Search results for social support

Health, wellbeing and social support. Give to the Max is setting a new revolution in motion…

Posted by on Oct 10, 2011 in aging, Inspiration, women's health, work | 0 comments

I spend a lot of time on this blog writing about health and wellbeing and how the foundation for the two starts (and ends) with social support. Indeed, research has shown that women’s innate ability to nurture and nourish ties, coupled with overall satisfaction with work significantly predicts wellbeing especially during midlife and over the menopausal transition. It may even affect how long we live. Nowhere is this more important than in the communities where we reside because as much as many of us complain about how busy we are, there is a deep, soul stroking satisfaction in being able to help one another.

That is why it saddens me when I witness women building one another up in the community only to tear one another down in the workplace.

A line from a wonderful article that appeared in the New York Times in 2009 acknowledged certain stereotypes continue to perpetuate bad behavior. And, that as Author Peggy Klaus so aptly wrote, “the pink elephant is lurking in the room and we pretend it’s not there.”

Klaus’ point was that rather than help build each other’s careers, women often work to derail each other, engaging in “verbal abuse, job sabotage, misuse of authority and destroying of relationships.” She cited data suggesting that this type of behavior is directed from women to women more than 70% of the time, while the men who are “bullies in the workplace,” direct their aggression equally to both genders.

She encouraged us however, not to determine the why but rather, engage one another to put an end to this type of behavior.

Here’s an idea. Let’s start by supporting and building more power, self sufficiency and emotional equity from within businesses and from the top down. In other words, why not make an effort to support female-owned/founded businesses in our communities, especially those businesses that are working to eliminate inequities and promote the very qualities that improve health and wellbeing?

I recently learned that there are several female-founded nonprofit organizations  in the region where I personally live that truly embody these principles:

  • Suited for Change  Founded in 1992, Suited for Change provides professional clothing, career and life skills education to low-income women in order to increase employment and job retention potential. Their clientele include homeless women, survivors of domestic violence, teen mothers, senior citizens, returning citizens, and women who have overcome addiction.
  • Back on my Feet DC is an organization that promotes self sufficiency of homeless women (and men) — not through provision of shelter and food — but through physical activity, i.e. a running program to build confidence strength and self esteem, and teach the value of hard work, equality, respect, teamwork and leadership.

These nonprofits are only two examples of female-founded organizations that work to build self efficiency from the ground up and the top down, helping thousands of  individuals learn the value of self assurance. mutual respect and support. I can only imagine what hundreds of other organizations are likewise doing to break down barriers and build wellbeing.

Want to help me find out?

If  you know a local nonprofit that could use some extra support. then you need to know about  Give to the Max. And if you are ready to engage other women to learn how we can consistently build one another up, then you will want to know about Give to the Max.

On November 9, thousands of organizations and residents in the region are uniting to take part in Give to the Max Day, a one-day regional online fundraiser to support local nonprofit programs. Give to the Max provides DC, Maryland and Virginia 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organizations visibility and even a lasting web presence to conduct ongoing fundraising initiatives after November 9.  Most importantly, however, it’s a fantastic way for the community to give back and to support one of the region’s most important economic drivers at a time when the economy is taking a toll on charitable giving and simultatneously creating overwhelming demands for social services. For women, in particular, it’s a great start to breaking down the barriers that are destroying us in the workplace and finding ways to improve how we treat one another and why.

However, this day is not simply about women and women-owned nonprofits; an ‘Eight Neighbors Group’ alliance of the area’s leading nonprofit and civic organizations (Center for Nonprofit Advancement, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Leadership Greater Washington, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers) have joined forces with the online fundraiser Razoo, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and the United Way of the National Capital Area to insure that nonprofits have an opportunity to raise thousands of dollars in donations and grants on a single day.

But why should you care if you don’t  live in the DC/MD/VA region?

Give to the Max is just a start, an incentive for other other regions around the country to take back the health of their communities and leverage the individual for the collective wellbeing. As women, we have an opportunity to engage one another to end destructive behavior — not only in the workplace, but where we live.

Health and wellbeing start from where we all dwell; the heart. Let’s Give to the Max on November 9 and set a new revolution in motion.
















Read More

Social interactions are good for your health

Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 in aging | 0 comments

This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about the benefits of social interactions in terms of health. And it likely won’t be the last! In fact, data collected in roughly 53,000 Americans over a 36 year time period show that both personal and impersonal interactions, that is, visits with relatives, neighbors or friends or in bars (personal) or memberships in in organization, sports clubs, youth groups, etc (impersonal) can have a significant impact on health.

Strangely, during the time of the study (which is published in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion), significant declines were seen in impersonal and certain types of personal interactions. People were volunteering less or spending less time in cause-related organizations. And, people spent less time visiting neighbors.

The middle-agers happened to be the group with the largest income levels, highest workforce participating and greatest full time working percentage. And while they had  opportunity costs when it came to time and how they chose to spend it when they weren’t working, it appeared that devoting more time to friendships, especially close friendships, was important to health. So was the time spent in health/sports clubs.

The takeway? Having friends or other interpersonal interactions tended to be associated with a higher probability of being in very good or excellent health.

However, timing is everything and this information was collected before the economic downswing and the loss of millions of jobs, especially among mid-lifers. Still, it does offer up an important message:

The cost of time may be greater than one believes. Be sure that part of your time allotment is spent cultivating and spending time with friends. They are critical to mental wellbeing, staving off depression, increasing longevity and reducing stress.

Speaking of which….it’s

(LeftAligned)InternationalWomensDay_RGB copy

Be sure to reach out and touch someone in your inner or outer circles who you’ve not interacted with of late. Call a friend, drop a note, extend a helping hand. That time allotment might be the best you spend today.

Read More

The social ties that bind…life

Posted by on Aug 6, 2010 in emotions, women's health | 0 comments

[Henri Matisse, Dance II, Late Summer 1909]

Research has shown that social support networks are essential to our overall mood and well-being, especially as we age. Now, it appears that social support, i.e. relationships whether it comes from friends, partners or other family members, can actually prolong our lives.In fact, researchers who analyzed 148 studies in over 300,000 men and women say that  people with strong social relationships are as much as 50% likelier to survive than individuals without them or whose relationships are poor. Moreover, having good social relationships may be as beneficial as quitting smoking, while bad relationships can more harmful than being obese or sedentary.

While these findings certainly don’t mean that poor habits and risky behavior can be wiped out by having strong relationships, they do imply that social support is critical to more than our mental health. Still, the researchers say that over the past 20 years, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of Americans who report having no confidant and that globally, people are actually becoming more isolated. This runs counter to the proposition that social networks á la the web foster stronger social connections. Although this may be true for the some individuals, it isn’t for others and the quality of these online relationships appear to have quite an impact on our health.

So, what is social support exactly?

Social support is actually multifaceted and highly individual. It deals with how we perceive the support we receive, be it emotional, informational, tangible or intangible (such as a sense of belonging), the size of our networks and how they are defined (e.g. marital or intimate relationship status, number of social contacts,  degree of active engagement in activities or relationships, and whether or not we live or alone or with others) as well as an integration of the two. People who were able to successfully integrate the two were actually shown to have a 91% increased likelihood for surviving longer.

One of the most striking things about this report is the fact that the researchers believe that the estimates on the benefits of the social relationships in terms of having a longer life may be conservative. However, they do caution that many of the data they looked at did not account for the quality of the relationships, an important and risky variable.

The bottom line, it seems, is something that women have known all along: strong, quality friendships are critical to our emotional health and well-being. However, we’ve not been able to link that to lengthier survival…until now. As always, keep it real, go for quality not quantity and keep sowing those seeds. Who knew that the social ties that bind us are truly life?

Read More

Behind the curtain: sexual health and the culture of trust

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in sexual health | 0 comments


[Frank Morgan as Oscar Diggs (aka The Wizard). All rights, MGM 1939.]

Sexual health in women. It’s truly a double-edged, damn if you do, damn if you don’t topic, wrought with landmines and a path paved with…profit. Especially female sexual dysfunction.

Female sexual dysfunction describes an amalgam of symptoms and issues around women and their sexual desire or lack thereof that include: a chronic lack of interest in sexual activity, avoidance of sexual contact, the inability to maintain excitement, difficulty in reaching orgasm after arousal, pain during intercourse, involuntary spasms that may prevent sexual penetration and genital pain following foreplay. A woman doesn’t have to experience all of them to be labeled as having female sexual dysfunction, but she must have at least one and it must cause distress.

Sounds fairly complicated, doesn’t it?

The literature and reams of data have shown that sexual function and desire in women rely on multitude of factors such as context, experience, personal attitudes, emotional closeness, wellbeing, social support and even a sense of purpose.  And with the intersection and interaction of these factors, one would imagine it would take a miracle drug to combat more than one of these issues effectively and efficiently. That may be one reason why the FDA turned down the application for flibanserin a few years ago.

The back story on this ‘Female Viagra’ is that it is a  antidepressant compound that is is believed to affect brain receptors and neurotransmittors that play a role in sexual response. Data presented a few years back at the European Society for Sexual Medicine conference demonstrated that in clinical studies,  flibanserin significantly improved desire, sexual experience and sexual functioning in women when taken for at least six months. The majority of the women participating  in these studies were pre-menopausal and had been diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a condition that is characterized by a decline in sexual desire, a loss of intimacy, and distress. Yet, the FDA eventually turned down the application because they determined that despite these initial studies, the data, in concert, did not ultimately did not show that Flibanserin improved sexual desire any better than placebo. It was also associated with a number of different side effects.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when in response to a concerted lobbying effort by pharma, women’s organizations and even medical organizations  the FDA held a two day hearing on female sexual dysfunction. And, while I did agree with that we need to ‘even the score’ to gain women’s health equity (and in so far as female sexual dysfunction goes, provide timely and effective treatments), at least four of the major sponsors of the so-called ‘Even the Score’ movement  were major pharmaceutical companies with vested interests. Not surprisingly, one of these companies was Sprout Pharmaceuticals, manufacturer of Flibanerin. And, the plot thickens further…earlier this week, MedPage Today reported that the FDA hearing had an overrepresentation of individuals who had been recruited by drug companies to speak ; many had their way paid indirectly by Sprout.

Why am I sharing this and why are the stakes so great in women’s health? We are living in a time when the culture of trust is being called into question and as I wrote in a related piece on Medium a few weeks back, the culture of trust “is an integral part of women’s health and in no area has the delivery of healthcare been as exclusionary and disjointed.” Despite this gap, women are still the most frequent health information seekers, a behavior which I believe, relies on trust.

A report from the Lancet Commissions group recently stated that,“where profits take priority, the fact that health care functions in the public interest is as contestable as its business prospects are undeniable. Healthcare has, in many countries, become big business, especially when this business sees bodies as commodities to be exchanged and bartered in all of their parts.”

Here’s my point: if the information that is being delivered to women seeking care and knowledge places profit over health, then the culture of trust comes into question. If companies like Sprout Pharmaceuticals or even Novo-Nordisk hide behind the curtains of bloggers, women’s organizations and even some healthcare practitioners to highlight certain ‘diseases du jour’ if not ‘du semaine,’  then the culture of trust, like the system within which it is operating, is broken.

Professionally, I’ve worked with pharmaceutical companies and I understand when the efforts are pure and when they are not. However, be assured that I have never delivered information on this blog that would be considered lined with a conflict of interest. I have kept my promise to you to deliver information without motive. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of many of my colleagues in the midlife women’s health space. That’s why, dear readers, I’ll be leaving it at the year’s end but more on that later. For now? I cannot encourage you enough: please look behind the curtain. After all, the All Mighty Wizard turned out to be a simple man from Kansas, didn’t he?



Read More

Newsflash! Got Burnout? Work Stress May Not Paint the Entire Picture

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in career, stress | 0 comments


Lord knows, many of us reach that point in our work lives where we simply feel burned out! It’s the underlying reason for underperformance, the reason why we choose to walk away, the cause of stress and unhappiness. I often find myself wondering if there any new information that can help to paint another brushstroke and illuminate the reasons why we feel the way that we do when we reach that peak.

Importantly, according to new research out of the University of Montreal, wellbeing at work can be affected by factors that lay outside the work environment. Mind you, this is not to say that deadlines, relentless demands, abusive colleagues and endless overtime don’t contribute, but findings suggest that these factors are not the sole reasons for psychological distress, depression and emotional exhaustion that provide the framework for the condition that we call burnout.

The researchers explain that workers’ mental health is multifaceted and reliant upon the broader social environment with which they interact on a daily basis. Although these interactions may be sources of wellbeing and pleasure, they can also affect so-called ‘psychic balance’ in more negative ways. In fact, when almost 2,000 employees from 63 different Canadian organizations were surveyed about their mental health, workplace, family and social networks, it appeared that the interaction of workplace stress and daily personal stressors played a key role. Moreover, in so far as work was specifically concerned, factors like decision authority, proper utilization of skills in a job and demands/social support from colleagues had only a small impact on characteristics of burnout when compared across different work scenarios. And, any variation appeared to level out when the researchers started to account for outside factors such as family and social networks, marital status, household income and social support from friends.

The workers who had greater stability outside of the work environment —  being in a relationship, having higher household income and experiencing less work-family conflicts and greater access to positive support networks — were found to exhibit fewer mental health symptoms. Conversely, factors such as stressful marital and parental relationships tended to boost the mental distress quotient. The work/family conflicts, e.g. having to delay family time for work or having family impact work ability, coupled with relationship stress may have influenced distress the most.

However, questions remain. While researchers may be closer to identifying the cause of work related burnout and how organizational and external factors interact to create the perfect storm, it’s less clear the types of steps inside the workplace that can be taken to minimize the intersection of these factors. In the interim, perhaps it’s time for workers to focus on/take stock of outside forces; by maximizing how content they are with their lives and life quality, they may find that work becomes more pleasurable and easier.





Read More