Friday, August 17, 2007

How To Stay Healthy On Vacation

Whether it's a visit to an Ecuadorian rainforest, a stay on a secluded Caribbean beach or a South African safari, you've undoubtedly been planning your winter escape for months.

trevelingBut while you've thought through everything from flight reservations to beach reads, you probably haven't planned how to prevent the one thing that could suddenly and easily ruin your whole trip--getting sick.

Think it won't happen to you? Experts estimate that traveler's diarrhea alone, which is usually contracted via contaminated food or water, affects up to 50% of all international tourists for some period of time. Countless others catch nasty bugs from infected insects or simply by using public transportation.

"Traveling without taking some precautions is like driving without wearing a seatbelt," says Dr. Susan McLellan, director of the Tulane University Travel Clinic and associate professor of medicine in infectious diseases at the Tulane University School of Medicine. "You're probably going to be fine--unless something bad happens."

Preventive Measures
If you'd like to spend your hard-earned vacation abroad seeing more than the inside of your hotel bathroom, before you leave, schedule a trip to a health-care provider who specializes in travel medicine. Aim for two months in advance of your departure date, although even a last-minute visit can offer a lot. You'll get more than a shot in the arm. General education about smart traveling behavior, McLellan says, is one of the most important things a specialist can provide.

For instance, you may already drink strictly bottled water when traveling outside of North America, Northern and Western Europe, Japan, Australia or New Zealand. But it's far more likely, McLellan says, that you'll get a dose of bad bacteria from contaminated food that isn't boiled, cooked or peeled.

Additionally, the more your meal is handled between being cooked and making it to your plate, the higher the risk. That's why you might be better off eating something straight from a street vendor's boiling pot than off a swanky hotel buffet that's been sitting around for a while.

Travelers heading on safari or to exotic, tropical destinations should talk to a doctor and check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site to see if mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as malaria or dengue, are a problem, says Dr. R. Doug Hardy, associate professor of infectious diseases at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. If so, they might need to take a preventive medication.

Other precautions include regularly applying an insect repellent containing about 30% DEET, which will provide hours of protection at a clip. It's also worthwhile to wear long pants and long sleeves; prior to a trip, consider dipping or spraying clothing with the repellent permethrin, McLellan says. Sleeping under a net that's been treated with insecticide is smart too.

For those planning as far out as a trip to the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, experts from The Methodist Hospital Wellness Services in Houston recommend a six-month series of three shots to prevent Hepatitis A and B. They also suggest a typhoid vaccine for people who have adventurous palates or plan to explore beyond the tourist areas.

If you're headed for the high seas or just an afternoon of sailing, prepare to spend time above deck in the fresh air or gazing through a porthole on the horizon to avoid getting seasick. An ailment that can happen to anyone, seasickness is caused by a conflict in sensory input from the eyes and inner ear to a person's balance center. When your ear says you're bouncing around but your eyes say you're standing still, the result is nausea, says Dr. Michael Jacobs, author of The Comprehensive Guide to Marine Medicine.

Jacobs recommends eating foods that are low in fat to minimize nausea and experimenting with treatments such as ginger root capsules, drugs and pressure bands until you find something that works.

And no matter where you're going, pack the medications you might want access to if you do get a bad headache, cold or gastrointestinal illness. Better to be safe than try to find an all-night drug store in the outback.

"I always bring along what I'm sure I'll need," McLellan says, "and hope I don't need too much else."

Source @

Monday, August 13, 2007

The How of Happiness

You don't have to change much. Here, surprising ways to feel better every day.

I'm a nonstop happiness seeker. On long drives, I don't ask my husband, "Are we there yet?" I meditate on life and ask myself, "Am I happy yet?"

Here's my happiness inventory: I have a great house, but the toilets gurgle incessantly. My 9-year-old son is adorable, but has nerve-shredding sleep habits. My husband of 21 years is worth at least his weight in Godiva, but I'm pretty sure I see my dry cleaner more often.

My main happiness inhibitor is that if the glass is half full, I often empty it, puncturing good moods by imagining worst-case scenarios. If everything's fine but I have the sniffles, I immediately envision my illness escalating. I picture myself bedridden for days, with my house, son, and husband all hideously neglected.

So do I have a serious shot at becoming happier? Yes, say researchers, who've found new scientific evidence of what really boosts our moods. Here, their best strategies:

Take a Pass on Perfection
When surveyed in the 1970s, most women reported being happier than men. Today, the opposite is true. What gives? One theory is that, over the past few decades, females have gone from holding one job (running the house) to two jobs (working full-time plus handling the housework). And a fast way to trigger unhappiness is bigger to-do lists — not to mention mounting pressure for women who want to do it all.

What's more, striving for an out-of-reach goal (like trying to be a star employee; patient, positive parent; and ever-understanding wife — all at the same time) can backfire if you blame yourself when you fall short, explains Alice Domar, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of the upcoming Be Happy Without Being Perfect.

Striving for constant contentment is equally unrealistic. Domar lays it on the line: "If you think you should feel happy nearly all the time, it's going to make you miserable."

Your strategy: Manage your expectations. A new study led by the University of Virginia looked at how everyday events (both positive and negative) affected people's overall daily satisfaction. Researchers tracked four groups: European Americans, Asian Americans, Japanese, and Koreans. The study showed that European Americans reported feeling happier than the other groups did, but needed double the number of positive events to help them rebound from negative ones. The study authors suspect that a downside of feeling happy most of the time is that you expect to feel that way all the time. So when good things happen, it seems normal, but when bad things happen, it can seem catastrophic.

Find Your Balance
Psychologists generally describe happiness as a sense of well-being or satisfaction with your life. They say there's fun without meaning (think foot massages) and meaning without fun (like 2 a.m. feedings), and happiness comes from some combo of the two. If you consistently choose fun without meaning, you'll likely feel empty inside. But if you too often focus solely on lofty goals, you could wind up depleted and resentful. (Note to self: I will not feel guilty the next time I devote my morning to catching up on episodes of Grey's Anatomy.)

Don't Try to Buy Happiness
Sure, money helps, especially if you start out poor and then do better. But a nationwide study published last year in Social Indicators Research found that those who avidly pursued possessions were less satisfied with their friendships, families, jobs — even their health — than participants who were less materialistic.

Switch Gears
A study at the University of Missouri-Columbia tracked hundreds of subjects who experienced a change in their circumstances (like moving to a nicer place) and in their activities (like pursuing a new hobby). A few months later, those who changed their activities reported more gains in well-being. One possible reason: A shift in circumstances often involves a onetime event, which can fade into the background of our lives, says study author Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., who wrote The How of Happiness. Exploring a new interest, on the other hand, is inherently entertaining, and may lead you to discover other activities over time.

Lose Yourself in the Moment
If you're in a bad mood, try to find your "flow." The word describes a "state of effortless concentration and enjoyment," writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., a leading expert in positive psychology, which focuses on increasing one's joys and strengths. For some people, achieving flow means whooshing down a ski slope; for me, it's working my way through a crossword puzzle. What delivers the most happiness: whatever activity energizes you and makes you feel like time is flying by — or even makes you lose track of it.

Source @ MSN

Sunday, August 5, 2007

8 Things No One Tells You About Marriage

The surprising, enlightening, and sometimes hard truths we all face after we walk down the aisle — and how they teach us about what love really means.

"...And they lived happily ever after." You're smart. You know life is no storybook. But admit it: Somewhere deep in your subconscious lurk romantic visions of Cinderella, or maybe Julia Roberts. The images may be sketchy and a little outdated, but you can still make out the silhouette of the bride and Prince Charming riding off into the sunset.

In real life, sometimes your Disney fairy tale ends up feeling more like a Wes Craven horror flick — and you're the chick who keeps falling down and screaming for her life. I've been there.

Let's face it, marriage is not for the faint of heart. You want to believe your pure love for each other will pull you through. And it does. But it ain't always pretty.

That may sound grim. But here's a secret: Sometimes it's the least romantic parts of marriage that have the most to teach you about yourself, your partner, and the nature of love. Read on for some simple truths that will unlock the surprising treasures and pleasures in your imperfect, unstorybook, real-life love.

1. You will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it? Forever?

When you get married, you think that as long as you pick the right guy — your soul mate — you'll be happy together until death do you part. Then you wake up one day and realize that no matter how great he is, he doesn't make you happy every moment of every day. In fact, some days you might wonder why you were in such a hurry to get married in the first place. You think to yourself, This is so not what I signed up for.

Actually, it is. You just didn't realize it the day you and your guy were cramming wedding cake into each other's faces, clinking champagne glasses, and dancing the Electric Slide. Back then you had no idea that "for better and for worse" doesn't kick in only when life hands you a tragedy. Your relationship mettle is, in fact, most tested on a daily basis, when the utter sameness of day-in/day-out togetherness can sometimes make you want to run for the hills.

That's when the disappointment sneaks in, and maybe even a palpable sense of loneliness and grief. It's not him. It's just you, letting go of that sugarcoated fantasy of marriage that danced in your eyes the day you and your beloved posed in all those soft-focus wedding photos. You're learning that marriage isn't a destination; it's a journey filled with equal parts excitement and tedium.

Waking up from a good dream to face the harsh morning daylight may not seem like a reason to celebrate. But trust me, it is. Because once you let go of all the hokey stories of eternal bliss, you find that the reality of marriage is far richer and more rewarding than you ever could have guessed. Hard, yes. Frustrating, yes. But full of its own powerful, quiet enchantments just the same, and that's better than any fairy tale.

2. You'll work harder than you ever imagined.

Early on, when people say, "Marriage takes work," you assume "work" means being patient when he forgets to put down the toilet seat. In your naiveté, you think that you will struggle to accommodate some annoying habit, like persistent knuckle cracking or flatulence.

If only it were that easy. Human beings, you may have noticed, are not simple creatures. Your man has mysterious, unplumbed depths — and from where he sits, you're pretty complicated, too. You have to learn each other the same way that you once learned earth science or world geography. And getting married doesn't mean you're done — it just means you've advanced to graduate-level studies. That's because every time you think you've mastered the material, he'll change a bit. And so will you. As two people grow and evolve, the real work of marriage is finding a way to relate to and nurture each other in the process.

"It's like losing weight," says Andrea Harden, 45, of Buffalo, NY. "You want it to be a one-time deal. You lost it, now just live. But then you learn it's a lifestyle. That's marriage. The effort is a forever thing." So don't be too hard on yourself — or him — on those days when you feel like you're struggling through remedial math.

3. You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).

Whoever decided to tell newlyweds "Never go to bed angry" doesn't know what it's like inside a bedroom where tears and accusations fly as one spouse talks the other into a woozy stupor until night meets the dawn. If this scenario sounds familiar, I've got three words for you: Sleep on it.

You need to calm down. You need to gain perspective. You need to just give it a rest. I've found that an argument of any quality, like a fine wine, needs to breathe. A break in the action will help you figure out whether you're angry, hurt, or both, and then pinpoint the exact source. Maybe the fight that seemed to erupt over the overflowing garbage can is really about feeling underappreciated. Could be you're both stressed out at work and just needed to unload on someone. Taking a break will help you see that, and let go. Or maybe you really do have a legitimate disagreement to work out. Without a time-out, sometimes a perfectly good argument can turn into an endless round of silly back-and-forth, rehashing old and irrelevant transgressions as you get more and more wound up.

Even when you do manage to stay focused and on topic, there are some fights that stubbornly refuse to die by bedtime. And if you stifle your real feelings just to meet some arbitrary deadline, your marriage will surely be the worse for it. "This was a huge lesson for me," says Andrea. "As women we've been trained to make nice. But the whole kiss-and-make-up thing just to keep the peace was eating me up inside. I'd let things build up inside me until I just exploded. Now I wait a while to get hold of myself — let the emotions settle a bit — and state my position. Even if that means reopening the fight the next day."

4. You will go without sex — sometimes for a long time — and that's okay.

There are few men in the Western world sexier than my husband. And I don't say this because I know he may read this article. I've seen women checking him out when they think I'm not looking. (Honestly, ladies, you don't have to sneak a peek. I don't mind if you stare.) That said, there are times that I just don't feel like having sex — often for reasons that have nothing to do with Genoveso. (See? Even his name is sexy.) I can't lie and say this is always okay with him. But the fact is, there are also plenty of nights when he's not in the mood. So maybe a few days go by when we don't do it. And then a few more. And....

Sexless periods are a natural part of married life. A dry spell isn't a sign that you've lost your mojo or that you'll never have sex again. It just means that maybe this week, sleep is more important than sex. (I don't know about you, but between work, 3 a.m. feedings, the PTA, soccer, T-ball, and everything else, I sometimes crave sleep the way a pimply, hormonal adolescent longs to cop a feel.)

And don't kid yourself; no one in America is doing it as often as popular culture would have you believe. Instead of worrying about how much you think you "should" be having sex, keep the focus on figuring out your own rhythm. "I used to think, What's happened to us? We always used to be in the mood," says 35-year-old Kim Henderson of Oakland, CA, who's been married for five years. "Now I know better. Life happens. My husband just started a new job. He has a long commute, and we have two small children. I think we're good."

The key is to make sure that even if you're not doing "it," you're still doing something-touching, kissing, hugging. Personally, my heart gets warm and mushy when my husband rubs my feet after a long, tiring day. He may not be anywhere near my G-spot, but that little bit of touch and attention keeps us connected even when we're not having spine-tingling sex.

Source @ MSN