BBC News released an article: “Long hours link to dementia risk.”

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

Long working hours may raise the risk of mental decline and possibly
dementia, research suggests.

The Finnish-led study was based on analysis of 2,214 middle-aged British
civil servants.

It found that those working more than 55 hours a week had poorer mental
skills than those who worked a standard working week.

The American Journal of Epidemiology study found hard workers had
problems with short-term memory and word recall.

<snip>

However, the researchers say key factors could include increased
sleeping problems, depression, an unhealthy lifestyle and a raised risk
of cardiovascular disease, possibly linked to stress.

The civil servants who took part in the study took five different tests
of their mental function, once between 1997 and 1999, and again between
2002 and 2004.

<snip>

The effects were cumulative, the longer the working week was the worse
the test results were.

<snip>

Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in workplace stress at the University
of Lancaster, said it had been long established that consistently
working long hours was bad for general health, and now this study
suggested it was also bad for mental functioning.

<snip>

Harriet Millward, deputy chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research
Trust, said: “This study should give pause for thought to workaholics.

“We already know that dementia risk can be reduced by maintaining a
balanced diet, regular social interactions and exercising both our
bodies and minds. Perhaps work-life balance should be accounted for too.”

[end excerpts]

The article is online at:
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7909464.stm&gt;.

Courtesy of Ken Pope

A Violinist in the Metro

From The Effective Club

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the hat and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Keeping Quiet – Pablo Neruda

And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve,
and you keep quiet and I will go.

FOCUSED BREATHING EXERCISE

Make sure you are comfortable and have loosened any tight clothing.

Close your eyes or lower them to look at a point in the middle of the floor.

Now think about the sound of your breath as you breathe in and out.

Now focus on the movement of your breathing between breathing out and breathing in.

Now start to deepen the breath slowly and evenly.

Keep focused on your breathing, the sound and movement.

Now begin to think about any areas of your body which are particularly tense, identify two or three in your own mind by name.

Think about how the areas of tension feel.

Now focus on your breathing again, focus on an in-breath at the same time as you locate one of the ‘tense’ areas.

Imagine breathing into this area directing the breath towards the tension.

As you breathe out imagine the tension flowing out with the breath.

Do that again two or three times, breathing into the tension and breathing the tension out.

Now move onto one of the other areas you identified earlier and do the same exercise with that part.

Now focus back on your breathing, if it has changed in any way bring it back to normal.

Now slowly open your eyes and stay still for a few moments.

Brian Grady, Ph.D

Progressive muscle relaxation

1 * Find a comfortable position sitting or lying down.
2 * Take a few moments to mentally let go of the things you have been doing or need to do later.
3 * Take some slow breaths.

You will be tightening the major muscle groups in the body one by one. You hold them tight for about 10 seconds, then let them go as you breathe out. Do not tighten them so much that you create pain. Give yourself some time between each set of contractions – maybe 20 or 30 seconds, so that you can pay attention to and enjoy the relaxation you are developing.

This is a good sequence to use:

4 * bring one fist up to the shoulder. Tighten the fist, forearm, bicep.
Hold 10 seconds, breathe out, let go. (Do this for each instruction below)
5 * bring the other fist up. Tighten the fist, forearm, bicep
6 * both fists to shoulders. .
7 * lift your shoulders to your ears. Tighten your neck and shoulders.
8 * push head against head rest, or pillow to tighten the neck
9 * lift your eyebrows as high as you can, tightening the forehead
10 * pull your eyebrows together and down, tightening the forehead
11 * close your eyes tightly
12 * bite down with the back teeth to make the jaw tight
13 * tighten lips together and push tongue against the top of your mouth to tighten the mouth, throat and
14 * put your palms together (in “prayer” position) and push them together, tightening your chest
Pull your shoulders back and your shoulder blades together to tighten your upper back
15 * IF YOU HAVE NO BACK PROBLEMS: arch and tighten your back
16 * make your abdomen / belly hard by pulling stomach in
17 * squeeze your buttocks together
18 * straighten one leg and tighten the thigh
19 * straighten the other leg and tighten the thigh
20 * point one toe and tighten the calf (ease off if it cramps)
21 * point other toe and tighten the calf (ease off if it cramps)
22 * if you like, arch your feet pushing your toes into your shoe

23 * Scan your body, checking out each of the muscle groups noted above. If you notice tension in an area, work it again.
24 * If you like, spend some time with slow breathing and some positive imagery afterward.

Brian Grady, Ph.D.

One thing you will notice about many professional caregivers is that they are very good at responding to other people’s needs. I would hope so! To do this well is like providing nourishing and healing food for people. You notice what nourishment is needed, and supply it.

To do this well over a long period means that we as caregivers have to be in good shape ourselves. We need to be adequately nourished. This means eating well, of course, but it goes much beyond this. Consider:

If the body does not get enough of all the right food groups – enough of what it needs – it becomes malnourished. In extreme cases, it may starve. Then it gets weak or out of sorts, and is able to do less for others. This is also true psychologically. Not to get enough of what we need means becoming psychologically malnourished, out of sorts, or to experience a kind of ‘psychological starvation’. Making sure we get what we need isn’t conceit or self-indulgence. It’s more like maintaining good health.

As human beings, what are the psychological “food groups” that we need to stay healthy? There are lots of ways of thinking about it, but you could say there are four.

1. ACHIEVEMENT: The need to achieve things, to have recognition and respect, to be good at things, to be competent.
2. LOVE and BELONGING: To feel connected to other people, to fit in, to be valued for yourself, to belong, to experience affection.
3. FUN: To do things you get a kick out of and enjoy doing for their own sake, to have recreation, to laugh and smile.
4. FREEDOM: to be able to make your own choices, have things the way you would like them, do what you want to do with yourself.

When all of these needs are being met (as well as the more physical needs like adequate rest, food, safety, security, warmth), we’re generally happy. Go without one or more these, and you get distress.

Good self-care is going to include knowing what you as a human being need, and finding ways to make sure you get it.

For caregivers this is especially important, because the well being of others depends so much on you and how you treat them. When you are healthy (physically and psychologically), they can rely on you. This isn’t optional.

I’m always reminded of the announcement they make on airplanes. If the cabin loses pressure, you are supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first, and then help the kids with theirs. They need you to have it together, for their sake.

Brian Grady, Ph.D