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‘Sleep tourism’ promises the trip of your dreams. Beyond the hype plus 5 tips for a holiday at home

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/charlotte-gupta-347235">Charlotte Gupta</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/cquniversity-australia-2140">CQUniversity Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dean-j-miller-808724">Dean J. Miller</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/cquniversity-australia-2140">CQUniversity Australia</a></em></p> <p>Imagine arriving at your hotel after a long flight and being greeted by your own personal sleep butler. They present you with a pillow menu and invite you to a sleep meditation session later that day.</p> <p>You unpack in a room kitted with an AI-powered smart bed, blackout shades, blue light-blocking glasses and weighted blankets.</p> <p>Holidays are traditionally for activities or sightseeing – eating Parisian pastry under the Eiffel tower, ice skating at New York City’s Rockefeller Centre, lying by the pool in Bali or sipping limoncello in Sicily. But “<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/pillow-menus-and-sleep-gummies-the-new-hotel-trend-that-s-putting-guests-to-sleep-20230823-p5dyu5.html">sleep tourism</a>” offers vacations for the sole purpose of getting good sleep.</p> <p>The emerging trend extends out of the global wellness tourism industry – reportedly worth more than <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogersands/2023/11/17/the-global-wellness-tourism-sector-surpasses-814-billion-market-share/">US$800 billion globally</a> (A$1.2 trillion) and <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/1018497/global-market-size-of-the-wellness-tourism-industry/">expected to boom</a>.</p> <p>Luxurious sleep retreats and sleep suites at hotels are popping up <a href="https://www.countryandtownhouse.com/style/health-and-beauty/sleep-retreats/">all over the world</a> for tourists to get some much-needed rest, relaxation and recovery. But do you really need to leave home for some shuteye?</p> <h2>Not getting enough</h2> <p>The rise of sleep tourism may be a sign of just how chronically sleep deprived we all are.</p> <p>In Australia more than one-third of adults are not achieving the recommended <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352721816301292?via%3Dihub">7–9 hours</a> of sleep per night, and the estimated cost of this inadequate sleep is <a href="https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/41/8/zsy083/5025924">A$45 billion</a> each year.</p> <p>Inadequate sleep is linked to <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.2147/NSS.S134864">long-term health problems</a> including poor mental health, heart disease, metabolic disease and deaths from any cause.</p> <h2>Can a fancy hotel give you a better sleep?</h2> <p>Many of the sleep services available in the sleep tourism industry aim to optimise the bedroom for sleep. This is a core component of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4400203/?ref=askdoctorjad.com">sleep hygiene</a> – a series of healthy sleep practices that facilitate good sleep including sleeping in a comfortable bedroom with a good mattress and pillow, sleeping in a quiet environment and relaxing before bed.</p> <p>The more people follow sleep hygiene practices, the better their <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08964280209596396">sleep quality and quantity</a>.</p> <p>When we are staying in a hotel we are also likely away from any stressors we encounter in everyday life (such as work pressure or caring responsibilities). And we’re away from potential nighttime disruptions to sleep we might experience at home (the construction work next door, restless pets, unsettled children). So regardless of the sleep features hotels offer, it is likely we will experience improved sleep when we are away.</p> <h2>What the science says about catching up on sleep</h2> <p>In the short-term, <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-it-possible-to-catch-up-on-sleep-we-asked-five-experts-98699#:%7E:text=We%20can%20catch%20up%20on,and%20we%20cannot%20resist%20sleep.">we can catch up on sleep</a>. This can happen, for example, after a short night of sleep when our brain accumulates “<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/07420528.2012.675256">sleep pressure</a>”. This term describes how strong the biological drive for sleep is. More sleep pressure makes it easier to sleep the next night and to sleep for longer.</p> <p>But while a longer sleep the next night can relieve the sleep pressure, it does not reverse the <a href="https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/pdf/10.5664/jcsm.26918">effects of the short sleep on our brain and body</a>. Every night’s sleep is important for our body to recover and for our brain to process the events of that day. Spending a holiday “catching up” on sleep could help you feel more rested, but it is not a substitute for prioritising regular healthy sleep at home.</p> <p>All good things, including holidays, must come to an end. Unfortunately the perks of sleep tourism may end too.</p> <p>Our bodies do not like variability in the time of day that we sleep. The most common example of this is called “<a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/12/4543">social jet lag</a>”, where weekday sleep (getting up early to get to work or school) is vastly different to weekend sleep (late nights and sleep ins). This can result in a sleepy, grouchy start to the week on Monday. Sleep tourism may be similar, if you do not come back home with the intention to prioritise sleep.</p> <p>So we should be mindful that as well as sleeping well on holiday, it is important to optimise conditions at home to get consistent, adequate sleep every night.</p> <h2>5 tips for having a sleep holiday at home</h2> <p>An AI-powered mattress and a sleep butler at home might be the dream. But these features are not the only way we can optimise our sleep environment and give ourselves the best chance to get a good night’s sleep. Here are five ideas to start the night right:</p> <p><strong>1.</strong> avoid bright artificial light in the evening (such as bright overhead lights, phones, laptops)</p> <p><strong>2.</strong> make your bed as comfortable as possible with fresh pillows and a supportive mattress</p> <p><strong>3.</strong> use black-out window coverings and maintain a cool room temperature for the ideal sleeping environment</p> <p><strong>4.</strong> establish an evening wind-down routine, such as a warm shower and reading a book before bed or even a “<a href="https://theconversation.com/turns-out-the-viral-sleepy-girl-mocktail-is-backed-by-science-should-you-try-it-222151">sleepy girl mocktail</a>”</p> <p><strong>5.</strong> use consistency as the key to a good sleep routine. Aim for a similar bedtime and wake time – even on weekends.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231718/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/charlotte-gupta-347235">Charlotte Gupta</a>, Senior postdoctoral research fellow, Appleton Institute, HealthWise research group, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/cquniversity-australia-2140">CQUniversity Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dean-j-miller-808724">Dean J. Miller</a>, Adjunct Research Fellow, Appleton Institute of Behavioural Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/cquniversity-australia-2140">CQUniversity Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/sleep-tourism-promises-the-trip-of-your-dreams-beyond-the-hype-plus-5-tips-for-a-holiday-at-home-231718">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Travel Trouble

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1 in 5 deaths are caused by heart disease, but what else are Australians dying from?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/garry-jennings-5307">Garry Jennings</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Nobody dies in good health, at least in their final moments. But to think the causes of death are easy to count or that there is generally a single reason somebody passes is an oversimplification.</p> <p>In fact, in 2022, four out of five Australians had multiple conditions at the time of death listed on their death certificate, and almost one-quarter had five or more recorded. This is one of many key findings from a <a href="https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-deaths/what-do-australians-die-from/contents/about">new report</a> from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).</p> <p>The report distinguishes between three types of causes of death – underlying, direct, and contributory. An underlying cause is the condition that initiates the chain of events leading to death, such as having coronary heart disease. The direct cause of death is what the person died from (rather than with), like a heart attack. Contributory causes are things that significantly contributed to the chain of events leading to death but are not directly involved, like having high blood pressure. The report also tracks how these three types of causes can overlap in deaths involving multiple causes.</p> <p>In 2022 the top five conditions involved in deaths in Australia were coronary heart disease (20% of deaths), dementia (18%), hypertension, or high blood pressure (12%), cerebrovascular disease such as stroke (11.5%), and diabetes (11.4%).</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="MzQHA" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/MzQHA/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>When the underlying cause of death was examined, the list was similar (coronary heart disease 10%, dementia 9%, cerebrovascular disease 5%, followed by COVID and lung cancer, each 5%). This means coronary heart disease was not just lurking at the time of death but also the major underlying cause.</p> <p>The direct cause of death however was most often a lower respiratory condition (8%), cardiac or respiratory arrest (6.5%), sepsis (6%), pneumonitis, or lung inflammation (4%) or hypertension (4%).</p> <h2>Why is this important?</h2> <p>Without looking at all the contributing causes of death, the role of important factors such as coronary heart disease, sepsis, depression, high blood pressure and alcohol use can be underestimated.</p> <p>Even more importantly, the various causes draw attention to the areas where we should be focusing public health prevention. The report also helps us understand which groups to focus on for prevention and health care. For example, the number one cause of death in women was dementia, whereas in men it was coronary heart disease.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="NosVz" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/NosVz/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>People aged under 55 tended to die from external events such as accidents and violence, whereas older people died against a background of chronic disease.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="1l3OS" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/1l3OS/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>We cannot prevent death, but we can prevent many diseases and injuries. And this report highlights that many of these causes of death, both for younger Australians and older, are preventable. The top five conditions involved in death (coronary heart disease, dementia, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease and diabetes) all share common risk factors such as tobacco use, high cholesterol, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, or are risk factors themselves, like hypertension or diabetes.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="7Eb8O" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/7Eb8O/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Tobacco use, high blood pressure, being overweight or obese and poor diet were attributable to a combined 44% of all deaths in this report. This suggests a comprehensive approach to health promotion, disease prevention and management is needed.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="2MmGg" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/2MmGg/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>This should include strategies and programs encouraging eating a healthy diet, participating in regular physical activity, limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and seeing a doctor for regular health screenings, such as the Medicare-funded <a href="https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/heart-health-checks">Heart Health Checks</a>. Programs directed at accident prevention, mental health and violence, especially gender-related violence, will address untimely deaths in the young.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231598/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/garry-jennings-5307"><em>Garry Jennings</em></a><em>, Professor of Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/1-in-5-deaths-are-caused-by-heart-disease-but-what-else-are-australians-dying-from-231598">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Body

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5 ways to fake a clean bathroom

<p>Got a friend popping around for a catch up, and, your bathroom is less than sparkling? Don’t stress. Follow our foolproof tips to fake it so no one knows you didn’t have time to do a proper clean.</p> <p><strong>1. Scrub the loo</strong></p> <p>The toilet is often a telltale sign that your bathroom is in need of a clean. If you haven’t already invested in a leave-in cleaner for your bowl, simply get in there with some toilet cleaner and give a good squirt under the rim. Leave it to do its job while you get on with the rest of the bathroom.</p> <p>Then when it’s had a few minutes to soak, give it a once over with the toilet brush. Grab some toilet paper (or an antibacterial wipe) and give the rim and the top of the toilet a once over to remove any dust.</p> <p><strong>2. Eliminate any obvious mould and grime</strong></p> <p>Find yourself some good-quality mould spray that you can apply and then leave to work its magic while you move on to other areas of the bathroom. After 10 minutes (check your packet for the optimal time) you should be able to spray it with warm water from the shower and then wipe it clean.</p> <p><strong>3. Do a quick dust bust</strong></p> <p>Grab yourself a clean cloth or antibacterial wipe and go over the shelves and basin to get rid of any dust or dirt you can see.</p> <p><strong>4.Change your bathmat and hand towel</strong></p> <p>There’s nothing like a fresh and clean bathmat to trick your guests into thinking that you’ve just finished scrubbing the bathroom. Add a clean hand towel to complete the look.</p> <p><strong>5.Add a sweet scent</strong></p> <p>Give your bathroom a look of freshness by popping a small vase of flowers in there. You can also try a scented candle on top of the toilet to give off a nice scent and hide any odours.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

Home & Garden

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5 sneaky beauty tricks that take a decade off your look

<p>What if we told you there were five super simple turn-back-the-clock tricks that could brighten the face, open up the eyes, improve plumpness and give you enviably shiny hair? Well, that’s exactly what we’re telling you. And these tips don’t require and expensive trip to a beauty salon and can be done in your very own bathroom. </p> <p>When it comes to your skin, just one super-charged anti-ager will instantly boost your beauty routine—and deliver the kind of results we’d all be happy to see in the mirror. Here are five tricks you should definitely try today.</p> <p><strong>Try a Sleeping Beauty elixir</strong><br />They don’t call it beauty sleep for no good reason. While you’re head is on the pillow, it’s the perfect time to slather on an overnight face and neck cream that uses skin brightening ingredients such as vitamin C, algae extract and anti-oxidants. You will wake up more supple, radiant and bright – and in some cases, with firmer skin.</p> <p><strong>Go for bold lip</strong><br />A bold yet fresh lip will instantly brighten and lift the face. The trick is to go one or two shades brighter than you usually do – without option for a blast of neon. Diffuse bright edges with a cotton bud to stop hard lines.</p> <p><strong>Shake the magic wand</strong><br />Eyelashes have the ability to really open up your eyes and thus give you a more youthful look instantly. So everyone, get acquainted with the eyelash curler. A must for opening up tired, droopy eyelids before applying mascara – it works every time. </p> <p><strong>Attempt a gravity-defying mini massage</strong><br />As massages stimulate circulation, cells and collagen, everyone should be giving themself a daily morning face massage using small circular motions. Focus on your forehead, cheeks, chin, and gently pat under eyes to help with firmness and reduce bloating.</p> <p><strong>Let your hair shine on</strong><br />Shiny, healthy hair makes everyone look better – and it one of the easiest beauty tricks to master. Try mashed-up avocado mixed with olive oil as a hair mask – it’s cheap, natural and really effective.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

Beauty & Style

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5 ways your sleep affects what you eat

<p>We know a good night’s sleep is good for us but logging in those hours of sleep can be a difficult task. Without quality shut-eye, our productivity decreases, immune system weakens and even our dietary health is negatively affected.</p> <p><strong>You eat more when you sleep less</strong></p> <p>A Mayo Clinic study comparing the eating habits of people who slept as much as they needed and those who only slept two-thirds of their required rest time for eight days, found the subject who were sleep-deprived ended up eating an average of 549 extra calories each day.</p> <p><strong>You snack more, especially at night</strong></p> <p>A lack of sleep can lead to decrease in physical activity and an increase in snacking behaviour. Such behaviours typically leads to weight gain.</p> <p><strong>You crave extra carbs and fatty foods</strong></p> <p>The foods we’re snacking on aren’t usually the healthy variety. A 2013 study found that when we’re tired we not only crave unhealthy, -carbohydrate, and high-fat foods but we’re less likely to consider the consequences of such food choices over time.</p> <p><strong>Disrupted sleep cycle equal changing eating patterns</strong></p> <p>Your internal clock guides both your sleep patterns and your eating patterns – aka when you feel hungry during the day. A 2011 study found that people who are “late sleepers” tend to delay their meals throughout the day and end up consuming more calories than the average meal. Those late-eating habits affect sleep and perpetuates the cycle.</p> <p><strong>You don’t eat the right foods</strong></p> <p>A 2013 study found that sleep-deprived subjects ate half the fruit and vegetable servings of a normal sleeper. This meant losing key nutrients from their diet, which can lead to dietary imbalances and effect the regular functioning of the body. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

Body

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5 reasons art therapy is great for your mental health as you age

<p><span style="background: white;">We know how important it is to look after our<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/healthy-and-active-ageing"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">physical health</span></strong></a><span style="background: white;"> as we age, but our mental health is equally important. </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://aifs.gov.au/resources/short-articles/normalising-mental-illness-older-adults-barrier-care"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Studies have shown</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">that besides the immediate impact on wellbeing, older people with untreated mental ill health are at risk of poorer overall health, increased hospital admissions, and an earlier transition into aged care.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Art therapy is an excellent way to boost our mental wellbeing. In a nutshell, this type of therapy is when visual art, such as drawing, sculpting, or collage, is used in a<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.rtor.org/2018/07/10/benefits-of-art-therapy/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">therapeutic context</span></strong></a><span style="background: white;">. And don’t be put off if you haven’t picked up a paintbrush since you were a kid. Art therapy is not about creating works of beauty but about the process. It’s a completely </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://cata.org.au/faqs-myth-busters/#:~:text=The%20focus%20of%20Creative%20Art,%2C%20growth%20and%20self%2Dawareness.&amp;text=Reality%3A%20Creative%20Art%20Therapy%20does,to%20affect%20change%20and%20growth."><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">judgement free zone</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;">!</span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Emotional release:</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Growing up, many of us were never taught that it was okay to express how we’re feeling, especially emotions like anger and sadness. In that way, art therapy can be ideal us older folks who often feel stuck when it comes to expressing ourselves. Art therapy provides the opportunity to express our<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://creativityintherapy.com/2017/06/expressing-emotions-creativity-6-step-art-process/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">inner experiences</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">in a visual way. Through the act of creation, we can release pent-up feelings, reduce stress, and experience emotional release.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Another challenging emotion that art therapy can help with is grief. As we age, we are more likely to experience the<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.nari.net.au/the-impact-of-prolonged-grief-in-older-people"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">loss of a loved one</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">and we don’t get ‘used to it’. The hole it leaves in our hearts is just as dark. Through<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.vivianpaans.com.au/blog/healing-through-art-how-art-therapy-can-help-with-grief-and-wellbeing"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">creating art</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">we can explore the feelings of grief and sadness in a safe, judgement-free space. It can also foster a sense of self-compassion and when we have more compassion for ourselves, it becomes easier to accept our emotions.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Stress relief:</span></strong></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.sane.org/information-and-resources/facts-and-guides/facts-mental-health-issues"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Anxiety, depression, and past traumas</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">can heavily impact on our daily lives. Risk factors over our lifespans may change but they don’t magically disappear once we hit a certain age. Illness, grief, financial stress, social isolation, and life transitions such as menopause can all be </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/older-people-and-mental-health"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">contributing factors</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">of poor mental health for older adults. Creating art can ease symptoms as we refocus on what we’re creating and move thoughts away from overthinking and worry.<strong> </strong>Creating art releases </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.rtor.org/2018/07/10/benefits-of-art-therapy/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">dopamine</span></strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">,</span></a><span style="background: white;"> the chemical responsible for allowing us to feel pleasure and satisfaction. This further reduces bothersome symptoms of anxiety and depression.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Also, participating in art therapy leads to a more creative brain. A creative brain is better equipped to create stress-relieving techniques for other areas of our lives. Through creating art, we draw the fears that are inside our minds. This takes them out of our heads and places them away from us, helping us feel more in control.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Recovering from<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.interrelate.org.au/news-media/blogs/november-2021/how-art-can-heal-trauma"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">trauma</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> c</span></strong><span style="background: white;">an be a lifelong process for many, and it’s important for someone dealing with it to find tools that will help this process. Art therapy can be one of those as it can give a sense of agency and self-understanding through the ability to express feelings symbolically. This can give </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://anzacata.org/About-CAT"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">new perspectives</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">of ourselves and our worldview which is essential in the recovery process. It can also help connect with deeply stored emotions and help process them.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Self-discovery:</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">When we are younger we are often so busy working, socialising, and raising a family many of us never get a chance to take the time out for<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.visionpsychology.com/starting-the-process-of-self-discovery/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">self-discovery</span></strong></a><span style="background: white;">. Self-discovery is important in our lives as it gives us a clearer sense of purpose and direction in life. In turn, this leads to making better decisions that lead to our overall happiness.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">Some of us see our kids leave home and suddenly we’re left wondering, who am I when I don’t have a family to care for? Creating art can help us acknowledge and recognise feelings that have been suppressed in our subconscious. Through learning to use different techniques of art our minds open up to thinking more freely. Self-discovery comes from both the finished product we create as well as the process of making it.</span></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">Self-esteem:</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">As we age, it’s easy to look in the mirror and struggle to recognise the person we see. Our bodies are changing, and it can often feel like society doesn’t value us as much as when we were young. It can be a major shift in the way we view ourselves and lead to poor self-esteem. Art therapy teaches us how to use a variety of media to create something new. We can develop talents and see strengths as we master new materials and see the completion of projects. This sense of accomplishment can be a big leg up to our<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://artbusinessnews.com/2022/01/benefits-of-art-therapy/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">self-esteem.</span></strong></a></p> <p><strong><span style="background: white;">A sense of community:</span></strong></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://likefamily.com.au/blog/what-is-loneliness-and-how-does-it-affect-someone/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Loneliness</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">is a big contributor to poor mental health.<strong> </strong></span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.psychiatrist.com/news/study-why-older-people-feel-so-lonely/"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">Studies</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;"> </span></strong><span style="background: white;">show two groups of people are most at risk: young adults and older people. With factors at our age such as children leaving home, not working as much or at all, living alone, and chronic illness, it’s easy to see how loneliness can creep into our lives. Group art therapy is a wonderful way to connect with others. We share a space with those who have similar interests, and it gives us a sense of belonging. For those who can't make a session in person due to distance or illness, some therapists offer </span><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.artandplaytherapytraining.com.au/art_therapy"><strong><span style="color: black; background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">online group art therapy</span></strong></a><strong><span style="background: white;">.</span></strong></p> <p><span style="background: white;">You don’t need to see an art therapist to get the mental health benefits of creating art. But the advantage of that is they have the skills to work out what best suits your needs. They’ll also work with you through any tough emotions that may arise from your art therapy.</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">So maybe it’s time to hide those new coloured pencils from the little ones, crack them open, and enjoy them yourself!</span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">If you’d like to find out more about art therapy sessions, the links below are helpful. They offer online, in person and group sessions.</span></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.zevaarttherapy.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.zevaarttherapy.com/</span></a></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.alliedarttherapy.com.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.alliedarttherapy.com.au/</span></a></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.solacecreativetherapies.com.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.solacecreativetherapies.com.au/</span></a><span style="background: white;"> </span></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://cata.org.au/programs-ndis/online-creative-art-therapy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://cata.org.au/programs-ndis/online-creative-art-therapy/</span></a><span style="background: white;"> </span></p> <p><span style="background: white;">And for some more ideas on dabbling in art therapy on your own (or with a friend), check out Shelley Klammer’s amazing resources. She is US-based but has some online workshops that are also amazing:</span></p> <p><a style="color: blue;" href="https://www.expressiveartworkshops.com/expressive-art-resources/100-art-therapy-exercises/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="background: white; text-decoration-line: none;">https://www.expressiveartworkshops.com/expressive-art-resources/100-art-therapy-exercises/</span></a></p> <p><em>Article written by Kylie Carberry</em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

Mind

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5 ways to avoid going overboard on a cruise

<p>Falling overboard is the stuff of cruising nightmares (and it happens surprisingly more frequently than you might think. Just this year we’ve brought you two stories about passengers falling overboard, but this fishy fate is by no means unavoidable.</p> <p>Here are five ways to ensure you keep your feet dry.</p> <p><strong>1. Limit your alcohol intake</strong></p> <p>If the prices weren’t enough of a reason to go easy on the sauce on your cruise, perhaps the risk of tipping over the balcony will persuade you. Think of it this way – the effect of alcohol on a cruise is the same as the effect of alcohol on dry land, but when you’re on a cruise you’re travelling through sometimes heavy seas at about 20 knots.</p> <p><strong>2. Stay in your room during inclement weather</strong></p> <p>If your ship is sailing into dicey conditions, you’re better off keeping to your quarters. You never know how a cruise liner is going to stand up to the ocean’s wrath, and even if you want a good view of Mother Nature’s nasty side, you’re safer below deck. </p> <p><strong>3. Keep clear of dark corners</strong></p> <p>It’s not a very pleasant thing to think about, but when there are 4,000 passengers on a cruise they’re not all going to be good eggs. Be aware of your surroundings, just as you would be on land, and be sure to report any suspicious activity to a crew member.</p> <p><strong>4. Pay attention during the practice drills</strong></p> <p>Even if you’ve been on 20 cruises it’s a good idea to pay attention during the practice drills. This will reinforce what you need to do in an event of an emergency, and might just save your life (or someone else’s by knowing where to find the safety gear).</p> <p><strong>5. Don’t re-enact the <em>Titanic</em> scene</strong></p> <p>Because going overboard will make you look like anything but, “The king of the world.”</p> <p>Have you ever been on a cruise? Did you ever feel unsafe at any point? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Cruising

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5 questions to ask before becoming a carer

<p>Thinking about becoming a caregiver? Deciding to step up and provide care for a loved one is a huge responsibility. Make sure you’re prepared and ask these five vital questions first.</p> <p><strong>Do I need to hire help?</strong></p> <p>Just because you’re taking on caregiving duties doesn’t mean you have to be super human. It’s perfectly okay to ask for help, whether it’s in the form of a cleaner or someone to take on tasks that you would prefer to outsource. According to Health.com, 40 per cent of caregivers say dealing with incontinence is one of their most difficult task, while 30 per cent say helping relatives bathe is hard as well.</p> <p><strong>What is my Plan B?</strong></p> <p>If something should happen to you and your schedule or demands change, it’s important to discuss a back-up plan. As the primary carer, a lot of responsibility will rest on you so make sure you have a Plan B before you need one.</p> <p><strong>Should I be compensated?</strong></p> <p>A survey found that 60 per cent of careers adjust their work schedule to look after others, which means either cutting back hours or taking a leave of absence. While you might not want to accept money to care for loved ones, it’s a good idea to have an open discussion with close friends and family about how the responsibilities might impact your life and earning capacity, so that all parties agree on a fair solution.</p> <p><strong>What is Power of Attorney?</strong></p> <p>If you are looking after someone with memory loss, you may need to look into a legal document called power of attorney. Talk to family about who should have this responsibilities, and how you will navigate legal issues that could arise.</p> <p><strong>Who is my support group?</strong></p> <p>Roughly one in three carers don’t receive any help. Having a strong support network of people you can turn to, even just for a chat, can make a huge difference. You might be surprised by how many people you know are also caregivers.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Caring

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Battling to make ends meet? Financial planning expert offers 5 tips on how to build your budget

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p>Every day seems to bring new headlines about rising costs. <a href="https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/nigerias-big-unions-call-indefinite-strike-over-fuel-prices-and-the-cost-of-living-20230926">In Nigeria</a>, unions are threatening to strike amid soaring fuel prices; the country’s inflation rate <a href="https://www.cbn.gov.ng/rates/inflrates.asp">hit 25%</a> in August. The amount it costs to fill a food basket in South Africa <a href="https://pmbejd.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/PMBEJD_Key-Data_September-2023_27092023.pdf">keeps climbing</a>. Ghanaians <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/multi-day-protests-over-economic-crisis-grip-ghanas-capital-2023-09-23/">took to the streets</a> of Accra in late September to protest about the cost of living.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/retail-distribution/consumer-behavior-trends-state-of-the-consumer-tracker.html">recent study by the audit and consulting firm Deloitte</a> found that 75% of South Africans were concerned that the prices for everyday purchases would continue to increase, while 80% of consumers across all income groups expected the prices of groceries, household utilities and fuel to rise.</p> <p>This stark reality means budgeting may be more necessary than ever.</p> <p>If you don’t know how to create a budget, then you shouldn’t feel bad – most adults aren’t taught how to create one. And most people don’t budget, because they see it as restrictive or unsustainable. But it need not be: once you appreciate that a budget can work for you, it can be a financially empowering exercise. It’s a cornerstone of financial planning because it ensures you are living within your means and helps you remain in financial control.</p> <p>As a financial planning academic, I focus in <a href="https://researchprofiles.canberra.edu.au/en/persons/bomikazi-zeka/publications/">my research</a> on improving financial wellbeing and promoting savings behaviours through interventions such as budgeting. Here are five guidelines for creating a budget.</p> <h2>1. Apps vs spreadsheet</h2> <p>A good place to start is to choose the format of how you’re going to budget. There are several <a href="https://www.sanlamreality.co.za/wealth-sense/setting-up-a-family-budget-that-works/">online templates</a> and apps you can use for budgeting. For instance, <a href="https://www.22seven.com/">22Seven</a> has gained popularity in South Africa due to its compatibility with several financial institutions, including the country’s big five banks. Similarly, <a href="https://www.the-star.co.ke/business/kenya/2021-01-25-budgeting-using-mint-app/">Mint</a> is a popular budgeting tool that is used in Kenya and Nigeria.</p> <p>If you prefer to put pen to paper, some online templates come with <a href="https://www.wonga.co.za/blog/free-budget-template">free printable budgets</a>. Creating your own <a href="https://create.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/articles/how-to-make-excel-budget">Excel spreadsheet</a> is an equally good approach.</p> <p>What matters most is using a tool that you can commit to.</p> <h2>2. Itemising your income and expenses</h2> <p>A budget essentially shows how much you’re spending in relation to how much you’re earning. So once you have selected your budgeting tool, you need to fill in your income and itemise how much you’re spending on each expense in a month. A budget can be considered a cashflow statement because it allows you to track money coming in (income) and money going out (expenses).</p> <p>If you are living within your means, your budget should indicate a surplus – more cash inflows than cash outflows. So budgeting provides an accurate account of your short-term financial position.</p> <h2>3. A realistic account of expenses</h2> <p>When you look at your financial statements, fill your expenses into your budget honestly and accurately. Don’t cheat! Since everyone’s financial situation is different, your budget will also be unique.</p> <p>Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting, it should still consider all of your expenses (both regular and intermittent). A general rule of thumb is that if it’s deducted from your account then you should treat it as an expense. This includes payments for housing, medical insurance, fuel, dining out, credit card repayments and even bank fees.</p> <h2>4. Save first, spend later</h2> <p>Now you’ve seen how much you’re spending. Either it’s too much – and you can plan where to cut back – or you have savings at the end of the month.</p> <p>When compiling your budget it’s important to demarcate how much will be in the form of savings. What’s more important is getting into the habit of saving before you spend instead of saving after spending. If you spend first then you’ve deprived yourself of the opportunity to save for a rainy day.</p> <p>Furthermore, <a href="https://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/10231/1/Microsoft_Word_-_submitted_version_3rd_June_201.pdf">research</a> has shown that getting into the habit of saving has a transgenerational effect: it can be considered a cultural value that is passed on from one generation to another. So think of saving as paying yourself first. Once you have done so, you won’t feel guilty for treating yourself because you’ve already done the financially responsible thing by putting your savings aside.</p> <h2>5. Considering assets and liabilities</h2> <p>Once you’ve become comfortable with consistently budgeting, you can take it up a notch by including your assets (everything you own with an economic value) and liabilities (everything you owe) to determine your overall financial position.</p> <p>You can get a clearer picture of your overall financial wellbeing by compiling a list of all your assets, for example your savings and <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/home_equity.asp">home equity</a>, in relation to liabilities (such as bank loans). Knowing your long-term financial position can indicate how financially resilient or vulnerable you are. In the event of a financial emergency, you will know which resources you can draw upon to meet an unexpected expense.</p> <p>By creating a budget (and sticking to it), you can protect yourself and your household from financial shocks. Consider the alternative. Imagine you haven’t budgeted and set savings aside. If a financial emergency were to arise, your next best bet would be to borrow the funds you need. You’d have to come up with a plan to repay what you’d borrowed while also building your savings.</p> <h2>A healthy habit</h2> <p>Getting into the habit of budgeting isn’t easy, especially if you haven’t done it before or you’re intimidated by the process. But, as the expression goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Think of budgeting as taking a small but important step towards reclaiming control over your finances and improving your financial well-being.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/214861/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, Assistant Professor in Finance and Financial Planning, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/battling-to-make-ends-meet-financial-planning-expert-offers-5-tips-on-how-to-build-your-budget-214861">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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5 tips to keep your dog happy when indoors

<p>The cooler months are well and truly here and the dreary weather is enough to make anyone a little sad, including our furry friends. According to a study by veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, one in three dogs experience a downturn in mood during winter months. If the rain is preventing you getting out and about, here are five tips to keep your pooch happy and healthy when indoors.</p> <p><strong>1. Stair work/treadmill/indoor pool</strong></p> <p>Use what you have in your home. If you live in a multi-storey place, playing fetch up or down the stairs is a fun way for your pooch to get a workout. Alternatively, if you have a treadmill at home, use it to walk your dog on a rainy day. Swimming is also a great physical activity, particularly if dogs have joint problems.</p> <p><strong>2. Obedience training</strong></p> <p>Dust off the training books and work with your pooch to improve their obedience skills. It will keep your furry friend mentally active and dispel any boredom.</p> <p><strong>3. Hide and seek</strong></p> <p>Dogs need their senses stimulated – it’s why when they’re outside they will listen, sniff and dig out anything that’s out of the ordinary. Keep your furry friend entertained with a game of hide and seek. Place healthy treats around the house to get your pooch curious and exploring old surrounds.</p> <p><strong>4. Rotation diet</strong></p> <p>Rotating proteins (meats, fish, and poultry) and mixing in different forms of food (wet, dry and raw) will keep your dog interested in food and eating. Consult your vet about the type of diet your dog should be on for optimal health.</p> <p><strong>5. Play time</strong></p> <p>Interactive toys are a great way to pass time, stimulate and entertain your pooch inside. Puzzle toys, Kong balls with treats stuffed inside or just some one-on-one indoor play time will keep your four-legged friend happy.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Stuck in fight-or-flight mode? 5 ways to complete the ‘stress cycle’ and avoid burnout or depression

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p>Can you remember a time when you felt stressed leading up to a big life event and then afterwards felt like a weight had been lifted? This process – the ramping up of the stress response and then feeling this settle back down – shows completion of the “stress cycle”.</p> <p>Some stress in daily life is unavoidable. But remaining stressed is unhealthy. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/">Chronic stress</a> increases <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32886587/">chronic health conditions</a>, including heart disease and stroke and diabetes. It can also lead to <a href="https://theconversation.com/were-all-exhausted-but-are-you-experiencing-burnout-heres-what-to-look-out-for-164393">burnout</a> or <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5137920/">depression</a>.</p> <p>Exercise, cognitive, creative, social and self-soothing activities help us process stress in healthier ways and complete the stress cycle.</p> <h2>What does the stress cycle look like?</h2> <p>Scientists and researchers refer to the “stress response”, often with a focus on the fight-or-flight reactions. The phrase the “stress cycle” has been made popular by <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2019/03/complete-stress-cycle-emotional-exhaustion-burnout">self-help experts</a> but it does have a scientific basis.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541120/">stress cycle</a> is our body’s response to a stressful event, whether real or perceived, physical or psychological. It could be being chased by a vicious dog, an upcoming exam or a difficult conversation.</p> <p>The stress cycle has three stages:</p> <ul> <li> <p><strong>stage 1</strong> is perceiving the threat</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>stage 2</strong> is the fight-or-flight response, driven by our stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>stage 3</strong> is relief, including physiological and psychological relief. This completes the stress cycle.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Different people will respond to stress differently based on their life experiences and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181835/#:%7E:text=The%20major%20findings%20regarding%20the,renin%2Dangiotensin%2Daldosterone%20system%20or">genetics</a>.</p> <p>Unfortunately, many people experience <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/01/polycrisis-global-risks-report-cost-of-living/">multiple and ongoing stressors</a> out of their control, including the cost-of-living crisis, extreme weather events and <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/family-domestic-and-sexual-violence/types-of-violence/family-domestic-violence">domestic violence</a>.</p> <p>Remaining in stage 2 (the flight-or-flight response), can lead to chronic stress. <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-chronic-stress-changes-the-brain-and-what-you-can-do-to-reverse-the-damage-133194">Chronic stress</a> and high cortisol can increase <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476783/">inflammation</a>, which damages our brain and other organs.</p> <p>When you are stuck in chronic fight-or-flight mode, you don’t think clearly and are more easily distracted. Activities that provide temporary pleasure, such as eating junk food or drinking alcohol are <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acer.14518">unhelpful strategies</a> that do not reduce the stress effects on our brain and body. Scrolling through social media is also not an effective way to complete the stress cycle. In fact, this is associated with an <a href="https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/11/strain-media-overload">increased stress response</a>.</p> <h2>Stress and the brain</h2> <p>In the brain, chronic high cortisol can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4561403/">shrink the hippocampus</a>. This can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1557684/#:%7E:text=The%20hippocampal%20formation%20plays%20a,%2C%20memory%2C%20motivation%20and%20emotion.&amp;text=Therefore%2C%20reduced%20hippocampal%20volumes%20should,in%20patients%20with%20major%20depression">impair a person’s memory</a> and their capacity to think and concentrate.</p> <p>Chronic high cortisol also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907136/#:%7E:text=The%20prefrontal%20cortex%20(PFC)%20intelligently,brain%20regions%20(BOX%201).">reduces activity</a> in the prefrontal cortex but <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352289514000101">increases activity</a> in the amygdala.</p> <p>The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher-order control of our thoughts, behaviours and emotions, and is <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00761/full">goal-directed</a> and rational. The amygdala is involved in reflexive and emotional responses. Higher amygdala activity and lower prefrontal cortex activity explains why we are less rational and more emotional and reactive when we are stressed.</p> <p>There are five <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2019/03/complete-stress-cycle-emotional-exhaustion-burnout">types of activities</a> that can help our brains complete the stress cycle.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eD1wliuHxHI?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">It can help to understand how the brain encounters stress.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>1. Exercise – its own complete stress cycle</h2> <p>When we exercise we get a short-term spike in cortisol, followed by a <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax">healthy reduction</a> in cortisol and adrenaline.</p> <p>Exercise also <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469#:%7E:text=Exercise%20in%20almost%20any%20form,distract%20you%20from%20daily%20worries.&amp;text=You%20know%20that%20exercise%20does,fit%20it%20into%20your%20routine.">increases endorphins and serotonin</a>, which improve mood. Endorphins cause an elated feeling often called “runner’s high” and have <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33396962/">anti-inflammatory effects</a>.</p> <p>When you exercise, there is more blood flow to the brain and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6721405/">higher activity</a> in the prefrontal cortex. This is why you can often think more clearly after a walk or run. Exercise can be a helpful way to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/exercise-stress-relief">relieve feelings of stress</a>.</p> <p>Exercise can also increase the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3041121/">volume</a> of the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4915811/">hippocampus</a>. This is linked to better short-term and long-term memory processing, as well as reduced stress, depression and anxiety.</p> <h2>2. Cognitive activities – reduce negative thinking</h2> <p>Overly negative thinking can trigger or extend the stress response. In our 2019 research, we found the relationship between stress and cortisol was <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6987429/">stronger in people with more negative thinking</a>.</p> <p>Higher amygdala activity and less rational thinking when you are stressed can lead to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18628348/">distorted thinking</a> such as focusing on negatives and rigid “black-and-white” thinking.</p> <p>Activities to reduce negative thinking and promote a more realistic view can reduce the stress response. In clinical settings this is usually called <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/cognitive-behaviour-therapy-cbt">cognitive behaviour therapy</a>.</p> <p>At home, this could be journalling or writing down worries. This engages the logical and rational parts of our brain and helps us think more realistically. Finding evidence to challenge negative thoughts (“I’ve prepared well for the exam, so I can do my best”) can help to complete the stress cycle.</p> <h2>3. Getting creative – a pathway out of ‘flight or fight’</h2> <p>Creative activities can be art, craft, gardening, cooking or <a href="https://heartmindonline.org/resources/10-exercises-for-your-prefrontal-cortex">other activities</a> such as doing a puzzle, juggling, music, theatre, dancing or simply being absorbed in enjoyable work.</p> <p>Such pursuits increase <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00761/full">prefrontal cortex activity</a> and promote flow and focus.</p> <p>Flow is a <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.645498/full">state of full engagement</a> in an activity you enjoy. It lowers high-stress levels of noradrenaline, the brain’s adrenaline. When you are focussed like this, the brain only processes information relevant to the task and ignores non-relevant information, including stresses.</p> <h2>4. Getting social and releasing feel-good hormones</h2> <p>Talking with someone else, physical affection with a person or pet and laughing can all <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-happens-in-our-brain-and-body-when-were-in-love-198885">increase oxytocin</a>. This is a chemical messenger in the brain that increases social bonding and makes us feel connected and safe.</p> <p>Laughing is also a social activity that <a href="https://neurosciencenews.com/laughter-physical-mental-psychology-17339/">activates parts</a> of the limbic system – the part of the brain involved in emotional and behavioural responses. This increases <a href="https://www.jneurosci.org/content/37/36/8581">endorphins</a> and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27439375/">serotonin</a> and improves our mood.</p> <h2>5. Self-soothing</h2> <p>Breathing <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6189422/">exercises</a> and meditation stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (which calms down our stress responses so we can “reset”) via the <a href="https://theconversation.com/our-vagus-nerves-help-us-rest-digest-and-restore-can-you-really-reset-them-to-feel-better-210469">vagus nerves</a>, and <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17437199.2020.1760727">reduce cortisol</a>.</p> <p>A good <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035568/#:%7E:text=We%20conclude%20that%2C%20in%20addition,self%2Dsoothing%20effects%20of%20crying.">cry can help too</a> by releasing stress energy and increasing oxytocin and endorphins.</p> <p><a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319631#:%7E:text=Possible%20benefits%20of%20crying%20include,of%201.9%20times%20a%20month.">Emotional tears</a> also remove cortisol and the hormone prolactin from the body. Our prior research showed <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29096223/">cortisol</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9216608/">prolactin</a> were associated with depression, anxiety and hostility.<em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/theresa-larkin-952095">Theresa Larkin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-j-thomas-1293985">Susan J. Thomas</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <h2>Action beats distraction</h2> <p>Whether it’s watching a funny or sad movie, exercising, journalling, gardening or doing a puzzle, there is science behind why you should complete the stress cycle.</p> <p>Doing at least one positive activity every day can also reduce our baseline stress level and is beneficial for good mental health and wellbeing.</p> <p>Importantly, chronic stress and <a href="https://theconversation.com/are-you-burnt-out-at-work-ask-yourself-these-4-questions-118128">burnout</a> can also indicate the need for change, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wps.20311">such as in our workplaces</a>. However, not all stressful circumstances can be easily changed. Remember help is always available.</p> <p>If you have concerns about your stress or health, please talk to a doctor.</p> <p><em>If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call <a href="https://www.lifeline.org.au/">Lifeline</a> on 13 11 14 or <a href="https://kidshelpline.com.au/">Kids Helpline</a> on 1800 55 1800.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/218599/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/theresa-larkin-952095">Theresa Larkin</a>, Associate professor of Medical Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-j-thomas-1293985">Susan J. Thomas</a>, Associate professor in Mental Health and Behavioural Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p><em>Image </em><em>credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/stuck-in-fight-or-flight-mode-5-ways-to-complete-the-stress-cycle-and-avoid-burnout-or-depression-218599">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Mind

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How long does menopause last? 5 tips for navigating uncertain times

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yvonne-middlewick-1395795">Yvonne Middlewick</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p>Around half of the world’s population are women or people who menstruate – yet the way their body works can be a mystery, even to them.</p> <p>Most women will experience periods roughly every month, many will go through childbirth and those who live into midlife will experience menopause.</p> <p>While menopause is a significant time of change, it isn’t talked about much, other than as a punchline. This may contribute to keeping it a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2019/sep/21/breaking-the-menopause-taboo-there-are-vital-stories-we-should-continue-to-pursue">taboo topic</a>.</p> <p>So, what happens during menopause? How do you know when it is happening to you? And – the thing most women want to know – how long will it last?</p> <h2>What is menopause?</h2> <p>Menopause is <a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause">defined</a> as the permanent cessation of menstruation, which is medically determined to be one year after the final menstrual period. After this time women are considered to be postmenopausal.</p> <p>The <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26598775/">average age</a> of “natural menopause” (that is not caused by a medical condition, treatment or surgery) is considered to be around 51 years.</p> <p>However, natural menopause does not occur suddenly. <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Riitta-Luoto/publication/46425690_Prevalence_of_menopause_symptoms_and_their_association_with_lifestyle_among_Finnish_middle-aged_women/links/5c5704ac458515a4c7553c7b/Prevalence-of-menopause-symptoms-and-their-association-with-lifestyle-among-Finnish-middle-aged-women.pdf">Changes can begin</a> a number of years before periods stop and most often occur in a woman’s 40s but they can be earlier. Changes <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25686030/">can continue</a> for 10 years or more after periods have stopped.</p> <p>Using hormones such as the oral contraceptive pill or hormone intrauterine devices may make it more <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31934948/">difficult to determine</a> when changes start.</p> <p>Menopause that occurs <a href="https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/early-or-premature-menopause#:%7E:text=Menopause%20that%20happens%20before%20age,to%20come%20earlier%20than%20usual.">before 45</a> is called “early menopause”, while menopause before 40 is called “premature menopause”.</p> <h2>What about perimenopause?</h2> <p>Various <a href="https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/glossary-of-terms">terms</a> are used to describe this period of change, including “menopause” or “the menopause”, “menopausal transition”, “perimenopause” or “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12188398/">climacteric</a>”.</p> <p>These terms tend to refer to the period before and after the final menstrual period, when changes are considered to be related to menopause.</p> <p>The difficulty with the definition of menopause is it can only be decided retrospectively. Yet women can experience changes many years before their periods stop (a lead up usually called “perimenopause”). Also, any <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/sdfe/pdf/download/eid/1-s2.0-S0889854518300627/first-page-pdf">changes noticed</a> may not be associated with menopause (because people might not be aware of what to expect) or changes may be associated with a combination of factors such as stress, being busy or other health issues.</p> <h2>So, what is going on?</h2> <p>Through a feminist lens, menopause can be seen as a <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354652248_The_volcano_within_a_study_of_women's_lived_experience_of_the_journey_through_natural_menopause">complex and diverse experience</a>, influenced by biological, psychological, social and cultural aspects of women’s lives.</p> <p>However, it is usually viewed from the biomedical perspective. This sees it as a biological event, marked by the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091302220300418">decline</a> in ovarian hormone levels leading to a reduction in reproductive function.</p> <p>The female reproductive system operates because of a finely tuned balance of hormones managed by the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6466056/#:%7E:text=The%20hypothalamic%2Dpituitary%2Dovarian%20(HPO)%20axis%20must%20be,priming%20the%20endometrium%20for%20implantation.">hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis</a>. International <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3340903/">experts</a> have developed a staging system for female reproductive ageing, with seven stages from “early reproductive” years to “late postmenopause”.</p> <p>However, female reproductive hormones do not just affect the reproductive system but <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091302220300418">other aspects</a> of the body’s function. These include the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26007613/">neurological system</a>, which is linked to hot flushes and night sweats and disrupted sleep. Hormones may also affect the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrdp20154">heart and body’s blood circulation</a>, bone health and potentially the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091302220300418">immune system</a>.</p> <p>Menopausal hormone changes may <a href="https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/menopause-information/menopause-symptoms/">cause</a> hot flushes, night/cold sweats, mood swings, sleep disruption and tiredness, vaginal dryness.</p> <p>Medical confirmation of menopausal changes in women over 45 years is based on two biological indicators: vasomotor symptoms (those hot flushes and night sweats again) and an <a href="https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/early-or-premature-menopause#:%7E:text=Menopause%20that%20happens%20before%20age,to%20come%20earlier%20than%20usual.">irregular menstrual cycle</a>.</p> <p>In early perimenopause the changes to the menstrual cycle may be subtle. Women may not recognise early indicators, unless they keep a record and know what to watch for.</p> <h2>How long does it last?</h2> <p>The body demonstrates an amazing ability to change over a lifetime. In a similar way to adolescence where long-lasting changes occur, the outcome of menopause is also change.</p> <p>Research suggests it is difficult to give an exact time frame for how long menopausal changes occur – the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085137/">average</a> is between four and eight years.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085137/">Penn Ovarian Ageing Study</a> found 79% of the 259 participants experienced hot flushes starting before the age of 50, most commonly between 45 and 49 years of age.</p> <p>A later report on the same study found one third of women studied experienced <a href="https://womensmidlifehealthjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40695-016-0014-2">moderate to severe hot flushes</a> more than ten years after their periods had stopped. A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2017/03000/Cultural_issues_in_menopause__an_exploratory.11.aspx">2017 study</a> found a small number of women continued to experience hot flushes and other symptoms into their 70s.</p> <p>So overall, the research cannot offer a specific window for perimenopause, and menopause does not appear to mark the end of changes for everyone.</p> <h2>5 tips for uncertain times</h2> <p>Shifts and changes can be recognised early by developing knowledge, paying attention to changes to our bodies and talking about menopause and perimenopause more openly.</p> <p>Here are five tips for moving from uncertainty to certainty:</p> <p><strong>1.</strong> talk to people and find out as much information as you can. The experiences of mothers and sisters may help, for some women there are familial similarities</p> <p><strong>2.</strong> notice any changes to your body and make a note of them, this will help you recognise changes earlier. There are <a href="https://www.redonline.co.uk/wellbeing/a36980118/menopause-apps/">menopause tracking apps</a> available</p> <p><strong>3.</strong> keep a note of your menstrual cycle: start date, duration, flow and note any changes. Again, an app might help</p> <p><strong>4.</strong> if you are worried, seek advice from a GP or nurse that specialises in women’s health. They may suggest ways to help with symptoms or refer to a specialist</p> <p><strong>5.</strong> remember changes are the indicator to pay attention to, not time or your age.</p> <p>Menopause is a natural process and although we have focused here on the time frame and “symptoms”, it can also be a time of freedom (particularly from periods!), reflection and a time to focus on yourself.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/195211/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lhosPUwWhfI?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Women speak about their experiences of menopause.</span></figcaption></figure> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yvonne-middlewick-1395795">Yvonne Middlewick</a>, Nurse &amp; Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-long-does-menopause-last-5-tips-for-navigating-uncertain-times-195211">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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Dad cops furious note from "egotistical Karen" for parking in parent's bay

<p>A Perth dad has been left hurt after he was targeted by an "egotistical Karen" for parking in a parent's bay, while his wife was inside a shopping centre changing their seven-month-old baby. </p> <p>"Don't park here again, you selfish prick!" the note read. </p> <p>His wife took to Facebook on behalf of her hurt husband to question why someone would go out of their way to criticise him for parking in a space designated for parents. </p> <p>"My husband was putting a baby gate in the boot while I was in the forum changing our seven-month-old baby," she defended her partner, who parked at the Mandurah Forum. </p> <p>"He came back into the forum looking for me [and] when we returned, someone had put this note on our windscreen.</p> <p>"How about next time you be sure before insulting an innocent husband and father, you hero."</p> <p>The woman said that the note left her husband "hurt and almost feeling guilty" and she argued that he had every right to be there as a parent. </p> <p>Her post attracted over 300 interactions with many agreeing with the mum, and saying that the "Karen" should've gotten their facts straight before taking action. </p> <p>"There is no law for who can park in parents with prams spaces they are just convenience but anyone can park there and use,"  one man wrote. </p> <p>A few others shared the same sentiment and said that "it's not illegal to park in those bays" regardless of whether or not you have a baby. </p> <p>Some parents even shared their own experiences and why it is important to not judge someone based on looks alone. </p> <p>"This has happened to me also. I had a baby and a toddler and my husband took them inside the Mandurah forum while I unloaded our car," the person began. </p> <p>"A couple with a baby parked next to me and the man kept yelling at me that it was only for parents with prams, even though I told him I had young kids and a pram. But he didn't believe me and yelled loudly to move my car."</p> <p>One mum added that she doesn't see the need for parents with prams spaces altogether.</p> <p>"As a mum of just a five-year-old, I personally don’t see the need for parent spaces. They are not any bigger, just more convenient. Kids need exercise and prams have wheels, not hard to walk," she wrote. </p> <p>"I personally think they should be seniors bays instead, they are less mobile and struggle to walk long distances. Give them the spots."</p> <p><em>Images: Facebook</em></p>

Legal

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After a lifetime studying superannuation, here are 5 things I wish I knew earlier

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-thorp-214">Susan Thorp</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Amassing the wealth needed to support retirement by regular saving is a monumental test of personal planning and discipline. Fortunately for most Australian workers, the superannuation system can help.</p> <p>Superannuation uses the carrot of tax incentives, and the sticks of compulsion and limited access, to make us save for retirement.</p> <p>There are benefits to paying timely attention to your super early in your working life to get the most from this publicly mandated form of financial self-discipline.</p> <p>I’ve been researching and thinking about superannuation for most of my career. Here’s what I wish I knew at the beginning of my working life.</p> <h2>1. Check you’re actually getting paid super</h2> <p>First, make sure you are getting your dues.</p> <p>If you are working, your employer must contribute <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/businesses-and-organisations/super-for-employers/paying-super-contributions/how-much-super-to-pay">11% of your earnings</a> into your superannuation account. By July 2025 the rate will increase to 12%.</p> <p>This mandatory payment (the “<a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/tax-rates-and-codes/key-superannuation-rates-and-thresholds/super-guarantee">superannuation guarantee</a>”) may look like yet another tax but it is an important part of your earnings (would you take an 11% pay cut?).</p> <p>It is worth checking on, and worth <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/calculators-and-tools/super-report-unpaid-super-contributions-from-my-employer">reporting</a> if it is not being paid.</p> <p>The Australian Tax Office <a href="https://oia.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2023/05/Impact%20Analysis%20-%20Unpaid%20Superannuation%20Guarantee%20package.pdf">estimates</a> there is a gap between the superannuation employers should pay and what they do pay of around 5% (or $A3.3 billion) every year.</p> <p>Failing to pay is <a href="https://oia.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2023/05/Impact%20Analysis%20-%20Unpaid%20Superannuation%20Guarantee%20package.pdf">more common</a> among the accommodation, food service and construction industries, as well as small businesses.</p> <p>Don’t take your payslip at face value; cross-check your super account balance and the annual statement from your fund.</p> <h2>2. Have just one super account</h2> <p>Don’t make personal donations to the finance sector by having more than one superannuation account.</p> <p>Two super accounts mean you are donating unnecessary administration fees, possibly redundant insurance premiums and suffering two times the confusion to manage your accounts.</p> <p>The superannuation sector does not need your charity. If you have more than one super account, please consolidate them into just one today. You can do that <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-super-works/consolidating-super-funds">relatively easily</a>.</p> <h2>3. Be patient, and appreciate the power of compound interest</h2> <p>If you’re young now, retirement may feel a very distant problem not worth worrying about until later. But in a few decades you’re probably going to appreciate the way superannuation works.</p> <p>As a person closing in on retirement, I admit I had no idea in my 20s how much my future, and the futures of those close to me, would depend on my superannuation savings.</p> <p>Now I get it! <a href="https://www.nber.org/papers/w27459">Research</a> <a href="https://economics.mit.edu/sites/default/files/publications/pandp.20221022.pdf">shows</a> the strict rules preventing us from withdrawing superannuation earlier are definitely costly to some people in preventing them from spending on things they really need. For many, however, it stops them spending on things that, in retrospect, they would rate as less important.</p> <p>But each dollar we contribute in our 30s is worth around three times the dollars we contribute in our 50s. This is because of the advantages of time and <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/saving/compound-interest">compound interest</a> (which is where you earn interest not just on the money initially invested, but on the interest as well; it’s where you earn “interest on your interest”).</p> <p>For some, adding extra “voluntary” savings can build up retirement savings as a buffer against the periods of unemployment, disability or carer’s leave that most of us experience at some stage.</p> <h2>4. Count your blessings</h2> <p>If you are building superannuation savings, try to remember you’re among the lucky ones.</p> <p>The benefits of super aren’t available to those who can’t work much (or at all). They face a more precarious reliance on public safety nets, like the Age Pension.</p> <p>So aim to maintain your earning capacity, and pay particular attention to staying employable if you take breaks from work.</p> <p>What’s more, superannuation savings are invested by (usually) skilled professionals at rates of return hard for individual investors to achieve outside the system.</p> <p>Many larger superannuation funds offer members types of investments – such as infrastructure projects and commodities – that retail investors can’t access.</p> <p>The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) also <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/industries/superannuation">checks</a> on large funds’ investment strategies and performance.</p> <h2>5. Tough decisions lie ahead</h2> <p>The really hard work is ahead of you. The saving or “accumulation” phase of superannuation is mainly automatic for most workers. Even a series of non-decisions (defaults) will usually achieve a satisfactory outcome. A little intelligent activity will do even better.</p> <p>However, at retirement we face the challenge of making that accumulated wealth cover our needs and wants over an uncertain number of remaining years. We also face variable returns on investments, a likely need for aged care and, in many cases, declining cognitive capacity.</p> <p>It’s helpful to frame your early thinking about superannuation as a means to support these critical decades of consumption in later life.</p> <p>At any age, when we review our financial management and think about what we wish we had known in the past, we should be realistic. Careful and conscientious people still make mistakes, procrastinate and suffer from bad luck. So if your super isn’t where you had hoped it would be by now, don’t beat yourself up about it. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217922/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-thorp-214">Susan Thorp</a>, Professor of Finance, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/after-a-lifetime-studying-superannuation-here-are-5-things-i-wish-i-knew-earlier-217922">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Early indicators of dementia: 5 behaviour changes to look for after age 50

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/daniella-vellone-1425451">Daniella Vellone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-calgary-1318">University of Calgary</a> </em></p> <p>Dementia is often thought of as a memory problem, like when an elderly person asks the same questions or misplaces things. In reality, individuals with dementia will not only experience issues in other areas of cognition like learning, thinking, comprehension and judgement, but they may also experience <a href="https://www.alzint.org/u/World-Alzheimer-Report-2021.pdf">changes in behaviour</a>.</p> <p>It’s important to understand what dementia is and how it manifests. I didn’t imagine my grandmother’s strange behaviours were an early warning sign of a far more serious condition.</p> <p>She would become easily agitated if she wasn’t successful at completing tasks such as cooking or baking. She would claim to see a woman around the house even though no woman was really there. She also became distrustful of others and hid things in odd places.</p> <p>These behaviours persisted for some time before she eventually received a dementia diagnosis.</p> <h2>Cognitive and behavioural impairment</h2> <p>When cognitive and behavioural changes interfere with an individual’s functional independence, that person is considered to have dementia. However, when cognitive and behavioural changes don’t interfere with an individual’s independence, yet still negatively affect relationships and workplace performance, they are referred to as <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/other-dementias_mild-cognitive-impairment.pdf">mild cognitive impairment (MCI)</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-021-00949-7">mild behavioural impairment (MBI)</a>, respectively.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9169943/">MCI and MBI can occur together</a>, but in one-third of people who develop Alzheimer’s dementia, the behavioural symptoms come <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2019.01.215">before cognitive decline</a>.</p> <p>Spotting these behavioural changes, which emerge in later life (ages 50 and over) and represent a persistent change from longstanding patterns, can be helpful for implementing preventive treatments before more severe symptoms arise. As a medical science PhD candidate, my research focuses on problem behaviours that arise later in life and indicate increased risk for dementia.</p> <h2>Five behavioural signs to look for</h2> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="Illustration of five behaviour changes that may indicate risk of dementia" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Spotting behavioural changes can be helpful for implementing preventive treatments before more severe symptoms arise.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Daniella Vellone)</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>There are <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233%2FJAD-160979">five primary behaviours</a> we can look for in friends and family who are over the age of 50 that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13024-023-00631-6">might warrant further attention</a>.</p> <h2>1. Apathy</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002%2Ftrc2.12370">Apathy</a> is a decline in interest, motivation and drive.</p> <p>An apathetic person might lose interest in friends, family or activities. They may lack curiosity in topics that normally would have interested them, lose the motivation to act on their obligations or become less spontaneous and active. They may also appear to lack emotions compared to their usual selves and seem like they no longer care about anything.</p> <h2>2. Affective dysregulation</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2023.03.074">Affective dysregulation</a> includes mood or anxiety symptoms. Someone who shows affective dysregulation may develop sadness or mood instability or become more anxious or worried about routine things such as events or visits.</p> <h2>3. Lack of impulse control</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002%2Ftrc2.12016">Impulse dyscontrol</a> is the inability to delay gratification and control behaviour or impulses.</p> <p>Someone who has impulse dyscontrol may become agitated, aggressive, irritable, temperamental, argumentative or easily frustrated. They may become more stubborn or rigid such that they are unwilling to see other views and are insistent on having their way. Sometimes they may develop sexually disinhibited or intrusive behaviours, exhibit repetitive behaviours or compulsions, start gambling or shoplifting, or experience difficulties regulating their consumption of substances like tobacco or alcohol.</p> <h2>4. Social inappropriateness</h2> <p><a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1041610217001260">Social inappropriateness</a> includes difficulties adhering to societal norms in interactions with others.</p> <p>Someone who is socially inappropriate may lose the social judgement they previously had about what to say or how to behave. They may become less concerned about how their words or actions affect others, discuss private matters openly, talk to strangers as if familiar, say rude things or lack empathy in interactions with others.</p> <h2>5. Abnormal perceptions or thoughts</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s44220-023-00043-x">Abnormal perception or thought content</a> refers to strongly held beliefs and sensory experiences.</p> <p>Someone with abnormal perceptions or thoughts may become suspicious of other people’s intentions or think that others are planning to harm them or steal their belongings. They may also describe hearing voices or talk to imaginary people and/or act like they are seeing things that aren’t there.</p> <p>Before considering any of these behaviours as a sign of a more serious problem, it’s important to rule out other potential causes of behavioural change such as drugs or medications, other medical conditions or infections, interpersonal conflict or stress, or a recurrence of psychiatric symptoms associated with a previous psychiatric diagnosis. If in doubt, it may be time for a doctor’s visit.</p> <h2>The impact of dementia</h2> <p>Many of us know someone who has either experienced dementia or cared for someone with dementia. This isn’t surprising, given that dementia is predicted to affect <a href="https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/nearly-one-million-canadians-will-live-with-dementia-by-2030-alzheimer-society-predicts-1.6056849#:">one million Canadians by 2030</a>.</p> <p>While people between the ages of 20 and 40 may think that they have decades before dementia affects them, it’s important to realize that dementia isn’t an individual journey. In 2020, care partners — including family members, friends or neighbours — spent <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/Landmark-Study-1-Path-Forward-Alzheimer-Society-of-Canada-2022-wb.pdf">26 hours per week</a> assisting older Canadians living with dementia. This is equivalent to 235,000 full-time jobs or $7.3 billion annually.</p> <p>These numbers are expected to triple by 2050, so it’s important to look for ways to offset these predicted trajectories by preventing or delaying the progression of dementia.</p> <h2>Identifying those at risk</h2> <p>While there is currently no cure for dementia, there has been progress towards <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/dementia-treatment-options-developments">developing effective treatments</a>, which <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/do-i-have-dementia/how-get-tested-dementia-tips-individuals-families-friends/10">may work better earlier in the disease course</a>.</p> <p>More research is needed to understand dementia symptoms over time; for example, the online <a href="https://www.can-protect.ca/">CAN-PROTECT study</a> assesses many contributors to brain aging.</p> <p>Identifying those at risk for dementia by recognizing later-life changes in cognition, function as well as behaviour is a step towards not only preventing consequences of those changes, but also potentially preventing the disease or its progression.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/213954/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/daniella-vellone-1425451"><em>Daniella Vellone</em></a><em>, Medical Science and Imaging PhD Candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-calgary-1318">University of Calgary</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/early-indicators-of-dementia-5-behaviour-changes-to-look-for-after-age-50-213954">original article</a>.</em></p>

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COVID is surging in Australia – and only 1 in 5 older adults are up to date with their boosters

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adrian-esterman-1022994">Adrian Esterman</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>Do you have family members or friends sick with a respiratory infection? If so, there’s a good chance it’s COVID, caused by the JN.1 variant currently circulating in Australia.</p> <p>In particular, New South Wales is reportedly experiencing its <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-01-09/nsw-sydney-covid-variant-virus-pandemic-hospitalisations/103298610">highest levels</a> of COVID infections in a year, while Victoria is said to be facing a “<a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/victoria-in-midst-of-double-wave-of-covid19--as-jn1-triggers-infections-surge/4dada2cb-7d56-436a-9490-cad1d908a29a">double wave</a>” after a surge late last year.</p> <p>But nearly four years into the pandemic, data collection is less comprehensive than it was, and of course, fewer people are testing. So what do we know about the extent of this wave? And importantly, are we adequately protected?</p> <h2>Difficulties with data</h2> <p>Tracking COVID numbers was easier in the first half of last year, when each state and territory provided a weekly update, giving us data on case notifications, hospitalisations, ICU numbers and deaths.</p> <p>In the second half of the year some states and territories switched to less frequent reporting while others stopped their regular updates. As a result, different jurisdictions now report at different intervals and provide varying statistics.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://www.health.vic.gov.au/infectious-diseases/victorian-covid-19-surveillance-report">Victoria</a> still provides weekly reports, while NSW publishes <a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Documents/respiratory-surveillance-20240106.pdf">fortnightly updates</a>.</p> <p>While each offer different metrics, we can gather – particularly from data on hospitalisations – that both states are experiencing a wave. We’re also seeing high levels of COVID <a href="https://www.health.vic.gov.au/infectious-diseases/victorian-covid-19-surveillance-report">in wastewater</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, <a href="https://health.nt.gov.au/covid-19/data">Northern Territory Health</a> simply tell you to go to the Australian government’s Department of Health website for COVID data. This houses the only national COVID <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/reporting?language=und">data collection</a>. Unfortunately, it’s not up to date, difficult to use, and, depending on the statistic, often provides no state and territory breakdowns.</p> <p>Actual case notifications are provided on a separate <a href="https://nindss.health.gov.au/pbi-dashboard/">website</a>, although given the lack of testing, these are likely to be highly inaccurate.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/reporting?language=und">Department of Health website</a> does provide some other data that gives us clues as to what’s happening. For example, as of one month ago, there were 317 active outbreaks of COVID in aged care homes. This figure has been generally rising since September.</p> <p>Monthly prescriptions for antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme were increasing rapidly in November, but we are not given more recent data on this.</p> <p>It’s also difficult to obtain information about currently circulating strains. Data expert Mike Honey provides a regularly updated <a href="https://github.com/Mike-Honey/covid-19-genomes?tab=readme-ov-file#readme">snapshot</a> for Australia based on data from GISAID (the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data) that shows JN.1 rising in prevalence and accounting for about 40% of samples two weeks ago. The proportion is presumably higher now.</p> <h2>What’s happening elsewhere?</h2> <p>Many other countries are currently going through a COVID wave, probably driven to a large extent by JN.1. These include <a href="https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/506301/covid-19-complacency-waning-immunity-contribute-to-fifth-wave-epidemiologist">New Zealand</a>, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/facemasks-mandatory-spain-hospitals-b2475563.html">Spain, Greece</a> and the United States.</p> <p>According to cardiologist and scientist Eric Topol, the US is currently experiencing its <a href="https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2024-01-04/covid-2024-flu-virus-vaccine">second biggest wave</a> since the start of the pandemic, linked to JN.1.</p> <h2>Are vaccines still effective?</h2> <p>It’s expected the current COVID vaccines, which target the omicron variant XBB.1.5, are still <a href="https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/seven-things-you-need-know-about-jn1-covid-19-variant">effective</a> at reducing hospitalisations and deaths from JN.1 (also an omicron offshoot).</p> <p>The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) updated their <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-update-on-the-covid-19-vaccination-program">advice</a> on booster shots in September last year. They recommended adults aged over 75 should receive an additional COVID vaccine dose in 2023 if six months had passed since their last dose.</p> <p>They also suggest all adults aged 65 to 74 (plus adults of any age who are severely immunocompromised) should consider getting an updated booster. They say younger people or older adults who are not severely immunocompromised and have already had a dose in 2023 don’t need further doses.</p> <p>This advice is very confusing. For example, although ATAGI does not recommend additional booster shots for younger age groups, does this mean they’re not allowed to have one?</p> <p>In any case, as of <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-update-8-december-2023?language=en">December 6</a>, only 19% of people aged 65 and over had received a booster shot in the last six months. For those aged 75 and over, this figure is 23%. Where is the messaging to these at-risk groups explaining why updating their boosters is so important?</p> <h2>Should we be concerned by this wave?</h2> <p>That depends on who we mean by “we”. For those who are vulnerable, absolutely. Mainly because so few have received an updated booster shot and very few people, including the elderly, are wearing masks.</p> <p>For the majority of people, a COVID infection is unlikely to be serious. The biggest concern for younger people is the risk of long COVID, which research suggests <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02051-3">increases</a> with each reinfection.</p> <h2>What should we expect in 2024?</h2> <p>It’s highly likely we will see repeated waves of infections over the next 12 months and beyond, mainly caused by waning immunity from previous infection, vaccination or both, and new subvariants.</p> <p>Unless a new subvariant causes more severe disease (and at this stage, there’s no evidence JN.1 does), we should be able to manage quite well, without our hospitals becoming overwhelmed. However, we should be doing more to protect our vulnerable population. Having only one in five older people up to date with a booster and more than 300 outbreaks in aged care homes is not acceptable.</p> <p>For those who are vulnerable, the usual advice applies. Make sure you’re up to date with your booster shots, wear a P2/N95 mask when out and about, and if you do get infected, take antivirals as soon as possible.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/220839/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adrian-esterman-1022994"><em>Adrian Esterman</em></a><em>, Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/covid-is-surging-in-australia-and-only-1-in-5-older-adults-are-up-to-date-with-their-boosters-220839">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Could you cope with a shock to your bank balance? 5 ways to check you are financially resilient

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865"><em>University of Canberra</em></a></em></p> <p>Imagine the dentist has just said you urgently need a A$2,000 dental crown. A week later, a pipe in your bathroom bursts, causing $8,000 worth of damage. Suddenly, you’ve been hit with a $10,000 financial shock.</p> <p>As the cost-of-living crisis plunges more households into financial uncertainty and at least <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/data/taking-the-pulse-of-the-nation-2022/2023/australians-face-challenging-budgetary-constraints#:%7E:text=Over%20the%20past%20six%20months,has%20increased%20to%2060%20percent.">one-third</a> of Australians struggle to make ends meet, it’s more important than ever to ask yourself: how financially resilient am I?</p> <p>Being financially resilient means you aren’t left financially devastated when an expensive emergency creeps up on you. Here are five key signs of financial resilience.</p> <h2>1. You have a plan for what you’d do if you suddenly lost your salary</h2> <p>Financial resilience means having a plan to fall back on during tough times. This extends to how you’d make money if you lost your job.</p> <p>In practice, that means things like making sure your skills and contacts are kept up to date so you can more easily find a new job. You might also consider whether a “side hustle” job such as tutoring could work for you in the short term, and how you’d put that plan into practice if needed. Perhaps you have a spare room in your home you could rent out for a period of time if you lost your salary.</p> <p>Those examples won’t work for everyone, of course, but it’s still worth asking yourself the question: what would I do if I lost my salary tomorrow?</p> <h2>2. You have enough liquid assets to meet an unexpected financial expense</h2> <p>Liquid assets means money that can be accessed quickly and easily to overcome an unplanned financial expense. Savings are a good example. They provide a buffer so you can cope in the short term if a financial shock strikes. The federal government’s Moneysmart website suggests you aim to have enough in your emergency savings fund to cover <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/saving/save-for-an-emergency-fund">three months of expenses</a>.</p> <p>Having an <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/glossary/offset-account">offset account</a> as part of a mortgage is another option that provides a buffer. Putting money in an offset account helps you save while reducing the amount of interest on a home loan. You can still access the money in an offset account at any time.</p> <h2>3. You have bought the right financial products, such as insurance</h2> <p>Financial products, such as insurance, hedge against potential losses.</p> <p>Personal insurance is important because it provides income in the event of death, illness or injury. Examples include:</p> <ul> <li> <p>life insurance (which pays out to your beneficiaries, such as your partner or children, when you die)</p> </li> <li> <p>total and permanent disability insurance (which means you may get some money if you acquire a disability that prevents you from working)</p> </li> <li> <p>income protection (which provides you with an income if you can no longer work)</p> </li> <li> <p>trauma cover (which covers a life-changing illness or injury, such as cancer or a stroke).</p> </li> </ul> <p>Check if your superannuation has any of these insurances included in it. <a href="https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0030/295770/FPRJ-V4-ISS1-pp-53-75-insurance-literacy-in-australia.pdf">Research</a> has found that many Australians are underinsured.</p> <h2>4. You can still pay your debts when times are tough</h2> <p>Being able to borrow money can help when you’re in a tight spot. But knowing where to borrow from, how much to borrow and how to manage debt repayments is crucial.</p> <p>Financially resilient people use debt responsibly. That means:</p> <ul> <li> <p>not using debt for frivolous expenses like after-work drinks</p> </li> <li> <p>staying away from private money lenders</p> </li> <li> <p>being cautious about buy-now-pay-later services</p> </li> <li> <p>watching out for debts with high interest rates, such as payday loans and credit card debt</p> </li> <li> <p>maintaining debt repayments consistently.</p> </li> </ul> <p>If you’re having debt problems, talk to your lender about renegotiating your repayment arrangements, or contact the <a href="https://ndh.org.au/">National Debt Helpline</a> on 1800 007 007.</p> <h2>5. You are financially literate</h2> <p>Being financially literate means you can assess the benefits and risks of using savings or taking out debt to meet an unplanned financial need.</p> <p>As I have <a href="https://theconversation.com/are-you-financially-literate-here-are-7-signs-youre-on-the-right-track-202331">written</a> before on The Conversation, key signs of financial literacy include tracking your cashflow, building a budget, as well as understanding what debts you have and which to pay first.</p> <p>It also means storing your money across different places (such as superannuation, savings accounts, property and the share market) and understanding how financial assets like cash, shares and bonds work.</p> <p>Being aware of your financial strengths and weaknesses, and having financial goals is also important.</p> <p>Nobody is born knowing how to make sound financial decisions; it’s a skill that must be learned.</p> <p>It’s good to think about the resources you would draw upon to help get yourself out of a difficult financial situation – well before disaster strikes.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/218126/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577"><em>Bomikazi Zeka</em></a><em>, Assistant Professor in Finance and Financial Planning, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/could-you-cope-with-a-shock-to-your-bank-balance-5-ways-to-check-you-are-financially-resilient-218126">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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You can’t reverse the ageing process but these 5 things can help you live longer

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hassan-vally-202904">Hassan Vally</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>At this time of year many of us resolve to prioritise our health. So it is no surprise there’s a <a href="https://digiday.com/marketing/health-food-brands-ramp-up-marketing-efforts-around-consumers-new-years-resolutions/">roaring trade</a> of products purporting to guarantee you live longer, be healthier and look more youthful.</p> <p>While an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822264/">estimated</a> 25% of longevity is determined by our genes, the rest is determined by what we do, day to day.</p> <p>There are no quick fixes or short cuts to living longer and healthier lives, but the science is clear on the key principles. Here are five things you can do to extend your lifespan and improve your health.</p> <h2>1. Eat a predominantly plant-based diet</h2> <p>What you eat has a huge impact on your health. The evidence overwhelmingly <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8210981/#:%7E:text=According%20to%20an%20expansive%20review,13%20Given%20that%20so%20many">shows</a> eating a diet high in plant-based foods is associated with health and longevity.</p> <p>If you eat more plant-based foods and less meat, processed foods, sugar and salt, you reduce your risk of a range of illnesses that shorten our lives, including heart disease and cancer.</p> <p>Plant-based foods <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-019-0552-0">are rich</a> in nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fibre. They’re also anti-inflammatory. All of this protects against damage to our cells as we age, which helps prevent disease.</p> <p>No particular diet is right for everyone but one of the most studied and <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/mediterranean-diet/#:%7E:text=%5B6%5D%20Those%20who%20had%20the,who%20had%20the%20lowest%20adherence.">healthiest</a> is the <a href="https://www.eatingwell.com/article/291120/mediterranean-diet-for-beginners-everything-you-need-to-get-started/">Mediterranean diet</a>. It’s based on the eating patterns of people who live in countries around the Mediterranean Sea and emphases vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, and olive oil.</p> <h2>2. Aim for a healthy weight</h2> <p>Another important way you can be healthier is to try and achieve a healthy weight, as obesity <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/obesity/how-obesity-affects-body">increases the risk</a> of a number of health problems that shorten our lives.</p> <p>Obesity puts strain on all of our body systems and has a whole myriad of physiological effects including causing inflammation and hormonal disturbances. These <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK572076/">increase your chances</a> of a number of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and a number of cancers.</p> <p>In addition to affecting us physically, obesity is also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6052856/">associated with</a> poorer psychological health. It’s linked to depression, low self-esteem and stress.</p> <p>One of the biggest challenges we face in the developed world is that we live in an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6817492/">environment</a> that promotes obesity. The ubiquitous marketing and the easy availability of high-calorie foods our bodies are hard-wired to crave mean it’s easy to consume too many calories.</p> <h2>3. Exercise regularly</h2> <p>We all know that exercise is good for us – the <a href="https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/au/news/breaking-news/hcf-reveals-australias-most-popular-new-years-resolutions-for-2023-431665.aspx">most common resolution</a> we make this time of year is to do more exercise and to get fitter. Regular exercise <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity">protects</a> against chronic illness, lowers your stress and improves your mental health.</p> <p>While one of the ways exercising helps you is by supporting you to control your weight and lowering your body fat levels, the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/#:%7E:text=For%20instance%2C%20routine%20physical%20activity,HDL%5D%20cholesterol%20levels%20and%20decreased">effects</a> are broader and include improving your glucose (blood sugar) use, lowering your blood pressure, reducing inflammation and improving blood flow and heart function.</p> <p>While it’s easy to get caught up in all of the hype about different exercise strategies, the evidence <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320760">suggests</a> that any way you can include physical activity in your day has health benefits. You don’t have to run marathons or go to the gym for hours every day. Build movement into your day in any way that you can and do things that you enjoy.</p> <h2>4. Don’t smoke</h2> <p>If you want to be healthier and live longer then don’t smoke or vape.</p> <p>Smoking cigarettes affects almost every organ in the body and is associated with both a shorter and lower quality of life. There is no safe level of smoking – every cigarette increases your <a href="https://theconthatkills.org.au/?utm_source=googlesearch&amp;utm_medium=search&amp;utm_campaign=theconthatkills23&amp;utm_content=RSA&amp;gclid=Cj0KCQjwqP2pBhDMARIsAJQ0Czrlep6EQHC-8_9xUhpz0h9v2ZglMF-6-k7_65awq8FxVaIL5HRoivwaAqJwEALw_wcB&amp;gclsrc=aw.ds">chances of developing</a> a range of cancers, heart disease and diabetes.</p> <p>Even if you have been smoking for years, by giving up smoking at any age you can experience <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/benefits/index.htm">health benefits</a> almost immediately, and you can reverse many of the harmful effects of smoking.</p> <p>If you’re thinking of switching to vapes as a healthy long term option, <a href="https://theconversation.com/can-vaping-help-people-quit-smoking-its-unlikely-204812">think again</a>. The long term health effects of vaping are not fully understood and they come with their own <a href="https://theconversation.com/no-vapes-arent-95-less-harmful-than-cigarettes-heres-how-this-decade-old-myth-took-off-203039">health risks</a>.</p> <h2>5. Prioritise social connection</h2> <p>When we talk about living healthier and longer, we tend to focus on what we do to our physical bodies. But one of the most important discoveries over the past decade has been the recognition of the importance of spiritual and psychological health.</p> <p>People who are lonely and socially isolated have a much higher risk of dying early and are <a href="https://healthnews.com/longevity/healthspan/social-connection-and-longevity/#:%7E:text=One%20of%20the%20biggest%20benefits,the%20following%20factors%20and%20influences.">more likely</a> to suffer from heart disease, stroke, dementia as well as anxiety and depression.</p> <p>Although we don’t fully understand the mechanisms, it’s likely due to both behavioural and biological factors. While people who are more socially connected are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/">more likely</a> to engage in healthy behaviours, there also seems to be a more direct physiological effect of loneliness on the body.</p> <p>So if you want to be healthier and live longer, build and maintain your connections to others.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/214580/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hassan-vally-202904"><em>Hassan Vally</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/you-cant-reverse-the-ageing-process-but-these-5-things-can-help-you-live-longer-214580">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 ways to avoid weight gain and save money on food this Christmas

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993">Nick Fuller</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>As Christmas approaches, so does the challenge of healthy eating and maintaining weight-related goals. The season’s many social gatherings can easily tempt us to indulge in calorie-rich food and celebratory drinks. It’s why we typically <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012">gain weight</a> over Christmas and then struggle to take it off for the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938414001528">remainder of the year</a>.</p> <p>Christmas 2023 is also exacerbating cost-of-living pressures, prompting some to rethink their food choices. Throughout the year, <a href="https://dvh1deh6tagwk.cloudfront.net/finder-au/wp-uploads/2023/03/Cost-of-Living-Report-2023.pdf">71% of Australians</a> – or 14.2 million people – <a href="https://retailworldmagazine.com.au/rising-cost-of-living-forces-aussies-to-change-diets/">adapted</a> their eating behaviour in response to rising costs.</p> <p>Fortunately, there are some simple, science-backed hacks for the festive season to help you celebrate with the food traditions you love without impacting your healthy eating habits, weight, or hip pocket.</p> <h2>1. Fill up on healthy pre-party snacks before heading out</h2> <p>If your festive season is filled with end-of-year parties likely to tempt you to fill up on finger foods and meals high in fat, salt, and sugar and low in nutritional value, have a healthy pre-event snack before you head out.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015032/#sec-a.g.atitle">Research</a> shows carefully selected snack foods can impact satiety (feelings of fullness after eating), potentially reducing the calories you eat later. High-protein, high-fibre snack foods have the strongest effect: because they take longer to digest, our hunger is satisfied for longer.</p> <p>So enjoy a handful of nuts, a tub of yoghurt, or a serving of hummus with veggie sticks before you head out to help keep your healthy eating plan on track.</p> <h2>2. Skip the low-carb drinks and enjoy your favourites in moderation</h2> <p>Despite the marketing promises, low-carb alcoholic drinks <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hpja.531">aren’t better for our health or waistlines</a>.</p> <p>Many low-carb options have a similar amount of carbohydrates as regular options but lull us into thinking they’re better, so we drink more. A <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/K-013_Low-carb-beer_FactSheet_FINAL.pdf">survey</a> found 15% of low-carb beer drinkers drank more beer than they usually would because they believed it was healthier for them.</p> <p>A typical lager or ale will contain less than 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per 100 ml while the “lower-carb” variety can range anywhere from 0.5 grams to 2.0 grams. The calories in drinks come from the alcohol itself, not the carbohydrate content.</p> <p>Next time you go to order, think about the quantity of alcohol you’re drinking rather than the carbs. Make sure you sip lots of water in between drinks to stay hydrated, too.</p> <h2>3. Don’t skimp on healthy food for Christmas Day – it’s actually cheaper</h2> <p>There’s a perception that healthy eating is more expensive. But studies show this is a misconception. A <a href="https://southwesthealthcare.com.au/swh-study-finds-eating-a-healthier-diet-is-actually-cheaper-at-the-checkout/#:%7E:text=A%20recent%20study%20from%20the,does%20not%20meet%20the%20guidelines">recent analysis</a> in Victoria, for example, found following the Australian Dietary Guidelines cost the average family A$156 less a fortnight than the cost of the average diet, which incorporates packaged processed foods and alcohol.</p> <p>So when you’re planning your Christmas Day meal, give the pre-prepared, processed food a miss and swap in healthier ingredients:</p> <ul> <li> <p>swap the heavy, salted ham for leaner and lighter meats such as fresh seafood. Some seafood, such as prawns, is also tipped to be cheaper this year thanks to <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/goodfood/lobsters-up-prawns-stable-a-buying-guide-to-seafood-this-christmas-20231208-p5eq3m.html">favourable weather conditions</a> boosting local supplies</p> </li> <li> <p>for side dishes, opt for fresh salads incorporating seasonal ingredients such as mango, watermelon, peach, cucumber and tomatoes. This will save you money and ensure you’re eating foods when they’re freshest and most flavoursome</p> </li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p>if you’re roasting veggies, use healthier cooking oils like olive as opposed to vegetable oil, and use flavourful herbs instead of salt</p> </li> <li> <p>if there’s an out-of-season vegetable you want to include, look for frozen and canned substitutes. They’re cheaper, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157517300418">just as nutritious</a> and tasty because the produce is usually frozen or canned at its best. Watch the sodium content of canned foods, though, and give them a quick rinse to remove any salty water</p> </li> <li> <p>give store-bought sauces and dressings a miss, making your own from scratch using fresh ingredients.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>4. Plan your Christmas food shop with military precision</h2> <p>Before heading to the supermarket to shop for your Christmas Day meal, create a detailed meal plan and shopping list, and don’t forget to check your pantry and fridge for things you already have.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586574/">Eating beforehand</a> and shopping with a plan in hand means you’ll only buy what you need and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8206473/">avoid impulse purchasing</a>.</p> <p>When you’re shopping, price check everything. Comparing the cost per 100 grams is the most effective way to save money and get the best value. Check prices on products sold in different ways and places, too, such as nuts you scoop yourself versus prepacked options.</p> <h2>5. Don’t skip breakfast on Christmas Day</h2> <p>We’ve all been tempted to skip or have a small breakfast on Christmas morning to “save” the calories for later. But this plan will fail when you sit down at lunch hungry and find yourself eating far more calories than you’d “saved” for.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32073608/">Research</a> shows a low-calorie or small breakfast leads to increased feelings of hunger, specifically appetite for sweets, across the course of the day.</p> <p>What you eat for breakfast on Christmas morning is just as important too – choosing the right foods will <a href="https://theconversation.com/im-trying-to-lose-weight-and-eat-healthily-why-do-i-feel-so-hungry-all-the-time-what-can-i-do-about-it-215808">help you manage your appetite</a> and avoid the temptation to overindulge later in the day.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24703415/">Studies</a> show a breakfast containing protein-rich foods, such as eggs, will leave us feeling fuller for longer.</p> <p>So before you head out to the Christmas lunch, have a large, nutritionally balanced breakfast, such as eggs on wholegrain toast with avocado.</p> <p><em>At the Boden Group, Charles Perkins Centre, we are studying the science of obesity and running clinical trials for weight loss. You can <a href="https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=RKTXPPPHKY">register here</a> to express your interest.</em> <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219114/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993"><em>Nick Fuller</em></a><em>, Charles Perkins Centre Research Program Leader, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/5-ways-to-avoid-weight-gain-and-save-money-on-food-this-christmas-219114">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 financial lessons you should impart to your adult children

<p>Ultimately, we want our kids to live long, happy, healthy lives. </p> <p>Financial security is central to achieving this dream. So it may be time to have a chat about matters of money and ensure they are well set up for a prosperous future!</p> <p>While there are many important things to instil in future generations, the five below are perhaps the most crucial current-day issues for your adult children to master.</p> <ol> <li><strong>Avoid BNPL</strong></li> </ol> <p>Buy now, pay later (BNPL) schemes have taken off in popularity in recent years, allowing shoppers to purchase and use goods straight away yet pay for them over time in instalments. Sound too good to be true? Indeed.</p> <p>Most schemes attach hefty penalties and interest for missed or late repayments – much the same as credit cards. The debt quickly balloons, and can become unsustainable.</p> <p>The best approach to instil in your children is to always live within their means.</p> <ol start="2"> <li><strong>Avoid sexually transmitted debt</strong></li> </ol> <p>Joint finances, loans, credit cards, utilities, subscriptions, vehicles, businesses, property… all of these and more are shared liabilities. </p> <p>Even if a partner is the one who racks up the debts, your child is equally responsible for repaying them. This is what I call sexually transmitted debt.</p> <p>It could be inadvertent (such as having a partner who, despite their best intentions, is simply bad with money); hidden (like gambling addiction), deliberate (financial abuse), lose their job, have an accident, get seriously unwell.</p> <p>Either way, sexually transmitted debts can create long-term and even life-long problems, regardless of whether the relationship that created those debts survives: repayment struggles, credit constraints, bankruptcy, legal woes.</p> <p>When it comes to money, your children (and yourself) need to think with their head, not their heart.</p> <ol start="3"> <li><strong>Start investing </strong></li> </ol> <p>The number one thing financial advisers hear most is “I wish I started years ago”.</p> <p>Investments typically grow over time. The more time you allow, the bigger their value.</p> <p>Younger adults have big demands on their hip pocket. However, even starting with small investments allows compound growth to work its magic.</p> <p>Plus, given the housing affordability constraints facing younger generations, investments that can be sold or leveraged could better help them onto the housing ladder in future.</p> <p>Superannuation is another investment to pay attention to from a young age: managing investments, ensuring they are in a cost-effective fund, and avoiding mistakes – like consolidating funds without getting advice, which can inadvertently see them consolidate into a poorer performing fund or cancel attached insurances that had preferential terms.</p> <ol start="4"> <li><strong>Get a will</strong></li> </ol> <p>While young people may feel invincible, untimely deaths or disablement claims sadly can and do happen. And often unexpectedly: land transport accidents and accidental poisoning, together with suicide, make up <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-deaths/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death">the biggest causes of death for under 44s</a> in Australia.</p> <p>Not having a will and a nominated executor complicates matters for grieving family and can delay all-important access to finances. How would your child’s partner and kids (if they have them) survive if their super, insurances and other payouts are delayed through probate? </p> <p>Remember to point out that superannuation (and other structures like companies and trusts) are treated separately from a will, and so need beneficiaries nominated within them.</p> <p>Younger people are also less likely to have discussed their final wishes with loved ones – funeral arrangements, burial vs cremation, organ donation, inheritances etc. This is where a separate statement of wishes can be useful.</p> <ol start="5"> <li><strong>Get insured</strong></li> </ol> <p>Insurances – save perhaps vehicle and house/contents – are rarely on the minds of younger people. But they should be.</p> <p>That is because many insurances are cheaper and offer better coverage when people are younger and free of any health complications. That includes private health, life and permanent disability, and income protection cover. </p> <p>Other insurances, like asset protection, can also be more lucrative to lock-in early. Just think about how the Ts and Cs on insurances have changed (become more restrictive) since you were their age!</p> <p>So encourage your adult children to scrutinise their insurance coverage. (And keep them away from drugs and smoking to stay healthier for longer!)</p> <p><em><strong>Helen Baker is a licensed Australian financial adviser and author of the new book, On Your Own Two Feet: The Essential Guide to Financial Independence for all Women (Ventura Press, $32.99). Helen is among the 1% of financial planners who hold a master’s degree in the field. Proceeds from book sales are donated to charities supporting disadvantaged women and children. Find out more at <a href="http://www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au">www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au</a> </strong></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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