Research reveals the power of sleep to ravage—or restore—mental health.
By Abigail Fagan for Psychology Today
Today’s fast-paced world leaves little time for sleep. Forty-hour work weeks are just dreams for those toiling late into the night or checking in remotely after they leave the office. Technology also offers an array of distractions that easily overpower bedtime.
For these reasons and more, many Americans fail to get enough sleep: More than 35 percent of U.S. adults sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carving out time for rest is critical. Some of the most common emotional and behavioral challenges—stress, anxiety, and depression—are closely connected to sleep. Shortchange the circadian clock that helps regulate all cellular processes and you pave the way for many kinds of dysfunction.
Seventy to 80 percent of people with anxiety disorders report trouble sleeping. And many people with sleep disorders suffer from anxiety. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley sought to understand the extent of the connection and how it unfolds.
Sleep disturbances rob the body of this soothing cycle. “When our sleep is disturbed, the balance may not be restored,” Ben Simon says. “That balance may be one of the mechanisms that helps fight anxiety the next day.”
Setting aside enough time for sleep is one thing, but actually falling asleep is another. Enter melatonin, which synchronizes the biological clock. The production and accumulation of the hormone creates the feeling of drowsiness, signaling that it’s time to go to bed. Melatonin doesn’t change how long or how deeply one sleeps. But when the sleep cycle is disrupted—common among older adults, shift workers, and travelers—taking a melatonin supplement can help.
Taking melatonin isn’t the only way to bring on sleep. Magnesium regulates the neurotransmitters that promote sleep, and there’s evidence that it can improve sleep quality. The majority of Americans, however, consume a magnesium-deficient diet. Theanine, a compound present in tea, also modulates the neurotransmitters that influence sleep and can be taken in concentrated form via supplements. Tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, helps produce melatonin and is another agent that regulates sleep-wake cycles.
“If you protect your sleep,” Ben Simon concludes, “it will protect you in return.”
Sleep by the Numbers
The right amount of sleep varies by a person’s age, but adults from 18 to 64 need seven to nine hours per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
It typically takes an adult between 10 and 20 minutes to fall asleep.
Ten percent of Americans experience chronic insomnia, according to the CDC.
A night of poor sleep lowers pain tolerance the following day by 15 percent.
Keeping the same sleep schedule every day, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, maintaining a cool bedroom, and avoiding screen time before bed all aid sleep.
There have never been more options available for those who have struck gluten from their diet—cauliflower gnocchi, cauli-pizza crust, a seemingly endless variety of alt-pastas, gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like sawdust… the list goes on.
But while deciding to stop eating gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye (think of it as the glue that holds everything together)—has become trendy in recent years, it’s not necessarily the healthiest choice everyone. “Approximately three million Americans have celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition that is triggered by gluten,” says Kimberly Snyder, New York Times bestselling author, nutrition expert, and founder of Solluna.
Outside of those with celiac, some people may have what’s known as a non-celiac gluten sensitivity—Tracy Lockwood-Beckerman, RD, puts the number at about 6 percent of the population, as many as 20 million people. These people have tested negative for celiac, but still experience digestive distress when they eat gluten.
If you don’t fall into one of the two aforementioned camps, you might be wondering: Well, what happens to your body when you stop eating gluten? Are there benefits to be reaped even if you don’t have a sensitivity? Below, Snyder and Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition, share what you need to know before ditching gluten for good.
So, what are the potential benefits of going gluten-free?
If you have a sensitivity, you’ll see an improvement in your digestive health (and more)
“If you are going gluten free because you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then you may feel relief of symptoms including GI issues, weight loss, improved nutrient absorption, a decrease in aches and pains and headaches, and increased energy,” Shapiro says. “If you have or suspect you have a gluten sensitivity, then removing it may decrease gas and bloating.”
It could reduce inflammation
If you don’t have celiac, you could also still see your health improve upon giving up gluten. “When you stop eating gluten, you may experience less bloating, lowered inflammation, clearer skin, more energy, and less brain fog,” Snyder says. “This is because gluten can trigger inflammation in the small intestine, which leads to a number of issues in the body like poor digestion, difficulty absorbing nutrients, and autoimmune disorders.
Once gluten is out of your system, your gut will have a chance to repair, and your body will be less burdened, freeing up more energy to help your body feel great and function optimally.”
More things to know before going gluten-free
1. Not everyone needs to follow this fad
Although a gluten-free diet may be #trending, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing for you unless you, indeed, have a gluten intolerance like celiac disease. In fact, if you don’t have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, cutting out gluten entirely from your diet may have adverse effects instead of positive ones. “[Side effects can include] weight gain, increased hunger, and constipation, as many products marked as gluten-free are void of fiber, contain excess calories, and are overly processed,” Shapiro says. “If you don’t need to eat gluten-free, then you shouldn’t,” Shapiro says.
Lockwood-Beckerman agrees. “Going gluten-free just for gluten-free’s sake is as much of a trend as fanny packs or those tiny useless sunglasses that everyone seems to be wearing,” she says. “It’s possible you’re losing out on some valuable nutrients.”
Snyder, on the other hand, advocates that everyone should shift to a gluten-free diet—at least for a trial period—because many people have a gluten sensitivity without even knowing it. With a gluten sensitivity, a person can consume a certain amount of gluten before experiencing any side effects, so it’s difficult to test and diagnose, Snyder says.
For all these reasons, it’s important to talk to your doctor before making the decision to stop eating gluten entirely.
2. Make sure you still get your fiber
If you decide to ditch whole wheat bread and crackers to go gluten-free, you’re also losing out on some much-needed fiber, which is essential for staying full and keeping you, ahem, regular. So if you don’t bring new, healthy sources of fiber into your diet, you may run into a constipation problem.
To prevent that, Snyder recommends eating more fiber-filled whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, chia seeds, lentils, leafy greens, and gluten-free whole grains. Also, cooking gluten-free friendly meals doesn’t have to be hard. Your Instant Pot can help.
3. Take care of your gut health
Once you kick gluten to the curb, your digestion may be going through some adjustments. To give it some love and support and accelerate its healing process, Snyder encourages taking daily probiotics. “The balance of the bacteria in your gut affects your skin and assists with digestion, leading to less congestion and fat storage in the body,” she says.
One common misconception is that if something is labeled “gluten-free,” it’s automatically a healthier alternative (we’re looking at you, gluten-free cookies). Consider this myth debunked. “These foods are still processed, lack nutrients, and often contain loads of refined sugars, oils, and sodium,” Snyder says. “When going gluten-free, focus on substituting with whole, unrefined grains like quinoa, brown rice, and millet, and enjoy whole food snacks like sliced veggies or kale chips, which are naturally free of gluten.”
Don’t worry, though. Going gluten-free doesn’t mean you have to give up your sweet treats forever. Instead of buying them at the store, you can make your own gluten-free goodies at home. Say hello to yummy gluten-free scones, tarts, and muffins.
Most of us know to incorporate fruits and vegetables into our diet — they’re the gold standard when it comes to food that fuels good health. However, one group of produce called nightshades has actually been linked to having the opposite effect on your health by triggering inflammation. But is this weighty accusation actually a cause for concern?
First of All, What Are Nightshades?
Crops that come from a family of flowering plants in the Solanaceae family are considered nightshades. They grow in various forms, most notably herbs and spices, tubers, vines shrubs and trees.
Common nightshade vegetables include:
Peppers (including hot, bell and chilis)
White potatoes (sweet potatoes and yams are not in the nightshade family)
All of the Solanaceae plants can produce a substance known as solanine, a type of alkaloid that can be poisonous or toxic when consumed in higher amounts. “Some members of this plant family also produce other alkaloid compounds that are highly poisonous, and these plants are not edible at all,” Suzanne Dixon, RD and epidemiologist, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Some nightshades can even turn toxic to a degree, such as when a white potato starts to rot and turn a greenish hue. With most other nightshade vegetables, however, it’s quite difficult to determine whether they’ve produced more solanine than the mere trace amounts typically found in these foods.
The Benefits of Eating Nightshade Vegetables
Although they’ve gotten a bad rap in recent years, nightshades contain phytonutrients that are linked with many health benefits. Most nightshades also contain minerals, vitamins and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances.
1. They’re a Source of Fiber
Adding nightshades to your diet can help boost your fiber intake and help feed a healthy microbiome, Dixon says. One cup of raw eggplant contain 2.5 grams of fiber, which is about 10 percent of your daily value (DV), while one cup of raw tomatoes contains 2.2 grams (9 percent of your DV), one baked white potato contains 2.1 grams (8 percent of your DV) and one cup of red bell peppers contain 3.1 grams (13 percent of your DV).
Fiber is linked to reducing the risk of gastrointestinal-related conditions including constipation, IBS, colitis, colon polyps and GI tract cancers, particularly colon cancer, according to July 2013 research published in Gastroenterology. What’s more, fiber can also help you lose weight since it takes longer to digest, keeping you fuller for longer, per the AHA.
2. They Contain Protective Antioxidants
But perhaps the nutrient tomatoes are most prized for is lycopene, a carotenoid that gives red fruits and veggies their hue. It may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease, some types of cancer, and a lower risk of stroke.
Red bell peppers contain some lycopene, but not nearly as much as tomatoes. What’s more, cooking the red fruits and veggies helps boost the lycopene’s bioavailability, so your body will better absorb the nutrient via cooked peppers or marinara sauce, Dixon says.
Eggplant is another nightshade vegetable that boasts many health benefits, specifically in its dark purple skin. “The skin contains anthocyanins, which belong to the flavonoid group of phytonutrient [antioxidant] compounds,” says Dixon. “A diet rich in anthocyanins also is linked with lower rates of several types of chronic disease.”
3. They Pack in Plenty of Vitamins and Nutrients
Tomatoes are a solid source of potassium, boasting 11 percent of your DV per cup. But potatoes have even more, with 35 percent of our daily needs in just one baked tuber.
Tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers also contain a significant amount of immune-boosting vitamin C: Tomatoes pack in 27 percent DV while potatoes contain 42 percent of your DV and bell peppers take the cake with 211 percent. These veggies also provide some vitamin K, which helps your blood clot when you get a cut and plays a significant role in bone metabolism.
For most people, nightshades can definitely be included as part of a healthy diet. However, those who have a compromised immune system, an autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or other digestive issues might notice that eating these fruits and veggies can worsen their symptoms, says Roger Adams, PhD, a Houston-based certified sports nutritionist and founder of Eat Right Fitness.
“While most of these issues have to do with the solanine found in nightshades, most of the solanine lies mainly in the foliage, stems and vines rather than the edible parts,” he says. People who fall into the camps above, though, may be sensitive even to the small amounts of solanine found in nightshades’ edible portions.
“In animal models, alkaloids have shown to negatively affect intestinal permeability (aka, cause “leaky gut”) and increase inflammation, which simply means that in these models, nightshades affect the absorption of foods through the intestinal wall,” he adds. In fact, a small November 2017 study suggests that certain people with IBD might benefit from avoiding nightshades, per research published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
If you have an autoimmune disease that makes you more sensitive to nightshades, you can instead focus on the many other healthy, colorful vegetables and fruit that do not fall in this family. “Literally any other vegetables can be helpful,” notes Dixon. “You can replace starchy nightshades with similar non-nightshade options. For example, eat sweet potato instead of white potato,” she says. And incorporate more non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, asparagus and Brussels sprouts in your diet.
The Verdict on Nightshades
The majority of us shouldn’t be concerned about nightshades — there just isn’t enough compelling evidence that says people without autoimmune diseases should avoid them.
In fact, Dixon points out that research suggests that many vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower and kale) produce substances that would be toxic in large amounts, but when eaten as part of a normal healthy diet, can actually improve health.
“Even water can be toxic if you drink too much of it,” Dixon says. “In this sense, all of the beneficial aspects of nightshades (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber) outweigh the drawbacks.”
Still, if you have an autoimmune disease, cutting out nightshades for at least a month and tracking your symptoms can help you decide if these foods are something you need to avoid permanently.
There are few things as frustrating as being unable to fall asleep, especially if you have a big day ahead and need your rest. In a recent YouTube video, Doctor Jo, a licensed physical therapist and doctor of physical therapy, demonstrated a simple breathing exercise that she recommends to clients, claiming it can help you drift off nice and quickly, rather than spending hours in bed, staring at the ceiling or counting sheep.
She calls it the ‘4-7-8’ technique, and it consists of inhaling for 4 seconds, holding that breath for 7 seconds, and then exhaling for 8 seconds.
“When you’re breathing in, you’re just going to breathe in gently and normally through your nose, then you’re going to hold that 7 seconds,” she explains. “Then when you breathe out, you’re going to purse your lips and kind of make like a whooshing sound as you breathe out, so it’s a pretty forceful breath for that 8 seconds, and sometimes you might not make it to the 8 seconds, but the more you do, you’ll eventually be able to get there.”
Jo advises lying down on your back while doing this exercise, even if you usually sleep on your side, in order to get its full benefits.
“Starting out doing it, you’ll probably only want to do 2 to 4 repetitions, but eventually you’ll work your way up to maybe 8,” she says. “When you’re doing this at first, it might be hard to get that pattern down, but eventually it really does help you fall asleep quicker. It takes some practice the first few times, keep working at it, make sure you’re safe and comfortable doing it.”
That bad posture isn’t just giving you a backache—a 2012 article published in Biofeedback found that sitting and looking downward makes it easier to recall negative memories, while sitting upright and looking upward makes it easier to recall positive, empowering memories.
Caffeine is basically the Jekyll and Hyde of beverages. At first, those cups of coffee completely energize you, helping you get through your work meetings and deadlines with ease. But after one cup too many, things can quickly take a turn for the worse, leaving you with everything from jitters and headaches to diarrhea and heart palpitations. Yeah, not fun.
If you’ve gone beyond the recommended limit for caffeine, your body will certainly let you know. “Symptoms of too much caffeine generally affect the nervous system, since caffeine is a stimulant,” Nieves says. Those symptoms have a wide range, from mild issues to more serious problems that can really start to affect your life and health.
According to Nieves, the most common symptoms of too much caffeine you may experience are:
nervousness or jitters
diarrhea or stomach upset
irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations
The side effects on too much caffeine
If you have too much caffeine in your body day after day, you may start to experience some side effects. If you’ve been dealing with any of them on a regular basis, you may not have even realized they’re due to your caffeine intake in the first place.
“You may experience anxiety—especially if you’re already prone to it—as well as insomnia if you’re susceptible to it and have caffeine close to bedtime,” Nieves says. “You may also experience dependency and withdrawal symptoms, such as a headache, when you suddenly stop taking it. And heartburn in people suffering from gastritis and peptic ulcers.”
When taken in excess, caffeine can also cause the aforementioned heart palpitations. According to Harvard Medical School, too much caffeine is one of the prime triggers of the heart flutters, where it feels like your heart is skipping a beat.
How to counteract caffeine
If you’ve had too much caffeine and are feeling the effects—be it jitters, a headache, or anxiety—the main thing you have to do is wait it out. “There’s not much to do once caffeine is in your body except wait for it to be metabolized,” Nieves says. With that being said, she does have some things you can do to ease the symptoms.
1. Drink water
One of the best things you can do when you’re feeling the effects of too much caffeine is grab your trusty water bottle. “Caffeine can act as a mild diuretic, and dehydration can make symptoms worse,” Nieves says. “Stay well hydrated until the caffeine naturally leaves your system.”
2. Take a walk
There are numerous benefits to taking a walk. Walking helps with your digestion, boosts your brain health, and—you guessed it—can also counteract the effects of too much caffeine. “Gentle physical activity can help calm the jitters. In fact, working out can help reduce headache symptoms as well,” Nieves says. If walking isn’t for you, also try other gentle workouts like Pilates and yoga.
3. Practice breathing exercises
One of the easiest things you can possibly do to combat the side effects of too much caffeine is breathe. “Deep breathing techniques can help relieve the anxiety that an excess of caffeine can cause,” Nieves says. After you’re done deep breathing, you’ll instantly feel more relaxed. Past research has shown it can help alleviate stress, too.
If you’re not sure how to go about deep breathing, there’s a simple technique you can try. I Wayan Linggen, a healing therapist, recommends lying down, then breathing in as much as you can through your stomach, allowing it to expand like a balloon. After your chest rises, hold your breath for a few seconds before slowly exhaling through your chest then your stomach. “Eventually you will feel warm in your head. This is the easiest way to do deep breathing,” he says.
While you’re lying down with your eyes closed practicing deep breathing, you might as well add some meditation into the mix, too. “Meditation can also be useful to calm all that nervous stimulation,” Nieves says. Instead of just taking a handful of deep breaths, allow yourself to meditate for at least 10 minutes. By doing so, Stevie Wright, a breathwork facilitator, says you’ll increase the supply of oxygen in your brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which “promotes a state of calmness.”
The next time you know you’ve had one cup of coffee too many, practice the simple techniques above to help counteract the caffeine. Then do your best to keep that caffeine to the minimum.
For many, a daily run to the local coffee shop has become a cherished morning routine. But costs for that store-bought brew can add up quickly. And when getting out isn’t possible, nothing can be more convenient than a morning walk to the kitchen for that cup (or several cups) of just-right joe.
Your coffee routine should include basic cleaning to ensure your home auto-drip brewer makes its best tasting coffee and doesn’t breed germs. A 2011 study conducted by NSF International found that coffee reservoirs ranked as the fifth-germiest place in the homes sampled.
Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist and senior project manager at NSF International, says coffee makers are so germy for two primary reasons: moisture and warmth. “Also, people may not be aware of the need to clean their coffee makers regularly, which allows more time for growth,” Yakas says.
Always check the cleaning recommendations in your machine’s manufacturer’s manual. Yakas also recommends the following cleaning routines. You’ll just need a little soap for daily cleaning. Every month or so you’ll want to clean your coffee maker with vinegar.
Daily Cleaning for Auto-Drip Coffee Makers
Dump the grounds or use in the garden.
Wash the carafe and other removable parts, such as the lid and filter basket, in the sink with warm, soapy water or in the dishwasher if marked dishwasher safe.
Rinse and towel dry, or set aside to air dry.
Wipe down the machine with a damp towel.
Monthly Coffee Maker Cleaning With Vinegar
Add up to 4 cups of undiluted vinegar to the reservoir.
Let stand 30 minutes.
Run the vinegar through a brewing cycle.
Follow with two to three cycles of fresh water until the vinegar smell is gone.
And since mold, bacteria and yeast grow in moisture, empty any unused water and leave the lid to the coffee reservoir open to air dry between uses.
Vinegar also works great for cleaning single-serve coffee makers made by Keurig, De’Longhi, Lavazzo, or one of the many other brands available.
Signs that it may be time to clean your single-serve coffee maker include:
Longer than usual time to brew a cup of joe
When you expect a full cup of coffee but the brewed batch only fills half of your cup
You’ve probably seen an aloe vera plant somewhere high and dry in the desert before and wondered what it is about that specific succulent that people can’t seem to get over. It’s on the front label of so many lotions and gels at the drug store and you’ve even heard of some people drinking its juice?! What’s up with that?
There are many benefits of aloe vera from its moisturizing capabilities to its healing powers, and it’s high time you become aware of them. Why does it seem to be a key ingredient in so many lotions, conditioners and balms? Why does everyone reach for a bottle after a wicked sunburn? We’re going to explore the many benefits of aloe vera usage and the plentiful ways you can apply it to your daily routine whether it’s for your skin’s benefit, to soothe your digestion or to increase your wellness in other ways.
From the juice to the gels and the plant itself, there are many ways to enjoy and reap the benefits of the aloe vera plant. We’ll cover them all and point to a few products we love that’ll give you a chance to make aloe a key healing modality in your kitchen, bathroom cabinet and beyond.
What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a succulent plant with many medicinal and healing qualities that can aid your body internally and externally. Known for its thick, fleshy green leaves aloe vera stores water in its tissues that turns into the gel we’re all familiar with. This gel contains bioactive compounds that are packed with vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants and minerals. Each leaf can grow up to 12-19 inches in length, giving you plenty to work with.
You can buy your own aloe vera plant and harvest the gel directly from the plant or buy it in gel form or mixed in with lotions and conditioners to receive the benefit that way.
It’s also sold in capsule and liquid form for consumption to aid digestive troubles and other ailments, more on that later on.
How to Grow and Harvest an Aloe Vera Plant
Taking care of an aloe vera plant is very similar to other succulents. They prefer bright, indirect sunlight and do best when watered heavily every 3 weeks or so, and even less in the winter.
You’ll need to wait until your aloe vera plant is at least a few years old before harvesting to ensure a high enough concentration of the key active ingredients. Once your plant is ready for harvest, remove 3-4 leaves at the same time cutting from as close to the stem as possible, there are more beneficial nutrients at the base of the leaves than the tip.
Wash and dry your leaves before using a knife or your fingers to separate the gel inside from the harder exterior of the outer leaf. Cut the gel into slices, cubes or blend up in a blender for smoother gel.
Benefits of Aloe Use
Aloe is a powerful medicinal plant in that it can be used both topically directly from the plant and internally as a medicine taken orally.
1. Aloe Soothes Burns
Aloe has naturally cooling and soothing qualities that make it a great topical treatment for sunburn, cooking burns and other skin ailments. It can be applied directly out of a leaf from your plant at home or bought at the drug store. Applying aloe a few times a day may help soothe burns and help the damaged skin heal faster, while also providing some relief from the pain and irritation.
2. Aloe Moisturizes Your Skin
The aloe vera plant is great at storing water in order to survive and thrive in the hot, dry and unstable climates it’s used to existing in. The water-dense leaves also contain complex carbohydrates in them that help skin absorb and retain the moisture as well. Aloe is great for applying to burnt and damaged skin but can also be used everyday by itself or in a lotion to keep skin supple and healthy.
Aloe vera is also an active ingredient in many shampoos designed to ease dandruff due to its moisturizing capabilities.
3. The Aloe Vera Plant Has Antibacterial Properties
Aloe vera contains antioxidants that are under the polyphenol umbrella of substances which may inhibit the growth of infection-causing bacteria in humans. We’re not saying it should replace your antibiotics, but it’s no friend of germs. That’s why humans have used aloe vera to treat wounds and burns for thousands of years, all thanks to its moisturizing capabilities as well as the antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties it possesses.
4. Aloe Vera May Provide Heartburn Relief
Aloe vera has low toxicity and studies have shown that it’s a great natural remedy for GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease that often causes heartburn as a symptom. Consuming 1-3 ounces at mealtime may limit this acid reflux and limit heartburn as it eases digestive troubles in general. Consuming aloe gel can happen via a liquid or in capsule form for convenience.
5. Aloe Vera May Help Your Digestion System
Regularly consuming aloe vera, rather than applying it topically to your skin, may aid in a healthy digestive system and ease symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Studies have shown that aloe vera has significantly improved symptoms of IBS when compared with a placebo with little to no adverse effects. The natural remedy may diminish the growth of H. pylori a bacteria that can cause ulcers in the digestive tract.
6. Aloe Vera May Help Keep Produce Fresh
Aloe vera may help fruits and vegetables stay fresher, longer through providing a coating against certain harmful bacteria that would otherwise grow and harm the produce. The high concentration of vitamins and enzymes in the natural, gentle formula also can help boost your plant’s immune system and help it ward off pests and other harmful pathogens. Many plant experts recommend applying gel straight from the aloe vera plant to your watering routine in order to fortify your plant’s soil with all of the benefits of aloe vera.
7. Aloe Vera for Oral Health
Aloe vera natural toothpaste and mouthwash have become trendy alternative options for taking care of oral hygiene, getting rid of plaque and lowering levels of candida and gingivitis. Aloe vera has natural antimicrobial properties that may be contributing to this as well as the high levels of vitamin C which can block the growth of plaque. It can also speed up the healing of cuts in your mouth, bleeding or swollen gums.
8. Aloe Vera’s Effects on Blood Sugar
Aloe vera juice may benefit individuals with diabetes. According to a study published in the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytomedicine, consuming two tablespoons of aloe vera juice per day can lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. The results of this study were also confirmed by another study with similar results. This could make aloe vera a pivotal part of alternative diabetes treatment in the future.
9. Aloe Vera Benefits for Acne
Acne is a tricky business, and aloe vera may be able to help. It’s all about finding what works for you and if you haven’t tried remedies with a key ingredient of aloe vera, it might be time to try. Aloe vera has moisturizing effects for skin as well as soothing effects in the form of toners, creams and cleansers. These products may be less irritating than products with harsher ingredients. In fact, a 2014 study found that using a cream with aloe vera in combination with conventional acne medication was more effective in treating mild to moderate acne and produced lower levels of inflammation and fewer lesions.
Months ago, millions of us packed up whatever gear we could grab from the office, went home, and, overnight, began life as remote workers. From taking regular breaks to sticking to a schedule to establishing a dedicated workspace, there are plenty of strategies for making working from home work. But there’s a huge difference between choosing to go remote and being forced to do so during an emergency. As remote work becomes more of a long-term or even permanent situation for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, what can we do to prevent burnout? We got experts to give us their best tips, advice, and things to keep in mind.
1. Take the plunge and invest in a more comfortable set-up
If you’ve spent the last few months hunched over the kitchen table or curled up on the couch, avoiding investing in home office gear in hopes you’d get back to the real office soon, it might be time to reconsider. Even after just a short time, your body may be feeling the effects (stiff neck, back, and shoulders, anyone?). “The ergonomics of home offices are absolutely horrible,” according to Laurel Farrer, founder of the Remote Work Association. “There are hundreds of rules that go into keeping us healthy and safe at [on-site] work, from which watt of the lightbulb is used, to the length of carpet and how high desks are. When we go home, we don’t know what those are or that we should be implementing them,” potentially putting our health at risk.
Farrer, who also runs Distribute Consulting from her home in Connecticut, said it can be liberating to realize that we don’t need a lot of office odds and ends we thought we did, from stodgy office furniture to giant file cabinets. But making sure your pared-down remote set-up supports your well-being is still critical (see how yours measures up with this checklist from the National Institutes of Health). And you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot to feel better. “Small, simple, and cheap changes,” she said, like putting your laptop on top of a box (to raise it closer to eye level) or simply standing up more, can make a real difference. If you are ready to invest, though, Farrer suggested a riser or standing desk of some sort for your laptop, plus a real keyboard and mouse. Some fun extras? Arranging a good video call backdrop, and buying a good microphone and ring light, “things we’ve never thought about before” that can make video meetings look way more professional.
2. Continue to reinforce boundaries, but remember to (virtually) socialize
“You wouldn’t barge into someone’s office and expect them to drop everything they are doing for you,” a teammate once told Julie Chabin, who heads product design at Product Hunt and YourStack remotely from Paris. It’s the same with remote work. In the virtual workplace, with requests cascading in through email, instant messages, and calls, “it’s OK to say ‘thank you, I’ll take a look at this after I’m done with my current task,’ when you get a notification,” advised Chabin, who has worked remotely for five years.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t connect with colleagues. It just has to be more intentional, said Daisy Chang, professor of organizational psychology at Michigan State University. Though she misses walking down the hall to chat with colleagues and checking in with her graduate students in person, her department, like all newly remote teams, have to carve out time to “talk to each other, exchange ideas, maintain social connection” and get support virtually. From scheduling chats to more formal ways of getting on the same page, like syncing digital calendars to focus on a project at the same time, Chang said it’s important, especially for people who particularly crave in-person connection, “to find ways to inject that back into their work life.”
3. Over-communicate and be proactive
A lot can get lost virtually, especially when the shift happens abruptly, so it’s important to be super clear when discussing a project, idea, or request with coworkers. “In remote work, over-communication is just communication,” said Farrer. Even if it feels like you’re talking a ton and over-explaining, keep at it. “That’s how you stay connected.”
Chang, who recently conducted a study on the hasty transition from in-person to working at home and some of the unique challenges that workers face in the COVID-19 context, agreed it’s harder to communicate effectively. But the self-described optimist said she actually sees this as an opportunity to be clearer. Being apart could force us to be more thoughtful and challenge us to consider a problem more deeply before crafting an email or speaking up on a call, rather than throwing out a half-baked idea in passing.
Something both Chang and Farrer agree on is the need to be proactive, especially if a new colleague joins virtually or you’re the newbie yourself. Managers and companies should ideally be providing training and channels to get to know people, but some are still playing catch-up with the remote situation, too. In the meantime, “we really have to rely on ourselves,” said Farrer, whether that’s mustering the courage to hit “send” on an email to a potential mentor or simply scheduling a virtual coffee chat with someone you don’t know well.
4. Mix things up
Hated your hours or dress code? More productive in the early mornings? One benefit to remote work is that, on your own turf, there are opportunities to make your job work better for you. “We all sort of fall into a routine, something that’s comfortable, but it doesn’t hurt to learn new habits or change it up,” said Chang, who also suggested sharing what worked or didn’t with coworkers, from blocking out mornings for focused work to changing up your online hours.
After all, Farrer said, “you don’t have your employer sitting next to you telling you what to do,” so it’s important to work on being more self-reliant when it comes to getting things done and how you do them. Employees (even those with amazing supervisors) have to “take initiative to be their own boss for a little while,” making calls about what works for them.
5. Embrace kindness and vulnerability
It’s time for us to get real at work—at least a little bit. While keeping things professional is paramount, it’s important to recognize that everyone has their own struggles and personal demands, especially now. “The reality of working from home is it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time,” Farrer said, even in normal times. Being yourself and being open “is how you create a sense of culture in a remote team.” (In fact, Chang said, a number of studies show that being allowed to be your authentic self at work may lead to higher performance and engagement while feeling inauthentic at work can lead to burnout).
In other words, your coworkers are your coworkers, but we’re all human. “It’s essential to care about people, genuinely. Ask them how they are doing, let them be people, not just colleagues or clients,” Chabin said. “As we’ve seen with this global pandemic, we all have families, pets, children… it’s okay to have candid conversations.” And if you’re a freelancer or solo business owner, it may be helpful to find people in your field to reach out to for that same sort of support.
If you’re not ready to open up or your company’s culture doesn’t allow for it, acts of kindness can go a long way virtually. Whether that’s shouting out someone’s success with a client, or recognizing a birthday or work milestone, Chabin suggested, these simple acts still go a long way toward building trust. Extend those kindnesses to yourself—this is an incredibly difficult time for everyone (even remote work experts, Farrer said, were struggling at the beginning of the pandemic). If self-care has slipped as the months have gone on, recommit to claiming those extra hours you spent commuting as personal time, Chabin emphasized, whether that’s reading a book, working out, going for a walk, chatting with family or trying out a 15-step skincare routine.
If you’re struggling with remote life or feeling burnout creep in, above all, it’s important to remember: “This is not working remotely,” Farrer said, “this is trying to maintain economic and business continuity during a global crisis.”
Since June 19, the FDA has been warning consumers of dangerous hand sanitizers that contain the fatal chemical methanol. Methanol is a type of alcohol that can be deadly if ingested or absorbed through the skin.
The FDA found some hand sanitizer producers putting it into their products. In some cases, methanol wasn’t a listed ingredient.
Here are all of the hand sanitizers the FDA has warned consumers of so far due to their methanol or potential methanol content.
Since June 19, the FDA has been building a list of hand sanitizers that they say could contain the deadly chemical methanol.
As hand sanitizer production increased during the pandemic, more companies pivoted to producing the high-demand product. Ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, the two types of alcohol commonly found in sanitizers and the ingredients that make them effective at killing germs, were in short supply.
That’s why the FDA believes some producers starting swapping in methanol, another type of alcohol, and an ingredient used to produce antifreeze and fuel.
Unlike ethanol and isopropyl alcohol, methanol can be deadly when inhaled or absorbed into the bloodstream through your skin. In the United States, any product that contains more than 4% methanol must be labeled as “poison.”
That’s why health officials flagged nine methanol-containing hand sanitizers that all came from one producer in Mexico. In many cases, these products listed ethanol as the effective ingredient, but once the FDA tested them, they were found to contain methanol.
But since then, more dangerous hand sanitizers have emerged, and the FDA said it will continue to flag these products to consumers.