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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

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Intermittent Fasting Has Broad-Based Health Promoting Potential

Posted By Dr. Mark Pettus, MD, Thursday, March 19, 2020

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

For most of recorded time, cultures around our planet and their wise traditions have recognized and honored the ritual of fasting. In addition, anthropologic studies of modern ancestral cultures like Hadza and Australian aborigines reveals periods of fasting and diminished caloric intake as a way of life, given seasonal variability and availability of plants and animals to consume.

Research studies in many life forms from yeast to primates have shown that caloric restriction of approximately 30% from baseline is associated with greater longevity. In addition, many lines of evidence in humans suggest periods of fasting to be associated with a “turning-on” or upregulation of deeply built-in resiliency systems. These include improved efficiency of metabolism, more effective sensitivity of insulin, more efficient cell recycling aka autophagy, more tolerant immune systems, i.e., less inflammation, and a host of other health-promoting metabolic changes.

The key concept of interest today is that of metabolic resiliency. This refers to our ability to efficiently burn our own fat when food is limited and to burn our fuel more cleanly, in other words, more energy produced with less free radicals and oxygen reactive species known to accelerate inflammation and aging.

What is confusing is that fasting can mean many different things. And while they all seem to offer many health benefits, they are not necessarily the same.

For example, here are some of the types of intermittent fasting (IF) that have (are being) been studied:

The 5:2 IF: this is essentially ad lib intake 5 days/week with 2 days of caloric restriction in the 500-600 calorie/day range.

The 16:8: this is time-restricted eating (TRE) where an individual consumes all their food in an 8-hour window, fasting for 16 hours. It is not intended to caloric-restrict. One eats what they want, just narrowing the window within which they consume. The smaller the window the better. Many reported health benefits including reduced risk of recurrence of breast cancer have been reported up to a 10-hour consumption window. While it is currently unproven, there may be a further advantage if the eating window is more closely aligned with sun-rising and sun-setting circadian cycles for that time of year.
24-hour IF: This is essentially fasting (water only) for 24 hours at specific interval e.g. monthly or every other month.
Fasting-Mimicking Diet: This has been researched and popularized by Valter Luongo, PhD. It involves predominantly plant-based foods with caloric restriction of 500-600 calories/day for 5-straight days from monthly to every 2-3 months depending on one’s health goals.

I believe all of these strategies are substantial health-promoting upgrades compared to the “ad-lib” all day grazing most tend to do in modern life. Yes, this is a phenomenon of modern life!

Some of the above strategies, in particular the 16:8 or the 24-hour IF, will result in the liver’s production of ketones. Ketones themselves appear to have many unique health benefits from improved cell signaling, metabolism, epigenetic (how our genes can be turned on and off) effects and is a super fuel for the brain and heart. There may be important risk reduction of many chronic diseases like diabetes, neurological diseases, cancer, heart disease, etc. While the jury is still out on long-term risks and benefits of nutritional ketosis, the early returns are quite favorable.

Clinical trials of IF have been done in animals and humans. While most studies lump the above strategies, it is not clear if one has a great advantage over the other. I personally like the 16:8 and try to do it at least 2-3 days a week. Taking a whole-foods, minimally processed and nutrient-dense approach and then integrating it into one of the above strategies is a powerful 1-2 health promoting punch that will pay huge benefits!

These are some of the possible reported benefits from a review recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine (December 2019):

Greater metabolic-stress resiliency at the level of cellular function in many different tissues
Improvements in longevity and healthspan (quality of life)
Improvements in sleep quality
Reductions in obesity and diabetes risks
Reduced cardiovascular risks
Reduced cancer risks and enhanced recovery/prognosis with cancer treatment
Improvements in neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS
Improvements in inflammatory arthritis and asthma
Improvements in wound healing and post-operative complications

As you can see, IF appears to have broad-based health promoting potential. While long-term clinical trials are limited, these strategies appear safe for most. While there will inevitably be a lot of pharmacological research to develop a drug that can “mimic” the effects of IF, they are likely to be inferior to the actual practice.

Dr. Mark Pettus currently serves as the Director of Medical Education, Wellness and Population Health at Berkshire Health Systems in western Massachusetts. In addition, he serves as The Associate Dean of Medical Education at The University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is the author of two books, The Savvy Patient: The Ultimate Advocate for Quality Health Care and It’s All in Your Head: Change Your Mind, Change Your Health. He serves on the teaching faculty at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine based in Washington D.C. and The Meditation Institute in Averill Park NY. He's also a member of NWI's Board of Directors.

Tags:  Fasting  Intermittent Fasting  Physical Wellness 

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Redesigning Wellness Podcast: Managing Anxiety During COVID-19 with Dr. Richa Bhatia, MD

Posted By NWI, Thursday, March 19, 2020

Redesigning Wellness with Jen ArnoldThe Redesigning Wellness podcast explores the world of corporate health to help employers build strategic wellness programs that engage employees.

In this podcast, Jen Arnold interviews experts in various specialties to demystify the common worksite wellness program. She’ll also spend time sharing barriers to help get your wellness program moving forward.

You’ll discover common sense approaches to wellness, tips for engaging employees and how to implement a program that your employees actually like.

183: Managing Anxiety During COVID-19 with Dr. Richa Bhatia, MD

The current COVID-19 health crisis has nearly everyone feeling some varying degree of

Today’s guest, Dr. Richa Bhatia, MD, board certified psychiatrist and American
Psychiatric Association Fellow, is here to reassure us that anxiety during this time is
completely normal, as lack of control and fear of the unknown are two of the biggest
triggers to anxiety; the most common mental health condition among people.

In today’s episode, Dr. Bhatia defines anxiety and discusses why a crisis such as
COVID-19 exacerbates it. She shares a plethora of tips for self management and
anxiety reduction, including self care, mindfulness practices, exercise, and staying
connected, as well as how to tell when you might need professional help to get it under

Dr. Bhatia talks about what organizations can do to support their employees during this
time of increased anxiety, and offers a tangible tip that HR and wellness professionals
can put into action. Finally, she shares a host of resources for anyone wanting to learn

For full show notes visit https://redesigningwellness.com/

Tags:  Jen Arnold  Podcast  Redesigning Wellness 

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Broaden Your Horizons through Positive Emotional Expression

Posted By Dr. Duke Biber, Ph.D., Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

As I teach and mentor students in the field of health and wellness, I repeatedly get asked, “Which component of wellness is the most important for me to devote my time, energy, and resources?” As each of NWI’s Six Dimensions of Wellness promote resilience and thriving, it is important to respond to my students with multicultural competency, and in a way that can improve their personal wellness.

To answer this question, I continually find myself reverting back to Dr. Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory on positive emotions. This theory suggests that positive emotions, such as love, joy, contentment, and gratitude, broaden our thinking during a situation, allowing us to respond with a wide variety of positive behaviors. 

Negative emotions, on the other hand, tend to narrow our range of potential behavioral responses. When we experience fear, we tend to respond by fleeing or attempted escape, which historically served as a biological method of self-preservation when running from a threat. However, such a response is no longer needed across most workplace, school, or hospital environments today. 

The effect of positive and negative emotions can be understood through the following scenario:

University undergraduate student Jeena Varghese is presenting a research poster at a conference for the first time. As she prepares to share her research with others, Jeena experiences fear that she may embarrass herself or fail to answer a question correctly, leading her to skip the conference altogether. 

Alternatively, Jeena could approach the presentation with the hope to learn from other wellness professionals, optimism about her presentation skills, and gratitude for the opportunity to present. Such positive emotions may result in her attending and succeeding at the conference, networking with other professionals, and even engaging in other scholarly activities that she may not have considered, previously. Her positive emotions broadened her perspective of the situation, allowing her to respond with a wide variety of behavioral responses.

I urge individuals to focus on emotional wellness through awareness techniques such as mindfulness activities, self-compassion training, and cognitive reframing. Any individual can benefit from learning positive emotional expression, as the following four emotions are relevant across all cultures:

1. Joy
2. Interest
3. Contentment
4. Love

Each of these four emotions can be understood and expressed regardless of socio-economic status, education level, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. 

Based on broaden-and-build research, and the above example, I urge students to become aware of their emotions and practice positive reframing when necessary. By learning to express positive emotions, individuals build physical, intellectual, and social resources, promoting resilience and coping when life becomes difficult.

While all of NWI’s Six Dimensions of Wellness are important, I recommend a preliminary focus on positive emotional expression, as it positively impacts all of the other areas of wellness. 

Dr. Duke Biber teaches and conducts research at the Department of Sport Management, Wellness, and Physical Education at the University of West Georgia. Dr. Biber has his Doctoral degree in exercise psychology from Georgia State University and Master’s degree in sport psychology from Georgia Southern University. He has experience teaching sport and exercise psychology, mental and emotional wellness, health behavior change, weight training, and a variety of fitness courses. His research interests include psychological determinants of exercise as well as identity development, self-compassion, mindfulness, and spirituality. 

Tags:  Emotional Expression  Emotional intelligence  Emotional Wellness  Positivity 

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Answers to Your Most Burning Employment Law Questions about COVID-19

Posted By Barbara J. Zabawa, JD, MPH, Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has sent the United States into a tailspin. While the primary focus has been on containing the virus, employers have a lot of questions about how to handle employee absences and sickness.  

Luckily, the federal agencies that enforce some of our most important employment laws have issued guidance for employers, including a number of helpful Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Here is a sampling of the FAQs, with a link to resources at the bottom of this blog post. Also at the end of the blog post, is a brief explanation of the Constitutional question about the ability of governments to mandate quarantine and vaccination, an important question relating to individual rights versus public safety.  

As always, you should also check your local and state laws to ensure that you are fully complying with all the levels of law that affect the employee-employer relationship. The FAQs below address federal law questions only.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

With the ADA, it is important to note that when there is a “direct threat” (i.e., a risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation), such as arguably when the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic (which it has), an employee is not protected by the nondiscrimination provisions of the ADA. 29 CFR § 1630.2(r). With that in mind, here are some common FAQs relating to the ADA:

Q1: May an ADA-covered employer send employees home if they display influenza-like symptoms during a pandemic?

A2: Yes. The CDC states that employees who become ill with symptoms of influenza-like illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace. Advising such workers to go home is not a disability-related action if the illness is akin to seasonal influenza or the 2009 spring/summer H1N1 virus. Additionally, the action would be permitted under the ADA if the illness were serious enough to pose a direct threat.

 Q2: During a pandemic, how much information may an ADA-covered employer request from employees who report feeling ill at work or who call in sick?

A2: ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing influenza-like symptoms, such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.
If pandemic influenza is like seasonal influenza or spring/summer 2009 H1N1, these inquiries are not disability related. If pandemic influenza becomes severe, the inquiries, even if disability-related, are justified by a reasonable belief based on objective evidence that the severe form of pandemic influenza poses a direct threat.

Q3: During a pandemic, may an ADA-covered employer ask employees who do not have influenza symptoms to disclose whether they have a medical condition that the CDC says could make them especially vulnerable to influenza complications?

A3: If an employee voluntarily discloses (without a disability-related inquiry) that he has a specific medical condition or disability that puts him or her at increased risk of influenza complications, the employer must keep this information confidential. The employer may ask him to describe the type of assistance he thinks will be needed (e.g. telework or leave for a medical appointment). Employers should not assume that all disabilities increase the risk of influenza complications. Many disabilities do not increase this risk (e.g. vision or mobility disabilities).

If an influenza pandemic becomes more severe or serious according to the assessment of local, state or federal public health officials, ADA-covered employers may have sufficient objective information from public health advisories to reasonably conclude that employees will face a direct threat if they contract pandemic influenza. Only in this circumstance may ADA-covered employers make disability-related inquiries or require medical examinations of asymptomatic employees to identify those at higher risk of influenza complications.

Q4: May an employer encourage employees to telework (i.e., work from an alternative location such as home) as an infection-control strategy during a pandemic?

A4: Yes. Telework is an effective infection-control strategy that is also familiar to ADA-covered employers as a reasonable accommodation.

In addition, employees with disabilities that put them at high risk for complications of pandemic influenza may request telework as a reasonable accommodation to reduce their chances of infection during a pandemic.

Q5: May an employer covered by the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 compel all of its employees to take the influenza vaccine regardless of their medical conditions or their religious beliefs during a pandemic?

A5: No. An employee may be entitled to an exemption from a mandatory vaccination requirement based on an ADA disability that prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine. This would be a reasonable accommodation barring undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense). Similarly, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once an employer receives notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship as defined by Title VII (“more than de minimis cost” to the operation of the employer’s business, which is a lower standard than under the ADA).

Generally, ADA-covered employers should consider simply encouraging employees to get the influenza vaccine rather than requiring them to take it.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) FAQs

Employees who work for employers covered by FMLA and who have worked for that employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours are generally eligible for up to 12 weeks unpaid, job-protected leave, including the continuation of group health insurance coverage during that time. 29 CFR Part 825.

Q1: Is an employer required by law to provide paid sick leave to employees who are out of work because they have pandemic influenza, have been exposed to a family member with influenza, or are caring for a family member with influenza?

A1: Federal law generally does not require employers to provide paid leave to employees who are absent from work because they are sick with pandemic flu, have been exposed to someone with the flu or are caring for someone with the flu. But see next FAQ. Certain state or local laws may have different requirements, which should be independently considered by employers when determining their obligation to provide paid sick leave.

If the leave qualifies as FMLA-protected leave, the statute allows the employee to elect or the employer to require the substitution of paid sick and paid vacation/personal leave in some circumstances. Employers should encourage employees that are ill with pandemic influenza to stay home and should consider flexible leave policies for their employees.

Q2: Will recent proposed legislation by Congress require paid sick leave because of COVID-19?

A2: Possibly. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is making its way through Congress and overall has bipartisan support. As currently drafted as of the date of this post, the new law would grant two weeks paid sick leave at 100% of a person’s normal salary, up to $511/day, and provide up to 12 weeks paid FMLA leave at 67% normal pay, up to $200/day cap.  

However, currently the proposed law does not cover large companies with more than 500 employees. Employees who work for large companies must rely on those companies’ current sick leave policies and any state or local law that may cover them.

Q3: What legal responsibility do employers have to allow parents or care givers time off from work to care for the sick or children who have been dismissed from school?

A3: Covered employers must abide by the FMLA as well as any applicable state FMLA laws. An employee who is sick, or whose family members are sick, may be entitled to leave under the FMLA.

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a designated 12-month leave year for specified family and medical reasons which may include the flu where complications arise that create a “serious health condition” as defined by the FMLA.

There is currently no federal law covering non-government employees who take off from work to care for healthy children, and employers are not required by federal law to provide leave to employees caring for dependents who have been dismissed from school or child care (but the Families First Coronavirus Response Act may address this gap). However, given the potential for significant illness under some pandemic influenza scenarios, employers should review their leave policies to consider providing increased flexibility to their employees and their families.

Remember that federal law mandates that any flexible leave policies must be administered in a manner that does not discriminate against employees because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age (40 and over), disability, or veteran status.

Q4: May an employer require an employee who is out sick with pandemic influenza to provide a doctor’s note, submit to a medical exam, or remain symptom-free for a specified amount of time before returning to work?

A4: Yes. However, employers should consider that during a pandemic, healthcare resources may be overwhelmed, and it may be difficult for employees to get appointments with doctors or other health care providers to verify they are well or no longer contagious.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) FAQs

The federal FLSA law, 29 USC Chapter 8, generally requires employers to pay non-exempt employees at least a minimum wage and pay them overtime. Exempt employees who are salaried generally must receive their full salary in any week in which they perform any work, subject to certain very limited exceptions.

Q1: How many hours is an employer obligated to pay an hourly-paid employee who works a partial week because the employer’s business closed?

A1: The FLSA generally applies to hours actually worked. It does not require employers who are unable to provide work to non-exempt employees to pay them for hours the employees would have otherwise worked. 

Q2: How many hours per day or per week can an employee work?

A2: The FLSA does not limit the number of hours per day or per week that employees aged 16 years and older can be required to work.

Q3: Can an employee be required to perform work outside of the employee's job description?

 A3: Yes. The FLSA does not limit the types of work employees age 18 and older may be required to perform. However, there are restrictions on what work employees under the age of 18 can do. This is true whether or not the work asked of the employee is listed in the employee's job description.

Q4: Do employers have to pay employees their same hourly rate or salary if they work at home?

A4: If telework is being provided as a reasonable accommodation for a qualified individual with a disability, or if required by a union or employment contract, then you must pay the same hourly rate or salary.

If this is not the case and you do not have a union contract or other employment contracts, under the FLSA employers generally must pay employees only for the hours they actually work, whether at home or at the employer’s office. However, the FLSA requires employers to pay non-exempt workers at least the minimum wage for all hours worked, and at least time and one half the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Salaried exempt employees generally must receive their full salary in any week in which they perform any work, subject to certain very limited exceptions.

Q5: Are businesses and other employers required to cover any additional costs that employees may incur if they work from home (internet access, computer, additional phone line, increased use of electricity, etc.)?

A5: Employers may not require employees who are covered by the FLSA to pay or reimburse the employer for such items that are business expenses of the employer if doing so reduces the employee's earnings below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation.

Q6: Do OSHA’s regulations and standards apply to the home office? Are there any other Federal laws employers need to worry about if employees work from home?

A6: The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have any regulations regarding telework in home offices. The agency issued a directive in February 2000 stating that the agency will not conduct inspections of employees' home offices, will not hold employers liable for employees' home offices, and does not expect employers to inspect the home offices of their employees. If OSHA receives a complaint about a home office, the complainant will be advised of OSHA's policy. If an employee makes a specific request, OSHA may informally let employers know of complaints about home office conditions but will not follow-up with the employer or employee.

Employers who are required to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses will continue to be responsible for keeping such records for injuries and illnesses occurring in a home office.

United States Constitution Questions

How can the government force me to quarantine or be vaccinated against my will?  What about my individual right to be free from government intrusion?

There is a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1905 that I like to share with my health law students called Jacobson v. Massachusetts that answers those questions. In that case, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed a law allowing local health departments to require and enforce vaccination of all residents. The penalty for refusing vaccination was $5.00. The city of Cambridge decided to implement this law to require all individuals to get vaccinated for smallpox. Henning Jacobson refused, stating that the requirement infringed on his constitutional right to life, liberty or property under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

The US Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Jacobson, noting that the vaccination law was backed by science, and quoted the following, pertinent language:

“But the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy.”  

“The possession and enjoyment of all rights are subject to such reasonable conditions as may be deemed by the governing authority of the country essential to the safety, health, peace, good order, and morals of the community. Even liberty itself, the greatest of all rights, is not unrestricted license to act according to one’s own will. It is only freedom from restraint under conditions essential to the equal enjoyment of the same right by others. It is, then, liberty regulated by law.”  

“Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

Helpful Links:

• https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/pandemic

If you have further, more specific questions, do not hesitate to contact the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC.  We are here to help.

Along with starting her law firm, the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC, almost 5 years ago, Barbara Zabawa has also started the nonprofit Wellness Compliance Institute (WCI). Thus far, WCI has created standards of conduct for wellness professionals as well as brokers. These standards are essential to ethical and legal wellness practice. Barbara has presented at the National Wellness Conference on workplace wellness compliance issues for the last four years. As a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, she has conducted research on the use of incentives in workplace wellness programs, and whether those incentives are perceived as complying with the requirement that information collection is “voluntary” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Tags:  Coronavirus  employee wellness  Employment law  Worksite Wellness 

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Wellness After the Pandemic

Posted By Chuck Gillespie, Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wellness After the Pandemic

We have seen the health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now more than ever, we need to be highly aware of the overall well-being of everyone – infected or not. National Wellness Institute recommends the following important wellness steps to help combat the effects of this worldwide health crisis:

  1. Stay connected to people as much as possible. Call your friends, family and co-workers when possible. While social distancing is a critical health success factor to stopping the transmittal of COVID-19, making certain those in your social circle also do not feel the isolation issues that can come with social distancing. Be very cognizant of your friends and family members who traditionally are anxious – they are likely feeling an even higher level of concern and may react in a less calm manner. Do not just text them – talk to them or video chat them.
  2. Stay informed, but with the right information. NWI has been following the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and the United States Health and Human Services for its information. Do your best to determine if the information provided to you is factual and evidence based. There are going to be people across the globe who will use this pandemic for personal gain – just do your best to be informed and with the right information.
  3. Consider how this will affect some financially and spiritually. This is not only a health crisis but an economic crisis, especially for hospitality workers. Further, our health care workers are working around the clock. I read a great line that said, “You want to know how it feels to be on the front line as a healthcare worker during COVID-19? It is about the same as being in the orchestra on the Titanic and still playing music.” Be patient with people and do your best to empathize.

We must be diligent in flatting the spread of this horrific virus, but we also must begin to prepare for coming out of the crisis. These are the times we will see relapses in unhealthy habits and we must help people identify ways to empower their health conscience again. We must help those who will suffer financially rebuild their relationship with money. We must remain resilient so we can return to thriving. We must reimagine our wellness and health strategies at work and in our communities going forward to ensure these issues can be managed.

Now more than ever, it is time for the wellness champions to be the voice of your community and lead the change.

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Beyond the Want

Posted By Dr. Lana M. Saal, EdD, MCHES, CWP, CTTS, Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Perhaps one of the strongest expressions of want hails from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, when Veruca Salt bellows out, “I WANT IT NOW!” Whereas she had her rich parents to buy or get her anything in an instant, most of us don’t have that privilege. Ah, but like Veruca, we do have our “wants” in life.

We want cars, clothes, nice homes, and a multitude of other tangibles. We want to lose weight, become healthy, or get more organized. We want people in our lives and our kids to be safe and successful. We want to start a new career (or retire), travel, be in places, to accomplish, or to be happy. 

Want, by definition, is a verb and kick-starts thoughts of potential action. When we think or speak that very word, meaning to have a desire to possess or do, in essence, what we are saying to ourselves, or out loud, is, “Yes, this is something I yearn for.” 

We think of our wants as something we could achieve, maybe, down the road—eventually perhaps. From the spark of the thought of a want, what happens next in our mind is a mental conversation. Within a matter of a few seconds, the human brain adeptly and quite comfortably goes to a litany of reasons why that want is not possible. We quickly create a mental list of all of the excuses (let’s call them choices) as to why our wants seem unobtainable. Impossibility reigns over possibility.

Did you know humans are actually wired to be more comfortable with the negative? There is actually an increased surge in electrical activity from thoughts that are negative that occur within the brain. This stems back to the fight or flight response, whereas danger (negative) would prepare the human body for what may possibly threaten life and living. The mind and body are more on guard, ensuring survival.  The brain has learned to be more comfortable in this state. In modern day life, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by the downbeat, rather than the good.

Understanding the why behind how we react or respond is essential to understanding human nature and creating change.  

It’s not that we are unable or incapable of achieving our wants. Not at all. Rather, we need to first start with an awareness of patterning that has occurred throughout life experiences. The “I can’t rant” is a louder voice than the one that compels us to believe in ourselves. We often stay stuck in doubt and fear rather than move sure-footedly toward achieving our wants.

There is a brain-based ability called neuroplasticity, which is an adaptive patterning by the mind. This has historically worked against us through repetitive, old, negative thought patterns. The more we act or behave in a certain way, the more those pathways become imprinted in the brain. Researchers, practitioners, and adapters are finding this brain malleability can actually work in our favor if we simply change the thought processes. 

The human mind can change its physical structure and mode of thought processing, based upon our own input of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Gone now is the decades-old belief that the brain was fixed and not capable of learning, changing, or growing past a certain age.

In seeking the hearts’ desire, work toward shifting the thought processes of the mind. Within those first few moments, shift the internal dialogue to replace the tendency toward negatives with more positive and affirming thoughts and statements. It’s akin to flipping a light switch (which provides an excellent visual reminder for all of us). Though this incredibly powerful step starts with small achievables, know you are rewiring the brain. This how we start to go beyond the want. 

Lana Saal holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Master’s in Health, and Bachelor’s in Nutrition; Certified Wellness Practitioner (CWP) through the National Wellness Institute and certifications as Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing; and Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (CTTS).

Tags:  Behavior Change  Emotional wellness  Mental Health  Mindfulness 

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A Guide to Medical Alert Systems

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Photo by Philippe Leone on Unsplash

The Center for Disease Control states falls among older adults are extremely common, with an estimated 2.5 million older adults treated for fall injuries in the U.S., every year.

An estimated 25,000 of those fall injuries result in death.

Justifiably so, our research showed that 8 out of 10 caregivers are worried about fall prevention for their loved ones.

It was clear to us that we needed to provide resources that would not only address this common concern, but provide helpful and practical ways to ease stress and worry.  Caring.com has a guide on medical alert systems worth reading, which can be found here

Caring.com is the leading online destination for those seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones.

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Being Doctors of Ourselves Is the Real Future of Healthcare

Posted By Mark Pettus, MD, Monday, March 16, 2020

As concerns swirl around the future of healthcare coverage in this country, there’s a tendency to think that our personal health revolves largely around doctor’s appointments, runs to the pharmacy, and an occasional trip to the hospital.  But the truth is, the single most critical factor in staying healthy is – and always has been – our own self-care.  That’s more important now than ever. We’re doctors of ourselves, and we need to view and plan our lives accordingly.

Some suggestions on how to approach this responsibility: 

Envision Your Personal Health Future

Take a few mindful moments to focus on what truly matters to you. Close your eyes and picture yourself three months, a year, five years, or 10 years from now.  Who do you see? What are you doing to stay alive and thrive? Write down the three to five things that are most important to your future health. Your list might include things as basic as “lose weight” or “stop smoking”, or as deep reaching as “stay alive to have fun with my grandchildren.” This type of personal visioning and priority setting makes an enormous difference in the success of a self-care program.

Set Very Specific, yet Achievable Goals

Once you know your priorities, it’s time to set specific goals around achieving them. Be realistic.You want goals ambitious enough to improve your health, but not so far reaching that you set yourself up for failure. If lowering your weight and reaching a healthy body mass index is your priority, a goal of losing 25 pounds over the next three months may be too much of a stretch; maybe five or 10 pounds is more realistic. Rather than promise yourself you’ll work out at the gym three days a week for an hour each time, a better starting point would be a brisk 10-minute walk around the neighborhood four days a week. The key here is gaining traction and setting a foundation on which to build.

Enlist Others to Join You on Your Personal Quest for Better Health

There’s no need to go it alone. All evidence suggests that when you partner with others, your odds of success increase exponentially.  If you’re taking those Saturday morning hikes alone, chances are you’ll come up with many excuses to lounge at home instead. But if you know your best friend will show up at your door at 9 a.m., ready to go, you’re not going to disappoint her.  Other partners on this journey might include your spouse, a bicycling buddy from work, or even the family pet. It doesn’t always have to involve exercise. Maybe you and a friend or family member spend Sunday afternoons making healthy meals for the week ahead. Adding a social dimension to your self-care plan makes it more fun and achievable.

Create or Change Your Environment to Increase Your Likelihood of Success

We all know the power of temptation and how it can devour our best intentions. That ice cream in the freezer or those cookies on the counter are calling us.  Clearly, the foods we buy are part of the environment we create around us. By consciously controlling our purchase impulses and making better food choices, we create a home environment far more conducive to success. In a similar way, if you’re trying to quit smoking, avoiding places (and even people) that trigger that habit becomes an important environmental strategy.

Be Ready to Course-Correct as Time Goes on

As important as it is stay accountable to your goals, the reality is you may not always have flawless success. If you have setbacks, you’ve got two choices: beat yourself up or pick yourself up and start over.  Punishing yourself only weakens your resolve and delays your “recovery.” Here’s where you return to the first step (see above) of this continuous improvement cycle. Revisit your original priorities. Reset the clock on your life-long journey of self-care.

Mark Pettus, MD, is Director of Medical Education and Medical Director of Wellness and Population Health at Berkshire Health Systems.


Tags:  Healthcare  Mark Pettus  Self Care 

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Practical Well-Being

Posted By Stacey Krawczyk, MS, RD, Monday, March 16, 2020

Photo by: Nik MacMillan via Upsplash

In a recent Mintel blog, "Wellness Trends to Watch in 2020", the author states that 2020 will be the year for “wellness for everyone.” Holistic wellness activities that are accessible and achievable will drive consumers’ success. 

As wellness practitioners, it is important we understand the impact our recommendations make as consumers seek our professional guidance and vetting of credible wellness activities, services, and brands. We know from surveys like this one from IFIC that consumers trust health and wellness professionals the most. Shouldn’t we expect they are asking for practical and specific recommendations that help them make choices to improve their well-being?
Fortunately, there is a partner that helps make our jobs a bit “easier.” Pulse Health & Wellness has a unique evidence-based engagement platform that connects health and wellness brands to professional practitioners. Leveraging evidence-based professional resources, coupons, samples of food, and wellness products for clients enables one to cut through the clutter and noise in the marketplace and find practical solutions for clients or patients.

Members and friends of the National Wellness Institute can sign up at nwi.pulseconnect.me to join the Pulse Health & Wellness network at no cost! 

 Stacey Krawczyk, MS, RD, is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute and President of FoodWell Strategies, a food and wellness marketing consultancy.


Tags:  Brands  clinical practice  Emerging Wellness Professional  Engagement  PulseConnect  wellness  Wellness Trends 

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Hand Washing: Expert Advice for People With Skin Conditions

Posted By Tim Newman, Medical News Today - via NWI, Thursday, March 12, 2020

Photo by Curology

To stem the tide of COVID-19, the advice from all major health bodies is to wash your hands properly and frequently.

However, regular hand washing can exacerbate skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis. In this feature, we ask the experts for advice.

Starting in Wuhan, China, the novel coronavirus — now named SARS-CoV-2 — has reached every continent on earth except Antarctica. Because the virus is new to science, researchers are still searching for ways to prevent, treat, or cure the disease.

Institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have set out their recommendations. At the forefront of these is thorough hand washing with alcohol-based hand gels or soap and water.

Skin Conditions and Hand Washing

Hand washing is one of the most powerful ways to slow the spread of infectious diseases.

However, for individuals with particularly dry skin or skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, excessive hand washing can result in skin damage and sore hands.

Even for individuals with healthy skin, overuse of soaps and hand sanitizers can cause the skin to dry out and crack.

As Dr. Zainab Laftah, consultant dermatologist and a spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation explained to Medical News Today:

“Repetitive use of hand sanitizers and hand washing can strip the proteins in the epidermis (top skin layer), leading to a compromise of the skin barrier and, therefore, the risk of infection. Additionally, soaps can give rise to irritant hand dermatitis, which presents as dry, flaky, itchy red skin, particularly in the finger web spaces and on the knuckles.” To avoid this, Dr. Laftah recommends “the use of a regular moisturizer.”

Individuals with preexisting skin conditions are more at risk of skin damage. These people “may benefit from hand washing with a moisturizer that contains an antibacterial ingredient, for example, chlorhexidine or benzalkonium chloride,” explains Dr. Laftah.

However, she notes that a recent study reported that “hand sanitizers containing these biocidal ingredients were less effective than alcohol-based hand gels at eradicating the coronavirus.”

Besides moisturizing, it is also important to dry hands thoroughly.

This is important for two reasons: firstly, germs are transferred more easily between wet hands.

Secondly, as Dr. Laftah explains, “water itself has a drying effect on the skin by reducing the skin’s natural oils when it evaporates, thus impairing the skin barrier.”

Overall, Dr. Laftah recommends either of the following two options:

  • Wash with soap or with moisturizer and water, then moisturize.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand gel and then moisturize afterward. Moisturizing at the same time might compromise the anti-microbial properties of the hand gel. 

She adds that a “moisturizer that lathers can act as a soap substitute and will be less drying on the hands; therefore, those with cracked skin may find this more soothing.”

Following on from this, Dr. Adil Sheraz, also a consultant dermatologist and a spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, explained to MNT, “If patients feel the need to use alcohol or sanitizing gel, (this may exacerbate the eczema or skin condition), then apply emollient immediately afterward to minimize skin irritation.”

Minimizing the Impact of Hand Washing

We contacted the British Association of Dermatologists, who were keen to stress that they “don’t want to deter people from following government guidance on reducing the risk of coronavirus infection, hand washing being a key part of this.”

However, they do offer the following advice to help minimize the impact that increased hand washing might have on already damaged skin:

  • Moisturizers, or emollients, are vital for treating hand dermatitis. They help repair damaged outer skin and lock moisture inside. People should apply them repeatedly throughout the day, and whenever the skin feels dry.
  • Applying an emollient after washing the hands can help. They advise that some individuals might benefit from applying emollient to their hands overnight while wearing cotton gloves.
  • When washing the dishes, using cleaning products, or shampooing a child’s hair, a person can protect their hands by wearing latex or rubber gloves.


Some skin conditions have an immune component. For this reason, doctors sometimes prescribe immunosuppressants, including methotrexate and ciclosporin.

Some individuals have shown concern and are asking whether they should stop taking their medication.

According to Dr. Sheraz, “There is no good evidence that being on immune-suppression necessarily increases the risk of getting COVID-19 or that the disease has a more severe course in such people. However, there is still a lot to learn about the virus, and following government advice is vital."

The British Association of Dermatologists reiterate this stance. They make it clear that “creams used for skin conditions, in the correct quantities recommended by dermatologists or [doctors], are not likely to increase the risks of getting COVID-19 or having a more severe form of the illness.”

They write that, “At present, most people are choosing to continue treatment until there is evidence on which to base advice. […] Any decision made about stopping treatment should include the consideration that your skin condition may deteriorate. It may also be more difficult to access healthcare services over the upcoming months.”

“Unfortunately, there is no blanket answer for these patients,” Dr. Sheraz told MNT, “a decision will need to be made on a case to case basis. Stopping immune-suppressing medication may well result in a flare-up of the underlying condition. This will need to be taken into account.”

The overarching themes are that hand washing is essential and that individuals who have particularly dry hands or skin conditions should use emollients to minimize damage and consider buying emollient soap substitutes.

For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.

For information on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus, this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page provides advice.

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