Omicron Job Loss? Unemployment Claims Unexpectedly Spike One Week After Steep Drop In Jobless Benefits Numbers

The number of new unemployment claims unexpectedly jumped for the second week in a row this month, despite a steep drop in the overall number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits just one week earlier—a concerning sign for the labor market recovery after experts warned a record surge in coronavirus cases—spurred by the rapidly spreading omicron variant—could slow the economic recovery.

About 230,000 people filed initial jobless claims in the week ending January 8, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week, according to the weekly data released Thursday. Economists were only expecting about 200,000 new claims last week, according to Bloomberg data.

“This may well be the first report suggesting Omicron is leading to new job loss,” Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick wrote in a Thursday note, pointing out the largest increases were reported in California and New York, where new claims totaled more than 20,000 combined.

The new report also showed the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits fell to less than 1.6 million in the week ending January 1, a decrease of 194,000 from the previous week and the lowest level since June 1973.

“The future path of the pandemic remains highly uncertain, but the underlying job market narrative overall continues be one of scarcity of available applicants and workers,” Hamrick said. “The latest wrinkle, the high level of individuals testing positive, becoming ill or staying away from work, has added to supply chain disruptions with inflation already running red-hot.”The new unemployment data comes after a disappointing labor report on Friday showed the U.S. added a lower-than-expected 199,000 jobs in December.

After the report, Hamrick said it was still “difficult to measure” the economic impact of the omicron variant at that point and cautioned against dismissing its potential, pointing out widespread worker shortages, stoked in part by lingering concerns over the pandemic, remain a big uncertainty.

Economists surveyed by Bankrate said the variant could weigh on job growth in the first three months of the year, but estimated the unemployment rate will fall from 3.9% to 3.8% in a year. Moody’s Analytics’ Mark Zandi shared a similar word of caution, saying, “Risks are rising,” and forecasting that the economic recovery “is set to turn soft” as omicron stunts business. Amid the latest surge, credit card spending and restaurant bookings have already dropped substantially, while widespread flight cancellations have been another economic concern, Zandi notes.

According to the Labor Department, the U.S. has thus far recovered about 80% of the 20.5 million jobs U.S. employers cut between March and April of last year.

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I’m a senior reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I

Source: Omicron Job Loss? Unemployment Claims Unexpectedly Spike One Week After Steep Drop In Jobless Benefits Numbers

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Do Rapid Tests Work With Omicron? Should I Swab My Throat? Covid Test Questions Answered

Should we be swabbing our noses or our throats for at-home tests? Do rapid tests even detect omicron at all? Are PCR tests the only results we can trust right now?

Guidance about how to approach testing in the omicron era seems to be evolving by the day. ​​A recent real-world study that followed 30 subjects likely exposed to omicron found that PCR saliva tests can catch Covid-19 cases three days before rapid antigen tests, which use nasal swabs.

These findings, which have not been peer reviewed, follow the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement in late December that, while they do detect omicron, rapid antigen tests may now have “reduced sensitivity.” But that doesn’t mean rapid tests don’t play a key role in our pandemic response going forward.

This is all confusing to a public that’s been pulled in several directions over the course of the pandemic when it comes to guidance and testing. Long delays for PCR test results, a shortage of at-home rapid tests, and the wait for more definitive science about the omicron variant have all made it more difficult to figure out when and how to to get tested. Nevertheless, public health experts say that, as more become available, rapid tests will be an increasingly vital tool for diagnosing Covid-19 and reducing its spread.

“We don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good”

So you might be wondering: What’s the point if rapid tests aren’t as accurate as PCR tests? Well, rapid antigen tests, which look for a specific protein on the Covid-19 virus, remain extremely effective at confirming positive cases. Put simply, if you test positive on a rapid test, you almost certainly have Covid-19.

If you test negative, in some cases, you might still test positive on a PCR test, which is much more sensitive because it tests for genetic evidence of the virus. Rapid tests may not pick up positive cases in people who have been vaccinated or who have recently recovered from Covid-19, since they may produce less virus, one expert told Recode.

Rapid tests can also reveal a positive case faster than the labs that process PCR tests, since they can take several days to share results with patients, especially during big waves of infection. Perhaps more importantly, rapid tests can indicate whether someone is contagious enough to spread the virus to others, which is what many people are most worried about.

“Given that a rapid antigen test is often the most feasible or available option for many, we don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” Joshua Michaud, the associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Recode. He explained that every Covid-19 case that’s caught by someone who could take a rapid antigen test but not a PCR test is a win for public health.

Taking rapid tests more frequently also makes them more effective. Most at-home rapid test kits are designed to be conducted over the course of two days, which is why kits typically include two tests. Because each test is a snapshot of the moment it’s taken, multiple tests help reduce the chance of receiving a false negative.

Of course, all of this is assuming that you can get your hands on a rapid test. In the weeks since omicron started to spread, rapid tests have been incredibly hard to find in some parts of the country. These tests are out of stock because neither test manufacturers nor the Biden administration anticipated record levels of Covid-19 cases, which have boosted the demand for rapid tests.

To confront the shortage, the White House plans to buy and distribute 500 million free rapid tests in the coming weeks. When that happens, these tests could help catch more positive cases and lower the number of people infected with Covid-19.

How accurate are rapid tests when it comes to omicron?

The accuracy of a rapid test depends on how often you’re testing yourself and whether you want to identify a Covid-19 infection or measure your contagiousness. But if you test positive on a rapid test, you should trust the result, assume you’re infectious, and isolate for at least five days. If you test positive again after five days, the CDC recommends isolating for five more.

Rapid tests, however, are not perfect. Research indicates that antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests — this has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic. PCR tests are processed in a lab, where sophisticated equipment can identify and amplify even the tiniest genetic evidence of the virus that causes Covid-19.

These tests are so precise that patients can actually test positive for weeks after they’ve recovered and are no longer contagious. The results of rapid tests, meanwhile, can vary based on how much virus is in a patient’s nose at the time the sample is taken and how far along they are in their infection.

Scientists explain the difference between rapid tests and PCR tests in two ways: specificity, which reflects a test’s false-positive rate, and sensitivity, which reflects a test’s false-negative rate. Both PCR and rapid tests have high specificity, which means that their positive results are very trustworthy. But while PCR tests tend to have near-perfect sensitivity, rapid antigen tests tend to have a sensitivity around 80 to 90 percent. This means that rapid tests tend to produce more false negatives than PCR tests do.

“Most at-home tests are still able to detect infection by omicron because they target a part of the virus that doesn’t mutate that much”Omicron makes testing even trickier. The sensitivity of rapid tests may be even lower for omicron cases, according to early research from the FDA and other scientists.

Another problem is that omicron may propagate more in the throat than the lungs, and it could take longer for Covid-19 to show up in nasal samples, even if someone is symptomatic. It’s possible that vaccinated people and people who have recently recovered from Covid-19 are noticing more false negatives on rapid tests because they tend to produce less virus overall.

“At-home tests are mostly effective when the person has high viral loads, a time when the person is more likely to transmit the virus,” Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, a viral immunologist at Northwestern’s medical school, told Recode, “Most at-home tests are still able to detect infection by omicron because they target a part of the virus that doesn’t mutate that much.”

Separate studies from both the UK’s Health Security Agency and researchers in Australia found that antigen tests are as sensitive to the omicron variant as they were to earlier strains of Covid-19. Again, the FDA does still recommend rapid tests to diagnose positive cases, and test manufacturers say they’re confident in their products’ ability to detect omicron.

While early research indicates saliva tests might detect Covid-19 more quickly, right now most of the PCR tests and all of the available rapid at-home tests that have emergency use authorizations from the FDA use nasal samples.

How to use rapid tests in less-than-ideal circumstances

Which brings us back to the question of whether you should be sticking nasal swabs in your throat. There is evidence that saliva samples may be a quicker indicator of Covid-19 cases, but that doesn’t mean you should stop following the directions that come with your test kit.

The FDA says that people should not use rapid antigen tests to swab their own mouths. Some experts say you might consider doing so anyway, and point out that other countries, including the UK, have approved rapid antigen tests that use throat swabs and released very careful directions about how to do so.

“​​I personally do swab my throat and my nose to get the best sensitivity when I use over-the-counter tests at home,” Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard, said at a Thursday press conference. “There are risks associated with that, but the biology does tell us that they might be getting better sensitivity earlier.”

But the concern with rapid test kits right now is not that people are swabbing their noses, but how often they’re swabbing their noses. A single test could miss a Covid-19 case and produce a false negative, but taking two tests over a 24 to 36 hour period reduces this risk.

The more rapid tests you take, the more you reduce your chances of a false negative, and the more times you test negative over multiple days, the more confident you can be that you’re not spreading Covid-19.

Still, the biggest problem right now is that rapid tests are pricey and hard to find. Pharmacies have limited the number of test kits people can buy, and many are completely sold out. A single test can also cost more than $10, which means that testing yourself regularly gets expensive quickly. Opportunists have even hoarded tests and engaged in price gouging, which has exacerbated the shortage.

If you don’t have enough tests to test yourself regularly, it’s best to test yourself right before seeing vulnerable people, says Mara Aspinall, a professor who leads Arizona State’s testing diagnostic commons and a board member for the test manufacturer Orasure, told Recode. “I’m heading to a vulnerable person [or] I’m going into a health care setting, and therefore need to test right beforehand.”

For now, the best test kit is the test you can get (Wired has a handy list of the brands currently available). If you’re planning to go somewhere and don’t want to spread the virus, you should take one rapid test the day before traveling, and then a second test immediately before you go. If you only have one rapid test, take it right before you see people.

Testing yourself should become easier as more rapid tests become available. In addition to the 500 million free rapid tests that the White House will distribute beginning later this month, people with private insurance will also be able to get their rapid test purchases reimbursed starting next week. You should also check with your local health department, as they might be distributing free tests.

Even though the rapid test situation is still less than ideal, there are other strategies we can use to protect both ourselves and other people from Covid-19, like getting vaccinated, getting boosted, and wearing a mask. And if you do happen to find some rapid tests, go ahead and grab them. They might just come in handy, especially if you use them correctly.

Correction, January 7, 10:30 am: An earlier version of this story misstated in one instance the kind of false results that might appear more often on rapid Covid-19 tests among vaccinated people and those with immunity from recent infection. The false results are false negatives, not false positives.

Rebecca Heilweil

Rebecca Heilweil is a reporter for Open Sourced, covering emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, and logistics. Her Twitter handle is @rebheilweil.

Source: Do rapid tests work with omicron? Should I swab my throat? Covid test questions, answered. – Vox

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Five Ways Nostalgia Can Improve Your Well-Being

Some recent studies suggest that experiencing nostalgia about our past can make us happier and more resilient during times of stress.

I often find myself nostalgic for days gone by—especially my young adulthood. Thinking about days when I could go backpacking with a friend on a moment’s notice or dance the night away at my wedding, without the constraints of child care or a limited energy supply, gives me a bittersweet feeling—a mixture of joy, sadness, and longing.

While I find nostalgia pleasant overall and even inspiring, doctors and psychologists did not always consider it a good thing. Staying “stuck in the past” was often associated with being unable to adjust to new realities, like when soldiers were nostalgic for their faraway homes and experienced loneliness and dread. Not that long ago, some considered nostalgia to be a mental illness, akin to melancholy, which could lead to anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

But more recent findings on nostalgia suggest it can be good for us, increasing our well-being, making us feel connected to other people, and giving us a sense of continuity in our lives. And it seems to come on naturally when we need to weather life’s difficulties. Rather than being a problem, nostalgia can help bring happiness and meaning to our lives.

Here are some of the ways nostalgia can benefit us, according to science.

Nostalgia makes us feel socially connected

Nostalgia about our past often includes recalling important people in our lives—people who cared about us and made us feel like we belonged. Certainly, my own nostalgic musings are centered around times when I was with the people and places I love. So, it’s not too surprising that recalling these special times would make us feel more connected to others, in general.

In one study, researchers found that people who were asked to write about an event from their past that made them feel “sentimental longing for the past” felt loved and supported, and this, in turn, helped buffer them against loneliness. Another study found that when people felt nostalgic about times in their lives when they interacted with members of an “out-group”—for example, teenagers recalling fun times with older adults—they felt less prejudice toward that group.

Nostalgia also seems to help us maintain our relationships. For example, one study found that inducing nostalgia helped people feel more optimistic about relationships in general and more willing to connect with friends. Another study found that when induced to feel nostalgia, people (especially those who find connecting with others easier) felt more able to offer emotional support to the people in their lives.

Nostalgia helps us find meaning in life

A sense of meaning in life involves knowing that your existence matters and that your life has coherence or purpose. It’s something we all strive for in one way or another.

Fortunately, research suggests nostalgia can be an important resource for increasing meaning, by highlighting central moments in our lives and giving us a sense of continuity.

In one study, researchers compared nostalgia to two seemingly related forms of thinking about one’s life: recalling a positive past event or imagining a desired future. Focusing on an event that made them nostalgic led people to feel their lives had more meaning compared to imagining a desirable future. And, compared to both other reflections, feeling nostalgic reduced people’s need to search for meaning in their lives—they already felt life had meaning.

In another study, people either listened to music that brought them back to a particular time or read lyrics to old songs. These nostalgic activities not only made them feel loved and socially connected but also increased their sense of meaning in life. And, when people read an essay that encouraged them to think that life had no meaning—which said, “There are approximately 7 billion people living on this planet. So take a moment to ponder the following question: In the grand scheme of things, how significant are you?”—they naturally turned to feelings of nostalgia for relief from that sense of meaninglessness.

These findings and others suggest that nostalgia not only heightens your sense of meaning in life, but can act as a buffer when you experience a loss of meaning. And it may help you move forward in life, too. As one study found, nostalgia can increase your motivation to pursue important life goals, because it increases meaning—not just because it puts you in a better mood.

Nostalgia can make us happier

Though it does seem to do just that—to boost our mood. Even though nostalgia is by definition a blend of positive and negative emotion, the positive tends to outweigh the negative, meaning we feel happier overall.

In one very recent study, 176 university students were randomly assigned to a six-week nostalgia program where they were asked weekly to write about a past event that brought on “a sentimental longing for the past” (while a control group wrote about past events that were ordinary). Afterward, they reported on their levels of positive and negative emotions and how much the writing provided a sense of social connection, meaning, or connection to their past self. At different points in time, they also reported on their life satisfaction, feelings of vitality, and well-being.

The researchers found that nostalgia was generally beneficial, leading people to experience more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and well-being, as well as fewer negative emotions—at least three weeks into the program. These benefits mostly disappeared after that—except for people who started the experiment already engaging in nostalgia regularly. For them, going through the nostalgia program brought them greater life satisfaction and fewer negative emotions up to a month later, possibly because the program was a better fit for them.

A lot of the benefits on happiness may be connected to nostalgia’s effects on social connection and meaning. But it could also be that nostalgia helps us see ourselves in a truer, more authentic light.

Nostalgia puts us in touch with our authentic selves

When thinking nostalgically about our past, we are the prime protagonists in our own life stories. Perhaps because of this, nostalgia helps us to see our lives as continuous and coherent, providing us with a sense of authenticity.

In one study, when primed to feel nostalgic by writing about a time in their past, people saw their past self as an authentic representation of themselves. This, in turn, reduced their focus on meeting the expectations of others versus following their own, intrinsic expectations of themselves. In other words, it helped them be their authentic selves.

The researchers also studied how threats to one’s sense of self might make people engage in more nostalgia. Half of the participants read this text: “Many people feel that they have two sides to themselves. One side is the person that they show to other people; the other side is their true self—that is, the person who they truly are deep down.” Then, they wrote about times in their lives when they’d found it hard to reveal their real selves to others.

The other half of the participants wrote about their daily routines and when those routines were disrupted. Then, both groups reported on their positive and negative emotions, as well as feelings of nostalgia.

Findings showed that people who focused on threats to their self-concept experienced more negative emotions, and in turn felt more nostalgic. This suggests that nostalgia helps put us in touch with our “real selves” and protects us against threats to our authenticity.

Perhaps for this reason, engaging in nostalgia can lead to personal growth. At least one study found that feeling nostalgia made people feel more positively about themselves, which, in turn, made them more open to experiencing new things, expanding their horizons, and being curious—all signs of psychological health.

Nostalgia may help people who feel disillusioned or depressed

Perhaps because of these potential benefits, people tend to engage in nostalgia when they are feeling down, lonely, or disillusioned. Many studies have found that nostalgia seems to protect people from negative mind states, bringing about a kind of emotional homeostasis.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that nostalgia is always good or can’t have a downside. If nostalgia makes us spend too much time thinking about our past, it may prevent us from recognizing the joy in our lives right here and now. And, since we tend to engage in nostalgia when negative things occur, it could become an avoidance strategy that keeps us from dealing with present problems in more effective ways.

Encouraging groups of people to feel nostalgic could also have negative consequences. For example, one study found that nostalgia made people more likely to believe political claims, regardless of their veracity. Inducing nostalgia could be an advertising ploy used to affect consumer behavior, which could lead to poor choices, too.

Still, chances are that nostalgia is more a blessing than a curse, and a winning strategy for feeling better about ourselves. It can increase our connection to others, our sense of meaning in our lives, our authenticity, and our happiness. So, why not tune into nostalgia now and then? It may just help you meet the challenges of the moment.

Source: Five Ways Nostalgia Can Improve Your Well-Being

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Is Your Relationship With Money Holding You Back?

Mel H. Abraham, the host of The Affluent Entrepreneur Show, often hears clients tell him, “I’m having some money issues because …” What follows “because” could be any number of reasons, but in Abraham’s book, money issues are often a symptom and not the actual problem. “The fact is your current financial situation is a result of your past decisions,” he explains.

So, when his clients take a moment to honestly examine their decisions and habits surrounding money, he often sees some of the seeds of where they are today — things like how much they did or didn’t save, what they typically spend their money on, and whether their relationship with money is toxic.

The reality, says Abraham, is that we are often conditioned to have limiting beliefs about money from a very young age. Money is not something we talk about or are taught about in school. And unless you intentionally seek to learn about money, your primary source of learning is observation. “The question, though, is: Who are you observing?” Abraham asks.

Most of our money education comes from our surroundings, aka parents, friends, and neighbors, as well as conversations we’ve overheard or what the media has told us. “Were they the best source of financial information and financial education?”

Based on these observations, we unconsciously create beliefs about money, and these beliefs form what Abraham refers to as our “money identity.” That identity could spur from things as simple as hearing a parent say, “We can’t afford that,” which could lead you to start believing that money is scarce and that you need to be afraid of spending any money at all.

You could have grown up hearing that “people who have money are greedy,” which might make you not want to work as diligently, or that “money is not important,” which can lead to brushing off the financial side of your life.

As you get older, these limiting beliefs can intensify. And Thomas Creel, the founder and owner of Creel Financial LLC, says these common toxic money thoughts can lead to everything from preventing you from asking for a raise you deserve to overspending, putting off saving for retirement, or staying in debt. He shares the following as examples of limited money beliefs:

• “I’ll never be good with money, so why even try?”

• “My friends seem to be doing well with money; something must be wrong with me.”

• “As long as I can pay my bills every month, I can spend the rest on having fun.”

• “Life is too short; I’ll worry about retirement when I get older.”

• “Only going out with my friends and spending money is when we have fun.”

• “My friends wouldn’t want to hang out with me if we did something for free.”

• “My parents never talked about money, so I guess I won’t talk about it either.”

• “If I lose all my money, then my parents will just give me more.”

• “Money is the cause of all the world’s problems; therefore, I never want to be wealthy.”

When it comes to money conversations, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, the chief science officer for Happy Money, sees many parallels to the evolving conversation about mental health. “In the past, there was more of a stigma that kept many from sharing openly about their mental health struggles,” she says.

“Thankfully, that is changing, but when it comes to conversations about debt, income, and other money topics, it seems that we are still very reluctant to discuss our finances.” Getting in tune with your financial beliefs is one of the very best ways to start repairing your relationship with money.

Here are some expert-backed ways to begin repairing your relationship with money:

View money as just a tool

Creel likes to look at money as a tool in the same way that you would view a hammer as a tool. “You can either use the hammer to build a useful shelf for your home, or you could use the hammer to break things. It’s the same thing with money,” he explains. And just like how you have to learn how to swing a hammer, you have to learn how to use money to build the life you want.

Let go of the belief that “money is complicated or confusing”

“This often leads to not trying to learn about money because you believe it is beyond you — which it isn’t,” says Abraham. But if you don’t do anything to increase your understanding of money, you cannot feel better about your relationship with money. “All money skills are learnable, but without effort, we can fall into complacency, and complacency with money, which is the first step toward crisis,” Abraham explains.

Creel says it’s likely that you weren’t ever formally taught how to handle your money, and this is probably the reason you aren’t managing it correctly. “No one is taught how to use their money, and that’s what gets us into trouble,” he explains. “So, give yourself grace and know that wherever you’re at in your journey with money, there’s always something you can do to get better with it and improve your situation.”

Challenge your upbringing

Creel asks clients to take inventory of their childhood perceptions of money and question any limiting beliefs that they may have formed about it. “Ask yourself, ‘When it came to how my parents handled money, what did I learn from them?’ Talk with close friends and see what answers come up,” he says. This will likely bring up some common themes, like “money is hard to save” or “only people with X type of job have the ability to have a lot of money.” Next, ask yourself, “Am I sure that these beliefs are true?” “What are some other possible outcomes that could be true?” asks Creel.

Create some positive money affirmations

Come up with several empowering affirmations that you can say to yourself every morning that can help change your thoughts around money. Creel suggests the following:

• “I am capable of overcoming any money obstacles that stand in my way.”

• “I’m not poor; I’m just low in wealth right now. That is changing.”

• “I can conquer my money goals.”

Realize that your money situation can change

You might be strapped for cash at the moment, but a new job, a period of diligent saving, or a raise could change all of that, and quickly. “Remembering that much of what feels overwhelming in life, and with finances, is temporary is a good first step to overcoming anxiety when managing your finances,” explains Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner at SoFi. Try to shift your mindset and remind yourself that debt doesn’t have to last forever. “Keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel,” Anastasio says.

Find a budget buddy

Understanding that the emotions you are going through are very real, and most likely have been felt by people you know, can be a comfort. “Talking to your partner, a close friend, or family member about what is going on may help you let go of guilt, shame, and financial anxiety,” says Anastasio.

Your budget buddy can be your cheerleader when you need it and motivate you whenever you get frustrated or discouraged. “Whether this person is a financial professional or a trusted friend whose financial choices you admire, he or she can also offer tips to help you be savvier with your money,” Anastasio adds.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Nobody is perfect, and comparison, says Anastasio, is the thief of joy. “It can be difficult to avoid making assumptions about how others are faring financially based on our social-media intake, but just because a friend is posting about their exotic vacations or a neighbor seems to be doing one luxury home renovation after another does not mean they’re experiencing success while you’re not,” she says.

Find the joy

While making money technically involves work, it doesn’t have to be a miserable, nonstop hustle. “Part of healing our relationship to money is not only believing that we are capable of making it, but believing that pursuing money and pursuing happiness, balance, and peace are by no means mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re mutually constitutive,” says Rachel Rodgers, the author of We Should All Be Millionaires and the CEO of Hello Seven.

While it’s true that “money can’t always buy you happiness,” it can definitely fund things like travel, new classes, and other passions you may have, enriching your life, and it can ease stress and increase your freedom. So, as you work through your limiting beliefs and grow throughout your financial journey, Rodgers says to remember to have fun and enjoy yourself along the way.

Tune in to your spending emotions

“Track what you spend and how it makes you feel so you can decide what’s worth it to you and what’s not,” suggests Dunn. Pay attention to how purchases affect your mood in order to identify what Dunn refers to as your “happy and sad spends.” By understanding how your money choices impact your mental and emotional well-being, you can start to shift your spending toward what makes you truly happy — such as paying down debt, savoring a treat, investing in an experience, or helping another person. “This mindfulness approach will help you get even more joy from your happy spends,” Dunn says.

Focus on your goals, not the dollars

When it comes to priorities, money can help you get there but shouldn’t be your primary focus. Robin Saks Frankel, a personal finance expert at Forbes Advisor, says it’s important to take time to evaluate what your goals are, not just with money but also with your life as a whole. “If you want to have a partner and children, for example, or you want to make a career change, those goals cannot be attained or measured by how much money you do or don’t have in the bank,” she says.

Nicole is a freelance writer published in The New York Times, AARP, Woman’s Day, Parade, Men’s Journal, Wired, Emmy Magazine, and more. Keep up with her adventures on Twitter at @nicolepajer.

Source: Is Your Relationship With Money Holding You Back?

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Desjardins, Jeff (December 15, 2015). “Infographic: The Properties of Money”. The Money Project. Ret

This Is What Long COVID Feels Like Fatigue Dizziness Brain Fog and Muscle Spasms

When the novel coronavirus began to spread across the world in February 2020, Freya Sawbridge was caught in a bind. The 27-year-old was living in Scotland, but when businesses and borders began to close she packed up and flew home to Auckland, New Zealand. On arrival, she felt feverish and couldn’t smell or taste food.

In those early months of COVID-19, every new symptom made global headlines. Freya got tested and the result came back positive. Panic began to set in.  “I was in the first wave,” she says.

“There weren’t many people that had had it by that stage, so I knew no-one could tell me anything about it, no-one could offer me any real guidance because it was a new disease.

“No-one can tell you anything about it or when it might end. You’re just existing in the unknown.”

Freya found herself on a vicious merry-go-round of symptoms — fever, sore throat, dizziness, muscle spasms, numbness, chest pains and fatigue. The symptoms kept coming around and around and around.

After 12 days, she stabilised, but four days later the pains returned with a vengeance. It would be a sign of things to come. Freya would relapse five more times over the next six months.

“Each relapse, the depth of it would last about 10 days and then I would take about four or five days emerging from it, have about two or three symptom-free days before another relapse would kick off,” Freya says. “The symptoms would come and then dissipate…

“I’d have a fever for an hour, a sore throat for four hours, then dizziness for two hours, then I was OK for an hour.

“…it was just a cycle like that.”

By April 2020, “long COVID” was being mentioned in Facebook support groups. It’s not an official medical term; it was coined out of necessity by the public. It’s sometimes also referred to as long-haul COVID, chronic COVID and post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC).

Exactly what constitutes long COVID remains extremely broad. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization released its clinical case definition of what it calls ‘post COVID-19 condition’, which affects people at least two months after a COVID-19 infection with symptoms that “cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis”.

For Freya, symptoms like chest pain and a sore throat were manageable, but the dizziness and “brain pain” she experienced were debilitating. “It’s as if there was like a mini person in my brain and he was scraping my whole brain with a rake, it was just pain,” Freya says.

“And then it would feel like it would flip on itself continuously and so it makes it really hard to sleep because you’re lying there and it feels like your brain is doing somersaults and then it’s also spinning.”

The memory loss was especially unnerving. “Heaps of people say, ‘Oh, I get that and I’m young,’ but it just feels different… you’d be mid-sentence and then completely forget what you’re talking about.”

Doctors couldn’t give Freya any clarity about what was happening to her because the reality was no-one knew enough about COVID-19.

The hardest was month four, when Freya ended up in hospital from her long COVID symptoms. In a journal entry dated August 24, 2020, she wrote: “Must stay hopeful. Must believe I will get better.” After so many relapses, she had fallen into a depression filled with grief, for her healthy body and her old life.

To this day, we still know very little about long COVID, including just how many people it affects.

Various studies over the past 18 months estimate long COVID can affect anywhere from 2.3 per cent to 76 per cent of COVID-19 cases. It’s important to remember these studies vary in method, with some tracking only hospitalised cases and some relying on self-reported surveys.

A comprehensive study by the University of NSW places the figure at around 5 per cent. Researchers tracked 94 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in NSW from January to May 2020. Of the 3,000 people surveyed, 4.8 per cent still had symptoms after three months.

The uncertainty doesn’t end there. We also have no idea why long COVID hits certain people, but not others. It’s been likened to a kind of “Russian roulette”.

Studies have consistently found long COVID to be more prevalent in women, older people and those with underlying conditions, but there’s evidence to indicate children are capable of developing long COVID too.

Being young and fit is no guarantee you’re safe either, and nor is having a minor initial COVID case. The longer-term symptoms can strike even those who had few initial symptoms.

Those with long COVID report a constellation of symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, brain fog, memory loss, loss of taste and smell, numbness, muscle spasms and irritable bowels.

One of Australia’s leading researchers in the area, Professor Gail Matthews, says long COVID is likely a spectrum of different pathologies.

Dr Matthews is the Head of Infectious Diseases at St Vincent’s Hospital and Head of the Therapeutic Vaccine and Research Program at the Kirby Institute at UNSW. She says the issue of long COVID will be huge on a global scale and it’s crucial to understand it better.

One theory is that COVID-19 can trigger the immune system to behave in an abnormal way, releasing cytokines that can make you feel unwell with fatigue and other symptoms.

Another is that there could be some elements of the virus — called antigen persistence — somewhere in the body that continues to trigger an ongoing activation in the immune system.

There’s also early evidence that vaccination might help reduce or even prevent long-term symptoms. Freya stopped relapsing around month seven, although her senses of taste and smell still haven’t fully recovered. She says rest was a big part of her recovery.

“Other people, if they don’t have parental support, or they have to work because they’ve got no savings, or they can’t rely on their parents, or they have young kids — I have no idea how they got through it, because it would have been impossible in my eyes,” Freya says.

Judy Li is in an impossible situation. An all-encompassing fatigue has taken hold of her mind and body, stripping away her ability to work, parent or plan for the future.

The 37-year-old got COVID-19 in March 2020 while an inpatient at a Melbourne hospital. She had been struggling after giving birth to her second child and was getting the help she needed.

Despite her anxieties, Judy’s case was very mild and it wasn’t until three months later when her three-year-old brought a bug home from day care that she realised something was wrong.

As day-care bugs so often do, it ripped through the young family. “It felt like I hit a brick wall, I was a lot worse than everyone else,” Judy says.

“It wasn’t the usual symptoms… I was just really lethargic, really fatigued and I remember at about the three-week mark of having those symptoms, that kind of fatigue, I thought, ‘this isn’t right, this is a bit odd.’”

Her fatigue is not like being tired, it’s a different kind of exhaustion, a severe lack of energy that doesn’t replenish after sleep.

“This is like something you feel in your limbs; you feel like they’re really heavy, they’ve got this kind of, I wouldn’t say ouch-kind of pain, but it’s sort of an achiness to your limbs,” she says.

The fatigue comes and goes, but Judy has noticed it can flare up when she gets sick or when she expends herself physically or mentally.

One of the worst episodes came after an eight-hour trip to Canberra for Christmas to visit her in-laws. “I woke up and I was completely paralysed,” Judy says. Distressed, in tears, she could only call out to her partner for help.

“I just did not have the strength to move my limbs and I kept trying and trying and trying and eventually he helped me up. “I sort of dragged my arm up, I could barely hold a glass of water and he’d help me to drink out of it. If I had to go to the toilet, he had to basically carry me.”

This fatigue has derailed Judy’s life because when it sets in, she never knows how long it’s going to last or whether it will go away.  It makes work and parenting impossible. Judy’s two young children don’t understand what’s wrong with mum or why she can’t get out of bed.

“When the kids are crying at home, I can’t go and soothe them,” she says.

“This is not a lack of motivation, it’s like I want to get up and I want to go to my children.

“I want to get up, I’ve got work I need to do. I want to get up and even go get something to eat, I’m hungry, but I can’t actually tell my body to move in that way.”

Fatigue or post-exertional malaise is one of the most common symptoms of long COVID, but it’s also a very common symptom in myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a biological disease affecting an estimated 250,000 Australians.

There are striking similarities between long COVID and ME/CFS. Both can cause symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, memory loss or ‘brain fog’, and irritable bowel, and both are likely to encompass a range of different pathologies.

ME/CFS is usually triggered by a viral infection — ebola, dengue fever, glandular fever, epstein barr, ross river virus, SARS and even the more common influenza have all left trails of chronically ill people in their wake.

Experts have even questioned whether long COVID could be ME/CFS by another name, although the jury is still out on that theory. ME/CFS has been around for decades but we still don’t know much about it.

Australian advocacy groups desperately want to see more research and support to help people with this chronic illness navigate medical, financial and accommodation services. They also say doctors need better education to diagnose and treat the condition early on.

Bronwyn Caldwell knows what it’s like to live with a condition that no-one understands or knows how to treat. She’s lived with ME/CFS for 20 years, ever since a suspected case of glandular fever in her 20s.

The 46-year-old from South Australia is adamant the early advice from her doctor to rest was the reason her condition didn’t immediately worsen. She was able to work part-time as a brewer up until 2013 but a relapse has left her mostly bed-bound.

Bronwyn considers herself lucky — her illness was validated by doctors and family, she doesn’t have cognitive difficulties and isn’t in pain. But her voice begins to break when mentioning that most people with ME/CFS face stigma that they’re being lazy or faking their illness.

“I can’t imagine what it’s really like to have everyone in your life say you’re just being lazy, because the reality is all of us beat ourselves up to that all the time,” she says.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology looking at links between people with chronic illness and suicidal ideation found stigma, misunderstanding and unwarranted advice exacerbates patients’ feelings of overall hopelessness.

Long COVID is creating a cohort of people vulnerable to the same thing, and Judy herself has sometimes wondered whether her family would be better off without her (which, of course, it wouldn’t).

“I honestly go through periods where I wish COVID had killed me instead of just left me with this, this big burden,” she says. With no sick leave left, Judy has had to take unpaid time off work.

It’s a big blow for the high-earning, career-driven project manager who took pride in handling stressful situations and juggling multiple tasks. These days, her mind doesn’t work like it used to.

“It’s just little things like struggling to find the word that I just knew… I would know… sorry… like being able to construct sentences,” she says with an ironic laugh.

“I can try to read something but it just seems like I have to read it over and over and over again. “I frequently walk into a room and can’t remember why, when I would put something down, seriously, two minutes later I have no idea where it is. “I just feel like I’m losing my mind.”

In the COVID-ravaged UK, daily cases peaked at more than 68,000 and daily deaths at more than 1,300. It’s a situation few in Australia — where we have enjoyed long periods of little-to-no community transmission — can fully appreciate.

Adam Attia was living in London through most of 2020 and says it was almost rare if you hadn’t had COVID-19. “I’ve known of people that had given it to their parents and it killed their parents,” the 30-year-old Australian says. “People that we knew on our street had passed away.”

So one day around August, when Adam couldn’t taste the wasabi on his sushi, he immediately knew what was wrong. “I just started to go through the kitchen for things like garlic — I had a whole garlic, I couldn’t taste anything. I ate a lemon like an apple and couldn’t taste a thing.

“I ate ginger like a cannibal, like I ate it with all of the bumps and things on it and couldn’t taste a thing.”

But Adam’s infection was mild and he spent his 10-day isolation staying active. Life went on as normal until three months later, after a trip to Croatia. On the flight back to London, somewhere above Germany, Adam felt an excruciating pain in his stomach. He felt like he was going to vomit, he couldn’t breathe and his head began to spin.

The flight crew didn’t know what to do, contemplating an emergency landing in Berlin while Adam desperately sucked air from a vent they’d given to help him breathe.

The flight managed to land in London and Adam was escorted off the plane. At the hospital, doctors ran tests for internal bleeding and signs of reflux or gastritis but they all turned up empty.

In the weeks and months after that flight, as little as two hours of work would leave Adam shattered and disorientated.

His symptoms are like dominoes. Exhaustion leads to stomach pain, which leads to nausea, faintness and breathlessness.

Adam has learned to manage his symptoms and as soon as he feels the exhaustion creeping in he takes an anti-nausea pill, uses the asthma puffer he now has to carry with him and finds somewhere to lie down.

He ended up moving back to Australia to sort out his health issues, but it wasn’t until a doctor at St George Hospital in Sydney mentioned Adam’s symptoms could be an effect of COVID-19 that he twigged.

“Is it from COVID? Look, I could be shooting in the dark, I don’t actually know,” Adam says. “But what I do know is I didn’t have these [symptoms] before COVID, so I guess it’s more of an educated guess.”

Much about long COVID remains exactly that. More research is needed to really know what’s going on.

The US and UK have allocated billions of dollars into research and set up long COVID clinics to help patients find the right treatment. The Australian government has provided $15 million for research grants into the long-term health effects of COVID-19 and the nation’s vaccination efforts through the Medical Research Future Fund.

As Australia moves beyond lockdowns towards a future where most Australians are vaccinated, borders are open and COVID-19 is actively spreading through communities, this research will be crucial in our understanding of the long-term health issues and the impact on individuals, families, workplaces and the economy.

For now, Dr Matthews says the biggest take-home is that we don’t know who is or isn’t susceptible to long COVID.

“One of the biggest messages is that it’s very hard to know who this will strike.”

Health officials in Victoria have already highlighted the plight of long COVID patients as part of their drive to encourage more people to get vaccinated, as experts say it probably can prevent long COVID.

Dr Matthews says it’s important Australia recognises long COVID as a real issue and makes sure there is appropriate support to help people.

“Even if it’s just an understanding that this condition exists, and recognition that it exists, as opposed to expecting these people to return to full health,” she says.

But until we know more, those like Freya, Judy and Adam won’t have the closure of knowing exactly what’s happened to them.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around,” Judy says, “to say this is potentially a life sentence”. “There’s no defining this is as bad as it gets, you know?  “This is just the big mystery question mark.”

By:  Emily Sakzewski, Georgina Piper, and Colin Gourlay

Source: This is what long COVID feels like — fatigue, dizziness, brain fog and muscle spasms – ABC News

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