A Psychologist Shares The 7 Signs of A Narcissistic Parent: ‘It’s a Toxic Way To Raise Your Kids’

Anastasiia Makarevich | Getty

Good parenting requires empathy, compassion and the willingness to make some of your needs secondary — essentially, many of the traits that you wouldn’t find in a narcissist. But as a psychologist who studies the impacts of narcissism in family relationships, I’ve noticed that many narcissist traits, such as grandiosity, superiority and entitlement, are on the rise.

Narcissistic parenting isn’t about bragging on social media or forcing rigorous extracurricular activities on your kids. It goes a lot deeper, and it’s one of the most toxic ways to raise your kids. Narcissistic parents have a hard time allowing their kids to become their own person, or have their own needs met.

You might know a narcissistic parent and not realize it. Here are the common signs:

1. They see their child as a source of validation.

Narcissists will often loudly flaunt their children when they score the winning goal or get the big part in the school play. You might see them constantly bragging online or bringing up their child’s beauty or talent in conversation.

Unless something involves their child’s achievements, the parent is checked out, detached and disinterested in their child. They generally shame their child’s need for connection or validation, and instead see them as a tool to fulfill those needs for themselves.

2. They are emotionally reactive, but shame their child’s emotions.

Narcissists are often angry and aggressive when they feel disappointed or frustrated. If they believe their child is being critical or defiant, they can lash out. These reactions can manifest as screaming, sudden bouts of rage or, in more severe cases, physical violence.

Meanwhile, the emotions of others can make narcissistic people uncomfortable and they may have contempt for them. They may shame their child into not sharing their emotions at all with phrases like, “Get over yourself, it wasn’t that big of a deal,” or, “Stop crying and toughen up.”

3. They always put their own needs first.

Sometimes adults need to put real-world issues first — maybe a late shift can’t be avoided or chores will take up an entire afternoon. But narcissistic parents expect their children to make sacrifices so that they can do or have whatever they want.

For example, if the parent likes sailing, then their children must go sailing every weekend. Or if the parent has a standing tennis game, then the parent will never miss it, even for something important like a graduation ceremony.

4. They have poor boundaries.

Narcissistic parents can be quite intrusive. When they don’t feel like it, they won’t interact with the child. But when they want the child to validate them, they may feel they can interrupt their child’s and ask them to do whatever they want to do.

They may ask probing questions or be critical of their child in a way that feels intrusive as well, such as commenting on weight, appearance or other attributes that leave the child feeling self-conscious.

5. They play favorites.

Narcissistic parents maintain their power by triangulating, or playing favorites. They may have a golden child who they compliment excessively, for example, while speaking badly about another child in the family.

This can make children feel uncomfortable, disloyal and psychologically unsafe. They may believe that they need to go along with or impress the narcissistic parent to avoid their wrath and maintain good standing in the family unit.

6. They shift blame onto their children.

Narcissists have the need to feel perfect, so they shirk responsibilities for their own missteps and blame their children. They can be cruel when they feel criticized, and their comments often sting.

Common refrains from narcissistic parents might be something like, “It’s your fault that I am so tired,” or, “I could have had a great career if I didn’t have to deal with you.”

Over time, children of narcissistic parents internalize these comments and begin to self-blame, believing: “When I have needs, I make everyone else feel or perform worse.’

7. They expect the child to be the caregiver.

At a relatively young age, the message from a narcissistic parent is that their child has to take care of them.

This often extends well into adulthood, where the narcissistic parent can be quite manipulative. A common line might be, “I fed and clothed you, so now you owe me.” Many narcissists expect their children to provide care and support later in life.How to change narcissistic parenting tendencies

If you find yourself relating to any of the traits above, don’t worry. We all have a certain level of self-involvement. However, there are several strategies you can use to change your mindset and habits.

First, don’t gaslight your child. If they say, “You’re always angry at me,” don’t say, “That’s not the case.” This will only confuse them further. Instead, meet the child with empathy: “I am so sorry. Do you want to talk about it? How are you feeling?”

Another strategy is to avoid forced forgiveness. Forced forgiveness benefits the parent by pushing their bad behavior under the rug but only fosters self-blame and confusion in the child. Let the child have their experience.

Lastly, consider therapy; it’s one of the best places to explore your parenting attitudes and tendencies.

By: Ramani Durvasula

Ramani Durvasula is a psychologist, professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and founder of LUNA Education. She is also the author of “Don’t You Know Who I Am: How to Stay Sane in the Era of Narcissism, Entitlement and Incivility″ and “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist.” Follow her on Twitter @DoctorRamani.

Source: A psychologist shares the 7 signs of a narcissistic parent: ‘It’s a toxic way to raise your kids’

Critics by Perri Klass

We all want to be the best parents we can be for our children, but there is often conflicting advice on how to raise a kid who is confident, kind and successful. And every aspect of being a parent has been more complicated and more fraught during the pandemic, with parents managing complex new assignments and anxious new decisions, all while handling the regular questions that come up in daily life with the children we love.

Throughout the circus act of parenting, it’s important to focus on balancing priorities, juggling responsibilities and quickly flipping between the needs of your children, other family members and yourself. Modern parents have the entire internet at their disposal and don’t follow any single authority. It’s hard to know whom or what to trust. Here, we’ll talk about how to help your child grow up to be a person you really like without losing yourself in the process.  

Your Parenting Style

Good news: There is no one right way to raise a child. Research tells us that to raise a self-reliant child with high self-esteem, it is more effective to be authoritative than authoritarian. You want your child to listen, respect and trust you rather than fear you. You want to be supportive, but not a hovering, helicopter parent. 

All of these things are easy to set as goals, but hard to achieve. How do you find the right balance? 

As your child develops, the challenges will change, and your thinking may evolve, but your approach should be consistent, firm and loving. Help your child learn through experience that making an effort builds confidence and helps you learn to tackle challenges. Calibrate your expectations about what your child is capable of doing independently, whether you have an infant learning to sleep through the night, a toddler helping to put toys away, or an older child resolving conflicts. Remember, there is no one right way to raise a child. Do your best, trust yourself and enjoy the company of the small person in your life.

How to Put a Baby to Sleep

Right from the beginning, babies vary tremendously in their sleep patterns. And parents, too, vary in terms of how they cope with interrupted nights. 

There are two general schools of thought around babies and sleep after those early months when they need nighttime feedings  — soothe the baby to sleep or don’t — and many parents find themselves wavering back and forth. Those who believe in sleep training, including many sleep experts, would argue that in helping babies learn to fall asleep by themselves and soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake during the night, parents are helping them master vital skills for comfort and independence.

Two techniques for this are:

  • Graduated extinction, in which babies are allowed to cry for short, prescribed intervals over the course of several nights.
  • Bedtime fading, in which parents delay bedtime in 15-minute increments so the child becomes more and more tired. 

And many parents report that these strategies improve their children’s sleep patterns, as well as their own. But there are also parents who find the idea of letting a baby cry at night unduly harsh.

Whatever you try, remember, some babies, no matter what you do, are not reliably good sleepers. Parents need to be aware of what sleep deprivation may be doing to them, to their level of functioning, and to their relationships, and take their own sleep needs seriously as well. So, ask for help when you need it, from your pediatrician or a trusted friend or family member.  

Bedtime

For older children, the rules around sleep are clearer: Turn off devices, read aloud at bedtime, and build rituals that help small children wind down and fall asleep. Establishing regular bedtime routines and consistent sleep patterns will be even more important as children grow older and are expected to be awake and alert during school hours; getting enough sleep on a regular basis and coming to school well-rested will help grade-school children’s academic performance and their social behavior as well.

Keeping screens out of the bedroom (and turned off during the hours before bed) becomes more and more important as children grow — and it’s not a bad habit for adults, either.  Even when education went remote during the pandemic, keeping children’s sleep schedules regular helped them stay on course. 

As your child hits adolescence, her body clock will shift so that she is “programmed” to stay up later and sleep later, often just as schools are demanding early starts. Again, good family “sleep hygiene,” especially around screens at bedtime, in the bedroom, and even in the bed, can help teenagers disconnect and get the sleep they need. By taking sleep seriously, as a vital component of health and happiness, parents are sending an important message to children at every age.

How to Feed Your Child

There’s nothing more basic to parenting than the act of feeding your child. But even while breast-feeding, there are decisions to be made. (Yes, breast-feeding mothers should eat spicy food if they like it. No, they shouldn’t respond to all infant distress by nursing.) Pediatricians currently recommend exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months, and then continuing to breast-feed as you introduce a range of solid foods. Breast-feeding mothers deserve support and consideration in society in general and in the workplace in particular, and they don’t always get it. And conversely, mothers are sometimes made to feel inadequate if breast-feeding is difficult, or if they can’t live up to those recommendations.  

You have to do what works for you and your family, and if exclusive breast-feeding doesn’t, any amount that you can do is good for your baby. As children grow, the choices and decisions multiply; that first year of eating solid foods, from 6 to 18 months, can actually be a great time to give children a range of foods to taste and try, and by offering repeated tastes, you may find that children expand their ranges

Small children vary tremendously in how they eat; some are voracious and omnivorous, and others are highly picky and can be very difficult to feed. Let her feed herself as soon as and as much as possible; by “playing” with her food she’ll learn about texture, taste and independence. Build in the social aspects of eating from the beginning, so that children grow up thinking of food in the context of family time, and watching other family members eat a variety of healthy foods, while talking and spending time together. (Children should not be eating while looking at screens.)

Parents worry about picky eaters, and of course about children who eat too much and gain weight too fast; you want to help your child eat a  variety of real foods, rather than processed snacks, to eat at  mealtimes and snacktimes, rather than constant “grazing,” or “sipping,” and to eat to satisfy hunger, rather than experiencing food as either a reward or a punishment.

Don’t cook special meals for a picky child, but don’t make a regular battlefield out of mealtime. 

Some tips to try:

  • Talk with small children about “eating the rainbow,” and getting lots of different colors onto their plates (orange squash, red peppers, yellow corn, green anything, and so on).
  • Take them to the grocery store or the farmer’s market and let them pick out something new they’d like to try.
  • Let them help prepare food.
  • Be open to deploying the foods they enjoy in new ways (peanut butter on almost anything, tomato sauce on spinach).  
  • Some children will eat almost anything if it’s in a dumpling, or on top of pasta.  
  • Offer tastes of what everyone else is eating. 
  • Find some reliable fallback alternatives when your child won’t eat anything that’s offered. (Many restaurants will prepare something simple off the menu for a child, such as plain pasta or rice.)

Above all, encourage your child to keep tasting; don’t rule anything out after just a couple of tries. And if you do have a child who loves one particular green vegetable, it’s fine to have that one turn up over and over again.

Bottom line: As long as a child is growing, don’t agonize too much.

Family meals matter to older children as well, even as they experience the biological shifts of adolescent growth. Keep that social context for food as much as you can, even through the scheduling complexities of middle school and high school. Keep the family table a no-screen zone, and keep on talking and eating together. Some families found that the pandemic meant more opportunities for family meals, which helped them through the hard times, but if the stresses of the recent past have pushed your family toward more snacking and more fast food, know that you are not alone. It will always help to re-set as a family, to stock healthy foods in the house, and to eat together and connect over food. 

Small children are essentially uncivilized, and part of the job of parenting inevitably involves a certain amount of correctional work. With toddlers, you need to be patient and consistent, which is another way of saying you will need to express and enforce the same rules over and over and over again. “Time outs” work very effectively with some children, and parents should watch for those moments when they (the parents) may need them as well.

Seriously, take a breather when you are feeling as out of control as your child is acting. Many parents have been under extraordinary stress during the pandemic; be sure you are taking care of yourself, and get help if you need it. Distraction is another good technique; you don’t have to win a moral victory every time a small child misbehaves if you can redirect the behavior and avoid the battle. The overall disciplinary message to young children is the message that you don’t like the behavior, but you do love the child.

Think praise rather than punishment. Physical discipline, like hitting and spanking, tends to produce aggressive behavior in children. Keep in mind that it’s always a parental win if you can structure a situation so that a child is earning privileges (screentime, for example) by good behavior, rather than losing them as a penalty. Search for positive behaviors to praise and reward, and young children will want to repeat the experience. But inevitably, parenthood involves a certain number of “bad cop” moments, when you have to say no or stop and your child will be angry at you — and that’s fine, it goes with the territory. Look in the mirror and practice saying what parents have always said: “I’m your mother/father, I’m not your friend.” 

As parents, we should be trying to regulate our children’s behavior — or to help them regulate their own — and not trying to legislate their thoughts: 

  • It is OK to dislike your brother or your classmate, but not to hit him. 
  • It is OK to feel angry or frustrated, as long as you behave properly. 

Our “civilizing” job as parents may be easier, in fact, if we acknowledge the strength of those difficult emotions, and celebrate the child who achieves control. And take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate what you do when you have lost control or behaved badly: Offer a sincere parental apology.

It’s also worth recognizing that we have all been living through extraordinary times, and that a child who is, for example, angry or frustrated because activities have been canceled, or interrupted, should not feel bad about expressing those emotions. Even young children can understand that what’s “wrong” or “bad” is the pandemic – not the child’s feelings.

Parenting in the Time of Covid

This is an anxious time to be a parent. You’re helping children navigate a pandemic world in which new information – sometimes scary, sometimes confusing – has to be absorbed and reacted to on a regular basis. You may be helping an anxious child handle fears about going out into the world, or trying to enforce safety protocols with a child who is just eager to declare the pandemic “over.” You may be dealing with economic pressures, with worries over vulnerable family members, or with grief for people who have been lost.

And many of the everyday decisions of parenthood have become more heavily weighted and more frightening. It can’t be said too often: understand that you are living – and parenting – through very difficult times, and as far as possible, take care of yourself.

If you are anxious, if you are depressed, if you are angry, think about the coping strategies that help you, and look for additional help if you need it, from your partner, if you have one, from close friends and family, from your spiritual community, from your doctor, from a mental health professional. Understand that parents have faced a difficult – and at times impossible – set of “assignments,” and that they have in large part responded with everyday heroism in taking care of their children. But they need to care of themselves as well.

Bullying

You can take steps to help your children manage both bullying and conflict — and you’re at your most useful when you know which of the two you’re trying to address. Children who are being bullied are on the receiving end of mistreatment, and are helpless to defend themselves, whereas children in conflict are having a hard time getting along. Fortunately, most of the friction that happens among children is in the realm of conflict —an inevitable, if unpleasant, consequence of being with others — not bullying.

If children are being bullied, it’s important to reassure them that they deserve support, and that they should alert an adult to what’s happening. Further, you can remind your children that they cannot passively stand by if another child is being bullied. Regardless of how your own child might feel about the one being targeted, you can set the expectation that he or she will do at least one of three things: confront the bully, keep company with the victim, alert an adult.

When the issue is conflict, you should aim to help young people handle it well by learning to stand up for themselves without stepping on anyone else. To do this, you can model assertion, not aggression, in the inevitable disagreements that arise in family life, and coach your children to do the same as they learn how to address garden-variety disputes with their peers.

Morality

All parents have in common the wish to raise children who are good people. You surely care about how your child will treat others, and how he or she will act in the world. In some households, regular participation in a religious institution sets aside time for the family to reflect on its values and lets parents convey to their children that those beliefs are held by members of a broad community that extends beyond their home.

Even in the absence of strong spiritual beliefs, the celebration of religious holidays can act as a key thread in the fabric of family life. Though it is universally true that children benefit when their parents provide both structure and warmth, even the most diligent parents can struggle to achieve both of these on a regular basis. The rituals and traditions that are part of many religious traditions can bring families together in reliable and memorable ways. Of course, there are everyday opportunities to instill your values in your child outside of organized religion, including helping an elderly neighbor or taking your children with you to volunteer for causes that are important to you.  

Above all, however, children learn your values by watching how you live.

Academic Pressure

When it comes to school, parents walk a difficult line: You want your children to strive and succeed, but you don’t want to push them in ways that are unfair, or cause needless stress. At every age and skill level, children benefit when parents help them focus on improving their abilities, rather than on proving them. In other words, children should understand that their intellectual endowment only gets them started, and that their capabilities can be increased with effort.

Many children struggled during the course of the pandemic, faced with learning in ways that were harder for them than regular school – this may be especially true for children with learning differences and special needs, but it applies across the board. As they return to in-person schooling, children need time to catch up, and they need to feel comfortable asking for that time, or for extra help – so they need to hear the message that what matters is the learning and understanding that they gain, not some rigid schedule that they may have fallen behind.

Children who adopt this growth mindset – the psychological terminology for the belief that industry is the path to mastery – are less stressed than peers who believe their capacities are fixed, and outperform them academically. Students with a growth mindset welcome feedback, are motivated by difficult work, and are inspired by the achievements of their talented classmates.

To raise growth-mindset thinkers you can make a point of celebrating effort, not smarts, as children navigate school. (This may be more important than ever as schools reopen and children return following their different experiences with remote or hybrid education.) When they succeed, say, “Your hard work and persistence really paid off. Well done!” And when they struggle, say, “That test grade reflects what you knew about the material being tested on the day you took the test. It does not tell us how far you can go in that subject. Stick with it and keep asking questions. It will come.”

Parents should step in when students face academic challenges that cause constant or undue stress. Some students hold themselves, or are held by adults, to unrealistic standards. Others missed a step along the way, had a hard time during the pandemic, study ineffectively or are grappling with an undiagnosed learning difference. Parents should be in touch with teachers about how things are going. Determining the nature of the problem will point the way to the most helpful solution.

Here’s how to raise a child with a healthy attitude toward shiny screens and flashing buttons.You could try to raise a screen-free child, but let’s be honest, you’re reading this on a screen. As in everything else, the challenge is in balancing the ideal and the real in a way that’s right for your family. The pandemic upended many families’ rules and practices, as everything from visits with grandma from teenage social networks to math class started to happen on screens.

And some aspects of those experiences may help you think about positive screen-related experiences you want to build into your children’s lives going forward: regular dates for watching a movie as a family, reading a book on an iPad, FaceTiming with out-of-town relatives. Technology plays such an important role in children’s lives now that when we talk about it, we’re talking about everything from sleep to study to social life. 

“Technology is just a tool and it can be an extremely enriching part of kids’ lives,” said Scott Steinberg, co-author of “The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks.” “A lot of what we’re teaching about parenting around technology is just basic parenting,” he said. “It comes down to the Golden Rule: Are they treating others in a respectful and empathetic manner?” 

Phones and social media give older kids opportunities to reckon with responsibilities they haven’t had before, such as being sent, or asked to share, an inappropriate image, said Ana Homayoun, author of the book “Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World.” Parents need to keep talking about this side of life with their children so they don’t leave their kids to navigate it alone. 

And then there’s the question of protecting family time. Mr. Steinberg advises setting household rules that govern when devices may be used, and have clear, age-appropriate policies so kids know what they can and can’t do.   

Some of these policies will be appropriate for all ages, including parents, such as:

  • No phones at the dinner table.
  • No screens for an hour before bedtime.

It’s important to practice what you preach. And if your family needs to re-set some of these rules as children return to the classroom, you can talk it through with your children, explaining why it matters to use devices well, but set some limits. And in addition to taking time for family meals and family conversations, parents should be taking the time to sit down with young children and look at what they’re doing online, rather than leaving them alone with their devices as babysitters. 

Parents as Digital Role Models

When a parent wants to post on social media about something a child did that may embarrass the child, Ms. Homayoun said, it’s worth stepping back to consider why. Are you posting it to draw attention to yourself? 

You should respect your child’s privacy as much as you respect the privacy of friends, family members and colleagues. As cute as it may seem to post pictures of a naked toddler, consider a “no butts” policy. That may not be the image that your child wants to portray 15 years from now. 

“We need to, from a very early age, teach kids what consent looks like,” Ms. Homayoun said. “It doesn’t begin when a kid is 15, 16 or 17. It begins when a kid is 3 and he doesn’t want to go hug his uncle.” Or when he doesn’t want you to post that video of him crying over a lost toy.  

Our children will create digital footprints as they grow, and it will be one of our jobs to help them, guide them and get them to think about how something might look a few years down the line — you can start by respecting their privacy and applying the same standards throughout their lives.  

Tech Toys

It’s easy to dismiss high-tech toys as just pricey bells and whistles, but if you choose more enriching options, you can find toys that help kids grow. For young children, though, there’s a great deal to be said for allowing them, as much as possible, to explore the nondigital versions of blocks, puzzles, fingerpaints and all the rest of the toys that offer tactile and fine motor experiences. As children get older, some high-tech games  encourage thinking dynamically, problem solving and creative expression.  

“These high-tech games can be an opportunity to bond with your kids. Learn more about how they think and their interests,” Mr. Steinberg said. Some games encourage kids to be part of a team, or lead one. And others let them be wilder than they might be in real life – in ways that parents can appreciate: “You can’t always throw globs of paint around the house but you can in the digital world,” he said.

The Right Age for a Phone?

“Many experts would say it’s about 13, but the more practical answer is when they need one: when they’re outside your direct supervision,” Mr. Steinberg said. Ms. Homayoun recommends them for specific contexts, such as for a child who may be traveling between two houses and navigating late sports practices.  

Consider giving tiered access to technology, such as starting with a flip phone, and remind children that privileges and responsibilities go hand in hand. A child’s expanding access to personal technology should depend on its appropriate use. 

To put these ideas into practical form, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidelines for creating a personalized family media use plan.

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Brain Drain: Scientists Look at Why Mental Exertion Triggers Exhaustion

It’s a familiar feeling on a Friday evening. After finishing a gruelling day’s work, you finally agree with friends on where to meet for a night out. But by the time you have figured out what to wear and where you left your keys, a night on the sofa begins to sound more appealing than one on the tiles.

Now, scientists think they may be able to explain why you feel so weary before you have even reached the bus stop: your brain has slowed down to manage the strain. The brain could suffer from something similar to the painful buildup of lactate in muscles during physical exercise. This could be why hard mental yards – and resisting the temptation to give up throughout the day – feel equally taxing.

Prolonged mental activity leads to the accumulation of a potentially toxic neurotransmitter in the prefrontal cortex, according to a study published in Current Biology. The researchers suggest the brain slows down its activity to manage the buildup, offering an explanation to why we feel tired.

“Even when you resist scratching an itch, for example, your brain is exerting cognitive control,” said Antonius Wiehler of the Paris Brain Institute, the first author of the study. Repeated demands on cognitive control functions can lead to fatigue, he said. The prefrontal cortex is the region of decision-making and cognitive control, which is applied when the brain overrides an impulse or fights any kind of temptation.

The team monitored the brain chemistry of 40 participants while they completed repetitive tasks on a computer. They formed two groups, who performed either hard tasks or easy tasks for over six hours. The researchers measured levels of a neurotransmitter in the prefrontal cortex. They found a greater accumulation of glutamate in participants who were given the harder tasks.

Work that involves a lot of thinking requires the brain to repeatedly resist the temptation to do something less demanding. Unsurprisingly, this can leave people feeling tired, but the brain chemistry behind it has remained unclear. Now, researchers suggest cognitive control may lead to the accumulation of glutamate in the brain – of which high levels can be harmful because it overexcites neural cells.

“We found that glutamate was accumulating in the region of the brain which controls the tasks we set participants,” said Wiehler. “Our understanding is that the brain has some kind of clearance mechanism to counteract this, which may slow down activity.” The researchers posit that mental fatigue could be linked to recycling the glutamate that builds up during neural activity. “The accumulated glutamate needs to be cleared away, which we think is likely happening during sleep,” said Wiehler.

When participants were asked to report their level of fatigue, no definitive link between glutamate and fatigue was found – the groups performing hard and easy tasks recorded the same tiredness. Researchers said this could be due to fatigue being subjective, and those doing the easy task were unaware of the difficulty of the other.

“The fact that glutamate levels don’t track the reported fatigue is slightly disappointing, but not surprising because there is often a dissociation between biological features and self-reported fatigue,” said Dr Anna Kuppuswamy from the Institute of Neurology at University College London, who was not involved in the study.

The researchers monitored only glutamate but suggest other related substances could be linked to fatigue. “The study measures a single neurotransmitter in a very specific part of the brain, so we have to look at it more globally,” said Kuppuswamy.

But the results were encouraging, she added. “We know that during physical exercise lactate accumulates in the muscles, leading to muscle fatigue. It is kind of intuitive that something similar happens in the brain and this is good first evidence to suggest that.”

By:

Source: Brain drain: scientists look at why mental exertion triggers exhaustion | Neuroscience | The Guardian

Critics:

Mental exhaustion is a feeling of extreme tiredness, characterized by other feelings including apathy, cynicism, and irritability. You may be mentally exhausted if you’ve recently undergone long-term stress, find it hard to focus on tasks or lack interest in activities you usually enjoy.

Mental exhaustion often happens as a result of overuse, like physical overuse injuries. Even though you can’t point to it, it has more in common with repetitive stress injuries, like carpal tunnel or tennis elbow. Rather than overstressing a muscle group, mental and emotional exhaustion come from overstressing your mind.

Mental exhaustion is completely possible and is probably more common than it should be. After a long period of stress or time of intense emotions, mental exhaustion is bound to happen. Just like our bodies show symptoms after we push too hard, our minds are bound to display signs of mental exhaustion if we don’t take proper care.

Mental exhaustion can be caused by many things. Typically, though, people feel mentally tired after experiencing long-term stress. This is especially true if the stressors increase a person’s cognitive load or reduce their resources. 

For example, you may be responsible for completing a challenging project with many moving parts and tradeoffs. This would require a high level of project management skills and political savvy (e.g., increased load). 

Another example would be traveling for work. Constantly changing time zones would leave you feeling jet-lagged (reduced resources). Many stressors involve both reduced resources and increased load. 

Work travel to an unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language amps up the cognitive load. Taking care of a sick family member may involve coordinating medical care and interpreting unfamiliar terms while managing emotions (increased load). But you may also be getting less sleep (reduced resources). Over time, increased responsibility and stress plus poor self-care can result in mental exhaustion.

Though a wide variety of stressors can cause you to feel mentally drained, we’ve boiled down the 7 most common causes of mental exhaustion below. 

1. Chronic stress

This is the most frequent cause of mental exhaustion. Chronic stress keeps your brain — and body — on high alert all the time. Over time, this begins to wear away at your well-being. Chronic stress can also lead to empathy or compassion fatigue. It can become difficult to muster an emotional response to the constant strain.

2. Uncertainty

The human stress response was designed to work efficiently in the face of short-term stress (think fight-or-flight). However, it’s a much less effective response to a constant, nagging feeling of uncertainty. Unfortunately, uncertainty has become far too normal of a feeling since the start of COVID-19 pandemic. This has made mental exhaustion more common than ever. 

3. Work stress

Stress at work can take many forms. It can arise from a values mismatch, difficulty managing tasks and priorities, or a high-demand, risk-oriented job. Some jobs (or programs of study) involve a lot of new learning. They could also require processing and making sense of a lot of information. Whatever the reason, it’s not always possible to leave work at work. Left unchecked, workplace stress can even evolve into burnout. Your work stress could bleed into your weekends and ultimately, develop into a bad case of the Sunday scaries

4. Family issues

Few things are more stressful than worrying about a family member. Being a caregiver for young children, sick relatives, or aging parents can be mentally taxing. Even if everyone’s healthy, families can bring all kinds of stressors. Divorce, disagreements, and estrangements have a way of following you into all areas of your life. Ultimately, family troubles can be a big cause of mental exhaustion.

5. Juggling multiple commitments

In addition to caring for family, many people have other commitments on their plate — those commitments come with details, schedules, logistics, and challenges. Balancing an intensive school or training program, a second job, or a freelance business can leave you feeling like you’re never “off.” If you’re not able to, or don’t know how to, manage your priorities, you’re at risk of becoming mentally drained.

6. Emotional stress

There are dozens of things that can cause emotional stress. No matter the cause, the experience is similar. Constant negative feelings, events, and circumstances can make it difficult to relax. This emotional exhaustion can quickly lead to mental fatigue.

7. Poor self-care

Without gas in the tank, you won’t get very far. When you get busy or you’re feeling a bit down, it’s easy to neglect self-care. However, over time this will affect your ability to be resilient in the face of stressful situations. If you have a chronic illness, like multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog may be a side effect. Rather than pushing through, it’s important to be especially diligent about self-care.

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Wildfire Smoke Is Terrible For You But What Does It Do to Cows?

California’s wildfire season has kicked off in earnest, with the Oak Fire chewing extraordinarily quickly through the parched landscape around Yosemite National Park. The fire has burned nearly 17,000 acres so far, forcing thousands from their homes and blanketing the surrounding area in smoke.

For millions of years, the creatures of Earth have dealt with wildfire smoke, a noxious blend of particulate matter and toxic gasses. They’ve had to, really: Lightning ignites wildfires, and occasional small blazes actually result in a net benefit by resetting the ecosystem for new growth.

No longer. A variety of factors—including climate change, a history of fire suppression, and growing human populations—have conspired to turn what were once mild blazes into monsters like the Oak Fire. And that means more smoke, and longer exposure to gasses like carbon monoxide and dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and ozone. It also increases exposure to the soot carried in the cloud, which can contain solids like lead, cadmium, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Scientists know how this smoke affects human health, exacerbating asthma and other respiratory problems, but they know almost nothing about other species. As wildfires grow bigger and more intense, researchers are racing to figure out how birds, nonhuman primates, and livestock might be suffering—and the early results are troubling.

In 2020, Amy Skibiel, an animal scientist at the University of Idaho, monitored a group of 13 cows between the state’s July to October fire season. She and her team scrutinized carbon dioxide and mineral concentrations in the cows’ blood, their respiration rates and temperatures, and the quantity of milk they were producing. “The big question was: What effects does wildfire smoke exposure have on dairy cattle production, immune status, and metabolism?” says Skibiel. “Most humans can retreat from conditions of poor air quality, whereas livestock are housed in open-air barns, or they’re out on pasture or on dirt lots. They’re exposed 24/7 to the prevailing environmental conditions.”

Skibiel found that a particularly smoky day could cause a loss of 9 pounds of milk per cow. (A cow usually produces 70 to 80 pounds per day, so this is a significant dip.) “Another interesting thing that we found was that milk yield was reduced for seven days after their last day of exposure,” says Skibiel. “So even when the smoke dissipates, there’s still lingering effects. And we don’t really know how long that lasts.”

More frequent smoky days in the western US might already be eating into milk yields, and Skibiel’s team is working with dairy farmers to parse whether that is happening. The team will have to carefully isolate other complicating factors—high temperatures and humidity also lower milk production, for instance. But wildfire smoke could actually be conspiring with heat to lower yields: Fires are more likely to break out on hotter days, when vegetation is parched. Smoke plus heat may equal even less milk. Skibiel also found changes in immune cell populations in the cows’ blood, suggesting their bodies were responding to the respiratory pollution.

Other animals on the farm, too, may be vulnerable to wildfire smoke. Horses have massive lungs—the animals are born to run and suck in loads of air in the process. “We don’t know for sure, but horses could be one of the most sensitive species to smoke of all mammals,” says Kent E. Pinkerton, director of the Center for Health and the Environment at the University of California, Davis. “The volume of air that they’re taking in, that is basically laden with particles in the air that they’re breathing, could really be quite devastating to the horse.”

The infamous 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise, bathed the UC Davis campus in smoke, giving Pinkerton and his colleagues a unique opportunity to determine the effects on another species: the rhesus macaque. At the campus’ California National Primate Research Center, the macaques live in outdoor enclosures. So just as Skibiel did with dairy cows, Pinkerton could monitor them as the haze rolled in.

He found an increase in miscarriage during the breeding season, which happened to overlap with the smoke event: 82 percent of the animals exposed to smoke gave birth, when in a normal year the average rate of live births is between 86 and 93 percent. “We actually had a small, but statistically significant, reduction in birth outcomes,” says Pinkerton. “We don’t know all the specifics of it, or what the precise cause would be, other than the fact that it was associated with wildfire smoke.”

In Indonesia, which is plagued with peat fires, primatologist and ecologist Wendy Erb of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has studied smoke’s effect on another primate, the orangutan. Peat fires have created a dire public health crisis in Indonesia, where developers drain peatlands and set them on fire to create farmland. This is a particularly nasty kind of conflagration, as it smolders through carbon-rich fuel for months on end, bathing cities and surrounding forests in smoke for far longer than, say, a California wildfire that rips through vegetation.

Erb monitors individual orangutans in the wild by collecting urine and stool samples (yes, that means standing under trees to catch the stuff) and following them around throughout the day to see how much they’re eating and how much energy they’re expending. From the urine samples, she can determine ketosis, or whether the animal is metabolizing fat as an energy source.

Following smoke events, she found, ketosis among orangutans increased significantly. “We actually saw that they were eating more calories, but despite eating more calories they’re also resting more, and they traveled shorter distances,” says Erb. “So they’re showing this energy-conservation strategy—they’re moving less, they’re slowing down, and they’re eating more calories—but they’re still going into ketosis.” 

One hypothesis, which the team hasn’t yet tested, is that the orangutan’s bodies are mounting an immune response to the deluge of smoke, and that they need more calories to fuel that defense. But this might use up calories the animals need for other life necessities, like growing, reproducing, and feeding their offspring. (Of all the primates, orangutan mothers spend the most time raising their children.) Saving energy by moving less also means fewer opportunities to socialize, which is a concern for a primate that’s already critically endangered because it’s losing its habitat to deforestation.

Erb has related concern: These unnatural fires happen year after year after year, so orangutans in the wild are exposed to chronic smoke inhalation. Erb has found that the vocalizations of orangutans exposed to smoke change, just like a human smoker’s voice changes over time. Might that affect how the animals communicate in the wild? If the animals’ voices grow hoarse, for example, they may not be able to communicate as far.

“For a long time, people weren’t thinking about how widespread and how massive the effects of the smoke itself could be, even for animals that are lucky enough to be in forest that doesn’t get burned,” says Erb. “You could still be hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest fire and experience really low air quality.”

Orangutans don’t have the means to flee the haze, but surely birds do? Nope, not anymore. When fires are small, birds can detect those blazes and fly a few miles away, no problem. But wildfires have gotten so big that animals can’t even escape the flames fast enough, much less the smoke—the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires moved so quickly that they consumed anything with wings.

Part of the problem is smoke inhalation: Bad air can confuse birds, potentially steering them into the flames instead of to safety. “Carbon monoxide poisoning, if it doesn’t result in fatality, can also cause confusion. It can cause disorientation,” says Olivia V. Sanderfoot, an ecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles who studies the effect of wildfire smoke on animals. “So there’s also this concern that maybe even if they have the capacity to escape a fire, maybe they don’t because they can’t quite figure out how to get away, because they are not feeling well.”

Consider the actual canary in the coal mine: The birds are so sensitive to carbon monoxide that miners would bring them underground as an early warning system. If the animal became ill, so soon would they. But wildfire smoke is more complex than subterranean air—it’s burning through plants, soils, and even towns, where it consumes plastics and other building materials. “Wildfire smoke is this whole sticky soup of nastiness,” says Sanderfoot. “It contains a lot of different toxins, and depending on what’s burning and at what concentrations and then what the weather looks like, the smoke is going to be very different.”

That makes it exceedingly difficult to determine what in the smoke is causing a particular effect in a particular species, be it a cow, horse, bird, or primate. And the problem will only get worse, as the world warms and blazes become more catastrophic, bathing more of the planet in smoke. “These fires that we’re seeing now are far more intense and far more fast-moving and result in more severe damage,” says Sanderfoot. “And that kind of event is not something that animals are necessarily going to be able to successfully detect, avoid, and escape.”

By:

Source: Wildfire Smoke Is Terrible for You. But What Does It Do to Cows? | WIRED

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This Is Where We’re Most at Risk From Toxic Microplastics

Australians are eating and inhaling significant numbers of tiny plastics at home, our new research shows. These “microplastics”, which are derived from petrochemicals extracted from oil and gas products, are settling in dust around the house. Some of these particles are toxic to humans — they can carry carcinogenic or mutagenic chemicals, meaning they potentially cause cancer and/or damage our DNA.

We still don’t know the true impact of these microplastics on human health. But the good news is, having hard floors, using more natural fibres in clothing, furnishings and homewares, along with vacuuming at least weekly can reduce your exposure.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are plastic particles less than five millimetres across. They come from a range of household and everyday items such as the clothes we wear, home furnishings, and food and beverage packaging. We know microplastics are pervasive outdoors, reaching remote and inaccessible locations such as the Arctic, the Mariana Trench (the world’s deepest ocean trench), and the Italian Alps. Our study demonstrates it’s an inescapable reality that we’re living in a sea of microplastics — they’re in our food and drinks, our oceans, and our homes.

What we did and what we found

While research has focused mainly on microplastics in the natural environment, a handful of studies have looked at how much we’re exposed to indoors. People spend up to 90% of their time indoors and therefore the greatest risk of exposure to microplastics is in the home. Our study is the first to examine how much microplastic we’re exposed to in Australian homes. We analysed dust deposited from indoor air in 32 homes across Sydney over a one-month period in 2019.

We asked members of the public to collect dust in specially prepared glass dishes, which we then analysed. We found 39% of the deposited dust particles were microplastics; 42% were natural fibres such as cotton, hair and wool; and 18% were transformed natural-based fibres such as viscose and cellophane. The remaining 1% were film and fragments consisting of various materials. Between 22 and 6,169 microfibres were deposited as dust per square metre, each day.

Homes with carpet as the main floor covering had nearly double the number of petrochemical-based fibres (including polyethylene, polyamide and polyacrylic) than homes without carpeted floors. Conversely, polyvinyl fibres (synthetic fibres made of vinyl chloride) were two times more prevalent in homes without carpet. This is because the coating applied to hard flooring degrades over time, producing polyvinyl fibres in house dust.

Microplastics can be ingested by various animals, ranging in size from tiny creatures like zooplankton to sharks and whales. The likelihood of microplastics being eaten is influenced by the amount in the environment and how closely they resemble food. Laboratory studies indicate that microplastics can potentially transfer through the food web when marine, terrestrial and freshwater species that have previously ingested microplastics are preyed on by other animals.

Microplastics eaten by larger marine animals will generally pass through their bodies. However, research does show that microplastics can be retained in the gut for extended periods where they may cause abrasion and damage to internal tissues. Nanoplastics can pass through the gut wall and travel to different parts of the body, such as the lungs and liver, where they can cause damage. Further research is required to understand the potential health implications from ingesting microplastics.

Microplastics can be toxic

Microplastics can carry a range of contaminants such as trace metals and some potentially harmful organic chemicals. These chemicals can leach from the plastic surface once in the body, increasing the potential for toxic effects. Microplastics can have carcinogenic properties, meaning they potentially cause cancer. They can also be mutagenic, meaning they can damage DNA.

However, even though some of the microplastics measured in our study are composed of potentially carcinogenic and/or mutagenic compounds, the actual risk to human health is unclear. Given the pervasiveness of microplastics not only in homes but in food and beverages, the crucial next step in this research area is to establish what, if any, are safe levels of exposure.

How much are we exposed to? And can this be minimised?

Roughly a quarter of all of the fibres we recorded were less than 250 micrometres in size, meaning they can be inhaled. This means we can be internally exposed to these microplastics and any contaminants attached to them.

Using human exposure models, we calculated that inhalation and ingestion rates were greatest in children under six years old. This is due to their lower relative body weight, smaller size, and higher breathing rate than adults. What’s more, young children typically have more contact with the floor, and tend to put their hands in their mouths more often than adults.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

In Ghana, for example, GPAP is working with technology giant SAP to create a group of more than 2,000 waste pickers and measuring the quantities and types of plastic that they collect. This data is then analysed alongside the prices that are paid throughout the value chain by buyers in Ghana and internationally. It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Children under six inhale around three times more microplastics than the average — 18,000 fibres, or 0.3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per year. They would also ingest on average 6.1 milligrams of microplastics in dust per kg of body weight per year. For a five-year-old, this would be equivalent to eating a garden pea’s worth of microplastics over the course of a year. But for many of these plastics there is no established safe level of exposure. Our study indicated there are effective ways to minimise exposure.

First is the choice of flooring, with hard surfaces, including polished wood floors, likely to have fewer microplastics than carpeted floors. Also, how often you clean makes a difference. Vacuuming floors at least weekly was associated with less microplastics in dust than those that were less frequently cleaned. So get cleaning! Some pollutants and heavy metals can also adsorb or stick to plastic surfaces. As a result, plastics can act like sponges in the environment, passively collecting chemicals onto their surfaces.

While plastics can remove some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from the surrounding water, there is concern about what happens when plastics containing these adsorbed pollutants are ingested by animals. The ability of some POPs to bind to plastics is particularly concerning due to their toxicity at low doses. These toxic and persistent chemicals are widely distributed in the marine environment and are readily concentrated onto plastic surfaces at up to 1 million times the concentration than in the surrounding water.

Studies have shown that these chemicals can transfer from ingested plastics to animal tissue where they can become concentrated within the animal and transfer through the food chain. Plastics are beneficial to human health through their use in medical applications and for protecting our food and beverages. Plastics have revolutionized healthcare through improving sterility by the use of disposable syringes, gloves, IV tubes and catheters and providing increased comfort with hypoallergenic medical devices, heart valves, and flexible prosthetics (artificial body parts).

Plastic bottles and containers provide a way of distributing water that is safe to drink in locations where there are major issues of water contamination. Plastic packaging limits food and beverage spoilage through microbial contamination. It is likely that we are ingesting some level of plastics in our diet. A rapidly growing body of research is showing that ongoing accumulation of toxins associated with plastics poses a risk to our food safety and public health. However, the levels of plastics and associated chemicals we are exposed to in our diet compared with other everyday activities has not been assessed.

Source: This is where we’re most at risk from toxic microplastics | World Economic Forum

More contents:

Microplastic Ingestion by Zooplankton”

Where Does Marine Litter Come From?”

Chemical mapping of tire and road wear particles for single particle analysis”.

“Plastic free July: How to stop accidentally consuming plastic particles from packaging”

Development solutions: Building a better

“Proceedings of the International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris”

Annual variation in neustonic micro- and meso-plastic particles and zooplankton in the Bay of Calvi (Mediterranean–Corsica)”

Restricting the use of intentionally added microplastic particles to consumer or professional use products of any kind”.

Microplastics have spread right to the sea bed, study finds 

90% of table salt is contaminated with microplastics, according to a new report

The water where baby fish are outnumbered 7 to 1 by plastic

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The Difference Between Empathy and People Pleasing

At some point or another, you’ve likely acted with another person’s thoughts or feelings in mind, rather than making your own the first priority. That’s not inherently bad or negative, either; compassion is part of being a good human.

But sometimes it’s hard to parse whether you’re acting out of empathy or more so the desire to placate. Ultimately, the difference between empathy and people-pleasing comes down to that guiding intention, along with the way your behavior makes you feel in the moment and beyond.

While empathy and people-pleasing are certainly related, in that both can involve taking on actions that prioritize someone else over yourself, they’re more like cousins than siblings, says clinical psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, author of How To Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.

“Fundamentally, empathy is an ability. It allows us to feel what others are feeling or to really understand what they’re thinking,” she says. “By contrast, people-pleasing is a behavior. It typically happens in response to an internal fear of being criticized or rejected by the other person.”

In other words, if you’re an empath or empathetic person, you’re likely to embody that trait with most everyone, but a people-pleasing behavior can flip on or off depending on the situation. Even so, spotting the difference between empathy and people-pleasing in action can be tough, as both can involve a good deal of feelings. Below, experts share the key differences between empathy and people-pleasing in practice, and why it’s important to stop the latter in its tracks.

How to distinguish between empathy and people-pleasing, according to psychologists

Both people-pleasers and empathizers tend to look kind and compassionate in action. But the main difference between the two springs from the initial motivation. “Healthy empathy is driven by tuning in to the experiences of others and responding in connective ways, whereas people-pleasing comes from endeavoring to gratify others, often at the expense of your own best interests,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy From Fear

“Empathy is driven by tuning in to the experiences of others and responding in connective ways, whereas people-pleasing comes from endeavoring to gratify others.” —Carla Marie Manly, PhD

Typically, that attempt to placate another person is not coming from genuine concern or understanding for how that person feels (as is the case with empathy) but instead, from an internal desire for validation or conflict avoidance. “As a result, a people-pleaser will often chronically override their needs in order to meet others’ demands by either sacrificing personal time, being the go-to person for favors, or tolerating toxic behaviors,” says Dr. Manly.

Over time, key differences between empathy and people-pleasing will turn up in the end result of interactions, too. With empathy, the connection to others generally feels good. “You might lend a sympathetic ear to a friend, feel solidarity with a cause, or be the social explainer in a situation because you ‘get’ or can sense what’s going on,” says Dr. Henriksen. “Empaths and empathetic people thrive on this connection—which is satisfying and fulfilling.” By contrast, people-pleasing tends to leave you feeling drained or resentful, says Dr. Henriksen, as you seek out some return in exchange for all the placating.

To check in with yourself in the moment, then, it’s helpful to scout for these emotions: Are your behaviors to support someone else leaving you feeling connected and whole, or are they draining your resources? Do your acts of compassion leave you satisfied, or are you looking for a tit-for-tat dose of validation?

If it’s the latter, in either case, you’ve likely fallen into the people-pleasing trap, which Dr. Manly says is more common in folks who lack self-esteem, or who grew up with caregivers who modeled similar people-pleasing tendencies. As a result, your best mode of action in that case is to refocus your attention toward you by working to build emotional intelligence and uphold healthy boundaries, says Dr. Manly.

But, at the same time, go easy on yourself. “Wanting to be helpful and make others feel good still isn’t a fundamentally bad thing,” says Dr. Henriksen of people-pleasing. Avoiding the potential negative effects simply requires that you do the above without the intention of personal reward—and with enough self-awareness to know and respect your own needs, too.

By:

Erica Sloan is the associate lifestyle editor at Well+Good, where she covers topics like sleep, sex, astrology, travel, career, money, and other elements of daily life that cross paths with wellness. Before joining W+G in 2021, she was a staffer on the print teams at Martha Stewart Living & Weddings and Prevention, where she cut her generalist teeth, dabbling in beauty, home, and health content. When she’s not writing, you can find her traipsing around Brooklyn and overthinking everything in classic Aquarian fashion.

Source: The Difference Between Empathy and People-Pleasing | Well+Good

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