Should You Be Vaping Instead of Smoking Cigarettes?
The marketing of vaping as a safe way to stop smoking cigarettes has had a huge impact on many smokers. Consequently, smoking e–cigarettes — aka vaping — has never been hotter. The past few years have seen an explosion of vape lounges, sexy vape pens, cloud competitions and a heady array of decadent e-juice flavors.
A new study has cast a haze over those claims of “safety”. Researchers led by Ilona Jaspers of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that vaping suppressed immune defense genes in the epithelial cells that line the nasal passages — not only the same genes that cigarette smoking suppressed but also hundreds more.
Jaspers’ team recruited 13 nonsmokers, 14 smokers and 12 vapers. For six weeks, the participants recorded the number of puffs and/or cigarettes they had each day. The researchers then measured markers of tobacco and nicotine in participants’ urine and blood samples to confirm that they had accurately reported their smoking status. They then used a plastic curette (which Jaspers compares to “a little, itty-bitty spoon”) to scrape off samples from the participants’ nasal passages. The researchers examined these so-called nasal epithelial cells because they express crucial immune defense genes, and they’re the first and major target of respiratory viruses. Their gene expression is also similar to that of lower airway epithelial cells, but easier to collect.
The Long Term Impact
To be sure, “it’s a very small study,” says Shyam Biswal of Johns Hopkins University, who wasn’t involved in the study. E-cigs also contain lower levels of the toxic substances found in cigarettes. But recent studies have found they also contain substances not found in cigarettes. And since vaping emerged in the U.S. only within the past decade, it might have unforeseeable long-term impacts.
Lung cancer, for instance, doesn’t emerge until after many years of cigarette smoking. At this point, “it’s very difficult to say whether [e-cigs] would cause an increase or decrease in disease,” Biswal says. But he says Jaspers’ study shows an important trend that reflects a health concern. Ultimately, he wants to see a larger, longer study on e-cig users. Jaspers and her team plan to do follow-up research — and since most members of the vaping group used to smoke cigarettes, the researchers also want to know if vaping would produce different changes in people who have never smoked.
Jaspers’ findings arrive on the heels of the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling, effective this August, to regulate e-cigs as tobacco products. That means e-cig ads can no longer claim they’re safer than regular cigarettes, and retailers can no longer sell them to kids under 18. “Young users are the most vulnerable,” Biswal says. E-cig use multiplied threefold among middle and high school students from 2013 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jaspers says she’s not claiming that e–cigarettes are worse than regular cigarettes. For now, there simply isn’t enough research to draw a comparison. At the same time, she wants to make people aware that e-cigs are not likely without any effect. “I’m hesitant to say that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes based on the data we’ve gotten.”
Being Able to Manage Stress is Critical to Getting Good Quality, Restorative Sleep
Over the years, we have worked with clients who have various stress related disorders such as panic attacks and anxiety. Learning to manage stress is also critically important for people experiencing sleep disturbances.
Stress, worry and anxiety are often the underlying issues for people dealing with sleep issues. So, it makes sense that relaxation is probably the most commonly used intervention for those with sleep disturbances.
What is The Relaxation Response?
When we talk about a relaxation process, we have in mind a goal of attaining a specific state that Dr. Herbert Benson referred to as the “relaxation response”. He began working on understanding relaxation and its effects in the 1960’s and published the classic book “The Relaxation Response”. His initial work was based on Transcendental Meditation, which was becoming popular at that time.
Dr. Benson developed a very simple method with a focus on breathing (with repeated refocusing on breathing as the mind wanders). His technique allows a relaxation response to occur over about a 20-minute period.
Most people think of relaxation as some kind of non-work related activity like going on vacation, watching a movie or perhaps playing golf. What we are talking about here is achieving a state of physiological relaxation or calm that is characterized by a decreased heart rate, blood pressure and brain wave frequency.
There is nothing abnormal about this relaxation response. It is a very natural state. The opposite state, a stressed state, involves increased heart rate and higher blood pressure as a person prepares to fight off or flee from a stressor.
It’s obvious that relaxation is important for sleep. In order to make the transition into stage one sleep it is necessary for the body and the mind to relax.
Most of us can do this naturally as we become comfortable in our beds and then settle into sleep. Some of the methods that many people use intuitively like “counting sheep” or praying help facilitate this natural transition.
Meditation, as a relaxation technique, can be used before bedtime to help effectively decrease over-arousal by helping to “wind down” and to disconnect from the stresses of the day. It can also be helpful for people who begin to worry or experience anxiety when they wake up during the middle of the night by helping decrease anxiety so they can fall back to sleep easily.
Many relaxation techniques have been studied as treatments for insomnia. These include progressive muscle relaxation, Meditation and visualization training. We’re finding good success in combining all three of these techniques to help our clients to get good quality, restorative sleep.
A lot has changed since we started doing employee wellness seminars some twenty years ago. Most of what we spent time on, way back when, was Smoking Cessation. As many of you know, the demand for Smoking Cessation Programs has diminished over the years. Fewer adults are smoking and we call that a victory!
Our second most popular seminar was Weight Reduction. These days, even the weight loss landscape has changed.
Most of the requests for our Corporate Wellness Seminars are for Stress Management. Wellness Managers are finding employees who are coping with a lot more- both inside the work environment and at home. And, fortunately, admitting that you’re stressed is no longer a taboo.
Our second most requested of our Wellness Seminars is for Healthy Eating. Yes, folks are still concerned about their weight but not so much by the numbers registered on a scale. Their concern has shifted to their health and their fitness level.
From a personal perspective, we’re thrilled. More and more of the participants in our sessions seem to be fairly knowledgeable about what they need to do and they’re excited to embrace tools to help them to reach their goals.
Fortunately, we’ve been able to adapt to a changing marketplace and a more sophisticated employee base. We’re excited to be going strong and hope to continue to present wellness in a way that is anything but passé!
Are you engaging in emotional eating? Take back control with these ideas.
Emotional eating is a sure way to sabotage weight reduction by leading you to overeat, especially highly-processed, unhealthy foods. But the good news is that if you’re prone to emotional eating, you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track with your weight-loss and health goals.
Have you noticed that sometimes the strongest cravings for food happen when you’re at your weakest emotionally? You may turn to food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously — when you’re facing a difficult problem, stressed out or just looking to make yourself feel better.
To curb emotional eating, try these ideas:
1. Tame the stress: If stress is contributing to your emotional eating, try a stress-management technique, such as yoga, meditation or walking after dinner.
2. Get support: You’re more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends who are committed to improving their health or consider joining a support group.
I know that for me it’s much easier for me to stay committed to a walking program if I have a friend to share my walk with.
3. Fight boredom: Instead of snacking when you’re not truly hungry, distract yourself. Drink a glass of water with lemon, watch a movie, listen to a podcast, read or call a friend.
4. Do not tempt yourself: Don’t keep comfort foods in your home if they’re hard for you to resist. Never mind, don’t keep comfort foods in your home. They are hard to resist!
And if you feel angry or upset, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you’re sure that you have your emotions in check.
5. Snack healthy. If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a healthy snack- fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip or unbuttered popcorn.
My personal favorite snacks: sliced red peppers with a hummus dip or fresh fruit slices with yoghurt.
6. Learn from setbacks. If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day…or the next moment. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you’re making over all and give yourself credit for making changes that’ll lead to weight reduction and better health.
Two weeks in paradise may alleviate the stress, but what happens when you get back?
If there is one thing that almost all of our clients, young and old, have in common, it’s chronic stress. The truth is, even a month long vacation is not the cure.
There’s no denying that we live in a stressful world. From daily time pressures, to the stress of a toxic environment, it can sometimes seem like we’re swimming in an ocean of stress and gasping for air.
Along with the more obvious stressors, emotional stress (stress from the difficulties of our lives) often goes unnoticed, and can sit at the root of many health issues. The sad truth is that stress is probably the most significant contributor to disease and it’s the most difficult to treat.
The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2020, psychological and stress-related disorders will be the second leading cause of disabilities in the world. It’s fascinating to me that something that can be perceived in our minds can have that kind of effect on our physiology. However, if we look at the science, it makes perfect sense. Stress, real or perceived, acute or chronic stress, affects your health. It changes hormonal pathways and the way neurotransmitters relay information. If these disruptions remain ongoing, there are serious implications for your body.
The good news is, it’s never too late to do something about it. In both acute and chronic stress, the power of the mind-body connection is clear. What we perceive as a stressful or dangerous situation (whether it truly is dangerous or not) has implications in the body. For example, if you’re standing in the street and you think you hear a car coming, your body physically prepares you to move out of the way, even if the sound is something else entirely. Likewise, our past emotional experiences can color the way we see current situations.
If your father had a volatile temper that scared you as a child, you will likely feel scared as an adult when a boss, a husband, or some other male authority figure gets angry, even when that anger isn’t directed at you. So the stress we feel as children can repeat itself and have a lasting effect on how we think and experience life as adults. There is no doubt that chronic stress affects many systems in the body.
To list just a few:
-We now know that psychological stress disrupts blood sugar metabolism and can lead to diabetes.
–Chronic stress also affects the immune system, increasing our risks for autoimmune-regulated disorders like allergies, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism.
-Studies done in 2006 revealed increased cardiovascular disease with ongoing stress.
-Being under stress can also influence our perception of pain, sometimes dulling it and sometimes heightening it (again, much of the way we perceive both stress and pain depends on our histories), as well as altering our neurotransmitters, often reorganizing the way we think and sometimes leading to anxiety disorders and depression.
-On top of everything else, stress can age our individual cells, making it more likely for us to suffer from age-related diseases earlier.
So you can see there’s so much more benefit to be gained with stress prevention and relief than simply feeling better in our heads. With the pandemic levels of stress in this world, researchers don’t have far to look for test subjects!
Women and stress : Is stress in our nature?
As women, many of us have a maternal nurturing response that often puts us in positions where we are trying to care for everyone but ourselves. And some scientists believe this instinct strengthens during times of stress. The reasoning behind this theory stems from women’s evolutionary instincts to protect themselves and their offspring during threatening situations. Forming groups and social networks — known as the “tend and befriend” instinct — proved beneficial to survival of the species in counterbalancing the acute “fight or flight” response.
Modern society doesn’t do us any favors by adding an increasing amount of responsibilities to a woman’s role. We worked so hard to be “liberated,” but the reality for many women is that now we’re just expected to do everything! We simply can’t do it all. I have learned first-hand that taking care of myself was essential before I could help anyone else.
We have to learn to set up boundaries for the sake of our own health and learn the benefits of simply saying no. Teaching clients to set priorities is one of the goals of our Stress Management Program.
From our own experience and that of our clients, we’ve learned that untying the knots at the root of chronic stress offers us long-lasting physical and psychological benefits. But understand that this is a highly individualized process. To truly get at the root of what is stressing you out takes a lot of self-exploration and soul-searching. And we can tell you, no two people have the same experience with stress management.
Taking steps today to reduce stress in your life has implications even greater than finding happiness and peace — it means you are preventing disease and preserving your health and longevity. With the incidence of stress-related illness and lost years of lives increasing every decade, we absolutely have to take stress seriously.
Stress is a reality in our lives, but we don’t have to let it overpower us or prevent us from being our best selves. I know from experience that taking time and energy to resolve or lessen the stress in your life isn’t easy.
If you do the work, you will regain your sense of perspective and recover your health and wellness. As noted lecturer and author Dr. Joan Borysenko says, “We can’t find the light in our lives until we’ve gone back through the darkness….” I encourage you to find that inner light by learning to incorporate stress management into your daily life and don’t just wait for a vacation.
You Can Stop Smoking!
Over the years, we have met countless individuals who have a whole list of reasons why they can’t stop smoking. They think that they’re “too addicted”. They tell us that they smoke too much and have smoked for too long.
They’re worried about withdrawal. They don’t believe that any kind of stop smoking therapy could work for them. What these individuals are actually doing is filling their minds with negative thinking and setting up obstacles to their own success.
Our philosophy is that people need to be very careful about how they are thinking in these circumstances. It’s pretty simple. If we think we can’t, we can’t; if we think failure, we fail.
“For as we think, so will we do. Guard well the portals of the mind; Let no discouragement seep through, Let doubt no lodgment find.”
“More than’s been done can still be done, Think this, and thinking then believe; So may the greatest goal be won Go on, think right, work hard, achieve.”
The ideas that James Allen shared in his book, “As A Man Thinketh” are so true. Allen believed that people with determination and a vision of what they want to accomplish cannot be stopped. Understanding this principle is really critical to the success of anyone trying to stop smoking.
Once You Believe It’s Possible, Then What?
In fact, to learn to effectively use our mind to our advantage is probably the single most important element of success in stopping smoking. To envision the benefits of quitting smoking and to focus our attention on the long-term rewards, we can dramatically increase the motivation to quit. When thoughts about the difficulties of quitting are lessened, our enthusiasm increases dramatically.
Whether it’s working with smokers or people with other kinds of addictions, it’s always rewarding for us to see clients mentally enlarge the importance of the things that are good for them. The Stanford Method of Smoking Cessation incorporates this principle along with guided meditation to make success very achievable. (Go on, think right, work hard, and achieve. You can stop smoking).
Visualization Can Help Us to Become More Optimistic
How can you possibly visualize your goals when your mental chatter is constantly negative? The first step is to become aware of the mental chatter or what we like to call our negative mantras. “This will never work out! I am destined to be a failure.!”
If we’re aware enough to notice when we are dwelling on the negative, we can work on changing that state of mind. When we do begin that shift, we’ll find that we are also moving away from discouragement and moving toward a more empowered state of mind where our goals seem possible.
Without question, people who feel resourceful consistently make smarter decisions than those who constantly find themselves in the throes of negativity and catastrophic thinking. Incredibly, life seems to get better almost immediately as thoughts improve.
As you might have guessed, maintaining this positive state of mind takes practice. Old beliefs and programs that exist at a deep level may not support you and might even crop up to sabotage your best efforts.
For example, if you have attempted to lose weight, but keep gaining back what you just lost – it may be that you have deep programming that is sabotaging your success.
Visualizing Your Goals:
Fortunately, there are powerful ways to stay strong in the face of these barriers. One of the most powerful techniques is to simply close your eyes and picture a time in the future when you expect things will be much better. Visualize your goals or the events in your life going the way you want them to go.
The most effective way of doing this for a beginner is to pick a six-month goal, one that seems reachable but slightly out of reach. This will train your brain to stretch a bit without generating a lot of resistance.
Can you imagine yourself six-months from today having achieved your goal? Use your creativity to vividly envision things unfolding ideally and at the same time emotionally connect to how good you will feel once they do. As you spend a few minutes “watching this inner movie”, positive emotions will begin to flow very naturally.
This process can be very enjoyable. Visualize your goals every day until the visualized goal begins to alter the outdated beliefs and programs.
Attending one of our seminars or working with us one on one, you can learn to master visualization and other powerful techniques to stay anchored to a more positive vision of your future. These techniques make it much easier to change limiting beliefs and to stay motivated no matter how big the barriers initially appear to be.
If You’re Living a Stress-Filled Existence, You Need Stress Management
“There is a hidden epidemic of stress in this country, and we’re going to go broke if we don’t figure out how to manage it,” says Dr. Michael Parkinson, head of the American College of Preventive Medicine. In other words, stress management has to be an essential part of any wellness strategy.
We all seem to recognize this because we know that the list of symptoms linked to stress is a long one. We can start with headache, back pain, insomnia, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome.
When left “untreated”, we also know that stress weakens the immune system which can worsen existing chronic conditions like lupus, arthritis and asthma. On the job injuries increase as stress makes workers more prone to injury. (Interestingly, even office workers are more prone to injury when stressed.)
Higher levels of stress hormones are also linked to weight gain, which in turn raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Research done by Hewitt Associates concludes that 50% of workers who call in sick do so because of a stress-related disorder. Workers suffering from chronic stress overload are away from their desks an average of 23 days, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There is good news. Stress Management can be achieved rather simply and inexpensively.
Call us today to find out how we can customize a program for you or for your employees- 516.827-0200.
Six Simple Rules form our Corporate Wellness Program- “Weight Reduction”
Knowing that “Weight Reduction” is part of our Corporate Wellness Program, people are constantly asking us to recommend “a diet”. This is the plan that we recommend- whether or not you are at your ideal weight.
It is a philosophy that we’ve refined over the years but we also have to give credit to Michael Pollan, the author of “Food Rules”, for helping us to fill in some missing pieces.
Here Are Our Six Rules of Healthy Weight Reduction:
1. Eat real foods: Eat food that your great-grandparents would recognize (no Pop Tarts; no Go-Gurt). Do not buy food from the place where you buy your gasoline.
2. Eat when you’re hungry: Don’t skip meals – eat every 4 to 5 hours – to balance your blood sugar and to maintain adrenal rhythm.
3. Get a little sunlight each morning: Natural sunlight resets your hypothalamus, and creates circadian congruence.
4. Remember to relax daily: We all need to hit the “pause” button every day. It helps to meditate, use deep breathing, and exercise.
5. Get your fiber: Fiber also stabilizes blood sugar. You need at least 45 grams per day.
6. Enjoy the food that you do eat: Eat healthy, delicious food; no diet food; no prepackaged meals and no fat free food. (See Rule #1)
Following this basic plan from our Corporate Wellness Program– “Weight Reduction” , along with drinking plenty of water and moving more will help almost anyone attain and maintain a healthy weight and vitality.
Visualization for Success
Visualization is a very powerful force. When practiced consistently, visualization techniques bring to life the dreams of Olympic athletes as well as those of us who are merely spectators. It can truly help us to change years of negative thought patterns into patterns of excellence and achievement.
Tara Lipinski at just six years of age, decided to play at being figure skater while watching the Olympics on TV. Tara was standing on a chair when her Mother asked what she was doing. The future skating champion replied, “I’m standing on the podium at the Olympics receiving my gold medal.”
Many elite athletes routinely use visualization techniques as part of their training. There are many stories of athletes who have used these techniques to cultivate a competitive edge and a heightened sense of well-being and confidence. Of course, these factors have been shown to contribute significantly to an athlete’s performance.
Like Tara Lipinski, when someone begins to consistently visualize a specific goal, they are giving it a power that sets the stage for success. This consistent focus actually trains the brain to move forward- to make that goal a reality.
For athletes and anyone with a goal for that matter, we become what we think about and visualize. The human brain has an amazing feature called the reticular activating system. It operates non-stop to let in information appropriate to our current intentions.
When we form inspired goals and they’re linked to powerful emotions, the reticular activating system filters out the things that you don’t need and lets in those resources you do need— skills, ideas and possibilities. Those resources existed before, but we just weren’t aware of them.
Visualization is an Important Component of Everything That We Do at the Stanford Method
It enables our clients to become aware of the valuable resources that match their beliefs and align with their goals. They are then able to perceive opportunities, attract supportive people, and develop the mind set that accelerates their success. Learning to use visualization is key whether your dream is to skate in the Olympics or to realize your own unique goals.