3 Things To Know Before You Arm Your Employees With Fitness Trackers

Even the most seasoned and well-adjusted remote workers know the risk: If you’re not careful, working from home can bring your physical activity to a standstill.

Employers know this too. Increasingly, they are looking for ways to bolster their wellness programs by offering fitness trackers, such as those made by Fitbit, Garmin, and Amazon, to help employees log more movement during the day. Another popular option called Oura makes smart rings that can track sleep, fitness, temperature, and even signs of illness. An Oura dashboard even lets employers view the likelihood of illness across their entire workforce.

Employees who log a certain amount of physical activity can then receive insurance discounts through many major health insurance companies, such as UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Aetna. Beneficiaries can get reimbursed for prescription co-pays and other health care costs under their deductibles.

But fitness trackers in the workplace, and health surveillance in general, also carry considerable privacy risks. More than 60 million records from Fitbit, Apple, and other companies were compromised in June after a data breach on GetHealth, a third-party group that provides employee fitness incentives.

Data breaches of fitness trackers like Strava have revealed personal details such as the name and location of participants, even in anonymized data. Security risks aside, you may not even want to have so many personal details about your employees at your fingertips. After all, constant surveillance won’t exactly put your team at ease.

Before offering fitness trackers to your employees, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. Fitness trackers will save you money on premiums, for now.

Workplace fitness-tracker programs often offer discounts on insurance premiums if employees meet certain fitness goals. Some employees can earn as much as $1,500 a year they can apply toward their health insurance premiums. Workers can get free or discounted wearables, workout clothing, and even gym equipment. On the employer side, a few studies have shown that fitness trackers can help you save money on premiums. But some companies have reported that their insurance costs have remained the same.

At present, there are no laws or regulations in place to stop insurers from using fitness-tracker data to raise premiums. In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the AMA raised concerns that such data could increase insurance premiums for some groups.

“Wearables can collect information on physical activity, calorie intake, blood pressure, and weight. Insurance companies are now using this data for rewards programs, but there are no regulations stopping them from doing the opposite,” wrote the authors.

2. The data your employees share isn’t protected by HIPAA.

Health care providers and health insurers are barred from sharing any patient information by HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. But that ban doesn’t extend to Google, Apple, or any private companies through which employees elect to share their health care data. As The Wall Street Journal reports, there’s nothing under HIPAA that would bar third-party companies from analyzing or selling the health care data users voluntarily give up.

If you’re looking to adopt fitness-tracker programs, read up on the device-maker’s privacy policies and be prepared to answer questions from employees. You will have the added responsibility of explaining to workers how much access your own company has to their data, and how it’s being used. Workers need to understand that you will not be using data from the fitness trackers against them, and are under no obligation to sign up for the program.

3. The research on fitness-tracker effectiveness is mixed.

For some people, wearing a device that tracks their activity levels is enough of a reason to get off the sofa. But changing health habits permanently requires a lot more effort. One study published in The Lancet from researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School found that wearing an activity tracker, along with a cash incentive, improved the fitness levels of employees.

But after the cash incentive was discontinued after six months, employees didn’t maintain their previous fitness levels. The study also compared employees who wore fitness trackers with those who did not, and found no real difference in the amount of activity performed.

But a number of other studies indicate that fitness trackers do help increase activity levels, either by small or moderate amounts. In one analysis of 28 studies with more than 7,000 participants published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that those with fitness trackers were more physically active than those in groups without. Added features like setting personal goals and text reminders were the most effective in getting people to exercise.

If your company chooses to enroll in a fitness-tracker program, keep in mind that you’re unlikely to entice all of your employees to adopt it. If you want to help improve the health of workers, you can also try methods like subsidized gym memberships, healthy food choices at work, or reimbursement for fitness equipment. While fitness trackers can certainly play a role in improving health outcomes, they are just one tool. Substantive lifestyle changes, including good nutrition, sleep, and fitness, also are required.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the fitness tracker Strava had a data breach that revealed personal details such as the name and location of participants, including in anonymized data. According to Strava spokesman, the company has never had a data breach.

By Amrita Khalid, Staff writer@askhalid

Source: 3 Things to Know Before You Arm Your Employees With Fitness Trackers | Inc.com

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Böhm, B; Karwiese, SD; Böhm, H; Oberhoffer, R (30 April 2019). “Effects of Mobile Health Including Wearable Activity Trackers to Increase Physical Activity Outcomes Among Healthy Children and Adolescents: Systematic Review”. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 7 (4): e8298. doi:10.2196/mhealth.8298. PMC 6658241. PMID 31038460.

 

The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools

In the midst of the Great Resignation, with employers scrambling for ways to hang on to experienced staff, financial wellness programs might be an attractive addition to the benefits bag.

That was a key finding from PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and released in April. Among those polled, 72 percent of workers who reported facing increased financial setbacks during the pandemic said they would be more attracted to another company that cared more about financial well-being than their current employer. About 57 percent of workers who hadn’t yet faced increased financial stress said the same thing.

Financial stress doesn’t just affect worker retention; it also has an impact on productivity. PwC’s survey showed that 45 percent of workers experiencing financial setbacks have been distracted at work by their money problems. The menu of financial wellness tools employers might elect include educational tools for personal finances, one-on-one financial coaching, and even access to rainy day funds.

It’s a growing business sector, too. HoneyBee, a B2B financial wellness startup, recently closed a round of funding with $5.7 million in equity, TechCrunch reported. The financial technology company grew 225 percent during the pandemic and saw a 175 percent increase in usage for its on-demand financial therapy tools. Origin also recently announced that it raised $56 million in its Series B funding round, which it will use for customer expansion, as it saw increased demand for financial planning services during the pandemic, Business Wire notes.

Although one in five workers waits until they experience a financial setback to seek guidance, when they are offered continual support, employees are more likely to be proactive with their finances. According to the PwC survey, 88 percent of workers who are provided financial wellness services by their employers take advantage of them.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools | Inc.com

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Critics:

Making money is definitely the cornerstone of financial wellness and increasing your income can help you obtain your goals. You do not need to be a millionaire, but it’s important to obtain some level of income stability. Being financially well starts with having a reliable income and knowing at a consistent time, you will expect to be paid a certain amount. Steady and reliable income is one of the cornerstones of financial wellness.

Even if you don’t like budgeting or planning, it’s good to set goals for yourself. You are more likely to stick with it when you have goals to reach and can see progress. By creating a plan, you are visualizing the what, why, and how you will get there. If you don’t already have a household budget, grab your most recent bank statement and look at the total amount of money you have coming into your household each month. Then, factor in fixed, required expenses – things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and more.

f you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start building it. The goal of an emergency fund is to have available funds for when you are dealing with unemployment or you have an unforeseen cost. You won’t stress about the money because you have a nice cash reserve that you can access quickly. Finance experts often say that you should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If you have nothing in savings, putting away just $25, $50, or $100 a month is an amazing start. Ultimately, it’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also consider putting it in a high savings investment such as CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, which helps put your savings to work with very little risk.

Once you get a handle on your finances, you can start to map out life events and large purchases, so you can begin saving! Planning ahead is always helpful, and once you get a handle on your current financial plan, set some goals for what comes next. By building a plan, you have a road map to help guide you through the rest of your story. Putting even a small amount into savings on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to get your savings to grow so you can meet your goals, small or large. Set your own personal savings rule to live by and make a plan on how to achieve it. Prepare for life events and large purchases by planning ahead.

Your credit score is another critical part of your financial health. Things like late payments, too much debt or high balances negatively affect your credit score. Keep watch over your credit report and credit score with a free credit report from places like Credit Karma. A higher credit score tells banks and lenders that you’re a reliable and less risky borrower. 

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Scientists Must Speak Out Against Misinformation About Immune Boosting Supplements

The COVID-19 pandemic saw huge increases in searches for immunity boosters, including for things like supplements claiming to improve immune function. But even before COVID-19 scared people into their nearest supermarket aisle, “wellness” through supplements was a multi-billion dollar industry.

Celebrities and influencers across social media platforms regularly advertise and promote a myriad of supplements to improve health and the immune system. However, there are some major problems with these claims — namely, vitamin companies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as drugs, and many supplements don’t work as claimed.

Unlike pharmaceuticals, which must undergo clinical trials that are reviewed by the FDA for the product’s safety and efficacy, dietary supplements have a less stringent path to market shelves. Even though they are most often found in or next to the store pharmacy, dietary supplements are regulated as food, not as drugs. This means that they have not been evaluated or proven effective.

Furthermore, while the manufacturer must prove the ingredients are “reasonably safe”, none of these products are formally “approved” by the FDA. But these supplements are not always inherently harmless options for people trying to live a healthy lifestyle. A 2015 study concluded adverse effects from dietary supplements caused an “estimated 23,000 emergency department visits in the United States every year.”misperception

Despite these risks, there has been an unfortunate absence of expert voices contesting supplement company claims with real data. “There needs to be a more robust response from the science community in the face of pseudoscience and misinformation,” says Tim Caulfield, a professor of health law at the University of Alberta, who has worked on studies and books examining ads and posts claiming to support the immune system on social media.

He explains that supplement marketing often builds on the common misperception that if the right amount of a vitamin is good for you, more is better. “That’s not the case at all,” he says. On the topic of supplement misinformation, Pieter Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, says, “The main problem is that the law permits companies to promote supplements as if they have important benefits for health even if there has never been a single study in humans to study the product’s efficacy or safety.”

Indeed, dietary supplements are not required to be reviewed by the FDA before they are distributed because they are not considered medications. Vitamins say right on the bottle that their claims “have not been reviewed by the FDA.” Instead, they are predominantly regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, which monitors the claims the labels make; however, this is limited to ensuring that the supplement makers are not explicitly claiming the product can be used as a treatment.

The FTC does allow companies to suggest a range of benefits their products provide, which may be why up to 70 percent of adults in the United States take at least one dietary supplement daily, with the most common reason being to try to maintain or improve their health. While some individuals with specific vitamin deficiencies may benefit from these products (under a doctor’s supervision), most of us do not. However, those marketed as “immune boosters” or “immune boosting” are more problematic.

Despite suggestive labels, there is no way to “boost” the immune system. The immune system is a complicated and dynamic network of cells, proteins, hormones, and other biological components. Even if it were possible to ratchet up such a complex system, you wouldn’t necessarily want to, because the immune system operates primarily by inducing inflammation. This alerts various immune cells to mobilize and fend off danger.

In moderation, this is perfectly healthy, and the system has a braking mechanism all its own. But if a product were to truly “boost” the immune system, this mechanism would be amplified. We know what too much inflammation looks like: autoimmune disorders, inflammatory disease, and allergies.

Ironically, in some cases, products heralded to improve immune function can actually suppress it. Take vitamin D, touted for its ability to enhance “immunity.” While it may increase the inflammatory response, it has been shown to actually reduce the activity of other cell types—namely T cells, which are critical in forming long-term memory. The same is true of many other popular supplements, such as zinc, when a person takes substantially more than the recommended daily amount.

Supplements can be actively harmful in other ways too. Since supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, they aren’t evaluated for safety in the same way as pharmaceuticals. Of course, the manufacturers cannot knowingly use or include compounds that are known health hazards — legislation from 1994 dictates that ingredients used in supplement products must not have been shown to cause harm.

But that doesn’t mean these products aren’t without yet unrecognized risks. “I think one of the biggest things that gets overlooked is the potential for a drug-drug interaction,” says Dr. Kathryn Nelson, a medicinal chemist at University of Minnesota. Physicians need patients to disclose what supplements they are using, including multivitamins, because they might interact with prescribed medications.

From inactivating a pharmaceutical prescription, to dangerously exacerbating its effects, these products can have significant consequences. Yet many patients do not disclose or discuss their supplement use with their healthcare providers, due to their misguided perception that vitamins are safe or not worth mentioning.

Additionally, the active ingredient in vitamins must be either be purified from a natural source or synthesized in a lab, and both methods have the potential for carry-over from compounds used in these methods. Such contamination is called “residual complexity,” Nelson says.

This is particularly concerning when heavy metals are used and possibly present in the final product. In pharmaceutical drugs, these compounds would usually go to clinical trials, and any potential introductions of heavy metals removed in what’s called “process chemistry” to gain FDA approval. But the purification process of supplements are not reviewed by the FDA. This has opened the door for potential contaminants-heavy metals as well as other drugs and even pathogens-into these products.

Given all of this negative and even contradictory information about these products, why is the supplement market a multi-billion dollar industry? Much of the answer lies in its advertising. Companies often collaborate with social media influencers, who talk up how great the product is. And despite thousands of scientists across the country with expertise in nutrition and immunology, experts rarely publicly contradict these statements.

Science communication is an important part in the scientific process. However, more often than not, important conversations happen only with other scientists at scientific conferences, or in journals behind paywalls. As a result, the larger non-expert community is left in the dark. Daniel Pham, the associate director of the Milken Institute’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy, wrote an essay in 2016 which detailed the lack of support for science outreach by scientists, and an absence of communication training.

Almost five years later, he says, “The same issues have resonated with me even more in the times of COVID. I feel like there’s a bigger sense of the need for improved communication of science to the public. But the tools we’re using are just woefully inadequate.” The evidence of his statement can be seen in a recent study by Arizona State University, which showed the majority of scientists believe that it is important to inform and engage the general public about science topics.

However, when asked about their personal interest or intentions of doing this, the answers are less enthusiastic. Often scientists are not encouraged or even rewarded for public outreach, which doesn’t aid securing funding, publishing, or gaining tenure. One possible solution might be to reform the funding and promotion institutions so they reward researchers for this kind of public service.

However, scientists should also not anticipate their feedback will be immediately accepted based on their resumes. As Nelson points out, the first step in improving the public’s access to verified information is building trust with experts. That includes breaking down the stigmas surrounding what it means to be a scientist, and making expertise more accessible.

A recent example is the initiative Science on Tap, where a scientist describes their research in general terms to patrons at a local bar or venue. Pham has also started a similar effort at Johns Hopkins University, called Project Bridge, bringing small, introductory science demonstrations to public spaces such as farmer’s markets. Specific tactics to counter supplement marketers could also include partnering with influencers who are willing to share verified research, as well as lobbying for legislative reform.

The supplement industry is a prime example of the dangers of misinformation, which is damaging to both science and the public at large. Cohen notes that the next steps are to urge the FDA and FTC to enforce existing laws prohibiting the promotion of products with disease claims, in an attempt to get them off the shelves. In the long-term, he notes the existing law on these products needs to be reformed so that “all products [are] registered with the FDA.”

Scientists and researchers have the expertise to get information to the public and enact policy change. But it will require getting creative. “A lot of the misinformation really has become a social media story,” Tim Caulfield says, “so we need to go to where the misinformation resides.” Scientists, he adds, “need to find their own voice.

By Shelby Bradford

Source: Scientists must speak out against misinformation about “immune-boosting” supplements | Salon.com

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The Great Millennial Blood Pressure Problem

You know the guy. You work with him, or you’re friends with him, or maybe you even are him. He’s youngish. Fit-ish. Flirting with fasting and CBD. Always tracking his steps, his sleep, his heart rate, his meditation streaks. But these trackers overlook one metric: blood pressure. Those two numbers measure how well your blood vessels handle the 2,000 gallons of blood your heart pumps around your body in a day. And young guys’ vessels aren’t doing the job so well.

In 2019, Blue Cross Blue Shield released data from the claims of 55 million people in its Health of Millennials report. One of the most shocking stats: From 2014 to 2017, the prevalence of high blood pressure in people ages 21 to 36 jumped 16 percent, and compared with Gen Xers when they were the same age, high blood pressure among millennials was 10 percent more prevalent.

So what exactly do we mean by “high”? We mean blood pressure that measures above 130 systolic (the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts) or 80 diastolic (the pressure between beats). And when that happens, explains preventive cardiologist Michael Miedema, M.D., M.P.H., of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, your blood vessels stiffen up, forcing blood pressure even higher. That can create stress on vessel walls, leading to an ugly chain of inflammation, plaque buildup, and higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

For the longest time, most young people didn’t have to worry about this. “Youth has always been a relative Teflon coating,” says Eric Topol, M.D., founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. Blood-pressure issues were strictly for older people, and the idea that this protection might be eroding is forcing doctors to examine what’s really going on. Here’s what they’re finding.

All That #Wellness Isn’t Making you Healthy

You’d think customized vitamins, kombucha, and cryotherapy would get you to #peakwellness, but when it comes to blood pressure, they’re not doing much. “With millennials, you hear a lot about wellness and not as much about health—and they’re different,” says Christopher Kelly, M.D., a cardiologist at North Carolina Heart and Vascular Hospital, and a millennial himself.

“Wellness trends promise great results with little effort, but few have any proven long-term benefits,” he says. “You won’t see ads on Instagram for the few things that we know promote health, including regular exercise, not smoking, being at a healthy weight, and screening for blood-pressure and cholesterol issues.”

Being Broke Can Break You

Millennials carry more than $1 trillion in debt. A large chunk of that is due to student loans—millennials owe more than four times what Gen Xers do. Add this weight to other pressures and it makes sense that millennials reported the highest average stress level of any generation, at 5.7 out of 10, in the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey. (Gen Xers came in at 5.1, Gen Zers at 5.3, and boomers at a relatively zen 4.1.)

“Most of us overlook that the medical word we use for high blood pressure, hypertension, is really hyper and tension,” says cardiologist Andrew M. Freeman, M.D., of National Jewish Health in Denver. Not only does chronic stress play a role in high blood pressure, but the responses we often have to what’s stressing us out—like binge eating and cutting sleep short—jack it up, too.

Blame Seamless and Postmates

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who ate home-cooked meals almost every day consumed nearly 1,000 fewer calories a week than those who went with home-cooked once a week or less. And that’s bad news for millennials: The average millennial eats out or buys takeout food five times per week, according to a Bankrate survey, which means they’re devouring all the pressure-boosting sodium and calories that come with it.

(Sodium is particularly sneaky: In one study, 90 percent of people thought their restaurant meal had about 1,000 milligrams—around half a day’s worth—less than it did.) And sodium ends up in your diet via some surprising foods, like bread (see the top sources here).

Then there’s the weight factor. Millennials are on track to be the heaviest generation in history, and extra weight on a young adult can ratchet up blood pressure and thicken the heart muscle early, inviting heart disease later on.

It’s Easy to Avoid Moving

“The heart requires the challenge of moving blood through the body to keep things supple and functioning normally,” says Aaron Baggish, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital. And between more screen time, longer commutes, and more labor-saving devices, Dr. Baggish explains, “many millennials are just not doing enough activity.” See the best exercises to get started with.But There’s Good News About Young Guys’ Blood Pressure

You can head off this whole saga with some pretty simple lifestyle changes. Start with the six basic steps at right, and keep on top of your blood-pressure rates with the three gizmos below. Even minor adjustments can bring down your BP, especially the ones below.

6 Small Changes That Take Blood Pressure Down

1.) Lose two pounds. For every two pounds or so you shed, you could see a one-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number).

2.) Get up every 45 minutes and walk around. This simple move was enough to significantly lower diastolic blood pressure in one study.

3.) Eat for your heart. “Following a heart-healthy diet can drop systolic blood pressure as much as a pill can,” says cardiologist Michael Miedema, M.D., M.P.H. That’s about three to five points.

4.) Fill up on potassium. This mineral can counteract the effects of sodium in your diet. Help it out and counter sodium yourself by nixing key sources like bread, cold cuts, and pizza.

5.) Say yes to pickup basketball. The adrenaline and cortisol that swirl around when you’re stressed can hike up blood pressure. In fact, one recent study found that male med students were 13 times as likely to have elevated numbers as their female counterparts. Friends help buffer stress. Bonus if you combine hanging out with a workout.

6.) Monitor pressure at home. Everyone should check their BP once a month at home, even if they’re healthy, says John Elefteriades, M.D., director of the Aortic Institute at Yale-New Haven Hospital. It can help you ID triggers so you can keep them from messing with your numbers and your life.

By: Cassie Shortsleeve

Cassie Shortsleeve is a skilled freelance writer and editor with almost a decade of experience reporting on all things health, fitness, and travel. A former Shape and Men’s Health editor, her work has also been published in Women’s Health, SELF, Runner’s World, Men’s Journal, CNTraveler.com, and other national print and digital publications. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her drinking coffee or running around her hometown of Boston.

Source: The Great Millennial Blood Pressure Problem

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Can Health Insurance Companies Charge the Unvaccinated Higher Premiums? What About Life Insurers? 5 Questions Answered

Given the average cost of a COVID-19 hospitalization in 2020 ran about US$42,200 per patient, will the unvaccinated be asked to bear more of the cost of treatment, in terms of insurance, as well?

We asked economists Kosali Simon and Sharon Tennyson to explain the rules governing how health and life insurers can discriminate among customers based on vaccination status and other health-related reasons.

1. Can insurers charge the unvaccinated more?

This is a really interesting question and depends on the type of insurance.

Life insurance companies have the freedom to charge different premiums based on risk factors that predict mortality. Purchasing a life insurance policy often entails a health status check or medical exam, and asking for vaccination status is not banned.

Health insurers are a different story. A slew of state and federal regulations in the last three decades have heavily restricted their ability to use health factors in issuing or pricing polices. In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act began prohibiting the use of health status in any group health insurance policy. And the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2014, prevents insurers from pricing plans according to health – with one exception: smoking status.

2. Are premiums or coverage being affected yet?

Fortune recently reported that while several of the biggest U.S. life insurance companies aren’t yet asking customers for their vaccination status, a few insurers told the magazine they are doing so for people at high risk. It wasn’t clear from the article whether this is affecting premiums.

A recent study comparing life insurance policies from 2014 through February 2021 found that premiums and coverage didn’t change a lot during the pandemic. The study did find some evidence that policy terms for the oldest individuals and those with high-risk health conditions did worsen.

The authors of the study suggested that the rapid development of vaccines may be why life insurance markets haven’t yet shown a dramatic response to COVID-19, but their work does not distinguish the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.

It’s important to note that no matter what, premiums and coverage on existing life insurance plans won’t change, so a death due to COVID-19 will definitely be covered. In general, denial of life insurance claims is rare and occurs only for specific documented reasons.

3. So smokers may pay higher premiums?

In life insurance, smokers definitely pay higher premiums, as do people who are obese.

ValuePenguin, a unit of LendingTree that provides research and analysis, found that smokers typically pay over three times more for life insurance than non-smokers.

The site also found that obesity increases premiums by about 150% – or more if the person also has medical conditions associated with being overweight.

As for health insurance pricing, the Affordable Care Act allows insurers to increase premiums by up to 50% for smokers. The difference between what smokers and non-smokers pay may actually be higher because the former can’t use a key government subsidy to pay for the smoker surcharge.

The ACA makes no similar exception for obesity.

4. How about discounts for the vaccinated?

There is a tool health insurers – including self-insured employers – have to lower premiums to those who are vaccinated: wellness incentives.

Just as insurers and companies offer discounts for things like trying to lose weight or stop smoking, they are also permitted to reduce the health insurance premiums that vaccinated employees pay.

In 2019, the average maximum incentive offered by employers for workers to participate in wellness activities was $783 per year.

Some employers are already incentivizing COVID-19 vaccinations this way. For example, Missouri State University offers a $20-a-month discount on health insurance premiums for employees who got a COVID-19 jab. Others are considering similar discounts.

And so, even though insurers can’t charge the unvaccinated higher premiums, people who refuse to get a shot can end up paying more than their vaccinated colleagues.

5. Do insurers consider other vaccine or flu shots in rates?

To the best of our knowledge, insurers haven’t specifically used vaccination status or getting a flu shot in setting premiums.

As part of having access to your medical records, life insurers might get to know whether you received vaccinations, but there are no systems in place to verify each year whether you got your flu shot. Health insurers can’t ask about vaccine status for the reasons listed above.

Employers can offer incentives to get a flu shot through their wellness programs.

[Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter.]The Conversation

Kosali Simon, Professor of Health Economics, Indiana University and Sharon Tennyson, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Cornell University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

By:

Source: Can Health Insurance Companies Charge the Unvaccinated Higher Premiums? What About Life Insurers? 5 Questions Answered – HealthyWomen

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Pandemic Brain Explains Why You Have Brain Fog & Can’t Focus

If you feel like you’re losing your mind, you’re not weird. In fact, right now you’re probably in the majority and dealing with what people are calling “pandemic brain.”

There are many reasons for why the late-stage pandemic is messing with your brain. Your colleagues are showing up for Zoom calls fresh-faced and smiling, moments after posting memes that say, “I am in hell.” Your social media feeds are dystopian — a picture of your high school classmate in a crowded club above a heartbreaking photo of your friend’s dad on a ventilator, above an ad for a multilevel marketing scheme clearly aimed at mums who have been pushed out of the workforce.

Your job, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is encouraging you to “give yourself breaks!” and “find time to relax!” while subtly suggesting that if you don’t work doubly hard, you won’t have a job to take breaks from. Everything you do is harder than it used to be.

“People feel like they’re not as sharp — there is a sense of being overwhelmed,” says Raquel Gur, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry, neurology, and radiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Gur has been conducting an international study of personal resilience during the pandemic, and she’s heard countless people describe similar symptoms of “being flooded with emotion” and “being dysregulated.”

It’s an experience people are calling “pandemic brain.”

Pandemic brain is not a disorder, and it hasn’t yet been studied, Gur says, but it’s certainly happening. “It’s more of a subjective report of what people describe as a fogging mind,” she explains.

Neurobiologically, this makes sense. “When the temporal limbic regions of the brain are active from being overwhelmed with worries and uncertainty,” she says, it’s harder for the part of your brain that lets you complete tasks to function.

“It’s like a fogginess or a low-level depression that comes with being isolated or off your regular routines,” saysDeanna Crosby, a therapist who has been hearing reports of these symptoms from her clients, including people who felt healthy before the pandemic.

In other words, it turns out there are real consequences to trying to carry on at normal levels of productivity through a prolonged period of crisis. And even though your impulse might be to stop feeling sorry for yourself, or to get over it, or think about how others have it worse, scientists are telling us clearly that the mental effects of living through the past 16 months are an extremely serious, widespread problem. Whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone.

How bad are things, really?

“I’ve been doing this for about 21 years and I think this is the hardest I’ve ever seen people struggle with depression and anxiety and definitely substance use,” says Crosby. A screening of more than 300,000 adults by the U.S. Census Bureau found that, compared with 2019, American adults in the spring of 2020 were more than three times as likely to meet criteria for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, or both. Depression symptoms are especially associated with having low savings and low income.

Another survey of 70,000 people throughout the pandemic revealed, depressingly, what you might already have intuited: “Depression and anxiety are still highest in young adults, women, people with lower household income, people with a long-term physical health condition, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and people living with children.”

Gur’s research has also found that women have higher levels of COVID worry than men, and that Black women, consistently, shoulder the greatest burden of worry around jobs and health.

What many people need is so much more than we can do for ourselves—direct government intervention for food security, rent breaks, medical care, and unemployment pay. But there are ways to feel less dread, less confusion, and less pandemic brain fogginess now.

What can I do to feel better?

“The best thing that I have found that naturally increases serotonin and dopamine is exercising,” says Crosby. I know, I know! We should be sitting less and exercising more, we get it! But it’s not about burning calories, and it doesn’t matter what form it takes for you, or how short it is—any kind of movement can help clear your head.

And yes, Crosby also recommends meditation to help with pandemic brain. I know, I know, I know! I’m tired of hearing about the amazing benefits of meditation too! But Crosby makes a strong case for at least trying it: “We can do anything for five minutes. Spend two weeks to a month doing five-minute meditations,” she advises. “Anyone can do five minutes a day.”

The key isn’t necessarily to torture yourself with the same tired list of wellness recommendations you’ve heard a thousand times before, says Gur. The key is to ask yourself: “What makes me feel better?” The key is to interrupt your feelings of despair or brain fog with an action. “Ask yourself: What can I do that will alleviate some of the being flooded with emotion, being dysregulated?” Gur says.

It could be running or meditating, but it could also be listening to music. Joining any kind of online community—from a religious community, to a gaming community, to the international karaoke app that I am personally obsessed with—can help.

This practice of lifting yourself out of those feelings is building resilience, and that is a powerful tool in fighting pandemic brain. “We found that resilience is associated with less anxiety and depression,” Gur says. So, in other words, “people who are resilient do better during the pandemic.” Being resilient, she says, means “the ability to cope with adversity and self-regulate emotions.” And the good news is it’s something she believes you can build overtime if it’s not your strength right now.

But wait! I’ve tried those things.

You already know that exercise is good for you. But when you’re engulfed in feelings of worry and despair, you’re not exactly in the mood for a 5k. “Being depressed is like pushing an elephant uphill,” says Crosby. “It’s really hard to do the things that are the best for you when you’re depressed.”

Her recommendation is to break the cycle: baby steps; a little bit of discipline; self-compassion. “Just try to be a little better today than you were yesterday,” she says.

Part of what’s so hard about feeling low-level (or high-level) depression and anxiety right now is that our culture is carefully set up to convince us that everyone else is fine. But we can destigmatize emotional struggling. “People will say things to me, as a psychologist, like, ‘Wow, you work with some really sick people!’” Crosby says. “And I’ll think, Well, I work with your husband, and your neighbor. They’re not ‘really sick people’; they’re just people who want to be better.”

Things really are about to get better.

Gur says that with so many people getting the vaccine, mental health reports are starting to look a lot more optimistic. But people who were able to build resiliency — who learned how to give themselves real breaks, regulate their emotions, steady themselves through the lows of COVID — are doing better across the board.

And if you continue to deal with depression, anxiety, and pandemic brain fog, it’s not a reflection of your character. It’s not you; it’s just a condition. “If you have a broken arm, nobody says you’re weak,” says Crosby.

“But when you’re struggling mentally, people seem to think there’s that stigma that you’re weak. But it’s not a mind-over-matter thing—if people could not be depressed, they would not be depressed! But they can’t. It’s beyond their control.”

Building resilience is a long process. Building it while dealing with depression, anxiety, or any kind of pandemic brain fog is brave.

Source: Pandemic Brain Explains Why You Have Brain Fog & Can’t Focus | Glamour UK

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More Contents:

COVID-19’s impacts on the brain and mind are varied and common – new research

Is it time to give up on consciousness as ‘the ghost in the machine’?

Curious Kids: why does the sun’s bright light make me sneeze?

A new understanding of how the human brain controls our hands – new research

COVID-19 restrictions take a toll on brain function, but there are techniques to help you cope

You don’t have a male or female brain – the more brains scientists study, the weaker the evidence for sex differences

Queer people’s experiences during the pandemic include new possibilities and connections

What is the ‘unified protocol’ for PTSD? And how can it help?

Losing speech after a stroke can negatively affect mental health – but therapy can provide hope

Best evidence suggests antidepressants aren’t very effective in kids and teens. What can be done instead?

3 lessons the COVID-19 pandemic can teach us about preventing chronic diseases

The forgotten psychological cost of corruption in developing countries

Train Your Brain to Remember Anything You Learn With This Simple, 20-Minute Habit

Not too long ago, a colleague and I were lamenting the process of growing older and the inevitable increasing difficulty of remembering things we want to remember. That becomes particularly annoying when you attend a conference or a learning seminar and find yourself forgetting the entire session just days later.

But then my colleague told me about the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, a 100-year-old formula developed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the experimental study of memory. The psychologist’s work has resurfaced and has been making its way around college campuses as a tool to help students remember lecture material. For example, the University of Waterloo explains the curve and how to use it on the Campus Wellness website.

I teach at Indiana University and a student mentioned it to me in class as a study aid he uses. Intrigued, I tried it out too–more on that in a moment. The Forgetting Curve describes how we retain or lose information that we take in, using a one-hour lecture as the basis of the model. The curve is at its highest point (the most information retained) right after the one-hour lecture. One day after the lecture, if you’ve done nothing with the material, you’ll have lost between 50 and 80 percent of it from your memory.

By day seven, that erodes to about 10 percent retained, and by day 30, the information is virtually gone (only 2-3 percent retained). After this, without any intervention, you’ll likely need to relearn the material from scratch. Sounds about right from my experience. But here comes the amazing part–how easily you can train your brain to reverse the curve.


With just 20 minutes of work, you’ll retain almost all of what you learned.

This is possible through the practice of what’s called spaced intervals, where you revisit and reprocess the same material, but in a very specific pattern. Doing so means it takes you less and less time to retrieve the information from your long-term memory when you need it. Here’s where the 20 minutes and very specifically spaced intervals come in.

Ebbinghaus’s formula calls for you to spend 10 minutes reviewing the material within 24 hours of having received it (that will raise the curve back up to almost 100 percent retained again). Seven days later, spend five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and raise the curve up again. By day 30, your brain needs only two to four minutes to completely “reactivate” the same material, again raising the curve back up.

Thus, a total of 20 minutes invested in review at specific intervals and, voila, a month later you have fantastic retention of that interesting seminar. After that, monthly brush-ups of just a few minutes will help you keep the material fresh.


Here’s what happened when I tried it.

I put the specific formula to the test. I keynoted at a conference and was also able to take in two other one-hour keynotes at the conference. For one of the keynotes, I took no notes, and sure enough, just shy of a month later I can barely remember any of it.

For the second keynote, I took copious notes and followed the spaced interval formula. A month later, by golly, I remember virtually all of the material. And in case if you’re wondering, both talks were equally interesting to me–the difference was the reversal of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

So the bottom line here is if you want to remember what you learned from an interesting seminar or session, don’t take a “cram for the exam” approach when you want to use the info. That might have worked in college (although Waterloo University specifically advises against cramming, encouraging students to follow the aforementioned approach). Instead, invest the 20 minutes (in spaced-out intervals), so that a month later it’s all still there in the old noggin. Now that approach is really using your head.

Science has proven that reading can enhance your cognitive function, develop your language skills, and increase your attention span. Plus, not only does the act of reading train your brain for success, but you’ll also learn new things! The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

By: Scott Mautz

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

Dr. John N. Morris is the director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. He believes there are three main guidelines you should follow when training your mind:

  1. Do Something Challenging: Whatever you do to train your brain, it should be challenging and take you beyond your comfort zone.
  2. Choose Complex Activities: Good brain training exercises should require you to practice complex thought processes, such as creative thinking and problem-solving.
  3. Practice Consistently: You know the saying: practice makes perfect! Dr. Morris says, “You can’t improve memory if you don’t work at it. The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits.”
  4. If you’re looking for reading material, check out our guides covering 40 must-read books and the best books for entrepreneurs.
  5. Practice self-awareness. Whenever you feel low, check-in with yourself and try to identify the negative thought-loop at play. Perhaps you’re thinking something like, “who cares,” “I’ll never get this right,” “this won’t work,” or “what’s the point?” 
  6. Science has shown that mindfulness meditation helps engage new neural pathways in the brain. These pathways can improve self-observational skills and mental flexibility – two attributes that are crucial for success. What’s more, another study found that “brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators.”
  7. Brain Age Concentration Training is a brain training and mental fitness system for the Nintendo 3DS system.
  8. Queendom has thousands of personality tests and surveys. It also has an extensive collection of “brain tools”—including logic, verbal, spatial, and math puzzles; trivia quizzes; and aptitude tests
  9. Claiming to have the world’s largest collection of brain teasers, Braingle’s free website provides more than 15,000 puzzles, games, and other brain teasers as well as an online community of enthusiasts.

 

How Founder Coaching Can Lift Humanity up in the VC World

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The global entrepreneurship landscape is buried under the avalanche of news stories about founders securing multi-million-dollar funding to live out their dream of taking the world by storm.

But the heavy snowfall of cash falling from the venture capital sky may be blinding us to the struggles of startup owners along the way, especially those who are undertaking this expedition for the first time.

This is a trap that even the best of investors can fall into. Elite coach Ariane de Bonvoisin has experienced first hand that many venture capitalists and business leaders treat founders as superheroes who can brave anything without having a clue about their personal journeys.

“They’re investing in the company and not investing in the founder,” says Bonvoisin, an executive coach to top CEOs, startup founders, and VCs, who aspires to help clear the vision of investors so that they can better see the importance of coaching.

In her view, it is easy to forget that people are humans. “You give people the label of entrepreneur or founder, but it’s still just a role that people are in. You peel back the role, and that’s where you find the truth,” she told 150sec.

As someone who has sat on both sides of the table—having been an investor and an entrepreneur—she knows well that separating the founder from the business leads to a “dangerous” path that could threaten the survival of the business while sapping the morale of its owner.

Bonvoisin is a swimmer, a ski instructor, a long-distance runner, and a climber who has reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and accompanied a group of students to Antarctica.

What perplexes her is that a professional athlete would never get a sponsor without having a coach because “it implies that they have talent” but a tech startup can attract millions of dollars in investment without any coaching attached to it.

“When you look at the acting world, you see that even multiple Academy Award winners still have acting coaches. They are still given a coach for every role they take without any question. It’s the same in the music industry,” she said.

Normalizing coaching.

Ariane has come across investment firms that refuse to invest in a company unless they have a coach but believes there is a long road ahead for coaching to become mainstream among investors.

However, as a wise man once said, even the longest journeys begin with a single step. And who knows it better than Bonvoisin who is featured in a documentary that follows a motorcycle excursion through the highest passes of the Indian Himalayas.

In the case of founder coaching, she argues the first step is to start shattering the taboo against seeking help.

“The perception is if you need a coach, you’re worried or scared or incompetent or are dealing with something you don’t really want to tell your investors,” Bonvoisin said, adding that she has worked with founders whose investors refused to pay for their coaching.

Asked what needs to be done to reduce this stigma, she said using facts and statistics to demonstrate the true impact of a coach can go a long way toward normalizing coaching “because we’re still in an industry that values results, money, growth, and success.”

For instance, she says, a founder can tell the investor they would have raised $1 million without a coach but managed to raise $5 million with the help of a coach or that they taught they were at the pre-seed stage without a coach but raised a Series A round with a coach.

Another example, according to her, is when the entrepreneur can explain they could not hire a VP of sales but a coach helped them bring someone on board that secured new clients and elevated the company’s position in the market.

Celebrating role models.

The other thing is to ask founders to talk about their personal and work-related struggles without shame or fear of judgment, added Bonvoisin, an author who has given a TED talk and keynoted Oprah Winfrey’s O You conference in 2013.

She thinks celebrating successful people who hire coaches—including famous Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors or executives at companies like Google or Facebook—is another link in the chain that can cause cracks in the taboo surrounding coaching.

Bonvoisin also feels the need for increased awareness about different types of coaching that exist.

“When people think of coaching in this industry, they think of it as life coaching or business coaching. To me, coaching is a lot broader than that. For example, investors can give founders a health coach. And there are people who have parenting coaches to help them build a startup with two kids at home that need home schooling.”

Return-on-coaching mindset.

Dedicating even 1 percent of the fund to facilitate founders’ access to coaching is a “brilliant” use of money, added Bonvoisin, who has been invited to Google, Amazon, the World Bank, and Red Bull to teach about navigating change and founder and startup wellness.

“It is a very small contribution that has the ability to massively affect the quality of your investment,” she said, emphasizing that there needs to be a return-on-coaching mindset—not just a return-on-investment mindset.

In her opinion, founders should be given the freedom and trust to choose their own coach without having to report the details of how they are using the coaching money because it would be an intrusion on their privacy.

However, investors can make some coaches available or put them on retainer for when founders are having a panic attack before an important meeting or need immediate help with a decision.

She maintains that coaching is crucial because it is a role entrepreneurs do not get from their family, friends, spouse, co-founders, or investors “from which they are usually hiding things.”

“When humanity gets lifted in both the investor side and the startup side, a very different conversation is possible, which is not just about ROI, KPIs, or fundraising goals. And what I’ve seen with the founders is that when the VC shows they care about the founder, the founder will run 10 more marathons for them.”

There needs to be a return-on-coaching mindset—not just a return-on-investment mindset.

~ Ariane de Bonvoisin

Common misconceptions.

As a Tony Robbins certified trainer who assists in a leadership capacity at his events around the world, Ariane can talk for hours and hours about common misconceptions about coaches and the process of coaching.

Many are under the assumption that coaching is expensive, she said, adding that it is also a false perception that a coach is all about the psychology of people and not the real guts of the business.

“A coach can have a bit more of a 360-degree view of the situation, ask questions that no one else is asking you about your business, and add tremendous value even without having direct experience in the industry in question.”

There are a large number of coaches who have worn many hats as founders and investors and can share their knowledge about different aspects of a business, she added.

Another thing she says some people get wrong is that a coach is “very soft and is like a friend that cheers you on or you cry with when you fall apart.”

But the reality is that coaching can be “direct, brutal, and honest” while offering “a very loving, kind, warm, trusting, and safe place to land” at the same time, added Ariane, who landed on the list of Silicon Alley’s top 100 people to watch a few years ago.

Coaching is not ‘surgery.’

Another prevailing myth, according to Bonvoisin, is that a coach is a temporary resource and is for when things are going badly.

“Some think that coaching is like a surgery and is just for a specific period of time when they are dealing with difficult decisions,” she said.

But coaching is a relationship where “you build something together with someone who is your raving fan”, added Ariane who has had her own coach for 17 years and says almost 80 percent of her clients have been with her for more than a year.

Another misbelief she knows from experience is that a coach should be older than the coachee or “is someone like you”.

Elaborating further, Bonvoisin said, “Some people think only coaches who have the same gender, race, or background can understand, coach, and relate to them and that someone totally different to them probably won’t be able to enter their world.”

This is a total myth as “someone who is different often stretches your identity, offers a new perspective and worldview, helps you see blind spots, and expands your beliefs,” Bonvoisin added.

In her world, coaching is like traveling.

“The more you travel to different places, the more you learn, grow, and expand your awareness and consciousness. If you take a plane to a faraway destination where you don’t speak the language and people look different to you and eat different things, what you learn will be exponential.”

People often look for what they are familiar and comfortable with so they gravitate to individuals who are like them, she said.

“It’s easier for people to fly from New York City to Miami for a ‘change of scenery’ than to Delhi. And yet Delhi will change them far more. The same metaphor applies to going on the adventure of coaching,” commented Ariane, who has lived and worked in different countries.

Coaching can be “direct, brutal, and honest” while offering “a very loving, kind, warm, trusting, and safe place to land” at the same time.

~ Ariane de Bonvoisin

As for gender-related misconceptions, she says some are under the impression that female coaches are too soft and emotional.

“But a female coach can sometimes read a situation much better, whether it’s intuitively or emotionally. I think, depending on different times in your life, you might need one or the other.”

Over the years, Bonvoisin has met people who want “really complicated things” and “strange techniques” to improve their performance.

“As human beings, we have resistance to the simple things. And sometimes the most simple tools in your toolbox are the ones that you’re not using—like drinking enough water or sleeping properly,” she noted, bringing to mind a quote from American author Jim Rohn that says “what’s simple to do is also simple not to do.”

How to choose a coach.

On how to choose the right coach, the CEO of Ariane Media said the best way to find a good one is by word of mouth.

While acknowledging that some coaches have gotten a bad rap, she maintains “it doesn’t mean all the apples in the coaching basket are rotten.”

“Definitely interview more than one. Most coaches offer a free introductory session. Do some due diligence on the coach. Ask them who they have coached, ask for testimonials, or ask to speak to other clients they’ve coached,” she told founders.

Bonvoisin says it is important to understand why they are a coach, what they love about coaching, what training they have had, what aspects of coaching they appreciate, why they think they have been an effective coach, what their gift is, and how they choose their coaching clients.

Entrepreneurs can also ask a coach whether they have any specific industry experience “if that’s important to you”, and how much they want to be involved in “your life aspect versus your business aspect,” she added.

Bonvoisin insists people should choose “a person that you’re going to trust more than anyone in your life without feeling judged by them.” She says it is not a good sign if “you don’t look forward to speaking to your coach or getting an email from them or if the coach is trying to impose a change on you and has too many strong opinions.”

“And then the ultimate thing I always go to at the end with everything is: What does your gut tell you? It really is an intuition thing. You can hear that someone’s been trained at Harvard and coached the founder of Google and has done a TED talk, but if it doesn’t feel right to you, it’s a no.”

‘You can’t fix what you can’t see.’

Reiterating the significance of coaching, Bonvoisin said some people “keep doing what they’ve always done and keep getting poor results because they can’t fix what they can’t see.”

“For example, you may not be able to see the way you’re asking for money. It may appear like you’re getting a lot of money until you work with a coach who’s going to show you not what your verbal communication is, but what your energetic communication is.”

She says a professional coach can help people realize their inner life is determining their outer life and that the way they are viewing the world is what is impacting the world they see.

The elite coach sees entrepreneurs as “master storytellers” who are telling a story to the outside world, to the press, to their clients, to their investors, to their colleagues, and to people they want to hire.

“And yet the most important story is the one you’re telling yourself,” Bonvoisin said, adding that a coach can help founders break free from the shackles of limiting beliefs and tell themselves a more “empowering” story.

Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.

Source: How Founder Coaching Can Lift Humanity up in the VC World

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References

Grant, Anthony M. (2005). “What is evidence-based executive, workplace, and life coaching?”. In Cavanagh, Michael J.; Grant, Anthony M.; Kemp, Travis (eds.). Evidence-based Coaching, Vol. 1: Theory, Research and Practice from the Behavioural Sciences. Bowen Hills, Queensland: Australian Academic Press. pp. 1–12. ISBN 9781875378579. OCLC 67766842.

How to Keep Your Team Energized During the Holidays

This year, the holidays are different from any other that we have had in the past. Many families have been quarantined together all year long, struggling to balance the lines between work and home. Being on calls, virtual meetings, and attending online conferences, while feeding small children and pets is exhausting. Work feels like it is never-ending, and many are struggling with burn out. We all are due for a much-needed time off — to properly be strengthened as individuals, and as a team.

As 2020 ends and 2021 feels uncertain (work circumstances, vaccines, etc.), here are a few ways you can help your teams’ recharge and enter 2021 feeling refreshed and ready to handle any new (or old) challenge that comes.

Incentivizing health and wellness during the holiday season 

Balance is the name of the game. Think through the different policies and practices that have been in place this year and evaluate whether those have been working. 2020 has been the year of transition to remote working, and virtual collaboration. Workplace stress along with family/personal responsibilities can cause burn out and fatigue that affects productivity and effectiveness in all areas of life.

Related: Preparing Ecommerce for the “New” Holidays

As a leader, be willing to be generous and flexible. Take a closer look at your rules and norms and figure out the areas where flexibility is available. See if you can build in additional days off, such as mandatory mental health days. Or for the holidays, ask, can the team spare mandatory blackout periods i.e. no work emails after 5 pm during the months of November and December. 

Send out intentional and thoughtful notes to your employees for the end of the year. Acknowledge the struggles and imperfections with the transition and any new policies. Go the distance with a small, handwritten note dropped in the mailbox to your team mates. This will make people feel special and remind them that you are thinking of them.  

Provide gifts that encourage relaxation and recharge. For example, gift cards are a great way to deliver options for local massages, nail salons, float tanks. And if these shops are still not open due to COVID restrictions, your team members will have something to look forward to in the future, all the while supporting a local, small business.

In the upcoming months make connection a priority, and aim to conduct a few group activities, such as virtually led meditation workshops or virtual exercise classes. Teams could also hire a therapist and conduct a workshop to discuss tactics to monitor stress and wellness, especially with increased responsibilities around the holidays.

Make wellness a priority for your teams and prepare your people through the message that their well-being is important, and their ability to recharge in the next few months is a top priority. Employers that can do this successfully will reap the benefits of increased commitment and productivity as the new year comes around.

Protecting time and energy 

Research has shown that the priorities of younger women and men have changed, as they seek more opportunities for a flexible workplace. In 2021, it’s more likely that we can expect a hybrid solution between in-office and virtual working. The best way to adopt these new norms, and prepare teams is to open the lines of communication and reduce the stigma of having conversations around what a flexible work-life looks like. By hearing the concerns of people and teams, managers can problem-solve on challenges and focus on what is working for the future.

Now that most of the year has passed, take time to ask your employees if they have the proper tools for their home office. Engage, and see how as a company you can support their work environments through stipends for speedy internet, office supplies (paper, pens), and proper furniture (i.e. lumber supported chairs). Offer reimbursements or deals on chairs and tables that could be used in the home.

Related: 4 Tips to Fight Employee Disengagement During the Holidays

These upcoming months are also a perfect time for individuals and families to find ways to give back to the community and volunteer. Ask if your teams are interested in volunteering for the holidays and help source virtual or in-person events they can attend. Volunteering has been shown to increase a sense of purpose and fulfillment. You could also volunteer together as a team, to continue to build outside work relationships and connection. For example, our team had recently come together and wrote encouraging messages to seniors online. We were able to give back, while catching up with people on our lives outside of work.

And lastly, take this opportunity to reflect with your teams. Evaluate the office tools that have worked or ones that would be nice to have. This could be anything from virtual conferencing tools to online collaboration services. In addition, evaluate team communication and whether there needs to be changes or if things are working smoothly. Ask how people believe this last year went, and what they expect to happen in 2021. Encourage and support their views and show grace when at all possible. 2020 has been difficult, and this holiday is a great time to take time to breathe and recharge together.

By: Brenda Pak Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

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NEW FREE MASTERCLASS: Laid Off & Looking – 6 Steps For Bouncing Back After Being Let Go: https://workitdaily.lpages.co/how-get… Resume Mistakes Guide FREE DOWNLOAD: https://www.workitdaily.com/free-resu… FREE Cover Letter Samples: https://www.workitdaily.com/cover-let… More FREE Career & Job Search Resources: https://www.workitdaily.com/resources In today’s video JT goes over some ways a manager can keep their virtual team motivated while everyone is working from home during quarantine. Working at home can be isolating and demotivating, so it’s important to build a strong bond with your team and keep checking in with them to make sure everyone is feeling ok. Get your daily career advice: https://www.workitdaily.com/https://twitter.com/workitdailyhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/jtodonnell/https://www.facebook.com/WorkItDaily/https://www.instagram.com/workitdaily…https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorkI…https://www.linkedin.com/company/work… ______________________________________ More from Work It Daily: Questions To Ask In An Interview: https://youtu.be/Y95eI-ek_E8 Common Interview Mistakes: https://youtu.be/6KnJtVnE_FA Answer – “Why Do You Want This Job?”: https://youtu.be/-1umUFfIicY Behavioral Interview Questions: https://youtu.be/gOBCQ9Di0Bo What Hiring Manager Want To Know: https://youtu.be/RTvYvZ9VHDc How To Write A Cover Letter: https://youtu.be/kdUafTx82OM#JTTalksJobs#WorkFromHome#VirtualTeam

5 Foods High in Antioxidants & Why We Should Eat Them

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“Antioxidants” is one of those wellness buzzwords you see all over social media and on brand packaging, yet it’s still a term with an unclear definition for many people, especially those just beginning to establish healthy habits.

Like other buzzed-about nutrients, antioxidants do have the power to help you live a healthier life, but it’s important to know what the term actually means, the extent of the benefits and where to find these so-called nutritional powerhouses.

Read more: Best vitamin subscription services in 2020

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are important chemical compounds that may help your body delay or prevent cellular damage. They do this by fighting off free radicals, unstable molecules that your body generates as byproducts of its daily functions, such as turning food into energy.

Free radicals also form in response to environmental stressors on your body, including exposure to sunlight, cigarette smoke and pollutants.

These harmful molecules come about when atoms in your body lose or gain electrons: Free radicals essentially “steal” electrons from nearby atoms. This can cause changes to the structure or function of your cells, which over time can lead to cellular damage. That damage is called “oxidative stress.”

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Coffee is a good source of antioxidants.

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Antioxidants are part of your body’s natural defense against oxidative stress. They can be human-made or sourced naturally, and they’re found in thousands of foods. Your body can make them on its own, too.

Some antioxidants are vitamins, some are minerals and some are other chemical compounds. You may already be familiar with some antioxidants, including vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as selenium and beta-carotene.

There are several families of antioxidants, including vitamins, carotenoids, terpenes, alkaloids, minerals, flavonoids, curcumins, catechins, tannins, anthocyanins, lignans, glucosides and more. That’s a lot of letter jumble, but all you really need to know is that there are hundreds — and possibly thousands — of types of antioxidants.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, science to date clearly shows that eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods can promote good health and assist in the fight against chronic diseases. What’s not so clear, the NCCIH reports, is whether that link is attributed directly to the antioxidant content of those foods, or to the vitamin and mineral content or some other component of these foods.

The NCCIH also points out that antioxidant supplementation hasn’t been linked substantially to better health or disease prevention — only antioxidant consumption by way of food has.

Either way, a diet rich in antioxidant-rich foods is also a diet high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, so adding antioxidants to your diet can help in more ways than one – that said, here are five ideas for upping your antioxidant intake.

1. Add leafy greens to sandwiches, scrambles and smoothies

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Love it or hate it, spinach and other leafy greens are packed with antioxidants.

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I’m sorry if you’re tired of hearing about leafy greens. I don’t like them that much, either, but studies consistently show that leafy greens are some of the most nutritious plant foods available to humans. In addition to their high concentration of vitamins and minerals, leafy greens also have a high concentration of antioxidants.

Adding leafy greens to your meals is a surefire way to increase your antioxidant consumption. If you don’t like the way they taste, I don’t blame you: Try to incorporate them into meals where the taste can be masked by other components of a meal. For instance, add spinach to a burger or breakfast sandwich; blend kale up into a fruit smoothie; or add spring mix to a sweet potato hash.

2. Make your own easy berry syrup

Are you a sweet breakfast kind of person? If so, you have a delicious opportunity to add more antioxidants to your first meal of the day. Pancakes, waffles and French toast go great with a classic maple syrup, but try replacing your usual syrup with a homemade berry syrup for an antioxidant boost.

Berries of all varieties contain antioxidants, but some are particularly plentiful: Blueberries, aronia berries and cranberries are some of the most potent fruit sources of antioxidants.

To make a berry syrup, simply simmer a variety of berries, such as raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, in a skillet with a little bit of water. Stir regularly to prevent sticking or burning, and keep the simmer going until the water evaporates. This’ll leave you with a tangy syrupy goodness to drizzle on your breakfast of choice. You can also add honey, cinnamon or stevia to sweeten it up a bit.

3. Sprinkle chopped nuts on everything

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Irina Lvova/Unsplash

Heralded for their healthy omega-3 and omega-6 content, nuts of many varieties also contain impressive antioxidant concentrations. Current evidence shows walnuts as the variety with the highest concentration of antioxidants, with other nuts trailing closely behind.

See, there’s a reason nuts make every list of healthy snack ideas on the internet.

To add nuts to your diet, try sprinkling chopped nuts on oatmeal and parfaits. You can also blend nuts into smoothies (provided you have a good blender) or smear nut butter on toast. Or, you can simply snack on a handful of any variety you like.

4. Make things spicy

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Not only do spices make everything taste better, they are also a solid source of antioxidants.

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Like spicy foods? If you tend to sprinkle spices into all of your meals, you may already be consuming more antioxidants than you think. If you tend to cook without seasonings, this may encourage you to spice your meals up: Spices and herbs have “excellent antioxidant activity” and can help your body fight disease. They taste great, too!

Different spices have different antioxidants in them, so there’s even more reason to vary the flavors of your meals. For instance, rosemary, sage and oregano are high in phenolic compounds, while basil and dill are high in quercetin.

5. Drink a second cup of coffee (or tea)

Look, I’m the last person to tell you to give up your morning coffee. I’m a self-proclaimed coffee addict, and caffeine isn’t all that bad for most people anyway (there are always exceptions). Turns out there’s a bonus to your daily caffeine fix: Coffee is brimming with antioxidants.

 If one of your health goals is to get more antioxidants every day, sipping on a second cup of Joe could help you get there. Coffee is rich in several powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and hydroxycinnamic acids.

If you do struggle with caffeine — perhaps you get the jitters, a racing heartbeat or anxiety — you could try naturally caffeine-free or decaffeinated tea instead. Many tea varieties are also chock-full of antioxidants, with white tea, green tea, black tea and oolong tea being some of the most potent.

Source: https://www.cnet.com

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