On the Job: 5-Minute Stress Busters

Jamie Rowland

Lets be honest: Sometimes a day at work is just no fun, and the stress starts to take its toll. Your heart races, you break out in hives or a sweat, or you have a headache from all that silent screaming. Next time, try to head off that stress attack with these calming tricks from Kathleen Hall, PhD, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute.

Serenity break
Take time to tune out. Listen to your favorite music (bonus points if you have an office that allows you to sing or hum along, which increases the calming benefits). Trigger your own slide show of favorite photos. Some people also find that its very soothing to meditate, practice relaxed breathing, or repeat a mantra, such as “All is well in my life,” Hall says. If all else fails, dab calming lavender aromatherapy oil on your pulse points.

The best medicine
Remember the time you laughed so hard with your best friend that you almost peed your pants? Stop what youre doing for a few minutes and relive a moment like that in your mind. Or, if youve had a less-than-comedic life lately, get your giggles at a joke Web site like TheOnion.com or watch a Web cam at a doggy day care center like FogCityDogs.com.

Make a connection
With everything you have going on in your superbusy life, chances are you dont take time to stay in touch with your friends as well as you should. Schedule a few minutes to e-mail a pal and update her on your life. The act of feeling connected to someone will instantly calm you when the going gets rough.

Release endorphins
Keep some five- or eight-pound weights under your desk, so you can do some light lifting when things start to get heavy at work. Or try our at-your-desk stretches.

Write it down
Journaling is a great way to not only get those negative emotions out but also disconnect for a few minutes, Hall says. Your journal can be anything you want—typed or hand-written, or even drawn.

Sleep on it
The Spanish have reaped the benefits of midday siestas for years. Now its your turn. “Recent research has found that napping may reduce your risk of death from heart attack and increase productivity, alertness, and concentration,” says William Anthony, PhD, a psychologist and researcher at Boston University and author of The Art of Napping at Work. Even if your office doesnt encourage midday snoozing (yes, some enlightened employers offer napping rooms), close your door, slip on an eye mask, and put your head on your desk for five or ten minutes. “Nobel Prize winners, presidents, top scientists, and athletes all nap,” according to Anthony, whose survey of several thousand people found that 70% nap on the job (though 70% of those people do it on the sly).

Change your mind
Take a mental break with a game of solitaire or sudoku. “Play can be very powerful,” Hall says, “because it can take your mind off of work.”

Time for tea
Skip your Starbucks run and have a cup of tea when you find yourself in a 4 p.m. tizzy or slump. Every time we turn around, theres another report that black, white, and green teas can do everything from warding off cancer and heart disease to boosting metabolism.

Sweden Use Crypto Tech To Become Cashless Pioneers

Sweden, the Scandinavian nation famous for ABBA, Björn Borg, and Volvo, is leading the way when it comes to becoming the world’s first cashless country – and the technology behind Bitcoin, and the cryptocurrencies it has spawned, is catalysing the process.

Two years ago, in October 2015, Niklas Arvidsson, a researcher in industrial economics and management at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, helped to produce a study that predicted his country would be the first to introduce a cashless society. “Cash is still an important means of payment in many countries’ markets, but that no longer applies here in Sweden,” he said.

The progressive Swedes are on course to achieving their lofty aim, and other Scandinavian nations are following suit. Consider that reports indicate that 56.3 per cent of the country’s 1,600 bank branches – 900 of 1,600 – neither hold cash nor accept cash deposits any longer. Further, circulation of the country’s traditional currency, the Swedish krona, has been falling for some time; in 2009 the figure was SEK106 billion whereas last year it was just SEK60bn. Why is this happening?

According to data obtained from Visa, Swedes use bank cards three times more often than the average European. And a Riksbank report, published in December 2016, showed that 97 per cent of the country has access to cards, compared with 85 per cent cash.

There are many additional benefits to living in a society that does not need to use cash – not least when it comes to personal safety. People are less likely to be robbed, and also thieves will not as easily be able to sell on their stolen items.

Another key factor is the rise in popularity of Swish, an app owned by six Swedish banks (Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB and Swedbank). It allows anyone with a smartphone to transfer money from one bank account to another, in real time. All that is required is the sender and receiver’s phone numbers.

Swish was launched in 2012 and by the end of 2015 it had attracted 3.6 million users, which is more than a third of Sweden’s 9.9 million population. Also that year some $515 million was transferred using the app. Those eye-opening numbers have increased significantly since, and now even churches have started to reveal their telephone numbers at the end of each service to make it easier for parishioners to boost their coffers.

This trend has forced Sweden’s central banks to consider introducing a digital form of government-backed money, and the technology behind Bitcoin, the pioneering cryptocurrency launched eight years ago, is being promoted as a leading option.

A major concern about going cashless in Sweden is that it could exclude the ‘unbankables’ – that is people without a bank account – and those who do not own a smartphone. Bitcoin, however, has the ability to solve those problems through technology. Users do not require a bank account, and they can, in effect, spend their money anonymously.

Bitcoins and other top cryptocurrencies – Ethereum, Ripple, Dash, Litecoin, and Ethereum Classic – can be purchased outright, and in a straightforward manner, from investment platform eToro, for instance. It has six million members across 140 countries and the company’s motto is “crypto needn’t be cryptic”. Trading on eToro is attractive because it has a fast online verification process, global offices (including in the United Kingdom), and members can use the CopyTrader tool to match the strategies of top-performing traders.

Many in the FinTech space believe the Blockchain, a decentralised ledger which is the backbone of cryptocurrencies, is the real game-changing innovation. In Sweden, and elsewhere, they have already toyed with ways in which it can be used in their public services. And sooner rather than later it could well underpin the world’s first cashless society.

Health24.com | Blood thinners may have dangerous side effects

Blood-thinning drugs can save your life by preventing a heart attack or stroke caused by artery-blocking blood clots.

But these are powerful drugs, and a pair of new studies detail side effects people need to understand before taking them.

Risk of life-threatening bleeding

The effectiveness of a class of blood thinners called nonvitamin K oral anticoagulants (NOACs) can be significantly altered through interaction with other drugs, the first study reveals.

In some cases, these drug interactions increase a person’s risk of life-threatening bleeding in locations such as the brain and gastrointestinal tract. In other cases, the NOACs’ effectiveness is reduced, robbing patients of some protection against stroke and heart attack.

“NOACs alone do not pose a significant risk of bleeding, but the concurrent use of NOACs with certain drugs that share the same metabolic pathways may cause increased risk of major bleeding,” said study lead researcher Dr Shang-Hung Chang, an associate professor of cardiology with Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taoyuan, Taiwan.

Meanwhile, a second study found that blood thinners can greatly increase a person’s risk of finding blood in their urine.

The two studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As a result, patients might unnecessarily wind up in the hospital or emergency room, or undergo an unneeded invasive procedure, said senior researcher Dr Robert Nam. He is a professor of surgery and head of genitourinary oncology with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto.

Preventing stroke risk

“Patients and physicians need to discuss this, to try and prevent patients having to be hospitalised or come to the emergency room in the middle of the night,” Nam said.

The first study looked at the bleeding risk associated with NOAC drugs dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and apixaban (Eliquis).

These drugs are primarily used to prevent risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause blood to pool and clot inside the heart, said Dr Deepak Bhatt. A spokesman for the American Heart Association, he is also executive director of interventional cardiovascular programmes at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Center in Boston.

NOACs are being used more frequently because they’re easier to use and produce fewer side effects than warfarin, an older anticoagulant that has many food and drug interactions, said Bhatt.

There may be other alternatives in the future. According to Taiwanese scientists a blood thinner blood drug based on venom from the Wagler’s pit viper was effective in mice, and might prove safer than current anti-clotting meds for humans.

Chang and his colleagues also decided to investigate whether NOACs might have previously unknown interactions with other commonly used medications. The team analysed health data on 91 330 Taiwanese patients with atrial fibrillation who were prescribed an NOAC.

The investigators found that bleeding risk increased significantly when NOACs were used in combination with amiodarone, fluconazole, rifampin and phenytoin – four drugs that treat widely different conditions.

Lower risk of bleeding

The researchers also found that other drugs dampened the effectiveness of NOACs, including atorvastatin, digoxin, and erythromycin or clarithromycin.

Bhatt said he’s particularly concerned about the effect of atorvastatin (Lipitor) on NOACs’ effectiveness.

“That’s a very commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drug, especially now that it’s generic,” Bhatt said. In fact, the researchers found that atorvastatin was the drug most commonly prescribed alongside an NOAC.

“That’s a big deal because that means all those patients on both drugs have a lower risk of bleeding, but on the flip side then would have a higher risk of stroke,” Bhatt said.

The second study found that people are much more likely to go to the hospital for blood in their urine if they’re taking blood thinners.

Nam and his colleagues examined medical data on 2.5 million Ontario residents, including nearly 809 000 who had been prescribed a blood thinner.

During an average follow-up period of seven years, people on blood thinners were six to 10 times more likely to wind up hospitalised or in the ER complaining of blood in their urine compared with others not taking the drugs, Nam said.

Image credit: iStock