Women Can’t Always Lean In: Why Sheryl Sandberg’s Advice Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

“I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, ‘Yes, I have it all.’ Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.”―Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

When I first read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I thought I had found my new bible on feminism for the corporate world. One of my favorite statistics Sheryl Sandberg used was that men are more likely than women to apply for jobs that they are not qualified for. I mentioned this to a girlfriend and it inspired her to apply for a development job at a prestigious museum. She had some experience, but not much was relevant to fundraising or managing donors. Amazingly, she got the job. After a 2-year assignment, she was able to find an even bigger role in the art world. This was proof to me that Sandberg was right about leaning in. I now wonder, “Can success at work inspire someone to work harder in other areas of their life?”

One of Sandberg’s ideas that grabbed my attention involved making career moves on a jungle gym instead of a corporate ladder. She wrote: “Ladders are limiting. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours… presents a better chance for fulfillment.” I have found this to be true in my career. Some of my lowest paying jobs with lackluster titles have turned into the most fulfilling. Personally, I have also seen a direct correlation between my health and my enjoyment at work. If I like the people and the work I am doing, I go home capable of resting for the next day. I take better care of myself, even more, when I am enjoying my work because I want to impress my team with a sharp and well-rested mind. This means I miss less work due to stress-related illnesses because I am eating, sleeping, exercising, and relaxing in healthier and a more regulated manner.

However, I may be different from other women in my demographic. They may be striving to become a CEO at a Fortune 500. Lean In points out that being a CEO is a position that less than 5 percent of women hold. Unlike Sheryl and her elite female colleagues, I am not looking for fame and fortune in Silicon Valley.

In fact, I am not aiming to get to the “top of a jungle gym” at all. I am a Millennial who is trying to improve her skills, broaden her experience, and learn as much as I can in the fields that give me inspiration. In addition, I have learned that work doesn’t define everything about me and I find more meaning in other areas of my life. Even while I climb the jungle gym, I am not trying to be the best in comparison to others. I am trying to be the best version of me and always am trying to improve each day.

There are a few downsides to Sandberg’s chant for change. Sandberg seems to be telling women they need to act more like men in the professional world if they want to get ahead. The whole idea of leaning in is to be more assertive and a leader. What if not all women want this? Does this concept apply only to top executives, like Sheryl Sandberg, who is the COO of Facebook?

Another question was bothering me: Why is living a balanced life considered a woman’s problem? It would appear other countries are far ahead of the US in terms of maternity leave. For example, new moms in Finland get 3 years paid leave, Norwegian mothers get 91 weeks, Canadian mothers get 52 weeks, and women in the UK get 39 weeks when they have children. It is not only a “nice” idea to give new parents more paid time to bring their newborn into the world with love and care, but it’s also economical because it leads to “better job performance and retention among mothers, increased family incomes, and increased economic growth.”

Lastly, Sandberg didn’t completely address the problematic issue of women who want to start families, who value their family time, and who want a career. These women may encounter difficulties with sustaining their lifestyles and budgets or even keeping their jobs. Unfortunately, America remains the only country in the developed world that does not mandate that employers must offer paid leave for new mothers. With other recent developments in the social and political spheres related to women’s rights in America, I have realized a lot of the changes I wish to see in my lifetime may not happen. I would love to see equal pay for equal work, and for LGBTQIA women to feel safe to be themselves in their work environments, at home, or walking alone at night. Paid family leave seems like a small price to pay for women’s rights compared to the bigger picture at hand, and the bigger struggle our gender faces. However we get there as women, whether it is jungle gyms or ladders or no careers, I hope we learn to support each other along the way.

Celebrate National Pumpkin Day with the Three Sisters and Stingy Jack

Is there anything that says autumn quite the way a pumpkin does? National Pumpkin Day is celebrated every October 26 to show appreciation to the vivid orange squash that’s such a hallmark of American culture. Halloween and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without them! Despite the fact that it’s somewhat a seasonal novelty in modern times, cultivation and use of pumpkins in North America date back thousands of years.

A Staple Food and One of the Three Sisters

Pumpkins and other squash were a staple food for Native Americans and helped them stay well-nourished during the long winter season. The Native Americans grew pumpkins, corn, and beans together, which produced synergistic results — a system they called the “Three Sisters.” The corn provided a trellis for the beans to grow and the beans added nitrogen to the soil while also adding stability to the corn stalks. The pumpkin and other squash protected the roots of the corn and kept weeds from growing in the area. When the Pilgrims came to North America in 1620, they were introduced to pumpkins by the Native Americans, and it’s believed they were served at the second Thanksgiving in 1623.

The Legend of Stingy Jack and the Origin of Jack-O-Lanterns

The practice of carving Jack-O-Lanterns came from Irish immigrants and was inspired by an Irish folktale about a man named “Stingy Jack.” As the legend goes, Stingy Jack asked the devil to have a drink with him, but once it was time to pay Jack didn’t want to foot the bill. He told the devil to turn himself into a coin, to pay for the drinks, and then decided to keep the coin next to a silver cross that prevented the devil from returning to his devilish form.

After a while, Jack freed the devil, with the promise that he would leave Jack alone for one year and wouldn’t take his soul if he died. Every few years the devil would return, and Jack would always trick him into leaving him alone for increasing periods of time. When Jack did eventually die, God didn’t want his soul, and the devil couldn’t claim it, so Jack was sent off into the night with only a burning coal to light his way. He stuck the coal inside a turnip and continues to roam the earth to this day. Prior to coming to America, the Irish carved spooky faces into potatoes and turnips and put them on window sills to keep Stingy Jack away; once in America, they did the same with pumpkins.

Time to Celebrate!

How should you celebrate Pumpkin Day? There’s any number of ways. Pumpkins have a number of nutrients and contain potassium, vitamins A and C, and are very high in fiber. They’re very versatile and can be cooked in sweet, savory, or spicy dishes. Make a delicious pie, soup, or roast some with olive oil and a sprinkle of spices. Halloween is on the way; carve a Jack-O-Lantern and roast the seeds for a tasty treat. Or, try your hand at a traditional pumpkin chucking contest! No matter how you choose to celebrate, have fun!

Previously Unhealthy Foods Get a Reprieve

Dietary science and the definition of healthy and unhealthy food is continually evolving. Years ago dietary fat of any kind was considered to be one of the worst things for dieters to eat; more recently it’s been discovered that some fats are not only healthy but crucial to a well-balanced diet. The fear of fats has contributed to Americans eating more refined sugars, carbs, and processed foods, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Variety isn’t only the spice of life — it’s also healthy. Take a look at some of the foods that were previously off-limits for the health-conscientious:

Avocados

Back in the day when low-fat diets were touted as the holy grail of healthy eating, avocados were considered unhealthy due to their high-fat content. While it’s true that they contain a lot of fat (a large avocado contains about 21 grams!) 14 grams of that is made up of monosaturated fats. These fats have been shown to potentially reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.  In addition, avocados are also very nutritious; they contain many minerals and are rich in vitamins K, C, E, B-5, and B-6. They also help with feelings of satiety (feeling full), making them a perfect filling snack.

Eggs

Eggs have long been a highly debated food linked to high cholesterol and cardiovascular problems, but experts now say they’re healthy to consume in moderation. The concern lies within the egg’s yolk which contains saturated fat, known to raise bad cholesterol. Despite this, they are absolutely loaded with nutrients and contain nearly every vitamin our bodies need. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your consumption of egg yolks to four a week, however, they haven’t expressed any concern with egg whites.

Potatoes

Potatoes have gotten a bad rap because of their high starch content as well as being associated with fried and heavily processed foods. While potatoes are a diverse group with varieties that possess various nutrient profiles, they are on the whole very nutrient dense. Russet potatoes, one of the more common varieties, contain protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. A good portion of the nutrients are in the skin so it’s best not to peel them. The way potatoes are cooked can also make a difference in how healthy they are; choose to bake or boil them in place of frying.

White Rice

White rice has been criticized for lacking nutritional value, and while it does contain fewer nutrients than brown rice, it’s still a relatively healthy food. It’s naturally low-fat and contains vitamin B6, manganese, phosphorus, and some protein. Enriched white rice also contains a higher amount of iron and folate than brown rice. There is some concern that a diet high in white rice can contribute to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome due to it having a higher glycemic index score, but studies have been inconclusive. Both white and brown rice are gluten-free, making it an excellent grain for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.

Nuts

Nuts, like avocados, were also once shunned for their fat content. Also like avocados, they contain healthy fats that support cardiovascular health and are a great source of antioxidants, protein, and fiber. One study, conducted by the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that a diet high in raw nuts reduces mortality rates from cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and sudden cardiac death. Likewise, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recommends eating one and a half servings of nuts a day to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Maladaptive Daydreaming: A Break From Reality, Or an Escape Gone Wrong

Maladaptive daydreaming is a relatively new term recognized by the phycological studies community that refers to frequent and extended daydreaming that disrupts day to day life. Wanting a break from reality is something that everyone has said or thought at one point or another. Maybe it wasn’t phrased exactly that way, but who wouldn’t want the occasional pause to life’s problems? When wanting an escape, most people would plan a self-care day or take a vacation. But some people have a way of taking their escape to unhealthy levels.

For anything to be considered a disorder, it has to be harmful to a person’s quality of life and often exceeding a certain length of time. Maladaptive daydreaming is new enough that its specific causes are still largely unknown and further studies will have to be complete. But, as with most disorders, it is linked to trauma and the presence of other mental disorders.

Symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming revolve around a difficulty in stopping daydreaming, a potential lack of desire to stop, perceived benefits of daydreaming, and disruption of daily life revolving around the day dreaming.

With any sort of illness, it’s important to understand treatments and when to get help from a professional. Maladaptive daydreaming is a coping mechanism gone wrong, one that at one point probably did help someone but has since become a problem. Coping mechanisms aren’t something that’s frequently talked about, but they’re vital in handling extreme life events. If you feel you’re having difficulty handling life’s events and how you handle them, it’s important to pause and begin getting the help you need.

Hugging Study Backs Up What Our Hearts Already Know

Sometimes science backs up what we already know deep down. A recent study on how hugging can affect our moods and overall wellness has revealed that the benefits a hug grants us aren’t all in our heads. Researchers who conducted the study say those who are “huggers” tend to have better overall health and wellness, as well as stronger relationships. The science of touch has long been of interest to psychologists, as it’s a well-known part of healthy brain development in infants. Fewer studies have been conducted on the impact on adults, however, particularly outside of romantic relationships.

The most recent study, conducted by the Carnegie Mellon University, looked at how hugging impacted 404 male and female participants between the ages of 21 to 55. Only one-quarter of the individuals were in a marriage or long-term romantic relationship. All participants were interviewed on a daily basis over the course of two weeks and were asked about their interactions with others, including social activities, conflicts, resolutions, moods, and hugs they had received. People who had received a hug on the same day they had experienced some sort of conflict reported their mood was less impacted than those who hadn’t received a hug. Their mood was even shown to be more positively affected the day after the hug had occurred as well. Researchers suggest hugs act as a kind of insulation from negative moods.

“There’s an immediacy to touch that words don’t have. And there are certain health benefits that seem to be more pronounced when affection is expressed through tactile ways.” – Professor Kory Floyd, University of Arizona

In addition to the recent findings on mood-boosting, previous studies have discovered other benefits of physical touch. Touch releases the hormone oxytocin, also known as the “feel-good” hormone that makes us feel a sense of well-being. Oxytocin also inspires positive thinking and optimism, as well as increased feelings of compassion. Serotonin and dopamine, two mood-regulating neurotransmitters are also increased with physical touch. These can help counter feelings of sadness, stress, and anxiety. Yet another way touch has a positive influence is its effect on the immune system and cardiovascular system. Touch decreases stress hormones that inhibit the immune system and decreases heart rates. The best part is that these effects don’t need to come from a significant other — friends, family, and even pets can all stimulate these positive effects and a general sense of well-being.

“Physical contact is a requirement of being human. There’s something healing about it. It [touch] is not just correlated with being human—it is being human.” – Dr. Terry Kupers, author and psychologist

In fact, there’s evidence that lack of touch can be greatly detrimental to a person’s well-being. “Skin hunger” or “touch hunger” is the need for meaningful physical human contact. Psychologists say having this need be unmet for extended periods of time can have profound emotional and physical consequences. People who are touch hungry tend to be withdrawn and have a flat vocal intonation. Psychologist Janice Kielcolt-Glaser believes that the elderly in particular need more prolonged physical contact than younger people, saying, “The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health.”

With this in mind, the next time you see your grandparents or other elderly relatives, give them a hug. Hug your friends, your family, your pets. Life is too short to not show physical affection for those who matter most in life, and better yet, everyone’s well-being will benefit.

 

 

 

Visit a Vet Before Treating Your Pet

As a pet parent, it’s easy to tell when your friend isn’t feeling well. They may sleep more than usual, eat less, vomit, seem painful, have a runny or congested nose, or simply have a sad look in their eyes. Either way, most of us know when something’s just not right. Some pet owners call the vet at the first sign of illness, and while it may appear to be an overreaction to some, pets (particularly cats) have a way of hiding their illnesses for quite some time before they appear visibly sick. Other pet owners may attempt to wait it out or, worse, treat the illness blindly at home. As someone who worked in veterinary medicine for over six years, I saw both sides of the spectrum. It’s never a good idea to assume.

Online Databases Can’t Tell You What’s Truly Wrong

The rise of online health databases has led some owners to attempt self-diagnosis to save time and money, but this could lead to misdiagnosis and potentially delay much-needed veterinary treatment. No matter how sure you are that your pet’s symptoms match a particular condition, there’s no way to know for sure without consulting with a veterinarian.

Often times, laboratory or radiology diagnostics are required to have a full view of all the pieces of the puzzle. While these can be expensive, delaying official diagnosis can potentially be more expensive in the long run and may cause prolonged suffering for your pet. Vets report that they are now seeing pets that are 2-3 days sicker than they would have been in the past, and they attribute this in part to people’s increasing shift toward self-diagnosis.

Avoid Home Treatment Without Consulting a Vet

An added problem is the rise of online pharmacies that make certain medications more readily available without prescriptions. Some pet owners may believe they know what’s wrong with their pet and try to save money by buying antibiotics or other medications online. This could have unintended consequences. Many antibiotics, for example, are specific to certain bacteria and body systems and choosing the wrong one can actually make infections worse. At a minimum, it can lead to a delay in proper treatment.

Eye conditions are another problem that people often attempt to solve with over-the-counter medications, but eyes are very delicate structures and medications of any kind should never be given without veterinary advice. Visiting a vet is crucial to ensuring pets are given the right diagnosis, right medication, and right dose for the issue at hand. Prompt and accurate medical treatment for your furry, feathered, or scaly friend will make sure they spend many more years with you, healthy and happy.

 

 

How To Survive A Trip To Ikea, Michael’s, Or Other Stores That Drive People Wild

Shopping at big stores like Michael’s or Ikea can get overwhelming fast. People go in just wanting to look around and often come out with purchases far beyond what they had a budget for. To keep a level head, and hopefully a healthier wallet, here’s a few tips on how to not go crazy in stores designed to make you do just that.

-Go in with a plan.

The first step towards coming out of a huge store unburdened by random purchases is to go in with an idea of why you’re there. If it’s just to look, there’s going to be a lot of self-discipline involved to keep it that way. Once you’ve found everything you were looking for, it’s for the best to just get out of the store and stop looking around.

-Spend only what you have.

Consider leaving cash and cards outside of the wallet while in there. Or try limiting yourself to only spending the cash that’s on hand. That way there’s less ways to overspend. Now, that can be harder to do in a furniture store where the costs often require usage of a card, but then consider planning out ahead of time how long it will take to pay that purchase off to help limit you in how much you spend.

-Wait for sales.

Keeping a keen eye open for sales is another good way to still be able to buy stuff but spend less money. Being on a mailing list often gets you coupons, and lets you know ahead of time when the next big sale is. But it’s also important to remember not to go wild with purchases just because stuff is cheaper, too.

Balancing sale prices with planning and cash management is a great way to purchase things but not go broke. Keep a level head, and a basic game plan in mind, and happy shopping.

Why Music Makes You Feel Better

You just walked by someone busking with their violin on the corner and, even though you were too busy, you stopped because you were, like, that is amazing. Or maybe a song on the radio went straight into your body, so you were moving before you even realized you were listening. Or you just saw your favorite musician and the melody, the words, the feeling filled you up so much it was like you were overflowing. And though music is personal and we all have our favorites, most all of us know that blissful feeling of enjoying music that radiates right to the soul. If you have ever wondered why, you are not alone. Science has too.

Music Is an Anti-anxiety Drug

Researchers have found that music lowers anxiety. According to a 2013 study, music provided relief from pre-operation jitters. So much so that that researchers felt music interventions might replace anti-anxiety drugs. Here’s why: music is an anti-anxiety drug — without all the nasty side-effects, though it can be habit-forming.

Another study concluded that music makes the pain go away. Patients in acute or chronic pain who listened to music found relief. Researchers noted decreases in blood pressure, breath rates, and emotional distress.   

Do folks in white lab coats have any thoughts on how music quiets anxiety and pain?

Music Pumps the Brakes on Cortisol

One guess is that music slows the production of cortisol. Everyone remember cortisol? It is the stress hormone that got your ancestors up and running from that saber-toothed tiger. Today, though, it mostly causes sweating, irritability, and a general “I have to get out of here” when it comes to contacting the IRS, or your mom. In a 2006 study, music stopped cortisol from increasing when a stressor was introduced, whereas, without music, cortisol barged  through the body for 30 minutes.

Cortisol gushing regularly through your body without a saber-toothed tiger to run from compromises brain function. A 2016 study showed that listening to music slowed cortisol in early Alzheimer’s patients and improved sleep, stress, mood, and health related quality of life. To make gains, these patients only had to listen to music for 12 minutes a day for 12 weeks. And the beat goes on, with patients showing significant improvements, even six months later.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter what kind.

Music you can sing to. Music you can dance to. Music that stirs your soul. Any of that, and all of that bypasses your rational brain and allows you to soothe that savage beast, or at least pumps the brakes on your cortisol. So that rather than fighting or fleeing, you can pet your saber-toothed tiger.

After all, it’s been extinct for about 50,000 years.

The Importance of Entertainment

Entertainment is defined by the English Oxford Dictionary as “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.” In our hustle-bustle society, it’s easy to put entertainment low on our list of priorities. Should we actually be placing more importance on it? Various types of entertainment have been around since the dawn of humanity. Is there psychological and cultural value in being entertained?

Entertainment Provides Us with Much Needed Mental Breaks

A psychological theory – “willpower depletion” – states that willpower is a limited resource. Our willpower is depleted every time we force ourselves to do a task that we don’t want to or force ourselves to resist a pleasurable activity. While willpower reserves will return naturally over time, a study conducted by Jayne Derrick, Ph.D. suggests that watching your favorite television show can actually replenish your willpower reserves more quickly. Entertainment is certainly a stress-reliever, but it also appears that it could be more important to our well-being and productivity levels than previously thought. Entertainment helps transport someone from their worries and obligations as well as provides someone with monotony even if only for a brief time.  This allows someone to often return with a feeling of happiness, refreshment, and rejuvenation.

Entertainment Inspires Creativity

It’s not unusual to hear many creative and successful people state that they were inspired by some form of entertainment. A quick web search reveals posts like: “The Top Podcasts to Inspire You;” “17 T.V. Shows to Inspire Creativity;” and “Star Wars Inspires Creativity and Sharing.” Many types of entertainment are built on someone else’s ideas, on other’s creative endeavors, or on dreams we may have for ourselves. They inspire us to think in exciting new ways. Three of the arguably biggest innovators alive today (Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos) have stated that novels have had a huge impact on their lives – personally and professionally.

Entertainment Gives Us More Opportunity to Socialize and Bond on a Personal Level

One of the surest ways to bond with others is through your shared love of the same form of entertainment. Often when getting to know each other, we’ll ask, “What kind of music do you like?” or “did you see the new Marvel movie?” Entertainment of all kinds allows us to find common ground with others, but also to provide as an easy conversation starter when we may not know how to start it otherwise. Entertainment also provides us with more opportunities and reasons to set aside time with friends and family.

Entertainment is an Important Source of Revenue

On a grander scale, entertainment is important to society because it allows for more revenue and entrepreneurial opportunity. In 2016, the average American consumer spent 5.7% of their income on entertainment!  Movies, music, and performing arts provide not only cultural importance but also monetary and job opportunities.

With all the benefits that entertainment brings, why has it been reduced to a trivial pleasure? One thing is certain, entertainment is an integral part of human society and we are hardwired to seek it. Perhaps it’s time we all prioritize entertainment a little more in our lives and give it the full credit it deserves.

 

Halting Loop of Negative Thoughts: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Your slouched body reclines on a dark couch. You have a downcast face. An uninterested therapist, facing away, scribbles notes.

This is the caricature, or at least, The New Yorker cartoon. Of course, real talk-therapy, sometimes called Integrative Psychotherapy, is nothing like this. And Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is as different from talk-therapy as talk-therapy is from the caricature.

It’s About Thoughts, Not Feelings

Thoughts are the focus, not feelings, so there is no need to endlessly search for deep historical sources of discomfort. Thoughts drive feelings and the aim is to slow, or even end, repetitive, negative thoughts that shape our lives.

Studies show CBT is highly effective with a wide host of afflictions, including:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma

One method of CBT therapy goes like this:

At an initial visit, a CBT therapist works with you to discover the specific repetitive, negative thoughts that are endlessly churning through your head. You then spend a week or two recording the frequency and duration of those thoughts outside of the session. This becomes the baseline.

As therapy proceeds, faulty cognitions (our negatively based, misperceived guesses about how we are operating in the world) are put to the test. Is the party really going to be a disaster? Is the meeting certain to expose a lack of preparation and knowledge? The therapist then helps you reshape these thoughts into less negative, more helpful thoughts. Maybe:

“The party wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster, next time I’ll be more open minded.”

“The meeting went well, and I was able to present an idea to the group. I’m better at meetings than I give myself credit for.”

Not Years, But Maybe Eight to 16 Weeks

As you question faulty cognitions and begin to shift them into more helpful thoughts, you may start to feel significant relief. You begin to see more clearly how negative thoughts affect you. Distressed and distorted thinking fades while self-awareness and emotional intelligence improves. Suffering and symptoms decrease, usually after just eight to 16 weeks.

During the process, you continue to record repetitive negative thoughts, broadening the number of faulty thoughts that you address.

The Benefits of CBT

  • Elevated mood
  • Improved performance
  • Better relationships
  • Lower cost (because CBT can be completed in as little as eight weeks)

You don’t have to spend years on the couch as the therapist scribbles away on a notepad. Instead, you are taught to listen to your own negative chatter, and shift the messages, halting the loop of negative thoughts.