TIME Mental Health/Psychology

10 Signs You Really Need a Vacation

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Because we all need some time off every now and then

You probably wouldn’t hesitate to call in sick if you had the flu. But would you take a day off when your stress levels have catapulted into the stratosphere? For many of us, the answer is no. In a 2011 survey of 1,546 people by the American Psychological Association, about one-third of respondents said they typically feel tense or stressed out during their workday. And despite that nearly all of us need an occasional break, many rarely take a vacation day because they worry that others will look down on them, says Paula Davis-Laack, PhD, author of Addicted to Busy. Sky-high stress at work won’t just lead to burnout—it can also bring on stomach issues, trouble sleeping, headaches, and more, according to a 2011 review by researchers from the University of South Florida. On average, Americans get 14 days of vacation a year, but use only 10 of them. How do you know when you’ve reached a breaking point and it might be time to cash in your chips? Read on for 10 signs that you and your workplace need a little time off.

Every little problem is turning into a big issue

No one likes fielding other people’s mistakes, but the truth is, you should be able to handle the occasional curveball or two—and your goal should always be to knock it out of the park. A positive attitude is key. “There are days when you [tackle problems] like a rock star,” says Davis-Laack. “And that’s a good feeling to have.” Even on days when you’re not feeling very ambitious, you should try to keep the situation in perspective. Sure, legitimate annoyances will always pop up, but “not everything you deal with is a level-10 problem,” she says. If you’re acting testier toward your co-workers or clients (say, you find yourself thinking, “Didn’t we just go over that?” or “Why can’t you understand these directions?”), then you’re the one who might be making a mistake—by not taking some time off to recharge.

Your coworkers keep asking if you’re feeling all right

Other people may notice that you’re stressed before you do. If your coworkers keep approaching you to say, “You look tired,” or ask, “Is something wrong?” then that could be a sign that your stress has spilled over into your workday and is obvious to the rest of your office, says Davis-Laack. Another sign: You’re unusually cranky and people are giving you more distance than usual. If that’s the case, you may not need to take much time off—just a day or two or a long weekend, she explains. Andrew Shatte, PhD, a stress resilience expert and co-author of meQuilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier also recommends trying to work more “microbreaks” into your day. For example, all it may take to give you a quick mood boost is a 2-minute lap around the office floor or a short coffee break.

You start making mistakes

“Chronic stress is a well-known cause of workplace errors, and it’s a sign that you may need to take a step back,” says Davis-Laack. Studies show that when doctors and pharmacists are stressed or have a heavy workload, they could be prone to more mistakes—a serious problem in the medical community, since they can be potentially fatal to patients.

If you’re in the middle of a project and have been slipping up, finish the project and then arrange for some time off, advises Davis-Laack. “You don’t have to tell everyone on your team what’s happening,” she says, “but you might want to let your supervisor or client know that you’ve fixed your mistake and are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

You’re feeling pretty cynical

Everything bores you, nothing excites you, and you can’t muster up any positive thoughts about the company you work for. Once those cynical thoughts start percolating in your brain, it may be a sign that you could be headed for burnout. Try to counter it ASAP: Davis-Laack advises employees to keep at least a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative experiences. (And she also says that highly successful teams have a ratio of about six to one.) Shatte’s advice: “If you have an upsetting conversation with someone at the office, jump on the phone with another long-term colleague and ask to chat for a few minutes,” he says. “You want to balance out the bad experiences with even more good ones.”

You start ‘borrowing’ the office supplies

Sure, we’ve all snatched a pen or two, but when you’re practically shopping at the supply closet, that’s a sign that you’re stressed out. Researchers actually have a name for these habits: “counterproductive work behaviors,” or “CWB,” for short. And one new 2015 study found that it may take weeks or even months before they start showing up in stressed-out employees. “Uncertainty [in the workplace] drives a great deal of stress,” says Davis-Laack. “As a result, people tend to turn inward, seek to protect their own turf, and become less likely to help others because they don’t know what’s going to happen outwardly.” If you’re engaging in counterproductive work behaviors, like picking fights with your co-workers or taking extra-long lunch breaks, she says, you may need a day off to help reset your priorities or even seek out new opportunities.

Everything hurts

Backaches. Headaches. Eye strain. All of these painful conditions are your body’s not-so-subtle way of telling you that you might need a day off. One 2011 University of South Florida review about stress in the workplace found that heavy workloads, negative environments, and obstacles that prevent people from completing their tasks were all factors linked to pain-related health problems in employees. The researchers say that when people find themselves in a stressful situation, their bodies release chemicals that trigger inflammation and increase their sensitivity to pain.

Your stomach basically hates you

A killer headache isn’t the only physical sign that you’re feeling frazzled—cramping and bloating might be other indicators. “Some people say they’re more likely to have stomach problems and digestive issues when they’re feeling stressed,” says Davis-Laack. That could be because stress can cause changes to the bacteria that reside in our guts, which could make us more vulnerable to upset stomachs. In fact, a 2010 study in the Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease found that people with gastrointestinal disorders may be more likely to have chronic stress than their calmer GI counterparts.

And you can forget about getting a decent night’s sleep

If you’re having trouble sleeping, that can also be a side effect of too much stress, says Shatte. In one 2007 study from the University of Georgia at Athens, people who believed they did “excessive” amounts of work were more likely to have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and spending more time in the restorative part of their sleep cycle than those who weren’t as overloaded at the office. And another 2005 study by Swedish researchers also found that overworked employees were more likely to have trouble unwinding before bed and have increased amounts of daytime sleepiness, possibly because their bodies were trying to make up for lost shut-eye. Some researchers speculate that the hormones involved in the flight-or-fight response—which is activated when we encounter a particularly stressful situation—may cause lasting tension and sabotage your sleep.

When you get home, you reach for a glass of wine

Do you bolt straight for the wine cabinet when you come home? If so, says Davis-Laack, you might be using alcohol as a coping mechanism for too-stressful days at the office. One 2012 study conducted in people in the nursing field—a particularly challenging occupation—found that drinking alcohol was a common way they dealt with the pressure. And another 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who were experiencing burnout were more susceptible to emotional and uncontrolled eating—two habits that could boost your risk for obesity. A better way to send stress packing? Exercise. One study from the University of Maryland found that when people performed 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, they were calmer in the face of an anxiety-inducing situation than those who had just rested quietly. (Now you know what to do on your day off!)

You can’t remember why you wanted this job in the first place

Some people who are under a lot of pressure lose perspective of why they keep coming to work, says Shatte. This is one of the more serious signs of burnout, so if this is you, you may need to take a longer break from the office—and you may also need to reframe your thinking. “Sometimes people can become siloed at their job, and when that happens, they fail to see how their work affects their country or community,” he explains. Think about how your day-to-day impacts your life’s big picture: do you have a family to support? That’s one major reason to stay positive, says Shatte. So keep a picture of your relatives on hand, and remind yourself that you’re working for them, not just The Man.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME psychology

How to Be a Better Person: 7 Steps Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

  • Research also shows little things can make a difference:
  1. Play music with positive lyrics.
  2. Clean smells and the odor of cookies both make you behave better.
  3. Keep the area warm.
  4. Get outside in nature.
  5. Read fiction.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

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New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

You Asked: Do I Worry Too Much?

You Asked Do I Worry Too Much
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Frequent fretting is unproductive and not so hot for your health.

As human beings, our ability to predict trouble—and outwit it—is one of those cerebral superpowers that set us apart from birds and beasts. But nonstop worrying can be crippling to your life and your immune system.

“Just having a thought about some potential bad thing that might happen—everyone has those,” says Dr. Michelle Newman, director of the Laboratory for Anxiety and Depression Research at Pennsylvania State University. “But if you have difficulty stopping the worry once it starts, that’s one of the ways we define what’s called pathological worry.”

Newman, who is also editor of the journal Behavior Therapy, cites more characteristics of out-of-control worrying, like fixating on things over which you have no control—or which have a low probability of happening—and “catastrophizing” them. Worrying about a loved one who’s driving and picturing the horrible ramifications of an accident is one example; imagining a string of events that might lead to your losing your job and your home is another.

Anxiety is a related feeling that often goes hand in hand with worrying. While it can be a little tricky to separate the two, Newman says the technical difference is that worrying is “verbal-linguistic” while anxiety is “physical.” If you feel tense or on edge while thinking about your job security or your child’s long car trip, you’re experiencing both worry and anxiety. Feel those emotions “more days than not” for a period of six months, and you meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. Basically, you’re a chronic worrier.

“I like to say that chronic worry is a process looking for content,” Newman says. “You’ve gotten into the habit of looking for something to be concerned about, and you always find it.”

That’s bad news for several reasons. First and foremost, incessant worrying and anxiety can increase your blood pressure and heart rate and has been linked to an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease. “Anxiety can also over-activate your immune system,” says Dr. Wesley Moons, formerly of the University of California, Davis, and now CEO of his own consulting firm, Moons Analytics.

While at UC Davis, Moons and his graduate student Grant Shields found that people who reacted to stressful situations with anger experienced a smaller immune system response than those who reacted with anxiety. Shields says the sorts of immune system responses his research linked to anxiety could hurt the body’s ability to fight off infection or disease and have been tentatively linked to higher mortality rates.

“That’s not to say getting angry is a healthy reaction to stress,” Moons adds. “But in terms of your immune system, anxiety appears to trigger some different and potentially more detrimental responses.”

But isn’t there a benefit to lots of worrying? After all, if your mind is tackling contingencies and potential threats, you can act now to prevent them—right?

Unfortunately, Newman refutes this idea. “Mostly worrying becomes a process unto itself that doesn’t lead to problem solving or helping you in any way,” she says. If you’re worrying about something, she says, you’re not taking steps to address the source of your worry, if that’s even possible.

When you boil it down, worry is really a failure to live in the moment, Newman says. Activities that attempt to anchor your mind to the present—including yoga and meditation—may help combat incessant worrying. Exercise, massage and other things that alleviate physical tension are also helpful, she says.

Another great way to reign in your worrying is to set aside a specific time and place for it. Select a spot you can get to easily every day, but that isn’t a place where you normally spend time, Newman advises. (A quiet bench in your backyard, maybe, or a chair in your guest room.) Your goal is to give yourself 20 or 30 minutes a day in that space, devoted only to worrying. “The rest of the day, you tell yourself you aren’t going to worry because you will at that time and place,” Newman explains. “The idea is that by isolating your worry, you can control it.”

She says that focusing on a favorite relaxing setting—your “happy place”—also has proven worry-reducing benefits. “Close your eyes,” she says. “Try to vividly picture that place—the sights and smells and sounds you would feel and hear.” Hopefully the place that you see is worry-free.

TIME psychology

How to Manage Stress

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Exercise can become your best medicine

For any of you who have experienced a ‘runner’s high’ or endorphin rush while exercising you know how powerful the feeling can be. But there are many more chemicals at play than just endorphins and they can do much more than just make you temporarily feel good. Regular exercise can help you combat high levels of stress and anxiety.

In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain the authors explain how exercise can become your best medicine.

Aside from elevating endorphins, exercise regulates all of the neurotransmitters targeted by antidepressants. For starters, exercise immediately elevates levels of norepinephrine, in certain areas of the brain. It wakes up the brain and gets it going and improves self-esteem, which is one component of depression.”

“Another factor from the body that comes into play here is the atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP). Produced by the muscles of the heart itself when it’s really pumping, ANP travels through the bloodstream and into the brain, where it helps to further moderate the stress response and reduce noise in the brain. It’s a potent part of a cascade of chemicals that relieve emotional stress and reduce anxiety. Along with pain-blunting endorphins and endocannabinoids, the increase in ANP helps explain why you feel relaxed and calm after a moderate aerobic workout. When you talk about burning off stress, these are the elements at work.

We all know that chronically high levels of stress is very unhealthy but did you know that it can actually destroy the connections between nerve cells in the brain?

If mild stress becomes chronic, the unrelenting cascade of cortisol triggers genetic actions that begin to sever synaptic connections and cause dendrils to atrophy and cells to die; eventually, the hippocampus can end up physically shriveled, like a raisin.

But this process can also be reversed.

Studies show that if researchers exercise rats that have been chronically stressed, that activity makes the hippocampus grow back to it’s pre-shriveled state

It’s important to note that while a lot of stress is bad, a little stress can be very good. Physical fitness is one discipline which has always advocated introducing controlled stress to your system. That is, after all, how we break down and build up our muscles. The neurons in our brains benefit from a bit of stress in the same way our muscles do.

What’s gotten lost amid all the advice about how to reduce the stress of modern life is that challenges are what allow us to strive and grow and learn. The parallel on the cellular level is that stress sparks brain growth. Assuming that the stress is not too severe and that the neurons are given time to recover, the connections become stronger and our mental machinery works better.

To get the most mental benefit from your exercise program ideally you need to spend some time pushing yourself and getting a bit outside of your comfort zone.

Psychologically, this is where you ‘confront the self,’ in the words of my colleague Robert Pyles… By going beyond where you thought you could, straining and stressing and lingering in that pain for even just a minute or two, you sometimes transcend into a rarefied state of mind, in which you feel like you can conquer any challenge. If you’ve ever experienced the phenomenon of runner’s high, it probably came in response to a near maximum effort on your part. The euphoric feeling is likely due to the mixture of extremely high levels of endorphins, ANP, endocannabinoids and neurotransmitters pumping through your system at this intensity. It’s the brain’s way of blocking everything else out so you can push through the pain and make the kill.

You also need to build a routine. The stability of a routine can have dramatic effects on your mood and motivation.

Exercise immediately increases levels of dopamine and if you stay on some sort of schedule, the brain cells in your motivation center will sprout new dopamine receptors, giving you new found initiative.

Lastly, exercising at a moderate intensity serves another important function; it helps take out the trash.

Inside your brain cells, the higher activity level triggers the release of metabolic cleanup crews, producing proteins and enzymes that dispose of free radicals, broken bits of DNA, and inflammation factors that can cause the cells to rupture if left unchecked.

Okay, maybe I won’t skip yoga tonight.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Ways Successful People Deal With Stress Differently

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Plan out your motivation

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Any given day as an entrepreneur is the best or the worst. It’s often both.

The day you win a big award could be the day you’re struggling to meet payroll. The day you lose a big client could be the day you get your biggest one ever. These days can be confusing, and they happen all too often.

What separates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones is not the challenges. We all have them.

A critical trait that separates successful entrepreneurs is the ability to take setback and after setback without any loss of motivation.

Rather than being some innate thing we’re born with, this is a skill that can be developed.

I interviewed emotionally resilient, successful entrepreneurs to get their perspective…

1. Avoid Hitting Bottom By Reflecting On Death Daily Cameron Herold, author of Double Double, CEO coach, and globally renowned speaker

In January of 2000, I noticed a metallic taste in my throat. Soon after, I collapsed in an elevator and had a near-nervous breakdown. That experience taught me to take stress seriously and take business less seriously. About 95% of what we think is SO SO stressful, really isn’t. We make up that story for ourselves.

So I developed habits that continuously help me keep my life in perspective:

Habit No. 1: Pondering Death. For me, the key is to remember that when I’m dead, none of this work matters. It’s all just a game. It’s what I do to make money so I can enjoy life. Dozens of studies have found that death awareness can lead to decreased aggression, better health decisions, increased altruism, and reduced divorce rates.

Habit No. 2: Taking Time Throughout The Day To Do What’s Important. I remind myself of the things that are important outside of business (things like time with friends, time with family, quiet time alone, time to pursue hobbies, and exercise). Throughout the day, I remember to take stock in how healthy my immediate family is. I breathe. I go to the gym. I went for a 5 mile run this morning. I make time in the middle of the day to chat with my wife.

 

2. Give Yourself Compelling Reasons Not to Quit Doug Conant, former CEO of Fortune 500 company Campbell Soup Company and founder and CEO of Conant Leadership

In the stormy seas of decision making, I refer to my personal mission statement often. It should include a clear and thoughtfully crafted intention that guides all your actions and specific bullet points that define how you will fulfill that mission. Research shows that without a good reason to keep pushing through tough times, we quit.

I have mine prominently placed near my desk so I can refer to it in moments of adversity. I share it with those closest to me so I am accountable to them as well as to myself. When thorny issues present themselves I can refer to the promise I’ve made myself and then compare my actions to the behaviors I’ve explicitly outlined.

After over 35 years in the corporate arena (most recently as a Fortune 500 CEO), and as a husband and father, I can’t emphasize enough the power of a personal mission statement.

The Franklin Covey Mission State Builder is a great resource for building and refining your statement.

 

3. Trigger A Mindset Reset With A Little Help From YouTube Benji Rabhan, founder of AppointmentCore

I personally like watching 5-6 short YouTube comedy videos that get me laughing out loud. I’ve found that this is enough time to take my mind off bad news and regain my positivity.

I call these my dopamine breaks. In a related and fascinating study, a Stanford research team found that funny cartoons activated a cluster of areas in the brain deeply involved in the regulation of dopamine, which positively impacts motivation and mood.

In order to find videos, I recommend going to YouTube’s most popular videos page, which shows newly trending videos. It has many categories so you can view based on your mood. If you like funny, there is funny. If you like music videos, they have that. It also serves to keep you in the loop of the current events from a video perspective.

 

4. Plan Out Your Motivation So It’s There When You Need It Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations

I’m single. I don’t have any kids. Both of my parents are deceased, and I’m the CEO of a company I started. So having a source of daily inspiration that affirms my journey is critical.

I create 30-90 day inspirational themes that I rely on a daily basis. I find it’s less taxing when I know where my inspiration will come from so it becomes a fixed part of my day rather than something that’s ad hoc. Different examples of themes I’ve taken on are:

Reading daily affirmations for 10 minutes before I start my day.

    • Reading a few pages out of motivational books. I have a 50-day motivational journey book, Strength for Every Moment by T. D. Jake. Each day it reveals a question.
    • Following inspirational social media. I like Beats Reloaded, @drtiffanybrown, and @joelosteen.
    • Participating in community projects. In January, my base church went through a time where the entire congregation fasted and prayed 3 times a day for 30 straight days.

 

5. Smile To Boost Your Energy. It’s EasyJason Duff, founder and CEO of COMSTOR Outdoor

In the last year, there were a lot of reasons I didn’t want to smile. I lost a key mentor in my life. I’ve been dealing with health issues with family members. Still, I think the easiest and, therefore, first thing that anyone should do when life gets challenging is to smile.

It transforms both the person smiling and people who see that smile. In fact, smiles can even predict longevity.

Smiles also serve as an indicator of how things are going in company and in my life. It’s a red flag if I notice that people in my organization aren’t smiling at each other or I’m not smiling at other people. That’s when I know it’s time to do a gut check and find ways to light that internal fire again.

One of the first books I read when I first became an entrepreneur is Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, and its principles have stuck with me. If I can’t smile, I know that I’m probably taking life and business a little too seriously.

 

6. Smile At The Beginning Of Meetings Aaron Steed, CEO of Meathead Movers

Similar to Jason, I believe in the power of smiling. Smiling is the simplest, easiest and fastest way to deal with stress. So why isn’t everyone doing it all the time? Remembering or wanting to smile is unnatural if you’re feeling stressed. That’s why I do the following three actions to make sure I’m smiling:

Have Accountability For Smiling. It may sound silly, but I’ve asked my employees to hold me accountable on smiling. I’ve told them, “If you don’t see me smiling, call me out on it!” This has worked on multiple levels. It has turned into a fun little game around the office. I smile more, and my employees smile more. A research study analyzing real-life behavior of over 1,000 males and females shows that more than half of people smile back at a smile.

Smile At The Beginning Of Meetings. I smile when I start new conversations. If I’m smiling, I project a friendly presence and demeanor, which inspires the other person to reciprocate, which then loops back to me. All of a sudden, we’re in a positive feedback cycle. So, 10 seconds of smiling can have a huge impact on a meeting. Given that the average person has 5.6 hours of meetings per week, you can begin to see how this small change could have huge consequences.

7. Do Multiple 1-Minute Meditations Daily Ryan Simonetti, co-founder of Convene

The benefit of meditation is widely known.

What’s hard for most people is consistently doing it.

What’s helped me is doing 1-minute sessions throughout the day and on commutes rather than one long session. Research by Stanford Professor, BJ Fogg, shows that when hard activities are broken into smaller ones that are easier, people are more likely to take action.

Here’s the process I go through:

  1. Visualize myself standing alone at the summit of a tall mountain. See the clear blue sky and feel the sun beaming down on me.
  2. Focus on feeling only the bottoms of my feet grounded to the floor.
  3. Take 5 deep breaths. 3 seconds in–3 seconds out.

A great app to use if you’re just getting started is Headspace. Headspace helps you consistently meditate through guided programs and exercises.

 

8. Use The WOOP Framework To Visualize Rohit Anabheri,founder of Circa Ventures

I do 10-minute “Guided Imagery” sessions every two hours throughout the day and have been doing so for years. I visualize using the WOOP framework, which is backed by15 years of academic research:

1. Wish. I imagine the future state of the business’ success.
2. Outcome. I visualize the biggest benefit of that future state.
3. Obstacle. I identify the main obstacle to achieving my wish.
4. Plan. I think through a key action I can take right away to overcome the obstacle.

This approach recharges me and moves me toward my vision of success. I can then share that positivity across my team. I specifically like the WOOP framework because it grounds my vision in reality and immediate action.

Contrary to popular opinion, positive thinking about the future, by itself (i.e. positive fantasies), leads to poor performance and success. This finding is based on 100 studies performed by NYU psychologist, Gabriele Oettingen.

On Gabriele’s site, you can listen to a 5-minute audio that walks you through the process.

 

9. Visualize What You’re Grateful For Now And In The Future Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, You Move Me, and Wow 1 Day Painting

I visualize two things in vivid detail:

1. Now. What I’m most grateful for, such as my family doing fun things together.

2. Future. Our company’s Painted Picture, which is a brilliantly detailed snapshot of what the business will be like in three years. It includes what the company will look, feel and act like in every aspect, from revenue down to the way the company trucks will look. Creating a painted picture is purely a visionary process that does not focus on the how.

It’s a simple, quick exercise that always reminds me of what is most important and keeps my perspective in the positive realm, no matter how challenging the day might be.

Taking the time to visualize what you’re grateful for with all of your senses has a much larger impact than simply listing what you’re grateful for. In one incredible study, it was found that simply visualizing yourself doing exercise had a measurable impact on muscle strength!

 

10. Take Very Deep Breaths Kay Koplovitz, founder, USA Network and Syfy

I close the door to my office, lean back and take deep breaths for several minutes. It’s very calming, and puts things in perspective.

Breathing is our body’s built-in stress reliever. It can profoundly impact our physiology, and several studies have shown that it affects the heart, brain, digestion, and the immune system.

Special thank you to Ian Chew for being an integral part of putting this article together.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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Read next: 17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s Why Living on a Noisy Street Could Make You Fatter

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Living next to a busy thoroughfare may affect more than just your mental well-being

The overwhelming hum from nearby traffic is often annoying, but it could also be making individuals more obese, according to new research from Sweden.

In an article featured in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal this week, researchers said they found that residents of Stockholm exposed regularly to noise from trains, aircraft or road traffic, all experienced growth in their respective waistlines.

For individuals that were unlucky enough to have been consistently exposed to all three categories, “the risk of a larger waist doubled from the 25% heightened risk among people exposed to only one noise source,” reports the Guardian.

The research team was unable to draw a conclusive link between noise pollution and obesity, but suggested that the increase of stress caused by audible irritants may be a possible culprit.

“Traffic noise may influence metabolic and cardiovascular functions through sleep disturbances and chronic stress,” said Andrei Pyko, lead author of the study at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, according to the Australian Associated Press.

And when a person’s sleep patterns are disturbed, it can easily affect “immune functions, influence the central control of appetite and energy expenditure as well as increase circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”

[Guardian]

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Divorce Arrangement Stresses Kids Out Most

Regarding the wellbeing of kids with divorced parents, the debate over what kind of custody arrangement is best rages on. But a new study, published Monday in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, suggests that children fare better when they spend time living with both of their parents.

That goes against some current thinking that kids in shared-custody situations are exposed to more stress due to constantly moving around and the social upheaval that can come along with that. “Child experts and people in general assumed that these children should be more stressed,” says study author Malin Bergström, PhD, researcher at the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm, Sweden. “But this study opposes a major concern that this should not be good for children.”

The researchers wanted to see if kids who lived part time with both parents were more stressed than those who lived with just one parent. They looked at national data from almost 150,000 12- and 15-year-old students—each in either 6th grade or 9th grade—and studied their psychosomatic health problems, including sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, headaches, stomachaches and feeling tense, sad or dizzy. They found that 69% of them lived in nuclear families, while 19% spent time living with both parents and about 13% lived with only one parent.

Kids in nuclear families reported the fewest psychosomatic problems, but the more interesting finding was that students who lived with both of their separated parents reported significantly fewer problems than kids who lived with only one parent.

“We think that having everyday contact with both parents seems to be more important, in terms of stress, than living in two different homes,” says Bergström. “It may be difficult to keep up on engaged parenting if you only see your child every second weekend.” Having two parents also tends to double the number of resources a kid is exposed to, including social circles, family and material goods like money. “Only having access to half of that may make children more vulnerable or stressed than having it from both parents, even though they don’t live together,” she says.

Girls reported more psychosomatic problems than boys did, and the most frequent problem for girls was sadness. Sleep problems were the most common in kids overall.

In Sweden, joint-custody parenting has risen dramatically in the past few decades; in the 1980s, only 1% of kids of divorced parents lived in joint-custody arrangements, but that number jumped to 40% in 2010. Shared parenting is less common in the U.S., says Ned Holstein, MD, founder and acting executive director of the National Parents Organization, and he estimates the rate is less than 20%. Still, he says that the research in favor of shared parenting for kids is overwhelming. “You’ll hear opponents say, ‘You’ll turn them into suitcase kids; they don’t want to be dragged back and forth,'” Holstein says. “Clearly, taking the suitcase back and forth once or twice a week so that you spend a lot of time with both parents is way better for the kids than the alternative of basically losing an intimate and closely loving relationship with one parent.”

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

Yoga Helps Older Adults Battle Depression and Anxiety

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For many older adults, the thought of stepping into a yoga class swarming with yogis more flexible than Gumby might provoke anxiety. But the practice itself may be just the antidote the over-60 set needs, suggests a recent review of studies about relaxation exercises. Those who did yoga and other calming activities saw greater reductions in their anxiety and depression than people who didn’t.

The body of literature on yoga’s relaxation benefits spans all kinds of people, but the authors thought adults aged 60 and older deserved their own analysis. Up to 40% of older adults report anxiety, they note, and anywhere from 15-20% of the elderly experience depression. So in the review published in the journal Aging & Mental Health, researchers scrutinized 15 studies—12 of them randomized controlled trials—from the past two decades that looked at different methods of relaxation. They gauged the effectiveness of six techniques: yoga, listening to music, tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles, massage therapy and stress management training.

MORE: Is Bikram Yoga Safe?

The most effective ways to alleviate depression were yoga, the music intervention and the muscle tensing and relaxing exercise—called PMRT, for progressive muscle relaxation training. The music and yoga interventions were the best for anxiety.

Yoga had the strongest staying power. Positive effects from the stretching, breathing and meditation exercises stuck around six months later in older adults. “It could help counterbalance the negative effects of ageing, improve physical functioning, postpone disability, decrease morbidity and mortality, stimulate the mind, and increase hope, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression,” the study authors write.

MORE: 15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

And good vibes from PMRT lasted 14 weeks after the intervention ended. “It is believed that the PMRT has a tranquilising effect, triggers a sense of peacefulness, helps participants retreat mentally from their problem and curtails negative thoughts, reducing depressive symptoms,” the authors write.

The most effective intervention, of course, is the one you enjoy doing—and these results suggest that it’s never too late to find your favorite way to unwind.

 

TIME Parenting

Unhappy Families Can Make Daughters Fat

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Michael Hevesy—Getty Images

A new study suggests that stress at home can have a major impact on our kids' waistlines

Childhood obesity has become such a big problem in the United States that the rate of obese adolescents—21%—exceeds the rate of overweight adolescents (14%). It’s been that way for the last decade.

Dr. Daphne Hernandez, assistant professor at the University of Houston, wants to figure out why despite our efforts, that rate hasn’t budged. “Many times when we’re designing interventions and prevention programs, they’re done in schools because that’s where we have ease of access to all these kiddos,” she says. “But the issue is that in those interventions, we don’t think about the family environment and what could be happening at home.”

In her new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine, she decided to look at three family stressors: family disruption and conflict, the kind a kid would experience after a parent got divorced, remarried, incarcerated or if the child experienced a violent crime or death of a loved one; financial stress, a measure of poverty determined in part by whether a mom was unemployed or had less than a high school education; and maternal poor health, whether the mom was a binge drinker, drug user or had elevated depression.

MORE: Mindfulness Exercises Improve Kids’ Math Scores

Hernandez analyzed data from 4,762 adolescents between 1975-1990 using the National Longitudinal Study of Youth. She measured each adolescent’s exposure to these family factors from birth until age 15, then looked at their weight at age 18. The results showed clear gender differences. In adolescent girls, experiencing family disruption and financial stress repeatedly was linked to overweight or obesity by age 18. That wasn’t true for adolescent boys. Just one stress point—poor maternal health—was linked to being overweight or obese by 18.

When all the findings were lumped together, Hernandez says, the gender differences disappeared. “Not all stress influences females and males the same,” she says. The reason why lies beyond the scope of this study, but Hernandez suspects it has something to do with physiolgocial and behavioral stress responses. Your body secretes cortisol when it’s stressed, she says—which, if chronic, suppresses your body’s ability to feel satiated. “Behaviorally, you then gravitate more towards the more palatable foods, the high calorie, high fat foods, so you’re not reaching for that apple or celery stick,” she says. This pattern seems to be more prevalent in females than in males, she adds.

“We really need to think about how we are teaching our adolescents how to deal with stress, and trying not to use food as a way to deal with stress,” Hernandez says. “Perhaps encouraging physical activity is the way we should be going.”

Want to stay up to date on all the latest family research? Sign up for Time’s free weekly newsletter for parents.

 

MONEY Workplace

Why Checking Email After Work Is Bad for Your Career—and Your Health

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Should I check work email outside of normal business hours?

A: The availability of smartphones and tablets has made it easy and common to check email anytime, anywhere: 59% of American workers say they use their mobile devices to do work after normal business hours, according to a recent Workplace Options survey.

But that convenience comes at a price. Checking email constantly can lead to burnout and health problems, says Dean Debnam, chief executive officer of Workplace Options, which provides employees with work-life balance support services.

Whether you should check work email regularly depends on your personal preference as well as your company culture, Debnam says. For many, the ability to field email anytime, anywhere is a good thing. It can free you from long hours in the office and enable you to respond quickly to important or urgent issues. You may feel better not having a full inbox when you log on in the a.m. About 80% of workers say using a smart phone, tablet, or laptop to work outside of typical business hours is positive, according to a 2014 Gallup poll.

For some professions, it is just part of the job. Maybe you work with people across different time zones. Or you’re a consultant, lawyer, or salesperson who needs to be available to clients all the time. (A prestigious law firm had to apologize to employees recently when its announcement of a new policy eliminating email overnight and on weekends turned out to be an April Fool’s prank.)

On the downside, constantly being available online translates into more work hours. Though just 36% of workers say they frequently check in outside of regular office hours, those who do log an additional 10 hours of work a week—twice as many hours as those who rarely or only occasionally check email remotely, according to the Gallup survey.

Younger workers and men are more likely to be in constant contact. About 40% of Gen-X and Gen-Y workers check email frequently outside of work vs. one-third of Baby Boomers, and 40% of men vs. 31% of women, according to the Gallup poll.

The more money you make and more education you have, the more likely you are to be among those frequently connected. Employees with a college degree or higher and people who earn more than $120,000 a year are twice as likely to constantly check email than those with lower education levels and salaries below $48,000 a year. That’s a reflection of how prevalent email communication is for higher education and income groups in white collar jobs—or the pressure many workers feel to respond immediately.

There’s lots of evidence that that kind of connectivity is bad for your health, your psyche, and your productivity.

First, it can seriously intrude on your personal life. A survey of 1,000 workers by Good Technology, a mobile-software firm, found that 68% of people checked work email before 8 a.m., 50% checked it while in bed, 57% do it on family outings, and 38% regularly do at the dinner table.

And your communication might not be as sharp or thoughtful when you’re doing it off-hours. It is hard to be at your best when you’re responding to a work issue late at night or in a non-work setting. “If you check in during a family dinner or with your kids running around in the background, you’re going to be distracted,” says Debnam.

Working around the clock can cause serious health problems too. A piece in Medical Daily cited a recent study in the journal Chronobiology International that found that checking your work email at home, or taking a call from the boss on weekends, could lead to psychological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular problems

If you don’t want to be constantly connected, set expectations up front by not getting into the habit of monitoring and responding to email after hours unless there’s an important reason to do so. And if it’s just part of your company culture? Well, then you have to decide whether that’s a company you want to work for, says Debnam.

 

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