It may not feel helpful to hear this in the moment, but it’s always a good idea to prepare for rainy days when times are good. Once you’re re-employed, build your savings, work on building your credit score, and open a credit card or two with favorable terms and sizable credit limits. Even if you don’t like using credit when you’re stuck, having available credit is a better option than taking a loan in a financial emergency. 

For right now, if you’re trying to make ends meet without a job, MMI offers unemployment resources to help you. We would be happy to discuss your budgeting changes to make it through these difficult times. Once you have a new job, if you’ve accumulated debt during your unemployment, we can help you accelerate your debt repayment with a debt management plan. Reach out if you’d like help.

34 Small, Nice Things To Do After A Big Fight

So, you had a big fight with your spouse. Maybe it was a three-hour screaming match. Maybe it was a 20-minute argument. Maybe it was one of those off-and-on fights that can last an entire weekend. Whatever the case, things were said. Anger erupted. Feelings were hurt. It happens. What’s most important after a big fight now are the steps you take to reconnect.

Arguments happen. Big ones. Little ones. It’s completely normal and healthy. Agreeing on everything isn’t possible. And a marriage without arguments — big or small — is a marriage without productivity. Arguing shows that there’s stuff to do in a relationship and that both partners are, in their way, working toward a larger goal, like attempting to understand each other and how to do better. No, it’s not ideal for arguments to spiral, and we must all learn ways to fight better and keep things from getting heated.

That said, what you do after a big fight is as important as what you do — and don’t do — during a fight. It’s easy to float around in the aftermath of an argument and just wait for things to become normal again. Understanding when someone needs time or space is essential. But acting like nothing happened is the wrong approach. It’s important to take action so that you both can, eventually, get things back to normal. 

So, what can be done? Here, in no particular order, are 33 small, nice things to do after a fight.

33 Things To Do After A Big Fight

  1. Jot down something about how you feel. Anything. Put it in writing. The act of writing is meditative and helps you understand your thoughts better. If it’s something you want to share with your partner, do so because that’s something they can hold onto (and re-read). Even if it’s not, writing down everything helps you better sort through it. 
  2. Resolve It Quickly (If You Can) “Explain why you were/are angry, and talk about what you feel is needed to go forward with the issue and/or prevent further fights about it,” says Laura MacLeod, a licensed social worker “Do this early. If you wake up and still feel so mad you don’t want to talk, say that. Acknowledge it and figure out when you can resolve it. Don’t let it fester.” But…
  3. If they need space, give it to them. Everyone processes things differently. 
  4. Let them break the ice. Let them control the tone. If they don’t want to laugh about it, take their lead.
  5. Clean your house. Top to f*cking bottom. Don’t ask for credit. Don’t point out how spic and span the toilet is. Just do it to busy yourself productively. 
  6. Play with the kids. Turn all your attention to them. This should help you cool off (if you need it) and helps make you emotionally useful while you two are shoring things up.
  7. Exercise, clean up, and take care of yourself. You two need to repair a rift. This starts with a bit of self-care for both of you.
  8. Makeup in front of the kids. Children learn by watching adults. When parents make up with each other after a fight, they should do so in front of their children to help them understand that even though people might fight and argue, it does not mean those relationships are irreparable.
  9. Do something to make them laugh. Shared laughter is incredibly powerful because of the neuropeptides that are released when we smile and guffaw. When partners share laughter, it can ease tension and break down walls, making it easier for a couple to find their center.
  10. Give them the dumbest card possible. There’s nothing more diffusing of any remaining tension than the cheesiest apology card on the greeting card rack. The sappier it is, the better.
  11. Write a sincere love note. Tell them that even after an argument, you are still their partner and that you will never stop loving them. They need to hear it, and you need to be reminded that’s the case. It will help.
  12. Tell them that they were heard. Say those words. “I heard you.” They are uncommon and they are powerful. And mean them when you say them. Follow them up with a clear explanation of what you heard them say — even if they didn’t exactly express it in the clearest way. 
  13. If you’ve been putting off doing something boring/annoying because you don’t feel like it, now is the time to do it. Buckle down and install that damn smoke detector or fix the broken lock. It’s a small gesture that will be noticed.

Finding Peace in an Anxious World

The complexity of life is shifting faster, and no matter our age, these changes are easily seen. Yes, we can see examples with our parents and grandparents, and how things are different now as opposed to when they were growing up.

Changes are fast and often

Even now, if you’re younger, you’ve seen changes. They come quickly, and they come more often.

I’ve been doing a podcast for a while now. And maybe you’ve heard it. I did a podcast about the movie, Transcendence, with Johnny Depp. It’s about the future when AI becomes conscious and begins to change our world. Well, podcasts themselves haven’t been around that long. Mine is one of the older ones because I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. But I want to share a story that just happened to me.

As a business owner, I must fill out a census bureau where I talk about my business and what I’m doing. I also must talk about the things I’m doing and using to help my business grow. And, interestingly, when I got this census from the government, they asked me a lot of questions. I would say about 25% to 50% of the questions were about how I was implementing AI (artificial intelligence) in my work. 

I produced that podcast right when the movie came out, and if you want to listen, it’s episode #36. It’s called Transcendence, and it was produced on March 28, 2014. And now, eight years later, this subject was a movie concept at the time, and it’s now being studied by the U.S. government. It’s about how AI is used in businesses today. That is a lot of change.

So many changes

There are so many examples. Change seems to be the new norm. Our world is changing fast, and this is just one of a plethora of examples that I can give.

Just recently, in Southern California, where I live, we had a hurricane. It was the first hurricane that I can remember since I lived in Southern California. This is just one example of how our world is changing so fast. Change is the one constant. Our world is going to be different 10 or 20 years from now. 

But we’re here to find happiness. So, let’s take a deep breath, pause, and say, “OK, our world is changing, guaranteed, and it can create a lot of anxiety, stress, or worry.”

But there are ways we can work against these anxieties and learn that we can find peace and happiness no matter what. So, let’s talk about what we can do with all the changes in our world.

Do not resist change

The first thing that causes anxiety is fighting change. If we say, “I don’t want this change! Go away,” we’re going to suffer. We’re going to be anxious or even mad because change is, in many ways, the new norm. 

It doesn’t mean that we need to embrace the change. We simply need to realize that change is part of life now. We need to learn to adapt. One of the best ways to adapt is to acknowledge the change in the world. Instead of fighting change, find ways to make life go well. There are many ways we can acknowledge change without embracing it.

What Happens If I Get COVID-19 and the Flu at the Same Time?

And once people began mingling more during the next flu seasons, widespread use of masks blocked influenza’s chances of infecting large numbers of people.

But that could change this flu season, as mask mandates have disappeared and more people are interacting in close quarters in school, workplaces, sports events, public transport, and more. Health experts are warning that flu cases could rise again this winter, and that the combination of influenza and COVID-19 together could pose a real public-health threat that sends more people to the hospital and in need of intensive care. Already, the flu season in the southern hemisphere—which runs from April to October and serves as a harbinger of what’s to come for the U.S.—has been severe, with cases in Australia three times higher than average compared to the past five years. That could mean influenza will sweep through North America and Europe with equally aggressive force this winter, alongside rising cases of COVID-19.

That opens the possibility that people could get the two infections at the same time—which experts believe could be both unpleasant and dangerous. “Are two viruses that cause huge inflammatory responses together going to make that response worse? Theoretically, yes,” says Dr. Khalilah Gates, a pulmonary critical care physician at Northwestern University.

Gates and others stress that there aren’t extensive data yet to be sure exactly what will happen when people are infected with both influenza and SARS-CoV-2. But the limited early data—some from people, but mostly from animals—are not encouraging. Already, doctors know that people who get both the flu and a cold at the same time tend to be sicker than those who are only infected with one virus. The same could be true when flu and COVID-19 combine; classic symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue, and coughing, could become more intense for some people. In one 2021 study on COVID-19 co-infections, including 17 people who tested positive for both influenza and COVID-19 at King Fahad Hospital in Medina, Saudi Arabia, their rates of hospitalization and death were higher than those for people infected with COVID-19 a type of bacteria that can cause respiratory tract infections.

In the largest study so far looking at co-infection of the two viruses, published in April, researchers at the University of Edinburgh reported similar trends. Dr. J. Kenneth Baillie, professor of experimental medicine at the university, and his colleagues analyzed the health records of more than 212,000 people admitted to hospitals in the U.K. for COVID-19, who were also tested for other infections. People infected with influenza and SARS-CoV-2 were four times as likely to need mechanical ventilation, and twice as likely to die, compared to people who just had COVID-19.

The Key to Having More Effective 1-on-1 Meetings With Your Employees

By now, most of us have come across a version of the meme that poses the question: “Couldn’t that meeting have been an email?” Meetings get a bad rap, one-on-one meetings included. But they don’t have to be cumbersome or a waste of time and energy. They can actually be … great.

First, keep the objective of the meeting in mind. Your team members’ main objective is to get the necessary support to do a great job. This includes your help prioritizing issues and unblocking them if they are stuck. It is ultimately “their time,” and team members should “own” the one-on-one meeting to ensure they cover all of the necessary subject matter.

The best one-on-one meetings feel like a great conversation rather than a report-out. This means following your team member and guiding the conversation as a form of coaching. This means listening with an open mind, asking high-impact questions and giving thoughtful feedback as appropriate. Many managers don’t spend nearly enough time listening and can even monopolize the time by talking in place of their employees. They can miss critical data this was and also miss opportunities to find deeper solutions embedded in the employees’ narrative.

Tips for a successful one-on-one

The one-on-one conversation should be informed by a thoughtful, loosely held agenda. Encourage your team member to own the agenda that includes a prepared set of materials; this helps to guide the conversation. An agenda should include the following:

  • Updates that can’t be found within a company dashboard or data tracker
  • Support needed from the manager and other members of the leadership team
  • Questions the team member has about particular issues
  • Feedback the team member would like to receive

Request that your direct report send key information ahead of time so that as a manager, you can be prepared and come ready with questions or discussion points.

A brief check-in at the top of the meeting can help team members communicate how they are feeling about their role/job responsibilities and what it’s like to be in their position. According to TLNT.com, “Checking-in is an intentional practice for a team to open a meeting or session. Each participant shares what (mindset) they are bringing to the table before the work conversation starts … When everyone can remove their personal distractions, it’s easier to focus on getting the job done. A mindset check-in is about the status of your mind, not that of the project.”

However, it’s important to remember not to process this too much. Let it be their experience unless part of the check-in needs some specific support. The goal is to establish the check-in as a safe space and encourage more and more candor. Of course, there may be critical and obvious things to follow up on, and you can always ask if they need support with any specifics mentioned.

Your role as a manager is to help your direct reports learn, build capacity and execute. Part of the job is helping them learn to prioritize and problem-solve on their own; this creates capacity for you! It also gives them the gift of learning they can take for the rest of their career. In fact, I’ve heard many employees highlight managers who have supported them as being some of the biggest influences on their life. This is effectively coaching; managers should listen deeply and intentionally to a team member’s concerns, ask questions and offer clear feedback.

Although the team member owns both the meeting and the recap, managers should take their own notes to track developmental points; these can be used for bi-annual development conversations or performance management reviews. When a manager takes meeting notes in a one-on-one, it shows they value the team member with whom they are meeting.

Free weekly credit reports are available through the end of 2023.

Your credit score can make or break your ability to open a credit card or buy a new car or home at attractive interest rates.

To boost your score, you need to know where you need to improve.

Keeping tabs on your credit report — which outlines your debts, bill payment history and other financial information — can help you do that.

The three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — recently extended the availability of free weekly credit reports to consumers through the end of 2023. By law, consumers are entitled to one every 12 months from each agency, but that during the pandemic, the companies expanded access to weekly free checks.

The reports are available at the Annual Credit Report website.

“We always recommend once a year, at least, to always check your credit report at annualcredit report.com,” said Trent Graham, program performance and quality assurance specialist at GreenPath Financial Wellness, a nonprofit providing free debt counseling services.

While the free credit report you’ll get won’t show your credit score, it can offer clues in terms of how to boost that number. You can access your credit score by paying for it from one of the three credit reporting agencies, or access it for free from your credit card company if it offers the perk.

In terms of credit scores, anything in the 700 range or above is generally “pretty good,” Graham said. The closer your score gets to the high 700s or 800s — approaching popular scoring models’ perfect score of 850 — the better off you’ll be, he said.

The national average credit score recently reached an all-time high of 716, according to FICO.

Your credit score may vary slightly by provider.

The Most Important Skill Couples Need To Master, According To Dr. John Gottman

What’s the one skill that will benefit couples the most right now? That is, what’s most important to helping you and your partner feel happier, more resilient, less resentful, and better able to endure the many stresses of marriage and raising kids? The answer, according to Dr. John Gottman, is simple: listening. That is, you must know how to listen to your partner with empathy, interest, and, importantly, without offering solutions. Whether your relationship is strong or struggling, he says mastering this communication skill is critical to success.

“Research has shown that if people stay away from problem-solving and are able to listen empathetically and support their partner as they go through this very stressful period, they don’t feel so alone with what they’re experiencing,” says Dr. Gottman. “One of the most powerful things you can do is be a great listener and just be there without trying to be helpful.”

Dr. Gottman is in many ways the father of modern marriage research. For more than 40 years, he and his wife, psychologist Dr. Julie Gottman, have studied thousands of relationships (heterosexual and same-sex) to understand what makes a marriage stable, what behaviors are predictive of divorce, and what couples can do to ensure their partnership is kind, happy, and fulfilling. Through the Gottman Institute and their breakthrough research at the “Love Lab” at the University of Washington, they’ve shaped much of modern marriage therapy, and are responsible for such findings as the magic formula for a happy marriage and “bids for connection,” among many other insights. Because of them, countless couples understand themselves and their relationships better.

The Drs. Gottman are also authors or co-authors of more than 40 books about relationships, one of the more recent of which is Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. In it, they offer eight topics — from money and adventure to spirituality and sex — and outline a variety of fun, interesting questions for couples to ask about each on a date. The conversations are not about confrontation, but rather curious exploration to help couples of all ages and stages learn more about one another.

Fatherly spoke to Dr. John Gottman about the pandemic’s impact on modern marriages, the conversations couples should be having, and how to truly listen to and validate your partner’s feelings.

COVID and the changes it brought were tough on a lot of marriages. Couples were forced to really rethink and retool their relationships. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on what relationships had to endure during that time?

Well, it seems like couples have gone in two different directions. Those who were distressed before the pandemic hit have gotten a lot worse. The relationships have included a lot more dysfunctional conflict, and we’ve seen a big increase in domestic violence.

And then other couples whose marriages were stronger before the pandemic have gotten stronger through it. They’ve had more time with each other. They’ve had more of a chance to get closer and really rethink their values as a couple and as individuals. And so, we’ve seen this split between relationships that were strong initially and relationships that were challenged initially.

The average has stayed the same really because there’s been this big diversification of these two pathways. It’s been a time of great change. It’s almost like when an earthquake hits, there’s a fault underneath for some people and this really causes a lot of damage. On the other hand, sometimes crisis is opportunity. And for some people it’s really been an opportunity to rethink who they are and who they want to be as a couple. And it’s been very productive for those relationships.

Given what couples are facing, what do you think is the most important skill they need to develop? Is there something that has stuck out to you?

Well, consistent with this finding that there are these two different pathways, the ones that have had the most trouble really need to have a way of dealing with conflict and disagreement and managing their own irritability and stress. For them, our tool, which is called the stress-reducing conversation, is critical.

Research has shown that if people stay away from problem-solving and are able to listen empathetically and support their partner as they go through this very stressful period, so they don’t feel so alone with what they’re experiencing — they really feel that their partner is their ally in going through the stresses and the changes that are happening.

It’s important that people stay away from problem-solving and just listen and ask questions — ask open-ended questions — of their partner and listen empathetically, and use touch and affection as a way of staying close. That’s probably the most important skill for those couples on that trajectory with a relationship that is very stressed.

Why We All Should Get Screened for Anxiety

Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released, for the first time, a recommendation that all adults under age 65 should be screened for anxiety.

Global rates of anxiety surged following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The USPSTF cited that 40% of women and 26% of men will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Given how common anxiety is, anyone may benefit from getting screened for anxiety.

What anxiety is

From time to time, we all experience some form of worry or anxiety. In some cases, anxiety can be a motivator; in other cases, it can be exhausting and paralyzing—almost pathological. In the pathological case, we may get stuck in thought loops and overthink. Further, we may experience physical symptoms, such as a tight chest resulting in difficulty breathing. To manage our anxiety, we may completely avoid potentially life-enriching experiences that might trigger it, such as social gatherings. 

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the U.S. but as a society, we have only begun to accept it as a potentially serious mental health condition. Once considered a personal weakness, anxiety was not viewed as a real mental health condition until recent decades.

From an evolutionary psychiatry perspective, anxiety serves to protect us. When our ancient ancestors lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, anxiety helped them survive. A fight-or-flight response to an incoming predator was a critical, life-saving feature of the body’s anxiety system. Today, few of us encounter life-threatening situations on the daily. Instead, many of these evolutionary features simply became anxiety symptoms (e.g., panic attacks).

The importance of diagnosing anxiety

Living with anxiety is difficult. With anxiety, an individual may avoid important life experiences and events, and have an increased risk for depression. Severe anxiety also has a high correlation with suicidal thoughts. Further, individuals with anxiety may cope by using substances, and develop substance use problems as a result. Anxiety is a serious health condition, and early intervention and treatment are critical.

Limitations of anxiety screening

There may be some disadvantages to testing for anxiety through a screener. Screeners administered by clinicians will likely be self-report questionnaires evaluating the severity of anxiety symptoms. Screening in this manner runs the risk of overdiagnosis, which may lead to unnecessary referrals to treatment and increased stress. Additionally, there are many types of anxiety, which cannot be entirely identified with a simple screener. When following up for a possible anxiety diagnosis, clinicians may need to be vigilant about considering all potential types of anxiety.

Ultimately, despite the potential barriers to anxiety screening as proposed by the task force, its implementation will benefit all of us. Mental health conditions regularly go undiagnosed in our healthcare system; by making screening routine for all American adults, detection rates may be improved. Promoting a greater focus on mental health will also help destigmatize it and increase funding and research, ultimately facilitating access to mental health resources and treatment.

Take advantage of the latest offering

After a three-month hiatus, the administration is making four rapid virus tests available through covidtests.gov starting Thursday, a senior administration official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the program. COVID-19 cases have shown a marked increase after the Thanksgiving holiday, and further increases are projected from indoor gathering and travel around Christmas and New Year’s.

The administration is putting personnel and equipment on standby should they be needed to help overwhelmed hospitals and nursing homes, as was necessary in earlier waves of the virus. So far, there have been no requests for assistance, but surge teams, ventilators and personal protective equipment are ready, the official said.

The Biden administration is also urging states and local governments to do more to encourage people to get the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which scientists say are more effective at protecting against serious illness and death from the currently circulating variants. The administration is reiterating best practices to nursing homes and long-term care facilities for virus prevention and treatment and is urging administrators as well as governments to encourage vulnerable populations to get the new shots.

10 Ways To Deepen Your Bond As A Couple

And if you want to deepen your relationship and strengthen your already-strong bond, well, you have to, well, try to deepen your relationship. It’s the trying — the focusing on the little things, the willingness to be vulnerable and offer more of yourself in exchange of more from them — that make it possible.

So what helps deepen a connection? Below, according to a variety of relationship therapists, are ten suggestions. You might notice a common thread woven throughout all of these suggestions – communication (surprise, surprise). Here’s what to remember.

1. Actively Show Appreciation.

Whether it’s a note in your partner’s lunch, or a random text to say thanks for being such a kid’s bedtime savior last night, what you might think of as a fleeting gesture can build genuine closeness. The key with appreciation is to be specific in what you mention. “It can really be as simple as telling your partner how much you appreciate something they did for you, or something more complex like expressing gratitude for their support and presence in your life,” explains Dr. Callisto Adams. “Expressing appreciation and gratitude can help build positive emotions and foster a sense of connection. It can also help to improve communication and understanding, and can make your partner feel valued and appreciated.”

2. Lean Ito Conflict

Obviously, you don’t want to go around picking fights. But in all relationships, good or bad, conflict is inevitable. So, roll with it. “Many couples are terrified of conflict and see it as a sign of poor relationship health,” says couples therapist Sandra Harewood. “But healthy conflict can be a force for good, deepening the bond between a couple as it is a sign of growth, change, and transformation.” Conflict can present couples with the opportunity to explore communication and deepen trust which, according to Harewood, allows both partners to develop confidence in themselves and the relationship as a whole. “Accommodate your feelings and experiences by learning to argue well, and you’ll be less likely to be knocked off balance when things go wrong,” she says.

3. Increase Your “Bids For Connection”

‘Bids for connection,’ which are based on the research of Dr. John Gottman, refer to reaches for acknowledgement, reassurance, or validation within a relationship. And couples who “turn towards” a bid more often than not are happier and closer for it. “A bid could be a touch of the shoulder while passing in the hallway or a comment like, ‘Wow, look at that goat!’ while driving by a farm,” says therapist Erin Dierickx. “The more often they are offered and received, the more trust, satisfaction, and connection you will experience in your relationship.”

4. Have Check-Ins

More than just a passing “How was your day?” tossed off from the other room, a true check-in with your partner involves distraction-free conversation with the intent to listen. Sit down and have a five-minute check-in each night. Talk about your day, and highlight anything you’d like to talk more about when you have more time. Once a month, Wolfe also suggests a deeper check-in over dinner or coffee. “Try to have this check-in at the same time each month to establish a routine, and plan to discuss how each of you feels about how things are going in the relationship,” says Trisha Wolfe, LPCC. “Is there tension? Are you making progress toward shared goals? What can be improved on for next month?” The goal with check-ins — brief or length — is to stay on top of your relationship so issues don’t fester for weeks, months, or even years.

5. Stay Curious

Not in the sense of snooping around your partner’s unlocked phone or bathroom drawer, but through constant self-reminders that you definitely don’t know everything about them and want to learn more. “Curiosity is the secret sauce in a relationship,” says Harewood. “I’ve seen many couples get caught in the trap of thinking they know all they need to know about their partner, or that they’ve heard it all before. But, things are always changing, both for the individual and the relationship.” Staying curious and asking questions will prop the door for intimacy wide open.

3 Powerful Strategies for a Better Brain in 2023

t the end of each year, we find ourselves reflecting on accomplishments and struggles while looking ahead to what comes next. For many, this leads to resolutions around improving diet, getting more exercise, and becoming better at work or relationships. Yet far too often in the process of committing to these changes, we miss the fundamental significance of improving our brain health and function. With this in mind, consider skipping the fad diets and quick-fix strategies and instead focusing on your brain. Here are three powerful and science-backed strategies to power your brain for success in the coming year. 

1. Cut out unnecessary brain-draining media.

Our brains are incredibly energetically demanding, comprising 3 percent of our body weight but using 20 percent of our energy in a given day. Most of that energy is used by our neurons, and the amount of energy they use is directly related to how much they are being used. This means that our brain’s energy and function are a reflection of where we direct our focus. 

If you’re like the average adult, most of your focus is going to be on the media around you. American adults, on average, spend upward of 11 hours of their day on screens and listening to the radio. While there’s plenty of healthy and valuable content on our screens and airwaves, it’s also the case that media content (especially news) has grown increasingly negative and sensationalized. 

Stressful and polarizing media content activates stress-responsive parts of our brains and may increase the risk for mood issues as well as damage our brain health and function. To this end, limiting your consumption of unnecessarily stressful, draining, sensationalized, and polarizing media may do wonders for your brain health. And, at a very basic level, removing the unhelpful content frees your brain up to consume the healthier stuff.

2. Consume more of the good stuff: healthy relationships and sleep.

One of the most impactful areas of brain research speaks to the brain benefits of very simple daily habits. Besides the usual (and important) topic of eating right for brain health, here’s why relationships and sleep are fundamental for better brain health.

Quality relationships are clearly fundamental to overall health as well as brain health. Loneliness, for example, is thought to be a risk factor for worse mental health. In a recent observational study of over 12,000 people, loneliness correlated with a 40 percent increased risk of developing dementia over a 10-year period. On the other hand, having more close friends late in life is linked to a significantly lower risk for dementia, suggesting a protective effect of close interpersonal bonds. When taken together, this research speaks to the value of cultivating and maintaining close friendships. How to put it into practice? Consider setting a regular phone date, plan a trip to see loved ones, and prioritize date nights (and even group video chats). 

When considering lifestyle factors associated with better brain function and health, sleep is all too often ignored. Yet we now know that poor sleep is a risk factor for everything from dementia to depression to worse decision-making. Getting better sleep may be one of the most important strategies we have for quickly achieving better brain health. The unfortunate reality is that despite this science, most people neglect to prioritize sleep. 

A number of simple steps can be used to help improve sleep quality. These range from minimizing artificial light in the hours before bed to minimizing caffeine consumption in the afternoon. However, if sleep issues are severe or don’t respond to basic lifestyle modification, it’s likely a good idea to seek professional help with consideration for a sleep study or other testing. 

3. Challenge your brain daily.

How can we take steps to constantly move our brains toward a better state? One of the most powerful tools is to perpetually challenge our brains. This can be as simple as entertaining or exploring an opposing ideological perspective. So don’t just be adventurous with travel and new foods; consider opening up space for compassionate conversations with people who have different viewpoints. Another example is learning a new language or practicing an instrument. Even consistent word puzzles (Wordle anyone?) may help keep your brain sharp. 

When we challenge our brains, we may help form new connections between neurons through the process of neuroplasticity (a neuroscience term for the brain’s ability to reshape itself throughout our lifespans). Research has even indicated that regularly exercising our brains may help to slow down and even prevent certain aspects of cognitive decline.

How Do Credit Monitoring Services Work?

A credit monitoring service monitors one or more of your credit reports on a regular basis—usually at least one report from the big three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The monitoring provider watches for any strange or adverse activity such as new accounts in your name or inquiries suggesting that someone is attempting to open an account in your name. The provider alerts you as soon as these types of activities are detected. 

Additionally, some packages also include routine scans of the dark web and public records for signs that your personal information has been stolen or compromised. 

Cost of Credit Monitoring 

Monitoring can be free with some services, such as the one offered by Credit Karma. You might also be eligible for free credit monitoring as a result of previous data breaches, including the 2017 data breach at Equifax. 

For non-free credit monitoring services, the price can range from $10-$40 a month. 

Does Credit Monitoring Offer Benefits?

If you’re not the DIY sort, credit monitoring can be helpful for keeping an eye on your credit reports. 

Basic monitoring tells you if any unusual activity shows up on your credit report, although the service may not monitor all three reporting agencies so it’s not fool-proof. Anything outside of your normal monthly transactions (online bill-paying activity) would be reported, which could help catch fraud early. The problem is credit monitoring only alerts you after the fact, so it doesn’t necessarily prevent fraud from happening—it just catches it earlier. 

A more robust monitoring package will likely include dark web scans. These scans check to see if your information has been stolen and made available for purchase to a bad actor. This kind of information could help you head off potential fraud by closing impacted accounts or freezing your credit to prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. 

Many for-pay premium credit monitoring services include identity insurance, which could help you offset costs stemming from having your identity stolen.

Can I Monitor My Accounts Myself? 

Yes, absolutely. In fact, we recommend it—and of course, that’s free. Most of what’s offered through credit monitoring services are things you can do on your own. To monitor your own accounts, it’s important to do the following: 

  • Check your bank balances and credit card statements regularly for purchases you don’t recognize. 
  • Take advantage of your free credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies to review credit activity. Usually, you are entitled to a free report once a year, but the agencies are offering free weekly reports through the end of 2023 as a response to the pandemic. You can access your reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. 
  • Monitor your credit score for free through a service offered by your credit card or a personal finance website. That allows you to watch for unusual changes. 
  • If you’re concerned about your identity being stolen and accounts created in your name, you can proactively freeze your credit. That means you won’t be able to open credit in your name, but you can lift the freeze when you need to. Meanwhile, no one else can open an account in your name. 

Then Why Would I Purchase a Monitoring Service?

If you’re not eligible for free monitoring, purchasing credit monitoring can make sense. Here are some examples of when you might want to buy it. 

  • You don’t follow through on monitoring your accounts. (Let’s face it, it’s one more to-do task that often gets pushed to the back burner.) 
  • You were already the victim of identity theft or you know some of your information is out there.
  • You don’t want to put a freeze on your accounts for the long term. 

If you decide to purchase credit monitoring, NerdWallet recommends not purchasing from the credit agencies themselves for a couple of reasons. One, they might not offer enough identity theft coverage even though their product could cost as much as other companies. Two, when you sign up with a credit agency, you may be required to waive your right to a class-action lawsuit and agree to binding arbitration, neither of which are in your best interests as a consumer. 

If a credit agency has a data breach, as happened to Equifax in 2017, the inability to sue is bad for you. Look for another organization to provide credit monitoring. 

The Limits of Credit Monitoring

Although credit monitoring can offer peace of mind, it’s important to understand that monitoring really only tells you about something after it’s happened. It’s useful to know, for sure, because reacting early helps you. The faster you move, the less damage a potential Identity theft inflicts. But credit monitoring doesn’t necessarily stop these things from happening in the first place.

Happy Holidays from the PAF

We hope you are able to celebrate with family and loved ones this year! From all of us at the PAF, we are sending our warmest wishes to you and your families this holiday season.

We wish you the best over the next few weeks, especially good health and happiness.

We are committed to continue to find and provide you the information you need to navigate your post-football life in the most successful way possible.

Happy Holidays and may you have a safe and healthy New Year.

-Your family at the Professional Athletes Foundation.

Staying Balanced in an Uncertain New Year

It’s easy to get caught up worrying about what the new year will bring. From economic and political changes to pandemics and climate change, the media feeds us a barrage of news stories that can easily overwhelm us with anxiety. But there are ways to manage your worries and take control of your mental health in 2023. Here are some strategies for coping with world events and knowing when you’re worrying too much.

Understand the Media Cycle

It’s essential to understand how the media works and their tactics to keep us engaged. News outlets often rely on fear-mongering to grab our attention and keep us coming back for more. This means they focus on negative stories, using sensationalized headlines and vivid language to draw us in. But this doesn’t mean that bad news isn’t real—it simply requires us to be conscious of how we consume the information and take it with a grain of salt.

Know Your Triggers

It’s essential to be aware of what kind of environment triggers anxiety or depression. For example, some people may feel overwhelmed by political news, while others might be more affected by economic uncertainty. Knowing your triggers can help you manage your emotions and cope with the stress of world events.

Find Support

Connecting with friends, family, or a professional therapist can be beneficial when navigating life’s challenges. Having someone to talk to can provide perspective, reduce feelings of isolation, and give clarity during difficult times. If talking to someone face-to-face isn’t an option, there are plenty of mental health apps and online support groups.

Practice Self Care

It’s important to practice self-care to maintain emotional balance during stressful times. Activities such as exercising, mindfulness meditation, journaling, or connecting with nature can help to reduce stress and clear the mind. In addition, taking time to focus on your physical and mental health can help you stay balanced and better equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Know When You Need a Break

The media can sometimes be overwhelming, so it’s essential to know when to take a break from reading or watching the news. If you get caught up in anxious thoughts or overwhelmed by events out of your control, it might be time for a mental health day away from the news cycle. Permit yourself to step away from all media sources for a few hours (or even days) if you need to reset your mind and soul.

Sole Proprietorship vs. LLC

Two popular options among new business owners are sole proprietorships and limited liability corporations (LLC). Which one you choose will impact the steps you need to take to start your business and the ongoing requirements for running it. It will also affect the extent of your personal liability and your business’s tax treatment.

See below for all you need to know about starting a sole proprietorship versus an LLC to determine which best fits your needs.

Sole proprietorship vs. LLC explained

A sole proprietorship refers to a single-owner business where the owner isn’t treated as a separate legal entity from the business. Under this structure, the owner keeps all business profits, but is also completely responsible for its debts.

Sole proprietorship is perhaps the simplest structure you can have, and you can get started immediately without many formalities.

So, what is an LLC, on the other hand? This type of business provides limited liability protections for your personal assets like a corporation. This means its accounts and debts are separate from your own and, if the LLC could not pay its expenses, creditors could only go after the LLC’s assets, not your personal ones.

Starting an LLC requires registering with the state and designating the members who will run it.

Both sole proprietorships and limited liability companies make suitable structures for single-owner businesses, and, before making a decision, it’s important to understand the pros and cons to both.

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is a business you own and don’t have to formally register with the government in a particular way.

This popular choice for single-owner businesses offers simplicity in starting and operating the business. You’ll control all aspects so you can make daily business decisions, keep all profits and even change the business’ direction as you’d like. In addition, you can still hire workers like you could with a more formal structure.

Formation documents needed

A sole proprietorship doesn’t require any state document to start the business. Instead, you start the business by simply providing work for clients.

However, if you plan to use a trade name, your county or state may require filing a fictitious business name statement with your desired business name. You’ll first have to confirm availability for the name and check any restrictions on allowed business names. For example, your business name can’t include “corporation,” “LLC” or similar terms implying a different business entity type. You can consult your state or county for the list of disallowed terms.

You’ll also want to know if you need any licenses or permits for your type of work. For example, running a food service business might require licenses from the health department, food handling safety certifications, among other requirements. Obtaining these means meeting all requirements, submitting paperwork and, of course, paying fees.

Registration and filing fees

You usually don’t have to register with your state to operate as a sole proprietor. However, you’ll pay a nominal fee if you register a fictitious business name. The amount of the fee depends on the state. For example, the state of Washington charges a $5 filing fee for fictitious business names, while the state of Florida charges $50.

Depending on your line of work, you may also need to pay for business license and permits. These can include occupational licenses, operational licenses, zoning permits and sales tax permits. You’ll want to check with local, state and federal authorities to determine your requirements and costs.

Taxes and business expenses

As a sole proprietor, you wouldn’t need to file a separate business tax return; instead, you’d list your business income and deduct business expenses on your state and federal personal tax returns. Your business income gets taxed at your usual individual income tax rate. You’d also pay self-employment tax, which covers the employee and employer shares of Medicare and Social Security taxes.

You’d also need to pay estimated taxes to the tax authorities each quarter. This means estimating your annual income, so you don’t come up short. Otherwise, you could owe taxes and penalties when you file your return.

You can use your Social Security number as your tax ID as a sole proprietor. However, consider getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS if you want a business-specific number. An EIN offers more privacy than your Social Security number, boosts your business’s credibility and is required if you hire workers.

Down Payment Assistance

Let’s say, for example, you purchase a $200,000 house and you contribute 20% of the price as a down payment with a conventional mortgage (20% is usually the percentage required in order to avoid paying extra for mortgage insurance). That’s a $40,000 down payment. You would then need a $160,000 mortgage to complete the sale.

But what if you don’t have $40,000 saved? Or even $7,000 saved? That’s where down payment assistance comes in. For borrowers with limited savings, down payment assistance programs can help them overcome a potential barrier to buying a home and building equity.

Here’s what to know about down payment assistance programs. 

What is Down Payment Assistance?

Down payment assistance is usually a loan or grant provided by a third party, although some assistance programs offer tax breaks instead. These programs are typically funded by government agencies, charities, or private foundations. Assistance can work in a variety of ways.

For example, the Chenoa Fund is a program that offers eligible FHA-insured home loan borrowers 3.5% of the home’s purchase price as a 0% interest second mortgage with a 30-year term. This interest-free second mortgage helps cover the cost of the down payment and is typically forgiven as long as the borrower makes 36 consecutive, on-time payments on the first mortgage.

Most programs are similar, offering funds at little or no interest to help cover the down payment. They may even offer loan forgiveness under certain circumstances.

Who Qualifies for Down Payment Assistance? 

Down payment assistance programs are highly localized, so the required qualifications will be unique to each program. However, a few common qualifications apply to many programs, including the following: 

  • You’re a first-time homebuyer
  • You’re a low-income borrower (check the program’s income requirements)
  • The down payment assistance program is directly connected to select loan programs
  • You may be required to use a specific list of participating lenders for your mortgage

Additionally, most programs require that the property being purchased will be your primary residence. In other words, people looking to buy a second house or a rental property wouldn’t qualify for down payment assistance. 

What is Required to Be Accepted into a Program?

Different down payment assistance programs have different requirements. Some may require that you complete first-time homebuyer counseling (or an online course). Some may require that you participate in a support program to ensure that you successfully manage your payments. Some may offer benefits for consistently making full, on-time payments (or penalties for failing to do so).

Where to Find Down Payment Assistance Programs in Your Area

The best place to start is usually your lender. When shopping for home loans, be sure to ask if you might qualify for any down payment assistance programs.

Also, you can review the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Local Homebuying Programs page for your state to see what programs are available. Another good place to find links to local resources is FHA’s Down Payment Grants page. 

Do Commercial Lenders Offer Down Payment Assistance? 

Generally, down payment assistance programs are run by local government agencies and charities. You likely won’t find a program offered through a commercial or for-profit organization. However, if you do find a for-profit group offering something they call down payment assistance, be cautious. Make sure you understand all of the requirements of the program—and find out if it’s legitimate. Be extremely wary of anyone charging a fee as part of the application process. 

If you’re ready to buy a home but you’re worried you don’t have enough saved, we can help you explore your budget, clear out debt, and put your focus back on building savings. Connecting with a certified counselor is free and confidential. Better yet, you can complete your counseling completely online. Start today!

Aging Men and Irrelevance: How to Find New Purpose

My last post on the irrelevance of aging men struck a nerve, based on the number of emails I received. The post said that men need to develop their internal world to balance a loss of focus on external achievement that aging and retirement inevitably bring. The men who wrote ranged from a former professional baseball player to a retired doctor. They nearly all asked the same two questions: What is the inner world, and how is a man supposed to explore it?

Here’s one example:

I literally stumbled upon your [post] titled “Aging Men and Irrelevance” and was stunned by how directly it applied to me. I am a 72-year-old man, retired for 12 years, feeling worthless, and constantly asking myself the same question your patient did: “What’s the point?” I ask myself that question every day.

At the risk of asking what might appear to be a silly question, what am I looking for? When I explore my internal, what might I find that will help me overcome this feeling of uselessness? And how will I know when I find it?

I have written at least four separate drafts of this post to try to answer these questions. Nothing I write seems to capture what I want to say or to do justice to the poignancy of what is being asked. It turns out it’s far easier to describe the problem than to prescribe a meaningful and workable solution.

But that doesn’t let me off the hook, because this call from these men touches me deeply. (It also, by the way, proves that men can express their feelings when the circumstances allow.) It makes me feel a certain pressure to perform, to be able to give an answer that will be useful, and in 500 words or so. In addition, there is the additional pressure of a follow-up to the external performance of the first post. As of this writing, the original post on men and irrelevance has been viewed over 300,000 times. How can I achieve similar success externally while writing something meaningful about our internal world?

What I’m trying to illustrate here, in my sharing my process, is how to walk the balance between the internal and the external worlds. I feel the pain and the plea for help from some of the men this post touched. That’s internal. The external is, “How do I respond in a way that will be helpful?” I also have to let go of the hope of it performing as well as the first post, because there’s no way this one will get picked up and used by a major newsfeed as the first one was. In other words, I have to walk my talk that as we age, it’s not the numbers that matter so much, but the meaning. And finally, I have to experience the limits of what I can do and be okay with it. This is the best I can do, given the limitations of this format.

Enough about me. Let’s turn to you. What do you really value? How can you find meaning and purpose in this last part of your life? How do you figure that out? You’ve been trained, almost since birth, to perform in one way or another according to outside metrics. You’ve been stripped of a lot of what gave your life purpose and meaning as you’ve aged out of your job and your external relevance. How do you find your internal importance and your purpose now?

You’re not going to like my answer, but I respect you too much to soften the blow or try to give you an easier solution. The best thing I can tell you, the thing that has the highest likelihood of working, is to get yourself into therapy. I know, I know, that may be a huge stretch, especially if you’ve never done anything like that before. But you’re not going to be able to do what’s required from reading this or any other article or book. You spent years, if not decades, mastering your profession. How do you think you’re going to master a new line of work—your internal world—without investing in it? You may have retired from the working world but you haven’t retired from life. The malaise you’re feeling is a signal to you that it’s time to get to work again, but this time on yourself.

What I can offer is how to go about getting started on this new job. I’m going to break it down into small discrete steps that you can do, one at a time, at your own speed:

  1. Begin by researching, just for the heck of it, who you might want to see. 
  2. Ask for a 15-minute consultation (most therapists will do this for free).
  3. Schedule a first appointment with the intention of giving it a four-session trial.
  4. Either start over if you don’t feel comfortable with the person or keep going until you see the benefit.

Just don’t wait too long to get this going. In case you haven’t noticed, you don’t have that much time left. Do you want to die feeling like this?

I heard a story recently about a guru in India who was consulted for years and years by her devotees on various questions. Finally, one devotee stood up and said: “We’re always asking you questions and you’re always giving us answers. Maybe you should tell us the question we should be asking you? And then tell us the answer?”

Here’s what she replied: “The question you should ask is: ‘Who am I?’ The answer to that question is ‘Know thyself.’”

Is There Really No Safe Amount of Drinking?

That’s a marked change from Canada’s previous national guidance on alcohol consumption, which advised women to have no more than 10 drinks per week and men no more than 15. By contrast, the new report says those who drink only one or two boozy beverages per week “will likely avoid” alcohol-related health consequences including chronic diseases, liver injury, and accidents—but the safest choice, it says, is not to drink at all.

To researchers who study alcohol, that recommendation isn’t surprising. The new report reflects a long-brewing shift in the way scientists and health-care providers think about the risks and benefits of alcohol, and follows a similar statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) released Jan. 4.

For “the past 20-plus years the evidence has been building and building that alcohol is not good for your health,” says John Callaci, a researcher with Loyola University Chicago’s Alcohol Research Program.

If you grew up believing that a glass of red wine per night is good for your heart, you’re not alone. Decades ago, lots of studies suggested that light to moderate drinking—often defined as no more than a drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men—is beneficial for cardiovascular health. That finding stuck, both among the public and policymakers.

But Callaci says more recent research has called those older studies’ findings into question. Some researchers didn’t adequately account for underlying differences between non-drinkers (some of whom abstain because they have health problems) and light drinkers (who might have healthier lifestyles overall). So while it looked like light drinkers were healthier than non-drinkers, the booze may not have been the reason.

While some modern studies have found benefits associated with small amounts of alcohol, there’s been a shift in scientific consensus over the past couple decades. Researchers reexamined some previously published data on alcohol use, this time accounting for the “abstainer bias”—the idea that some people don’t drink because they have health or prior substance-abuse issues—and found little to no benefit associated with light drinking.

In 2022, the World Heart Federation released a policy brief debunking the notion that alcohol is heart-healthy. “Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is not good for the heart,” the report says, noting that some studies that show cardiovascular benefits from drinking are flawed and more recent research points to a host of chronic conditions linked to alcohol. In the past year alone, studies have found that alcohol consumption may accelerate genetic aging, shrink the brain, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Alcohol is also considered a known human carcinogen and has been linked to a variety of cancers, including those of the breast, liver, colon, throat, mouth, and esophagus.

How To Be A Man According To 15 Dads

This kind of exploration leads to healthier men who can better work their way through defeat, sadness, and the defied expectations we all experience in life. So how does this translate to parenting? What lessons do today’s fathers hope to teach their boys about “being a man” today?

That’s what we asked more than a dozen fathers spread out across the country. They all weighed in on the lessons they’re trying to teach their sons about manhood. From embracing equality, to the value of hard work, these men covered a vibrant spectrum of issues that their children will likely have to face as they grow older. They’re raising the next generation of men, and these are the most important lessons they hope to impart.

Men Go To The Doctor

“My dad passed away from lung cancer. But, also from stubbornness. For years and years and years, he refused to go to the doctor out of pride. And there’s a good chance that, had he kept up with his health instead of trying to tough everything out, he might still be here. I tell my son that it’s okay to admit when you’re weak, or hurt, because you can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re not in the best possible shape. Going to the doctor is such an easy, simple thing that a lot of guys just don’t do. And it can really end up hurting the people that love them. That’s not something a man would willingly do, in my opinion.” – Nick, 46, California

Strive To Be Good People

“For me, being a man is second in importance to being a good person. There are so many easy definitions of masculinity. Everything from not crying or showing emotion to looking a certain way can preoccupy and distract from what it means to be a good person. And that transcends being a man. If you’re a good person — kind, responsible, and accepting — then you’re a good man. I want my kids to realize that. Not just my son, but my daughter too. When she eventually grows up and meets the man she’s going to love, I want her to know what’s important to look for.” – James, 43, Ohio

Face And Embrace Your Feelings

“Men can cry. Men can blush. Men can be embarrassed or ashamed. A real man is one who is so strong — so brave and fearless — that he’s not afraid to show his true emotions, no matter what they may be. I think society conflates strength with pride quite frequently, especially when it comes to men and their emotions. Just because a man is too proud or stubborn to cry doesn’t mean he’s strong. It means he’s being untrue, to himself and the people that care about him. I think a real man knows that there are times and places when it’s okay to be vulnerable, and doesn’t hesitate to embrace them. That’s why I never tell my son to stop crying. Instead, I tell him that his sadness is valid, and that I’ll be there to talk about it when he’s ready.” – Al, 40, Montana

Fight For Equality

“I didn’t actually grasp this lesson until a few years ago, when the whole #MeToo thing was blowing up. I had some really productive conversations with friends and coworkers that made me realize how equality benefits everyone. A level playing field is the healthiest, most prolific environment for success, because it really emphasizes skill, talent, and intelligence over privilege. I want my son to have enough confidence to avoid letting any insecurity make him feel threatened. A man thrives on equality, because he knows that real progress – whether its personal, professional, educational, or whatever – can only happen if no one gets a head start.” – Patrick, 35, California

Recognize Love

“This world is full of hate. A real man can recognize and cherish love, no matter where it comes from. My father always had a hard time saying, ‘I love you’ while I was growing up. And I get it, that’s just how he was raised. And I think he’s a real man, for sure. But, I also recognize that he isn’t perfect, and that I want my sons to say, ‘I love you’ whenever they genuinely have a chance to do so. I say it to them all the time now, and they’re at that age where it’s a little embarrassing in front of their friends. But, they’ll grow out of that age. I hope they won’t ever grow out of the capacity to show love.” – Josh, 37, Michigan

Stand Up For Others

“Not long ago, my son —he’s in ninth grade — got suspended from school for fighting. He told me what happened, and it turned out he was defending a fellow student who was getting picked on by bullies. I told him he did the right thing. My wife disagreed, and eventually we landed somewhere commending him for standing up for someone, but challenging whether or not the physicality was really necessary. Bullies are everywhere. There’s a good chance he’ll end up working with — or working for — bullies once he’s grown up. And as he grows into a man, I think it’s important he knows not to be pushed around. In those cases it’s probably best not to throw down and fight, but it’s also important to stand up for the right things.” – Andrew, 43, New Hampshire

Your Team Doesn’t Need You to Be the Hero

What do you do when a high-priority project doesn’t go as planned?

Whether your team fails to deliver on its sales targets, your latest high-visibility product launch is riddled with glitches, or your marquee product faces a recall, you as a leader have a responsibility to respond to problems as they arise. 

One common instinct is to put your regular responsibilities on the back burner, roll up your sleeves, and immerse yourself in operational details. You may begin to question your team members and double-check their work as if it were your own.

This natural impulse to take control and try to fix what’s broken may seem like sound leadership. But it can lead to more problems than it fixes, says Colonel Fred Maddox, an assistant professor at the U.S. Army War College and Chief of Staff of the Army senior fellow at the Kellogg School.

“When leaders act like they’re the only ones who can solve something, it can become an issue for the whole organization,” Maddox says, “because they’re not focused on strategy and they’re doing someone else’s job.”

Leaders who interfere also signal to their teams that their input is not desired—and may not be considered—which erodes motivation. Instead of taking over, leaders should show restraint and consider how their actions and decisions impact the broader company. 

Maddox explains how to refrain from trying to solve your team’s problems alone—and free your team to grow into their own roles.

Let Go of Being a Hero

The responsibility of senior leaders in any organization is to focus on the bigger picture and not be mired in tactical processes. In a crisis, though, many leaders—and especially leaders who have risen through the ranks—can feel the urge to step into the breach. It’s here where leaders may think they are solving a problem. 

“As soon as you take over any part of execution, you’ve stepped out of your strategic role,” Maddox says. “Your skills, time, and attention are focused on tasks which are other people’s jobs, so you’re misallocating resources.” 

If your sales team loses two major clients in a week, your gut may tell you to get on the horn and try to lure them back. But appointing a senior staff member who understands your sales team’s priorities, and who has the skills to manage and communicate upwards, will free up your attention to focus on how the loss of clients impacts other parts of the business.

Even worse, if you insist on doing everything yourself, you are taking away opportunities for your team to prove that they are capable of doing the job.

“When you’re in a position of authority, it’s your responsibility to extend trust to the individuals on your team,” Maddox says. 

Acting like you are the sole person who can fix a problem disregards their knowledge and expertise. Maddox warns that it won’t be long before your team’s culture deteriorates if you step in too often to “fix” problems. 

Trust Your Team

Instead, if you constantly feel the impulse to intervene in a crisis, it is helpful to put on the brakes and reflect on why you might be overreaching.

“In the back of your head, you’re either afraid your team is going to fail, you think that someone’s not capable of handling the responsibility you gave them, or you haven’t created accountability,” Maddox says. 

Consider what you can do differently to prepare your team (and yourself) for these moments so that you can feel confident in your team’s ability to execute.

Maddox points to the military’s practice of ongoing training and simulations as a model to prepare teams for the unexpected. Though most companies would not have the resources to replicate this kind of preparation, leaders can accomplish the same goal by creating safe opportunities for teams to learn and share hard lessons. He encourages leaders to establish frequent opportunities for team members to practice new skills, supported by candid feedback. 

Every position has its responsibilities and boundaries, but leaders should always be attuned to ways their team members can weigh in and find innovative solutions. This can mean relinquishing authority to provide team members autonomy to make decisions and learn.

For example, when introducing a new skill to a team member, leaders shouldn’t rush to give instructions, but first ask how the individual would approach it, to encourage problem-solving. The goal, Maddox says, is to train team members to “walk in autonomy.”

He also advises that teams adopt a post-exercise “action review” in which participants discuss what worked and went wrong at every step of an operation. Each team member contributes so that successes and shortcomings are evaluated from multiple perspectives. 

When learning and feedback are integrated into team culture, employees are primed to take more ownership when difficult issues surface. As a result, you will no longer feel the onus to fix something which could be better addressed as a team. 

“They have the opportunity to build their confidence and skill sets in tasks that will allow them to eventually take some of the weight and burden off of you.” 

Avoid Confirmation Bias

Effective leadership awareness is about more than resisting the urge to do everything yourself in a crisis. It also means thinking critically by acknowledging the limits of your ability to gain first-hand knowledge about the crisis in the first place.

“In situations with a high degree of complexity, you are going to be reliant on others to gather more information to make the best decision possible,” he says. 

To do this, you need “multiple sensors” or viewpoints from your team members to get the full picture. “Have you considered all the variables at play?” Maddox says. “Because there’s usually more to the situation than is presenting itself in hand. Relying on others gives you the opportunity to see components that may change your decision.”

Maddox points out that leaders often are surrounded by talented staff—and may even trust those staff to react capably in a crisis—but still fail to listen to them when the information does not confirm their prior views. “We’re more attuned to listening to input that supports our decision,” he explains. “But when a person dissents, it’s harder for us to hear it and take the necessary steps to consider it, contemplate, and move forward.” 

Maddox had to confront his own confirmation bias when developing a reporting tool for his senior leaders on a division-wide initiative. He saw what he thought was a great opportunity to build a data dashboard for his colonels and generals.

“I’m thinking this is the best thing since sliced bread,” Maddox says. 

Maddox begins distributing the dashboard. His team populates it with new data every Friday. He thinks he is seeing the benefits. “In my head, this is working,” he says. 

Several weeks after the launch, he finally solicits feedback from two of the dashboard’s recipients. The first commander Maddox reached didn’t know what the dashboard was. The second commander he contacted told him it wasn’t his cup of tea, so he didn’t look at it either.

“I was so convinced it was a great tool that was so necessary,” Maddox says. “But weeks later, I learned we had created something that no one was using. That was painful, because we lost a lot of sleep putting it together.” 

To prevent confirmation bias from seeping into decisions, Maddox encourages leaders to “walk through” scenarios with team members from all angles, paying extra attention to viewpoints that contradict or challenge their own. It’s quite possible that, had Maddox listened to more voices before designing the dashboard, he would have discovered that senior leaders already had effective ways of learning this information.

“There are very few situations where the person at the top of the chain can see everything completely,” Maddox says.

Here’s why the IRS would want to audit your taxes

If you get an IRS notice — official correspondence will only come through the mail — you should respond promptly with the requested documentation like bank statements or donation letters from charities.

Typically, if your taxes are under review, the IRS will first request more information by mail. For instance, more than three out of four of the agency’s tax reviews in 2021 were conducted by mail rather than in person.

You may also benefit from an audit. Over 17,000 of the 983,000 tax returns reviewed in 2021 resulted in additional refunds to Americans.

Here are the most common reasons the IRS may audit you.

Missing income

If you’re a gig worker or contractor and don’t include income from those jobs, the IRS will notice the missing income. In most cases, the agency gets copies of the 1099 forms from companies that you worked for. The IRS uses that information to compare with your return. If it doesn’t match up, that will trigger a review.

Too-high deductions

Certain deductions can be inflated, so the IRS keeps an eye on those. For example, it’s easier to overstate charitable donations because the agency doesn’t receive documentation on your contribution from the nonprofit.

But the IRS depends on statistical algorithms to determine if your deductions make sense based on your total income. If those deductions are too high, the agency may ask for documentation, such as a letter from the charity showing your contribution, to support your deduction.

Foreign accounts

You might need to report a foreign financial account — say, a bank account, brokerage, or mutual fund — when you file your federal taxes.

You must file Form 8938 if the total value of your foreign assets is more than $50,000) for single taxpayers or those married filing jointly) or $100,000 for joint filers on the last day of the tax year. You also must file if the total value of your foreign assets is more than $75,000 for single taxpayers or those married filing jointly) or $150,000 (for joint filers) at any point during the tax year, according to the IRS.

High earners

Those who make more than $1 million are more likely to get audited by the IRS.

For example, the IRS reviewed 0.2% of all individual tax returns for tax year 2019. That rate tripled to 0.6% for taxpayers reporting $1 million to under $5 million, 1.0% for taxpayers reporting $5 million to under $10 million, and 2.0% for taxpayers reporting $10 million and more in income.

Child dependent

Only one person can claim a child as a dependent, even if the parents don’t file taxes together. This can be even more complicated if another adult, such as a grandparent or older sibling, also helps support the child.

Have a ‘Happy New Year’ by Not Searching for Happiness

Hurray, it’s a new year! At least symbolically, this change is a great relief as the last three years have left an indelible mark on many people who are still trying to come out of an existential abyss. Although the recognizable signs of spring are not yet in the air, at least not in terms of the weather conditions, the emergence of 2023 portends spring-like conditions ahead as we wave goodbye to the trials and tribulations of the recent past.

Spring, as we know, is seen as a time of new life (both plant and animal) being born, as well as a time of growth and renewal. More generally, however, the spring season is perceived as a metaphor for the start of better times. So let’s begin spring—in our spirit, mind, and body—early this year. And let’s proclaim “’tis the season” to be optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. 

To be sure, wanting people to be happy throughout the year is a meaningful resolution for the New Year that is well worth keeping. Good intentions notwithstanding, “happiness” has become sort of a buzzword these days. For instance, besides a plethora of books and other publications on the subject, the happiness theme can be seen in advertising campaigns by businesses intent on squeezing out as many dollars as possible from consumers. It is as if buying a particular product or service will make people happy as a result, no matter what their personal circumstances.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would like very much to see everyone be (and remain) happy. And, yes, I’m a true believer that the key to authentic happiness lies within all of us, and therefore is within reach. However, I just don’t believe that true happiness is a commodity that can be purchased, no matter what the price. Nor do I believe that happiness comes from simply embracing the lyrics of the 1988 Grammy Award-winning song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by musician Bobby McFerrin. As much as I like this song, I think that there is more to it than that. Much more.

Against the backdrop of the events of the past three years, there are still warning signs on the horizon that warrant serious concern, in society at large as well as in the American and global economies. Even people who are fortunate enough today to be gainfully employed are not necessarily “happy” in the face of so much change taking place, coupled with the uncertainty of what may lie ahead. And this sentiment applies not only to their personal lives but also to their work lives.

How 5-Minute Walks Every Half-Hour Can Counter Prolonged Sitting

A new study from Columbia University in New York reports that just 5 minutes of walking every half-hour can offset some of the most harmful effects of sitting for long periods. 

The research team, led by Keith Diaz, PhD, an associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, tested five different exercise “snacks.”

They included 1 minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, 1 minute after 60 minutes, 5 minutes every 30 minutes, 5 minutes every 60 minutes, and no walking. 

“If we hadn’t compared multiple options and varied the frequency and duration of the exercise, we would have only been able to provide people with our best guesses of the optimal routine,” Diaz said in a statement.

The need to sit less

There’s plenty of research that concludes that prolonged sitting, like that done in office settings, is a health hazard, even for those who exercise regularly. 

Doctors advise adults to move more and sit less. 

The question then becomes how to mitigate all that sitting while it happens.

And, according to the new study’s researchers, there hasn’t been much research giving office workers a satisfactory answer.

How the sitting and walking study was conducted

The new study was small – only 11 adults participated in Diaz’s laboratory.

Participants sat in an ergonomic chair for 8 hours, rising only for their prescribed exercise period of treadmill walking or a bathroom break.

Researchers said they made sure each participant didn’t over-exercise or under-exercise. They also periodically measured the study subjects’ blood pressure and blood sugar (key indicators of cardiovascular health). 

Participants were allowed to work on a laptop, read, and use their phones during the sessions and were given standardized meals.

What researchers discovered about walking and sitting

Researchers reported that 5 minutes of walking every 30 minutes had the best results. It was the only amount that significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure.

The walking regimen dramatically affected how participants responded to large meals, reducing blood sugar spikes by 58% compared with sitting all day, the researchers reported. 

Taking a walking break every 30 minutes for 1 minute also provided modest benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Walking every 60 minutes (either for 1 minute or 5 minutes) provided no benefit. 

All amounts of walking significantly reduced blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg compared with sitting all day.

“This is a sizeable decrease, comparable to the reduction you would expect from exercising daily for six months,” Diaz said. 

All the walking regimens, except walking 1 minute every hour, significantly decreased participants’ fatigue and showed mood improvements.

None of the walking regimens, however, influenced cognition.

4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Achieve Massive Growth in a Recession

Today’s macroeconomic environment is marked by high inflation, low consumer confidence, abysmal stock market performance and rising interest rates. Few sectors of the economy are exempt from the current malaise, and discretionary spending by consumers and businesses alike is at an all-time low.

In times like these, it’s natural for entrepreneurs to focus on surviving rather than thriving. But recessions can actually be fertile ground for companies that are prepared to seize opportunity. Here are four ways entrepreneurs can take advantage of a recession to achieve massive growth:

1. Look for white space in the market

In a recession, many companies trim their product lines and focus on their core offerings. This creates opportunities for companies that are able to identify and fill gaps in the market.

For instance, in September, Facebook shuttered Novi, its digital wallet. The move comes as no surprise. Facebook is facing big challenges in maintaining both user and investor confidence amidst a slowdown in growth, all while its metaverse dreams flounder. But the death of Novi opens up an opportunity for a new entrant to provide a digital wallet. In fact, a phoenix has already risen from the ashes: A Web3 wallet, Martian, raised a $3 million pre-seed following Facebook’s announcement.

Just as Novi aimed to provide a simple way to store digital currencies and make payments, Martian is said to “allow users to hold, store, and use multiple digital assets.” The key difference is that Martian is being built on top of open-source technology, rather than Facebook’s centralized infrastructure.

In another example from the Web3 world, the FTX exchange famously collapsed, leaving thousands of users looking for other trading solutions. Yuriy Sorokin, the CEO of 3Commas, explains in an article that, amidst this volatility, their “goal remains the same as always: to meet the needs of every crypto investor by providing industry-leading services and professional-grade tools.”

Rather than suffer from an industry downturn, Sorokin found an opportunity to double down. These kinds of opportunities are everywhere in a recession. As incumbent companies focus on their core offerings, new entrants can swoop in and provide the missing piece of the puzzle. In another example, while Ford is reducing the production of its trucks and SUVs, Tesla is gearing up to mass produce its Cybertruck.

2. Attract top talent

From Google to Facebook to Uber, many of the most successful tech companies have announced layoffs this year. While this is devastating news for the employees who are impacted, it’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs who are looking to attract top talent.

In a recession, it’s not just big companies that are making layoffs. Small businesses are cutting back as well. But as employees at all levels find themselves out of work, they’ll be looking for opportunities that offer both security and upside potential. For entrepreneurs, this presents a golden opportunity to attract the best and the brightest to their team.

Some recruiters have already started to take advantage of the current climate. As Reuters reports, following layoffs at Google and Apple, Stack Overflow more than doubled its headcount. Stack Overflow isn’t alone, as a survey of startup tech executives found that more than 40% of them boosted their hiring plans in the first half of 2022.

If you’re an entrepreneur, now is the time to start thinking about how you can attract top talent to your company.

How a new app could help people eat more fruits and vegetables

Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions.

Despite government guidelines to increase fruit and vegetable intake worldwide, consumption in Europe, the United States, and across the globe remains low. 

Recently, researchers from the University of Bournemouth released a new app called “SMART 5-A-DAY” to help users track and increase their fruit and vegetable intake. 

Prof. Katherine Appleton, professor of psychology at the University of Bournemouth and one of the app’s creators, told Medical News Today:

“The app is based on the U.K. 5-a-day recommendations, and fruit and vegetable recommendations can vary around the world based on the local fruits and vegetables available, local portion sizes, and other local nutritional concerns. Recommendations to consume lots of fruits and vegetables, however, apply everywhere.” 

The app was released in the Google Play Store for Android phones on December 29, 2022.

Why aren’t people eating enough fruits and veggies?

Research shows that knowledge about the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption is lacking and directly linked to lower overall consumption.

Potential factors impeding fruit and vegetable intake may include:

  • poor knowledge or confusion around nutritious fruits or vegetables 
  • portion sizes for fruits and vegetables
  • the number of portions needed per day 
  • the need for a variety of fruit and vegetables
  • benefits of high fruit and vegetable consumption

Increasing awareness around what constitutes adequate fruit and vegetable consumption could help individuals improve their overall health.

‘SMART 5-A-DAY’ app: How it works 

To use the app, users input what fruits and vegetables they’ve eaten after each meal and how much.

The app then converts consumption to correspond with U.K. guidelines of five portions of different fruits or vegetables per day. The app allows users to track their daily consumption over time. 

“The app only includes fruit and vegetables that count toward the U.K. recommendations, so those that do not count toward the U.K. recommendations, such as potatoes, cannot be added,” Dr. Appleton explained.

She added that one of the app’s key benefits is that it will help users recognize how few fruits and vegetables they consume, which may alert them to improve their diets. 

“Our hope is that use of the app over a number of weeks will increase understanding of these elements such that the app is not required further, but people have the knowledge themselves of what they need to do,” she said.

Possible benefits

A 2019 study on the SMART 5-A-DAY app found a modest increase in participants’ knowledge of fruit and vegetable intake recommendations.

Since that time, researchers have incorporated several updates based on user feedback and expect this will have a positive impact on the overall consumption of fruits and vegetables.

“Research has also found tracking a health-related goal is linked to a greater chance of achieving the goal,” Debbie Fetter, Ph.D., assistant professor of teaching nutrition at the University of California, Davis, not involved in the study, told MNT

“Using an app can give consumers a place to document their efforts and see their progress add up. However, it’s not a requirement to use an app; tracking a health-related goal with pencil [and] paper also works great,” Dr. Fetter added. 

How food tracking apps help improve diet 

To understand more about how the SMART 5-A-DAY app might help individuals improve their diet, MNT spoke with Sara Kostelnick, MS, RD, a sports performance dietitian at the University of Kansas Health System (not involved in the study).

“As a dietitian, I often see fruit and vegetable intake is forgotten about when making healthy lifestyle changes,” Kostelnick said. 

“Many studies have investigated tracking as a means of increasing accountability and reaching health goals that you’ve set for yourself. Translating this to meet fruit and vegetable needs can help users increase their daily fruit and vegetable consumption,” she added.

MNT also spoke about the new app with Dena Champion, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: 

“This app appears colorful, simple to use, and interactive. It includes a calculator which gives a target of 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. This may be a helpful visual for people trying to increase their fruit and veggie consumption but aren’t sure of serving sizes or how close they are to meet this goal.”

Champion noted, however, that not everyone may find the app helpful. 

“Everyone learns differently and is motivated differently. Some people thrive on this kind of app that requires tracking foods and provides feedback, while others find this annoying or unhelpful,” Champion said.

23 Tips: Happier, Healthier, And More Fit

1. Walk in the woods.

One study shows that a 20-minute stroll through your local park can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and increase the feeling of happiness. Scientists have found that natural environments activate our parasympathetic nervous system (feelings of relaxation) while suppressing the sympathetic system (fight-or-flight feelings). If the park is too far, consider filling your favorite reading nook with more plants.

2. Commit to 27 minutes of daily mindfulness.

That’s the amount researchers found resulted in measurable changes in the gray matter of people’s brains, increasing density in areas responsible for feelings of compassion and decreasing it in areas related to stress and anxiety. You don’t have to practice mindfulness for 30 minutes straight — sit quietly and contemplate your breathing for 10 minutes in the morning and a few more at night.

3. Add turmeric to your cooking.

You might know it as the spice that turns curry dishes yellow, but turmeric also helps with life’s ills. To wit: Studies have found it to be a powerful anti-inflammatory (good for sore muscles), antioxidant (can help you feel and look younger), and a protector against heart disease. Whew.

4. Sprinkle lavender essential oil on your pillow. 

Just a drop or two can help induce a sense of calm.

5. Set up a relaxation zone in your home.

It’s important to have a stress-free space in your life, so make sure there’s a comfortable, distraction-free space in your home where you can exercise, nap, and relax.

6. Limit blue light before bed.

If you’re checking texts and email right up until lights out, you’re setting yourself up for a lousy night of sleep — and not necessarily because you’re stressing about work. The blue light emitted by your tech devices sends signals to your brain that inhibit the production of melatonin, a chemical that makes you feel drowsy. Put away your phone and laptop an hour before bed to help your night be a restful one.

7. Carve out your own space.

Contrary to what early 21st-century architects thought, it turns out that open seating plans can inhibit productivity. Workers in open offices spend an undue amount of time making phone calls from stairwells and empty conference rooms instead of sitting at their desks, research shows. Find yourself a little piece of personal space at work or home where you can take a minute for yourself to just breathe.

8. Build the perfect breakfast bowl.

Oats + walnuts + berries + cinnamon + milk = Awesome way to start your day

9. Do planks.

Planks are an essential, effective workouts move, if you do them right: Start lying face-down on the floor, torso propped up on your elbows. Engaging your core, raise your body up onto your forearms and toes, making sure your body forms one long line from shoulders to feet. Hold this position as long as you can, working your way up to 90 seconds.

10. Exercise for 51 minutes … a week. 

For as little as seven minutes of sweat a day, you can reduce your risk of dying by 33 percent, according to research. Walk, jog, ride a bike, or jump rope. Anything that gets your heart rate up counts. If that’s not motivation enough, scientists found that people who exercised for 10 minutes a day were, yes, happier than those who did not. So, you know, get after it!

11. Eat earlier.

If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, consider pushing up the hour for your evening meal: People who ate dinner earlier in the afternoon felt less hungry while raising their body’s fat-burning potential, according to a new study.

16 Small Steps You Can Take Now to Improve Your Finances

There are so many different aspects of money management that it can be difficult to find a starting point when trying to achieve financial success. If you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Progress can be made in tiny, manageable steps. Here’s are 16 small things you can do right now to improve your overall financial health. 

1. Create a household budget

The biggest step toward effective money management is making a household budget. You first need to figure out exactly how much money comes in each month. Once you have that number, organize your budget in order of financial priorities: essential living expenses, contributions to retirement savings, repaying debt, and any entertainment or lifestyle costs. Having a clear picture of exactly how much is coming in and going out every month is key to reaching your financial goals.

2. Calculate your net worth

Simply put, your net worth is the total of your assets minus your debts and liabilities. You’re left with a positive or negative number. If the number is positive, you’re on the up and up. If the number is negative — which is especially common for young people just starting out — you’ll need to keep chipping away at debt.

Remember that certain assets, like your home, count on both sides of the ledger. While you may have mortgage debt, it is secured by the resale value of your home.

3. Review your credit reports

Your credit history determines your creditworthiness, including the interest rates you pay on loans and credit cards. It can also affect your employment opportunities and living options. Every 12 months, you can check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) for free at annualcreditreport.com. It may also be a good idea to request one report from one bureau every four months, so you can keep an eye on your credit throughout the year without paying for it.

Regularly checking your credit report will help you stay on top of every account in your name and can alert you to fraudulent activity.

4. Check your credit score

Your FICO score can range from 300-850. The higher the score, the better. Keep in mind that two of the most important factors that go into making up your credit score are your payment history, specifically negative information, and how much debt you’re carrying: the type of debts, and how much available credit you have at any given time.

5. Set a monthly savings amount

Transferring a set amount of money to a savings account at the same time you pay your other monthly bills helps ensure that you’re regularly and intentionally saving money for the future. Waiting to see if you have any money left over after paying for all your other discretionary lifestyle expenses can lead to uneven amounts or no savings at all.

Mental Health Expectations in a Post(?)-Pandemic World

For most people, the pandemic changed many aspects of everyday life. From the way we shop and entertain ourselves to the way we work and have meetings; how often we are in the physical workspace or meet up with friends; or even how we celebrate holidays or birthdays, nearly everyone has experienced some sort of adjustment. As the saying goes, “We are not all in the same boat, but we are all going through the same storm.”

The storm metaphor captures the fact that not everyone experienced COVID-19 in the same way: Some have endured greater stressful life events than others, such as losses of loved ones or employment. Whether the pandemic only temporarily inconvenienced your life or you’re continuing to endure adverse experiences, COVID-19 has led to some level of stress for individuals across the globe. 

How can we assess whether the weight of our stress regarding those varying experiences is bearable? Are individuals continuing with the same level of mental health as they were pre-pandemic? The World Health Organization reported a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide due to the pandemic. If you are a practitioner, how can you help your clients learn more about their thoughts and behaviors during and after COVID-19? 

What Types of Assessment Can We Use?

The COVID Stress Scales (CSS) have been developed to guide in the identification of those that may suffer from COVID Stress Syndrome (Taylor et al., 2020). COVID Stress Syndrome (Taylor et al., 2020), includes 5 domains of assessment:

  1. High emotionality regarding the health dangers of the virus and contamination (i.e., becoming infected or being able to seek treatment if infected; contamination of objects, money, or surfaces).
  2. Worries about socio-economic consequences (i.e., stores running out of food).
  3. Xenophobia (i.e., fear of foreigners who may be spreading the virus).
  4. Traumatic stress symptoms (i.e., nightmares and physical symptoms).
  5. Compulsive checking (i.e., repetitive online activity, reassurance seeking from medical professionals, etc.).

U.S. Soccer’s Gregg Berhalter on Rebuilding Trust in the Wake of Controversy

Gregg Berhalter coached the U.S. men’s soccer team in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where they achieved a memorable victory over Iran before losing to the Netherlands. Berhalter, who was a professional soccer player himself for 17 years, has coached in Europe and the U.S., and for the past four years, he’s been the head coach of the U.S. national team.

In the past couple of weeks, he’s been under another kind of spotlight. Berhalter’s decision to limit the playing time of one of his young players prompted the player’s parents to threaten to expose an incident from more than three decades ago in which Berhalter got into a physical fight with his girlfriend at the time, who later become his wife. Berhalter and his wife issued a statement in which he expressed his regret for his action at the time and his cooperation with a U.S. Soccer investigation into the matter.

Berhalter sat down with HBR editor in chief Adi Ignatius for our video series “The New World of Work.” In addition to the controversy, he discussed:

  • Leadership lessons he’s learned through coaching teams of highly competitive individuals who may not be used to working together and who are vying for limited starting positions.
  • How players can stay focused amidst the noise and distractions that come with playing sports at such a high level. (It starts by not looking for validation on social media.)
  • The differences between talent and character—and how to capitalize on both.

“The New World of Work” explores how top-tier executives see the future and how their companies are trying to set themselves up for success. Each week, Ignatius talks to a top leader on LinkedIn Live — previous interviews included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. He also shares an inside look at these conversations —and solicits questions for future discussions — in a newsletter just for HBR subscribers. If you’re a subscriber, you can sign up here.


ADI IGNATIUS:

I’m really glad you’re doing this. I want to start with the controversy. What are you feeling about this? What have you learned from all of this?

GREGG BERHALTER:

I think it’s sadness. Our entire family is saddened by these events. It’s something we want to move forward from. As we said in the statement, it was something that we didn’t hide from back then, and we weren’t prepared to hide from it now, and that’s why we issued this statement. Actually, the events of that night 31 years ago and the lessons learned from that basically set the foundation for our relationship moving forward. It’s a loving relationship, a devoted relationship, and we have four amazing kids to show for.

I think the worst part of it for me is my heart aches for my wife, because it was her story to tell, if she chose to or not. It just really, really saddens me. But it’s moving forward and that’s the way we have to look at it together as a family. The family’s been amazing and has taken it one day at a time and moving forward.

A big reason for doing this show is because I committed to doing it. We committed to doing this before all this stuff happened and I wasn’t going to back down from it, because I said I would do it.

Buying A House

The following is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended as credit repair or credit repair advice.

Plus, owning your own home can provide stability by allowing you to become part of a community and invest in neighborly relationships. Along the way, you build equity in your home, strengthen your credit score, and come tax time, possibly qualify for a tax deduction. 

But not everyone is well positioned to buy a home, especially if they have a poor credit score. Here’s what to know about credit scores for buying a home and how to improve yours. 

Credit Scores That Mortgage Lenders Want to See 

The baseline credit score that mortgage lenders will consider is a minimum score of 500 (read up on how a mortgage works). But that’s a low score in their view, and it will limit you to certain types of loans, likely with higher interest rates. To be able to access better mortgage products, a better minimum score is 620. For the best interest rates, 740 or higher is optimum. 

However, the rules can be different for government-insured home loans, with added flexibility for lower credit scores. VA and USDA loans have no minimum credit requirement. FHA loans allow for an absolute minimum score requirement of 500, but scores at that level will require a down payment that’s 10% of the purchase price. That can be difficult for many new buyers. If your score is 580 or higher, you’ll be eligible for the maximum funding available for an FHA loan, which is 96.5% of the purchase price. The remaining 3.5% you’ll need to provide as a down payment. 

Lenders Use Multiple Scores When Evaluating Applications

Mortgage lenders go further than credit card companies to determine if you’re a good risk for a mortgage. It’s useful to understand how they use your FICO® scores as you plan ahead.

Mortgage lenders typically want to see reports from each of the big three credit bureaus, along with a FICO score for each report. The big three are Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. The lenders will typically receive one report containing information from all three reporting bureaus, along with three different FICO scores. A FICO score is a number associated with the information in your credit reports. Scores likely vary because each bureau reports your credit history a little differently.

The mortgage lender may use the middle score for lending to you. So, if you need a minimum 580 score, your middle score might need to be at least 580. However, there are exceptions. 

Besides FICO scores, mortgage lenders often look at the information in your credit reports as well when reviewing your application. For example, even if you have decent FICO scores, a lender could turn you down if they don’t like your debt-to-income ratio or see that you owe too much money to collection agencies. Other factors include loan amount, down payment, and location of the home. 

Bottom line: a higher credit score benefits you in many different ways, but it’s not the only factor considered.

The Impact of Low Credit Scores on Interest Rates

While it’s true that all lenders are a little different, it’s standard for interest rates to be based largely on the range of your credit score. The higher your score, the lower the interest rate — and that means paying less money over the long haul for a house. 

Check out this interactive chart by FICO to see the connection between credit score, interest rate, and monthly payment. The reason higher scores benefit you so much is that they demonstrate to lenders that you’re a good risk as a borrower. In theory, a high score is the result of successful borrowing in the past with regular and on-time payments. The converse is also true: a low score can be interpreted as you being a riskier borrower. 

Of course, maybe you just haven’t borrowed much money, or you don’t have a portfolio of different types of credit. That can result in a low score even though you haven’t been irresponsible with credit cards. But to lenders, that’s a risk to them because they don’t have evidence for well-managed borrowing behavior. And the riskier the borrower, the more lenders will try to minimize the risk to themselves with a higher interest rate and other possible terms that are costlier to the borrower. 

How to Buy a House If You Have a Poor Credit Score

So, what can you do if you want to buy a house but have a poor credit score? There are a few steps you can take, including improving your credit score. That takes time but it may be the optimal path, depending on just how low your score is. 

You can also explore any government-insured loan programs that you may qualify for (FHA, USDA, VA). Those programs may qualify you to buy a house more quickly.

Homebuyer assistance programs are primarily run at the state level. Check out the programs available in your state. At the federal level, the FHA is the largest insurer of homes in the world. It’s a great place to start as long as your credit score is at least 500.

How to Improve Your Credit Score 

Improving your credit score doesn’t take anything complicated. Mostly, it takes discipline and consistency over time. Here are the best ways to improve your score. 

  • Make on-time or early payments, and never miss one. In most scoring models, on-time payment history is the single most important factor in your credit score. 
  • Reduce your overall debt to increase available credit. That means paying down active credit cards and keeping those balances low. The larger your balance compared to the available credit, the worse it can be for your credit score. 
  • Avoid too many recent credit inquiries. For example, if you try to open new cards, and they conduct a credit inquiry, that can ding your credit score. Minimize those inquiries. 
  • Try boosting your score with alternative data, such as rental payment history and utility payment history reported via a credit reporting service. Keep in mind, some of these credit-boosting services cost money, ranging from $6.95 to $8.85 per month, sometimes with a startup fee. And they may not impact the specific credit scoring model that your lender is using, but, still, alternative data is a potential option to explore. You’ll have to decide whether the monthly fee is worth a credit score bump. 

Are you concerned your credit history and score are keeping you from your dream of homeownership? Buying a home isn’t a quick process. If you want to improve your credit score, work with a certified credit counselor to find ways to reduce debt, build savings, and improve your credit health. Credit counseling from MMI is free, confidential, and available online or over the phone.

give yourself the gift of a vacation away from family

When I was 12 or 13, a friend’s mother invited me to join their family for a Thanksgiving road trip. After I persuaded my parents to let me go, we piled into the family minivan and hit the road. We stayed at a Howard Johnson, shelled pecans and ate all the traditional holiday foods my family never had.

It was the kind of holiday I had always wanted, and one I could never have had at home. It was the first time I skipped a holiday at home, but it wasn’t the last. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For years, Christmas was a forbidden word around our house. As a Hindu, my father didn’t think we should have a tree or acknowledge the holiday. I learned the truth about Santa Claus when we picked up a Christmas tree on sale at Woolworths around closing time on Christmas Eve, decorating into the wee hours of Christmas morning, when Santa was supposed to be making his rounds.

Similarly, Thanksgiving was an American holiday, one my father didn’t believe we as Indian Americans should celebrate. As a kid making cornucopias and construction-paper turkeys at school, however, all I wanted was turkey, pecan pie and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The closest I ever got to the kind of holiday meals other kids talked about was at a family friend’s house. It was usually a crowd of lawyers, former Texas prosecutors and the occasional medical examiner, a mix that made for interesting conversation. There was turkey for everyone else, and vegetarian lasagna for us.

During college, I regularly skipped holidays at home, opting to spend time with friends and their families instead. Not going home meant I could remove myself from the drama that met me whenever I walked through the front door.

In college, it was my weight that was an issue. Going home would mean hearing about how I was so fat that I was unlovable and destined to spend life alone. Down the line, skipping the holidays meant I wouldn’t have to hear about how I was quickly approaching my expiration date of 40 — a time beyond which I would have no value to the world. This conversation began when I was 21.

Not going home for the holidays meant I didn’t have to hear about how I was wasting my life or about the awful traditional men my dad was trying to meet online on my behalf. One of those men told me in our families’ native tongue that he wanted a wife to go to his village in India and care for his aging parents while he stayed in the United States. Nope.

Over the years, I skipped trips home to collect holiday pay at work and scheduled vacations over them to make the most of my limited paid time off. Two weeks doesn’t go very far when you’re an avid traveler with a penchant for far-flung destinations or an Indian American who has to travel at least 24 hours each way to visit relatives in India.

A couple of times, I opted to watch the Macy’s parade in person in New York. A cousin and I feasted on Indian food in Brooklyn after the parade one Thanksgiving.

I spent another Thanksgiving in Porto, Portugal, with a new friend made a few days earlier in Lisbon. We spent the day sampling Port wine and wandering charming European streets. We shared a delicious multicourse meal with wine, champagne and Port for less than $100.

It was exactly the Thanksgiving I needed that year, and a gift I’m grateful to have given myself.

The Best Public Speakers Put the Audience First

Several years ago, I traveled from New York to Geneva, Switzerland to be the closing keynote speaker for the World Communication Forum. I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with global leaders about how nonnative English speakers can present their ideas — and themselves — with greater clarity and confidence. For my allotted 45-minute time slot, I prepared high-quality research, relatable examples, actionable takeaways from my book on the topic, and ample opportunities for audience engagement.

But then, the conference ran late. Every single presentation and panel prior to mine exceeded its time limit. By the time my closing speaking slot arrived, I had only eight minutes to deliver my 45-minute presentation — a presentation I had flown across the Atlantic Ocean to give.

Here’s what I wanted to do: cry, insist on my full time, and then hop on the next plane back to New York.

Here’s what I did instead: managed my emotions, empathized with the audience’s wants and needs, and delivered an eight-minute presentation that gave them practical tips and tools that they could use immediately.

Here’s how it went: great. Participants shared their appreciation for my adaptability, focus, and my good humor, as well as their gratitude that I didn’t make them late for dinner.

In the moment, I chose servant leadership over self-interest.

The term servant leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf, and refers to a leader who “shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” This is in contrast to the traditional leadership model which focuses on the power of one at the “top of the pyramid.”

As public speakers, we can often feel like we’re at the top of the pyramid because we’re at the front of the room. It can be tempting to interpret a presentation as an opportunity to showcase what we know rather than address what the audience wants and needs to know. But that makes it about us, not about them. In contrast, speakers as servant leaders demonstrate self-awareness, empathy, and foresight. Here’s how you can do the same.

What makes a servant leader?

Self-awareness

As soon as I realized that I was going to have to cut almost 80% of the presentation I had been working on for months, I felt myself get flooded with both anger and anxiety. I was angry that other speakers went over their allotted time. I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to adapt my remarks in time to make them both concise and compelling.

And I also realized that, as a visibly expressive person, I could pass that anger and anxiety on to the audience. Emotions are contagious, and leaders must recognize that their feelings can “infect” others, for better or for worse. Furthermore, the more expressive someone is, the more likely others are to notice that expression, and mimic it.

Unless I wanted an angry and anxious audience, I had to manage my emotions before taking the stage. Chances are, you’ve experienced anxiety (among a host of other emotions) before making a presentation. Leverage that self-awareness to make sure you’re not infecting your audience. One strategy is to “name it to tame it.” Originally developed by Dr. Daniel Siegel, founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, this technique involves noticing and naming how you’re feeling as it’s happening. Identifying your emotions can quickly reduce the stress and anxiety in the brain and the body that that emotion is causing.

You can also ask yourself, “WTF?” (“What the func?”). According to Dr. Susan David, co-founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, our emotions serve a function. They’re trying to get our attention, and to remind us of the needs and values that we hold as important to us. When you present, ask yourself what functions those emotions serve. Maybe you feel anxious because you care deeply about accuracy, and you don’t want to get the facts wrong. Perhaps you feel worried because you’re motivated by harmony, and you’re about to say something that could rock the boat.

And, if you’re like most people, you feel anxious speaking in front of people in general because you value excellence (“What if I don’t do a great job?”) or acceptance (“What if they don’t like my ideas?”). Harness your drive towards excellence to practice delivering your presentation aloud to a colleague, and use their feedback to improve it. If you’re concerned about acceptance, practice with a colleague who will play devil’s advocate with you. By practicing how you manage pushback and objections, you’ll gain additional insight into your audience’s concerns, and be better prepared to address them in the moment.

Whatever your hard feelings are, know that they’re pointing you towards something you value — and towards something you can use to become a more audience-centered presenter.

Empathy

If you were to ask me what the most common mistake is that presenters make, I wouldn’t say using filler words or having a boring PowerPoint or not being able to answer tough questions.

I would say that it’s leading with the ideas that they want to talk about rather than being empathetic towards the audience’s hopes and fears.

Presenting with a servant leadership approach flips this model. Rather than prioritizing your own agenda, you put the agenda of the audience ahead of yours. You seek first to understand rather than to be understood. You show curiosity, concern, and compassion for others, even if you have a different experience.

In Geneva, I wanted all 45 minutes of the stage time I was promised. But I knew that fighting for air time would be in service of me, and not in service of the needs of my fidgety, hungry listeners.

So, I prioritized their need to get the most applicable information from my presentation over my desire to tell interesting stories. I told them that I recognized that I was all that was standing between them and dinner, and that I wouldn’t make them late. And I mentioned that I knew that they had been sitting for many hours, and invited them to stand up, walk around, stretch, or do whatever they needed to do while I spoke.

Here’s an exercise you can do to help you develop the empathy you’ll need to present from a servant leadership perspective: Picture a bed — any bed. Let that bed inspire you to ask these servant leadership questions about your audience.

  • What gets them out of bed in the morning? In other words, what are they excited about and motivated by? Is it growth? Opportunity? Collaboration? Innovation? That’s one clue to what you should prioritize in your presentation. If this is an internal presentation, you will likely know this because whomever you’re presenting to will have shared these goals in previous meetings, conversations, or emails. For an external audience, you can ask the person convening the meeting, or reach out to a few attendees to ask them by email or via a quick phone call.
  • What keeps them up at night? What are they worried about? Is it time? Money? Quality? Headcount? Visibility? Viability? Reputation? Whatever it is, that’s your second clue to what you should prioritize in your presentation. Use the same strategies from above to find the answers to this question, too.

Once you know what’s in the heads and hearts of your audience, design your presentation to address those topics first and foremost. You’ll have your audience’s attention and buy-in because you’ve demonstrated empathy over self-concern.

Foresight

Servant-leaders leverage their experience and intuition to draw lessons from past experiences, to understand the realities of today, and to reasonably predict the consequences of a decision for the future.

Good presenters need to be able to do the same.

As someone who has been a professional speaker and speaking coach for three decades, I knew from past experiences that trying to maintain an audience’s attention, interest, and goodwill beyond the time they were expecting to stay was a losing battle. I also knew this from my experience as an audience member myself — I regularly felt tense and frustrated when I was being asked to pay attention beyond the allotted time.

The reality of that day was that several other speakers who preceded me had exceeded their time. It was now eight minutes before dinner time after a long day. Another reality was that I had 45 minutes of content, but I no longer has 45 minutes to deliver it. I could reasonably predict that if I decided to take more time than we had left, the audience would no longer pay attention. I could also anticipate that if I tried to rush through my content, the audience would feel overwhelmed and confused — and it would undermine my credibility as a speaker. My decision was to give the audience the most important content they needed to know and to get the conference back on track.

It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but my foresight (and hindsight) informed what I needed to do to be of service.

Consider your audience.

As you think about presenting to your audience, ask yourself these questions:

What do I know about their understanding of this topic?

(And if you don’t know, ask someone who does.) If your audience has minimal understanding of your topic, include some foundational education about the topic early in the presentation. Make sure to minimize jargon, in-speak, acronyms, and technical terms that can confuse your listeners. (Remember, it’s not about demonstrating what you understand — it’s about making sure they understand.) If your audience is already educated about and experienced with your topic, then start where they are.

What if you have an audience with mixed knowledge? A presentation for multiple audiences can become confusing, so consider who your primary audience is and gear your presentation towards them. And yet, you still want to be inclusive. Try acknowledging this aloud to the group by saying, “I understand that some of you are new to the field, many of you have been working in the field for a few years, and some of you have decades of experience. I’ll start by defining some basic terms and then we’re going to get into the details they understand. For those of you who are experts, I hope you’ll add your valuable experience and perspectives to the conversation today. (I do this regularly when I am speaking to a group of experts in my own field, and they appreciate being acknowledged and included.)

We Still Don’t Have At-Home Testing For the Flu

The tests are easy to use, and for now, paid for by insurance if you’ve got it. If you don’t have insurance, you can still get the kits for free from some community health centers.

If the test shows that you’re positive, you know to stay home and mask up, and ask your doctor about taking antiviral medications that can minimize the symptoms and keep you from getting seriously ill. If you’re a parent and testing your kids, the kits can signal when to keep them at home from school.

It’s a win-win, since knowing your status means you can protect not only yourself but your community by not spreading the virus when you stay home and get treated.

COVID-19 has set a new standard of expectations for testing, and knowing whether you’re sick, that is starting to make the way the U.S. traditionally manages winter season diseases look archaic. Why don’t we have the same self-tests for other common illnesses that spread during the colder months—such as flu and RSV? Each year flu leads to between 300,000 and 800,000 hospitalizations in the U.S., while RSV sends up to 80,000 young children under five years old to the hospital annually.

“The pandemic shifted people’s expectations,” says Dr. Michael Mina, chief science officer at eMed, a digital health company that offers at-home testing and telemedicine options to help with those tests for a range of illnesses. “It’s driving people to ask, ‘why do I need to go to the doctor when COVID-19 testing has shown me that it’s totally safe and okay for me to [use self-tests to determine] if I’m positive for a respiratory illness?’”

Until the pandemic hit, at-home testing was a health trend struggling for respect. While convenient, the medical community and health regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) weren’t convinced that people could reliably test themselves at home for things like flu, and interpret the results accurately. Decades earlier, home pregnancy test kits battled through similar validation issues, as health care experts raised concerns about releasing a test that wasn’t always completely accurate and about the need to educate women about interpreting the results. Ultimately, regulators decided that the level of uncertainty was an acceptable tradeoff for arming women with knowledge about their pregnancy status and the tests became available in 1978 over the counter.

With similar reasoning, and this time driven by the urgent need during the pandemic to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the FDA authorized the first at-home rapid tests for COVID-19 in spring 2020. Millions of people have since tested themselves or their children, without a medical professional, effectively and responsibly. “The COVID-19 pandemic led to a shift in empowering citizens with the ability to test themselves for respiratory infections,” says Dr. Chaz Langelier, associate professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at University of California San Francisco. “The average person in the U.S. now has a working knowledge of the public health implications of respiratory infections on a level that wasn’t there pre-pandemic.”

The barriers to self-testing

Studies conducted on at-home COVID-19 tests showed that people don’t need a medical degree to insert a swab up their nose, swirl it around, and then insert the swab in a pre-made solution and read the resulting lines. In fact, that technology is essentially the same one that doctors and nurses use in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and health centers to test for influenza, RSV, and strep. “The average person thinks that when they go to the doctor and he or she uses a rapid strep or flu test, that the doctor is doing something complicated behind the scenes,” says Mina. “But no, it’s just the same swabbing of the nose or throat and the same lateral flow antigen test [as in the home kits]. The COVID-19 self tests have demystified how some of these medical tests are performed. And opened to door to people asking, ‘why don’t I have access to that?’”

The reason they don’t yet has to do with a number of factors, from cultural bias to the economics of the flu-testing market. The medical community has historically been reluctant to entrust self-tests in the hands of the public because of concerns about how well the people without medical expertise can collect the samples and perform the chemical reaction required to detect the presence of a virus or bacteria. But streamlined ways to contain reagents and present them in a straightforward way, such as the easy-to-use COVID-19 test kits, have made the process nearly mistake-proof, Mina says.

While that may be true of the COVID-19 self tests, the self-tests for flu that are still being developed aren’t quite there yet. Doctors have relied for years on so-called point-of-care testing that provides results within minutes about whether their patients have flu, but they have also known that the false negative rate of these tests can range up to 40%. “You trade accuracy for speed,” says Dr. Lisa Maragakis, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Such rapid antigen tests, which pick up proteins made by viruses like SARS-CoV-2 or influenza, are relatively good at detecting people who are positive, leading to low false positive rates, but a negative result doesn’t always mean the person is free and clear. Doctors take other factors into consideration, such as the patient’s symptoms and exposures, when interpreting negative results. And if needed, they repeat the test to confirm the result.

How Have You Grown This Year?

It’s the season for New Year’s resolutions and reflecting on how the year has gone. As you think about what you’ve achieved this year, I encourage you to think about the following categories. You may have grown in ways you aren’t giving yourself credit for.

If you’re a member of a couple, it can be beneficial to answer these questions together. You may think of answers for your partner that they don’t think of for themselves and vice versa. It’s also a great way to let each other into your respective inner worlds.

If there is anyone you want to get closer to or deeply connect with, like a friend or family member, the same applies. Swap answers or answer these together.

1. Have you grown through making yourself vulnerable?

Did you open up to someone? Were you open about an area of insecurity or shame? Did you ask for advice? Did you attempt to turn around missteps from the past or address regrets?

2. What’s one thing you learned from someone else this year? Have you discovered any new learning channels?

For example, during the year I’ve participated in a Reddit “bumper” group, comprised of people who, like me, had babies due in October 2022. This group has all the best aspects of an internet community and I’ve learned so many small tips from others in the group. We’ve also experienced shared joy at our new babes, and taken comfort in the sense of solidarity from all going through a similar life experience at the same time. 

3. Have you finally acted on a piece of solid life advice?

We don’t always hear life advice and immediately act on it. Sometimes it takes years. This can be due to stubbornness or resistance, or simply because a relevant circumstance hasn’t come up.

For example, I’m someone who generally doesn’t like routines. I get bored by sameness. Routines make me feel restricted. All that said, as the mother of a newborn who has struggled with breastfeeding, I’ve religiously kept to a routine of pumping every three hours around the clock for the last two months. I didn’t know I had it in me to keep this up. In this case, I wouldn’t have succeeded without the routine. Although I normally resist routines, it’s been an essential tool in this instance.

4. What’s one way that cooperating with others (or just one other person) has enhanced your skills or results?

What have you achieved through cooperation that you wouldn’t have achieved on your own?

Personal growth isn’t something we do all on our own. Others are a bridge that helps us grow our skills and make accomplishments. 

Bonus: How have you benefited from cooperating with someone who you differ from in some important way? You don’t have to share someone’s outlook 100% to be able to benefit from cooperation. For example, I “work to live” more than I “live to work” but if I only worked with people who share my outlook, I’d unnecessarily limit myself. 

Another example: I’m a vegan but one of the doctors I worked with earlier in the year is a huge advocate for a carnivore diet. I ignore that aspect of his advice but take other aspects of it.

5. What’s one way that being more flexible helped you? What’s one way that being gritty and inflexible helped you?

Some situations call for flexibility. Sometimes we discover “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze” in the process of pursuing a goal, and choose to change our goal. Sometimes we realize the way we were going about achieving a goal isn’t working and we need to pursue it a different way, but keep the same goal. At other times, we benefit from being dogmatic and persistent, no matter what.

It’s not always obvious which situation calls for which approach. However, it can be useful to reflect on our capacity to alternate between these two approaches. How and why do you choose your approach in a given situation? How have both approaches benefitted you in different ways?

Your Values Can Be Compromised When You’re Under Stress

In times of high pressure, aspirational core values can seem entirely impractical. Who has time for being “bold,” “innovative” or “connected” when they’re slammed by a barrage of emails and threatened by volatility or disruption?

In these situations, values are relegated to vinyl stickers on an office wall or words tucked away on the About Us page of a website. How many people can recall their company’s values, never mind using them as a blueprint for decision-making and the basis for team alignment and trust?

How workplace values emerge

Values are what is important. Whether you can articulate them clearly or not, you have values. Your company has values and they are set by the executive — not the marketing — team.

Leadership values shape employee behavior. If leaders value financial performance over all else, employee well-being, environmental impact or social connectivity may be neglected. Values contagion is a real phenomenon, and no training initiative will shift your culture if leadership values are misaligned or inconsistent. Employees roll their eyes at what they perceive as phony company values when leaders don’t walk the talk.

Values in distress

Distress arises when there is a misalignment of values. For example, imagine that you’re working late nights and sacrificing family time. If a core value is family, you’ll start feeling resentful toward work. Or perhaps you’re spending too much time caring for your family when a core value is productivity. You might then resent your family. There is no right or wrong; your values profile is entirely unique.

In life’s journey, purpose is your North Star and values are the flame lighting your way. The terrain may be challenging, but knowing what is important and acting in alignment reduces ambiguity and increases fulfillment. You’ll have a reason “why” and a torch to guide your “how.” If the flame of your values burns low, you — and your team — may feel lost. In an environment of uncertainty, we activate ancient survival mechanisms, including our negativity bias, to secure our safety.

Are values purely cognitive?

The missing link in values alignment is our physiological state. When distressed, under threat or unwell, our values shift from aspirational and collaborative to primal and protective.

There’s an ancient part of the brain called the amygdala. It scans input arriving via our senses and triggers strong emotions to help protect us from perceived threats. This can save our life if a lion wanders into the office. It saved the lives of our ancestors who navigated challenging environments where direct threats to survival were the norm. Fast forward to modern life, where inboxes overflow, amplified by pressure to perform and conflicting demands. We are our worst enemies because to manage complexity, we need to be calm, present and energized — yet we’re sleeping less and worrying more than ever.

9 Ways To Make Divorce Easier On Kids

It’s a crucial point to keep in mind. Pretty much everything about watching parents separate is confusing and difficult, but Malinski, who offers a course on how to tell your children you are separating or divorcing, says the two biggest stressors around divorce and kids are typically loss (or fear of loss) of their relationship with both parents, and being surrounded by conflict. Transitions — a new house, new school, and new caregivers — cause kids a lot of stress, too. 

As a parent navigating these tough aspects yourself, it can be hard to focus on your kids’ needs. But it’s important to do your best to minimize your kids’ stress as much as you can. Here, per Malinski, are nine important rules to keep in mind.

1. Think about how you’ll tell them.

There are a lot of tough parts about divorce, but telling your kids that it’s happening feels especially heart-wrenching. How you choose to tell them can make a big impact on their experience. Malinski suggests writing out what you’ll say beforehand, keeping it very short, and reading it aloud several times in private where no one can hear you. “That way, you can be more emotionally present for your child’s emotions during the conversation, without being overtaken by your own,” she says.

2. Keep conflict low.

Divorce brings a wide range of emotions. While it’s normal to feel anger or resentment toward an ex, parents must be careful of how they voice them. No, this doesn’t mean putting feelings aside. It means compartmentalizing them. Share them with your therapist or vent to a trusted friend. But by all means, avoid allowing your strong emotions to stir conflict that could come up in front of your kids. “If parents can work through their emotions and create healthy boundaries with their ex and their kids,” Malinski notes, “they are more likely to be cooperative and peaceful around or about the kids.”

3. When the kids are around, avoid emotional topics.

You know your personal hot-button issues, the topics that, if they surface in conversation, almost always result in raised voices or tension. Do your best to avoid these topics in front of your kids. For example, if money is a sensitive subject, or your ex has a new romantic interest, Malinski suggests saving these topics for private, adult discussions. Don’t bring these things up––or anything that was a source of conflict in your marriage––when your kids are around, or you’ll simply cause unnecessary stress for them.

4. Try to find common ground.

You might feel like you have nothing in common with your ex, which can lead to tension. During interactions, Malinski suggests taking a deep breath, noticing any physical tension you’re harboring about the situation, and checking in on your thoughts. If any negative messages are running through your mind, do your best to reframe them to home in on the one thing you have in common: You share a child, and you both want what’s best for them. You may not like your ex, but if you work on changing the narration in your head, you can devote energy to making good decisions about your kid.

5. Show your kids you’re still there for them.

Separating from your partner is probably one of the worst experiences of your life––and at the same time, your kids need you to be present more than ever. Do as good a job you can to find ways to relieve your own stress so you can emotionally engage with your child. Check in on a regular basis about how your child is doing, and if they’re struggling, always take time to listen and comfort them. “Kids need to feel like their parents are still clocked in,” Malinski says. “That means the parent needs to pay attention to their emotional state.”

6. Care for your child together when possible.

You might not be living together, but there will probably be times when you’ll have to cross paths with your ex. Do your best –– in a peaceful and relaxed way –– to show your child that your conflict won’t get in the way of your first priority: to care for them. For example, maybe you both show up at the preschool recital or birthday party, even if it’s awkward. Or maybe you make an effort to talk about the kids’ nap schedule and new favorite snack during “shift change. “Kids need to see both their parents in the same space pretty regularly between ages 0 and 5, which includes seeing their parents talk to each other about them in friendly, casual ways,” Malinski says.

7. Let kids have their feelings — and be respectful of how your child wants to be supported.

Many times, because parents have such strong emotions about the divorce themselves, tolerating a child’s anger or sadness can feel overwhelming and parents, mistakenly or not, invalidate those emotions. A crucial part of ensuring your child feels seen and loved through a confusing process, notes Malinski, is making space for their emotions –– even if they inconvenience you. Let them feel the full spectrum of feelings, expect those feelings to shift from day to day, and do your best to show up in the way they need, whether that’s a hug, a conversation, or special time alone with you.

How to Dispute Mistakes On Your Credit Report

After all, you’ll need a good credit score and a solid credit history if you ever plan to purchase a home or take out an auto loan. A bad credit score can even come back to bite you if you want to rent an apartment or apply for certain jobs.

But your score isn’t the only detail you need to pay attention to. You also need to keep an eye on your credit report — the document that lists your formal credit history including any accounts you have open, balances due, and payments you’ve made. 

Your report and your score are intricately intertwined. If bad information gets on your credit report due to fraud or misreporting, this can easily cause your credit score to nosedive. Likewise, a clear credit report with nothing but true (and positive) information can help your credit score reach greater heights.

That’s why, every single year, you should get a free copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Fortunately, this part is easy to accomplish via AnnualCreditReport.com.

How to dispute information on your credit report

Once you have a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus, you’ll want to look over all the details to make sure they’re correct. Incorrect information you might notice on your report may include: 

  • Errors regarding your name or personal information
     
  • Accounts that aren’t even yours
     
  • Accounts belonging to someone with a name that is similar to yours
     
  • Closed accounts that are reported as open
     
  • Incorrectly reported late payments
     
  • Accounts listed more than once
     
  • Incorrect balances on accounts
     
  • Incorrect credit limits on accounts

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the credit bureau and whoever is providing them with information are responsible for correcting misinformation on your credit report. This means that, if a specific retailer or bank is reporting an account that isn’t yours or an incorrect balance, both the credit bureau and the retailer or bank have to work together to make things right.

If you find an error, here are the steps you should take right away:

Inform the credit bureau with the incorrect information of the mistake

The first step you should take is informing the credit reporting agency of their error, keeping in mind that it’s possible not all the credit bureaus will have the same information. You should let them know about the mistake in writing, taking special care to list important details about the mistake with proper documentation. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) even offers a sample letter you can use if you need help. 

Note that credit bureaus usually have 30 days to investigate your claim and they are required to get back to you with a response. They are also required to forward the information you sent them to the provider who shared the information with them in the first place. 

Inform whoever provided the information of the mistake

You’ll also want to provide the company reporting the incorrect information with copies of any documentation that prove an error has occurred. Make sure to include all details required to prove your claim along with copies of documentation that backs you up. The FTC offers another sample dispute letter you can use for this instance. 

Green vs traditional Mediterranean diet

A new large-scale clinical intervention trial found that a modified Mediterranean diet — called the green Mediterranean diet — is more effective at reducing visceral fat that can surround and damage organs than the standard Mediterranean diet or a generally healthy diet.

All three diets resulted in a reduction of visceral fat, but the green Mediterranean diet doubled the benefit of the “traditional” Mediterranean diet.

The study was conducted by the DIRECT-PLUS trial research team. It was led by Prof. Iris Shai of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, and Dr. Hila Zelicha, now at the University of California, Los Angeles, aided by colleagues from Italy, Germany, and the United States.

The study appears in BMC Medicine.

The green Mediterranean diet

The green Mediterranean diet differs from the original Mediterranean diet in its emphasis on polyphenols.

Polyphenols are plant compounds that have been linked to protection from type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease. They also appear to support brain health and digestion.

Polyphenols are found in dark chocolate, berries, red wine, and tea, as well as some nuts, such as walnuts.

On the green Mediterranean diet, as envisaged in this study, a person consumes 28 grams of walnuts — about seven nuts — 3 to 4 cups of green tea, and 100 milligrams of the aquatic plant Wolffia globosa (Mankai) — also known as “duckweed” — in a smoothie or shake each day. All are rich in polyphenols.

Otherwise, the diet is the same as the original Mediterranean diet, but without the consumption of red and processed meats.

For the 18-month randomized controlled trial, researchers divided the 294 participants into three groups:

  • one group followed a standard Mediterranean (MED) diet
  • one followed a green Mediterranean (green-MED) diet
  • a final group one strictly followed healthy dietary guidelines (HDG).

All groups were offered lifestyle educational sessions and physical activity recommendations, along with a free gym membership.

Researchers supplied the walnuts, tea, and Mankai, along with recipes for green smoothies.

High amounts of salty, processed foods could double stress levels

Salt is known to improve the taste of many foods, which may tempt consumers to buy more processed, salt-laden products. Common processed foods include commercially packaged bread, cereals, deli meats, soups, cheese, and instant noodles.

Increasing evidence shows that too much salt in the diet can wreak havoc on the body’s cardiovascular and renal systems. 

Recently, scientists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland theorized that high salt consumption might also impose stress on the brain. The results from the experiment showed that high salt intake could elevate stress hormone production.

The study linked the consumption of large amounts of salt-rich food to the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body’s stress response system. The researchers also noticed a high-salt diet led to increases in glucocorticoids, naturally occurring hormones that help regulate stress response and cardiovascular, cognitive, immune, and metabolic functions.

Matthew Bailey, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of renal physiology at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science, told Medical News Today:

“We are what we eat, and understanding how high-salt food changes our mental health is an important step to improving well-being. We know that eating too much salt damages our heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. This study now tells us that high salt in our food also changes the way our brain handles stress.”

The research team hopes that their work will encourage more public health policies that promote the reduction of salt in processed foods.

The findings appear in Cardiovascular Research.

Salt consumption is above healthy levels

Sodium is an essential element that helps regulate the movement of nutrients in and out of cells. The human body requires only a small amount of sodium, which combines with chloride to make up common table salt.

According to the 2020–2025 Dietary GuidelinesTrusted Source, Americans should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source estimates Americans eat over 3,400 mg every day.

Evangeline Mantzioris, a dietitian and program director of nutrition and food sciences at the University of South Australia, discussed the epidemic of high salt in an April 2022 podcast. She was not involved in the present study.

When we eat too much salt, Mantzioris explained: “It gets absorbed into our intestine and our blood […] It draws fluid into the blood vessels [and] increases the blood pressure against the blood vessel wall — and this is what we call high blood pressure.”

She added that aging and certain health conditions, including preeclampsia, low birth weight, and chronic kidney disease, can increase salt sensitivity. In turn, “our body is less able to deal with all the processes that it needs to keep healthy,” she noted.

How Great Leaders Communicate

And that’s why communication is no longer considered a “soft skill” among the world’s top business leaders. Leaders who reach the top do not simply pay lip service to the importance of effective communication. Instead, they study the art in all its forms — writing, speaking, presenting — and constantly strive to improve on those skills.

For example, while Jeff Bezos was building Amazon, he put a premium on writing skills. In the summer of 2004, he surprised his leadership team and banned PowerPoint. He replaced slides with “narratively structured memos” that contained titles and full sentences with verbs and nouns.

Bezos is not alone among top leaders. “You cannot over-invest in communication skills — written and oral skills,” says former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who now serves on Amazon’s board. “If you cannot simplify a message and communicate it compellingly, believe me, you cannot get the masses to follow you.”

During my research for The Bezos Blueprint, I found a number of common tactics top leaders use when communicating with their teams. Here are four to try:

1. Use short words to talk about hard things.

Long, complicated sentences make written ideas hard to understand — they’re mentally draining and demand more concentration. You’ll win more fans if you replace long words and sentences with short ones.

“If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do,” writes Nobel prize–winning economist Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow. He argues that persuasive speakers and writers do everything they can to reduce “cognitive strain.”

Software tools like Grammarly assess writing quality by generating a numerical readability score. The score assigns a grade level to writing samples. For example, a document written for a person with at least an eighth-grade education (the average 13-year-old in the U.S.) is considered “very easy to read.” It does not imply that your writing sounds like an eighth grader wrote it. It simply means that your sophisticated arguments are easy to grasp — and ideas that are easy to understand are more persuasive.

Since writing is a skill, you can sharpen it with practice. Bezos improved as a writer over time. His first Amazon shareholder letter in 1997 registered at a tenth-grade level (comparable to The New York Times). Over the next decade, 85% of his letters were written for an eighth- or ninth-grade level.

For example, in 2007, Bezos explained the benefits of Amazon’s newly introduced Kindle in a paragraph a seventh grader could understand:

If you come across a word you don’t recognize, you can look it up easily. You can search your books. Your margin notes and underlinings are stored on the server-side in the “cloud,” where they can’t be lost. Kindle keeps your place in each of the books you’re reading, automatically. If your eyes are tired, you can change the font size. Our vision for Kindle is every book ever printed in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.

Bezos chose short words to talk about hard things. When you make things simple, you’re not dumbing down the content. You’re outsmarting the competition.

2. Choose sticky metaphors to reinforce key concepts. 

A metaphor is a powerful tool that compares abstract ideas to familiar concepts. Metaphors bring people on a journey without ever leaving their seats. Chris Hadfield, a famous Canadian astronaut, is a talented speaker and TED Talks star who tapped into the power of metaphor to describe an indescribable event:

Six seconds before launch, suddenly, this beast starts roaring like a dragon starting to breathe fire. You’re like a little leaf in a hurricane…As those engines light, you feel like you’re in the jaws of an enormous dog that is shaking you and physically pummeling you with power.

Roaring beasts, leaves in a hurricane, the jaws of a dog — these are all concrete ideas to describe an event that few of us will ever experience.

In business, metaphors are shortcuts to communicating complex information in short, catchy phrases. Warren Buffett understands the power of metaphor. If you watch business news or follow the stock market, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase “moats and castles” attributed to companies that dominate an industry that’s difficult for competitors to enter. Buffett popularized the phrase at a 1995 Berkshire Hathaway meeting when he said, “The most important thing we do is to find a business with a wide and long-lasting moat around it, protecting a terrific economic castle with an honest lord in charge of the castle.”

The castle metaphor is a concise shortcut, a vivid explanation for a complex system of data and information that Buffett and his team use to evaluate potential investments.

When you introduce a new or abstract idea, your audience will automatically search for something familiar to help them make sense of it. Introduce a novel metaphor and beat them to the punch.

3. Humanize data to create value.

The trick to reducing cognitive load and making any data point interesting is to humanize it by placing the number in perspective. Showing them PowerPoint slides with statistics and charts only adds cognitive weight, draining their mental energy.

Any time you introduce numbers, take the extra step to make them engaging, memorable, and, ultimately, persuasive.

For example, by 2025 scientists expect humans to produce 175 zettabytes of data annually, or one trillion gigabytes. It’s simply too big a number for most people to wrap their minds around. But what if I said that if you could store 175 zettabytes of data on DVDs, the disks would circle the earth 222 times? It’s still a big number, but the description is more engaging because it paints a vivid image in your mind’s eye.

Famed astrophysicist and science educator Neil deGrasse Tyson once told me that the secret to science communication is to “embed the concept in familiar ground.” In other words, turn data into language mere humans can understand.

One of Tyson’s famous examples of humanizing data occurred in 1997 when NASA launched the Cassini space probe to explore Saturn. Skeptics questioned its $3 billion price tag, and so Tyson appeared on television talk shows to educate the public on the benefits of the mission. But first, he had to deal with the price shock, so he pulled a data comparison out of his rhetorical toolbelt. He explained that the $3 billion would be spread over eight years. He added that Americans spend more on lip balm every year than NASA would spend on the mission over that timeline.

To demonstrate the value of your idea, humanize data and make it relevant to your listeners.

2 Reasons Overthinking May Be in Overdrive

Overthinking is often defined as thinking about something too much and for too long. Often overthinking can pivot around a massive self-analysis. For example, “Did I do the right thing? Am I a worthwhile person? Why can’t I turn off my negative thoughts? Am I selfish?” A person often spins on these thoughts for days. In addition, fixating on one worry can lure a person down a “rabbit hole” of spiraling worries that are somehow connected to the original anxiety. 

Either way, overthinking can create a wave of anxiety and depression that is difficult to shake. Often a person finds relief in the busyness of the day because the overthinking seems to occur at night. Although this is a tough situation, it may help to consider the precipitant for a person’s overthinking. Two factors may be at play.

Before articulating the two possible contributors to overthinking, it is important to acknowledge a common experience of the emotionally intelligent. It involves a critical aspect of emotional intelligence: self-awareness. This includes the capacity to look inward at oneself and introspect to assess personal accountability, gain insight, and understand uncomfortable feelings help a person grow and evolve. It is a sophisticated gift, yet when a person’s identity is under duress, it can induce overthinking.

For example, an individual may spin after receiving negative feedback about who she is. She wishes to trust the person who provides the criticisms, but she may not be entirely convinced the assessment of her is correct. This deep confusion can elicit shame and live inside her brain for days. The predicament may trigger an intense self-inventory because the person wants to figure it out. The confusion about her identity creates a surge of overthinking.

In combination with the emotionally intelligent tendency to self-reflect, two situations involving a person’s identity may create a susceptibility to overthink. One is developmental and the other is situational. 

The years between 12 and the early 20s are often referred to as the identity formation stage in human psychosocial development. In adolescence, a person is inundated with new independence. She begins to make decisions for herself that do not involve attachment figures. For instance, what to wear, what music to listen to, what activities to join, etc. This autonomy forces her to think about who she is in the world, a daunting and overwhelming task. As she moves through the teen and young adult years, her involvement with the outside world increases and she begins to attempt to carve her niche outside of the home—an exciting but terrifying journey. Self-reflecting questions naturally crop up, like: Am I going to be good enough? Do people like me? Am I worthwhile? Am I ordinary? Am I less than? 

Often a helpful analogy to better understand this stage is to imagine a log cabin that represents the young adult’s identity. Because it is under construction, it may have a great foundation and two amazing walls, however, the young person still needs to construct two additional sides of the cabin and nail down a roof. So, a strong wind blows on the young person’s cabin and she feels as if it may crash to the ground. She feels insecure and unstable. Conversely, a gust of wind blows against an adult’s cottage, which is fully formed, and the older person recognizes the structure is sound.

What is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

The most popular type of mortgage is a fixed rate mortgage. As the name suggests, it locks you into a set interest rate for the life of the loan (usually 30 years), unless you later decide to refinance.

That stability is why fixed rate mortgages are so popular, but they’re not your only option. Depending on your circumstances (and your appetite for risk) you may want to finance your home purchase with an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). 

How an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Differs from Other Mortgages

The defining characteristic of adjustable-rate mortgages is their variable interest rates, which are usually tied to market conditions. During the first few years of the mortgage, the rate is fixed, just like a fixed rate mortgage.

Once the fixed period ends, however, the interest rate on your loan begins adjusting regularly, sometimes as frequently as every six months. These adjustments could be good or bad for your monthly payment, depending on how the corresponding market moves, but typically you should expect your rates to increase substantially. This means that an ARM can be much riskier than a fixed-rate mortgage if you don’t plan to sell or refinance before the terms change.

What to Know About ARM Terms 

Usually, the initial fixed period for an ARM is 3, 5, or 7 years (sometimes even 10). The shorter the fixed period, the lower the interest rate, which means that – at least initially – you can often find a lower rate with an ARM as compared to a fixed rate mortgage. According to Bankrate, the average annual percentage rate (APR) on a 30-year fixed rate is up to 6.28% (as of Sept. 16, 2022) while the average APR on a 5-year ARM is 4.67%. 

ARMs are more complicated than fixed-rate mortgages due to how often the interest rate—and your payment—changes. You have several things to track and understand about the terms, including the following:

  • Adjustment frequency: Amount of time between interest-rate adjustments.
  • Adjustment indexes: The interest rate changes for your ARM will be tied to the interest rate on a type of asset, like a certificate of deposit, or a benchmark interest rate like the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). 
  • Margin: The difference between your rate and the adjustment index. You will always pay a certain percentage over the identified adjustment index (possibly 2%, for example), which is the margin for your loan. 
  • Caps: A cap sets a limit on the amount the interest rate can increase during each adjustment period. 
  • Ceiling: The highest that the adjustable interest rate can go during the life of the loan.

Benefits of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

Lower interest rate. The biggest benefit of an ARM is that it typically comes with a lower interest rate (APR) and more affordable payment for the first few years. 

Higher loan limit. Because of the lower APR, you may also be able to qualify for a larger loan with an ARM. 

The Drawbacks of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

ARMs have big downsides, however, particularly if you plan to own the property beyond the life of the ARM’s fixed-rate period. Here’s what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends you understand:

  • Your monthly payments could go up — sometimes by a lot—even if interest rates don’t go up. 
  • Your payments may not go down much, or at all—even if interest rates go down. 
  • You might end up owing more money than you borrowed—even if you make all your payments on time. 
  • If you want to pay off your ARM early to avoid higher payments, you might pay a penalty.

Another downside to watch out for is a negatively amortizing loan. It’s a type of ARM that offers a monthly payment so low that each payment might not cover all of your monthly interest. The unpaid interest then gets shifted to your principal balance and increases the loan balance. That could mean that after a certain number of years of payments, your remaining principal may actually total more than what you borrowed.

When Should You Use an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

ARMS are best suited for the following types of borrowers:

Someone expecting an income boost

For example, if you’re a couple years away from finishing your medical residency and you expect a significant income boost, then maybe an ARM could work with an all-but-certain pay raise on the horizon.

You don’t plan to have the home (or the loan) for very long

Are you expecting to move in a few years? Do you plan to buy a new home before you’ve sold the old one or refinance in the near future? If you don’t anticipate maintaining the ARM past the point when the APR goes up, this might work out well for you. Just be aware of any early payoff penalties.

The most important thing to understand is that if you’re using an ARM because you can’t afford a home otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for financial difficulty in a few years. For most people, a fixed-rate mortgage is a safer way to purchase a home. 

How to Apply for an ARM

If you do decide to apply for an ARM, the process isn’t significantly different from applying for a fixed-rate mortgage. You’ll need to work with a lender or loan broker (perhaps multiple entities if you’re shopping for rates) to determine which loan products you’re able to qualify for. You’ll need to provide plenty of documentation, including the following:

  • Social security number
  • Address
  • Proof of income and employment information
  • Recent W-2s (1099s if applicable)
  • Bank account information

The lender will determine how much they can loan you based on your credit history, current earnings, available assets, and more.

Ultimately, an ARM can be a risky loan type if you don’t have a plan for the adjustable-rate years of the loan (such as selling the property). If you’re relying on the lower payment and lower APR during the first 3-7 years, you need to have a clear plan for what happens when the rate goes up.

Learned Hopefulness: The Key to a Successful Life

If you want to be successful in life, learned hopefulness is the key. This concept refers to the ability to learn from past experiences and use that knowledge to maintain hope for the future. It’s about optimism that things will improve, even when they seem tough. Learned hopefulness is essential for anyone who wants to achieve their goals. It’s what allows you to keep going when you encounter setbacks and gives you the strength to continue fighting for what you believe in. If you want to be successful, start by learning how to be hopeful.

When you have learned hopelessness, you realize that you have the power to shape your own future. You understand that no matter what might happen in the world around you, you have the ability to make things happen for yourself. You know that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. This belief gives you the strength to keep going when things are tough and helps you stay focused on your goals, even when it would be easy to give up. This isn’t just a motivational pitch—it is the result of understanding the new science of hope. The findings point to two inescapable truths: Hope is essential—and teachable.

It’s a skill that will help you achieve your goals and make your dreams a reality. It’s a mindset that allows us to maintain our hope and motivation, even when things are tough. An old saying goes, “if you want something to happen, make it happen.” While there’s certainly truth to that, it’s not the whole story. The reality is that much of what happens in life is out of our control. Learned hopefulness is believing that we can control our immediate future and destiny—even when circumstances make it seem otherwise.

Learned hopefulness is based on a new finding in brain science. The two researchers who originally coined the term learned helplessness, Martin Seligman and Steve Maier, back in the ’60s and ’70s—revealed new findings from their work 50 years later, showing their original research was wrong.

Once they were able to use all the developments in brain science and biochemistry, they discovered that when we are confronted with an ongoing difficulty, setback, or disappointment, we don’t look backward to unlearn what happened. The brain looks forward to gain control.

These new discoveries explain how bad events cause us to be anxious and passive—by default. We are evolutionarily programmed to shut down when something bad and prolonged happens. We become passive because evolution has provided us with a switch that shuts us down to save our energy when the situation or circumstance seems bad. To get out of it, the brain assesses when it is okay to use our energy to make a change and make hope happen.

What this means for hope is that our very ability to detect and expect control in the future will pull us out of a slump. Focusing on what can be done in the future rather than on what happened in the past creates hope. It is the expectation of a better future that matters most. For more information on this, you can check out this post at Infijoy.

This has direct implications for where hope comes from and how to learn how to use it. How well we envision what is yet to come will determine our motivation. Focusing on what’s happened in the past keeps us sitting in the dark. When we concentrate on future possibilities, we can stand in the light. The pathway in the brain discovered by Maier and Seligman regulating this future forecasting is called, appropriately enough, the hope circuit. The question is: How can you develop learned hopefulness? There are three steps.

1. Become aware. Hope is the only positive emotion that requires negativity or uncertainty to be activated. We don’t need hope if everything is all right. That said, the most important thing we can do when something negative or uncertain happens is to pause. Rather than let ourselves be hijacked by emotion, which typically causes our brain and then body to have a threat response—pausing gives you a moment to become more aware of the situation. What am I feeling? What is happening? This might seem small, but pausing gives you immediate self-control and self-regulation. The key to being successful is not to let circumstances dictate your response. Pausing assures you are giving a thoughtful response rather than a reflexive reaction.

2. Make an assessment. Following a pause, the next step is to look and assess the situation and ask yourself what it is that needs to be done—and what you have the resources, ability, and motivation to do. You may not be able to control everything to make the change, but figuring out what you believe you can do will make the difference. The strength of belief will determine the degree to which you have hope.

3. Act. In my book Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression, the main point of the exercises and examples is to demonstrate that hope is a verb. Pausing to ask yourself what’s happening, figuring out what needs to be done and what you believe you can do are great beginnings. But you have to act—you have to do something to test out your belief that you have control. If it works—then you have made a change that moves the situation forward. If it doesn’t, it is time to pause again and recalculate and repeat the process. The pause lets you become aware of what’s happening, the assessment lets you determine what needs to be done, and the action is what you can bring to the situation. It is a three-step process of becoming aware, assessing, and acting.

Low carb diet may reduce type 2 diabetes risk, promote weight loss

The link between carbs and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is well-established, but new research suggests that cutting carbs could help minimize risk for those who may be susceptible to developing the condition.

The study, a random clinical trial (RCT) recently published in JAMA Network Open Diabetes and Endocrinology, found that a low carbohydrate diet promoted weight loss and improved fasting glucose levels in subjects who were at risk for developing T2D.

Lead author and epidemiologist Kirsten S. Dorans of Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, told Medical News Today:

“While low carb diets are often recommended for those with type 2 diabetes, little evidence has existed for whether eating fewer carbs can impact the blood sugar of those with mild diabetes or prediabetes who aren’t treated by medications. This study was conducted in people with blood sugar that ranged from prediabetes to mild diabetes levels who were not on diabetes medications.”

Lowering blood sugar with a low carb diet

Hemoglobin A1C is a widely used clinical term to measure long-term blood sugar levels.

According to the American Diabetes Foundation, a person who has prediabetes has A1C levels between 5.7 and less than 6.5%. Higher A1C levels may signify diabetes.

Dr. Dorans explained that subjects enrolled in the study had a hemoglobin A1C range of 6.0 to 6.9%. 

“This range chosen as the lower bound aligns with the World Health Organization’s lower cutoff point for prediabetes and the upper bound with less than the 7.0% American Diabetes Association hemoglobin A1C target,” she said.

For the study, 150 adults were recruited at a New Orleans academic center. The 6-month trial ran from September 2018 to June 2021. Participants ranged in age from 40 to 70 years old and were divided into two groups.

The first group was tasked with reducing their daily carbohydrate intake to less than 40 grams for the first 3 months and less than 60 grams from month 3 to the end of the trial.

“We found that nutritional counseling promoting a low-carbohydrate diet lowered hemoglobin A1C over 6 months,” Dr. Dorans said.

“In line with prior work, the low-carbohydrate diet group also lost substantial weight compared with the group of people who stayed with their usual diet.”

At the end of 6 months, Dr. Dorans and her research team found that A1C levels reduced by 0.23% more in the low carb group than the usual diet group.

12 Thoughtful Texts To Send A Stressed-Out Partner

All good ideas. Another obvious but worthwhile one to add to your quiver: A simple text message. While the idea of firing off a text may seem lazy, a well-crafted message of love, support, and appreciation can do quite a bit of good in the moment — and cut through a lot of noise that occurs when your partner is stressed.

“The best advice I give to a partner trying to help is not to take anything personally,” says Dr. Michael Tobin, a clinical psychologist with nearly 50 years of experience in marriage and family therapy. “This is why texting works well to offer help. If you say something in person, your partner might be defensive because he or she is so on edge. A loving text message, showing patience, creativity, or common sense, can help keep a relationship pointing toward true north.”

Amber Trueblood, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with overwhelmed moms, agrees — and emphasizes that in times of stress the supportive partner must remember to be kind to themselves as well. 

“It can be incredibly distressing to watch your partner go through a challenging period of their life,” Trueblood says. “The balance between self-care and supporting your spouse is delicate and highly dependent on how much emotional energy you have to give at the time.” 

Finding support strategies that work for your partner, while protecting your own mental and emotional health, she says, is an important key to a healthy relationship during difficult times.

Supportive texts can be a smart part of that strategy. So what should you text a stressed out partner? Here are a dozen texts to send your wife or husband when they’re dealing with a lot of pressure.

1. “You are killing it in the most important ways.”

Your partner’s stress may come from misconceptions about their importance and the stuff they may be nervous about may overshadow their actual accomplishments. “When we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed in one area of our life, it’s easy to overlook or discount all the other areas where we’re thriving,” notes Trueblood “Send your partner a simple message of verbal encouragement and acknowledgment to remind them how well they’re doing in other — perhaps more important — areas of their life.” Ignore the losses in favor of the wins, no matter how big or small.

2. “I appreciate you and all that you do.”

It’s always important to express appreciation for your partner and all that they do. When they’re stressed? It’s all the more so. “When feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s often because we feel unacknowledged or unappreciated,” says Trueblood. “Sending a text message with specific and genuine words of appreciation to your partner can help remind them that the most important person in their life values and acknowledges all of their hard work.” The key is to be specific, letting your partner know how much you appreciate the spontaneous dishwasher emptying, the trash being taken out, or any other chore that keeps your household thriving.

3. “How does take-out and a movie sound tonight?”

Whatever your partner’s pleasure, a simple gesture combining a relaxing activity and a good meal can remind them they’re worth it. “When your partner is stressed, don’t ask questions that need more than a two-word answer or questions that require a decision,” advises Trueblood. Decision fatigue, she notes, is a real thing and most people become mentally drained making choices all day. Instead, make the choices for them and suggest something specific that requires only a simple response like ‘sounds great’ or ‘I’m too tired.’ “This text message works particularly well if you have a partner who appreciates acts of service and support,” says Trueblood. So send the text and cross your fingers your partner says “Panda Express and Predator.”

4. “This weekend, let’s…”

Having something to look forward to can often be energizing and empowering. So, think about something that refuels your partner and makes them excited. The anticipation, per Trueblood, can help them destress. “Many people truly appreciate having something to look forward to, especially when feeling overwhelmed and stressed,” she says. “Suggesting a specific experience or activity that you already know your partner enjoys is a fabulous way to both give them something to look forward to and show them you care about their mental health.” Do your best to plan and arrange the experience so they can just sit back, relax, and enjoy.

5. “I’m sorry you’re under so much pressure right now.”

Whether it’s work, parenting, family troubles, or some other source of stress you don’t even understand, a tiny text of empathy can go a long way. “Genuine and compassionate words of support can be powerfully supportive,” adds Trueblood. “When you have a stressed partner who’s verbally-oriented, they will truly appreciate reading your words of compassion, appreciation and understanding.” It’ll be right there in black and white for them to read and reread when they feel alone under pressure.

Holiday Credit Card Debt

The holiday season is a common time for people to rack up credit card debt for a couple different reasons. One is we simply spend more during the holidays. Two, we usually don’t adequately prepare our budgets for the expense. 

An ICSC 2021 survey found that last year consumers spent on average just over $1,000 during the holiday period, up from an average of $795 in 2020. It was a record-breaking year, and the main reason was pent-up demand from the COVID pandemic. 

With higher prices due to inflation, this season may be more costly for many families. While some people might receive extra cash in the form of a holiday bonus around this time, many don’t have enough money set aside for these extra expenses. That means many people will end up financing holiday spending on a credit card with the idea that they’ll repay the debt sometime in the new year. 

If you know your credit cards are going to take a hit, here are some strategies for how to pay down the debt.

Tips for Paying off Holiday Debt

Figure out what you owe

You can’t make a plan until you know what you’ve spent. It can be painful to see the total, but it’s important to take stock of all your statements and tally up the new debt. Pay attention to the total amount of debt, interest rates, payment due dates, and whether any accounts are past due. That helps you prioritize which cards to tackle first. 

Create a plan to pay it off 

Paying the minimum on your cards isn’t going to get the debt paid off. It’ll take some temporary reprioritizing so you can direct extra money at your credit card bills. Determine how much can you pay each month and commit to setting aside a specific amount to make payments above the minimum. 

Ideally, you should create a detailed budget so you can see where your money is going. But if that’s not how you work, look for those discretionary expenses you can cut for a few weeks. It might mean eating in, cutting out shopping, or postponing some planned spending. Remember that the cutbacks are temporary. 

Stick to the plan! 

Be tough about being consistent and disciplined. The sooner you pay down your holiday debt, the sooner you can get back to focusing on other financial goals—and going out to eat again. 

How to Avoid Holiday Debt Completely

Of course, you might be asking yourself how you can avoid the holiday boom-and-bust cycle altogether. How can you tackle your shopping so January bills aren’t so painful? The holidays come every year, after all. 

Plan your budget

The key to a budget is to start early. Some people save throughout the entire year for holiday expenses. Even if you can’t create an annual budget, aim for plotting out the last three months of the year. 

As you begin spending for the holidays, dial down other expenses. Making sacrifices now can be a little more palatable if you’re mentally connecting those cuts directly to the things you’re buying instead. 

Prioritize your spending 

Figure out what matters most and tailor your spending to those values. Do you want to put kids’ gifts first and reduce costs for gifts to adult family members? Host a meal for your extended family? Cut back on spending for coworkers? This way, you make sure that you satisfy your top priorities even if you’re keeping a tight budget.

Don’t compare yourself to others or past holidays. This year is this year. Try not to feel holiday guilt. That can lead to spending money you don’t have out of a sense of obligation or social pressure. 

Earn extra seasonal cash

Another way to reduce debt is to bring in more money for holiday spending. You still have time to beef up your bank account this fall. Your workplace might have extra projects or overtime shifts available, particularly if coworkers are taking vacation time. 

Take a seasonal job if your schedule allows, such as weekend retail shifts at Target or Marshalls. You could also find a side hustle like childcare with Sittercity, dog-walking through Rover or Wag, or, if it’s available in your city, helping people through TaskRabbit. 

An easy way to make extra money is to sell things you’re not using anymore. If you have good quality items, now is a great time to post them on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Those sales can add up. 

Be creative about gifting

It’s often those last-minute splurges that blow the budget. Holiday shopping works best if you create a plan, shop intentionally, and stay on track. Also, try focusing on quality, not quantity. Get creative about making gifts if you like to bake, sew, or take photos. Give the gift of time or an experience, or regift a quality gift you received. Thoughtful regifting is perfectly acceptable. 

We do understand that even with the best-laid plans, holiday spending can spiral out of control. If you need help repaying holiday debt, we can help. Begin your free, confidential online debt analysis and we’ll match you with the fastest, most cost-effective way to repay debt.

I’m Overwhelmed. What Can I Do?

Imagine you’re organizing your first dinner party: You spent all day cooking, and you’re excited for your five best friends to come over so you can all catch up on each other’s lives. The table is set, the candles are burning, and the champagne is about to be popped. Then, you get a text: Two of your best friends can’t make it last minute. You feel disappointed and sad.

How do you respond to these negative feelings? It turns out, how you respond to them (and whether you respond in a flexible way, that best fits the needs of the situation) can affect your mental health.

Do you try to see the situation more positively, by focusing on feeling grateful for your friends who were able to make it? If so, you are engaging in cognitive reappraisal, which involves reframing something in a more positive way.

Do you ignore, or suppress, those feelings of sadness? This is referred to as emotional suppression.

Do you think about why two of your best friends weren’t able to make it, over and over again? This is called rumination.

Cognitive reappraisal, emotional suppression, and rumination are just a few examples of emotion regulation strategies. Emotion regulation strategies refer to techniques that people use to manage their emotions. Research shows that certain emotion regulation strategies may benefit your mental health and well-being more than others. For example, cognitive reappraisal seems to lead to greater well-being and better mental health outcomes, whereas the opposite is true for emotional suppression and rumination.

Cognitive reappraisal (i.e., reframing something in a more positive way) is typically a helpful way to regulate your emotions and can be particularly helpful when a situation is uncontrollable. For example, you can’t control how many friends show up to your dinner party, so it can be helpful to focus on the positive and feel grateful for your friends that did show up to your dinner party. However, cognitive reappraisal may not be as helpful when you can control the situation.

Take this as an example—let’s say you failed a midterm exam in your physics class, you’re feeling sad, and you decide to use cognitive reappraisal to help reframe the situation. You might think, “Oh, the midterm exam is only 40 percent of my grade, and my physics grade doesn’t determine the rest of my life.” Though this might be true, making yourself feel better about failing your test could lead you to feel less motivated to work hard to perform well on your final exam. So, cognitive reappraisal might not always be the best strategy to use, since it can affect your motivation to respond to those feelings of sadness in a more adaptive way, by studying harder for your next test, in situations that you can control.

To Get Employees Back to the Office, Address These 4 Frictions

“Employers are stuck in the way things used to be, where employees have moved on,” observes David Schonthal, a clinical professor of strategy at the Kellogg School and coauthor of the best-selling book The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas

Resisting change is human nature, Schonthal says. But too often, when leaders try to implement a new idea or roll-out changes—like return-to-office mandates—they focus primarily on their own vision for the future of work, or alternatively, on hammering out nitty-gritty details. What can get lost in this is the broader challenges of overcoming inertia and resistance.

“Forces of resistance are present anytime you’re trying to convince somebody to make change, anytime you’re trying to inspire somebody to do something new,” Schonthal explains.

Schonthal and his colleague Loran Nordgren have identified four “frictions” that can derail any change or new idea from taking hold. Schonthal says that leaders who want employees to increase office time will have more success if they address some of these frictions head on.

Acknowledge That People Don’t Like Change—or Being Told What to Do 

Most of us have “an overwhelming desire to stick with things that are familiar,” Schonthal explains. Therefore, one of the primary frictions that leaders face when trying to make a change is inertia. 

After more than two years of remote or hybrid work, employees no longer see office work as the norm. “Something that was once status quo has become a foreign concept in a short period of time,” Schonthal says. 

At the same time, the dynamics between employers and employees have shifted during the pandemic. For one, many employees now value the autonomy they have gained more than they value their in-person interactions with their colleagues. They also feel emboldened by a hot job market. 

“At this moment, there are more positions open than talented people to fill them,” Schonthal says. “While this shift in the power balance may be tenuous given current market volatility, employees’ preferences changed just when economic conditions gave them a lot more chutzpah.”

This change in dynamics is amplifying another friction, that of “reactance,” or our natural aversion to being changed—being told what to do—by others. 

“When employees feel like they are being required to come back into the office at certain times, they may view such a mandate as a frontal assault on the autonomy they gained during the height of the work-from-home era,” Schonthal says.

Seed Ideas Early and Often

But while a certain amount of inertia and reactance may be inevitable, there are things that leaders can do to ease the transition, says Schonthal.

He points out that people don’t respond well to big announcements that surprise them. On the contrary, we are more likely to accept significant changes when we’re introduced to the idea over time. So he advises that leaders seed designs about the return to office into internal communications early and often. 

“Make sure that you’re not asking somebody to commit to something the first time they hear it,” he says. “The more frequently people hear about something, the more open to it they will be when the time comes to make a decision—because they’ve had time to get used to the idea. In this way, unfamiliar new ideas have time to become more familiar to the audience.”

35+ Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

I know that this year Thanksgiving will be like no other. Whether you are celebrating with your immediate family or close friends, I truly hope that you are safe and well and can find some comfort in cooking at home. 

Delicious & Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes for Everyone

Like I do every year, below I put together a round-up of over 35 appetizers, salads, soups, vegetable sides, and desserts that I make every year for Thanksgiving. This list includes one of the most popular healthier Thanksgiving dishes on the blog, Butternut Squash and Quinoa Salad.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of this community and supporting my blog. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy Thanksgiving.

Click “Read More” below to see all the recicpes.

These 5 tricks will help you spend less this holiday season

Even if you’re trying to be frugal, you might struggle to keep your budget from ballooning thanks to the inflation that’s made everything more expensive this year.

But don’t give up hope. The following five tips can help you keep your holiday costs down this year without skimping on anything.

1. Shop sales starting right now

Black Friday might be a few weeks away, but many retailers are already offering holiday deals. If you wait until Black Friday, you could miss out on some incredible savings. Not to mention waiting increases the likelihood that some of your must-haves could sell out before you’re able to buy them.

If you don’t find any good sales right now, you can at least do some scouting for later so you know which retailers have the items you want and what how much they normally charge. This will help you identify the best deals when more retailers start discounting their prices.

2. Use coupons

Coupons can help you get free shipping or a discounted rate on items you were going to buy anyway. You can find these pretty easily by searching the store name and “coupons” online. However, keep in mind that not all stores will offer these and some may only make them available for a limited time.

Don’t just use this tactic on holiday gifts either. Check your local newspaper for coupons on grocery items and use this to shave a few dollars off the cost of your holiday meals.

3. Use credit card rewards

Now’s the time to cash in those credit card rewards you’ve been accumulating all year. You can use cash back credit card points to either reduce your credit card bill for the month or to purchase gift cards you can use to buy presents for others. And if you plan to travel over the holidays, see if you have enough miles on your travel rewards credit card to save on your flights or hotels.

Be sure to review any terms and limitations on your credit card rewards, though. Some have points that expire or miles with blackout dates that you can’t use at certain times. Know these limitations before you try to cash in your rewards.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the a day to let your loved ones know how much they mean to you.  As a former player, your family and community have likely been a part of your journey.  Let them know how grateful you are to have them in you life.

We wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving and want to thank each and every one of you for coming to yourPAF.com and making it a premiere online destination for former players..

Beware of store credit cards this holiday

Store credit cards can be used only at that store or retail chain and are usually offered at the register as you’re checking out. The cashier will usually tell you if you get a store credit card, you can get a discount on your entire purchase, earn rewards and possibly, get a “special financing” deal.

Sounds great, until you consider the interest rate you’ll be charged and how it will be charged if you don’t pay off the balance before the low interest or interest-free period ends.

It’s what industry experts call the “deferred interest” that can sink you. Fail to pay off your debt before the expiration and not only the sky-high interest rate but also the way it is retroactively applied has the potential to make holiday purchases up to 27.5 times more expensive than expected, according to WalletHub senior researcher Alina Comoreanu.

How does deferred interest work?

At the end of the promotional period, an extremely high interest rate usually kicks in. The average retail credit card annual percentage rate hit a record high of 26.72%, from 24.35% last year, according to an annual CreditCards.com study. By comparison, the average general-purpose credit card charged 22.66%.

But here’s the real danger: the rate will apply retroactively to your entire original purchase amount as if the low introductory rate never existed.

For example, you charge $2,000 and plan to pay it off before your promotion ends. Things come up, and you have a balance of $100 instead. The new rate will be charged on the full $2,000.

Are all retail credit cards bad?

No, but consumers should be careful and know what they’re getting into, said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

Working With Your Partner to Confront and Control Stress

At some point in our lives, we will be confronted by difficulties and stressors that not only will impact us as individuals but also have the potential to affect our relationships. Understanding how to come together as a team when these situations are encountered can lead to greater relationship satisfaction.

The Research

Dyadic coping involves the signals sent by one partner indicating stress, the response of their partner, and their joint coping efforts (Bodenmann, 2005; Bodenmann & Cina, 2005, as cited in Papp & Witt, 2010). When stress signals are sent by one individual, the partner has the option to do nothing, respond negatively and potentially escalate the level of stress, or engage in dyadic coping. Dyadic coping strategies may involve joint problem-solving, sharing feelings of commitment, and supporting one another, all with the goal of reducing stress. Papp and Witt (2010) conducted a study with 100 heterosexual couples to determine how individual coping affects dyadic coping, as well as how individual and dyadic coping strategies predict both partner well-being and relationship functioning.

To examine coping strategies in this study, the researchers looked at peoples’ negative mood regulation, which involves their expectations and beliefs as to how their behaviors will reduce negative mood and/or increase positive mood (Catanzaro & Mearns, 1990, as cited in Papp & Witt, 2010). Previous research has shown that negative mood regulation expectations “…are linked with indicators of relationship functioning, including attachment styles and conflict strategies (Creasey, Kershaw, & Boston, 1999, as cited in Papp & Whitt, p. 552).

The researchers found that there was a relationship between individual coping and dyadic coping, and that positive dyadic coping was positively associated with respondents’ own relationship satisfaction. Furthermore, female partners’ positive dyadic coping was positively linked with their male partners’ relationship satisfaction, and both males’ and females’ negative mood regulation scores were positively linked to relationship satisfaction.

Overall, the researchers found that dyadic coping was a stronger predictor than individual coping when it came to relationship functioning. Gender differences emerged in that dyadic coping appeared to be more important to relationship satisfaction for women and that “…women’s dyadic coping as compared to men may help to enrich broader relationship functioning for both partners” (Papp & Witt, 2010, p. 557). Taken together, one thing is clear: Working with your partner can affect the satisfaction derived from the relationship.

The Application

So now that we know that dyadic coping can enhance relationship satisfaction, how might we be able to initiate it? Below are a couple of suggestions:

  • Turn to your partner and explain the situation fully, using clear language and “I statements.” By focusing on what the situation is, how you’re being affected, and why it’s upsetting you, you are able to signal to your partner how you are feeling and what you need. Additionally, you are indicating that there is a problem without blaming your partner (should the stress be interpersonal in nature).
  • Indicate what you need and/or what you don’t need in that moment. Sometimes it’s easy to indicate the type of support we need, such as a person to lend an ear, someone to brainstorm potential solutions with, etc. In other situations, however, we may not know how to reduce the stress or handle a problem. If the latter is the case, that is OK, but share that with your partner. Even more helpful would be indicating what you don’t need to avoid situations in which your partner unintentionally escalates the level of stress experienced (for example, by constantly reassuring you that things will be OK, when you may not know if that is the case). The more information you can offer your partner as to what you need and don’t need, the more likely it is that you will be operating as a team.

The above points are just suggestions for opening up a conversation with your partner about how you would like to handle stress as a team. It is important to have this discussion proactively so that when difficulties arise, you will be prepared to handle them together.

What to Know About Diabetes and the Risk of Silent Heart Attacks

At first it seemed like a routine call—something the paramedics had dealt with countless times before. A man in his mid-50s was having a heart attack, and his physician had called for emergency support. But when the paramedics arrived, the physician pulled them aside and told them something peculiar: the man had no cardiovascular symptoms whatsoever.

The man had come to his doctor’s office because he’d woken early the previous morning sweating and with a sharp pain in his left wrist. These symptoms had quickly subsided and he’d gone back to sleep. Later, after going about his day, he’d visited his doctor to report the episode. The man showed no outward signs of heart trouble; he was breathing and acting normally—asking what “all the fuss was about”—and his heart rate and blood pressure weren’t elevated. However, when his doctor performed an electrocardiogram—a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart—it showed plainly that the man had experienced a heart attack. The paramedics repeated the test and came to the same conclusion. Later, at the hospital, further tests confirmed the attack and revealed a partial blockage of one of the man’s coronary arteries. Surgeons stented the blocked artery and, after a few days in the hospital, the man returned home.

The man’s experience was documented in a 2017 medical case report in the Irish Journal of Paramedicine, and it illustrates something experts call a “silent heart attack.” This is a type of attack that doesn’t cause typical or obvious symptoms. “Crushing chest pain that radiates down the left arm is the classic symptom,” says Dr. Amgad N. Makaryus, a professor of cardiology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New York. “With silent ischemia, which is more common in diabetics, people develop atypical symptoms, or they might not develop symptoms at all.”

By some estimates, roughly 1 in 4 heart attacks is “silent.” This is likely an undercount because many of these heart attacks go unrecognized and unreported; most are only identified after the fact using an electrocardiogram or other test. While roughly half of silent heart attacks involve atypical symptoms, the other half are believed not to cause symptoms at all. And research has found that people with Type 2 diabetes may be up to twice as likely to have a silent heart attack compared to those who don’t have diabetes.

Silent heart attacks are dangerous precisely because they often occur undetected. Some studies have found that people who have experienced a silent heart attack are at greater risk of death than those who have a heart attack with recognized symptoms. “Compared to those without a heart attack, those who have had a silent heart attack have a three-fold greater likelihood of dying from heart disease in the future,” says Dr. Nathan Wong, director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program at the University of California, Irvine.

How can those with Type 2 diabetes protect themselves from silent heart attacks? Here, Wong and others explain everything you need to know—whether you have Type 2 diabetes yourself or are caring for someone with the condition.

The Emotional Labor of Being a Leader

Effective leaders have long managed the emotions they display at work. They project optimism and confidence when team members feel thwarted and discouraged. Or notwithstanding their skepticism about the company’s strategic direction, they carry the company flag and work to rally the troops.

This emotional labor, whereby leaders manage their feelings and expressions to fulfill the expectations of their role, is substantial. In fact, research suggests that leaders perform emotional labor with a frequency matching that of front-line service workers who must consistently deliver “service with a smile.” Given leaders’ substantial influence over group moods and emotional states and how these impact organizational performance, this emotional labor is essential.

Despite its importance, however, it has historically been overlooked by academics and organizations alike. And now, due to changes in the work landscape, the emotional labor leaders must perform is greater than ever.

Leaders are expected to attend to employees’ mental and physical health and burnout (while also addressing their own), demonstrate bottomless sensitivity and compassion, and provide opportunities for flexibility and remote work — all while managing the bottom line, doing more with less, and overcoming challenges with hiring and retaining talent. They should appear authentic, but if they get too honest about their distress, others may lose confidence in their leadership, known as the “authenticity paradox.”

Without proper support, there will be significant costs to this additional burden of emotional labor. Unmanaged, it puts leaders at an increased risk of burnout and health issues. In turn, organizations risk decreases in productivity and performance and high turnover of leadership talent.

To avoid these costs, organizations must support their leaders in managing the emotional labor they perform. Here’s how:

Recognize emotional labor as labor

Leaders may quickly recognize the mental fatigue that can come from cognitive labor and the wear and tear from physically pushing through long days or sleepless nights. However, they often underestimate and neglect to directly address their role’s emotional labor.

To cope with emotional demands, leaders may “surface act” and put on a game face that belies their true feelings. Unfortunately, suppressing and faking emotions has high costs for both the leader and the organization. The effort expended reduces self-control resources, making leaders likelier to lash out at work, for example, by belittling or making rude comments to a coworker. The stress of consistent surface acting can also impact leaders’ health, making them more prone to bodily aches, burnout, insomnia, and drinking heavily when they get home.

Business schools and leadership development programs rarely prepare leaders to handle the emotional demands of their roles. So, leaders are likely unaware of the ineffectiveness and adverse outcomes of emotion suppression and surface-level acting. Recognition is the first step toward better performance and health.

To support leaders in reducing the incongruity between how they feel and what they communicate, organizations should assess the emotional culture of their organization. Recent research demonstrates that allowing employees to express their full range of emotions at work can result in better team-building, idea generation, and problem-solving. Organizations can encourage such authenticity by creating psychologically safe climates where employees trust they can share distress without being branded as weak or soft.

Promote self-compassion from the top down

Given the pervasive myth that leaders must be strong, some may be reluctant to embrace self-compassion. Many mistakenly shun the practice due to misplaced fears that it might make them complacent or undermine their success.

However, research strongly confirms that leaders who practice self-compassion have higher emotional intelligence, resilience, and integrity. In short, they are better leaders, and there’s a trickle-down effect to their teams and organizations. When leaders practice self-compassion, they treat others more compassionately. One study showed that self-compassionate leaders helped others more with task-related and personal problems. In turn, stakeholders perceive these leaders as more competent and civil. Further, leaders who show vulnerability and admit they don’t have everything figured out create a more psychologically safe context where others can feel safe to share.

Organization can support their leaders by educating them on the numerous benefits of self-compassion and encouraging them to practice being patient and understanding with themselves when they don’t handle things perfectly. When leaders trust that it’s okay to not be okay, it can help them better align their true feelings with their expressions and reduce the toll of surface acting and emotional labor.

Provide training on handling others’ emotions

When employees share their suffering or resentment at work, it can be difficult for leaders. Distress and frustration about work conditions can feel like a personal attack and create defensive reactions. Even when team members vent about non-work distress, leaders are expected to show compassion and can feel drained from the effort. Further, leaders can “catch” the team members’ distress or frustration and carry that load throughout the day, making them more likely to subsequently mistreat others.

The good news is that leaders can neutralize compassion fatigue and negative emotional contagion by learning new emotional skills, such as reframing emotions as information to be processed. By purposefully assuming the role of information seeker, leaders gain valuable information about how to lead effectively and protect themselves from the collateral damage of lending an ear. This is similar to the “compassionate detachment” that doctors learn to mitigate witnessing pain and suffering. As we illustrate in leadership workshops that we’ve conducted, this is the difference between absorbing emotional comments like a sponge versus holding them out as objects in your open palm.

Organizations can offer skills training that helps leaders build emotional capabilities so they are less drained by their emotional labor. Interventions that train mindfulness — accepting experiences and emotions rather than judging or avoiding them — reduce the need for managers to surface act and the costs of that effort. Participating in emotional skills training can also help managers feel more genuinely compassionate and demonstrate more servant leadership behaviors.

5 Simple Ways To Connect With Your Kids

Do you ever feel like you and your kids aren’t on the same page? Welcome to the club. It’s likely your kids feel it too, even if they aren’t able to express it with their words. And beyond the unsettled sense that lingers when kids feel disconnected from their parents, a lack of connection can make kids feel alone, unheard, and less confident.

Without the ability to process and communicate all of those feelings, kids tend to convey a lack of connection with you by becoming increasingly disengaged or by making bids for connection that manifest as behavior problems, such as temper tantrums that stop the moment you leave the room, exaggerated rudeness, and persistent interrupting.

In most cases, all it takes to straighten out these issues and build connection with kids is a few simple steps. Although they require a little time and plenty of intentionality, you don’t need to invest in a week-long retreat to set things straight.

Psychologist and parent Chad Brandt, Ph.D., has five suggestions for parents who want to strengthen their connection with their kids that will keep children from feeling like their parents just don’t get them.

Encourage Child-Directed Play

One of the most effective ways for parents to connect with their kids is through child-directed play. It’s not a huge commitment as child-directed play works best in 10- to 15-minute increments. The challenge is finding time windows — ideally a few each week — that allow for completely undivided attention.

“Child-directed play is highly beneficial for connection, shame reduction, and confidence building,” Brandt says. “Just ask your kid what they want to do, and then follow them around and enjoy it. With young kids, you’ll want to parrot back to them what they’re doing, making sure to stick to commenting instead of questioning.”

Seattle Children’s Hospital recommends the following practical tips for parents looking to incorporate child-directed play:

  • Describe your child’s play with the same inflection you’d use when reading a book to them, but don’t get caught up in granular detail.
  • Imitate your child’s play activities. For example, if your child starts drawing a ship, you might say, “That looks cool. I’ll draw a ship too!”
  • Repeat, with more detail, what your child says without turning it into a question. So if your child says, “There’s the tree,” you could say, “Yes, there is a tall tree with green leaves.”
  • Encourage specific behaviors by praising your child, remarking both on what they do as well as how they do it. “You’re working really hard to color in the lines” or “You’re being so kind to your doll “are both preferable to more general praise like “Good job.”
  • Allow your child to play with toys in any way that is not harmful.

Simplicity is key here. The child’s activity of choice shouldn’t include screens or competition, but it can be anything that isn’t dangerous. “Just follow them around and enjoy whatever it is they are interested in,” says Brandt.

Ask Less Questions

Asking questions is a crucial active listening skill. And it’s natural for parents to ask kids follow-up questions out of genuine interest and in a benign effort to keep conversations going. However, kids don’t always interpret questions the way parents intend.

“Questions can absolutely make kids feel like we don’t trust them or we’re not hearing them,” says Brandt. Instead, he suggests pulling a page from child-directed play by making a conscious effort to reflect every now and again instead of asking a question.

“If your child tells you they had a good day, respond with, ‘I’m really happy to hear that. It sounds like you played with Jimmy on the playground, and that was fun.’ Period. That way, you acknowledge that you’ve heard them, and there’s this implicit ‘tell me more’ that leaves the door open for them to continue sharing,” Brandt says.

Make Room For Silliness

Some kids are so silly so often that parents can get into the habit of automatically shutting them down the moment things start to get squirrely. Between the energy that builds when the silly cycle begins along with the speed and frequency with which kids blow through the line of what’s appropriate, keeping silliness tamped down before it gets out of hand is an understandable reaction.

But encouraging silliness when it starts to manifest while at the same time building in boundaries on the front end can help kids feel seen. Doing so defuses some of the attention-seeking nature of over-the-top silliness and replaces a struggle over control with an opportunity to connect.

“My oldest is in first grade now, and there are times when he wants to do silly stuff like run around and smack his bum. It’s really, really hard for me not to lecture him about the inappropriateness of that, and sometimes I will. But sometimes it helps to say, ‘Hey, it seems like you’re trying to be silly right now. So I’ll set a five-minute timer, and let’s see who can be the silliest.’ When we do that, we are telling our kids that we see them, and we want them to be themselves,” Brandt says.

The Fed did it, again.

With inflation still at the highest level in a generation, the Fed’s policy-making arm delivered a fourth consecutive mega three-quarters of a percentage point hike in its benchmark rate to a 3.75% to 4% target range at the end of its meeting on Wednesday. It’s the sixth straight rate hike this year and brings the fed funds target range to the highest level since 2008 from between 0% and 0.25% at the start of the year.

The Fed also said it expects “ongoing increases” in rates as it continues to focus on combating inflation, so consumers should expect their costs to head even higher and job losses to mount as economic growth slows.

Although the Fed doesn’t directly control consumer interest rates, its rate increases ripple through the economy and ultimately, hit businesses and consumers and slow demand and inflation.

“Given the environment of rising rates and a slowing economy, the financial steps for households to take are boosting emergency savings, paying down high-cost debt, and maintaining contributions into, and a long-term perspective on, retirement accounts,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate chief financial analyst.

he Fed raised rates Wednesday by 75 basis points, marking the fourth consecutive increase of that size, but that won’t be the end.

The Fed’s year end median fed funds forecast is 4.4% and 4.6% next year before heading lower, according to its economic projections released in September. That means there’s likely another rate increase coming at the Fed meeting in December.

Economists generally expect the Fed to slow its rate hikes in December with a half-point rise to get inflation closer to its 2% target, but another 0.75-point hike isn’t out of the question. Deutsche Bank analysts, for now, expect a fifth consecutive supersize 0.75-point rate increase in December as inflation and the labor market continue to run hot.

In September, overall annual inflation dipped to an 8.2% pace from August’s 8.3%, but the core rate without the volatile food and energy sectors rose 6.6%, from 6.3% the prior month and the largest increase since August 1982. Both topped economists’ mean forecast and unleashed worries that inflation’s getting entrenched in areas that’ll be harder to control if the Fed doesn’t act faster.

How to Make Relationship Happiness Last

You’ve likely heard the saying, “Happy wife, happy life” or “Happy spouse, happy house.” But are these popular sayings actually supported by research? 

The short answer is likely, yes. Several studies link the quality of a couple’s marriage to each partner’s individual happiness. In fact, psychologist Eli Finkel shared survey findings that show 57 percent of people who say they are “very happy” in their marriage also say they are very happy with their life overall. Whereas only 10 percent of people who say they are just “pretty happy” in their marriage say they are very happy with their life overall. 

Studies also suggest being happily married may be good for your health. Researchers Kathleen King and Harry Reis followed the recovery of patients who had undergone a coronary artery bypass graft. They found that patients who were married, rather than single, were 2.5 times more likely to still be alive 15 years after their surgery. And patients who said they were happily married were 3.2 times more likely to be alive 15 years after surgery. 

The quality of one’s marriage is related to being happy and healthy. However, the bad news is marriage quality tends to decline over time. 

It is possible that some couples might stay as happy as they were on their wedding day or even become happier over time. But on average, marital quality tends to decrease throughout one’s marriage. Many large-scale and longitudinal studies, which follow married couples for years, show a clear and consistent downward trend in marital quality over time.

But before you swear off marriage, or give the most depressing wedding speech of all time, a research study by Eli Finkel, Erica Slotter, Laura Luchies, Gregory Walton, and James Gross has revealed one way to preserve relationship quality. When couples argue or experience conflict, as they inevitably will, they can stop downward spirals by thinking about the conflict from a third-party perspective.

How to Think Differently About Conflict

One reason why relationship quality dips over time is negative-affect reciprocity, when one partner is upset or in a bad mood, their partner tends to respond in an equally bad, or even worse, mood that escalates the conflict. Responding to a partner’s accusation with criticism or contempt, for instance, triggers a downward spiral of negativity that can be difficult for couples to break.

One tip to stop the slide of declining relationship quality is for couples to use emotional reappraisal, or reinterpret the conflict in a way that makes them feel less angry and distressed. Instead of thinking of the conflict from a first-person perspective, emotional reappraisal requires couples to look at conflict from a third-party perspective, as an outsider would. How was I wronged by my partner?

To determine whether emotional reappraisal can preserve relationship quality over time, researchers Eli Finkel and colleagues followed 120 heterosexual married couples for two years. Every four months, the researchers measured a couple’s relationship quality by asking about their relationship satisfaction and feelings of love, intimacy, trust, passion, and commitment. 

After a year, married couples on average experienced a robust decrease in relationship quality. Thus, replicating previous research that showed decreases in married couples’ satisfaction over time. 

Then, the researchers implemented an emotional reappraisal intervention. For the next year, half of the couples were asked to write about any conflict they experience in their marriage from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. Specifically, they wrote how this person might think about the disagreement and how he or she could find any good that could come from it. Participants in this condition were also asked to try their best over the next year to always take this third-party perspective, especially when they experience conflict with their partner.

The other half of the participants were in the control condition. They received regular check-ins from the researchers but were not asked to think any differently about the conflict they experienced in their marriage.

What to Know About Getting a Loan if You’re Unemployed

Navigating a job loss can be scary and stressful, and figuring out how to pay next month’s bills is also worrying. In fact, it’s normal to feel anxiety and fear. You may also be wondering about taking out a loan to cover your expenses.

Applying for a Personal Loan

To apply for a personal loan, you’ll typically need to provide information about your finances, and, most importantly, information about your income. The loan company will also expect you to submit to a credit report pull. The lender will review your information to determine whether or not you qualify for the loan. 

What if I’m Unemployed? 

Getting a loan when you’re unemployed is tricky to do and may not be possible. The number one criterion that lenders consider when they evaluate your loan application is your ability to pay the loan back on time. If you don’t have an income, you are an extremely risky bet, and you’re likely to be turned down. That makes traditional lenders, like a bank or a credit union, an unlikely option for a personal loan. 

However, it still may be possible to get a personal loan. If you have excellent credit and some source of income, such as child support, alimony, disability, rental income, or something else, you may still have a chance.

But if you have no income at all, you may be limited to using your property as collateral to obtain a loan. That means you may be limited to title loans or pawn loans. With a title loan, you’re using your car’s title as collateral. With a pawn loan, the item of value you offer the pawn shop, like jewelry or electronics, serves as collateral for the loan. In both scenarios, failing to repay the debt in the required amount of time can result in you losing your property. Both types of loans are extremely risky.

What About Payday Loans? 

Payday loans (also known as fast cash loans) are not a good option if you’re unemployed. These are loans structured to be paid back on your next payday. Even though lenders might not check your credit, they’ll still typically want proof that you have a source of income. 

If you’re unemployed, you likely won’t qualify for a payday loan. If you do somehow receive a payday loan despite not having a steady source of income, the terms will almost certainly not be favorable. 

It’s important to understand that these loans need to be repaid quickly to avoid rolling over and adding extremely costly interest charges. If you’re unemployed, you should avoid payday loans as they can spiral into high-cost interest you can’t afford.

What Else Can I Do?

The bottom line is that taking out a loan while you’re unemployed is nearly impossible. If you have savings, now is the time to fall back on those funds. That includes using retirement savings, though you should evaluate the risks of depleting or borrowing against your retirement. The next best option is to use your credit card if you have one. It’s better to use your available credit limit than to try to get funds through a loan. Using a credit card may also be preferable to tapping your retirement account.

It may not feel helpful to hear this in the moment, but it’s always a good idea to prepare for rainy days when times are good. Once you’re re-employed, build your savings, work on building your credit score, and open a credit card or two with favorable terms and sizable credit limits. Even if you don’t like using credit when you’re stuck, having available credit is a better option than taking a loan in a financial emergency. 

For right now, if you’re trying to make ends meet without a job, MMI offers unemployment resources to help you. We would be happy to discuss your budgeting changes to make it through these difficult times. Once you have a new job, if you’ve accumulated debt during your unemployment, we can help you accelerate your debt repayment with a debt management plan. Reach out if you’d like help.

The Power of Work Friends

Millions of people suffer from loneliness. More than 300 million people globally don’t have a single friend, according to Gallup data. And more than 20% of people don’t have friends or family they can count on whenever they need them.

The average person spends 81,396 hours — the equivalent of more than nine years — at work. “Americans are now more likely to make friends at work than any other way — including at school, in their neighborhood, at their place of worship, or even through existing friends,” according to the Survey Center on American Life.

So, people spend a lot of their lives at work, and that’s where they’re most likely to develop friendships. Yet of everything companies do to improve employees’ lives and promote their happiness, social well-being is the aspect they invest in least, according to a Gallup survey of CHROs of the world’s largest companies. Indeed, Gallup finds that globally, only three in 10 employees strongly agree they have a best friend at work.

Why Should Companies Care?

Despite claiming “people are our greatest asset,” many executives I’ve met expect employees to leave their personal lives at the door when they come to work. Yet Gallup’s data shows that having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including improvements in profitability, safety, inventory control, and employee retention.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Minnesota not only confirmed that close friendships increase workplace productivity, they also found out why — friends are more committed, communicate better, and encourage each other. And according to a global study by the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), “Interpersonal [work] relationships have a sizeable and significant positive effect on the job satisfaction of the average employee. [Relationships] rank first out of…12 domains of workplace quality in terms of power to explain variation in job satisfaction.”

If increased productivity, profitability, job satisfaction, and retention aren’t enough, Gallup’s latest findings show that since the start of the pandemic, having a best friend at work has an even greater impact on important outcomes — like workers’ likelihood to recommend their workplace, intent to leave, and overall satisfaction. With the unavoidable increase in remote and hybrid work, best friends at work have become lifelines who provide crucial social connection, collaboration, and support for each other during times of change.

Unfortunately, the pandemic not only exacerbated global loneliness, it also took a toll on workplace friendships. Among people working in hybrid environments, Gallup has seen a five-point decline in those who say they have a best friend at work since 2019.

Building Lasting Friendships at Work

Whether a workplace is fully in person, fully remote, or hybrid, a culture that prioritizes and encourages work friendships is good for employees and good for the bottom line. So how can managers create and maintain a friendship-friendly workplace that delivers measurable results while also helping to combat the global epidemic of loneliness? Here are some actions to take right now:

Establish a buddy system.

Everyone needs a buddy, especially when they’re new to a company. Teaming up new hires with veteran employees can expedite onboarding and productivity. Workplace buddies not only give new hires tips like where stuff is and what the unwritten rules are, but they help them make connections with other people in the company. And some of these initial connections will almost certainly lead to long-term relationships.

The key to an effective buddy system is the frequency of the interactions. Microsoft found that when its new hires met with their buddy more than eight times in their first 90 days on the job, 97% said that their buddy helped them become productive quickly. But when new hires met with their buddy only once during the first 90 days, that number was only 56%.

Increase face time.

Before the pandemic, work was a place where colleagues could get coffee, have lunch, and run into each other in the hallway for impromptu conversations. For people who started working remotely full time in 2020, one of the biggest changes was the sharp decrease in hours they spent engaging socially with work friends.

Building friendships requires talking to, seeing, and being with people. The best way to connect is to see each other — even if it’s on Zoom or FaceTime. But at a minimum, coworkers need to talk more and email less. Email will never live up to face-to-face dialogue. Plus, it’s much easier to misinterpret what someone means over email.

Business leaders need to set an example: Communicate in person more and email less. Further, leaders can encourage in-person interactions by revising expectations, establishing new cultural norms, and even updating workplace configurations. For example, encourage cross-training or have workers rotate job duties so they can collaborate with people in other areas of the company. Exposure to new people creates opportunities to meet new friends. Plan on-site social events, meetings, or lunches. Move people’s workspaces closer together. Where else do you spend so much time with people from different walks of life organized around a common mission? And where else are you so dependent on the efforts of others?

Jam constantly.

When people share a common goal and achieve great things together, they form a connection. The joy is in working together to produce magic. Using the Beatles as an example of a high-performing team, The Economist states: “The Beatles love what they do for a living. When they are not playing music, they are talking about it or thinking about it. They do take after take of their own songs, and jam constantly.”

If you’ve ever been part of a collaborative “jam session,” you know the feeling. Your employees want to feel that too — the satisfaction and pride of creating something great while having fun. Best friends trust, accept, and forgive each other. And when they work together, Gallup research has shown that they are significantly more likely to engage customers and internal partners, get more done in less time, support a safer workplace, innovate and share ideas, and have fun on the job.

‘Night owls’ may have greater type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk than ‘early birds’

Some of us leap out of bed eager to get on with the day; for others, emerging from under the covers is left until the last possible minute—often because we have been awake until the small hours. 

And most of us know that we either function better in the morning or the afternoon and adapt our working schedules to suit our ‘early bird’ or ‘night owl’ tendencies. But can our chronotype affect not only our functioning, but also our health?

Research studies have suggested that chronotype, and particularly chrononutrition—what times of day we eat — may indeed affect health, but the findings are not yet conclusive.

Now, a study published in Experimental Physiology has found that our sleep/wake cycles are associated with our body’s metabolism, with night owls having a reduced ability to use fat for energy. This may increase their risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Early and late chronotypes

A team of researchers from Rutgers University, NJ, and the University of Virginia, VA, divided a group of 51 adults into early or late chronotypes based on their answers to a questionnaire. 

All participants were non-smokers, free of cardiovascular disease, cancers, and metabolic diseases, and were sedentary, exercising less than 60 minutes a week. 

Using imaging techniques, researchers assessed the participants’ body mass and body composition. They also tested insulin sensitivity.

Participants wore an accelerometer on the right hip, during the day, for 7 days to record what times of day they were most active. Researchers compared this data with the chronotype from the questionnaire to determine whether chronotype was influencing activity patterns during the day.

After making them fast for 12 hours, researchers tested participants at rest and during exercise to assess what they were metabolizing to provide energy. They then took breath samples to calculate their fat and carbohydrate metabolism at rest and when exercising.

“Measuring metabolism during rest and exercise allowed us to see how changes in movement throughout the day could impact or relate to health.”

— Dr. Steven K. Malin, lead author, associate professor of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University, NJ

Comparing early birds and night owls

The researchers noted no significant differences in age, body mass, or metabolic syndrome between the groups. However, they did find differences in how energy sources were used by those with early and late chronotypes.

Early birds used more fat for energy than night owls. They were also more insulin sensitive— their cells used glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar. 

Night owls tended to be more insulin resistant, meaning they required more insulin to lower blood glucose levels, and they tended to use carbohydrates as an energy source rather than fat. 

Insulin resistance indicates a greater risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Malin told Medical News Today: “A key finding was that individuals with later chronotype were indeed less able to respond to insulin by promoting glucose uptake towards storage. And that observation related to how much fat was used for energy. This aligns with ideas that low fat metabolism relates to insulin resistance by either defects in the mitochondria […] or accumulation of fat metabolites that impair insulin action on tissues like muscle.”

Differences in muscle quality

The researchers found no significant difference in muscle mass between the two chronotypes, although muscle mass was slightly higher in those with late chronotypes. 

They suggest that their finding of greater fat oxidation in early chronotype may be due to differences in skeletal muscle quality rather than quantity.

Dr. Malin explained: “Based on our work so far, our sense is something is dysregulated in skeletal muscle quality. […] The ability to use fat was directly related to maximal aerobic fitness, which is partly linked to mitochondrial function. Indeed, people of later chronotype had lower fitness when measured by VO2max [maximum amount of oxygen the body is capable of using during high-intensity activities], in addition to being more sedentary through the day.”

“That lower amount of fat metabolism was directly related to how well insulin promoted glucose uptake towards storage. That is critical because stored glucose, known as glycogen, helps fuel muscle for physical activity,” he added.

New Study Strengthens the Link Between Exercise and Memory

It’s no secret that regular exercise has many benefits. It protects against developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and in some cases can improve mental health. But what effect does it have on specific functions, like memory? Can a workout regimen help you remember the scores from last night’s Yankees game, where you went on your first date with your significant other or where you left your keys?

It’s possible. Studies over the years have suggested that a single workout can improve recall, and that engaging in regular exercise over the course of years or decades not only improves memory, but also helps fortify against future memory problems. Now, a recent study from Dartmouth focuses on how the intensity of exercise, over a period of time, may play an important role in bolstering different types of recall.

“We know that exercise works, but we don’t know which variables of exercise make the exercise more effective,” said Marc Roig, a physical and occupational therapy professor at McGill University who studies the effect of exercise on cognition and was not involved with the study. “We believe intensity is one of those factors.”

One of the major challenges with studying the link between regular exercise and memory is that the changes are hard to measure. This is complicated by the fact that many other factors affect memory, like working a sedentary office job or chronic sleep deprivation. Furthermore, there are different types of memory — which explains how a person might constantly lose their keys (poor spatial memory) but have a knack for remembering birth dates (strong semantic memory).

Activity trackers can offer one solution to these issues. In the recent paper, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, researchers were able to look at a year’s worth of Fitbit data from 113 participants, who also completed a series of memory tests, like recalling details from a short story, spatial details, foreign language terms and lists of random words.

The advantage of this method is that it linked a full year of information about participants’ activity patterns — how much exercise they got, how intense, how often — to their performance on memory tests.

Other studies have tracked patterns of activity through self-reported data, which is often less reliable than activity tracker data, as people tend to underestimate how much time they are sedentary and misremember their total activity levels.

“You can get a much more nuanced picture from activity tracker data,” said Jeremy Manning, a professor at Dartmouth College and one of the authors of the study.

Dr. Manning and his colleagues found that active people had better memories overall compared to those who were sedentary, but also found that the types of tests they did well on varied depending how intensely they exercised.

For instance, participants who engaged in light to moderate activity, such as going for regular walks, had better “episodic” memory. Think of episodic memory as “mental time travel,” Dr. Manning said, or the ability to remember details about everyday events, like meeting a friend in a coffee shop or watching for the school bus on your first day of kindergarten.

This tracks with a number of previous studies that have shown the more people are active, the better, on average, their episodic memory is.

Participants who regularly exercised more intensely — such as going for a run or doing a HIIT workout — were more likely to perform better on spatial memory tasks. Spatial memory is the ability to remember physical relationships between objects or locations in space, like where you put your keys. This mirrors a number of other studies that show high-intensity exercise improves memory, but goes further, suggesting it might be more helpful for this type of memory over another.

More study needs to be done to solidify these associations and determine what is causing them, the researchers said.

“The more that we can connect everyday patterns of activity to cognitive performance, the closer we are getting to thinking about lifestyle,” which includes how active you are during the entire day and sleep patterns, said Michelle Voss, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Iowa, who was not involved in the study.

Fall Is the Season for Building Mindfulness and Resilience

Whether you like it or not, fall is here. Soon the weather will get colder, the leaves will die and the nights will stretch longer than the days. Outdoor pools have closed and the holidays are coming. Another year is dying; that’s just how it goes.

At least, that’s the way autumn often is cast — as a time of aging and decay. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley compared autumn’s falling leaves to corpses in the grave. William Shakespeare called it “Death’s second self,” when youth burns to ashes. More recently, it’s become a time to acknowledge our existential dread.

For many of those who struggle with seasonal depression in the winter months, the fall is the beginning of their symptoms. A few small studies even suggest that if you are “ruminative,” or deeply preoccupied with your thoughts, in the autumn, you may be at more risk for depression in the winter. Changing the clocks in the fall is associated with depressive episodes (changing them back in the spring is not). It’s no wonder the season has so many celebrations to attempt to keep our spirits up.

Psychologists say that the feelings that often crop up in autumn stem from our discomfort with change, and an anxiety and uncertainty about what that change will bring. The melancholy we feel is a form of grief, mourning the lost sunlight, the ease of summertime, and the greenery that abounds in the warm weather.

But it’s not all bad. Fall also brings with it bright, brisk days, pumpkin patches and cozy sweaters. Somewhere in the crunching leaves, crackling fires and chilly air, you might locate a feeling of possibility, even electricity.

And all of these things — the anxiety, the promise and even the rumination — make it the ideal season to build resilience and practice mindfulness.

For Jelena Kecmanovic, the founder of Arlington/DC Behavior Therapy Institute, the fall is reminiscent of exploring the mountains near her home in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, where she spent the first 20 years of her life, during one of that country’s most prosperous eras. But in the 1990s, she was forced to flee during a bloody four-year siege of her city.

Today, she is an expert in resilience, a concept centering on the capacity to adapt to challenging life experiences. Dr. Kecmanovic described autumn as the season when we can work on our acceptance of uncertainty — embracing that unsettled feeling we may have as we move out of our warm-weather routines.

Psychologists have found that the thought of change, the ending of one thing, the beginning of another and, yes, perhaps our own mortality, underlies a great deal of anxiety. Some of us struggle with “intolerance of uncertainty,” as experts call it, more than others. This tendency was first named in the 1990s by a team of Canadian psychologists and has since been identified as a risk factor for poor mental health.

Omega-3 may provide a brain boost for people in midlife

According to a new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, people who have higher omega-3 levels in their middle ages may have an edge over people who take in lower levels of omega-3. 

The study was led by researchers at the University of Texas Health at San Antonio, TX, who were concerned about the lack of research on how omega-3 can impact people in their midlife.

Omega-3: Things to know

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), omega-3 fatty acids “are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for a number of functions in the body.” In addition to playing a role in heart health and cognitive functioning, omega-3 fatty acids are also part of the cell membrane and affect cell functioning.

As Professor Stuart Phillips noted during a Live Long and Master Aging podcast, “Some fats that we ingest, and particularly the omega-3 or long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are actually what we refer to as essential fats. We need to have them in our diet because we don’t have the ability to make them ourselves.”

Prof. Phillips is the director of the Physical Activity Center of Excellence at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. 

The NIHTrusted Source lists three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The daily recommendation for the omega-3 fatty acid ALA for adults and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • Men 1.6 g
  • Women 1.1 g
  • Pregnant teens and women 1.4 g
  • Breastfeeding teens and women 1.3 g

This recommendation is only for ALA as experts have not yet established recommendations for the other two fatty acids. 

While people can take omega-3 supplements, it is also in a number of foods. Some good sources of omega-3 include fish (such as salmon and tuna) and nuts and seeds (chia seeds and flax seeds).

Studying Omega-3’s effect

The researchers studied 2,183 men and women with an average age of 46. They excluded people who had dementia or a history of having a stroke from their participant pool.

Using blood samples, the researchers analyzed the fatty acid composition of each participant. The participants also consented to having their brains scanned using MRI technology. 

The researchers were interested in the volumes of gray and white matter present in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a role in learning and memory, and a reduction in the volume can point to possible dementia. 

The participants also underwent a neurological assessment. The tests measured the participants’ abstract thinking, processing speed, executive function, and delayed episodic memory. 

Omega-3 and brain health 

The researchers placed approximately 25% of the participants in the low group where the participants had omega-3 fatty acids blood levels falling under 4%. This group had an average count of 3.4%. 

The rest of the participants were put into the high group; their average omega-3 level was 5.2%. 

Comparing the blood samples, MRI results, and neurological assessments, the study authors determined that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids correlate to a higher hippocampal volume and better abstract reasoning. 

Researchers observed that the people in the high group also had higher gray matter volumes, better reading scores, and slightly higher logical reasoning scores. 

In contrast, the people in the low group tended to be less likely to have a college degree and more likely to be smokers and have diabetes compared to the higher group. 

“This exploratory study suggests that higher [omega-3 blood levels] are associated with larger hippocampal volumes and better performance in abstract reasoning, even in cognitively healthy middle-aged adults from the community, suggesting a possible role in improving cognitive resilience,” write the authors. 

“These results need to be confirmed with additional research, but it’s exciting that omega-3 levels could play a role in improving cognitive resilience, even in middle-aged people,” said study author Prof. Claudia L. Satizabal, Ph.D.

Prof. Satizabal is an assistant professor at the Department of Population Health Sciences at UT Health San Antonio, TX.

Home prices decline at rates seen close to a decade ago

In August, existing homes sales fell 0.4%, marking the seventh straight month of declines and sliding 20% from the same month a year ago. Year-over-year sales dropped from $5.99 million in August 2021 to 4.8 million in 2022.

Meanwhile, the median home price, while still rising 7.7% in August on a year-over-year basis, fell 6% in the past two months. After reaching a record all-time high of $413,800 in June, it dropped to $389,000 in August.

Rate of home price decline

One average, cumulative two-month declines generally tends to be in the 2% range, said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun during a Q&A with reporters after the report was released.

“So that cumulative 6% decline is certainly unusual,” said Yun.

The last time it fell by more than 6% over two months was in September 2013 when it fell by 6.5 %, according to NAR data shared with USA TODAY.

Climbing mortgage rates

“The housing sector is the most sensitive to and experiences the most immediate impacts from the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy changes,” said Yun. “The softness in home sales reflects this year’s escalating mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates went from 2.87% for a 30-year fixed mortgage the week ending August 26, 2021 to 5.5% the week ending August 25, 2022, according to Freddie Mac.

“Mortgage rate always has the biggest impact on home sales,” said Yun. “So one can have a job creating environment, but the higher mortgage rate clearly knocks off the home buying potential.”

As prices continue to decelerate, Yun said he would not be surprised if there’s only 3% or lower year-over-year increase in median prices by December.

Housing inventory

Total housing inventory in August stood at 1,280,000 units, a decrease of 1.5% from July and unchanged from the previous year. Unsold inventory sits at a 3.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 2.6 months in August 2021.

“Inventory will remain tight in the coming months and even for the next couple of years,” Yun added. “Some homeowners are unwilling to trade up or trade down after locking in historically-low mortgage rates in recent years, increasing the need for more new-home construction to boost supply.”

A Guide to Becoming an Effective Leader

Think of great business leaders, and Henry Ford, Madame C.J. Walker, Andrew Carnegie, Estée Lauder and Steve Jobs may come to mind. Regardless of when they rose to prominence, all were not only effective leaders but visionaries and disruptors whose innovative ideas took their companies to new levels and defined their respective industries. When considering the accomplishments of luminaries who exemplify effective leadership, what I find interesting is that beyond the obvious (intelligence, discipline, work ethic), certain characteristics span culture, industries, and even time.

More than one road to leadership

First, while there are some (Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, for example) for whom leadership was their destiny, I also believe that effective leaders are not necessarily born as such. They can be made through desire, hard work and preparation. Some are fortunate enough to access the management track early on; growth comes quickly with the guidance of mentors who provide real-world context after years of business school theory.

Others become accomplished leaders in a nonlinear fashion, leapfrogging their way up by sheer tenacity and a willingness to go wherever the opportunity presents itself and gaining essential experience and lessons along the way. Though there are multiple paths to becoming an effective leader, all roads seem to intersect at several behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that the best leaders exhibit. Moreover, many of these traits focus not on business capability but human virtues.

Effective leaders are often described as:

Generous

Effective leaders genuinely enjoy recognizing employees rather than bask alone in the spotlight. They understand the need to trust others and delegate authority, giving decision-makers room to fly. They’ll gladly share credit for a job well done and are eager to convey lessons learned and best practices honed over the years in order to pay it forward.

Relentless

Effective leaders prepare thoroughly for the decisions and duties they must undertake yet are never content with what they already know. They thirst for greater knowledge and remain open to learning new things, receptive to new ideas and methods (including how to improve their performance).

Compassionate

Effective leaders respect the bottom line yet never lose sight of the people responsible for delivering it. When leaders demonstrate active listening, employees feel they are being heard and understood and valued and respected on a personal and professional level. And when great joy or sorrow befalls one of their own, efficient leaders empathize and don’t begrudge employees the time they need to process major life events.

Exemplary

Company culture and employee behavior reflect the attitude at the top. Efficient leaders walk the talk in every way, and employees emulate those cultural cues on everything from embracing casual wear to their commitment to corporate social responsibility; feeling secure to take earned vacation in an always-busy environment without fear of being considered “not a team player”; being willing to speak truth to power without fear of retaliation: or recognizing that pursuit of the unicorn known as work/life balance may occasionally mean that a five-year-old playing dress-up is in the background on your team’s Zoom call.

Why is It So Hard to Talk About Debt?

Talking about debt is even more taboo and embarrassing to boot. In a recent survey commissioned by Questis, a finance startup, 56 percent of respondents revealed they believe discussing money is taboo. Debt was such a taboo topic that 3 in 5 (58 percent) respondents admitted to faking financial stability on social media. 

Why Do We Feel Uncomfortable Talking about Debt?

When we’ve absorbed the cultural messaging that debt is bad, opening up about it is even more difficult. Why is that? For many people, money is something we believe we should be able to handle on our own. We buy into the idea that success is earning and saving money, and so, conversely, debt is a sign of failure. 

We may feel guilty about the reasons why we’re in debt, and we may feel ashamed about our inability to better manage the situation. 

Shame and guilt are cousins, but they’re slightly different from each other. When we feel shame, we focus our feelings inward and see our whole self, and our character, in a negative light. We feel guilt, on the other hand, when something we did resulted in a poor outcome. 

Staying silent about money issues can only feed shame and guilt. The silence affects our ability to develop good money skills. Opening up about debt—and being willing to talk about money—are the only ways through to financial health. 

How to Cope with Emotions Around Debt

First, it’s important to remember that debt is quite common. It can happen to anyone, for many different reasons, including divorce, job loss, medical emergency, major home repairs, or needing to financially support a family member or friend. Typically, most of these situations are entirely out of our control.

Second, it’s important to understand that debt isn’t a sign of personal failure – it’s not a reflection of your character. While you may worry that people will judge you for it, remember that your debt doesn’t define you. Try your best to be kind to yourself – give yourself some grace for experiencing what is a very stressful situation.

Third, remember that your debt is temporary, even if it feels all-encompassing and you can’t see a way out of it right now. You may feel overwhelmed, but with the right plan and some hard work, you can make debt a part of your past. There is absolutely a light at the end of the tunnel.

How to Talk to Your Loved One Who Has Debt

Perhaps you’re not the person struggling with personal debt, but your spouse or family member is. If you can see they need help, approach them with empathy and understanding. Make it clear you’re not judging. Also, emphasize that your love and acceptance isn’t contingent on their financial success.

Don’t dwell on the how and why of the debt—they don’t need to defend their actions. Instead, focus on the achievable steps you can take together to start addressing the debt. Help them feel supported. If you’re able, offer to help them create a plan or put some of those steps into action. If they need to talk to someone else, help them find a trusted friend or professional to ask for support.

COVID-19 Is Still Messing Up Our Sleep

In a survey conducted in July of 2,000 adults, released Sept. 13 by the Harris Poll on behalf of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, about 18% of respondents said they get less sleep now than they did before the pandemic, while 19% said they struggle to sleep because they’re worried or stressed (about COVID-19, politics, or other factors). At the university, at least, this has led to a surge in demand for help; in 2021, Ohio State’s medical center received about 29% more referrals for insomnia treatment compared to 2018, says Dr. Aneesa Das, a sleep specialist and professor of internal medicine there.

Stress can disrupt sleep, says Das, since it can boost heart rate and blood pressure, upset stomachs, and make muscles tense. However, the survey also points to another problem: bad sleep habits, including using phones before bed, sleeping at irregular hours, and spending too much time in the bedroom. The challenge, says Das, is that these habits threaten important drivers of healthy sleep, including being exposed to light at the correct times and maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

Some of this, says Das, is because many people do the wrong things to help wind down for sleep. In the survey, 47% of respondents say they use their phone before bed, and 37% fall asleep with the TV on. “Both of these are things that folks often do to try to distract their mind,” says Das. “But bright light is actually stimulating and decreases the association of the bedroom with sleep.”

The pandemic’s disruption of people’s daily schedules may have also had a knock-on effect on sleep, says Das. COVID-19 forced many people out of work or to work from home, giving them more control over when they go to sleep or get out of bed. But not sleeping the same hours every night can make it harder to fall asleep, Das says. During the pandemic, people may have also started spending too much time indoors without enough exposure to sunlight (although the survey did not measure this). This becomes especially problematic, Das says, if they spent more time in their bedrooms. “Waking up, putting your laptop on the bed, and working from home are probably the worst things we can do for causing insomnia.”

If you’re struggling to sleep, Das suggests rethinking your sleep habits. Your bedroom should be cool (ideally with a temperature in the upper 60s) dark, and quiet, and it should only be used for sleep and intimacy. Your daily schedule can also have a big impact on your sleep: getting exercise, spending time in the sun during the day, stopping caffeine consumption after 2 p.m., and keeping regular sleep and wake schedules can help, says Das. To help her own sleep, Das says that she likes to create a to-do list so she feels prepared for the next day, and she takes a daily two-mile walk.

While it can be hard to change habits (or give up your afternoon latte), improving your sleep can have major benefits on your physical and mental health. Poor sleep has been linked to a range of conditions, from a higher risk of stroke and heart disease, to increased vulnerability to obesity and depression. 

And while the pandemic has messed with sleep schedules, good sleep could help people become more resilient to its effects. After getting a bad night’s sleep, studies have shown that people even have a poorer immune response to vaccines, says Das. While this hasn’t been studied with the Omicron booster,Das notes, “I can assure you that I tell my kids, ‘Before you get your vaccine booster, we want to make sure you’re getting good sleep.’”

8 Things Happy Couples Do For One Another Without Being Asked

Indeed, partners in healthy relationships and marriages make a habit of doing things that, quite simply, they think will please the other person.

“Happily married couples think of ways to make the other person happy without being asked,” says Raffi Bilek, a marriage counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. “If one of them is out and about and sees a bake sale, he goes over and checks if they have any chocolate éclairs, because he knows his partner loves chocolate éclairs. If she hears about a woodworking show in town, she takes a picture of the flyer so she can tell him about later because he totally into woodworking.”

While pastries and palm sander demonstrations might not be your bag, the truth remains: “Both partners have each other’s needs and interests top of mind, and they keep them there — without being asked.”

Terry Klee, a leading scholar of contemporary couples counseling in New York and Connecticut, agrees. She notes that it’s important to keep this awareness even when your spouse isn’t around. 

“One of the key traits in close to 80 percent of men and women was how often they are carrying their partner around in their mind. How much real estate they give to them,” she says. “You never want to be in that 20 percent. I always found that to be a very interesting statistic. You ask people, ‘How often do you think of Susan?’ or ‘How often do you think of Joe?’ and, if they say ‘Not much,’ track that friend’s marriage, because it’s probably not going to last.”

With this in mind, what can couples do to make sure their partners know their significant other is thinking of them? Here, per relationship experts, are eight simple gestures all strong couples make.

1. They Pay Compliments

A simple, “You look nice today” or “Dinner was delicious” can make a huge difference in a marriage. “We all want and need [compliments] from those who we love most,” says Caleb Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics. “We want to know we are still liked, loved, and thought of.”

2. They Express Thanks

When your partner does something for you, say thank you. It sounds simple but, per Klee, this behavior goes away because partners tend to take the other person for granted. (“Well, of course he took out the trash, that’s what he’s supposed to do.”) Neglecting basic manners, however, can catch up to couples if they’re not careful. “Saying ‘thank you’ costs nothing,” says Klee. “Not saying ‘thank you’ can cost everything. Because it kind of accumulates, that feeling of not being appreciated.”

3. They Take on a Chore for the Other

After a long day of work and parenting, coming home to a full sink of dirty, caked-on dishes can be enough to defeat even the most stalwart mom or dad. The experts suggest taking it off your partner’s shoulders and giving him or her a break for the night. Even better, don’t tell them you did it and let them come home to a wonderful surprise. “Taking something off each other’s plate shows that you appreciate your partner’s hard work and want to help them and allow them time to unwind after a hard day,” says Vikki Ziegler, a renowned relationship expert, divorce attorney, author of The Pre-Marital Planner.

4. They Apologize When They Screw Up

When you’re wrong, don’t think twice about admitting it. “This isn’t true all the time,” says Backe, “but a happily married couple is one which — in my estimation — has been through a lot, has fought enough times, and now already knows enough to apologize to each other.”

5. They Do Something That De-Stresses the Other

A simple, out of the blue gesture shows that you recognize how hard they work and that they need to do something to unwind. More than that, it lets them know that you see all that they contribute to the marriage, and that can work wonders for you both. “Set up a bubble bath, light some candles, and really show that their happiness and self-care is a priority to you,” says Ziegler.

Lessons on Leadership and Community from 25 Leaders of Color

Everyone has their own sense of what makes a great leader, informed largely by what they’ve already seen or experienced. However, this “I know it when I see it” approach, known as familiarity bias, can have narrowing effects, especially when it comes to recognizing the specific attributes that leaders of color bring.

Now consider that those attributes can be the key to unlocking great leadership — for everyone.

“If I have to leave out the part of myself that is positively identified with being Black, then no matter how good I am, I am not the best I can be,” says David Thomas, the president of Morehouse College and the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School. “When I walk into a room, being Black is one of the tools I can pull out, and oftentimes it can be the most powerful one.”

To better understand the relationship between leadership and identity, we talked to 25 leaders of color across the social sector, including both nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, and drew on our client work. Our research identified several noteworthy assets — “powerful tools,” as Thomas put it — that leaders of color bring to their organizations.

To be sure, we’re not suggesting that people of color inherently lead differently by virtue of being born a certain race or ethnicity. Rather, the ways people of color move through and experience the world can affect how they lead. This goes beyond experiences of historic marginalization to include the connection, meaning, and joy that these leaders can draw on from their cultures and communities. As a result, we find that there are assets and skills that many leaders of color develop and excel at because of the experiences and perspectives their identity brings.

Importantly, because these attributes are developed, anyone can adopt them through intentional learning and engagement. Likewise, organizations can encourage that development by examining how they assess leadership competency in hiring and talent development. “Too many organizations fail when it comes to recognizing and unleashing the diverse slices of genius in their organizations,” says Linda Hill, faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School. “Most of their performance management and reward systems are designed to select individuals more suited for the present than the future.”

When studying the motivations, relationships, and skillsets of leaders of color, we found that in some cases, strengths common among good leaders of all identities — including strong communication skills, confidence, and having vision — might manifest differently in leaders of color due to differences in culture and experiences. Take innovation, for example. One leader we spoke to who works in philanthropy and is a member of the Navajo tribe makes the case that the very survival of Indigenous language, culture, and identity in the face of a history of discriminatory U.S. government policy requires innovation, and his leadership style exhibits those lessons and examples. In other instances, strengths are uniquely based in identity and therefore more common in the leadership approaches of people of color. Here’s what our research found those strengths look like in practice.

Motivation

Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson holds up the value of proximity — having leaders who come from the communities experiencing a particular issue — as a path to better solutions in the social sector. But proximity can also powerfully strengthen motivation by creating the elusive personal tie to an organization’s purpose that can make a leader highly valuable.

Indeed, one of the most common things we heard from leaders of color was that they felt “called” to their work. Some spoke about being driven by a desire to address challenges that they themselves or their community experienced. Others talked about the desire to create new definitions of what good can look like for future generations. The motivation of collective success and the accountability it brings are strengths that these leaders can bring to any work they do.

Relationships

Given the demographics and power structures of the U.S., people of color often learn throughout their lives how to authentically navigate and build connections across lines of differences, including both with white allies and other communities of color. As a result, their networks are typically more heterogeneous, which can be a powerful asset to draw on to learn, grow, access opportunities, and navigate challenges.

More important than simply having diverse networks is the ability to then recognize, value, and tap into what each person brings to the table. This can mean that leaders of color are good at drawing lessons from nontraditional places that can open up transformative thinking. For instance, after she heard from clients (fellow mothers) that making nutritious family dinners was a struggle, the Black CEO of a food bank in Seattle innovatively overhauled its operations by banning food donations to avoid the glut of canned foods and random offerings slim on protein and fresh produce, and the food bank now fundraises to buy all food.

Skillsets: Leading Self

The qualities of good leaders show up in several dimensions within themselves, with others, and with their visions.

Self-awareness

The starting point for developing into a great leader that experts like Bill George and Tasha Eurich often point to is a strong sense of self-awareness. Such awareness can be cultivated through self-discovery and deep reflection. That kind of journey is familiar to many leaders of color, as it can be part of a lifetime of learning to navigate racialized experiences.

W.E.B. DuBois famously wrote about the concept of “double consciousness,” or the idea that Black people have the ability to see themselves as they are and also see themselves how white people see them. To various degrees, all people of color can possess versions of double or even triple consciousness that come with intersectional identities. The benefit of self-awareness is that leaders who better understand themselves will have a clearer sense of what they want to accomplish and what talents they bring to get there, as well as what talents they’ll need other people to bring.

Comfortable with discomfort

An advantage of not being “pale, male, and stale” is the expectation of discomfort that being different might bring. This can lead to a heightened ability to adapt to new experiences, overcome obstacles (including the resilience and tenacity that comes with that), and see alternative possibilities. It is said that innovation requires a certain ease with discomfort. “The power of being an outsider is you are constantly building your own alternative,” said Urvashi Vaid, an Indian American LGBTQ rights activist and social movement strategist who co-founded the Donors of Color Network. (She passed away this spring shortly after our interview.)

Skillsets: Leading Others

At the heart of being a good leader is how you manage people. Whether leading a team or an entire organization, the goal is to both inspire others and empower them to succeed

Empathy

Based on our observations and our client work, the leaders of color we studied demonstrated a high degree of empathy, often seeking to better understand and advocate for others. Experiences of marginalization and being part of a community that has experienced injustice can create a greater recognition of the humanity of others. While this can provide obvious benefits to how these leaders approach their work, empathetic management of your staff allows individuals and the organization to better thrive. These leaders stood out for creating a sense of belonging and centering the well-being of their teams. They also incorporated practices such as four-day workweeks, office-wide mandatory time off periods, flexibility, pay equity, and creating culturally sensitive workplaces in their organizations, while often honoring families and family time.

Observation and active listening

We found that leaders of color often embrace observation and listening in their work styles, creating a more holistic understanding of situations. The ability to recognize what is not said is also a valuable skillset that offers a leader insight. We found many successful leaders of color across various identities can develop this skill by navigating a lifetime of both cultural norms within their communities as well as complex interpersonal relations and interactions that can be layered with implicit bias and power dynamics. An Asian American philanthropy executive, for example, credited her skills of being able to interpret a diversity of cultural body language across the Asian diaspora with helping to develop her listen-first, respectful leadership style that employees say feel more inclusive.

Collaborative leadership

Collaboration is widely seen as a trait common among effective leaders and organizations. The relationships and networks of leaders of color often give rise to updated models of leadership that embrace more collaboration. That might look like co-leadership. For example, the nonprofit Rooted in Vibrant Communities radically reinvented organizational leadership by naming four co-executive directors.

It might also look like distributive power structures in networks and coalitions — think the Movement for Black Lives. Or it could mean a CEO who leads more collaboratively, encouraging authentic thought partnership and inclusive decision making from across the staff. Linda Hill calls this “leading from behind” and argues that leaders who employ this style can harness people’s “collective genius” to build innovative communities with breakthrough ideas.

Skillsets: Leading with Vision

The best kinds of leaders have strong vision. Different vantage points can yield purposeful and expansive views.

Asset-based lens

Recognizing the strengths of every individual, including those you’re seeking to serve or support, can come more naturally to leaders of color because of lived experience that might include episodes where racism or bias caused their strengths — either their own or their communities’ — to be underestimated or overlooked. An asset-based lens recognizes the gifts and skills that all people and communities bring and surfaces root causes of issues. For example, feedback is a gift that can lead to service innovation, rather than a nuisance managed by a call center. Likewise, inequitable social outcomes aren’t a function of individual behaviors that need fixing but rather of persistent systemic headwinds. Focusing on root causes can lead to more effective organizations and greater impact.

Radical imagination

The “outsider” experience that comes with being a person of color can provide valuable perspective. As a result, successful leaders of color can call on a deep understanding of how to navigate existing systems while also imagining something completely different.

This can be seen in how A. Sparks leads the Masto Foundation, founded by her grandparents who were among the more than 110,000 Japanese Americans sent to internment camps by the American government during World War II. Under her leadership, instead of starting with the way grantmaking has traditionally been done, the foundation built anew. Honoring the Japanese American tradition of “gifting,” the foundation sees its own giving as an “expression of gratitude, respect, and a desire to contribute.” This means the funder is constantly trying to limit the amount of time and stress that process might cause grantees. Conversations replace formal grant applications, due diligence is focused on listening, and funding goes out the door within a month of grant determinations.

What Needs to Be Done Differently

In Bridgespan’s previous research with Echoing Green, we have seen the racial disparities of philanthropic funding up close, finding the revenues of Black-led organizations 24% smaller than their white-led counterparts and the unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations 76% smaller. Latinx, Asian American, and Indigenous leaders experience similar funding gaps to varying degrees when compared to their white counterparts. Similar disparity trends exist in the private sector. Too often, those gaps exist because the assets of leaders of color are overlooked.

What is there to gain by better recognizing the assets of leaders of color? The Building Movement Project’s 2019 Race to Lead research offers a glimpse. According to the survey, people of color and their white counterparts fare better under leaders of color. The survey revealed that staff overall are more satisfied, more likely to want to work for their organization over the long haul, feel like they have a voice in their organizations, and assess that their organizations offer “fair and equitable opportunities for advancement and promotion.”

How Your Muscles Affect Your Mental Health

You’re probably underestimating your muscles. In fact, almost everyone does. While everyone knows, for instance, that muscles are important for function—activities such as walking, climbing, and lifting—few appreciate just how important muscles are for feeling.

If you haven’t noticed this mood-muscle connection yourself, take heart; it is only a recent discovery. Surprisingly, the entire scientific community remained in the dark until approximately 2003 (1) when a team of Copenhagen-based researchers reported a remarkable discovery: Muscles at work secrete tiny chemical messengers called myokines that exert powerful effects on organ function, including brain function (2).

Through the actions of myokines, muscle tissue communicates directly with the brain about its activity, triggering a cascade of biological responses that improve memory, learning, and mood (see Figure 1 below). This newly discovered mechanism implies that a person engaging in physical activities that build and maintain healthy muscle tissue can expect to enjoy a range of cognitive and mental health benefits. Recent clinical trials show precisely this effect (3).

If anyone has ever accused you of being complicated, they really had no idea. Although you can’t tell by looking in the mirror, the body you see reflected is comprised of more than 100 trillion cells. Cells are tiny; if you put cells side-by-side in a police lineup, for example, about 200 of them would fit in a single millimeter.

But that’s just the beginning of the miracle we call you. Every cell in your body is a thriving civilization in itself, populated by hundreds of millions of proteins and other molecules, each possessing a work ethic that would put John Henry to shame. Scaled to our size, your cellular citizens fly around at the speed of fighter jets, each busying themselves completing hundreds or even thousands of life-preserving functions per second. They must maintain this frenzied pace without interruption for you to survive, totaling billions of trillions of precisely performed chemical activities every day.

If you somehow possess a superhuman imagination capable of conceiving of this cellular cacophony, you may entertain a question: what powers all this? Remarkably, the enormous energy required to run your cells ultimately comes from the oxygen you breathe and the food you consume.

The latter seems important to remember the next time you don’t feel like eating your vegetables. Digested to the smallest denominator, nutrients are converted by mitochondria—arguably the VIP citizens of your cells—into billions of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules per minute. Although even an ordinary cell may house thousands of these energy-producing mitochondria, muscle cells are mitochondrial beehives, possessing tens or even hundreds of thousands to power their operations. Once made, ATP is feasted upon by your cells like exhausted runners devouring PowerBars at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Emerging almost impossibly from this molecular mayhem is you. Every thought, feeling, and action results from and depends on this unceasing cycle of energy demand and energy production. And if it isn’t apparent from this description, the better your cells function at the level of the little, the better you feel and function at the level of the large.

This brings us back to resistance training. Given the vital roles your muscles play in energy production and brain function, perhaps it is time to begin appreciating resistance training and muscle building as being useful for more than athletes and magazine models.

Using your muscles against resistance, for example, is far more effective for strengthening your bones than any calcium supplement (4). Regular muscle activity also improves insulin resistance (the cause of diabetes and many other metabolic conditions) better than any prescription medicine.

And now we know that stimulating muscle tissue with resistance training has emotional effects rivaling those of conventional antidepressants and psychotherapies (3). Recent neuroscience suggests that we evolved brains for one primary reason: to move (5). Counterintuitive to our traditional preoccupation with thinking, the primary function of the human brain is to coordinate complex movement (this is probably why we have brains while giant but stationary redwood trees do not).

How Do I Stop Robocalls From Scamming Me?

In 2021 alone, phones in the U.S. were pummeled by more than 50 billion robocalls, according to YouMail, a robocall blocking and analysis company. That’s more than 150 calls for every person in the country. In July, that number was 3.8 billion.

The result? Many of us just don’t answer our phones unless we recognize the number.

The damage done can have serious consequences, intended and not. In addition to fraudulent marketing, ignoring unknown numbers could prove dangerous – take the hiker lost on a mountain in Colorado who was reported to have ignored repeated telephone calls from Lake County Search and Rescue because they didn’t recognize the number. Consequently, the hiker didn’t even know anyone was searching. It’s a behavior common to most of us. A 2019 Consumer Reports survey found that 70% of Americans don’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number. 

Are Robocalls Legal?

In general, unless a company has your written permission, it is against the law to contact you via robocall, especially if the caller is trying to sell something. There are some exceptions. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these types of robocalls are permitted by law:

  • Messages that are purely informational as long as the caller isn’t also trying to sell you something.This includes calls about flight cancellations, for example, or reminding you about an appointment or letting you know about a delayed school opening.
  • Debt collection calls. A business contacting you to collect a debt can use robocalls to reach you. But robocalls that try to sell you services to lower your debt are illegal and are probably scams.
  • Political calls to landline phones, as long as they contain required identifying information.
  • Calls from some health care providers, such as from a pharmacy reminding you to refill a prescription.
  • Messages directly from charities. But if a charity hires someone to make robocalls on its behalf, unless you are a prior donor or member of the charity, the robocall is illegal. They also must include an automated option to let you stop future calls.

How to Avoid Robocalls

Quilici offered the following advice:

  1. Get a robocall blocking app on your cell phone. This will filter a lot of the bad guy calls so you don’t have to worry about them.
  2. Let calls from unknown numbers roll to voicemail. 
  3. Do your homework before calling a number back – generally, if they claim to be a bank, say, go to the bank’s website and call the number there, and do not just call back the number that called you.
  4. Finally, if you do answer, never give out personal information and hang up if asked for it.

You can also forward suspicious text messages to 7726 (or SPAM). This free text exchange with your wireless provider will report the number, and you will receive a response thanking you for reporting it.

In addition, the FCC offers the following advice:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer, hang up immediately.
  • Be aware: Caller ID showing a local number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
  • If you answer the phone and you are asked to hit a button to stop getting the calls, hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • Be wary of pressure for information immediately.
  • If you have a voicemail account, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you do not set a password.
  • If you use robocall-blocking technology, tell that company which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can block those calls for you and others.
  • To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.

Learn to Love Networking

We tend to have a range of reactions to the prospect of networking. Some of us love making connections and sharing information with new people. Some of us dread the awkward introductions and small talk.

And though we have probably all heard that networking is important to our career, these different attitudes mean we approach it differently. Below, our faculty discuss several social and psychological factors involved in networking—so you can assess your own approach and change it if you need to.

1. Networking’s “Ick” Factor

Maryam Kouchaki, an associate professor of management and organizations, is interested in the ick factor that many of us feel while networking. She and coauthors explored where that feeling comes from and found that networking can make people feel morally impure.

For example, in one study, participants saw partial words that could either be completed with a word related to cleanliness or an unrelated word (S _ _ P could be “soap” or “step”). They found that participants who had been asked to recall an instance of professional networking were more likely to fill in cleansing-related words than participants who had recalled forging a personal connection.

How does the aversion to networking that some people feel affect their professional careers? The researchers asked a group of lawyers about their personal-networking patterns and found that lawyers who felt dirtier after networking tended to do it less often—and had fewer billable hours.

2. How to Get Over an Aversion to Networking

Given networking’s importance to many careers, Kouchaki’s findings raises an interesting question: Can anything be done to combat this feeling of impurity? In another paper, Kouchaki and the same colleagues examined how the lens through which people view their networking can alter how they feel about it.

“We wanted to know what determines whether people feel guilty or not, and what we can do to help people get over this discomfort,” she says.

“Think about networking as an opportunity rather than a burden. That’s the biggest hurdle you need to overcome.”

— Maryam Kouchaki

Across several studies, they found that the more people viewed networking as a way of achieving a goal (as opposed to a way of preventing negative professional consequences), the less troubled by networking they felt, and the more likely they were to actually do it.

“Think about networking as an opportunity rather than a burden,” Kouchaki advises. “That’s the biggest hurdle you need to overcome.”

3. Who Else Dislikes Networking?

Kouchaki’s studies reveal one group of people with a particular aversion to networking—those who see it as a burden. But other groups have their own reasons for disliking networking.

A study by the late Ned Smith, who was an associate professor of management and organizations, looked at why seasoned professionals seem to be more comfortable actively reaching out to their networks than their more junior colleagues. After all, junior professionals often stand to gain the most from networking, so they’re doing themselves no favors if they’re networking-averse.

“We sensed this disconnect between who actually needs to be doing the networking behavior the most, and who is actually doing the networking behavior the most,” says coauthor Jiyin Cao, who earned her PhD from Kellogg and is now at Stony Brook University.

Smith and Cao explored why this is the case. First, they confirmed that higher-status people have larger networks and are more likely to work to broaden those networks. But, critically, they found that the differences between low- and high-status individuals actually hinged on something else: whether people considered status to be an indicator of quality. When people attributed their own high status to their talent and hard work, they were particularly eager to network because they were confident they had value to offer and that others would be receptive to their outreach.

“Higher-status people think, ‘I’m not just networking; I’m offering value to you,’” Cao explains. “They don’t feel like they’re taking advantage of their networking partner, which makes them come across as more authentic.”

Of course, the opposite is also true: lower-status individuals who feel they have little to offer others are less likely to network.

For those people, Cao advises to “think about the value you bring to this relationship. If you know you have value to bring to the relationship, you will feel more comfortable about doing this type of work.”

4. Status Affects How We Network

So social status affects how people generally approach networking. Another study by Smith and Leigh Thompson, a professor of management and organizations, shows that status also affects how people network when they really, really need to: when they’re at risk of losing a job.

Smith, Thompson, and coauthor Tanya Menon, at The Ohio State University, found that those who identify as having high social status tap into broader social networks when faced with the prospect of job loss than those who regard themselves as low-status individuals.

Accordingly, “If I’m a high-status person under a threat, I’ll be in a better position potentially to find the next job than a low-status person under threat,” Thompson says.

The difference does not reflect differently sized support networks. Rather, the research shows that higher-status job seekers typically reach out to a wide range of contacts, including individuals they met only occasionally in their work lives. Low-status people, by contrast, tend to share their situation with only their closest associates, such as family members and old friends.

“When people who perceive themselves as having high status face job loss, they remember the weak ties more than they otherwise would have,” Smith says. This is important because weak network ties are key sources of job-related information. “Low-status people under the same threat have exactly the opposite response; they go to dense, strong ties.”

4 Mindful Steps to Lower Stress and Improve Well-Being

Awareness of our emotions can help us see clearly how deleterious factors, such as addiction, influence our lives and give us the energy to change them. For example, Paul shared, “When I put a substance of any kind in my body that feels good, it tends to set a chain of events into action that doesn’t make me feel good. Even the first one turns me into someone I don’t want to be. There’s this saying, ‘There’re certain things that control is impossible the moment it’s suggested.’ That’s alcohol and drugs for me. When addiction was manifesting itself in heavy ways for me, I think I was looking for something. I was looking for something the world isn’t offering—something that made me feel whole and connected. The practice of mindfulness is the most direct route to that feeling. It takes some hard work, courage, and commitment, but there is no moment at which it’s not possible.”

Through Paul’s self-awareness of his emotional tone, he was able to see how much better meditation made him feel overall compared to alcohol and drugs. Through this realization, he came to care for his emotions by fostering a personal mindfulness and meditation practice and acting on the insights that arose from it. There are specific practices that encourage us to take a moment to pause, check in with our emotional tone, and respond to that emotional tone in a considered way. One approach that we teach in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based College is the STOP practice. 

The STOP Mindfulness Practice

One way to connect with our emotions and emotional wisdom is to use the STOP practice. The STOP practice can be used periodically throughout the day. It’s a useful habit to get into. Evidence suggests that it helps with emotion regulation, especially when feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed. But you can use it any time, as it is good training for being “here” every moment, whether that moment is pleasant, unpleasant, or somewhere in between.

Here’s how to do the STOP practice:

  1. S: Stop what you are doing.
  2. T: Take a breath.
  3. O: Observe and open yourself to thoughts, feelings, and the physical manifestations of the experience (tension in the shoulders, for example).
  4. P: Proceed by doing something to support an effective response to the experience. This might include skillfully responding to someone who just asked you to do something, taking a short walk to take some space from what just occurred, hugging that family member or friend who just smiled at you, or deciding not to have another alcoholic beverage.

In our research, the STOP practice was frequently reported as useful. One participant shared: “Alarm bells go off in my head, and I know I need to stop, take a breath, open toward me, and proceed. And then I remember to be kind to myself” (Nardi et al. 2020). 

The STOP practice can help regulate strong emotions. The Mindfulness-Based College study showed significant protective effects against depression over the school term. In the people randomly assigned to be in the control group (who waited to take the course until the following term), depressive symptoms increased as exams and term papers mounted. The people randomly assigned to take the Mindfulness-Based College course, while facing the same stressors, showed resilience. Their depressive symptoms stayed stable in the face of the term’s stressors (Loucks et al. 2021). Other mindfulness studies in youths (ages 12 to 25 years) showed similar findings (Dawson et al. 2019).

I invite you to take a few opportunities each day to STOP—not only when you are feeling stressed or unsure but as a way to be in the moment, whether to feel the beautiful sun shining on your face, fully notice the smile of a child, or feel the sadness in your heart. A big part of mindfulness is coming to know yourself, including where your emotions are at right now, and recognizing that emotions may shift from moment to moment or have steadiness. One of the best ways to come to know our emotions better, and thereby care for and harness them to serve ourselves and others, is to stop and observe our feelings with curiosity, gentleness, and kindness. I invite you to try the STOP practice now, or at your next opportunity when the time feels right.

How to Talk to Your Partner About An Expensive Purchase

“The reality is it’s rare in our lives that we only have one goal,” says Paul Edelman, financial coach and owner of Edelman & Associates.

You could have just gone and bought the thing, except you know that making a unilateral decision on something expensive is not how it works in a relationship. If you did, then you’d never be able to fully enjoy it.

You must talk about the potential big purchase with your partner. You know that. You just might not want to because the purchase feels completely selfish, or because you’d have to admit to something that you’d like to have and that comes with a risk of rejection. These feelings cause you to think less clearly and when you do bring it up, make you more likely to choose one of three incorrect paths:

  1. Don’t say anything, guaranteeing you’ll get nothing.
  2. You do say something, but it’s in the form of, “Gotta clean out the garage to make some space. Just giving you a heads up.”
  3. You present it like a discussion, asking for your partner’s feedback but with no intention of taking it, which makes things even worse.

By doing any of these three things, “you’ve made a charade of it,” says Marilyn Wechter, a St. Louis psychotherapist and financial therapist.

So what’s the better approach? Advocate less and look to build consensus. It means saying what you want but also remaining flexible to a solution that you may have never imagined. It also requires some preparation.

What to Consider Before Having the Conversation

Usually when we really want to buy something, we tend to hyper-focus. Edelman says to think of a stage. Right now, the “boat” is the only thing on it, but you need to fill the space with the other priorities in your life and the stuff that might not make the purchase doable.

Start by thinking about why you want the thing you want. It could be because you believe you deserve it, that you’ve always wanted one, or that your partner just got something. It helps to know if anxiety, fear, or jealousy is driving the decision, which could help explain why you hesitate to bring it up.

Then after figuring out your goal, think about the other goals in play. Those include what your partner might want, the plans you share, like saving for college; and maintaining the health of your relationship, because this isn’t like buying a car where you can go all-out with a salesperson who you’ll never see again. This is your partner, and, whatever you do has to be thought out and planned together.

You’re not winging it,” Edelman says.

It’s also not a mind-reading exercise. If you’re not sure what your partner wants, ask. By taking into account everything in play, the stage fills up, and you can work on how to possibly integrate all the pieces.

How to Talk About Making An Expensive Purchase

Teeing up this conversation doesn’t have to be anything more than, “I have something to talk about. I’d like to buy X… How can we make this work?”

You want to share why it matters. That could be as basic as the purchase would make you happy, because your partner doesn’t magically know. But be careful about how much you talk. It’s easy to start advocating, Edelman says; persuasion turns into pressure, and, as Wechter adds, “if I impose something on you, all you can do is be reactive.”

The ultimate thing to remember is that you want the discussion to be a discussion, and, in any discussion, people mostly just want to be heard. When they do, no one feels the need to dig in. You both talk and then the brainstorming comes, Wechter says. 

Maybe you say, “I get this now. You get the next splurge.” Maybe your partner suggests that you rent over buying for this year or take a weekend instead of a week vacation. None of it might look like what you envisioned, but because you came about it together, it’s a plan that works within the restrictions of your life, and, with that, you no longer feel any urgency or frustration.

The conversation can also take the edge off of the feeling that wanting something that isn’t about the kids or your future is selfish. That worry makes you act impulsively, or makes you end up keeping everything to yourself. Your thoughts and anger build and they become “the myth you tell yourself,” Wechter says. When you get the words out, they lose their power and you learn that what you want may not be so impossible, because now it’s a shared burden rather than a solo act.

As for the object of your affection being completely self-indulgent? Maybe it is, but you’ve come to an agreement with your partner about it, and if they’re good with it, stop wasting time and energy wrestling with a term.

As Wechter says, “Selfish is okay as long as it’s not being destructive.”

Someone Took Out a Loan in Your Name. Now What?

If this happens to you, getting the situation fixed can be difficult and time-consuming. But you can set things right.

If someone took out a loan in your name, it’s important to take action right away to prevent further damage to your credit. Follow these steps to protect yourself and get rid of the fraudulent accounts.

1. File a police report

The first thing you should do is file a police report with your local police department. You might be able to do this online. In many cases, you will be required to submit a police report documenting the theft in order for lenders to remove the fraudulent loans from your account.

2. Contact the lender

If someone took out a loan or opened a credit card in your name, contact the lender or credit card company directly to notify them of the fraudulent account and to have it removed from your credit report. For credit cards and even personal loans, the problem can usually be resolved quickly.

When it comes to student loans, identity theft can have huge consequences for the victim. Failure to pay a student loan can result in wage garnishment, a suspended license, or the government seizing your tax refund — so it’s critical that you cut any fraudulent activity off at the pass and get the loans discharged quickly.

In general, you’ll need to contact the lender who issued the student loan and provide them with a police report. The lender will also ask you to complete an identity theft report. While your application for discharge is under review, you aren’t held responsible for payments.

If you have private student loans, the process is similar. Each lender has their own process for handling student loan identity theft. However, you typically will be asked to submit a police report as proof, and the lender will do an investigation.

3. Notify the school, if necessary

If someone took out student loans in your name, contact the school the thief used to take out the loans. Call their financial aid or registrar’s office and explain that a student there took out loans under your name. They can flag the account in their system and prevent someone from taking out any more loans with your information.

4. Dispute the errors with the credit bureaus

When you find evidence of fraudulent activity, you need to dispute the errors with each of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You should contact each one and submit evidence, such as your police report or a letter from the lender acknowledging the occurrence of identity theft. Once the credit reporting bureau has that information, they can remove the accounts from your credit history.

Leading with Confidence in Uncertain Times

Serena crunched all the numbers and made the best estimates possible when she was preparing the coming quarter’s sales projections for the product she managed. She used lessons from her graduate studies in statistics and decision science. Informed by historical trends, economic forecasts, and market projections, she estimated a total sales volume of 1,000 units. In addition, she estimated a 15% probability that sales would fall below 900, and a 15% probability that sales would surpass 1,100. When she finished presenting her forecast, the first comment was from the CEO; she leaned back, scowled at Serena, and said, “I don’t pay you to be uncertain.” 

Many of us, like Serena’s CEO, imagine they want perfect predictions made with absolute certainty. For people like that, the current economic moment has brought a particularly acute apprehension. The business press reports robust jobs numbers and low unemployment, but high inflation and anemic economic growth. The news is rife with speculation about whether recession looms, even while some government officials offer rosy forecasts and comforting words. It is a complex picture that leaves substantial uncertainty about the future. Should your company invest in hiring additional staff or scale back in case a recession brings a decline in sales?   

If you are looking for fool-proof strategy for obtaining certainty, we have bad news for you — the world is complicated and markets are difficult to predict. But, if you are looking for ideas to manage the uncertain future, we have good news. There are tools for thinking through uncertainty and using it to plan and make decisions. These tools are useful in everyday life and every economic climate, regardless of whether the world is at war or at peace; whether the economy is growing or shrinking; and whether we are in a bull or a bear market. Here, we share five tools for thriving in an uncertain world.  

Think in Expected Values 

The essence of rationality is selecting the course of action with the highest expected value. Computing expected value is as easy as multiplying the value by its probability. For example, the expected value of a gamble that pays $20 with 50% probability is $10. If you could play this gamble every day of your life at a cost of $9, you would come out ahead in the long run. You should take the chance every day, even though half the time you would lose $9. On losing days, you may feel sad that you got unlucky, but you need not regret your choice to play; it was a good choice, given what you knew at the time you made the choice.  

Jeff Bezos pitched early investment in Amazon.com using the logic of expected value. He saw a large potential upside of his online retail business, but also acknowledged substantial risk. He warned early investors that there was a 70% chance he would fail and their investment would become worthless. But the potential rewards attached to that 30% chance of success, he argued, was enough to outweigh the 70% chance of failure. In fact, a dollar invested in Amazon.com when the company went public in 1997 would be worth $1,840 today. Let’s say that, at the time of the IPO, there was a 70% chance of failure and a 30% chance of a return of $1,840 for a dollar’s investment. That would give a dollar’s investment an expected value of $552 (which is $1,870 multiplied by 30%). That expected value makes investment a good idea. 

The logic underlying expected values acknowledges that the future is uncertain and our decisions should reflect that. Some of the uncertainty in the world is simply irreducible. It is folly, for instance, to pretend you can predict the coin flip or the roulette wheel. Likewise, many of the social and economic systems in which we operate are sufficiently complex that it is functionally impossible to predict their operations perfectly. 

History is replete with confident forecasts from smart people that, in retrospect, look ridiculous. Take, for example, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak’s pessimistic prediction in 1985: “the home computer may be going the way of video games, which are a dying fad. For most personal tasks…paper works just as well as a computer, and costs less.” Or consider Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich’s gloomy forecast in his 1968 best-seller, The Population Bomb, that the world would run out of food and “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s. In a complex world, we should forecast with humility. Give up on the pretense that you can anticipate precisely what will happen. Usually, though, the answer isn’t to just shrug your shoulders and say “I have no idea what will happen.” Instead, think about the range of possibilities and the likelihoods of each. Explicitly considering how you might be wrong can help you be more humble.  

We often ask participants in our studies to report their confidence in different ways. One matches the way we are most often invited to forecast the future: They report a best guess and their confidence in it. For instance, we ask them to estimate the high temperature, one month out, in the city where they live. When asked this way, across studies, people on average claim to be about 70% confident that the actual temperature will be within 5 degrees of their guess, even though they are only right 30% of the time. 

A second way to forecast is to estimate the likelihood of each of several possibilities. For instance, I can break the range of likely temperatures into a set of ranges, each 10 degrees wide. When people estimate these likelihoods, the highest probability assigned to any 10-degree range is lower — typically a bit below 50%. Now that’s still overconfident relative to their 30% hit rate, but it’s a lot better.  

Use the Wisdom of the Crowd 

Even experts tend to have too much confidence in their estimates, and most of us have too much confidence that we can find the right expert. The Wall Street Journal asks expert economists to predict key economic outcomes for the upcoming year. There is huge variation in their predictions. How should you use the distribution of expert forecasts? Many would use the advice of the top expert. That’s basically what the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates advocated: 

First of all, ask whether there is any one of us who has knowledge of that about which we are deliberating? If there is, let us take his advice, though he be one only, and not mind the rest.

A different approach relies on the wisdom of crowds. In his 2004 book on popularizing that idea, James Surowiecki argued that simple rules of aggregating judgments within a group — including using a mean or median, or majority vote for yes/no decisions — typically outperform more complex decision-making strategies. Business professor Rick Larrick and his colleagues show the benefits of a “select-crowd” strategy, which consists of choosing a small number of expert individuals and averaging their opinions. Averaging the estimates of all of the economists in the WSJ survey is a better strategy than selecting the estimate of the best predictor from the previous year. But averaging the top five predictors from the previous year outperforms a simple average all of the economists’ opinions. 

It is our craving for certainty that leads us to chase a single expert, the one who can make perfect predictions. And this craving also makes us vulnerable to charlatans who lie to us and pretend they know; or worse yet, those megalomaniacs so overconfident that they sincerely believe they know. Beware the leader, entrepreneur, or political candidate who claims certainty about an uncertain future. They reveal more arrogance than insight. 

Calibrate Your Confidence 

Many self-help and business books could leave you with the impression that your challenge in life is to maximize your confidence. Shouldn’t you want to be optimistic? “One of the most important qualities of a good leader is optimism,” Disney CEO Robert Iger wrote in his 2019 memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime. “People are not motivated or energized by pessimists.” Our advice to accept uncertainty could make you look indecisive or, worse yet, pessimistic. Good leaders should strive for confidence, right? 

Wrong. Striving for maximum confidence can lead to all sorts of bad decisions. Overconfidence about your future earnings could lead you to spend more than you have. Overconfidence about your invincibility might lead you to take risks that could shorten your life expectancy. Overconfidence about your popularity can lead you to behave in annoying and offensive ways. Overconfidence about your success can undermine investment in the effort required to achieve it.  

Good expected value calculations require accurate estimates of both the probability and the payoff of different options. That is not easy when wishful thinking leads you to overestimate the probability of desirable outcomes. Conversely, if you are a defensive pessimist, you may be tempted to overestimate the risk of disaster, so as to motivate yourself to avoid it. Both are biases you should try to banish from your expected value calculations. You want accuracy. Once you have calculated both value and probability as faithfully as possible, then you can consider your attitude toward risk. If you are risk averse, then you will require that uncertainty be offset by higher expected values. On the other hand, risk seekers will be willing to accept lower expected values in return for the chance at a jackpot. 

Decision analyst and former professional poker player Annie Duke, in her book, Thinking in Bets, describes how gamblers help calibrate each other’s confidence by challenging implausible forecasts with the question, “Wanna bet?” This can be a fun game to play with your colleagues if you disagree about something. Instead of arguing, bet on your beliefs. Write down everyone’s forecasts and resolve the bets later. 

This can be a useful way to get better at calibrating your confidence: keep track and keep score. Get in the habit of making probabilistic forecasts of uncertain events. Then go back and see how often you were right. When you claimed 90% confidence you would meet a particular deadline, how often did you do it? If your confidence is perfectly “calibrated” you’d have met that deadline 9 out of 10 times. 

Managers can help others in their organizations get better at calibrating their confidence by collecting predictions and scoring them later. Will a development project stay on schedule? Will the project stay on budget? Record everyone’s estimates of these probabilities and then score them and publicize them later. Share the results so that people are aware of their own accuracy. Encourage those who report to you to honestly report their uncertainty. Don’t be like Serena’s boss, who, by demanding certainty, encouraged inaccurate and overconfident forecasts.   

Take a Mental Vacation This Weekend

We all know that we work too much in the United States.

The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a minimum annual leave for workers—a minimum number of paid vacation days in a year granted to employees.1. 

The average American worker toiled for 1,791 hours in 2021.2 This was 428 hours more than the average worker in Denmark and 442 hours more than a worker in Germany. In 2021, we worked, on average, 184 more hours than a worker in Japan and 195 more hours than a worker in… Slovenia. I don’t know about you, but these numbers surprised me. I am not sure how many hours I was expecting someone in Slovenia to work, but I sure am jealous of their work-life balance over there. All I know is that a small part of each of us likely dies inside when we take stock of these comparisons.

There is a laundry list of problems with our work culture: lack of a national paid parental leave benefit, stigma around using vacation and sick days, the systematic undervaluing and under-compensating of professions like teaching, etc. It could be easy to become bitter and cynical and… stop there, but that is not what a reader of Psychology Today is about, right? What can we do?

Treat Your Weekend Like a Vacation

A group of researchers wanted to see if prompting employees on a Friday to “treat this weekend like a vacation” would allow them to enjoy their time off more and be more emotionally and mentally refreshed upon going back to work the following Monday compared to being prompted to “treat this weekend like a regular weekend.”They surveyed 441 full-time employees before and after the following weekend and found that workers who were primed to live out their weekend like a mini vacation reported that they were more focused on the present moment, which translated to more positive emotions, less negative feelings, and greater satisfaction when back at work. 

Takeaway: Actually behave as if your weekend is like a vacation. That means actually not working. Resist the urge to do one more thing for work, check or respond to work emails, or do work-like tasks such as chores or dealing with obligations (given any realistic constraints). 

Actually Take Your Vacations

A 2000 study following middle-aged men at high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) for nine years found that taking more frequent vacations was correlated with a reduced likelihood of dying from any cause and specifically, with a reduced risk of mortality due to CHD.4 Another study investigating the impact of taking time off showed that three days after employees took a vacation, they reported improved mood, better quality of sleep, and less physical complaints than before vacation. Interestingly, five weeks after vacation, individuals in the study still reported having less physical complaints than before their vacations.5

Be Present

When you look back on your life, will you remember the work emails you responded to or will you remember the quality time you spent with your cat, dog, friend, family, love of your life, or even yourself? Will you remember the extra tidying you did around the house or will you remember the spontaneous adventure you had around town or in nature? As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Happy Labor Day

Let’s take a quick moment to wish all of our fellow former players a happy Labor Day, and hopefully a long-weekend spent with your family and friends.  Your past experiences as part of the NFLPA created a bond with labor unions across the country, and even the world.  We thank you and all of the hard working men and women in America for your dedication, day-in and day-out.

From all of us at the Professional Athletes Foundation, we wish you and your family the best heading into the fall!

How ‘Micro-Breaks’ Can Help You Feel Better at Work

Not very long at all, according to a new research review on “micro-breaks,” which the authors defined as a break of 10 minutes or less. The findings were published on Aug. 31 in the journal PLOS ONE. People who took breaks experienced statistically significant boosts in their wellbeing—making them feel more vigorous and less fatigued. The results, based on a review of 22 previously published studies that included 2,335 participants, indicate that those who took micro-breaks had about 60% better odds of feeling energetic, according to Patricia Albulescu and Coralia Sulea, co-authors of the study and researchers at the West University of Timisoara in Romania.

The research was less conclusive on whether micro-breaks improve work performance, however. The benefits varied from study to study and across different kinds of tasks, and ultimately the effect wasn’t statistically significant, although the researchers found that there was improvement as the breaks got longer.

However, there’s robust evidence that for your average worker with a sedentary job, little breaks can have a big impact, says John P. Trougakos, professor of organizational behavior and HR management in the department of management at University of Toronto-Scarborough, and an expert on breaks. (He was not involved in the new review.) By combining both short and long breaks into the work day, workers will feel better and produce better quality work.

Here’s what to know about micro-breaks, and how they can improve your work day.

Why micro-breaks are important

Trougakos argues that the studies in the new review miss an important factor: fatigue tends to worsen over time. Since the experiments in the 22 studies were constrained by time, it wasn’t possible to measure the ways in which being tired at work can create a vicious performance cycle.

“The more fatigued you get, the more effort you have to put in to keep performing. So you actually are expending more and more effort and doing it less and less efficiently,” says Trougakos. “Short breaks, whether it’s a 10-minute break, a 5-minute break, standing up and stretching, you’re kind of giving the person a chance to stop the depletion cycle, but also re-energize themselves a little bit.”

Overall, Trougakos says, while there hasn’t been much research on micro-breaks and performance, science suggests that short breaks are important. That includes studies with an ergonomics angle, which have found that resting your eyes and stretching is necessary to avoid eye strain and skeletal fatigue—discomforts that can distract and drain workers. Not taking sufficient breaks can also negatively affect workers’ sleep quality and life outside of work, and gradually lead them to feel burned out. Studies suggest highly productive employees tend to work in relatively short spurts, with long breaks—according to one study published by a productivity tracker company, spending 52 minutes working for every 17 minutes of break. “The idea is: you don’t work more to be more productive; you work smarter to be more productive,” Trougakos says.

The ideal breaks

The breaks you need might depend on what you’re doing; for instance, activities you enjoy might drain you less than a task you hate or that causes you a lot of stress. As a general rule, however, Trougakos recommends spending about 90 minutes working, followed by a 15- or 20-minute break. Over the course of that working period, you’d also be taking micro-breaks. Trougakos suggests a short stretch break every 20 or 30 minutes, as well as a break to “get away from the task” somewhere in the middle of those 90 minutes.

But what is the best way to rest during these short breaks? While there’s evidence that some things are good for everyone, like stretching, relaxing, or light to moderate physical activity (think: taking a walk), Trougakos says, the best break depends on an individual’s preferences. For instance, an extrovert might choose to grab a coffee with their work friends, while an introvert might duck outside with a book. The key, he says, is that you have control over what you do during your break.

To be sure, Trougakos admits that some managers and companies will be nervous about permitting their employees to take so many breaks. Flexibility is key—employees have different needs for breaks, which might vary depending on the task or even from day to day. However, in many cases, Trougakos argues that the shift to hybrid schedules and working from home has given organizations and workers a novel opportunity: to branch out and find new ways to work to maximize productivity. While permitting break flexibility might feel counterintuitive to companies, it actually fits with what most employers value: to “get people to be fully productive, but also be healthy and have a balanced life,” Trougakos says.

Should you buy a house or rent?

In just six months, Sam Brinton, a real estate agent in Salt Lake City, has witnessed a complete reversal in buyer sentiment.

“It’s a night and day difference,” he says.

Last year, even as the pandemic housing market pushed home prices ever higher and bidding wars were an expected part of the homebuying process, buyers were motivated enough to stay in the game. 

The last few months have been the opposite.

“They are confused and hesitant now. Many buyers are sitting on the sidelines because the market has cooled down so much,” says Brinton.

The cooling housing market has further fueled the demand for rental units, driving rental prices even higher.

Why are people thinking about renting?

It’s been a nerve-wracking time for homebuyers grappling with still-soaring prices for existing homes despite rising inventory, falling home sales and volatile interest rates.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate went from 3.22% on Jan. 6 to 5.55% on Aug. 25, according to Freddie Mac.

Existing home sales fell for the sixth consecutive month with sales down 6% from June and 20% from one year ago.

The wait-and-watch approach by buyers is prompting a high share of home sellers to drop their asking price. More than 15% of home sellers dropped their asking price in the 97 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a report from Redfin.

In pandemic boomtowns, it was much more drastic.

In Salt Lake City, for instance, 56% of homes for sale had a price drop in July. Nearly 70% of homes for sale in Boise, Idaho, had a price drop in July, the highest share of the 97 metros.

“Last year, the market forces pushed you into a home and pushed you into doing it sooner than you wanted . It was like ‘now, now, now high, high, high.,” says Brinton. “Whereas now the market forces are pulling you away. Even someone who’s ready to go is kind of dragging their feet.”

he median existing home sales price climbed 11% from one year ago to $403,800 in July, marking 125 consecutive months of year-over-year increases. However, it was down by $10,000 from June’s record high of $413, 800, according to National Association of Realtors data.

Should you buy or rent a home?

The median monthly asking rent in the U.S. surpassed $2,000 for the first time in May, rising 15% year-over-year to a record high of $2,002.

Asking rents were up over 30% in Cincinnati, Seattle, and Nashville, Tennessee, and nearly 50% in Austin, Texas.

In July, the national median asking rent was up 14% year-over-year to $2,032.

“Rent prices have gone up in the last 18 months, much faster than any other time in recent history,” says housing analyst Logan Mohtashami. “So the question is, ‘Can you tolerate the rent increases on a yearly basis?‘”

With a home purchase, even at a higher interest rate, a buyer is opting for a fixed payment plan, says Mohtashami. And if mortgage rates go down next year, homebuyers have the option to refinance.

How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally

In the years following World War II, physicians in the U.S. and Europe noticed a surprising phenomenon: rates of heart attack and stroke fell dramatically in many places. Autopsies from this period also revealed reduced rates of atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of fatty arterial plaques that causes cardiovascular disease.

At first, experts were perplexed. But as time passed, many concluded that wartime food deprivations and the forced shifts in people’s diets—namely, big reductions in the consumption of red meat and other animal products—contributed to the heart-health improvements. Later work, particularly the famous Framingham Heart Study, helped establish that blood cholesterol levels, driven in large part by a person’s diet, tended to overlap closely with cardiovascular disease.

The idea that the foods a person eats could raise or lower their risks for unhealthy cholesterol levels and disease was, at first, a radical and controversial one. While there’s ongoing debate about the relationship between red meat and poor health, the links connecting diet, cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease are beyond doubt.

Cholesterol is a waxy compound that your body uses primarily to make hormones and to firm up the walls of cells. “Our body needs some cholesterol for day-to-day functioning, but the amount our body needs is relatively small,” says Dr. Laurence Sperling, the founder and director of the Heart Disease Prevention Center at Emory University in Atlanta.

Different parts of the body, including the brain and the blood, contain cholesterol. It’s the oversupply of cholesterol in the blood, specifically, that causes problems—specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is also known as “bad cholesterol. Too much LDL in the arteries can “form a fatty streak, which is the precursor of atherosclerotic plaque,” explains Dr. Francine Welty, a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and former chair of the American Heart Association’s lipid committee. LDL, therefore, is the primary building block of arterial plaque.

The two main diseases associated with clogged arteries—coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease—are both among the top three causes of death worldwide. More than 1 in 4 deaths are caused by one of these two conditions, and managing or lowering your blood cholesterol levels is a proven way to prevent these diseases. Sperling says ideal or “target” cholesterol levels vary depending on a person’s age, sex, and health status. But, optimally, you want to keep your LDL cholesterol below 70 mg/dL. While drugs can help people get there—and in some cases may be necessary—he says that non-pharmacological approaches are just as important. “Lifestyle and behavioral approaches are the foundation of cardiovascular prevention for all,” he says.

Here, experts detail the most impactful lifestyle changes to make to lower your cholesterol. A proper diet, they all agree, tops the list.

How to eat to lower your cholesterol 

One of the biggest trends in diet and nutrition advice is a movement away from talking about specific micronutrients and optimal daily servings of this or that food group. Instead, nutrition experts now talk a lot more about broad patterns of healthy eating. This means limiting certain foods while prioritizing others, rather than trying to hit narrow targets.

“Something I tell a lot of my patients is that the Greek derivation of diet is diaeta, which means a way of life,” Sperling says. “Dieting shouldn’t be torture, or something you maintain for a month. It should be a meaningful and purposeful change you can extend throughout your life.”

In this spirit, he says one of the most important changes you can make is to pack your meals with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Many of the most effective and evidence-backed cholesterol-lowering eating plans—like the Mediterranean diet—prioritize these foods, he says.

Meanwhile, reducing your intake of animal products—especially red meat and processed dairy foods—is a move that research has repeatedly tied to cholesterol improvements. “I’ve run the lipid prevention clinic at my hospital for 31 years, and the first thing we tell people is to lower their intake of saturated fats,” Welty says. She mentions red meat, butter, and dairy as foods people should aim to cut down on—not eliminate necessarily, but reduce—if they want to improve their cholesterol. Many Americans consume saturated fats, from eggs and dairy products to red meat, with almost every meal. This sort of immoderation is a problem. “The Japanese have some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease in the world, and that may be because they eat much less red meat and saturated fat than we do in America,” Welty says.

It’s worth noting that saturated fat is a controversial topic in nutrition research. Some experts have argued that saturated fats get blamed for health problems that are likely caused by processed meats, refined carbohydrates (like those found in sugary or packaged foods), and the trans fats in fast foods and some packaged snacks. Others have argued that if people avoid meat and dairy but end up eating more processed or refined carbs, that’s an unhealthy trade. On the other hand, experts generally agree that trading saturated fats for some of the healthy foods mentioned above—such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts—is a highly effective way to improve your cholesterol scores and heart health. “If you decrease the saturated fat in your diet, that’s one of the best ways to lower LDL,” Welty says.

She adds that protein-rich soy-based products—from tofu to soy milks and yogurts—may also be good substitutes for meat, butter, milk, and other conventional saturated fat sources. “People in America are fixated on protein, but Americans don’t really like to eat soy products,” she says. This is unfortunate because research stretching back several decades has linked soy to improved heart health and lower blood cholesterol levels. “If you need to replace saturated fats with other proteins, soy would be a good option,” she says.

Readjusting and the Pursuit of Happiness

In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud observed that struggle is intrinsic to the human condition. As a psychiatrist, I help people deal with it. That includes helping them to direct that struggle towards finding happiness.

I help people identify the source(s) of their unhappiness and work through ways that help them 1) stop hurting, and 2) begin to experience a much-improved state of mind relative to their initial problem. Notice how contextualized and open-ended that second task is. 

Happiness (or, rather, getting there) involves work, tailored to each individual in some particular aspect of their lives. The goal, which many patients achieve at least to some degree, is to experience less conflict or struggle; more personal freedom; greater clarity about themselves and/or others; more contentment; and at the far end of the spectrum, maybe even joy.

Always, we focus on the patient’s learning to take the initiative, to direct his or her mind towards whatever they need to find in order to feel happy. At work, it could be finding a sense of purpose after aimlessly drifting. It could be finding a way to feel valuable after retirement. We examine a patient’s thought processes; their pratfalls; their finding the incentive to continue. 

Because the goal is proceeding towards happiness, the question of incentive—i.e., motivation, the will to keep going—turns up no matter what the patient’s ultimate concerns. Patients set about finding mental energy, the personal wherewithal to make a difference in how they proceed through life. Ultimately, I have observed people’s committed struggles to feel better about where they are, who they are, and what they still can accomplish.

I define the domains of happiness around those that continually (unremittingly) involve my patients:

Work and Money. This is about pursuing happiness in professional life. How do we balance the need to work with all the stress indigenous to a work environment? How do we choose an occupation when we love doing one thing but something else pays more? Work and sacrifice seem to run in tandem. It’s as if taking up a profession, or even just holding a job, is a constant balancing act where personal preference, financial reward, and even ethics are constantly jostling for importance in a complex calculus that changes over the course of our lives. 

My patients struggle to define their relationship to work at various, crucial inflection points along the way. They adapt and transcend disappointment. They find more in work than merely a source of financial security or a way to structure their lives.

Wellness and Personal Growth. Wellness refers to an individual’s continued growth across and balance among several dimensions of life: the physical, to be sure, but also emotional, social, and professional. It may also include a spiritual dimension, which is not so much a belief in God as a capacity to listen to your heart, live by your principles, and be fully present in whatever you do. In this posture, spirituality means curiosity and openness to experience; you learn about being human, and allow yourself and others to be who you (or they) really are; you see opportunities for growth in the challenges that life presents. Thus, whether “wellness” is or is not physical, it takes work. It takes commitment, and a sensitivity that extends beyond oneself.

Vitamin D supplementation

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 5% of adults around the world live with depression.

While there is no available cure for depression, symptoms are often manageable through treatments including psychotherapy and prescription antidepressants. 

Prior research has explored the causal relationships between vitamin D, inflammation, and depression. For instance, a 2013 study linked low levels of vitamin D to depression. Another study from 2011 suggested that vitamin D levels may help regulate inflammation, which is linked to depression. 

Until now, however, systematic reviews and meta-analyses investigating the link between vitamin D levels and depression have delivered mixed results. 

But a new study has systematically reviewed and meta-analyzed randomized controlled trials (RCT) that examined the efficacy of vitamin D supplements in reducing depressive symptoms compared to a placebo. 

The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation equal to or exceeding 2,000 individual units (IUs) per day may help reduce depressive symptoms, although they noted their results have “very low certainty.”

The study was recently published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition

The impact of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms

For the study, the researchers examined 41 RCTs including 53, 235 people in their analysis. They looked at data including age, vitamin D levels at baseline and post-treatment, and data on depressive symptoms. 

They also included details of vitamin D supplementation, including: 

  • duration
  • dose
  • type
  • frequency
  • possible calcium supplementation or add-on medications 

Overall, the researchers found that vitamin D supplementation had a small to moderate effect on depressive symptoms. 

Effect sizes were slightly larger among people with baseline vitamin D levels below 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) — the borderline for low vitamin D levels — than those with vitamin D levels above this threshold at baseline. 

The researchers also noted that while doses up to 2,000 IU daily had a small to moderate effect, those who took over 4,000 IU daily had a larger effect. 

What’s more, vitamin D supplementation appeared to have a larger effect when taken for less than 12 weeks compared to longer periods of time.

3 Types of Burnout, and How to Overcome Them

Take a moment to bring to mind a person who’s burned out. You’re likely picturing someone who is overbooked and overwhelmed, drowning in multiple demands and competing priorities.

But, burnout is far more nuanced than simply being busy and tired.

For years, it was believed that everyone reacted to chronic workplace stress in the same way. But research has revealed that burnout manifests itself in different ways depending on a person’s work environment as well as their internal resources, including dedication to their job and coping mechanisms.

Let’s take a closer look at the three types of burnout and how you can overcome each one.

Overload Burnout

Overload burnout occurs when you work harder and more frantically to achieve success, often to the detriment of your health and personal life. This is the type of burnout that most people are familiar with, and it’s also the most common.

Overload burnout typically affects highly dedicated employees who feel obligated to work at an unsustainable pace. As a result, they drive themselves to the point of physical and mental exhaustion.

Professionals with overload burnout tend to cope by venting their emotions to others (i.e. complaining about how tired and overwhelmed they are). This subtype is also quick to jump into problem-solving mode, creating more work and responsibility for themselves, which only exacerbates their stress.

Signs to watch out for:

  • You overlook your own needs or personal life to fulfill work demands
  • You invest more than is healthy in your commitment to your career or ambitions
  • You endanger your well-being to achieve your goals

How to address it:

Researchers note that the way out of overload burnout is two-fold. First, it’s important to develop stronger emotion regulation skills, such as naming and processing your emotions and reframing negative self-talk. For instance, you could reframe the belief that you need to work all the time to be successful to “enjoying my life helps me become more successful.” After all, resting is not a reward for success. It’s a prerequisite for performance.

Second, it’s crucial to separate your self-worth from your work. “Consequently, by learning to keep a certain distance from work…,” researchers Jesús Montero-Marín and Javier García-Campayo write, “individuals could avoid excessive involvement and prevent burnout.”

Strive to diversify your identity — to create self-complexity — by investing in different areas of your life beyond work. You might decide to devote time to your role as a spouse, parent, or friend. During the pandemic, one of my clients restored an old identity by renewing his pilot’s license. Volunteering with the Civil Air Patrol proved to be a healthy forcing function to get away from his computer, while also contributing to his sense of well-being.

Under-Challenged Burnout

You might be surprised to find out that burnout can result from doing too little. Under-challenged burnout could be considered the opposite of the overload subtype. It occurs when you’re bored and not stimulated by your job, which leads to a lack of motivation. People with under-challenged burnout may feel underappreciated and become frustrated because their role lacks learning opportunities, room for growth, or meaningful connection with co-workers and leadership.

Workers who feel their tasks are monotonous and unfulfilling tend to lose passion and become cynical and lethargic. They cope with the stress of being under-challenged through avoidance — distraction, dissociation, or thought suppression (i.e. ordering themselves to “Stop thinking about that”).

Signs to watch out for:

  • You would like to work on assignments and tasks that are more challenging
  • You feel your job does not offer you opportunities to develop your abilities
  • You feel that your current role is hampering your ability to advance and develop your talents

How to address it: 

When you’re demoralized, it can be hard to care about much of anything. Lower the stakes by simply exploring your curiosities. Set a goal to learn a new skill in the next 30 days to kickstart your motivation. Start small and don’t overwhelm yourself. Perhaps you spend an hour or two a week learning to code or devote 20 minutes a day practicing a new language.

Making strides towards something that feels fun and meaningful to you creates a flywheel of momentum that can lift you out of a funk. Even if the skill isn’t directly related to your job, you’ll likely find that the positive energy spills over to reinvigorate your passion for your work — or that it inspires your career to move in a new direction.

You might also try job crafting to turn the job you have into the one you want. Again, baby steps are key. Focusing on incremental changes can add up to big results. Take my client, Alice, a product management lead. As the pandemic wore on, she increasingly felt underchallenged by her role, which mostly comprised of team performance management. So, I gave her an assignment. For two weeks, she tracked what tasks created the most psychological flow. A clear pattern emerged: Talking to customers lit her up, as did solving challenging workflow problems. Alice’s manager was ecstatic when she proposed a new research project combining those skill sets to innovate the company’s core product.

Neglect burnout

The final type of burnout is the worn-out subtype. This is also called neglect burnout, because it can result from feeling helpless in the face of challenges. Neglect burnout occurs when you aren’t given enough structure, direction, or guidance in the workplace. You may find it difficult to keep up with demands or otherwise feel unable to meet expectations. Over time, this can make you feel incompetent, frustrated, and uncertain.

The worn-out worker copes through learned helplessness, which occurs when a person feels unable to find solutions to difficult situations — even when ones are available. In other words, people with learned helplessness tend to feel incapable of making any positive difference in their circumstances. In other words, when things at work don’t turn out as they should, those with neglect burnout become passive and stop trying.

Signs to watch out for:

  • You stop trying when work situations don’t go as planned
  • You give up in response to obstacles or setbacks you face at work
  • You feel demoralized when you get up in the morning and have to face another day at work

How to address it: 

Find ways to regain a sense of agency over your role. Try creating a to-don’t list. What can you get off your plate by outsourcing, delegating, or delaying? Look for obligations you need to say “no” to all together and hone the skill of setting stronger boundaries. A great place to start is by identifying situations where you feel an intense sense of resentment. This is an emotional signal that you need to put healthier limits in place.

Likewise, consider talking to your boss about your workload. You could explain how you’re currently spending your time and ask, “Are my priorities consistent with yours? What would you like me to change?” Or, “If we could take Project A off of my plate, then I’d have more time to focus on our team’s strategic priorities and ultimately deliver on the key goals we’ve evaluated against.” Your manager will likely be thrilled you’re thinking about the big picture and taking initiative.

Most importantly, focus on what you can control. Outside of office hours, be bullish about self-care. Create routines and rituals that ground you, such as a daily walk or journaling practice. When you feel helpless about changing tides at work, some semblance of predictability is essential.

How to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

It pays to learn about the mortgage process so that you’re ready when the right house comes along. Here’s what to know about mortgage preapproval and prequalification. 

WHAT PREAPPROVAL FOR A HOME LOAN MEANS

When a mortgage lender preapproves you, they’re stating they would be willing to provide you with a loan of a specific amount. It’s a tentative declaration that isn’t a commitment, but it tells you the lender determined what your finances are and feels comfortable loaning you the specific amount listed in the preapproval letter. That number gives you a ballpark range of what you can afford when you shop for a house. 

IS PREAPPROVAL REQUIRED?

Generally, no, but some sellers may require it. Preapproval shows house sellers that you’re a serious buyer, and if you’re shopping in a competitive region, being preapproved can give you a leg up. 

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR PREAPPROVAL

Getting preapproved is similar to applying for a mortgage. Every lender will have slightly different requirements, but you can expect to be asked to provide the following information:

  • Social security number
  • Address 
  • Proof of income and employment information
  • Recent W-2s (1099s if applicable)
  • Bank account information

HOW IS PREQUALIFICATION DIFFERENT FROM PREAPPROVAL?

Prequalification is much easier and more informal than preapproval. Prequalification requires only basic information. In fact, some lenders may not even need to pull your credit report to prequalify you for a loan. Prequalification primarily benefits you, the buyer. It can help you understand your mortgage budget (how much you can afford to borrow), so you can set your expectations when you begin shopping for a house. Prequalification typically requires sharing the following information with a lender:

  • Income 
  • Assets (including savings)
  • Expenses
  • Debts
  • Credit score

With that information, the lender should be able to give you a rough idea of how much of a mortgage loan you might qualify for. Use it as a gauge rather than a sure thing. 

HOW LONG DOES THE PREAPPROVAL PROCESS TAKE?

The length of time for preapproval will vary by lender. You could have an answer in less than 24 hours or it could take up two weeks. But most lenders will let you know if you’re preapproved within a few business days. 

How long your preapproval lasts will also vary by lender. Generally, you can expect you’ll need a new preapproval after 90 days. However, it’s important to understand that preapproval isn’t a guarantee of a specific loan amount, and the further you get from your initial preapproval date, the more likely it is that changes to your finances might lead to a change in terms. (For example, maybe you forgot to pay a hefty credit card bill and your credit score took a hit, which no longer qualifies you for your preapproved interest rate.) Even if your preapproval hasn’t expired, the loan terms you get when you apply for a mortgage could look different from the deal you were expecting. 

FINDING A GOOD LOAN OFFICER 

Word of mouth, talking to friends, and consumer reviews are a good way to find a trustworthy loan officer. If you’re using a realtor, that person might have a relationship with a loan officer that they can vouch for. 

Ideally, you should try to get preapproved with multiple lenders to see what kind of rates and offers you can get.

ARE LARGE LOAN COMPANIES TRUSTWORTHY?

It’s certainly fine to use larger companies like Rocket Mortgage or Better Mortgage. They may have more modern conveniences than smaller companies have, such as a faster approval process, for example. Just like any option, make sure you know what you’re getting into and compare options whenever possible.

Tangled Titles Disrupt Generational Wealth: How Homeowners Can Respond

According to a 2022 Bankrate survey, 74% of Americans rank homeownership as the highest gauge of prosperity. Despite its challenges, most people still consider homeownership a vital part of the American Dream. 

However, these efforts are undermined by tangled titles, a property title that doesn’t accurately reflect a homeowner’s claim to a residence. Most often, tangled titles happen when a homeowner dies without a will. As a result, children or grandchildren may live in a deceased relative’s home without ever transferring the deed to their name.

This puts heirs at a practical and financial disadvantage, preventing the probate process from properly transferring property after death without a will. It also puts them at risk of housing instability. The results can ruin generational wealth as people can’t access the home’s equity, sell the property, or transfer ownership to heirs. 

Simply put, tangled titles disrupt generational wealth for families across the US, making it more difficult for people to climb out of poverty or advance prosperity by leveraging their most valuable asset – their homes.

UNDERSTANDING “TANGLED TITLES” 

While tangled titles only impact a small percentage of homeowners, they play an outsized role in disrupting generational wealth. In addition to preventing people from accessing a home’s value, property title issues make it difficult for people to purchase insurance or receive benefits from federal or local agencies, while at the same time obligating them to pay real estate taxes and fulfill the practical responsibilities of homeownership. 

It subjects people to the burdens of homeownership without many of the most impactful benefits. What’s more, tangled titles primarily impact the Black community. A census analysis by a local PBS and NPR affiliate found that 87 percent of tangled titles belong to Black-owned homes. 

The causes are both tragic and historical. For generations, Black people were locked out of the judicial system. Meanwhile, they chose not to consolidate heirship and didn’t list just one person in a will because it offered some protection against racist and unethical entities that might try to take their homes away. If bad actors didn’t know who owned a property, it was more difficult to force them out. 

There was also an element of culture. Purposefully tangled titles meant that there was “family land” or a “family home”. It meant that no matter what happened, family members would always have a place where they could gather. 

An analysis of tangled titles in Philadelphia by the Pew Charitable Trusts demonstrates the impact on homeowners and communities. According to the analysis, Philadelphia has more than 10,400 tangled titles for homes with a median value of nearly $89,000. While the home values are lower than the citywide average, these properties are collectively worth $1.1 billion, a significant amount of family wealth that goes untapped and unused. 

The consequences can be devastating and far-reaching. Tangled titles mean that people don’t legally own their homes, and resolving the conflict can be difficult and expensive. 

HOW HOMEOWNERS CAN RESPOND TO A TANGLED TITLE

There are several ways that heirs can resolve a tangled title.

Families can decide to transfer the deed to one person’s name, split the property between multiple people, or form a cooperative. This can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In addition to the cost, this process is often slow and setbacks are common, requiring genealogy records and other references that are challenging barriers for many people. 

Regardless of the approach, resolving tangled titles can be a costly, time-consuming process that many homeowners can’t afford. Fixing a tangled title requires a specialized attorney, which means people have few options when selecting legal counsel. Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that total costs, including subsidized legal counsel, fee waivers, and other public assistance, exceed $9,000. 

There are several excellent companies helping people address tangled titles, and nonprofit organizations are a good place to start. Unfortunately, there isn’t a big national organization that does this work. Consequently, there often aren’t enough financial or personnel resources to get to everyone quickly, and the longer it takes, the more protracted the problem becomes. Contacting your local legal aid organization is a good way to connect with groups that can help.

Right now, homeowners can protect themselves and their heirs against tangled titles by formalizing an estate plan that describes the intentions for the property while designating one person to inherit the property to avoid future title issues. Taking care of a tangled title before it becomes a critical issue can preserve wealth and minimize disruption.

While MMI doesn’t offer services for untangling titles, this problem often arises when homeowners face financial hardship and need to extract value from their homes. Anyone struggling with repaying credit card debt, balancing income and expenses, or recovering from a natural disaster can contact MMI today to find answers and develop solutions with the help of a qualified representative. Confidential counseling is free and available online for your convenience.

Homeownership is considered one of the foundational elements of building and transferring generational wealth. Tangled titles disrupt this process, requiring more resources, greater awareness, and a comprehensive response to help people keep and capitalize on their most valuable asset.

The Ripple Effect of Depression

Sometimes I can practically diagnose a patient with depression even before meeting them. Just hearing the exasperation of a family member who contacts me to schedule a consultation for their spouse, parent, or adult child is a telltale sign that major depression is at play. These are well-intentioned, caring people but they are worn out by trying to lift their loved one out of their depressive state. 

Depression Is a Family Affair

Depression doesn’t just affect the sufferer. Chronic depression has a ripple effect. Close family and friends often feel worried, scared, helpless, annoyed, frustrated, and guilty that they can’t cheer up or energize their loved one. It’s often only when they are totally exhausted—when they feel they “can’t do it anymore” and have given up on the idea that they can rescue their loved one—that they acknowledge they need outside help.

This was the case with Ruth.* By the time Ruth’s adult daughter called me, she and her husband were at their wits’ end. I heard the desperation in her voice as she described Ruth’s chronic lethargy. She and her husband had been caring for her mom for two years as she became a virtual recluse at home. Ruth had been a vivacious, active woman but now, in her 60s, she was physically and psychologically dependent on her children. They lived nearby, did her shopping, and arranged for her meals, cleaning, and home care. Terrified that they couldn’t bear the load any longer and guilty about feeling overwhelmed, they called me for a consultation.

“I’m a mess” were the first words out of Ruth’s mouth when I met with her. She looked disheveled, sad, and anxious and was as confused as her children about her condition.

“I don’t know what happened to me.”

It had been 10 years since Ruth’s husband had died. She’d adjusted to being a widow and had enjoyed time with a boyfriend until two years ago when she suddenly lost her appetite, couldn’t sleep, and became anxiety-ridden about “everything.” She became afraid to leave the house—with no apparent cause for her fear. She had a hard time getting to sleep and an even harder time getting up in the morning. She told me she only stayed alive because her kids are so devoted to her and “it would kill them if I did anything to myself.” She had considered canceling the appointment her children had arranged with me. “There isn’t anything or anyone that can help me,” she said in a whisper. “My mother had something like this. It’s just going to be how I die.”

Classic Signs of Major Depression

Everyone gets down from time to time. But major depression is not “the blues.” Ruth had classic symptoms of the condition. She lost her appetite for food and for life. She no longer wanted to go out and socialize. She had trouble falling asleep, lacked the energy or desire to get out of bed in the morning, suffered from anxiety, and her relationships with family and others were disintegrating. She felt helpless and hopeless. She had thoughts of suicide.

Like many family members who are caring but worn out with a loved one who becomes dysfunctional, Ruth’s children were losing sympathy and patience.

“My mother is just more of what she always was,” her daughter told me. “She’s just being passive-aggressive, trying to get more and more of our attention and time.” From her children’s viewpoint, there was no rational reason why Ruth was being so lethargic, ineffectual, and dependent. With no medical ailment to explain Ruth’s sudden inability to care for herself, they couldn’t understand why she didn’t just “snap out of it.” But people who are severely depressed—usually due to genetic, biological, hormonal, and/or situational factors—act paralyzed because that is how they feel. Their despair is so heavy that it seems almost tangible. Their depression cannot be overcome by sheer force of will. 

It was possible that Ruth hadn’t fully grieved her deceased husband and would benefit from exploring her unresolved feelings in psychotherapy. But, first, we needed to get Ruth’s depressive symptoms under control. I explained to Ruth that her disparate symptoms were all part of one condition: major depression, a condition that is very treatable. She sat up straight in her chair, eyes wide open, and, for the first time in our meeting, seemed energetically engaged. She seemed somewhat shocked but reassured to learn that there was a clear explanation for what she had been experiencing.

After establishing that there was no underlying medical condition contributing to Ruth’s depression, I presented some medication options and recommended an antidepressant that has an energizing effect. I told her we would start slowly, at a very low dose, and gradually increase to a therapeutic level to minimize any possible side effects. I explained that it can take a few weeks for the medication to “kick in” but she might see a slight lightening of mood early on, which usually bodes well for a successful outcome. I told her to call me if she had any questions and concerns and that we would meet in two weeks to review how things were going. Once she regained some energy, we’d start setting goals. Step by step, she would get back to grocery shopping, cleaning her home, and contacting old friends.

With Ruth’s permission, I invited her daughter into the consultation room and shared her diagnosis and treatment plan, Ruth and her daughter seemed visibly relieved. They had just been presented with a roadmap to recovery. They could see light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t Focus on Your Job at the Expense of Your Career

You have a vision for your career and where you’d like to end up. You may even know what to do to get there. But there’s an obstacle in the way: your current job.

For some lucky professionals, simply executing well is the path to recognition and eventual promotion to the position you want. But for many others — especially if the job you covet involves a different skillset or requires building connections with new colleagues – the intense time requirements (and brand positioning) of your current role may actually inhibit your ability to advance. Over time, this can become a serious handicap, in what Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen term“focusing on your job at the expense of your career.”

In my book The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World, I write about how to simultaneously navigate two realities: meeting the short-term needs of the moment (i.e., doing your job to pay the bills) while positioning yourself for long-term success. Here are four principles you can follow to make progress, even if you’re feeling overburdened by current expectations.

Analyze the strategic value of your activities.

In order to understand which parts of your job are most — or least — aligned with your future vision, create a Venn Diagram, with one circle representing your existing responsibilities, and another the job description you aspire to. Odds are, at least some areas will overlap.

You can use this diagram to help you identify the tasks you’d like to maintain (current tasks that will carry over and be relevant in your new role), stretch toward (ones you don’t perform now but will need to in the future), and hopefully jettison (ones that have no relevance for your desired position).

Enlist allies.

It’s rare that we have total discretion over our workload and responsibilities, so you’ll need to enlist allies — especially your manager — to help you achieve your vision. Assuming you have a good relationship, you can go to them and explain the career path you’d ultimately like to take. “I’m committed to doing a great job in this role,” you could say, “and I’d also like to position myself for success in the future. If you’re willing, I’d love your help in strategizing around how to make that work.”

Then, you can share your analysis with them and ask for their help in identifying and recommending you for stretch assignments or opportunities to help you develop new skills and contacts (for instance, sending you to an industry conference or nominating you for a cross-departmental committee so you’ll have the opportunity to make new connections). You can also raise the prospect of shifting unwanted tasks off your plate, though it may need to be done over time (and with your commitment to train others in the necessary protocols). It can also be useful to reach out to other supportive colleagues — in your department and elsewhere — as they may be aware of opportunities that your boss isn’t.

Manage your brand.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to career advancement is having to reinvent your personal brand. It’s not (in most cases) that you’re perceived negatively. It’s simply that people can’t imagine you in a more senior role, or in a new context, because they’re used to thinking of you in a certain way and fail to question those assumptions. That’s why it’s essential – even as you’re still performing your current role — for you to start shifting the narrative.

Just as the classic advice is to “dress for the job you want,” you should also raise your level of conversation, as though you’re already in your desired position. If you want to be promoted, start asking higher-level strategic questions in team meetings. If you’re planning to shift functional areas, read up on your new domain and begin posting about it on social media, or mentioning it in conversations with colleagues.

In particular, think about shoring up perceived weaknesses that you fear may disqualify you. If you’re never worked overseas but that’s commonly required for your ideal next position, think about other ways to demonstrate aptitude, like taking language classes or taking an executive education program in the region you’ll be dealing with. You want to “prepare the terrain” so that when the idea is raised about you getting promoted or landing the position you want, the goal is for those around you to say, “Oh yeah, I could see that.”

Be willing to experiment with “120% time.”

Google (now Alphabet) famously encourages its employees to use 20% of their time on experimental activities outside the scope of their current job requirements — and that creativity has born fruit for the company, such as the creation of Google News. It’s also led to major career advancements for the employees who utilize it. In The Long Game, I profile one marketer who landed a coveted job at X, Alphabet’s “moonshot factory,” as the result of a volunteer project he undertook using 20% time.

16 Easy Exercises That Can Improve Your Posture

Have you been slacking in the posture department? 

Thanks to our smartphones, iPads and more, many of us spend our days with our necks craning down to stare at our devices. Working from home has also created complications, affectionately referred to by experts as “pandemic posture.”

Fixing your posture can not only relieve back or neck pain, “it can also have a significant impact on all things related to our respiratory function, core and pelvic health,” explained ­­­­Trista Zinn, a trainer and founder of Coreset Fitness.

Taking tiny steps toward improving your posture is the best way to go. Here are 16 exercises to try to help get you standing and sitting straighter.

Seated Row

“This exercise works all the muscles of the back, and helps counterbalance the weight of the chest and support the spine,” explained Sebastien Lagree, a trainer and founder of Lagree Fitness. 

Sit cross-legged or straddle a bench with cables or bands wrapped around a doorknob or floor mount in front of you. Next, pull the handles back toward your rib cage. 

“As you continue to pull the handles toward you, focus on lifting the spine or sitting taller,” Lagree said. “Each time you pull the handles in, aim to sit higher.”

Bent-Over Rows

If you don’t have a cable system at home, or access to a gym, grab some free weights and perform bent-over rows. 

“Strengthening the muscles that retract the scapula leads to better posture,” said Dr. Alejandro Badia, an orthopedic surgeon in Miami. “This also helps avoid shoulder pain, which often occurs when we slouch or work in a slumped position.” 

Bend your knees and lean your upper body forward, keeping a straight spine. Start with your arms straight down in front of you with your palms facing your body, then pull the weights back, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Try not to over-extend the movement: Stop right when you get to where your pockets would be on your pants ― i.e., near your hips. Lower your weights and repeat the movement.

Cat-Cow

This is an equipment-free exercise, and a popular yoga move. Get into an all-fours position on your hands and knees. From here, arch your back, bringing your chest and head up while your stomach drops down. 

“You then move the opposite way, round your back towards the ceiling, bring your stomach in and your chin to your chest,” said Joy Puleo, a pilates instructor and Balanced Body Education Program Manager. Hold each position for a second or two and repeat eight to 10 times. 

Want to Fight Less? Stop Policing Your Partner’s Feelings.

As a therapist, I often see couples descend into arguments because they struggle to accept and attune to their partner’s emotions. One of the biggest triggers for these arguments is when they put words into each other’s mouths, telling them how they should or shouldn’t feel.

Here’s an example: A client of mine, we’ll call her Mindy, recently shared a story. She arrived home from work one day and told her partner that she feels so frustrated by her commute that she’s thinking of quitting. Her partner responded, “I don’t understand why you’re so frustrated. It’s just a part of life. I always just put on a good podcast.” This aggravated her. “You know what? Screw you,” she said. “I’m just going to just stop sharing things with you now.”

John, another client, discussed sharing how angry he was with the cancer doctors treating his mother. His partner responded by saying “I don’t think that’s how you really feel. I think you’re actually sad but you just never know how to do that. You’re just always so angry.” John, frustrated, responded with, “I can be angry if I want to be angry. This is my mother we’re talking about!”

As these two examples illustrate, sometimes, telling someone how they should feel causes a more activated argument. Sometimes, it can cause the quiet kind of argument we have in our own heads — like when another client, Ari, was sharing with their spouse how upset they were with some employees. “Well, do you really have a reason to feel upset with them?” their partner said. Ari responded with “Maybe not” out loud, but silently thought: that’s the last time I try to process what’s happening for me with you.

We know that showing understanding, curiosity, and sensitivity towards others’ emotions tends to create the most bonding and lead to fewer arguments. However, people don’t often follow through on these things. Instead, it’s incredibly common to dismiss, question, judge, or tell the other person how they should feel. It’s a recipe for disconnection and frustration. 

Why These Fights Happen

If responding this way to emotions leads to disconnection then why do we do it?

Simply put, we humans tend to forget that other people are different from us. You can see this evidenced in how often people respond to others’ choices by saying something like, “I would have never done that” or to their feelings by saying “Well, that’s not how I would feel about that.” One of the biggest blocks to resolving conflict that I see in the couples therapy office is people refusing to open up to the idea that there can be more than one way of feeling, thinking, and experiencing the same event.

There’s also the idea of complex stories. Each of us has a complex story written around our emotional world. It’s colored by our biology, personality, culture, history and even how we are physically feeling in the moment. When you put more than one person together, it becomes doubly complex.

Finally, there’s the fact that emotions are inherently vulnerable. Our emotions are encoded into us as a way to help us navigate the world safely. We show them to others in order to get our needs met. For example, if I am crying, my tears are a symbol that I am in distress. If I am laughing, my giggles are a sign I want to play. If I cry and you don’t respond to my distress, I feel as if my signaling isn’t working. This is scary for human beings because we’re pack animals, and feel threatened if we believe members of our group aren’t properly responding to or reading the signals.

So What Can We Do?

When it comes to emotional connection, people tend to respond to each other in one of three interactional patterns:

  • Cutting Off: This might look like dismissing or seeming aloof to the emotions of others.
  • Enmeshment: This looks like trying to be an authority on, and being too involved in, the emotional world of others.
  • Differentiation: This looks like being present with the emotions of another person without trying to control them through cutting off or enmeshment.

In order to respond well to loved ones, we have to learn how to differentiate. Differentiation means being able to remain connected to yourself while being connected to another person. It requires us to identify our own feelings and beliefs and recognize that we cannot control other people’s feelings and beliefs.

Here’s a relevant example. When Hector and Ebony had their first child, Ebony felt a lot of anxiety. She would often express to Hector that she was too afraid to sleep at night in case she missed the baby crying out for her. Hector didn’t feel as anxious as Ebony. He felt confident that the baby was okay and that he was able to sleep at night.

However, because Hector was well differentiated — meaning he knew his perceptions and feelings could be different than his wife’s — he was able to be there for Ebony. Of course, he wished she wasn’t so anxious. But instead of merely saying “You have nothing to be anxious about,” he attuned to her and could say, “It makes sense you’re anxious. Tell me more about what’s been worrying you the most at night.”

If Hector wasn’t well differentiated, Ebony’s difference in experience would feel threatening to him. This is because poorly differentiated people aren’t confident that they can hold onto their own beliefs in the face of someone else’s. Instead of risking the discomfort of allowing the difference to exist, poorly differentiated people tend to authoritatively claim that their way is the only way. They tend to tell others how to behave more often and put pressure on people to conform to their way of being.

If Hector wasn’t well differentiated, he might say something to Ebony like, “I would never allow my emotions to overtake me like this. You just need to do what I do and lay down at the end of the night and go to sleep. The baby is fine.”

6 Ways to Improve Your Differentiation

When couples can improve differentiation, they’re able to navigate each other’s emotional worlds better, avoid arguments, and improve connection. Here are a few tips that can help. 

1. Understand your narrative

As I mentioned earlier, we all have a complex story around our emotional world. Take time to understand your own story. What was it like for you growing up when it came to emotions? Did people tend to try to control other people’s feelings? Or were people open and responsive to them? What do you believe about emotions? Are they mostly helpful or mostly unhelpful? How does it feel in your own body when you’re having emotions? And how does it feel in your body when other people are having emotions? Beginning to understand yourself will strengthen your ability to stay connected to yourself in the face of difficult emotions.

2. Speak for yourself

Learn to speak for yourself during emotion-based conversations rather than getting silent or putting words into the other person’s mouth. Do your best to police yourself when you do either of these things and then move towards identifying what’s going on for you.

For example, let’s say you tend to cut off. You catch yourself falling into this habit. Great. But instead of simply falling silent, share, “I feel overwhelmed right now and part of me just wants to be quiet.”

If you tend to get enmeshed, instead of telling someone what they should feel, talk about how you feel. Tell your partner “I feel so anxious when I hear about your workday,” instead of “you really shouldn’t be feeling so anxious about your work.”

3. Validate

It’s crucial that you learn to do this for both yourself and the other person. For example, if your partner is angry about something that doesn’t make you angry, you can say to yourself: I am struggling to fully understand why they are so angry. I don’t feel angry about this at all and that is okay, while also being able to say, It’s okay for them to feel angry even if I don’t.

Depression Might Be Trying to Tell Us Something

Until recently, a central tenet of biomedical psychiatry was that depression is caused by low serotonin levels. A recent study has debunked that claim, to great publicity. In response, some researchers have called for “doubling down” on the search for biological causes of depression. I want to present something radically different.

What if depression is purposeful, rather than pathological? What if it’s a designed response to a problem of life, not a disease?

Evolutionary Psychiatry

Some researchers over the past 30 years have argued that depression isn’t a disease but an evolved adaptation. Though there are a number of specific hypotheses, they all share the idea that depression is nature’s way of telling us that something in our lives isn’t going well—particularly with our social interactions. 

One of the first of these hypotheses was the social competition hypothesis. In this view, depression originated in prehistoric competitions over resources. When I find myself “outcompeted” by another person for a prized resource, depression saps my incentive to fight. 

A second, more general, view is that depression is nature’s way of helping us detach from unrealistic life goals. Low mood takes away my motivation to strive for unrealistic goals and lets me focus on realistic ones.

A third hypothesis is called the social risk theory. This view sees depression as a response to the threat of exclusion. Through depression, I communicate that I’m a “low social risk” to others, and I convey the need for additional support from close friends and relatives.

A fourth is the analytical rumination hypothesis. It stems from the observation that people with depression often mull over their perceived failures. This suggests that the purpose of depression is to help us focus attention on complex social problems.

Evidence for the Design Hypothesis

Unfortunately, evolutionary hypotheses cannot be tested directly. They require drawing evidence from a large number of different areas. And, the fact is, there’s not a lot of funding available for testing them. 

Still, there are some intriguing lines of evidence suggesting that depression is an adaptation, not a disease (see del Giudice 2018 for a review).

Depression occurs worldwide, with a high incidence and strong genetic risk. That’s often a sign that it’s playing some important role in our lives. If it were a disease, we wouldn’t expect it to be so common, especially among people of reproductive age.

It’s long been recognized that depression is more likely to be triggered by perceived social losses, rather than nonsocial losses. It’s more likely to be triggered by factors such as divorce or humiliation, rather than losing a house or car.

Depression shows high comorbidity with other disorders with a strong social component, such as social anxiety disorder. Also, depressed people tend to be highly vigilant to the threat of social rejection.

Even if depression is an adaptation, that doesn’t mean it always has a positive outcome. In some cases, depression can become unregulated and spiral into something quite destructive.

For example, depression can have a “self-reinforcing” character. Depression can lead to social isolation, which can reinforce depression. Rumination over one’s perceived failures can reinforce patterns of negative thinking.

Moreover, even if depression helped our prehistoric ancestors, that doesn’t mean it’s always useful today. For example, if depression is caused by having unrealistic life goals, it doesn’t help that we’re surrounded by media telling us our worth as human beings is connected to our accomplishments.

Cheaper flights are finally here for travelers

The average domestic airfare per ticket will drop to $286 round-trip this month, down 25% from May when the average round-trip ticket topped $400, according to Travel booking app, Hopper’s pricing forecast released this week. The average fare should remain below $300 through September, before notching upwards ahead of the holidays.

Don’t expect air travel to get any easier as fares drop, though, with trip delays and cancellations remaining a stubborn problem. For the smoothest flight, the two key tips are timing both booking and your travel right.

“Many airlines plan to maintain capacity below 2019 levels through the end of the year to prevent future disruptions,” Andrew Heritage, senior economist at Hopper told Yahoo Money, “meaning more customers vying for fewer available seats this fall and holiday season.”

Air fares are sinking more than usual from their summer peaks in time for fall getaways. But time is of the essence when it comes to snagging a deal.

The average domestic airfare per ticket will drop to $286 round-trip this month, down 25% from May when the average round-trip ticket topped $400, according to Travel booking app, Hopper’s pricing forecast released this week. The average fare should remain below $300 through September, before notching upwards ahead of the holidays.

Don’t expect air travel to get any easier as fares drop, though, with trip delays and cancellations remaining a stubborn problem. For the smoothest flight, the two key tips are timing both booking and your travel right.

“Many airlines plan to maintain capacity below 2019 levels through the end of the year to prevent future disruptions,” Andrew Heritage, senior economist at Hopper told Yahoo Money, “meaning more customers vying for fewer available seats this fall and holiday season.”

Why prices are dropping

A dip in fall ticket prices is generally not noteworthy. Airfares typically fall between 10% and 15% as demand in late August through mid-October dips when kids go back to school, the weather gets cooler, and carriers are eager to boost travel.

“But this year’s decline from the highs of summer is steeper than usual,” Heritage said. “High jet fuel prices and pent-up demand coming out of two depressed summer seasons” pushed this summer’s airfares during the peak vacation months to abnormal highs.

Airfare for June and July averaged $357 per round-trip ticket versus $285 last year, according to Hopper data.

Currently, U.S. Gulf Coast jet fuel is $3.34 per gallon, up from $1.88 a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. In late April, the price per gallon briefly topped $5 and has hovered around $4 per gallon most of the summer. Jet fuel prices typically account for anywhere from 15% to nearly a third (30%) of an airline’s operating expenses, according to Heritage.

If You Want Your Pitches to Improve, Use These 3 Simple Tips

When starting or running a business, most people will tell you that a high-quality pitch to investors or potential partners will sell your venture itself. The investors, partners and potential clients will line up if you’re skilled with language and can tell a unique, captivating story and explain financial returns. So, the story goes…

That thinking is misguided.

The most extraordinary concepts in the world won’t sell if no one knows about them. It lies on your shoulders to get out there and talk about your ideas and concepts – no matter how much they may speak for themselves. Your pitch is the power fueling the process of letting people know about your business or projects.

Most people think a pitch is something to be feared and avoided at all costs. It’s those unknown moments when the world can come crashing down on you.

The pressure to convey everything about your hard work in a few simple sentences — or in a few short minutes — can bring people to their knees (literally, as they double over with fear). It’s basically public speaking and only a rare handful like that.

The truth, however, is simple. Powerful pitching is a skill that can be learned, just as is good writing. The most significant difference is that it may take years and years to become a skilled writer, but it may only take a few hours to become powerful at pitching.

As someone involved in hundreds — if not thousands — of pitches worth millions of dollars, I know how true this is. I’ve been on both sides of pitches to (and from) the corporate world, production companies, studios, investors, and major television networks.

I used to think it was all about how polished my public speaking skills were. The real truth is that the talking piece is only one aspect of the bigger picture.

Several elements of a pitch bring great results, and it isn’t all about how well you perform during the presentation.

You may have far more control over a pitch meeting than you think

I started focusing on the other parts of pitch meetings and saw the success rate of our business increase dramatically. We now have more than 11 TV shows approved by major networks and approval from more than 50 networks worldwide to be our affiliates. For every 15 TV shows we pitch, about 11 get approved, which is far higher than the industry average.

This broader view doesn’t work in just the media industry — my insights apply to any industry, as I’ve seen repeatedly when I coach people on everything from phone accessories to artificial intelligence.

Today I want to walk through three simple ways to listen with your eyes and improve your pitches. Paying attention to any of these secrets will help you drive your big meeting closer to the direction you seek.

The complete list is a lot longer than three items, but pulling these three from my book, One Sense Ahead, is an excellent starting place to get you skipping happily out the door after a meeting.

1. Pay attention to the body language of the people in the room

Are they distracted and looking at their phone or notepad or documents? This shows they have too much on their mind, and you need to be quick and brief to get their attention. Are they slouched back in their seats, showing they’re relaxed but possibly not interested? If so, you need to have a powerful attention-getting distractor to get things rolling. Don’t immediately launch into your rehearsed pitch.

Most people are so laser-focused on getting their point across about their concept or business that they forget the simplest of all pitching ‘rules’ — think more about the other person than yourself.

2. Pay attention to how the person across the table is breathing

Yep. You read it correctly: breathing. Who cares about that as long as the person is there?! I know that’s what you’re thinking, but the reality is that people tell you a lot about themselves by the way they breathe. Are they breathing through their mouth only? Or their nose? How ridiculous is this, you ask? I can hear you screaming at the screen or thinking it loudly in your mind as you want to stop reading my words… and yet… aren’t you curious about where this goes?

I notice every detail about a person when I’m in a meeting with them, and it gives me clues on how to steer the conversation. You’re the one doing the pitch, so it’s to your advantage to be able to steer anything at all. If another person is in the “decision-making chair,” their chair matters most.

Regular vigorous or moderate exercise linked to lower risk of death

It is well known that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing several long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Studies show that physical activity also boosts self-esteem and mood, and can also help people to have better quality sleep. However, while getting enough exercise is important, the intensity of the exercise should also be considered.

A recent analysis published in Circulation investigated the link between long-term physical activity intensity and the risk of death. 

The study found that adults who perform two to four times the currently recommended amount of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week had a significantly reduced risk of death.

The 2018 physical activity guidelines recommend that adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, and 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. However, a growing number of people are performing higher levels of more vigorous exercise to maintain health and improve fitness. For example, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has become increasingly popular. 

However, there have concerns about the potentially harmful effects on the cardiovascular health of an excessive amount of vigorous physical activity. Although, there is limited and sometimes conflicting evidence to support this.

This new research, conducted by Lee et al., involved analyzing data from 2 large cohorts of participants: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, collected from 1988-2018. 

In these cohorts, participants completed questionnaires about their physical activity up to 15 times during the follow-up period. They were asked to report the average hours they spent on various activities, including walking, jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, aerobic exercise, playing squash/racketball or tennis, while also logging low intensity exercise and weightlifting.

Study author Dr. Dong Hoon Lee explained to Medical News Today the implications of this research for people who want to increase their own activity levels.

“Our study showed that many people can get significant health benefits by performing the recommended physical activity (150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity) so it is important to stay active. For those who are looking for the optimal health benefits from exercise, they can aim for higher levels of activity (2+ times the recommended level).”

– Dr. Dong Hoon Lee

Benefits of moderate and vigorous exercise

The analysis showed that the greatest benefit for reducing the risk of death was observed among people who reported around 150 to 300 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity, 300 to 600 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both. 

Prof. Becca Krukowski of the University of Virginia, who was not involved in the study, explained to Medical News Today how this research has real-world implications for people looking to improve their own health.

“These results indicate that either moderate and vigorous physical activity can have positive benefits for longevity and health. These results are consistent with previous research indicating that 300 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may be necessary for those who wish to maintain a weight loss,” said Prof. Krukowski.

What to Know About Credit Card Consolidation

But if you start losing track of the different balances and what you owe, the monthly payments can feel overwhelming. 

Credit card consolidation brings multiple credit card debts together into a single debt, and therefore a single monthly payment. It can make monthly bills easier to manage and offer you peace of mind. But is consolidating your credit cards really worth it? That depends on a few factors. 

PROS AND CONS OF CONSOLIDATING

Broadly speaking, consolidating can be helpful when it achieves the following for you: 

  • Reduces the number of payments you need to manage
  • Reduces your interest charges
  • Creates a faster timeline to becoming debt-free

The downside? Consolidating credit card debt doesn’t do you any good if you’re simply kicking the can down the road. In other words, if consolidating doesn’t help you pay down your debt, moving it around doesn’t gain you any benefit. 

In fact, consolidation could make your debt situation worse if your old credit cards remain open and you’re still struggling with the original issues that got you into debt in the first place. You might end up charging to your old cards while you’re also paying off a consolidation loan, taking on even more debt than you had before you consolidated. 

So, if you do decide to consolidate, make sure you understand the terms of the new payment and the interest rate, and be sure to make a plan for paying off your debt. 

THREE WAYS TO CONSOLIDATE CREDIT CARD DEBT

DEBT CONSOLIDATION LOAN 

You can consolidate multiple credit card debts into an unsecured loan. This process involves shopping for a personal loan and weighing the available options. You may want to begin by checking with your bank or credit union to find out what terms they offer. 

When you apply for a debt consolidation loan you’ll need to fill out some paperwork, provide evidence of your financial situation, and submit to a credit check. A poor credit score may make it difficult to land a consolidation loan with the kind of terms that will make debt repayment easier for you. If you’ve already begun missing payments, you may have hard time qualifying for many consolidation loans.

If you’re approved, the loan is used to pay off all your outstanding credit card balances, setting them back to zero. The lender may or may not require you to close the other credit cards. Then you start making payments on the loan. 

BALANCE TRANSFER 

With this method, you transfer all your card balances to a new credit card, somewhat similar to a debt consolidation loan. You find an appropriate card with favorable terms, such as 0% introductory APR for 12-18 months, apply, and hope to be approved. As with a consolidation loan, the better your credit score, the more likely it is that you’ll be approved. 

If you’re approved, you then use the new card to pay off the balance on your other cards, effectively transferring those balances to the new card and then making payments on that one card. 

This method can help you get ahead if it comes with a 0% interest rate, but keep in mind it will bounce back to a regular APR once the introductory rate is over. Many promotional rates may also expire immediately in the event that you miss a payment. 

DEBT MANAGEMENT PLAN 

A debt management plan (DMP) includes some of the better attributes of a consolidation loan (single monthly payment, reduced interest rates), but isn’t a loan and doesn’t require strong credit to qualify.

To begin a DMP you connect with a nonprofit financial counseling agency to review your finances and ensure that a DMP is a good fit. At MMI, you can complete this process entirely online. If the DMP makes sense for you, you’ll begin your plan by making payments to the agency handling your DMP, who will in turn make payments to your creditors. Your creditor accounts are closed as part of the process, and most creditors offer significantly reduced interest rates for participating on a DMP, which is why most plans are paid off in less than four years. You can also cancel your DMP at any time, which makes it a slightly less risky option.

HOW CONSOLIDATION AFFECTS YOUR CREDIT SCORE AND OTHER TIPS

How debt consolidation impacts your credit score depends entirely on the method you choose. Taking out a consolidation loan may temporarily lower your credit score due to the credit inquiry and the fact that the average age of your accounts will go down. (Older accounts are better for a good credit score, and your consolidation loan is brand new.) 

Closing old accounts usually hurts your credit score temporarily, so any method that involves closing accounts can ding your credit, at least in the short term. Keep in mind, if debt consolidation helps you make on-time payments and successfully reduce your debt, the benefits can soon outweigh the hit to your credit score and your score should recover quickly.

Debt consolidation isn’t a magic bullet. It can be a very helpful tool if you’re committed to reducing your debt, but to make it work, you need to have a plan and timeline in place to guide you out of debt.

7 Ways to Snap Out of ‘Parenting Fog’

There are those mornings when you can’t think straight, when packing your kids’ lunches redlines your brain’s tachometer, and it’s hard to imagine how you’ll complete all the steps it takes to get them out the door for school. And sometimes those mornings turn into days, days full of instances where you can’t recall that detail from that work project, and jumping from one task to another goes as well as a failed obstacle run on “American Ninja Warrior,” and when ‘what was I doing again?’ becomes your constant internal refrain.

It can feel, at times, like your brain is stuck in a fog. These days, unfortunately, there is the possibility you suffer from actual ‘brain fog,’ a quasi-clinical term for various slow-processing symptoms tied to serious conditions, not the least of which is long COVID. But, just as likely, what you’re experiencing is the physical and emotional fatigue that often comes with parenting.

Call it ‘parenting fog,’ or by its more widely used name — burnout. And you probably know it by its signs: forgetfulness, trouble focusing, listlessness, irritability. It’s important to note here that these can once again be symptoms of, or precursors to, something more severe: clinical depression. But if what you’re experiencing is more of a mental rut, there are some physical, psychological, and social tweaks you can make to your routine to help get your head out of the fog and get yourself back up to speed. Here are a few to remember. 

1. Identify Your Stressors

What are the things that stress you out about your day-to-day process? Identify them. Write them down. Then choose between finding ways to improve those situations, or letting go of trying so hard to make them perfect. Either way, hone in on them and decide how to approach them in a healthier way. “Because trying to tackle everything at once is even more overwhelming and it really would be to your detriment to try to figure out and solve all those things,” says Naiylah Warren, a therapist for the mental health app Real. This approach is specifically helpful, Warren says, if your fatigue is combined with irritability or a short temper.

2. Ask For Help

It’s important to identify your support system, says Warren. Ask your spouse for their input, or ask them to swap certain duties with you for a day or two to mix things up and break up the routine. If you have family or willing friends or neighbors near you, tap them in to help out periodically.

3. Stop Pursuing Perfection

“Parent burnout is very real and every parent has been there,” says Jen McConaghie, a mom of four and the founder of the parenting guide “This Time of Mine.” For parents feeling both overwhelmed and disconnected, she says it’s important to remember that parenting feels hard because it is, in fact, hard, not because you’re doing something wrong. It’s important for parents to let go of preconceived notions of perfection, both for their children’s behavior and their own. “Move away from guilt and make intentional choices you can control,” she says. “For example, ‘I should stop yelling’ can become ‘I could keep yelling, or I could practice a new coping strategy.’”

4. Force Yourself to Get More Sleep

It’s easy to say you’re going to get more sleep at night, but to actually do so you just have to make small changes to your evening routine that actually get you to bed earlier — without your phone in hand. Warren says that, as much as possible, even experienced parents should try to follow the old adage for new parents: sleep when your kid is sleeping.

5. Exercise

Mental exhaustion and so-called brain fog have physical symptoms, including inflammation that slows down neural pathways in the brain. “Exercise has been shown to have atrophic effect[s] on the brain and improve both brain circulation and regeneration of neurons,” says Dr. Maura Boldrini, director of the Quantitative Brain Biology Institute at Columbia University. Exercise has been proven to boost endorphins, too, and when those endorphins and neurons are flowing, your brain works faster and your mood gets better. It’s science.

Home sellers are realizing it’s no longer their housing market

A growing number of home sellers have been forced to readjust their home prices in recent weeks. According to Redfin, an estimated 6.1% of homes for sale during the four weeks leading to June 19, asked for a price drop – a record high as far back as the data goes, through the start of 2015.

That comes as mortgage rates hit 5.70% last week and are nearly 2.5 percentage points higher than the beginning of 2022, relegating some buyers to the sidelines with busted budgets.

“If you overprice your home in any market, you’re going to feel resistance,” Lizy Hoeffer, owner and mortgage broker at Cross Country Mortgage LLC, said. “In the last three years, sellers have been able to get basically whatever they want for their house. We’re just not in a market like that right now.”

‘Buyer budgets don’t stretch as far as they used to’

The dream of homeownership is slipping out of grasp for many would-be buyers as costs rise.

“Homeowners thinking about moving should know that while recent sellers have enjoyed favorable housing conditions that included high prices and fast sales, the tide is shifting,” Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale, told Yahoo Money. “Higher rates and home prices mean that homebuyer budgets don’t stretch as far as they used to.”

According to Realtor.com, rising mortgage rates have increased the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home an estimated 60% more than last year. The median monthly mortgage payment has jumped by $513 from the start of the year through May, according to a recent report from MBA.

For instance, in the most populated county of Washington State, King County, the average price is over $1 million, according to Adriana Perezchica, real estate broker and owner of Via Real Estate Group. Despite the challenges, Latinos there – which comprise a large portion of her clientele – are buying in the outskirts for an average of $550,000.

Head Trauma Can Result in Chronic Sleep Disturbances

A single, severe traumatic head injury, or repeated multiple concussions that are typical of collision sports, can result in chronic sleep disturbances that can persist several years after the incident. Recent studies describe the mechanisms that link sleep disturbance and neurodegeneration.

Concussions cause mechanical injury to the brain that has functional consequences. The sudden acceleration, deceleration, and or rotation of the head may cause axonal shearing or avulsion. This type of injury alters the functions of neural circuits that underlie mood, learning and memory abilities, and sleep. A large majority of brain trauma victims report trouble initiating and or maintaining sleep or sleeping for excessive periods of time. These symptoms may persist for several years after the injury due to the neurochemical changes that are induced by the trauma.

Repeated concussions may lead to excess accumulation of amyloid-β and τ-proteins, which are implicated in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep disturbances, even minor ones such as a single night of sleep deprivation, can result in the accumulation of toxic amyloid-β and τ-protein. The accumulation of amyloid-β and τ-proteins alone are also sufficient to disrupt slow-wave sleep. Head trauma initiates a vicious cycle of sleep disturbance leading to the accumulation of these proteins, which then leads to more sleep disturbance. One important phase of sleep, slow-wave sleep, appears critical for the clearance of amyloid-β and τ-protein by the brain’s glymphatic system. Most head trauma victims probably do not get enough slow-wave sleep.

A recent study examined various sleep parameters, including, total sleep time, difficulty to fall asleep, restlessness, time to wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, and how much each stage of sleep contributed to the overall night of sleeping, after head trauma in 896 athletes.

Sleep disturbances were commonly reported within a week of head trauma. Such disturbances included poor sleep quality, excessive daytime sleepiness, and perceived changes in sleep duration, with both sleeping longer and sleeping less being reported. There was an apparent dose-response relationship between the number of head traumas experienced and the severity of sleep disturbance reported. Although most of the athletes in this analysis were males, the study noted that females are more likely to report poor sleep quality following head trauma.

These changes are unfortunate given that good quality sleep may reduce the histological changes. Sleep scientists speculate that the brains of those people who reported sleeping longer than usual after head trauma may be trying to increase the amount of slow-wave sleep to maximize the glymphatic drainage. Conversely, those who report sleeping less than usual after head trauma may be susceptible to the loss of slow-wave sleep, which may be contributing to cognitive decline in later life.

Studies of head trauma victims have led to a better understanding of the connection between sleep quality, the deposition of toxic proteins, and the increased vulnerability to the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Unfortunately, no clinical studies have yet identified effective ways to improve sleep quality in these victims.

Ultimate Mind Hack Flips Emotional Reactivity Into Calm

I vividly remember the time a client came to see me and was very upset by the rudeness of a friend she had seen that week. “Tell me what happened,” I said. “Well, I saw her crossing the street and I called out her name, but she just ignored me and kept on walking.” So upset and hurt was my client by her friend’s action—or rather, non-action—that she decided not to talk with her anymore.

We’ve all felt disrespected by others at some point or another. But in my client’s case, I felt there was a lot of room for misinterpretation because of a style of thought known as mind reading. As it implies, mind reading suggests that you fill in the blanks on what someone is thinking without really getting hard evidence. 

The mind hack I’m referring to in this post uses mindfulness to flip reactivity into peace and calm. 

In my client’s case, I suggested we brainstorm other possible reasons why her friend didn’t respond. After a while, the client came up with a list of reasons, such as 1) the friend was focused on traffic to safely cross the street, 2) the friend didn’t hear her name through all the noise on the street, 3) the friend was engrossed in her own world of thoughts and things she needed to do, and 4) the friend was late for an appointment. 

After our brainstorming, the client decided to call her friend and check in to see if she was okay. Later, my client reported back that her friend never heard her call. She was simply trying to navigate her way through several important errands that day. 

As we eventually dug deeper into the belief systems of my client, she described that she was never affirmed and truly seen in her family of origin. As a result, she was always on the lookout and ready to judge others as being non-affirming—even if they were friends walking along a busy street! The new awareness helped her become more curious about how her own mental schemas and beliefs were coloring her world and behaviors. 

With Mindfulness, It’s Not About You 

With mindfulness, we develop the mental habit of viewing persons and events—even those annoying and difficult ones—with a more curious, open, compassionate, and welcoming perspective. This seems like a good place to cue up a quote from Jesuit priest and spiritual teacher Anthony De Mello:

When you’re upset, your window is blurred. And … you’re going to straighten out all the buildings because your window is blurred with the rain. Could we clean your windows first? … We see people not as they are but as we are. And it’s amazing how in the beginning we saw people as rude; then when we change, we see frightened people. They’re so scared, poor things, that they’re driven to hostility. Then you’re understanding, you’re compassionate, whereas before you’d react with anger, with hate.

So, when our window is blurred by an inner landscape of beliefs, we can easily get upset for no reason. In fact, the case could be made that reality just happens as it is, and that we make ourselves upset. For example, it’s rainy and cold outside (or too hot and humid), and you don’t like it because it makes you unhappy or uncomfortable. But the rain is just the rain, the cold is just the cold, and the heat is just the heat. 

That doesn’t mean we can’t engage in changing things or making them better, but when we do so from a place of reactivity, we aren’t seeing things clearly. As a result, we may do more harm than good. Reactivity is suffering, and if you react from your reactivity, you can only produce more suffering. 

Practice: Turn Reactivity Into Calm

With this practice, you’re going to demonstrate to yourself how mindfulness can put reactivity to rest. Spoiler Alert: This won’t stop rude drivers from cutting you off or turn an insensitive boss into a caring leader. 

To begin, find a quiet place where you can reflect or journal for the next five minutes. 

  • Right now, think of an annoying event that occurred recently. Maybe someone cut you off while you were driving. Maybe you couldn’t meet a deadline for a work, school, or other project. Maybe you were stuck behind a long line of people at the store. Whatever your annoyance, what were you feeling in the moment? Write this down in detail, including how it affected tension in the body and change of mood. 
  • Now, let’s imagine we could turn back the clock. Only this time, you’ll re-experience the event as if you possessed a newfound superpower—the ability to be like Teflon to whatever comes your way. Actually, your superpower is the ability to be more open, curious, accepting, grateful and compassionate. For example, if your annoyance was with another person, your superpower would open your tender heart—so you would be aware of how that person might have been late for an appointment or not feeling well. You could also use your superpower to shift your attention to be more curious toward something you could have gratitude for—even during the annoying event. In other words, your superpower helps you to not take anything personally!
  • Again, visualize or journal a do-over of the annoying event, only this time picture yourself using your Teflon superpowers. What does this feel like? How different is this from your initial reactivity of the same event?

Feeling Off? It Could Be ‘Ambient’ Stress

More than 36% of U.S. adults experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression in August 2020, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By January 2021, the number was above 40%.

It’s not hard to see why. A novel and scary virus was spreading without vaccines to slow it. Cities and states were in various degrees of lockdown for much of 2020, with many people forgoing special occasions and visits with friends and family. Isolation and fear were widespread, and people had every reason to feel acutely stressed.

But even as lockdowns lifted, people got vaccinated, and life resumed more of its normal rhythms, many people continued to feel…off. In an American Psychological Association survey published in October 2021, 75% of people said they’d recently experienced consequences of stress, including headaches, sleep issues, fatigue, and feeling overwhelmed.

Now, more than two years into the pandemic, many people still haven’t bounced back. One reason could be “ambient stress”—or “stress that’s running in the background, below the level of consciousness,” says New York-based clinical psychologist Laurie Ferguson, who is director of education development at the Global Healthy Living Foundation, a nonprofit that supports people with chronic illnesses.

“There’s something amiss, but we’re not registering it all the time,” Ferguson says. “We’re always just a little bit off balance. We kind of function at a level like everything’s fine and things are normal, when in fact, they’re not.”

In a 1983 article published in the journal Environment and Behavior, researcher Joan Campbell described ambient stressors as those that are chronic and negative, cannot be substantively changed by an individual, usually do not cause immediate threats to life (but can be damaging over time), and are perceptible but often unnoticed. “Over the long run,” Campbell wrote, these stressors could affect “motivation, emotions, attention, [physical] health, and behavior.”

Campbell cited examples like pollution and traffic noise, but it’s also an apt description of this stage of the pandemic. In March 2020, the pandemic was an in-your-face stressor—one that, at least for many people, felt urgent and all-consuming. Two years later, most people have adapted, to some degree. Most people are vaccinated, the news isn’t broadcasting the latest case counts 24/7, and life looks closer to 2019 than 2020. But, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re still bearing the psychic toll of two years of death, disease, upheaval, and uncertainty, as well as smaller disruptions like changes to our social or work lives, Ferguson says.

Even ambient stress can have health consequences, as Campbell pointed out. Humans evolved to deal with short-term stressors, but we’re not as good at coping with chronic stress, explains Laura Grafe, an assistant professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr College. Chronic stress has been linked to conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep issues, and mental health and cognitive disorders.

It’s Time to Reimagine Employee Retention

This is a challenging time for managers. Alongside their day-to-day roles, many are facing a never-ending cycle of reskilling and recruiting on their teams. The need to reskill isn’t new, with the OECD estimating that 1.1 billion jobs are liable to be radically transformed by technology in the next decade. However, managers are now being asked to close the skills gap at the same time as they’re responding to pandemic-prompted resignations.

According to Gartner, the pace of employee turnover is forecast to be 50–75% higher than companies have experienced previously, and the issue is compounded by it taking 18% longer to fill roles than pre-pandemic. Increasingly squeezed managers are spending time they don’t have searching for new recruits in an expensive and competitive market. Unless efforts are refocused on retention, managers will be unable to drive performance and affect change. Leaders need to take action to enable their managers to keep their talent while still being able to deliver on results.

From Constrained Careers to Retention Reimagined

Although managers are undoubtedly navigating dynamic market conditions, one of the primary reasons why people look to leave remains the same: a lack of career progression. That same Gartner report found that 65% of employees are now reconsidering the role of work in their lives; however, only one-third are open to internal opportunities providing part of the solution.

Limited awareness of roles and a perceived lack of support from managers means that for many, it has become easier to leave and growthan squiggle — that is, change roles and develop in different directions — and stay.

Even the most supportive managers face a tough choice in response to this challenge. Investing time and effort in their employees’ career development is often at odds with the metrics they’re measured against. Research from Mercer finds that eight out of 10 companies focus on individual goals whereas just five out of 10 work toward the goals of the broader business unit. Managers who optimize for individual performance are likely to become more territorial about their talent. By keeping the “best” people on their team, they achieve the best outcomes. However, this is often to the detriment of individuals’ career development and the organization’s ability to access its own talent. The unfortunate outcome is that the people managers most want to retain feel constrained and become more likely to leave, risking the performance metrics they were so keen to protect in the first place.

The solution to the career development conflict this creates lies in taking a fresh look at how retention is managed. Managers need help with three things. First, they need help shifting the focus of career conversations from promotion to progression and developing in different directions. Second, they need help creating a culture and structure that supports career experiments. Finally, managers need to be rewarded not for retaining people on their teams but retaining people (and their potential) across the entire organization.

The following three solutions enable managers to support people in growing beyond their teams and increase the chance that top talent will choose to stick around.

Solution 1: Focus career conversations on progression, not promotion.

Career conversations today are often rushed, low quality, or even skipped in favor of day-to-day responsibilities. However, career conversations are one of what Gartner refers to as the “moments that matter” if managers want to retain people. The purpose of a high-quality career conversation should be two-fold: to give employees the permission to be curious about where their career could take them and the practical support to make progress.

Strength spotting

Individuals often struggle to see their strengths, which makes it even more challenging to figure out how those strengths could be applied across different roles and parts of an organization. Career conversations give managers the chance to not only share strengths-based feedback (“I see you at your best when…”) but also to discuss how those strengths might be useful in other teams. They can help employees spot the value in not only what they’re delivering but how they make work happen. For example, there are few teams that wouldn’t benefit from a brilliant problem solver or creative collaborator. Helping employees go beyond being aware of their strengths to understanding how those strengths could be applied in different situations is often the first step in increasing an individual’s confidence to start exploring career possibilities within an organization.

Happy Fourth of July!

This weekend we hope you have the opportunity to spend some quality time with family and friends and take some time for yourself.

Taking care of yourself is key to staying healthy both physically and mentally, and with a long weekend for many of us, now is a great time to slow down and do a few things that bring a smile to your face.

Whether it’s a long weekend, a week long summer vacation, or just a few quiet hours to yourself, make sure you are treating yourself with some mindfulness, self-care and self-love.

This summer is a great time to double down and stamp your own personal Passport to Wellness!

From your family at the PAF, Happy 4th of July.

Colorectal cancer: More evidence that Western-style diet may increase risk

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is any cancer affecting the colon, hence “colo,” and rectum, hence “rectal”. It is the third most common and second deadliest diagnosed cancer in the United States, claiming over 50,000 lives every year.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA recently observed that CRC tumors with high levels of pks+ E. coli bacteria correlate with diets rich in red and processed meats and empty calories.

They believe that unhealthy foods may stimulate the cancer-inducing activity of colibactin, a substance deriving from E. coli, in the gut.

Their findings appear in Gastroenterology.

Dr. Shuji Ogino, chief of the Molecular Pathological Epidemiology Program in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was the study’s corresponding author.

E. coli, colibactin, and diet

E. coli is a normal part of the gut microbiome. However, certain strains of this bacterium hold a distinct cluster of genes known as the polyketide synthase (pks) island.

These pks+ E. coli strains produce colibactin, a toxic metabolite that can damage DNA and trigger cellular mutations that promote CRC.

Consumption of a typical Western diet — also sometimes called an “American diet” — consisting mainly of red and processed meats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, can cause intestinal and systemic inflammation, precursors to colorectal tumors.

A poor diet is also tied to an imbalance of intestinal microbiota, another factor related to CRC. Furthermore, prior studies have linked E. coli and other bacteria to this cancer.

Consequently, Dr. Ogino and his team suspected that a Western diet might induce a stronger risk for tumors with considerable amounts of pks+ E. coli. Up to this point, though, they did not know whether the diet’s correlation with CRC varies by gut bacteria.

Why Microsoft Measures Employee Thriving, Not Engagement

At Microsoft, where we work on the People Analytics team, that means learning what the data can tell us about how our employees aspire to live their lives meaningfully. In particular, we landed on a new way of measuring thriving, at both work and outside of it, that goes beyond engagement only.

In this article, we share how and why we came to this measurement — and how your own company can learn from our experiences.

Why Thriving Is the New North Star

Prior to this year, we conducted one lengthy, annual survey that tracked employee engagement. It often took months to digest and plan actions around. Yet, we consistently encountered challenges in building a shared definition of engagement across the company. And often, despite employee engagement scores that would seem to indicate that things were going well, it became clear that employees were struggling when we dived deeper into the responses. To us, this was a reflection that we hadn’t yet set a high enough bar for the employee experience, and it motivated us to do better in measuring what matters.

So, we started asking employees for feedback through a shorter yet more focused survey every six months, for which we partnered with employee success platform Glint. This new approach is helping us stay closer to employees’ feedback and take clearer and more immediate action in response.

We also sought to define a new, higher bar that went beyond engagement only, drawing inspiration from many sources. One was what Our Chief People Officer, Kathleen Hogan, calls “The 5 P’s.” Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy, it breaks down employee fulfillment into five key, successive components: pay, perks, people, pride, and purpose. In a time that has prompted many to reflect on the role of work and career in their lives, it felt critical to recalibrate our listening systems to measure our progress towards that end goal — a sense of purpose. We were also inspired by Ross School of Business’s Gretchen Spreitzer and colleagues’ research on thriving as the antidote to languishing. As we moved beyond employee engagement, we decided to focus on our own version of employee thriving.

At Microsoft, we define thriving as “to be energized and empowered to do meaningful work.” This is the new core aspiration we have for our employees, one that challenges us to push ourselves every day so every employee can feel they’re pursuing that sense of purpose. Our focus on thriving isn’t just about recovering from the impact of the pandemic or matching pre-Covid employee sentiment scores. It’s about coming out the other side and doing even better.

What It Looks Like to Thrive

When our first employee survey data came back earlier this year, we began benchmarking our thriving for the first time. We looked at not just how many people reported they were thriving, but calculated company-wide averages based on responses from a five-point scale — if an employee selected “strongly disagree,” that translated to an individual score of zero, and “strongly agree” would be the equivalent of a 100. This ensured our insights took into account all positive, negative, and neutral sentiment.

After analyzing the results, we found that thriving averaged a 77 across the company — a number we see as strong, but one we can still work on. When we broke down thriving into its three components, we saw that meaningful work (79) and empowerment (79) both scored higher among employees than energized (73).

To understand the employee experiences behind the numbers, we dove into the open-ended survey responses. Three key themes stood out.

Culture matters.

What we saw was that employees who were thriving and not thriving were both talking about culture, but in vastly different ways.

Thriving employees talked about a collaborative environment and teamwork with colleagues, an inclusive culture with autonomy and flexibility, and well-being support. These comments reference examples such as being able to have honest, non-judgmental conversations on difficult topics, with a focus on finding solutions.

Employees who weren’t thriving talked about experiencing siloes, bureaucracy, and a lack of collaboration. In these comments we hear a lack of agency and a sense for being a cog in a machine. In other words, the opposite of being empowered and energized to do meaningful work.

Thriving takes a village.

Diving deeper into the numbers, it’s clear that everyone has a role to play. At Microsoft, we’ve long studied importance of managers, and we know their role has been more crucial than ever as they helped their teams navigate through uncertainty. It’s heartening to see our managers shine during such a difficult time. “My manager treats me with dignity and respect” scored a 93, meaning almost every employee selected “strongly agree” — but this also means we still need to ensure that’s the experience for every single employee. We also saw high scores in confidence in manager’s effectiveness (87) and managers’ support for careers (85), showing strong sentiment that managers are helping their teams succeed at the company.

While we see these scores as strengths, they’re strengths we want to keep building to ensure a positive lived experience for all employees.

Thriving and work-life balance are not the same thing.

As we think about how to support thriving, it’s important to distinguish it from work-life balance. While thriving is focused on being energized and empowered to do meaningful work in your role, work-life balance reflects employees’ personal lives, too. Employees rated their satisfaction with work-life balance as a 71, and while it’s encouraging to see work-life balance improving, it hasn’t fully recovered yet to pre-Covid levels. And there are times when thriving and work-life balance can move in different directions.

For example, an early-in-career employee who feels underutilized in their role may have great work-life balance from a perspective of hours and workload, but not feel energized while they’re at work or inspired by the meaning and impact of what they’re working on. On the other hand, there are times when people can thrive and feel so fulfilled by the hard work it takes to make progress on a big project that they can make a short-term tradeoff on work-life balance.

We know that work-life balance may ebb and flow, but wanted to learn from employees who both rated their work-life balance highly and said they were thriving in that work-focused portion of their life. So, we compared the 56% of our employees who said they were thriving and reported higher work-life balance to the 16% who were thriving but had lower work-life balance scores.

By combining sentiment data with de-identified calendar and email metadata, we found that those with the best of both worlds had five fewer hours in their workweek span, five fewer collaboration hours, three more focus hours, and 17 fewer employees in their internal network size. This reinforces what we know from earlier work-life balance research and network size analysis, which showed us that increased collaboration does have a negative impact on employees’ perception of work-life balance. It also confirms that collaboration is not inherently bad — for many employees, those times of close teamwork and striving toward a common goal can fuel thriving. However, it isimportant to be mindful of how intense collaboration can impact work-life balance, and leaders and employees alike should guard against that intensity becoming 24/7.

Challenges for Thriving on the Road Ahead

As more and more companies look closely at how they listen to and help their employees, it’s important to spend time understanding what your north star is — and to make sure it’s connected to the outcomes you are trying to drive as an organization. This new era of hybrid work won’t work for employees if you’re not listening — or if what you’re listening for doesn’t evolve along with them and how they do their jobs. There isn’t a singular one-size-fits-all solution out there, but paying close attention to how your employees thrive is one path forward.

We know this is just the beginning of our journey to understand this in our own organization. Looking holistically at the written responses from those who weren’t thriving offers more clues about where else we can improve for our employees. For example, while employees scored “I feel included in my team” highly at 86, by far the most common thread among those who were not thriving was a feeling of exclusion — from a lack of collaboration to feeling left out of decisions to struggling with politics and bureaucracy. We’ll continue to focus on ensuring inclusion is felt as part of our culture across all teams and orgs.

Ultimately, every score, whether high or low, gives us a baseline to keep listening, learning, improving, and adapting to new changes that still undoubtedly lie ahead. As we enter the hybrid work era, we’re excited to keep studying the numbers even more deeply to understand how thriving can be unlocked across different work locations, professions, and ways of working.

The Truth About Fasting and Type 2 Diabetes

These plans involve going without caloric foods or drinks for an extended period of time—anywhere from 16 hours to several days—and they have become increasingly popular. Research has also found them to be effective for weight loss.

Doctors often advise people with Type 2 diabetes to lose weight, which can have beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin sensitivity, as well as on the progression of the disease. For this and other reasons, experts are actively looking at the effects of intermittent fasting among people with Type 2 diabetes. However, there are some safety concerns. “People with diabetes should be those who benefit most from intermittent fasting,” says Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah. “But these diets also present some of the greatest potential safety issues because of the medications that people with diabetes are typically taking.”

Horne has co-authored several recent papers on the effects of intermittent fasting among people with diabetes. One of them, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association