We hear it all the time: “stress is just a part of life.” While it is certainly true that an adult life is, often, a stressful one, there is no reason to simply swallow all of that pressure, anxiety and stress. In fact, letting it get the better of you is bad for you. Science and medicine have told us over and over again that stress isn’t just a mental issue. Stress is a physical issue. When our minds encounter stress, it is our bodies that bear the brunt of its influence.

There are a lot of different ways to deal with and work through stressful situations. Some people work their stress out through exercise or hobbies. Others help themselves feel better by helping others. Chip Wilson, for example, the founder of Lululemon Ahtletica, channels his stress into his foundation Imagine 1Day, a charity dedicated to educating children in Ethiopia. Others take time away to be alone and “get away from it all.” Still others learn to meditate and to practice mindfulness.

It’s Not All Hogwash

Your first reaction when you hear the words “mindfulness” or “meditation” might be to roll your eyes or to snort derisively. That’s because, as Liz Kluze points out in The Atlantic, a lot of us were raised to believe that eastern philosophy had not root in reality and was an excuse to get out of problem solving.

It’s also true that, in some respects, mindfulness and meditation have been co-opted by the profit makers and snake oil salesmen. In the fall of 2013, The Economist took a closer look at those peddling mindfulness and meditation products in its article “The Mindfulness Business.

The real truth, though, is that mindfulness and meditation are powerful therapeutic tools that people can use to counteract stress and anxiety. Some people find that it is a powerful motivation tool as well. If it weren’t so helpful and it didn’t yield such good results for those who are able to master it, it wouldn’t be such a target.

So what is it? There has to be more to it than simply staring at a wall and not thinking, right? Right!

What Mindfulness and Meditation Actually Are

Believe it or not, there is a high level of focus that is required for mindfulness and meditation. There is language about “clearing your mind”, sure but most people find their way into these practices by focusing intensely upon something. It might be a spot on the wall. It might be a candle flame. Some people chant, focusing all of their attention on the word and how their bodies feel as they say it. Yes! It turns out that the “ohm” that so many people giggle over, has a real purpose! Meditators find that by focusing so completely on that one thing, they’re able to “clear their minds” of everything else.

How to Learn Meditation and Mindfulness

While there are some who have found success by reading books, most have found that the best way to learn how to meditate and how to practice mindfulness is to follow the examples of someone who has gone before you. Then, in keeping with eastern philosophy, teach someone who is coming up after you. Some say that’s why Chip Wilson (we mentioned him before) started his YouTube Channel, Whil.

What’s important is that you not give up after your first try. You’re going to feel stupid the first few times you try to meditate and during the first few mindfulness exercises you do. Don’t let that deter you. It can take a long time to learn these skills, but the work will have been worth it when you can cure your own stress and anxiety attacks!

 


Making My Outside Match My Inside

This is the part that’s going to make you hate me: I’ve never really struggled with my weight. At 35, I’m sure I’m about to (this metabolism has to slow down sometime), but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had it easier than probably most people reading this site. It’s okay, I kind of hate me for it too and I hope you’ll keep reading.

While I haven’t ever struggled with weight, I have struggled with depression and anxiety and it doesn’t take a genius to know that this is at least partly because I spent the first three decades of my life eating burgers and pizza and junk food like they were going out of style. And barbecue! Holy cow, pun intended, the barbecue. When you live in Houston (like I do) good meat is everywhere and seriously—who wants to give up ribs? Or pulled pork or…right. Okay. Back on track.

Unfortunately, one of the problems with never having weight issues is that you grow up believing that food doesn’t really have an effect on you, but the truth is that it does. Even though you might not pack on the pounds, you are wreaking havoc with your blood sugar, which helps you keep your emotions in check.

I’m a stubborn Texan and I’ll admit that I struggled against the idea of a lifestyle change for way longer than I should have. Finally, though, a few years ago I started seeing a therapist and getting my life on track. Here’s the thing most people won’t tell you: if your therapist is any good, going to therapy doesn’t mean automatically scoring meds for depression or other issues. You have to work through a bunch of other possible solutions first.

The first thing my therapist and I worked on was my diet. Don’t let anybody tell you that fruit is an acceptable substitute for Skittles. It isn’t. But now I don’t feel like smashing my windows when I can’t find them so I guess it’s a fair trade.

Of course, diet is just one component of physical fitness. You also have to, like, get up and move around…on purpose. Exercise floods your body with endorphins, which is sort of like “happy juice” and is great for combating depression and anxiety.

It took a while for me to actually start getting fit. I’m not proud of this but my vanity simply wouldn’t let me. I know I’m not the troll my depression and anxiety tell me I am but I also know that I did not hit the genetic lottery. I inherited my dad’s sweat and body hair—two things that actively work against you when you want to look presentable by working out. Think about it: most body hair can be covered up with sweats or cute workout gear but the layers just make you sweat all the more and as an already sweaty person…you get me?

Plus, apparently there’s some whole philosophy about looking good helping you feel good…and the makeover episodes were always my favorite part of America’s Next Top Model.

After doing my research, I got a prescription for Incredible Hulk strength antiperspirant and decided to fork over the cash for laser hair removal.  Houston has lots of places that offer it and is something that I’d been considering for a long time. When you grow hair faster than Robin Williams you go through a lot of razors and waxing gets too expensive if you have to do it every week. I found a place in downtown Houston, that could do it without requiring me to take out a second mortgage on my house, and started the sessions.

I’d like to tell you that I bought a Wii Fit or an XBox Kinect to help start working my muscles while I was making over my appearance, but I didn’t. Instead I waited until my treatments were done, I knew my anti-persperant would work and I had a cute running outfit and then I went out and did Couch to 5K like my life depended on it…which it sort of did.

I’m almost at the point where I can run the whole 5k (and thanks to laser hair removal, Houston humidity and my pride, I’m doing it in shorts). And as much as I didn’t think I would ever believe this: I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. I’m proud that I can and not sound like a dying horse. I’m proud that I can do more than one push up. I’m proud that I’m not embarrassed to be seen running in the Houston heat (anymore).

And all of that pride and the confidence that comes from accomplishing these goals (however small they may seem in comparison to others) has done more for my mental health than I ever thought possible. I feel lighter, emotionally and mentally than I have since I was a very little kid.

So it turned out I was battling weight issues this whole time—they were just a different kind.

 


In the very near future, Electronic Medical Records will bring patient data to the cloud. New provisions inspired by the Health information Technology Act will make sweeping adjustments to how hospitals handle data, and what information is available to doctors and patients.

Anytime there is a user base that grows large enough to get some notoriety, that database is at risk of data breaches. Hackers target these large databases looking for information about a person that can be sold, like user credentials to a bank account or a user’s credit score and other identifying information. Patient privacy is a huge concern going into the healthcare debate, and as records transition to digital, this expectation of privacy will only grow. Though the usage of EMRs is expected to impact the quality of health care over the coming years, new practices in security will be required to keep the machine running in peak form.

What is EMR?

Health records are currently recorded by hand, and usually in some rudimentary digital form. A hospital or a doctor’s office might maintain a patient spreadsheet with history of treatment, or a word doc with summaries of each visit. This data is digital, but not freely available to the healthcare community. EMR programs are designed with hospital staff in mind. The programs help staff identify and tag patient ailments through codes, helping to minimize keystrokes and cut down on human error when entering new information.

Under new changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, all of that patient data will move to cloud storage. IT staff will help build a network large enough to support this data exchange, and staff is being trained on its usage. There are several advantages to both patients and doctors with this new system:

·  Doctors can see a patient’s history quickly, without bothering other practices.

·  Patients enjoy better services, including faster prescriptions and more access to health data.

Poor Antivirus Software

Like any terminal, this system is vulnerable to viral infections. Careless browsing habits, malicious downloads and hardware factors all pose a risk to patient data. Viral security that relies on heuristics can help secure a system. Heuristics identify suspicious files as they are encountered, checking the files on a user’s machine against a database of viral definitions. Once a match is found, the virus is dealt with according to the methods of disposal.

A comprehensive anti-viral suite like Trend Micro Internet security works by establishing a baseline for performance. When anomalies cause that threshold to go below the baseline, the software kicks into action and reviews the most recently downloaded files. The ability to detect and protect against viral infections is extremely important, as one malicious download can have legal consequences for a hospital.

Infected Devices from Outside

STUXNET was a viral infection that was shown to destabilize Iran’s nuclear reactors, causing irreparable harm to Iran’s nuclear program. The method of transfer involved a clever usage of hardware. By infecting an employee’s home computer, the hackers were able to proxy a viral infection into the place they really wanted to strike. Third party hardware, like flash drives, may need regulation as EMRs find widespread adoption. 

Hardware and software hacks make a network equally vulnerable. Hospitals will need to create a protocol for what devices can be used on the network, and carefully restrict access to employees. Any IT professional will tell you that the lowest point of access is just as dangerous to your network as a high-level terminal with admin access.

 


Characterized by chronic mood swings and other symptoms, bipolar disorder can be an intense, overwhelming condition. Also known as manic/depressive disorder, this illness is associated with extreme emotional highs and lows, and can affect virtually every aspect of health and well-being.

Thankfully, in addition to seeking professional help, there are several ways patients can manage symptoms and improve their quality of life. Keep reading to discover how you too can cope with the effects of bipolar disorder, simply, safely and effectively.

Follow Doctor’s Orders

Bipolar disorder can be serious in nature. Failure to follow doctor’s orders can lead to a variety of complications, including a worsening of symptoms and other disruptions to your daily life. To keep symptoms in check, medications should always be taken properly, i.e., on time and in the correct dosages. Plus, in addition to medications, psychological therapy can help patients gain a better understanding of the disease, as well as learn to pinpoint and modify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

It’s important to note that, while medication can be an extremely effective tool in managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, some drugs are associated with a number of risks and side effects. To protect yourself against the harmful effects of certain psychiatric medications, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor. It’s also important to be completely honest when it comes to factors like alcohol and drug use, medical history and bipolar symptoms.

By fully understanding your unique circumstances, a doctor is better equipped to administer the proper medications, thus reducing the risks of unwanted side effects. If you do experience troubling side effects, continue taking your medication, but contact your doctor immediately.

Identify Your Triggers

In individuals with bipolar disorder, identifying and avoiding triggers can help keep mood swings under control. And since triggers can vary wildly from person to person, the best way to identify your own is through close monitoring of your thoughts and behaviors. A great way to do this is by keeping a journal of events, stresses, the amount of sleep you get, your medication dosages, side effects of medication, etc. Over time, you may begin to see patterns in your moods and behaviors, which can help you learn to identify and avoid symptom triggers.

Also, while triggers vary, many patients experience an onset of symptoms as a result of stress, disturbances in sleep patterns, deviations from normal routines and major life changes like divorce, changing career paths, moving, etc.

Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Making the right lifestyle choices is essential in dealing with bipolar disorder. Diet and exercise, for example, can be extremely effective in managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life. Regular physical activity boosts the body’s production of mood-stabilizing chemicals, thus promoting feelings of well-being and enhancing overall quality of life. When it comes to nutrition, fresh, nutrient-rich foods can help combat symptoms like fatigue, mental sluggishness and more.

Avoid Self-Medication

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for patients with bipolar disorder to use drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medicating symptoms. And while, in the short term, alcohol and illicit drugs may help ease depression and other effects, the long-term complications of self-medication can be devastating to recovery. Using addictive substances often results in physical and psychological dependence, which can hinder treatment in a number of ways. What’s more, substance abuse contributes to depression and mood swings, and, in patients taking prescription medications, can also lead to life-threatening drug interactions.

Seek and Accept Support

Living with bipolar disorder is not easy. Dealing with mood swings and other symptoms can leave many patients feeling alienated from friends and family members, which only exacerbates symptoms and leads to feelings of isolation and depression. Instead of withdrawing, let your loved ones know what you’re going through, and ask for their support and understanding. Odds are, by keeping your friends, family members and coworkers informed of your situation, they’ll make an effort to be supportive and empathetic.