Posts tagged with "Anxiety"

Cold comfort: If you always feel ‘chilled out,’ here’s advice on bringing the heat

November 27, 2018

Does even the thought of winter send a shiver down your spine? Most of us want to bundle up when the temperature drops—but if you are always turning up the thermostat or turning down the AC, there may be some good reasons.

The Huffington Post talked to experts and posted some advice on November 26. Do any of the following factors apply to you?

  1. Your thyroid is out of wack. Hypothyroidism—a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormone to regulate the body’s metabolism—can cause cold sensitivity, Chirag Shah, a specialist in Emergency Medicine and co-founder of Accesa Labs, a thyroid lab-testing service, told the online news outlet.
  2. You’re older: “The elderly [are] more prone to being cold because their metabolism is slower and they produce less heat,” said Marcelo Campos, an Internal Medicine physician at Atrius Health, a large nonprofit independent medical group based in Newton, Massachusetts. Another factor may be decreased muscle mass.
  3. It could be something you’re eating. Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, told HuffPost that certain foods may be to blame. “People who eat lots of water-dense, cold foods are going to feel cooler,” he said. Examples of these are smoothies, iced drinks and salads. To combat this, try switching to items like soups instead of smoothies, and stir-fry meals in lieu of salads.
  4. You’re anemic. Shah also said that iron deficiency anemia can definitely cause a person to feel frostier than usual—noting that iron is a mineral that is a key component of red blood cells. “Red blood cells are important for carrying oxygen around the body. Without enough iron, the red blood cells cannot function properly and can lead to the sensation of feeling cold in addition to other symptoms,” Shah said. Other symptoms may include exhaustion, light-headedness, rapid heart beat, or shortness of breath.
  5. You’re pregnant. When you are carrying a baby, your body temperature rises, HuffPost reminds us. A pregnant woman’s normal core temperature rises from a norm of 6 degrees to around 100 degrees. “What’s more, pregnant women are prone to both anemia and poor circulation, especially in their legs. They are likely to complain about feeling a chill, especially in their hands and feet.
  6. You’re dehydrated. Carol Aguirre of Nutrition Connections, a nutrition counseling center in South Florida, said that water drives the metabolism by helping break down food, which creates energy and heat. “Not enough water slows your metabolism and prevents your body from making enough energy to keep you warm,” she said in an interview with the news site.
  7. It could be your hormones. According to the experts, estrogen generally dilates blood vessels—dissipating heat in the body. Progesterone has the opposite effect. For women, the time of month may affect how warm or cold they feel. In men, higher testosterone levels may reduce sensitivity to the cold by desensitizing one of the main cold receptors in the skin.
  8. You have poor circulation. If your hands and feet feel like ice but the rest of your body is comfortable, a circulation problem that keeps blood from flowing to your extremities might be to blame.
  9. You may be anxious. “People with anxiety usually feel cold more than others,” said Maryam Jahed, founder Airo Health, which makes an anxiety-tracking wearable device. When you experience anxiety, she told HuffPost, the feeling activates your amygdala ― the part of the brain responsible for protecting the body and responding to danger. “This makes your body put all of its reserves and energy into keeping you ‘safe,’” she said—and your extremities may feel colder, because it’s harder for the blood to circulate there and keep you warm.
  10. Your BMI is too low. Your body mass index affects whether you feel cold, but the amount of fat and muscle you have can also be a factor.  “Muscles are metabolically more active and this generates more heat. Fat is an insulator and this can reduce the amount of heat you lose,” Campos said.

Research contact: @NicolePajer

Ahead of her time? Were Faith Popcorn’s predictions correct for 2018?

October 3, 2018

She is not a psychic or a fortune-teller. However, “futurist” Faith Popcorn claims that her strategic consultancy, the New York City-based BrainReserve, can tell her corporate clients—with 95% accuracy—what’s ahead in the shifting consumer and cultural landscape. And she has been offering her remarkably accurate insights into impending American lifestyle trends through her TrendBank since 1974.

 But just how reliable is Popcorn? In 1986, she told Coca-Cola that bottled water would be the Next Big Thing. A couple of years later, she gave Kodak a heads-up that film was on its last legs.

We took a look at some predictions that Popcorn offered to Advertising Age in January 2018, to see whether she was “on the money” for this year.

Note: Popcorn said her predictions would not reach the mainstream for at least 15-20 years, but that signs would begin emerging during the year ahead.

To begin with, Popcorn painted “ a shockingly bleak view of gender relations in the wake of the sexual harassment scandals” that rocked the corporate and entertainment worlds in 2017: The sexes will be separated, she predicted—at least at work, she told Ad Age.

“I think there will be female-only floors in companies and male-only floors,” she says. “There will be rage rooms where men can act out because they are going to be very angry.”

Second, Popcorn told the trade journal, “digital doctors” will become increasingly popular. A trip to the doctor could soon become obsolete as people increasingly monitor their health via embedded computer chips, swallow-able trackers, and color-changing dots that rest on the skin’s surface, Popcorn predicted.

“Doctors are going to become keyboard technicians,  because all the measuring apertures will be in your body,” she says. “You can have a full checkup without even being there.”

Amazon—which is eyeing a move into prescription drug marketing—will play a major role on this new health playing field, she suggested. The company “can control the entire supply chain and tap their deep data insights,” her firm stated in its 2018 predictions presentation.

As for the number-one upcoming health threat, Popcorn predicted that anxiety would be rife nationwide. And, she said, virtual reality will prove to be the most-used stress-relief solution.

Instead of hitting the road for a relaxing vacation, for instance, people will plug into a VR experience. “You don’t really go anywhere,” Popcorn says.

 With VR, nothing is out of reach, including a relaxing trip to outer space or a Narnia-like snow voyage, her firm predicts. Brands could get involved by buying ad placements in these virtual weekends away. “It’s a new media,” she said.

On the weather front, Popcorn anticipated that climate change would lead to strict environmental monitoring and extreme survivalist solutions, with shore towns, under threat from rising tides, being replaced by floating cities, according to the predictions presentation.

Finally, back in January, Popcorn forecast, “Your interior life is about to go public,” noting that technology like facial recognition will be used to monitor our moods.

Your escape mechanism? “Private, scan-free get-togethers where people can vent, mourn and rejoice without prying AI eyes” will take hold.

For most of us these predictions may be too close for comfort. Brace yourselves: Popcorn’s 2019 predictions will be out soon.

 Research contact:

It’s about time: When the waiting room is the worst part of a doctor’s visit

July 17, 2018

When you go to your doctor’s office, does it seems as if the only person whose time is important is the physician you are waiting—seemingly endlessly—to see? Overbooking of appointments, disorganization, and lack of empathy often leave patients cooling their heels in the reception area or in a treatment room for longer than it will take to actually treat their illnesses.

In fact, the experience of waiting is an important component of overall patient satisfaction, based on a study by Nemschoff, a division of the furniture design firm Herman Miller that makes chairs and tables for reception rooms.

The number of minutes (or hours) depends on the situation, but the average time patients spend waiting to see their providers is 22 minutes.  And it is no surprise, Nemschoff found, that as the wait time lengthens, patient satisfaction lessens:

  • Respondents who waited five minutes or less expressed 95.4% satisfaction with their experience;
  • Those who stuck around for 11-15 minutes, said they were 91.6% satisfied; and
  • Patients who had to dilly dally for more than 30 minutes were only 80.4% satisfied—even before seeing the doctor.

If the staff keeps patients in the waiting room updated, that may positively influence the experience—but only if the doctor sees them within a “reasonable” amount of time.

Even in a perfectly supportive atmosphere, waiting can be stressful. One study showed that the most profound source of anxiety in waiting is wondering how long the wait will be, and when there is no visible order to the line, people feel nervous about whether their place in line is preserved.

Interestingly enough, perceived wait time is a more compelling indicator of patient satisfaction than actual wait time. A wait that “feels” long due to crowded, noisy surroundings or a lack of positive distractions—such as art, aquariums, or windows—can lower satisfaction scores even more. This suggests that focusing on the emotion-related component of waiting may be an important part of improving the patient experience.

Indeed, whenever patients are forced to wait, that experience influences their perception of quality of care. As public zones where people with illnesses gather, waiting rooms are sometimes seen as places where germs abound. This impression can create a sense of discomfort and urgency to leave the space as soon as possible—making it more difficult to tolerate service delays, errors, and inefficiencies.

It is not surprising that Nemschoff recommends using comfortable seating to help make the wait more pleasant. The company advises physicians to consider: Does the furniture in the waiting room fit the bodies of the people who are using it? For example, while most waiting rooms are equipped for average-sized adults, there are several other populations that deserve to be addressed. For example, furniture scaled for children and designed to support their play can improve their experience. Research has shown that waiting in healthcare settings can be anxiety-provoking for children and their families, but positive distractions have been shown to reduce this anxiety, leading to positive health outcomes.

Another group that deserves consideration is high-weight users. Current design recommendations suggest that a minimum of 10% of seating adjacent to bariatric areas should accommodate people up to 600 pounds. However, researchers at Herman Miller recommend that each institution should assess the weight of its own population using electronic medical records to determine the load rating and percentage of high-weight seating needed in the waiting rooms.

Of course, healthcare organizations aren’t the only places where people wait to be served. By looking to other industries that have experimented with innovative queuing methods, healthcare organizations may find new approaches that make “getting in line” less stressful.

The researchers suggest that making the following changes in the waiting area may help both staff and patients:

  1. Early check-in. Mayo Clinic is taking cues from the airline industry to let patients interact with one of three systems when they arrive. Regular visitors go to an automatic kiosk, guests who visit less frequently come to the front desk, and a roving facilitator with a tablet greets guests when lines back up or people need help filling out forms. A recent study found that implementing self-serve kiosks to speed up the registration process was associated with higher patient satisfaction.
  2. Posted waiting times. Displaying department waiting times enables people to relax while waiting, rather than having the anxiety of constantly wondering when their names will be called. In one study, patients who periodically received information regarding emergency department processes and medical procedures on devices such as TV monitors perceived significantly shorter stays and were more satisfied.3
  3. Pager or mobile phone updates. Commonly found in restaurants, these tools give people the option to wander when wait times are long and return when their check-in time nears.
  4. Progressive check-in. While overall wait time may or may not be shorter, research found that zoning the waiting area can aid understanding and the feeling of progression. The Stanford University Medical Center has divided its waiting areas into activity rooms that resemble a home, including a dining room and living room where patients and family members can watch TV. This approach may help people feel that they’re getting closer to being served and ward off boredom.

So, next time you have a doctor’s appointment, consider bringing a copy of this story with you. If you don’t get taken quickly or feel uncomfortable in the waiting area, you may want to “prescribe” some changes to your physician after he or she diagnoses what’s wrong with you!

Research contact: @Nemschoff