The phrase “fake it till you make it” can feel like a cliché, but there’s some value to this idea in the mental health field.
The expression is often evoked in describing the concept of behavioral activation ― a useful tool in managing conditions like depression and anxiety. But what exactly is this approach, and how does it compare to the idea of “faking” confidence, competence or positive emotions in order to achieve results?
Below, mental health professionals break down the meaning and effects of behavioral activation, as well as the best ways to apply this technique in your everyday life.
What is behavioral activation?
“Behavioral activation is a concept and intervention frequently used in cognitive behavioral therapy that utilizes behaviors to influence emotions, thoughts and mood,” said Rachel Thomasian, a licensed therapist and owner of Playa Vista Counseling in Los Angeles. “In other words, a therapist will often prescribe behaviors for their client to take part in, with the expectation that it will modify or ease some painful emotion they might be experiencing, such as anxiety or depression.”
A common symptom of depression is the inability to engage in behaviors that used to bring a person joy ― even though those behaviors would likely help alleviate their depression. Examples include socializing, exercising, cooking nice meals, self-pampering with showers and skin care routines, trying new activities and more.
“Instead, people who are feeling sad or lonely may seek out situations or fall into patterns that confirm their feelings of isolation and sadness,” said Meg Gitlin, a New York-based psychotherapist who runs the Instagram account @citytherapist. “This can be seen as somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy or a downward spiral. Behavioral activation requires you to consider the alternate ― that is, that by planning out activities and rewards that once brought you pleasure, it’s likely that you will experience those same good feelings once completed.”
How does it work?
“Our mental health and emotional state is so tied to the behaviors we engage in,” Thomasian said. “Deciding to stay in bed and going on a morning walk release very different chemicals in our brain, create starkly varying thoughts in our mind that then reinforce or break our emotional state.”
Engaging in behaviors that foster a healthy mental state can create a positive ripple effect that in turn encourages you to continue participating in those activities. This concept is at the root of the popularization of self-care.
“Behavioral activation therapies help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms by activating a reward system, and have been shown to be very effective,” said Bisma Anwar, a licensed therapist with Talkspace. “For example, replacing avoidant behaviors, like staying at home, with more rewarding behaviors, such as meeting up with friends for a walk, can increase a person’s motivation to continue this positive behavior.”
Initially, these actions might feel daunting and require a lot of effort. But if you commit to just giving it a try, you activate the positive reinforcement system.
“When you put one foot in front of the other, voila! You start walking,” said Sue Varma, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. “Just like exercising, you may not initially be in the mood, but you end up feeling good afterwards and are glad you did it.”
Another way that behavioral activation can improve mental health is by helping people become more aware of which activities give rise to positive emotions, and which have the opposite effect. A person using this approach might also be reminded that they have the ability to experience joy, and remember how it feels.
“Through intentional tracking, the client improves their ability to recognize positive experiences throughout their day and increases their awareness of cause and effect,” said Marianela Dornhecker, a licensed psychologist practicing in Missouri and Texas. “With this increased awareness, clients typically feel more motivated to engage in those activities, and mindful of avoiding activities that aren’t helpful to them.”
Is it the same as “fake it till you make it”?
“This technique is often accompanied by the idea of ‘fake it till you make it’ because at the time, you may not feel like doing the things that are part of the behavioral activation, such as going for a walk or planning a nice meal with a friend,” Gitlin said. “The technique asks that you not think too hard about whether or not you genuinely feel like doing something ― i.e. fake it ― and instead focus on completing the task itself.”
In a sense, behavioral activation is like pretending that you feel better. But in doing this positive behavior, you’ll likely develop some positive feelings that can lead to “an upward spiral of motivation,” Gitlin said.
Still, some experts say there are crucial differences.
“There is an aspect of ‘fake it till you make it’ because you’re activating behaviors that don’t necessarily align with your current emotional state or idea of your sense of self,” Thomasian said. “However, I think the difference comes from the intent of the behavior.”
She offered running as an example. Following a pure “fake it till you make it approach,” you would fake being a runner even though you’re a beginner, until you eventually get good at running.
“In behavioral activation, there is a different end to the means,” Thomasian said ― it’s more like “I’m going to start running even though it’s the last thing I want to do, because doing so will help my emotional state.”
Besides, if you think of behavioral activation as “faking” your motivation to do an activity, it could affect your intentions and make the technique less likely to work.
“‘Faking it’ implies forced action, a lack of authenticity, connection and a cynicism around an experience,” said Monica Vermani, a Toronto-based clinical psychologist and author of “A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety, and Traumas.” “Framing it as a route or path to betterment, self-improvement, healing, overcoming anxiety and fears, and self-actualization creates a more positive and enjoyable process and experience ― which can help conquer maladaptive patterns.”
Dornhecker believes a better way to think about the mechanism of behavioral activation is the idea that “energy begets energy.”
“When someone is experiencing depression, their brain can feel like it is in a fog, or everything feels ‘underwater’ or dulled out, which can lead to low activity,” she explained. “This low activity actually has the effect of creating even lower energy and decreasing motivation. However, when someone makes the decision to do an activity that requires energy (even if they don’t feel like it), this actually has the effect of creating more energy in the body and thus increasing motivation and mood.”
How can you implement it?
Behavioral activation can take many forms, but here are some general steps for using this technique.
1. Monitor your actions and feelings.
“The first step of behavioral activation is actively monitoring,” said Shagoon Maurya, a psychotherapist based in Australia. “It is critical to be fully aware of our daily activities and how they affect our mood.”
You can keep a journal or download an app to take notes about what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. As you track your actions and the emotions they evoke, make a list of the behaviors that make you feel good and commit to implementing them in your everyday life.
“If you’re unsure what behaviors to focus on, it can be helpful to consider one’s values,” said Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York. “Your values are what matter most to you, and can guide how you live or how you’d like to live. You can ask yourself: ‘What would my life be like if I had no obstacles?’ ‘What matters most to me?’ ‘Who do I look up to? What qualities do they encompass?’”
Once you’ve determined which activities improve your mood and give you a sense of purpose, challenge yourself to do them more, even if you can’t always find the motivation.
“Repetition is key,” Vermani said. “You want to become bored by what makes you anxious, apprehensive and uncomfortable. The more you do something, the less intimidating and threatening that activity feels. The less threatening an activity becomes, the less power cognitive distortions and maladaptive thoughts [have].”
2. Set achievable goals for positive behaviors.
Vermani recommends setting achievable goals by focusing on one or two behaviors at a time and practicing them on a regular basis.
“For example, a person who has difficulty getting out of bed could commit to putting on an outfit that makes them feel good every morning, even if they do not go out anywhere, or commit to setting their alarm to play their favorite music to motivate them to get out of bed,” she said. “The goal here is to create something that elevates and improves your mood, lowers your sense of dread and sadness, and limits potential stressors.”
Eventually, you can build up to bigger activities like organizing a social gathering or pursuing a major project at work.
3. Minimize the negative behaviors.
As you identify and implement the behaviors that positively impact your mood, you should also take note of which ones don’t bring you joy or fulfillment.
“Reduce behaviors that make you feel bad,” Vermani said. “For example, someone may choose to limit the amount of time they spend on social media, and replace this with connecting one-on-one with friends. By getting rid of unneeded and unhelpful behaviors, you can increase self-esteem and self-confidence.”
4. Don’t confuse behavioral activation with busyness.
“Behavioral activation can sometimes be misunderstood to mean that being busy is the way to combat depression,” Dornhecker said. “Busyness for busyness’ sake is not what helps someone feel motivated ― in fact, this can lead to burnout.”
She noted that some of the activities that are valuable in combating mental health symptoms involve being busy ― for instance, learning a new skill. But other helpful activities can be slow and relaxing, like spending time outside or sipping coffee as you listen to music.
5. Use the technique in combination with other coping strategies.
Remember that behavioral activation is just one of many tools involved in cognitive behavioral therapy. It doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, and that’s OK.
“Although some people may respond well to behavioral changes alone, others may need a mixture of therapies to help,” Vermani said. “When behavioral activation alone does not help with a person’s symptoms, a mental health professional may be able to treat the condition more holistically in partnership with their medical team.”
Did you know that the color of your period blood, similar to the smell of your pee, has different meanings and can indicate potential health problems?
You might have noticed that period blood changes color over the course of your period from a bright to dark red ― and that’s normal, according to Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB-GYN and medical adviser at O Positiv. However, your period blood may also change color when there’s something going on down there.
Below you’ll find the colors of your period blood that aren’t a cause for concern, and those that gynecologists say might warrant a trip to the doctor’s office.
For those with a period, a bright-red color is probably the most recognizable. Whether you noticed a bright-red bloodstain on your bedsheets or through your underwear, it’s typically this color. This is normal and nothing to worry about in most cases during a regular monthly cycle.
“Bright-red period blood is associated with fresh blood that has not been in the uterus or vagina for a long time,” said Dr. Luis Murrain, a physician and co-founder of Dreams Fertility.
Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist and co-author of “The Complete A to Z for your V,” added that a bright-red flow is typical during the active, heavier days of the cycle. If you experience red period blood between cycles, that is something you’ll want to take up with your doctor because it may indicate other internal issues.
Bleeding in between cycles (various shades of red) might signify pre-cancer or cancer, uterine anomalies such as a polyp, vaginal growth or pregnancy, Dweck said.
Dark Red, Brown Or Black
If it’s been a while since you’ve last changed your pad or tampon, then you might notice the blood is darker and this is normal.
“Dark brown or black typically suggests older blood,” Dweck said. “The process of oxidation occurs over time and turns blood a darker color, a common finding at the tail end of the cycle.”
The general rule of thumb is the older the blood, the darker the color.
While black period blood is likely a sign of older blood, it could also be an indicator of a vaginal blockage. These types of blockages are usually accompanied by a fever, smelly discharge and swelling around the vagina.
For period blood that is light pink, you might want to take a trip to the doctor to run some labs.
“Very light pink, with a watery texture could signify anemia or low blood count or iron,” Dweck said. “This typically occurs with chronic and excessive flow or in those with iron-poor diets.”
Light-pink color could also be the result of period blood mixed with cervical fluid, along with significant weight loss.
Gray Or Green
Unlike shades of red, gray or green period blood may be a red flag. “Gray or greenish hues might signify infection; this color might be accompanied by an odor, itch or irritation,” Dweck said.
Gray period blood might indicate bacterial vaginosis, for which you’ll want to visit your doctor for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
What Else To Consider
You know your body better than anyone else. If you’ve had a period for a while, then you’re probably familiar with the colors and smells that accompany your cycle.
“Learning your cycle and its consistency, the color, the smell and any other features of it will help when looking for inconsistencies,” Shepherd said.
While changes in color are important for acknowledging potential issues, Murrain says to keep an eye on “heavy bleeding, requiring the need to change pads or tampons more frequently than two hours, lightheadedness or dizziness associated with menstrual cycle, excess fatigue and weakness associated with the menstrual cycle.”
Additionally, be on the lookout for “multiple large clots larger than a quarter, severe cramping associated with a menstrual cycle, bleeding lasting longer than eight days, bleeding in between your menstrual cycles and abnormal discharge with your bleeding,” Murrain added.
If any of these arise, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist to rule out any further problems. Getting an annual pap smear and checkup to make sure everything is healthy in relation to your cycle and reproductive health is also critical.
For additional questions about period blood and your cycle, consult with your doctor to keep them updated on your specific issues and observations.
Pets don’t always smell particularly fragrant. Curious dogs and cats certainly can get into some stinky situations.
But at times a bad odor is a sign of something more serious. If you can rule out external factors — like rolling around in something foul-smelling — and a bad scent persists, it might be time to seek professional help.
“Your dog and cat probably have their ‘normal’ smell,” said Dr. Heather Berst, a veterinarian and medical lead with animal health company Zoetis. “If you notice a change in how your pet smells, do not try and mask it with a shampoo or spray. It may mean your pet is having a medical issue. Reach out to your veterinarian to make sure it is not part of a medical problem.”
Berst and other experts told HuffPost about some common medical conditions that manifest in odor changes and what scents to look out for.
A musty or “stinky feet” smell could mean a skin yeast infection.
“Skin infections frequently change how a dog or cat smells,” Berst said. “The smell may be associated with itching, redness, hair loss or change in coat texture.”
Malassezia dermatitis is a yeast infection of the skin that is fairly common in dogs and can occur in cats as well.
“Yeast usually smells musty or like stinky feet,” said Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinary expert with Pumpkin Pet Insurance.
Chronic skin yeast infections come with a number of other symptoms. Pay attention to abnormal smells, irritated skin or behavior that suggests skin discomfort. Pets with underlying allergies may also be more prone to developing skin infections.
A sweet smell or putrid scent could be a sign of a skin bacterial infection or abscess.
“Staph infections on the skin may have no odor or might smell sweet,” Wooten said.
She noted that bacterial skin infections are usually associated with redness, hair loss, bumps that resemble pimples, skin flaking and oozing from skin folds.
“Skin that reeks of corn chips has an infection of Pseudomonas bacteria,” Wooten added. “This skin is just red and itchy as well. This is more severe than ‘Frito feet,’ which is a commonly searched term and considered normal in dogs.”
Bacteria can also cause skin abscesses ― pockets of pus on the body that can be quite painful and might produce a distinct odor.
“Abscesses smell terrible, putrid,” Wooten said. “You’ll never forget the smell! Abscesses are usually associated with local swelling of the skin, redness, pain, inflammation, and may be oozing pus.”
A foul or yeastlike smell could be an ear infection.
Yeast or bacterial infections can also occur in a pet’s ears. Ears that fold over often trap moisture, creating environments where yeast or bacteria can thrive.
“Ear infections frequently have a bad odor,” Berst noted. “Depending on what is causing the infection in the ear, you can have different smells, including a yeasty smell or a very foul smell.”
The smell will likely be stronger when you lift the animal’s ears, and there might be some discharge and redness. As with skin yeast infections, yeasty ears will smell musty or like stinky feet. They might produce a dark brown discharge.
“Ears infected with bacteria may smell sweet or fetid, or if they have a Pseudomonas infection will smell like tortilla chips and have white discharge,” Wooten said.
She added that ear mites, which are fairly common in cats, can cause an odor as well.
“Ear mites cause black debris in the ears, plus redness and severe itching,” Wooten said. “They smell like either yeast or bacteria ear infections.”
Bad breath could be a sign of dental problems.
“Bad breath is very commonly to blame for a gross-smelling dog,” said Dr. Dana Wilhite, a consulting veterinarian with pet treat company Full Moon Pet. “Dental disease is usually the most likely cause, as malodorous odor-producing bacteria in the mouth produce a smell similar to a sewer. Excessive drooling due to rotten, painful teeth can cause the skin around the mouth to become infected as well, adding to the foul smell.”
A gum infection, bleeding mouth tumors or a nasal infection might also cause an odor, so have a veterinarian check it out. Even if there’s no underlying medical problem, a professional consultation can help with the issue.
“Living with a dog with a ‘rotten mouth’ is no fun for anyone involved, and you will be amazed at the difference a dental cleaning by your veterinarian can make,” Wilhite said.
She noted that bad breath is a very common odor complaint in cats.
“Although cats tend to keep themselves well groomed, they can’t brush their teeth on their own. And if they live long enough and haven’t been receiving routine dental care, they will end up with dental issues,” Wilhite said.
Breath that smells fruity could indicate diabetes.
Beyond dental infection, changes in the smell of a pet’s breath could be a sign of complications with diabetes, which requires medical attention.
“A dog or cat with uncontrolled diabetes can have very sweet- and fruity-smelling breath,” Wooten said. “These dogs and cats usually also have weight loss, and drink a lot and pee a lot.”
Wilhite noted that stomatitis, gastrointestinal disease and respiratory infection may also cause a foul odor from the mouth.
A fishy smell could be a result of anal gland issues.
“Dogs and cats have two anal glands at the 3 and 7 o’clock position of their anus,” Wooten said. “Usually there is no smell coming from these glands. However, dogs and cats may express their anal glands when they are scared, which can result in a strong, fishy, musty smell that hangs on even after you clean yourself and your pet.”
Though it can be normal for a pet to express their anal glands occasionally, take note if the strong odor appears frequently. This could be a sign of something wrong.
“When these glands become infected and an abscess develops, the smell can be magnified,” Wilhite said. “If your dog is scooting, acting uncomfortable, has swelling, blood or fluid leaking from this area, they will appreciate a visit to the veterinarian.”
Vets and groomers can express your pet’s anal glands when they get too full.
Excessive gas could be caused by diet.
“Excessive gas is an odor that can be hard not to notice,” Wilhite said. “This can be diet-related and may be associated with the type and amount of dietary fiber in the food. Certain ingredients may work better for some dogs and cats than others with regards to gas production.”
Flatulence might be an indication that it’s time to change your pet’s diet. But if it continues even after making a switch, consider asking a vet for guidance.
“Nondietary causes of gas are typically the result of how much air a dog swallows but can sometimes be a sign of gastrointestinal disease,” Wilhite said. “Your veterinarian will be able to advise you as to how to remedy your dog’s excessive gas.”
A strong urine smell could indicate a urinary system issue.
Dogs and cats can also develop urinary tract infections that might manifest in odor changes.
“A strong urine smell could be a sign of urinary tract infection, especially if associated with other signs of a UTI, like increased urge [to urinate] or bloody urine,” Wooten said.
Look out for other issues in the urinary system, such as kidney failure, which can cause a urinelike odor.
“Cats that have severe kidney disease will have an ammonia smell to their breath and will act very sick ― not eating, lethargy,” Wooten noted.
A rotten meat scent could mean parvovirus.
New pet owners are on high alert for parvovirus, which can also have smell-related symptoms.
“Parvovirus is a highly infectious, often fatal viral disease that results in severe vomiting and diarrhea that is usually associated with a lower GI [gastrointestinal] bleed,” Wooten said. “The smell of parvo is terrible and can knock you off your feet. The dog and the stool smell like rotting meat and may have a metallic edge to it because of iron in the bloody stool.”
Abnormal odor could be a grooming issue.
“Poor grooming can result in abnormal odor,” Wilhite said.
She added that if cats are unable to groom themselves properly, it might be the result of an underlying condition like obesity, arthritis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism or cancer.
“Cats that don’t feel well for any reason, including arthritis, will groom less and have a musty, greasy coat that is sometimes matted,” Wooten said. “They can accumulate fecal material around their back end ― ‘dingleberries’ ― that smell and look like feces.”
Thanks to our smartphones, iPads and more, many of us spend our days with our necks craning down to stare at our devices. Working from home has also created complications, affectionately referred to by experts as “pandemic posture.”
Fixing your posture can not only relieve back or neck pain, “it can also have a significant impact on all things related to our respiratory function, core and pelvic health,” explained Trista Zinn, a trainer and founder of Coreset Fitness.
Taking tiny steps toward improving your posture is the best way to go. Here are 16 exercises to try to help get you standing and sitting straighter.
“This exercise works all the muscles of the back, and helps counterbalance the weight of the chest and support the spine,” explained Sebastien Lagree, a trainer and founder of Lagree Fitness.
Sit cross-legged or straddle a bench with cables or bands wrapped around a doorknob or floor mount in front of you. Next, pull the handles back toward your rib cage.
“As you continue to pull the handles toward you, focus on lifting the spine or sitting taller,” Lagree said. “Each time you pull the handles in, aim to sit higher.”
If you don’t have a cable system at home, or access to a gym, grab some free weights and perform bent-over rows.
“Strengthening the muscles that retract the scapula leads to better posture,” said Dr. Alejandro Badia, an orthopedic surgeon in Miami. “This also helps avoid shoulder pain, which often occurs when we slouch or work in a slumped position.”
Bend your knees and lean your upper body forward, keeping a straight spine. Start with your arms straight down in front of you with your palms facing your body, then pull the weights back, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Try not to over-extend the movement: Stop right when you get to where your pockets would be on your pants ― i.e., near your hips. Lower your weights and repeat the movement.
This is an equipment-free exercise, and a popular yoga move. Get into an all-fours position on your hands and knees. From here, arch your back, bringing your chest and head up while your stomach drops down.
“You then move the opposite way, round your back towards the ceiling, bring your stomach in and your chin to your chest,” said Joy Puleo, a pilates instructor and Balanced Body Education Program Manager. Hold each position for a second or two and repeat eight to 10 times.
This exercise, she said, can provide a good stretch on the front of your body where muscles are tight, as well as strengthen the back muscles to help maintain a good posture.
For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. “Hold the band with straight arms in front of you at chest level,” Puleo said. “Retract your shoulders back, keep your core tight and your spine neutral, and pull the band apart so your hands go out in opposite directions.”
This exercise stretches the tight chest muscles and strengthens the underworked back muscles. Puleo said to aim for 10-15 reps, rest for a minute, and repeat for a total of three rounds.
Doorway Chest Stretch
“Since the chest is usually tight in a person with bad posture, doing a doorway stretch can truly help loosen those muscles and make it easier to maintain a good posture throughout the day,” Puleo explained.
Place your hands and elbows on a door frame, and take a small step forward until you feel a stretch at the chest. Hold the stretch for 15-25 seconds, take a minute of rest, and repeat as needed.
This exercise strengthens the erector spinae muscles, which are responsible for helping the body to extend and rotate the spine.
“This move does not require any apparatus and can be done on the floor,” Lagree said. Lie face down on a mat. Keep your arms alongside your body, and slowly lift your head and chest off the floor. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
Badia said this exercise strengthens the paraspinal muscles that support your back and hamstrings, all of which help posture.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Hold free weights in front of your thighs ― you can also perform the move with just your body weight. “Make sure your back is not arched, feet are flat and your butt is pushed back,” Badia explained.
Keep your shoulders straight and push your hips back, with your knees slightly bent, lower the weights below your knees, keeping them as close to your body as possible. Then stand back up.
When sitting or working at a computer all day, people’s posture tends to become hunched and their shoulders rounded forward.
“Shoulder blade squeezes strengthen muscles in the upper back that hold the upper body in good posture,” said Kandis Daroski, a physical therapist with Hinge Health. To perform these, stand or sit up straight with your arms by your side and elbows bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down your back. Hold for five seconds. Relax your arms and shoulders. Repeat 10-15 times.
Open Book Rotations
“In order to assume or get into good posture, one must have the necessary flexibility and mobility,” Daroski said. The open book exercise, she explained, improves mobility of the upper back and neck and provides a gentle stretch to the front of the shoulders.
Start by lying on your side with knees bent, arms extended in front of your chest, and hands together. Keeping your legs together, slowly raise your top arm and rotate your trunk open. Follow your moving hand with your eye gaze to rotate the neck as well. Hold for five seconds in the open position and perform 10 times on each side. “This is a great exercise to start or end your day with,” Daroski said. “Try performing it in bed.”
Daroski said chin tucks are a great way to negate the effects of forward head posture. “They help strengthen muscles deep within the neck that keep the head pulled back in good posture,” she said.
Begin in a lying down or standing position. Slowly draw your head back so your ears line up with your shoulders; this is a small movement. Hold this position for five seconds. Repeat for five to 10 repetitions.
“With prolonged sitting or standing in poor posture, the muscles of the abdomen can become weak, which allows for an increase in the arch of the low back,” Daroski said.
Abdominal bracing can help improve the strength of the core muscles by providing support to your low back and improving your standing posture, she explained.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Next, engage your abdominal muscles as though you are pulling your belly button toward your spine. Hold for five seconds, then repeat 10-15 times. “This exercise can also be performed in a sitting or standing position,” Daroski said.
Shoulder shrugs are another exercise that can help target tech neck. These exercises “relax and loosen up neck muscles, like the trapezius, that can be overworked while the neck is in a forward position,” explained Dr. Oluseun Olufade, an assistant professor of orthopedics at Emory School of Medicine and an adviser to BackEmbrace.
Raise your shoulders up toward your ears. Shrug both shoulders at the same time and hold for three seconds. Try three sets of 10 reps, twice a day.
Hands-Clasped Chest Opener
“This opens up the chest and stretches the front of the shoulders, helping to improve posture,” said Alissa Tucker, a certified personal trainer and master trainer at AKT.
Begin sitting or standing tall. Roll your shoulders down and back and clasp your hands behind back. Hold for up to 30 seconds. This is a great stretch that can be performed during the workday, Tucker said. “Repeat multiple times a day while at your desk.”
“This can be done lying on the floor with a foam roller or seated at your desk, using the back of the chair,” Tucker explained.
Begin seated with the foam roller or chair at ― or just under ― your shoulder blades. Bring both hands behind your head and draw the elbows in toward your face. Keep your abs engaged and your lower back straight as you lean back over the chair or foam roller, then slowly return to your starting position, bringing your chin toward your chest.
Move slowly and repeat eight to 10 times. “This stretch is great for counteracting the rounded forward position of the thoracic spine by bringing the thoracic spine into a little bit of extension,” Tucker said.
This is another exercise you can do seated at your desk. “I like to use a small towel for this one, though it can be done without,” Tucker said.
Sit up tall, place the towel on the back of your head, holding it with both hands by your ears. Press the head back into the towel and hold for five seconds then release. Repeat 10-15 times.
Tucker said to be careful that you’re not holding too much tension in your neck during this exercise. “It should be a gentle movement,” she explained. “This strengthens the deep flexor muscles in the back of the neck to help keep the neck in proper alignment over the shoulders.”
Remember making snow angels as a kid? This is a similar idea and is “a great exercise for shoulder mobility,” said Joshua Kozak, CEO of the online fitness center HASfit.
Lie down on your back with your hands above your hand, elbows flat down on the ground and palms facing upward. “Drag those elbows and your hands straight down into your body while keeping your arms flat on the ground,” Kozak said. “When you reach the furthest point, stretch them straight overhead.”
Try your best to keep contact with your arms and the floor and your lower back flat on the ground throughout the move.
A new virus called Langrya has been identified by scientists after researchers recorded multiple cases in China.
Langya henipavirus, also know as LayV, was firstdetected in the north-eastern provinces of Shandong and Henan in late 2018, though the virus was only properly identified by scientists last week.
So far, Langrya doesn’t seem to be spreading as rapidly as COVID-19 and it has not been linked to deaths. The virus has affected 35 people to date, though none of those people have become severely ill or died, data from Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control found.
What is the virus?
The infection is believed to have been passed to humans by shrews, according to research. The virus was tested in wild animals and LayV was identified in more than a quarter of 262 shrews. The infection was also found in 2% of domestic goats and 5% of dogs.
Where and how many cases are there?
The virus was first identified in China and so far 35 people are known to have been infected. It’s been found in China’s Shandong and Henan provinces and no human-to-human transmission has yet to be reported.
Last week, investigations into the infections were first defined in correspondence published by scientists from China, Singapore and Australia in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
What are the symptoms?
The majority of those with the infections have reported flu-like symptoms including:
Is it serious and is it spreading?
Of the 35 people infected no one has died or had a serious illness. “There was no close contact or common exposure history among the patients, which suggests that the infection in the human population may be sporadic,” researchers in a study titled A Zoonotic Henipavirus in Febrile Patients in China said.
A hundred lifetimes ago (in other words, before the pandemic), I spent a decent amount of time commuting. Between walks to and from the subway, walking to and from the grocery store or just walking to and from a restaurant or a friend’s apartment, I’d cover at least three miles a day on average, if not more.
Of course, that all changed in 2020. Working from home brought a new, more sedentary routine. I was lucky if I even took three steps, let alone three miles (that might be a slight exaggeration, but I think many of you can relate). My lack of movement exacerbated the aches and pains that come with being firmly in my 30s. I also found myself losing mental steam by the time the afternoon rolled around. Simply put, I felt the effects of being under-stimulated.
Then TikTok convinced me to buy a standing desk and ― most key ― a foldable treadmill.
I knew this was going to be an investment, so I spent months doing research and saving money. I had only a few requirements: The desk needed to be tall enough to accommodate my height (I’m 6 feet), and the treadmill had to be quiet and compact since I live in an apartment.
The slim Walking Pad folds in half and comes with wheels, making storage a breeze. (I keep it under my desk when I’m not using it.) It comes with a remote control, and you can also connect it to via app. It goes up to about 3.7 miles per hour and has two modes: automatic, which allows you to control how fast the belt goes using your feet and your own walking speed, or manual, through which you can set your walking speed using the remote.
Here’s my routine with this so far: I start my morning by putting my desk in the standing position and use the treadmill at a very leisurely pace ― around 1.5 mph. The key is to begin slow so I can get my footing. It’s surprisingly not too cumbersome trying to type while walking; if anything, it’s harder to look down and send a text. Once I feel good at my slow pace, I’ll bump it up to 2 mph or (rarely) higher. I’ll spend most of my morning walking, sit down for lunch and part of the afternoon, then go again around 3 p.m. or so.
“If you’re looking for a way to making working from home better on your body overall, this is it.”
You can’t deny the physical benefits. The first day I used the treadmill, I walked over 12,000 steps. My posture was certainly better than it would be sitting hunched over. Walking is also a low-impact way to gain the benefits of exercise; even just 21 minutes of it a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
There are mental benefits to walking during the day as well. For one, it spices up my workday. Clearing out my inbox feels more ― interesting? tolerable? ― if I’m walking while doing it. Walking also helps me burn off stress, which I have plenty of thanks to covering COVID on a constant basis. It has also engaged my mind. I had lately found myself spacing out or needing to read the same sentences a few times before I really processed what I was reading, but I’ve noticed that when walking, my focus is heightened and I tend to space out less. I’m in sort of a mental flow.
Now, I won’t ridiculously oversell you on this setup; it isn’t going to be magical cure all for everything that ails you. The privilege of aging means you’ll ache sometimes. There will also be some days when you don’t have the desire to stand on your feet for an extended period of time, and there will be times when the mental fatigue that comes from living through one global crisis after another won’t melt away.
But if you’re looking for a way to making working from home better on your body overall, this is it. Those who are mulling whether to upgrade your home office situation, consider this your sign. Below are the products I personally recommend. I feel they were worth every penny I spent.
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Walking Pad S1 folding treadmill
The Walking Pad is perfect for those who just want a few more steps in their day. It’s compact so you can store when you’re not using it, quiet so your partner or neighbors won’t complain during the workday, and comes with enough basic features to get the job done. I got mine in white, but my exact model also comes in black. The brand also has a gray option. (Note: This product does have a weight limit of 220 pounds, but there are other treadmill options with a higher limit.)
FlexiSpot EC1 electric standing desk
I wanted a simple, motorized standing desk that matched the aesthetic in my apartment, and this FlexiSpot desk fit the bill. It has an up and down arrow on the side, which you can hold to adjust to your desired height. (Bonus: It’s also great when you’re sitting because you can set your desk to the proper ergonomic height. I struggle with finding desks that are tall enough for me and I often end up looking down at my screen). I also bought a cord management tray that we drilled underneath the desk so I didn’t have a bunch of wires hanging down.
Bonus: an adjustable elastic ankle band for your smartwatch
If you’re a data person, beware: Wearing your smartwatch on your wrist while using the desk treadmill won’t accurately count your steps since you’ll be typing and mostly resting your arm. I bought this ankle band for my Apple Watch so I can more accurately track my movement. It’s soft and easy to adjust, making it a breeze to slip on and off. Your watch can still function normally with it on.
At first thought, the summer months are associated with carefree behavior — breezy beach days, shaded hikes and exciting vacations. But, for many people, summer is actually more stressful than exciting because of summer anxiety.
According to Dr. Crystal Burwell, a psychotherapist and owner of Dr. Burwell Speaks in Atlanta, anxiety occurs any time there is a transition, whether it’s the change of seasons or another kind of change.
And, summer, in particular, is full of changes that could cause anxiety: warmer weather, different outfits, summer vacations, longer days and more.
Here, experts share why you may notice that you’re more anxious during the summer months.
Summer seasonal affective disorder could be at play.
While seasonal anxiety is usually associated with winter, you can still experience a version of seasonal affective disorder in the summer, Burwell said. “It’s often called summer SAD,” she said. “What happens is it throws off our circadian rhythm,” which are 24-hour cycles that help control when we fall asleep and when we wake up.
In the winter, too little sunlight causes seasonal affective issues, and in the summer, there’s too much sunlight, which also causes similar issues, she said.
“We need the Vitamin D [from] the sun, however, when there’s too much sunlight our natural sleep cycle is thrown off,” she said.
Our bodies associate daylight with being awake. So, that late-night sunset may be pretty, but it’s not actually good for your night’s rest.
What’s more, Burwell added, is that in the summer months many of us have a dip in our body’s ability to create melatonin, which is the hormone the body needs for sleep.
Dr. Rachel Cavallaro, a psychologist with Thriveworks in Boston, stated that “with the longer days, our minds and our bodies are just more awake,” and, because of this, many people may have a harder time falling asleep.
The heat itself can even make some people anxious.
According to Cavallaro, the hallmark symptoms of anxiety include a higher body temperature, sweating and shallow breathing. And what else is associated with these symptoms? Hot days.
“Anxiety breeds anxiety,” she said. “The anxious person over focuses on what’s going on in their body on any given day.”
In the summer, this is particularly problematic since the hot weather creates symptoms that are very similar to anxiety symptoms.
“Then, it starts to spiral,” she said, with thoughts like, “Oh, no, I’m getting anxious,” creeping in and, ultimately, causing anxiety.
Anxiety can be triggered through thoughts, environment, or, in the case of summer heat, through a physiological false alarm.
For people with social anxiety, more social obligations may feed into anxiety, too.
From barbecues to pool parties to family reunions, summer’s social gatherings can be a reason people deal with anxiety this season, Cavallaro noted.
This is especially true for people who have either general worry or social anxiety, she said.
But even for those who don’t struggle with social anxiety, a full calendar with not too many breaks is also a reason for stress.
The routine-less days of summer can cause anxiety.
“When you’re on vacation or you’re not in school, people have [fewer] activities” and less of a daily routine, Cavallaro said. “That can create a lot of opportunities for anxious thoughts to come in because your mind is not occupied.”
Think about it: When you’re on a beach vacation, you’re probably lounging on a beach chair with none of your usual work or to-do list distractions to fill your mind.
“Boredom can be a trigger for anxiety — your mind needs something to do,” she said.
It’s important that you take time to relax and destress, but it’s about having a balance. “This is where structure and routine really help,” Cavallaro noted, “in the summer, people’s structure goes out the window, which then creates a whole host of other problems” because your daily balance is missing.
Cavallaro stated that one of the biggest underlying factors of anxiety is intolerance of uncertainty. This is why vacations can make people anxious; they’re uncertain about what can happen on their trip, whether that has to do with the weather or their flight.
Being less covered could trigger you, too.
When it’s 90 degrees and humid, you’re probably reaching for shorts, short-sleeved shirts, or sleeveless dresses. And while this may help you keep cool, many people may also feel anxiety when they go out in less clothes than they’re used to, Cavallaro stated.
“Less clothing can create a lot of insecurity,” she said, adding that people may have negative thoughts, like ‘What if people make negative comments about my body?’ or ‘What if people see me like this?’
The pressure of expectations can lead to anxiety.
Burwell noted that many of her patients feel an added pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” during the summer, particularly as they’re faced with questions about summer plans.
According to Burwell, when you see friends traveling to exciting places, you’re faced with both socioeconomic anxiety (Questions like: Why can’t I afford a vacation?) and worries about not having interesting stories to share with coworkers or peers (Thoughts like: How will my summer stories live up to the excitement of an Italian vacation?).
When faced with the question, “What did you do over the summer?” you may have feelings of being left out of the fun, she said.
If you are dealing with summer anxiety, create a routine for yourself.
“I’m a big believer in clients having a plan, because when we have a plan, we feel more empowered,” Burwell said. Even if Plan A doesn’t work out, just focusing on the solution instead of the problem can help combat anxiety.
Burwell encouraged those struggling with summer anxiety to anticipate their anxiety trigger ahead of time and make a plan to lessen its effects.
For example, if you feel anxious around a certain day, try distraction techniques like going for a run, cleaning up your house or making plans with supportive friends.
“Having a plan for how you’re going to combat this is a way of being proactive as opposed to reactive,” she said.
And make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
“Sleep is so important for our physical and mental health,” Cavallaro said.
She added that if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re going to have a hard time managing your emotions and any issues that may come up throughout the summer.
Sleep goes back to the importance of schedule and routine, too. According to Cavallaro, “It’s better to have a consistent wake-up time than a consistent bedtime.”
Ideally, you want to wait until you’re tired to go to bed, but should maintain your morning alarm time to help you set up a summer (and all-year) routine.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional.
Anxiety can be debilitating, stressful and can take all of the fun out of the summer months.
If you feel that you’re struggling, talk to a mental health professional. They can help you manage your anxiety and get ahead of it before the next season change.