Monthly Archives: October 2016

Mental Tricks to Turn It Around

Medication can help depression. But a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—which focuses on changing behavior, rather than talking about your childhood, for instance—can be an effective adjuvant to or even substitute for drugs. “It’s much more focused on what you seem to be doing and thinking that is keeping you depressed,” Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Some of its methods can be practiced at home, on yourself, with no special training. So here are some tips for breaking the cycle of negativity.

One way to sabotage yourself is to take a single event and treat it as an ongoing source of negativity. “People who are unemployed do this a lot,” says Rego. “They’ve lost their job because of the economy and they personalize it.”

It’s also unhealthy to catastrophize—focus on the worst imagined outcome, even if it’s irrational. For example, don’t let concerns about money escalate into the conviction you’ll soon be homeless.

Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get another job,” try to say to yourself: “I will get another job. It just may take some time.”

Ever clash with a colleague or fight with a friend and then keep obsessively thinking about it, amplifying the anger, stress, and anxiety associated with the memory? Known as rumination, this type of thinking is linked to a greater risk of becoming or staying depressed.

While reflection is a good thing, and may help you solve problems, rumination does the opposite.

If you catch yourself ruminating, studies suggest it may help if you try to distract yourself, meditate, or redirect your thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy often targets rumination because it can be so damaging to mental health.

Best Birth Control

Staying loyal to a great doctor or a genius hairdresser—that’s just smart. But when it comes to birth control, sticking with the same method throughout the years isn’t always the right move. “Your contraceptive should fit your health, lifestyle, and values,” says Michele Curtis, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. That’s because the more comfortable you are with your birth control, the more likely you are to use it consistently—meaning less risk of an unintended pregnancy.

Whether you’re 25 or 45, condoms are a must to guard against STDs. But since condoms also have a higher failure rate than other forms of birth control, it’s wise to double up. Hormonal contraceptives—the Pill, patch, or vaginal ring—are highly effective. As a bonus, they can also help regulate periods, reduce PMS symptoms, and lower the risk of some cancers.

If you want to avoid an estrogen-containing method, you can pair condoms with an intrauterine device (IUD)—either the hormone-free copper ParaGard or the progestin-containing Mirena. Other good options include Implanon, a progestin-releasing implant that’s inserted in the upper arm for up to three years; and Depo-Provera, a progestin injection that’s given every three months.

Condoms or another barrier method like a diaphragm are probably the easiest options for sporadic protection, says Sharon Mass, MD, an OB-GYN at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey. An IUD or hormonal methods are also good if you want continuous protection.

Stop Taking Birth Control Pills

Vitamin D levels may drop after women stop using birth control pills or other contraceptives with estrogen, researchers report.

The vitamin is involved in the immune system and in managing calcium in the blood, which influences bone health. The body produces it when exposed to sunlight. During pregnancy, women produce higher amounts of vitamin D to help fetal bone development and are at increased risk of vitamin deficiency, according to the researchers.

“Our findings indicate women may run the risk of developing vitamin D deficiency just when they want to become pregnant,” said study first author Dr. Quaker Harmon. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

“For women who are planning to stop using birth control, it is worth taking steps to ensure that vitamin D levels are adequate while trying to conceive and during pregnancy,” Harmon said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.

The study included nearly 1,700 black women in the Detroit area. Blood samples showed that those who used birth control pills, patches or rings containing estrogen had 20 percent higher vitamin D levels.

“We could not find any behavioral differences—such as increased time spent outdoors—to explain the increase,” Harmon noted.

But women who had stopped using those birth control methods had average vitamin D levels, the investigators found.

“Our findings suggest that contraceptives containing estrogen tend to boost vitamin D levels, and those levels are likely to fall when women cease using contraception,” Harmon said.

Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish and fortified milk.

Birth Control Side Effects

Hormone-based birth control often comes with side effects that can range from slightly annoying to bad enough to make you switch.

You may not know what you can tolerate until you’ve given a couple of them a try.

But here are some solutions for the most common problems.

“These side effects seem to go away after you’ve been taking the Pill for a while,” says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, an ob-gyn professor at Columbia University, in New York.

If they don’t, switching brands may help.

This reaction will probably go away in a couple of months.

If it doesn’t and you’re using oral contraceptives, try taking them with food.

If you’re using the ring or the patch, you might need to switch methods.

“I think this is the side effect that drives women crazier than any other side effect,” says Dr. Hutcherson, because it’s so unpredictable. Taking the Pill at precisely the same time every day may help. The bleeding occurs specially with shots, the mini-Pill, and the implant—the progestin-only methods—as the lining of the uterus is so thin that it sometimes sloughs off a little bit. (On the upside, this also makes your periods lighter and sometimes causes them to disappear entirely.)

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about spotting. “You can sometimes add an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, or occasionally you can add a little estrogen,” says Anne Foster-Rosales, MD, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate.

Birth Control Nobody Talks About

There’s a good reason why the pill is the most popular method of birth control in the United States: It’s really good at preventing pregnancy (when taken correctly, it’s up to 99.9% effective). But family planning is not the only benefit of hormonal birth control.

In fact, out of the 11.2 million American women who take the pill, about 14% of them (or roughly 1.5 million) take it only for non-contraceptive reasons. Another 58% of women use it partly for non-contraceptive reasons, according to 2011 research from the Guttmacher Institute. (And with male birth control now a step closer to reality, that number may rise even more in the future.)

Ultimately, the best type of birth control for you will probably depend on multiple factors, says Beatrice Chen, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services at the University of Pittsburgh. If you’re thinking of making a contraceptive switch, though, here are seven benefits of being on the pill.

 

Your skin might clear up

About 14% of women take oral contraceptives in part to get rid of their acne, according to the Guttmacher survey. Doctors often prescribe combination birth control pills (which are the most common type and contain both estrogen and progestin) because they can lower the body’s levels of androgen, a hormone that helps produce oils in the skin, says Dr. Chen. One 2011 review by the Cochrane Collaboration found that since combination birth control pills can reduce the amount and severity of breakouts, they might be a good option for women who want a contraceptive and are trying to clear up their skin, too.

 

Your periods may get a lot less painful

More than half of women who get their periods experience at least one or two days of pain during their cycle, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. That could be why 31% of women who use the pill partly rely on it to help relieve menstrual cramps or pain. Birth control pills reduce the amount of prostaglandins that the body produces, explains Dr. Chen. That, in turn, prevents the lining of the womb from thickening, which results in lighter periods.

 

They may get more regular, too

Your weight, medications, stress, and other health conditions can mess with your period, and even a healthy woman may not get her period at the exact same time every month; the average cycle is 28 days, but anywhere between 24 and 31 days is considered normal. Taking the pill can help make your period more predictable. With most birth control pills, you take 21 days of hormone-containing pills, followed by seven days of placebo pills. During the placebo week, the break from synthetic hormones triggers bleeding that mimics a period. (Note: spotting between placebo weeks isn’t unusual within the first three months of starting a new type of pill, and can also happen when you miss pills or fail to take them at the same time every day.)

some surprising ways it can make you efficient

We all do it: Texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while cooking dinner. In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, even wasteful.

But chances are, you’re not doing yourself (or your boss, or your friends and family) any favors by multitasking your way through the day. Research shows that it’s not nearly as efficient as we like to believe, and can even be harmful to our health. Here are 12 reasons why you should stop everything you’re doing—well, all but one thing—and rethink the way you work, socialize, and live your life.

What you call multitasking is really task-switching, says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” he says.

“It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum.” Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity, he says, because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking doesn’t save time. In fact, it will probably take you longer to finish two projects when you’re jumping back and forth than it would to finish each one separately. The same is true even for behaviors as seemingly automatic as driving: In a 2008 University of Utah study, drivers took longer to reach their destinations when they chatted on cell phones.

“What tends to save the most time is to do things in batches,” says Winch. “Pay your bills all at once, then send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in a groove you should stay there and finish.”