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Stress - Use It Wisely and Stay Younger

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Are you at that "golden" age when retirement is looming, or has already loomed?   For years, we have all thought of retirement as the reward for a lifetime of work, but the reality is quite different. 

To be sure, we all know how much we enjoy a surprise day off during a blizzard, or our routine free days on the weekend or on summer holidays.  Well, an idle retirement is not just an endless multiple of these marvelous mini-holidays.  The lack of stress leads to boredom, and a lonely sense that all your working friends have forgotten you, which, after a while is quite true.  Soon one day blends into the next, and, with the absense of any time pressures or deadlines, tasks that you used to do quickly in the middle of a busy schedule now drag on for weeks.  The sense of purpose or mission is gone, paradoxically at the time in life when one needs little sleep, and has the greatest levels of intellectual and experiential resourses. 

Those who are married note that their spouses have to make considerable adjustments to their partners constant proximity, many throwing up their hands in frustration, saying "I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch".  Arguments increase, and, in many cases, eventually conversation itself becomes extinct.  I have been in many holiday resorts such as in Las Vegas, where thousands of retired couples take vacations, and have observed them in restaurants.  Those who are with friends are quite animated, while an alarming number of those couples who are eating alone will sit in silence, each person eating their meals as if there was no one else at the table.  This is in direct contrast to newly-weds, who are in animated conversations discussing their dreams, aspirations, and the stresses that they face each day.  The retired folks, having reached their dream of stopping work, having aspired to endless free time, and having not one stress or challenge left worth talking about, have simply run out of things to say.  The particularily sad part of this scenario that happens to those who retire idly is that the consequenses are far more dangerous than simple boredom or lonliness.  The medical statistics are truly alarming.  Within a few short years, these idle seniors will become  senile, or even dead.  I've seen it happen time and time again with my patients. 

Count Otto von Bismark was the man who arbitrarily picked 65 as the age of retirement, primarily because few people reached that stage in his era.  But many, such as  Winston Churchill, George Burns, Bob Hope, and Sister Theresa,  have ignored this tradition, and continued to work and face considerable stresses long after this age. As a direct result, they all stay young in spirit, and in body, long after their idle peers have passed on or become senile.  Stress makes us think.  Stress makes us react.  It gives us a mission to achieve.  It gives us the fullest possible range of emotions, from  moments of exhilaration to moments of sadness.  In other words stress makes us feel alive, and when it is removed from our lives we suddenly feel and look old.  For centuries man has looked for ways to prolong our lives, and Ponce de Leon, for one, thought he found it.  But the real fountain of youth has been with us all along, and we have not only ignored it in our elder years, but we have actually sought ways to protect ourselves from it.  It seems that even in this age of miracle cures and laser surgery, common sense isn't very common after all. 

Here's an action tip. 

Benjamin Franklin once said "there's nothing wrong with retirement, as long as it doesn't interfere with your work".  

Wise words.  If company or government policy force you from your job, get busy finding new challenges.  If you are voluntarily  dictating your retirement, think again.  Whether it is in the form of taking courses, learning a new language, sport, or skill, or starting up your own small business, stress, as long as it is handled competently, will keep you younger longer

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WEXTING: Walking while Texting is the Traffic Accident for Pedestrians

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One of the newest forms of preventable injury comes via your cell phone.  Now that these devices are ubiquitous and addictive, we are seeing some very serious medical consequences not only for drivers, but for pedestrians.  

Walking while Texting, otherwise known as "WEXTING" is the latest hazard to clog up emergency wards. Sometimes the results are comical, but serious inuries or even death can be the consequence of your next step. 

In headline news we have seen carnage caused by train and bus drivers who are texting and not paying attention to their driving.  Hundreds of needless deaths are caused by such dereliction of responsibility.  Even thousands more are killed as a consequence of texting drivers of cars and trucks.  Driving while talking on a cell phone is illegal in many jurisdictions, so many people have switched to texting.  The results are not much better than talking; one's focus is taken up by the phone, not the road ahead.  To this point, many police now can charge drivers with "driving while distracted", even if they were not actually holding the phone to their ear .  But the one place people think is safe to text is walking.  After all, what harm could come to a pedestrian who walks and texts at the same time?  Well, as it turns out, a lot.  Maybe walking and chewing gum is as much multi-tasking as most people should handle.

In one US study recently it was estimated that over 60,000 people were injured while walking/texting, and 4,000 of them were killed.  

Distracted walkers have been run over by cars, as they tend to step into an intersection without looking in either direction.  Most take an extra 2 full seconds to cross the road, as they walk 20 percent slower while their fingers dance across the keyboards.  Some have fallen into manholes, fountains, and down staircases.  Others have walked of the ends of piers into the sea, and still others into plate glass windows.  Injuries tend to be fractures to bones in the face, eye injuries, concussions, or fractured feet and legs.  If the victim walks into a moving vehicle, the whole body can be crushed with fatal results.

 In the city of London, experiments have started with padding telephone poles to prevent concussions as pedestrians lead with the top of their heads, while focussing on the little screen in their hands. 

 Whether dialing for new songs on your iphone, talking to a real person via your telephone, or texting, the results can be a catastrophe.


In the car, it has now been shown that talking , even through your car's speakers, can be just as distracting as holding an actual phone to your ear.  Our heads are already swimming in an information overload, so even the mental stimulation of conversation can have disastrous results on your present reflexes. This fact has led to police charging distracted drivers even if their phone conversation allowed both hands to be on the steering wheel.  With pedestrians who text, their entire head is pointed to the ground, leaving them blind to forward obstacles.  Even worse when combined with ear buds, now they are also deaf to the noises of surrounding runners, bikes, and cars. 

View this brief news video for some Wexting visual images.

So the action tip is clear.  Just because you are not driving does not mean that walking is always safe.  Texting, dialing up songs, or watching YouTube while you walk is an invitation to trouble.  Give yourself a break, and try to unplug when you are in motion.  Otherwise your next text could be to call for an ambulance.  From a time management point of view, its worth spending a few seconds to stop moving while using your cell phone, in order to avoid spending hours or years recovering from your injuries.  

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Have a Glass of Red Wine to Relieve Stress and Fight Heart Disease and Cancer

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Do you drink an occasional glass of red wine in the evening after a stressful day at work? Are you also a bit confused about which foods are good for you and which ones to avoid? Well, its getting even more interesting now.

An image of glass of red wine

We've long known that dietary factors are being found by researchers to play a role in the prevention or cause of cancers. Edible items from fats to chewing tobacco have been implicated as cancer causing agents, while others such as fiber and some vitamins can offer protection. Well, add to the list of good dietary products: red wine, garlic, onions, and soy sauce, although please, not all at once.

Dr. Terrance Leighton, professor of microbiology at the University of California in Berkley, identified a substance called quercetin which is found in these foods and, ironically, can also be a carcinogen. However, he says that its power as an anticancer agent simply overwhelms its danger as a mutagen, or cancer causing one. Found in a wide variety of foods, quercetin is active in the micromolar range, in directly blocking the proliferation of cancer cells. In case you are not familiar with the micromolar range, try looking for it just this side of the Rocky Mountain range. Dr Leighton noted that Chinese who are on diets high in allium vegetables, such as onions and garlic, which have incredible levels of quercetin, have twenty times less cancer risk than those without these vegetables.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin reported that mice given a cancer-causing diet developed fewer tumors if they had soy sauce on their food. Mind you, what they don't tell you is that the salt in the soy sauce probably gave the mice swollen ankles, high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney disease, but hey, this is only a cancer experiment.

Here's the news about red wine: in moderation, it has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits and may help prevent heart disease by protecting against artery damage. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine that's gotten attention. Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease. 

The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol. Simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice, has been suggested as one way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine.

Other foods that contain some resveratrol include peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. It's not yet known how beneficial eating grapes or other foods might be compared with drinking red wine when it comes to promoting heart health. The amount of resveratrol in food and red wine can vary widely.

While this update about red wine might sound great if you enjoy a glass of red wine with your evening meal, the medical community is wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol. That's because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.


Here's an action tip:
Medical research comes and goes, and foods that were the villains of yesterday can come back into favor. In the meantime, until we hear evidence to the contrary, it seems we can all sit back to a Chinese vegetable meal, have a glass of red wine, and take the medical news not with a grain of salt, but with a shake of soy.

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Dry Eyes - How to make them less stressful

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Dry eyes are more than a modest problem.  They can be the cause of great stress.

Sufferers wake up with scratchy eyes, and have to take drops frequently just to avoid discomfort.  


When untreated, dry eyes are more likely to get infections or redness, and their owners are more likely to be irritable. 

Let's take a look at the problem, and consider solutions.

1. What are tears?

Tears are really a mixture of three layers over the surface of the eye; water, oil, and mucous.  The water layer is closest to the cornea, while the oil or lipid layer is secreted by the mebomian glands of the lids.  The lipid layer keeps the water from evaporating.  The mucous layer on the top is there to protect the other two layers from blasts of air and particles that might prove irritating.  The final protective layer of the eyeball is the lids, which blink to renew the spread of the three layers, and to refresh the eyeball surface.  Tears are produced inside and along the edges of the lids, and drain out through the punctum or hole in the inner margin of each of our upper and lower lids, close to the nose.  The tear ducts then carry them away into the nose.  This is why crying is also associated with blowing your nose!

2. What makes eyes go dry?

There are many factors that lead towards dry eyes.  These include staring too long at computers, tablets or cell phones, where the eyes are trying to stay open for focus and concentration.  The same can happen with prolonged study of books, or staring at the road while driving on a long trip.   LASIK surgery (to restore normal vision to people who need glasses) can also be drying in later years.  People with certain skin diseases like acne rosacea and Sjogren's syndrome may suffer from dry eyes.  Even birthdays can cause dry eyes, starting at about the age of 50.  In younger people, makeup and facial soaps can add to the problem, as can wearing contact lenses for excessive periods of time (even if the manufaturer promises you can leave contacts in overnight).  Ambient dust or other small particles can also bedevil the dryness problem.  Certain medications can also cause dryness as a side effect; be wary of drops that "remove redness" as these too can make the problem worse.

3.  What can I do about it?

Try to establish root causes.  If your room air is dusty, try to control it with air filtration or other measures.  If you wake up with dry eyes, make sure your pillow is not a bag of dust by washing or dry-cleaning it.   If makeup is a problem, use hypoallergenic products, and learn how to apply them properly.   If you stare for hours at computers, then try to take your breaks outside, and focus on distant objects to give your eyes a break from the short distance stare.  If non-prescription drops are not sufficient, please see your doctor.  While your family doctor can initiate investigations, including for general health issues, you will need to see a specialist to further examine the eye, including to measure the production of tears with a strip of litmus paper and stained eye drops.  As you will see on our post on the subject, it is important to have the full array of modern tools to examine the eye, not just a hand-held light with an eye chart at the end of the room.  Once the doctor assesses the problem, then a menu of options apply. 

 Punctal plugs can be inserted into the drain holes of each lid, commonly the lower ones.   If you have tried non-prescription drops, make sure you use them often and correctly. (see our article on Eye Drops Made Easy)   

 If the problem is with dry wax in the meibomian glands of the edges of each lid, then try to use warm compresses such as a face-cloth.

Press firmly over each eye for a minute or so, and the dry balls of wax in each gland opening will melt away.  Shampoo in the eyes, (almost!) can also be effective in dissolving the waxy gland material; use a gentle shampoo like Baby Shampoo, and rub it into each eye, almost opening the lids.  After leaving it for a minute, then rinse under the shower. 

Use regular drops like Refresh or Systane, just for lubrication and moistening. 


Above all, make sure you have your eyes examined regularly, and protect them with sunglasses, or appropriate goggles for handywork or sports. 

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GERD: There's a Fire Down Below!

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Is stress getting you right in the breadbasket? Here are some tips to put out that “fire in your belly”!

A generation ago, people would associate stress with stomach ulcers.  In cartoons and family sitcoms, the children would cause some stress of the week, the father would rise to the bait, and the mother would caution: “Henry, watch your ulcer”.  Often, this would be followed by the automatic response of a glass of milk.  Ulcers didn’t seem to be happening to women, and the male victims were always being told to “calm down”, or advised to sidetrack their careers to something less stressful.  If the ulcers persevered, most patients would end up with major surgery to cut the vagus nerve, leaving behind a huge scar on the abdomen.  My, how things have changed!

Now ulcers are diagnosed much more easily, and treated much more simply.  To diagnose one of the common causes, a blood test for helibacter pylori is a good start.  If this bacteria is present in the stomach (its antibodies show up on a regular blood test), then the doctor simply reaches for a prescription of antibiotics to kill the offending organisms for good.

If the ulcer needs images for diagnosis, these can be easily arranged, but often yield to the more definitive scoping down through the esophagus and into the stomach itself.  Here the ulcer can be spotted, photographed, and biopsied to rule out malignancy and check for infections. Once diagnosed, the treatment is done effectively with drugs, such as Nexium and others.  Surgeons have basically been written out of the equation, and, thankfully ulcers are not much of a real threat any more.

But with the routine of scopes inserted down into the stomach, doctors have become very familiar with a previously unheralded inflammation in the lower part of the esophagus.  This is popularly known as GERD, or Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux-Disorder, and it has replaced ulcers as the number one stomach complaint today.

In part, it is made worse by eating too much, eating too quickly, eating the wrong inflammatory foods (spices, sugars, junk foods), and by drinking too much (pop or alcohol). Just to make your sleep miserable, it is also made worse by eating too late.  Then the sufferer will be rolling in agony as dinner tries to repeat itself, with an acid backwash  into the throat, accompanied by nausea and sweats, and a racing heart.  This is even worse for the 60% of the population over age 60  who already have a hiatal hernia.   (

 A billion dollar industry has rushed into the breach.   And what a breach this is.  Currently one third of adult Americans suffer symptoms of GERD at least once a month.  That doesn’t get much better in many other western countries, including the UK and Europe.  It basically marches in step with obesity and fast food popularity. 

But note that not one case is caused by the lack of a brand name drug.  Almost all cases can be controlled by addressing the root causes:

1.       SLOW DOWN: Stop wolfing your food, and your GERD will thank you.  Swallowing fast will cause ingestion of air (aerophagia), in the same way that fizzy drinks, or drinks slurped through a straw will do.  For more on eating slower, visit our article here.

2.       SIT UP: This includes slouching at work, and certainly includes post prandial posture.  Obviously we would all expect GERD if we did a head-stand right after a thanksgiving dinner, but even lying flat right after a meal is tempting the stomach to spill its contents easily into the esophagus.  If you are having trouble sleeping, sit up on a “chair” of pillows at the head of your bed, or elevate the feet at the head of the bed on blocks or books to keep the stomach contents from washing back into the gullet.

3.       DON’T SMOKE: well, that is obvious for a dozen other reasons, but here is another good one to add to the litany! For more, read our stop smoking article here.

4.       DON’T OVERFILL:  Even gas stations admonish users to not overfill their tanks, as spillage will predictable follow.  How about trying that for your own stomach, or else it will also become a “gas” tank!

5.       DON’T EAT NAPALM: White sugars, as in that gooey dessert that topped off the meal, are hugely inflammatory.  Also spicy foods, or alcohol, and even good foods that contain gluten, if one is sensitive. If you can’t resist, make sure the portion is very small!

6.       SEE YOUR DOCTOR if the above doesn’t help.  You may indeed need investigations, and, ultimately, appropriate treatment.  But don’t go back to ignoring steps 1 through 5 above, or you will be right back to step 6!

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Water is Easy Aid for Stress and Heart Disease

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Water: it makes up three quarters of our planet, and it makes up three quarters of your body. We swim in it until the day we're born; all our life our body craves it. When you find out what happens in your body under stress, you'll see why, and believe me, it will drive you to drink.

The link between water and stress reduction is well documented. All of our organs, including our brains, need water to function properly. If you’re dehydrated, your body isn’t running well -- and that can lead to stress.

An image of river rapids

When we are under stress, which is most of the time, our stone-age reflexes think they are helping by thickening our blood. The spleen, a fist sized organ under the left ribs, squirts out it's thick paste of red blood cells, to help us carry more oxygen to the muscles. That's why we can run faster than a speeding bullet if a wild animal is attacking us, and why  Usain Bolt  cannot set a world record on an empty practice track. But for most of us desk potatoes, there is nowhere to run when stress strikes, so our blood just thickens, and sits there, waiting for the wild animal that never comes.

The fact that a stressful phone-call from the tax department can turn your blood to porridge could clog a coronary artery, and cause a heart attack. One of the simple things you can do to fight back, apart from not answering the phone, is to drink eight glasses of water every day. Taking in more water helps to dilute the blood, and this is about the only way to accomplish that feat without side-effects. If you don't like your tap water, or you don't know who's been camping up-stream, then invest in bottled water. It comes up from pure wells, after years of natural filtration, and is a lot cheaper than some of the other vintages you might be considering.

Here's an action tip:

How can you build more water consumption into your day?

  • Carry an insulated sports bottle with you and fill it up periodically.
  • Keep a glass of water on your desk at work.
  • Keep another glass next to your bed. Many of us wake up dehydrated first thing in the morning.
  • Switch one glass of soda or cup of coffee for a glass of water.
  • Drink small amounts of water throughout the day.

That doesn’t mean that drinking plenty of water throughout the day will magically cause your money problems, your kids’ troubles at school, and your deadlines at work to disappear. But if you’re already stressed by coping with all of these things, you don’t need the additional stress of dehydration to add to your burden.

By the way, drinking eight glasses a day may also take years off your face, by re-hydrating the skin. So raise your glasses, all eight of them, and let's drink to your health: with water.

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Colonoscopy for Cancer of the Colon: Hind-sight is 20-20

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Colon Cancer Prevention

 Aging is supposed to be a reward, not a punishment.  However, there are days when that may not seem to be much consolation.  Just like with a car, we can ignore maintenance at first, but after it becomes an old classic, it needs a lot more maintenance.

One human example is our search for preventable diseases.  Colon cancer is certainly one of the classic examples. 

Our society is at a high risk of the disease, for a number of reasons.  Our aging population, or changing diet with less fiber and more sugars and additives, and our increased levels of stress all mitigate increased risks of this (and other) diseases.  Because cancer of the colon is so easy to prevent, and yet so deadly if allowed to grow undiagosed, prevention trumps heroic surgery as our first option.  While prevention incorporates the usual good lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, and stress management, here are some critical elements of detection:

1.       Fecal Occult Blood test: this is a simple test kit, available from your doctor or lab, which will show trace amounts of blood in the stool.  This might be from bleeding from the gums or swallowed blood from a nosebleed, or it could come from the stomach or any part of the intestines down to the rectum.  While blood is visible as red or black discoloration in the stools, this test is sensitive enough to detect blood hidden from the human eye.  Because it is inexpensive and non-invasive, this can be done to any age group.  We often order it for patients with low iron levels, or with known bowel diseases like chron’s or ulcerative colitis.


2.       Colonoscopy:  This is the definitive test, routinely suggested for all adults after the age of 50.  Earlier screening is suggested for those who have any of the risk factors mentioned above, including those who have positive Fecal Occult Blood tests.


                1. Minor surgery:  Nip it in the bud: the point of a direct (as opposed to a “virtual” one) colonoscopy is that it will not only show any polyps, but allows the doctor to snip, zap, or otherwise eradicate them before they turn into cancers.  A classic “two-fer”, this means the diagnosis is made, and the treatment is given all during the same procedure.  For patches of suspicious cells, a biopsy can be taken which will detect diseases within a few days of lab processing. 

2.    Major surgery: If the above is too late, and the cancer has progressed into and through the wall of the colon, then full abdominal surgery is usually indicated.  Often this ends with a segment of bowel removed, and a colectomy or removal of bowel being done.  The patient is left with a colostomy bag, which is often permanent.  In some cases, the cancer may have already spread beyond the colon and into the lymph nodes, meaning that systemic chemotherapy or radiation may then be needed.

Please consider option 1, no matter how you might rather postpone or ignore it.  Those who are in denial are likely going to end up with Option 2, and for some of those, even surgery may be too late to save their lives.  Once cancer has been established,  a third of all patients will die from it.  If detected early, the survival rate should be 100%.

There are plenty of “bad luck” reasons for us to die; please don’t let “bad management” add to your risks!  Ask your doctor for a referral, and make sure you check out your colon when you are due. 

For more info on colonoscopy:

For more articles on colon issues, check these articles on




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Speech Writing 1.0: How to come up with Power Phrases like a Leader

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For most of us, public speaking is a deep fear, probably dating back to our first “show and tell” command performance in kindergarten. 

How about being put on the spot as a teacher singled us out in class for not paying attention? Everyone’s gaze would turn to the guilty student, his or her mouth would dry up, the mind would go blank, and the most useless gibberish would be all that issued forth. 

But in the age of internet access to video clips, accurate public speaking becomes really important.  (see our article on public speaking).  One wrong word while adlibbing can cause public embarrassment, outrage or anger.  Sometimes the “gotcha” quote comes while the speaker thought the microphone was off; other times it comes during an impromptu scrum with the press.   For the politician, this can mean votes lost.  For the Corporate spokesperson, this can mean loss of product appeal or stock prices. 

That’s why speech writers are turning to technology of the PPSM (Power Phrase Slot Machine).  Adapted from the familiar casino slot machines, each one comes with a large crank handle, and three little windows.  Instead of triads of fruit symbols, these windows are set for VERB, ADJECTIVE, and NOUN.  Run together, this will create a great power-phrase, which can be inserted anywhere into a speech.  The result is inspirational, cannot offend anyone, and is guaranteed to withstand the scrutiny of YouTube.

The samples below were taken by me at a large corporate convention.  I was booked as the key-note speaker, but first all the vice-presidents  got up to make their inspirational plea to rally the troops.  As I took notes, it became apparent that each power phrase must have been generated by the same PPSM.  While the speaker may have had the aid of the teleprompter to make this all look smooth, we could see where the slot machine was inserted.  The audience was indeed spellbound.
























































































So if we drop in on the rehearsals where the speaker gets to use the real crank-handle, we can see what’s behind all the meaningless gibberish we see on the airwaves.  Make sure you leave time for the applause that is guaranteed to follow each phrase.

The permutations of Power-Phrases  become endless:

“Let’s come together and (crank!) MAXIMIZE our MARKET-DRIVEN MATRIX!”

“Its time for us to stand tall and (crank!) OPTIMIZE our INTERDEPENDENT ACCOUNTABLILTY!”

“Tell our children we will (crank!) STREAMLINE their EMERGING FOCUS!”

“Reach out to those less fortunate and (crank!) COMPOUND their ACTIONABLE EXPECTATIONS!”

“Show our enemies that we can (crank!) GENERALIZE our STRATEGIC SPECIFICS!”

“Show the world that we can (crank!) ARTICULATE our PARTICIPATORY EMPHASIS!”

“Remain steadfast in our beliefs and (crank!) INNOVATE our UNIQUE PERFORMANCE!”

“Draw a line in the sand, and let no enemy (crank!) INPUT our TACTICAL SYNERGY!”


So the next time you want to make your own power-speech, you can duplicate the above results without even owning a PPSM.  Just print out the list above, tape it to the wall, then throw three darts. Then you too can (darts!) "ISOLATE all your MARKET-DRIVEN FEEDBACK!".  (...pause for standing ovation...).   



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Tai Chi, a Sure Way to Balance your Health Defense

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Our bodies were designed, built, and programmed for movement.  Our joints need movement to self-lubricate through the bag of synovial membrane. 

This movement even feeds food and oxygen to the bloodless cartilage inside the joints, and carries away the products of metabolism.  Movement also benefits our muscles, by contracting, toning, and stretching them.  Even our stress defenses were wired to energetic  responses.

But now we have redesigned our ancestors' active workplace to remove most movements as we sit all day at a desk.   So the modern response to stress has gone from the “fight and flight” option to  a not-so-energetic “sit and stare” response.  

But new research is indicating that even more is at stake with our modern inactivity.  Mental functions are all sharper if we move, and duller when we sit.  Even our immune mechanisms are enhanced with movement.  Scientists have emphasized h that sitting still for 4 hours at a time is basically an “inflammatory”event, sort of like eating a donut.  (Worse, obviously, if you are sitting and eating for the same four hours!).  Not only do bones lose their density and muscles lose their mass, but our mental alertness suffers from this inactivity too.

 So our basic instincts of movement are correct, and we indeed need room to roam.  In other articles, I have reviewed posture at the office, as relates to carpal tunnel and low back pains

 But another solution comes from the world of Tai Chi.

 An interesting discipline, Tai Chi basically is a slow motion version of martial arts.  Speed up the film of people doing Tai Chi in the town square, and you get a Jackie Chan fight scene.  While it may look simple, it involves weight shifting, swaying, stretching and toning.  And, above all, balance.  Now doctors are appreciating how well it works with patients suffering from Parkinson’s as well as many other medical conditions.  See this link to learn more

Requiring no equipment, Tai Chi is easy to start.  While learning can be an infinite process, even a  beginner can benefit right away.

So if you are getting stressed by your desk job, try to interject a few moments of Tai Chi into your breaks.  Remember to set a timer for every fifteen minutes, to remind yourself to move something.  For example, at least pull back your shoulders, neck and head away from the computer, and try to touch your shoulder-blades together in a “rowing” motion .  At the very least, make this a simple part of your routine for a few seconds.  If space and time permit, use one of your 15-minute breaks to stand up and try a few Tai Chi moves, and notice the difference.    Who knows, the whole office might join in!

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Yoga: Good for many, but not without caveats

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Many people have been attracted to Yoga for its many benefits. 

 Doctors have often recommended Yoga for their patients, to help with back pains, injuries to the limbs, or for routine post-operative care.

However, that does not mean Yoga is automatically safe for all.  It has come to light that many amateur enthusiasts force themselves into text-book (or video) positions even if the pose hurts.  The dangers are not just with the unsupervised beginners.  In class situations, there are instructors who will try to force all the people to get into all the poses, even if it means exhorting them past the point of pain or comfort.  Other instructors are too swift with their pacing, forcing participants to change positions too quickly for comfort. 

An interesting new look at Yoga has been written by William J. Broad, pointing out that many people should not be doing certain Yoga poses, and some should not be doing Yoga at all.  A compelling look at the good and bad sides of Yoga is to be seen in the following link, which is highly recommended: NYTimes-Yoga

However, this is an example of the universal rule of sports; not every body is suited for every activity.  That’s why such diverse body types excel in the Olympics, where the marathoners and sprinters have completely different strengths and aptitudes, not to mention body builds.  And, within running, there are many of us who are simply not built for it, such as people with issues of bony alignment, arthritis, or pains when running on concrete.  Others are not suited to the mental discipline required in long distance running, and simply cannot appreciate the zen of it.  Swimming is another sport thought to be universal, but many just sink like a stone, or otherwise seize up with fear when they get near the water.

 So the point is to consider the whole menu of options for sports, activities, and therapies.  Following the latest fads is fine if you turn out to be well suited to it.  But be prepared to bail on even the gentlest of exercises if they don’t work for you.   

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