Stress. It can wreak havoc in so many ways. Researchers have shown that prolonged exposure to high levels of stress, especially when its source is work-related, can lead to burnout, i.e. emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue and a general weariness that affects thinking ability and focus. It can increase heart disease and metabolic syndrome, screw up the adrenal hormonal balance, cause systemwide inflammation and lower the ability to fight off disease and illness. It can lead to sleep disruption and significant mental health issues.
The bottom line is that stress hurts.
However, individual factors and characteristics also affect how vulnerable we are to burnout, and as I’ve written previously, active coping and attitude can often protect against the negative impact of daily stressors and protect health. More importantly, one’s orientation towards life, the way that the environment is perceived and whether or not it is manageable and meaningful is incredibly important; here, an ability to role with the punches can positively impact outlook as well as health.
But back to burnout; does it persist over time, never changing? Or do multiple factors influence the ability to b0unce back from the burnout bonanza?
Findings of a nine-year study in almost 200 midlife women (ages 49 to 53) reveal some interesting findings demonstrating that some women with high levels of burnout can actually recover while others either stabilize or continue to worsen. The factors that influence this the most? Concurrent changes in life stress, work-related factors and coping ability/attitudes towards life. In fact, when women were divided into clusters reflecting patterns of burnout, the researchers found that high levels of life stress (e.g. concern for ailing parents, or concern for own health or their partner), coupled with a greater sensitivity to stress and job strain was a recipe for prolonged, worsening burnout. Women who had high levels of life stress but more control over their work environment were able to recover from burnout over time. Conversely, women with low levels of life stress, susceptibility to stress, anxiety and high levels of coping and a sense of control didn’t appear to be dealing with much burnout; the ability to draw on internal resources appeared to be protective in across a broad range of wellbeing indices.
It’s important to point out that the researchers did not have the ability to analyze private or individual stress separately from work stress and hence, these two factors are pooled. This means that the findings may have been affected. Still, studies have been fairly consistent in demonstrating the perils of stress and burnout in terms of health and overall wellbeing.
The lesson here is that if you are in extreme burnout, there is hope. Take a prolonged break to reevaluate your life, your decisions and your personal and social resources. If you don’t feel as though you have enough control in your worklife, and changing jobs or careers is an option, consider it; a new series on Flashfree –Reinventing Women — is profiling women who have made similar decisions to drastically change their lives. Exercise your prerogative to take better care of you; after all, you are only as good as the sum of your parts. And finally? Believe that things can change for the better. Nothing is forever and a lifetime of burnout is n0 life.Read More
I’m kicking this week off with a piece of provocative news: UK researchers are reporting that the best way to win the battle of the bulge and lose fat is to exercise on an empty stomach.
Mind you, the study (which appears in the online in the British Journal of Nutrition) is small. But, researchers say that by omitting breakfast before exercise, you might be more inclined to eat a more optimal balance of food throughout the day. In fact, when twelve physically active men participated in one of four scenarios — rest without breakfast, exercise without breakfast, breakfast followed by rest, or breakfast followed by exercise –that is actually what they found.
A bit of detail is in order here:
Men who exercised had a moderately intense run on a treadmill, during which time they expended approximately 700 calories. (Note that for the men assigned rest, an equivalent time was spent resting as on the treadmill). After exercising or resting, all the groups had a protein drink comprising approximately 444 calories. Ninety minutes later, they had lunch (pasta) and advised to eat as much as they wanted until they felt comfortably full. Then, the researchers measured energy and fat levels in the blood.
Interestingly, exercising in the morning (around 10 am) appeared to help balance out the day in terms of food and no attempts appeared to be made to compensate for the earlier activity in terms of caloric intake; appetite was also unaffected. But, here’s the critical piece: exercising in a fasted state appeared to increase the amount of fat burned by as much as 20%. And, while eating breakfast appeared to improve overall appetite throughout the day (helping to insure that it remained more balanced and did not lead to additional consumption), it tended to cancel out any appetite-suppressive benefits offered by exercise.
The bottom line is that by fasting before exercising, you may be able to accelerate fat loss. The question remains as to whether or not the same results can found in women and among larger numbers of individuals. And if these fat loss remains over time.
I’d love to hear from some RDs and fitness folks out there. What do you think?
Between multiple pregnancies and aging, our pelvic floor muscles are frequently fighting for attention. Sometimes, you’ve gotta listen!Read More
Vaginal atrophy — thinning and drying of the vaginal tissues as a result of declining estrogen levels– leads to itching, burning, dryness, irritation and pain. And while it certainly isn’t the silent scourge overtaking women globally, it does affect roughly 50% of menopausal women and often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed. More importantly, unlike hot flashes and night sweats, vaginal atrophy does not go away; rather, in some women, may may progress to cause years of discomfort, so much so that quality of life is significantly impacted. Indeed, data suggest that the proportion of women experiencing vaginal dryness increases five-fold as women advance through menopause.
Importantly, results of a recent global survey indicate that most women choose over-the-counter lubricants and are not even aware that a low-dose, relatively safe topical estrogen treatment is available. Still, for many, over-the-counter options are enough, such as Replens, which theoretically goes beyond instant relief and actually provides ongoing protection. However, what should you do if sexual intimacy continues to be uncomfortable, your vagina feels increasingly uncomfortable and hormones are an undesirable choice?
Yup, soon, you may be able to leave the over the counter and hormone therapy options behind for a safer, effective treatment. Reporting in the online version of Maturitas, researchers state that they have been exploring plant-like estrogens in a topical gel format can deliver benefits similar to topical estrogen gel without p0tential safety issues. And, when they blindly compared 12 weeks of a 1 gm isoflavone gel to topical Premarin or placebo gel in 90 menopausal women, that’s exactly what they found!
At the beginning of the study, 100% of women reported vaginal dryness and pain, 82% said that they had itching and 72% complained of vaginal discharge. In women receiving the isoflavone gel, as many as 70% reported that their dryness was intense and 60% said that their pain was intense. By the end of 12 weeks, improvements were seen in both vaginal dryness and vaginal pain; no women reported having intense symptoms and roughly half said that their symptoms were mild. Overall, roughly 97% of women using isoflavone gel saw improvements in both vaginal dryness and pain. Similar figures were observed in women using topical estrogen.
Now here’s the science geeky part. When the researchers took a closer look at the cells in the vaginal wall, they noted a shift towards values that one would see in a premenopausal woman. And, whereas topical vaginal hormone therapy sometimes results in vaginal bleeding and thickening of the lining of the uterus, these issues were not seen in women using the isoflavone gel (neither were they noted in women using topical estrogen, probably due to the extremely low dosage).
The researchers say that it appears that the isoflavone gel can be used safely without any risk of systemic absorption. Now? We need more studies so we can get this gel to market.
The National Women’s Law Center recently reported that women continue to lag behind men in terms of job recovery, regaining less than a quarter (24%) of jobs lost during the country’s recession compared to their male peers (who’ve regained 39%). A large part of the problem driving the slower recovery among women has been the loss of public sector jobs. The lesson? While this news may appear dismal at face value, it supports Social Media/Social Technology Consultant Karen Rogers-Robinson contention that today’s financial and work economy truly is “a perfect time to reinvent yourself,” pointing out that “the playing field has been wiped clean for most.
In 2009, Karen was forced out of 21 years of service at AT&T, losing an essential foothold of income and perhaps the dream that many like herself had bought into. She says that during her tenure, she was “in touch with her inner Boomer” and hadn’t believed that they would force her out, particularly because she had been a top revenue producer and a top performer in her department. Yet, the job had its plusses and minuses; “While I loved the techie geek that I had evolved into over the previous 20 years,” she explains, “I HATED what I was doing! So, I decided that since my children were grown and I had only me to take care of, I should try something new.”
For Karen, this meant taking decades of basic customer service skills, dynamic telephone strategies and web page development she acquired at AT&T and diving into the social marketing and tech landscape. In fact, that transition (which took place immediately following her job loss) landed her initially as founder of Onyx Mobile Marketing, a firm connecting small business owners to their clients via text message marketing and mobile apps and now, principal of a burgeoning and evolving social media marketing and branding consultancy, SMMMDiva.. Her reinvention? A self-described “a new and improved version [of Karen] with more bells and whistles.”
Karen says that while she has felt good about the choices she’s made, the change has been drastic and has affected her lifestyle immensely. These choices have also affected her relationship with family members who long relied on her as a financial lifeline. Moreover, while she was undergoing her transition from AT&T employee to social media diva, her significant other also left.
Fortunately, despite the challenges, Karen has a good financial and emotional network in place to provide footing when the ground has been shaky. She says that this an essential in the reinvention process, as is having a strategic plan. However, she notes that she had only been three years away from having a fully vested retirement, adding “had I been smart when the first cuts [at AT&T] started, I would have started my reinvention plan [then].”
Hindsight may always be 20-20 but the time for reinvention might be now. “Why be unhappy and stressed trying to keep a high paying job when it could be taken away at the blink of any eye and not because of how you performed? Life is short; do what makes you happy.”