Is There Such a Thing as Balance?

Many people struggle to make their careers fit with the needs of their families. Work, children, and significant others combine to form a juggling act of sorts. Add to that personal development, self-care, health and fitness — many end up feeling like they fall woefully short.

Fitness, work, and family don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Even if you can’t add more hours to your already busy day, there are things you can do to achieve positive results. It’s unlikely that you’ll be perfectly balanced in all areas of your life at once. That’s an unrealistic expectation many place on themselves—one that adds more stress to an already full plate. Perhaps the key is being joyfully lopsided in any given moment.

Prioritize the areas that are important to you right now and shift priorities as necessary. By eliminating the pressure of having to measure up to others’ ideals, you can create a life that feels more balanced. Here are some ways to create a better equilibrium, even when life isn’t perfect.

Make Time for Family

The idea of having a family meal together seems like an impossible task for some, but dinner isn’t the only meal you can have with your kids or significant other. If it’s late when you get home, have a healthy bedtime snack with your kids and use it to connect. Don’t convey the stress of work. Reset and have a lighthearted conversation about the exciting highlights of your day.

If you can’t spend time with your spouse or your children every night, designate one night a week as a special night. Friday night can be Lego night or game night with the kids. Saturday can be a date night with your mate.

Exercise, nutrition, and family can also be combined for healthier bodies and relationships. Maybe your kids can ride their bikes along with you as you jog, or you can go hiking as a family. One weekend a month can be dedicated to teaching your teens how to cook healthy foods. Not only will they learn a valuable life skill, but teaching your kids about taking care of themselves and being healthy lays an excellent foundation for the years ahead.

Make Time for Yourself

You’ve heard the flight safety speech so many times you don’t even listen anymore, but you remember this above all else: If something goes wrong, put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help anyone else. You can’t help anyone else if you’re unconscious or dead.

The same rules apply to your life. You can’t be a good coworker, employer, spouse, parent, or friend if your physical and emotional well-being isn’t optimal. Fatigue, moodiness, and life-threatening diseases are just a few of the negative side-effects of eating poorly and not getting enough exercise, sleep, or waking rest. Experts say even a short period of repose can be just as beneficial for your health as exercise.

Five to 20 minutes of quiet, reflective thought that allows the brain time to consider and process whatever arises spontaneously is called waking rest. Researchers say doing this once or multiple times a day is a pillar of good mental and physical health.

Even if you don’t have time to meditate, you can still get waking rest while folding laundry, doing yard work, or walking the dog. Taking a relaxing walk during lunch or a break at work can give you time to process your thoughts so you can be more creative during the day and sleep better at night.

Nothing Just Happens

Achieving more balance requires strategy because the world around you never stops. If you feel like you’re swimming in the ocean with no land in sight, reflecting on what you value most and determining what works best for you is a valuable exercise. Bonding with loved ones, rest, and self-care aren’t things you do when you’ve finished everything else. If you want these things, you must build them into your daily life and fine-tune as necessary.

Men Visit the Doctor Less Than Women

A recent study by Cleveland Clinic highlighted the fact that there is a gender gap when it comes to medical care: men visit the doctor less than women. Of the men they surveyed, 65 percent said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible. Seventy-two percent said they’d rather do household chores, like cleaning toilets, than visit a doctor.

It’s well known that early detection, treatment, and prevention of any condition usually leads to a more favorable outcome, but men see doctors way less compared to women. Why do men put themselves at higher risk by avoiding medical care or withholding the truth from their physicians?

Even after accidents, some men must be convinced by family members or paramedics to go to a hospital. A few theories suggest men are reluctant to seek treatment due to fear, assuming things will get better on their own, or superhero syndrome.

Fear of the Unknown

Many men cite fear of diagnosis as a significant reason they avoid doctors. In a 2016 survey, more than 20 percent of male respondents said fear of finding out what could be wrong was a roadblock to scheduling an annual exam. Unfortunately, this misguided aversion to being proactive about their health is contributing to the very things they fear most—illness and even death.

Delaying medical care could have dire consequences for some because there’s a risk of missing early warning signs of a severe condition. Pre-diabetes and other chronic diseases often have silent symptoms that only a doctor would recognize.

Things Will Improve on Their Own

Rather than seeking medical attention, men tend to get most of their support for health concerns from their female partners. Unless their partner is a medical professional, this isn’t the best strategy.

Men also tend to wait until there’s a specific problem they feel they can no longer handle on their own before seeking care. Most don’t visit doctors regarding general health concerns. While many say not having time is a factor, ignoring symptoms is a dangerous habit.

He Wants to Be a Superhero

In addition to having an uncanny sense of immunity and immortality, men also like to be in control. When put in situations that are beyond their expertise or comfort zone, the feeling of vulnerability is unbearable for some.

Cultural mores have led some men to believe they’re weak if they seek help for anything. Traditional views on masculinity support the belief that men should be strong and self-reliant. Add to that the notion that men shouldn’t show emotion, and you have a recipe for anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders on top of physical ailments.

Being Proactive Is Best

Waiting until symptoms become acutely painful or otherwise unavoidable is not a good health strategy. Men should meet with their primary care doctors to create a checkup schedule tailored to their health and lifestyle. It’s one of many reasons having a relationship with a primary care physician is vitally important. Your doctor can create an individualized plan with you to keep you on the path to good health and avoid serious problems like hypertension, heart attack, or strokes down the line.

Hidden Causes of Hypertension

High blood pressure, or hypertension, often has no symptoms or warning signs. This silent foe can harm your blood vessels, heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys. An estimated 46 percent of adults in the United States have hidden causes of hypertension. Unhealthy habits like smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise can combine to contribute to elevated blood pressure. Still, other lesser-known factors can contribute to this condition.

Commonly Overlooked Causes of Hypertension

Hypertension usually stems from arteriosclerosis, the hardening, and stiffening of the arteries, but it can also be a sign of other issues in the body. If you have resistant hypertension, it’s worth having your doctors check for a secondary cause.

A commonly overlooked source of high blood pressure is the breath-holding type of snoring known as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that increase blood pressure and strain the whole cardiovascular system.

Obstructive sleep apnea might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats like atrial fibrillation. Treating it can improve blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.

The trouble with Adrenal Glands

Some people with resistant hypertension have overactive adrenal glands. For about one of every 15 people with high blood pressure, an imbalance of the hormone aldosterone may be to blame.

Aldosterone is a key regulator of sodium and potassium in the body, but too much aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism) makes the kidneys retain too much sodium and water. When that extra fluid ends up in the bloodstream, it increases blood pressure.

A common sign of hyperaldosteronism is low blood potassium levels, which may cause symptoms such as weakness, heart rhythm abnormalities, and muscle cramps. People with high blood pressure and low potassium may need a blood test for aldosterone and renin, a protein made by the kidneys.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Some people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

Other symptoms of extremely high blood pressure include:

  • Fatigue or confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately. You could be having a hypertensive crisis that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Even if you aren’t experiencing these symptoms, experts recommend getting your blood pressure checked at least once every two years once you’re over the age of 18.

How to Control Blood Pressure 

A healthy lifestyle can play an essential role in treating high blood pressure. It could even help one avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication. Here are some lifestyle changes you can implement to lower your blood pressure and suppress the hidden causes of hypertension.

  1. Exercise regularly – About 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg.
  2. Lose excess weight – You may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 mm Hg with every 2.2 pounds of weight lost.
  3. Consider boosting potassium – Talk to your doctor about the level of potassium that’s best for you as it can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements.
  4. Reduce sodium in your diet – Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg.
  5. Reduce stress – Make time each day for breathing exercises and enjoyable activities or hobbies.

Talk with your doctor about how often you need to check your blood pressure, especially if you’re making any changes in your medications or other treatments. Getting support from family and friends can also help improve your health and reduce the threat of hypertension. They can be the allies you need to choose a beneficial path of eating healthier and exercising more.

Solutions for Anxiety and Depression

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression is increasing globally. The number went from 416 million in 1990 to 615 million as of 2013. Feeling a little down from time to time is a normal occurrence but solutions for anxiety and depression are needed. Anxiety is a normal response to occasional stress at work or our daily lives, but constant feelings of depression or anxiety can be a red flag of a mental health disorder.

Sometimes referred to as ‘first cousins,’ depression and anxiety are different conditions but often occur together. Some researchers believe early trauma causes subtle changes in brain function that account for symptoms of depression and anxiety. The key brain regions involved in the stress response may be altered at the chemical or cellular level, including fluctuations in the concentration of neurotransmitters or damage to nerve cells.

Causes of Anxiety

Financial worries, added responsibilities at work, or other major life events can cause certain levels of temporary anxiety, but some people are more prone to developing anxiety disorders than others. For example, children or adults who have experienced traumatic events or endured abuse of any kind also have increased the risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • A constant sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Difficulty controlling worry

In addition to emotional risk factors, several medical conditions can cause anxiety. They include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
  • Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
  • Chronic pain
  • Rare tumors that produce certain fight-or-flight hormones
  • Drug misuse or withdrawal
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or other medications
  • Side-effects of certain medications

If you experience a sudden occurrence of lasting anxiety that seems unrelated to life events, it could be a sign of a more serious medical condition, and you should speak with your doctor.

Causes of Depression

Symptoms of depression can range from moderate to severe enough to impede day-to-day activities such as work, school, social events, or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally sad without really knowing why.

To say a chemical imbalance causes depression doesn’t capture the complexity of the situation. Research suggests there are several possible causes for depression, including genetics, faulty mood regulation by the brain, stressful life events, medications, and other medical problems. Often several of these forces collide to bring on depression.

One of the goals of gene research is to pinpoint how biology makes certain people vulnerable to depression. For example, several genes influence the stress response, which makes people more or less likely to become depressed in response to trouble.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Memory difficulties or personality changes
  • Physical aches or pain
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can. If you’re feeling suicidal, there are resources available to help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Finding Solutions for Mental Health

If you’re experiencing prolonged symptoms of anxiety or depression, part of practicing self-care is speaking to a medical professional about it. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.

In addition to seeking treatment, there are natural things you can do to better your chances of recovery. They include:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil
  • Raising endorphin levels through exercise
  • Herbs such as St. John’s Wort, ginseng, lavender, or chamomile
  • Spending time with animals
  • Writing
  • Meditation

It’s essential to speak to a doctor before using any herbal remedy or supplement. Making lifestyle changes, such as improving sleep habits, increasing social support, or using stress-reduction techniques, may also help. If you have anxiety or depression, avoid alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs. They can make both conditions worse and interfere with treatment.

The Importance of Primary Care

It seems the number of Americans with primary care providers (PCPs) is shrinking. Part of it is due to economic disparities and other barriers to care. In fact, 50 percent of Americans say they put off getting healthcare because of costs. But there’s also a growing number of people who don’t understand the importance of primary care and how to use the healthcare system most effectively. As of 2019, just 67 percent of millennials had a primary care physician, compared with 85 percent of baby boomers.

Most people don’t know the complexities of their health and wellness. Often people ignore warning signs in their bodies until something drastic happens, at which point they rush to the emergency room or urgent care. The problem with treating the E.R. like primary care is skyrocketing costs for the patient and their employer if they have health insurance. Without health insurance, medical bills can quickly overwhelm anyone.

Having primary care helps patients get effective care by helping them to be proactive about their health. To that end, direct primary care (DPC) has come to the forefront because it provides affordable access to disease prevention, chronic disease management, and 21st-century convenience for a generation that never slows down.

Prevention Saves Lives

PCPs can screen for many ailments, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. They also review immunization records and help keep patients and their families up to date with shots and other preventative measures.

Studies show that people who utilize primary care have better health outcomes, including lower rates of all causes of mortality. Researchers found noticeably lower death rates from heart disease, cancer, or stroke, infant mortality, low birth weight, and poor self-reported health in areas where people sought care from primary care physicians.

Building an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician and their team empowers people to take control of their health. Having a support system and a wealth of knowledge they could never get on their own assuages fears or unfamiliarity that might prevent some from getting life-saving care. Having someone to tell you when something’s not quite right or advise you to see a specialist can prevent illnesses from developing or worsening. In the event of being referred to a specialist, this knowledge and familiarity help personalize your care and save time that may have previously been spent explaining medical history.

Chronic Disease Management

A primary care provider is responsible for screening all major health-related conditions. If you already have a chronic disease, your PCP helps manage it and improve your quality of life. Unfortunately, some health plans don’t accept people with preexisting conditions. This alienates a large segment of people, as approximately 133 million Americans, over 40 percent of the total population, suffer from chronic diseases. That number is projected to grow to an estimated 157 million, with 81 million having multiple conditions.

People with preexisting conditions are the ones who need care the most, but with insurers turning many away, some can’t afford quality healthcare to keep their disease from escalating. This is just one of many reasons direct primary care memberships have become so vital.

DPC memberships accept people with preexisting conditions and make the managing of disease much more affordable. With a plan like Healthcare2U’s My Direct Primary Care Plus (MyDPCplus) for individuals, members get unlimited treatment and management of 13 chronic disease states for a $10 visit fee. Now people who desperately need care can finally get it.

Twenty-first Century Convenience

Even before social distancing due to coronavirus, Millennials were leading the charge toward technology-driven healthcare. Studies show the benefits telemedicine and virtual care are not lost on millennials and Gen Xers. These generations are more likely than baby boomers to report that a telemedicine option is “extremely or very important.” Forty percent of millennials say telemedicine is an extremely or very important option, compared with 27 percent among Gen Xers and 19 percent among baby boomers.

As part of a direct primary care membership, telemedicine or virtual care is available to members 24/7/365 at no cost. This benefit was a game-changer during the pandemic and will continue to expand in the years to come. The convenience and affordability this benefit provides is much appreciated by people who are busy but still value quality healthcare.

How DPC Can Help

The misconception among many is that one can’t have access to quality primary care unless he has insurance. In fact, one study found a 40 percent increased risk of death among the uninsured. However, in the age of Direct Primary Care (DPC), this no longer has to be the case.

DPC is a monthly membership that provides affordable and convenient access to excellent primary medical care, wellness, and chronic disease management for a low monthly fee. DPC has become extremely important in recent years for those who don’t have health insurance and even those who do. Some High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) require patients to pay high copays and deductibles for care, which puts routine healthcare out of reach for some.

A DPC membership can be combined with an HDHP, so the employed or unemployed can visit a primary care provider for little to nothing. With the onslaught of lay-offs and a global pandemic in recent months, people are looking for solutions to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy without breaking the bank.

 

For more information about how DPC memberships can provide quality care for employees and individuals, contact Healthcare2U.

DPC Will Be Crucial for Health Plans Going Forward

Despite best efforts at containment by governments, employers and employees during this unusual time, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to spread and place extraordinary pressure on the American healthcare system. This unexpected rise in the demand for care will likely lead to a sudden and significant increase in employer healthcare costs in the upcoming year, if not years to come. The ultimate financial impact has yet to be determined but will depend on how far the disease spreads and how much treatment those infected require.

Before the end of 2019, no one could’ve predicted COVID-19’s impact on the global healthcare system or insurers. Unlike other well-known diseases, the cost of testing and treatment for coronavirus wasn’t figured into budgets as insurance companies calculated their rates for the year. Because insurers are experiencing a momentous increase in healthcare spending due to the pandemic, it’s almost certain they’ll be looking to increase premiums and deductibles next year to compensate for their losses.

Unfortunately, employers and employees who may have already been struck economically by the loss of business or lost wages will be the ones carrying those costs. Some estimates say the cost of healthcare benefits for employers could increase as much as 7 percent this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Employers must consider this increase as they design their benefit plans for 2021 and beyond, so this is a time for benefits advisors to be proactive and point concerned clients toward viable solutions.

One solution, Direct Primary Care (DPC) will be crucial. Small and large businesses alike will be looking to add DPC for three reasons: The low cost for primary care is essential, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of telemedicine, and laid-off workers still need healthcare as the economy recovers.

The Low Cost of DPC is Crucial

One of the major concerns for employers with self-funded health plans is the cost of covering claims after their employees seek healthcare. There’s no way to predict how much employees will utilize their health plans, so this wildcard can wreak havoc on employers’ bottom lines if protection isn’t built into the health plan.

Direct Primary Care protects employers by diverting claims for acute care, chronic disease management, and urgent care away from health plans. Employers can give their employees affordable access to primary care to maintain health and manage chronic diseases without the risk of shock claims after the fact.

In addition to making health plans more affordable for employers, DPC also makes getting quality healthcare more accessible for employees. There are no deductibles to meet when seeing a primary care physician, and office visits are often free or cost a minimal fee.

Telemedicine Has Taken Center Stage

For years, many have sought to keep patients with non-urgent health issues out of emergency rooms as a way to control costs. No one could’ve imagined, much less prepared for, a pandemic that’s dangerous for a subset of the population, but that most people will recover from with self-care (if they experience symptoms at all). Thanks to COVID-19, keeping people out of the E.R. is no longer just a matter of keeping costs down—it’s a matter of life or death for some.

With so many seeking to avoid exposure to the virus, telemedicine and virtual care have taken center stage. Finding such care through a traditional health plan can still be costly, but when it’s included at no cost to the employee through a DPC plan, it suddenly becomes the obvious choice. Utilizing telehealth and avoiding the emergency room protects patients’ wallets, and employers avoid claims from E.R. visits for their employees.

Laid-off or Furloughed Workers Still Need Healthcare

A record 5.2 million Americans have filed for unemployment due to the pandemic, as of April 16. Retailers, restaurants, bars, schools, and many others were hit extremely hard by the recent world events, and many were forced to lay off or furlough workers. The ripple effect of the current state of the economy doesn’t change the fact that people continue to get sick and require treatment.

Whether people are gig workers, recently unemployed, or working for employers who can no longer provide benefits, they need access to affordable primary care. During this unprecedented time, employers and savvy benefit brokers have helped recently unemployed people sign up for individual direct primary care memberships through providers like Healthcare2U. In an already stressful time, people need peace of mind that comes from knowing they can get care for themselves and their families.

If you’d like more information about helping employers or recently laid-off workers by implementing a direct primary care solution, contact Healthcare2U today.

Tips to Stay Fit at Home

It only takes a short time for a healthy person to become measurably less healthy when sedentary. According to the University of Liverpool, just two weeks without regular physical fitness can lead to muscular and metabolic changes that could potentially increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and possibly even premature death.

During a time when some are still sheltering in place, physical activity is an essential coping mechanism for many trying to keep anxiety at bay and maintain a sense of normalcy and well-being. At the same time, it’s important to stay safe and practice social distancing. As many are working from home for the foreseeable future and gyms, parks, and hiking trails remain closed, practicing physical fitness at home has become extremely important.

What You Eat Matters

No one likes exercising day in and day out without seeing any noticeable changes in the body. When this happens, it’s often due to a lack of a nutritional strategy. Body composition can change through diet alone without exercise. However, it’s the combination of both that provides a complete healthy package.

It’s easy to reach for comfort foods in times of anxiety or boredom, but it’s important to remember what you eat plays a critical role in your overall health. Instead of snacking incessantly, make a conscious effort to go the healthier route.
Keeping track of how much you should eat and how to get proper nutrition has never been easier. Download an app that tracks your caloric intake and how many grams of fats, carbs, and proteins you should be taking in.

Resistance is Key

Muscle loss is a natural part of aging. After the age of 30, you begin to lose as much as 3 to 5 percent per decade. Most men will lose about 30 percent of their muscle mass during their lifetimes. Loss of muscle means more significant weakness and less mobility, both of which could increase your risk of falls and fractures. Being less active, losing muscle mass, and the aging of your internal components all contribute to a sluggish metabolism. The more muscle you lose, the lower your resting metabolic rate (RMR), the number of calories you burn while resting or sleeping.

Resistance training, or weight lifting, is an excellent tool for maintaining muscle mass and preventing a slowing metabolism. A research study with 13 healthy men aged 50 to 65 found that 16 weeks of resistance training three times weekly increased their RMR by 7.7 percent.

Another study with 15 people aged 61 to 77 found that six months of resistance training three times weekly increased RMR by 6.8 percent.

Lifting weights can increase your metabolism, sculpt the body, and make you stronger, so grab those dumbbells and incorporate some weight lifting into your home fitness routine.

The Cardio Component

In addition to maintaining healthy body composition, cardiovascular exercise can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by increasing the efficiency of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The easier it is to pump blood through your body, the less stressful it is on your heart. A consistent regimen of effective cardio can improve your heart’s contraction strength, the elasticity of blood vessels, and the efficiency of blood carrying oxygen throughout the body.

Cardio workouts include:

• Walking
• Running
• Climbing stairs
• Swimming
• Rowing
• Cycling
• Dancing
• High-intensity interval training

Staying fit at home doesn’t have to be complicated or boring. Switch things up to keep it exciting and utilize a wide range of apps to keep on top of nutrition, find fun workouts, and connect with others doing the same.

The Connection Between Health and Friendship

Recent world events have caused many to express gratitude for the things they took for granted in the past, especially the ability to gather with friends and family or attend other social events. A support system, or the lack thereof, sharply comes into focus during times of crisis. A 2015 study found that having diabetes can raise your risk of high blood pressure by 70 percent. Even more alarming, the study found that not having friends increased the risk of high blood pressure a whopping 124 percent. The connection between health and friendship is strong.

Studies have shown that older adults with a fulfilling social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer social connections. Having a reliable social support system is a great way to reduce the risk for many significant health problems such as depression, unhealthy body mass index (BMI), and high blood pressure. It turns out that in addition to adding more fun to our lives, friends also play a significant role in promoting overall health and wellness.

Good Relationships are Good for You

We’ve all heard about negative peer pressure that leads to smoking, drug use, overeating, and other bad habits. But positive peer pressure is just as real. One study found that when one person packed on extra pounds, his or her friends were more likely to become obese too. The opposite was also true. Researchers found that people are also influenced by their friends who exercise or eat well to lose weight.

In short, if you surround yourself with people who have a positive attitude and healthy habits, you’re more likely to make positive changes in your own habits. If you develop relationships with people who are generous with others, ambitious, or family-oriented, you’re more likely to develop those values yourself.

Emotional Support in Difficult Times

Friends are especially important during times of crisis and turbulence. If you find yourself going through a hard time, having a friend to lean on can make the situation more manageable. A lack of friends can leave you feeling isolated and unsupported, which makes you susceptible to other problems like depression and substance abuse.

Having the encouragement of at least one person can build confidence and give you the strength to tackle life’s difficulties. A major study found women with breast cancer who were assigned to attend support groups with other cancer patients reported better quality of life and lived longer compared to women in a control group who weren’t assigned to support groups. A similar study found that women with breast cancer in a support group lived twice as long as those not in a group. They also had much less pain.

Having good friends helps people deal better with stress. Stress causes elevated cortisol levels, which can lead to other health problems like:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Digestion problems
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain

It’s easy to see why having friends to depend on in turbulent times is vital for your mental and physical health.

Good Health and Friendships Take Effort

Once you become an adult with a thriving career, bustling children, aging parents, and a host of other responsibilities, it can be challenging to make new friends or maintain existing friendships. It’s easy to grow apart as lives change and priorities shift.

Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. However, the enjoyment and health benefits friendship provides make it a worthwhile investment. Meeting new people can seem hard if it’s not something you’re used to, so don’t leave it to chance. Develop a strategy to meet new people who could become good friends.

Here are some ways you can meet potential new friends:

  1. Volunteer – you can form strong connections when you work with people who share your passion for a cause.
  2. Attend a community event or meetup group – people like to gather around shared interests.
  3. Take a class – you’re likely to meet people who share a particular interest in a college or community education course.
  4. Join a faith community – being around people of like faith can provide encouragement in difficult times.
  5. Explore the great outdoors – taking a walk on the beach or visiting a local park is a fun way to meet new people and get some exercise.
  6. Join a professional organization – you may find it benefits your career as well as your personal life.

Don’t wait for people to approach you. Put on a friendly face and take the initiative. You’ll be surprised to find people are more open to connection than you think. Above all, keep a positive outlook. You may not become friends with everyone you meet, but you’ll be sowing seeds for a more fulfilling and healthier life.

Get Virtual Support

While it’s great to put yourself out there in real life, sometimes circumstances like social distancing make it nearly impossible. In times like these, online connections become a great alternative. Here are a few ways to stay connected to your support system in an increasingly virtual world.

  • Online Book Club Hangouts
  • Virtual Dates or Meetups
  • Virtual Game Nights
  • Weekly Video Calls
  • Social Media Watch Parties

When it comes to relationships, you realize the quality of your friends greatly enhances the quality of your life. Regardless of what’s going on in the world, the time you invest in valuable relationships is time invested in your physical and mental wellbeing.

Stress Relief in Times of Uncertainty

We’re living in very uncertain times right now, and that uncertainty is causing many people a great deal of stress. The body’s fight or flight response was designed to protect us and propel us into action in times of perceived danger, but when left on for prolonged periods, the chemicals released by our brain can have negative impacts on our health. It’s easy to see how anxiety and tension affect our mood and mental health, but they also cause harmful side effects for our physical health. Here we’ll examine how it manifests in the body and how you can combat stress and its effects.

How Stress Affects the Body

Stress causes the muscles to tense up all at once and then release their tension when it passes. Chronic stress keeps the muscles in a constant state of alert. When muscles are taut and tense for prolonged periods, this can trigger other reactions in the body and even cause stress-related disorders. Tension headaches and migraine headaches are both associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck, and head. Musculoskeletal pain in the lower back and upper extremities has also been linked to stress, especially job stress.

Constant stress can also contribute to long-term problems for the heart and blood vessels. A consistent increase in heart rate, along with elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure, can exact a toll on the body. Long-term stress can increase the risk of hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.

Experiencing stressors for an extended time can result in a long-term drain on the body. The continuous triggering of physical reactions by the autonomic nervous system causes wear-and-tear on the body. Not only does chronic stress cause fatigue and inflammation, but the continuous activation of the nervous system also damages other bodily systems.

Laughter Really Is Medicine

In times of distress, it can be challenging to remember the things that bring us joy or keep us calm. It requires effort to stay well-balanced in times of adversity. But research suggests that one of the best things you can do for stress relief is to laugh.

Laughing doesn’t just lighten your mood mentally; it actually causes physical changes in your body. A good laugh stimulates circulation and relaxes muscles, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and lowering immunity. Conversely, positive thoughts release neuropeptides that help relieve stress and fight other serious illnesses. Whether it’s phoning a friend, watching a funny video or your favorite sitcom, find ways to introduce more laughter into your life. It may not solve all your problems, but it can help you stay calm enough to make sound decisions.

Tips for Relaxation

There are a number of beneficial tools to curtail anxiety and its harmful effects on your health. They include:

  • Leaning on a healthy social support network
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Regular exercise
  • Meditation
  • Online therapy apps with licensed therapists

Laughter, relaxation techniques, therapy, and other stress-relieving activities have shown to effectively reduce muscle tension, decrease the incidence of certain stress-related disorders, and increase a sense of well-being. Who knows, now might be the perfect time to incorporate some of these stress relief practices into your life.

Will Direct Primary Care Be 2020’s Health Care Darling?

Article: Will Direct Primary Care Be 2020’s Health Care Darling?
Publication: InsuranceNewsNet Magazine
AuthorAndy Bonner

The portrait of the American healthcare system isn’t pretty. The Commonwealth Fund reported in November that health insurance costs and deductible costs have been growing faster than the median income in all states over the past decade, meaning many working families are spending more of their income on healthcare.

Employers and employees are struggling to keep up with a system that was never created with their best interests in mind. Tired of being fleeced for care, people are desperate for affordable alternatives, and employers are looking to their benefits advisors for creative solutions to keep their workforce content. Read the full article at issuu.com.

 

About Healthcare2U: Healthcare2U is a membership-based, hybrid direct primary care (DPC) organization that ensures employers of all sizes and structures have nationwide access to affordable, consistent and quality primary care 40% below the average cost of traditional DPC practices operating in the market today. Through our proprietary Private Physician Network (PPN)™, Healthcare2U promotes healthy living by detecting, treating, and managing acute and chronic conditions before the onset of serious illness. Healthcare2U is headquartered in Austin, Texas and is available nationwide. For more information, visit www.healthc2u.com.