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Text messages reduce problem drinking in adults, study shows

Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health have found that text messaging is an effective tool to reduce heavy drinking in adults seeking help on the internet.

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Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health have found that text messaging is an effective tool to reduce heavy drinking in adults seeking help on the internet. The results of the first-of-its-kind study, published today in PLOS ONE, show that when drinkers received adaptive tailored texts, their drinking reduction was similar to many in-person moderation treatments.  

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Cutting down on social or binge drinking can be challenging, especially when undertaken alone. Many support groups, therapists and counselors are available to help those diagnosed with alcohol dependency, but for those who aren’t diagnosed or don’t want to seek help from others, it is a struggle to find adequate resources to effectively reduce drinking. Behavioral health issues such as heavy drinking often require multiple support systems, and recent evidence suggests that text messaging may help to reduce problem drinking as an extension to in-person services. But very little is known about the effectiveness of remote messaging on problem drinking as a stand-alone intervention. There also is little known about how different types of messages may improve outcomes in those seeking to moderate their alcohol consumption.

Frederick Muench, PhD, associate professor at the Feinstein Institute and director of Northwell Health’s Digital Health Interventions in Psychiatry, and his team conducted a 12-week, single-blind, randomized, controlled pilot study with 152 participants seeking to reduce their drinking. This was the first study of its kind to recruit a remote population from across the country and deliver an automated mobile intervention for problem drinking. They compared four different types of alcohol reduction-themed text messages that were sent daily to weekly drinking tracking messages. The four types of text messages were 1) loss-framed texts, 2) gain-framed texts, 3) static tailored texts, and 4) adaptive tailored texts.

  • Control group: Weekly drink self-tracking mobile assessment texts: This group was designed to be a self-monitoring control. Participants in this condition were informed that they were in a drink-tracking program and received four questions about the past week’s drinking once weekly. If participants did not respond to the first text within a half hour, the system resent the text up to three more times over the course of the next two hours. If participants did respond to the first text, the system would then send the second question. Participants in all messaging conditions received the weekly drink self-tracking mobile assessment texts as their base program.
  • Loss-framed texts: Loss-framed texts were sent at 6 p.m. daily and focused on the consequences of problem drinking. For example: “Think of all you have lost as a result of drinking too much. Make today a day that sets the stage for change.”
  • Gain-framed texts: Gain-framed texts were sent at 6 p.m. daily highlighting the benefits of reducing drinking to safe guidelines. For example: “Think of all you can achieve if you can control your drinking. Make today a day that sets the stage for change.”
  • Static tailored texts: Static tailored texts were tailored text messages sent at 6 p.m. daily and were based on individual responses to the baseline assessment. Tailoring included conforming to the day of the week (e.g. a specific message on Friday night referencing the weekend) and modifying to the day in the program (e.g. “It’s been three weeks since you’ve signed up…”). Approximately 50 percent of messages were tailored based on participant gender, age, binge vs. daily drinking habits, solitary vs. social drinking habits, consumption severity, etc.
  • Adaptive tailored texts: Adaptive tailored texts included all static tailored texts features along with three additional components. First, messages individuals received over the course of a week varied based on their goal achievement in the prior week. Second, two additional messages were sent that at their heaviest typical drinking times. Third, participants were able to proactively text the automated system key words in order to receive just-in-time support, followed by a number of text-based check-ins. Key words included: tempt for support to manage a craving to drink, drink for support when the participant had started drinking, heavy for support when the participant had started drinking heavily, win for support either when the participant succeeded at managing a craving or when the participant succeeded in drinking no more than their moderate drinking goal for the situation, and regret for support after failing to moderate.

Results from the study show that all groups significantly reduced different aspects of problem drinking compared to weekly tracking, but that adaptive tailored texts had the largest effect sizes in helping adult problem drinkers reduce drinking frequency and quantity. Those who received adaptive tailored texts reduced their weekly alcohol consumption by 9.64 drinks, compared with a 2.5-drink decrease in the control group. Furthermore, remote automated text messages delivered daily were more effective than once-a-week self-tracking messages. When asked if they would like to continue receiving messages for an additional 12 weeks at the end of the study, 80 percent of participants said yes.

“I am very encouraged by what I see in this study, especially for individuals with limited resources,” noted Dr. Muench. “Today, text messaging is part of our daily routine. If we could find a way to make this subtle but effective communication help those who are trying to drink less succeed when they need encouragement most, we have created something that can positively impact the 15 million American adults living with an alcohol use disorder.”

“Dr. Muench’s study is a great example of how the Feinstein Institute harnesses the power of technology to better understand and treat health conditions,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute.

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Health

Tips for walking 20,000 steps a day

To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds.

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Photo by Sincerely Media from Unsplash.com

To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. Here are a few tips to help you reach your goal:

Invest in a Good Pair of Shoes

The first step to walking 20,000 steps a day is to make sure you have the right equipment. Investing in a good pair of walking shoes will help to prevent blisters and injuries, and make the walk more comfortable overall.

Make Walking Part of Your Daily Routine

To reach your 10-mile goal every day, make walking a part of your daily routine. This might mean taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from where you’re going so that you have to walk more. You can also try waking up a few minutes earlier each morning to fit in a walk before you start your day.

Join a Walking Group

If you’re having trouble finding time to fit in 10 miles each day, consider joining a walking group or taking part in a local 5k race. This will help keep you motivated and provide social support along the way.

Start Small

Don’t try to walk 20,000 steps all at once. Start with a smaller goal, such as 5,000 steps per day, and gradually increase your mileage as you become more fit. This will help you avoid injury and burnout.

Stay Hydrated

Make sure to stay hydrated while walking by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This will help you feel more energized and prevent dehydration-related issues, such as muscle cramps or fatigue.

The Bottom Line – BetterMe Can Help You Walk More, Every Day

If you’re looking to improve your overall health, walking 20,000 steps a day can help. This simple form of exercise offers a host of health benefits, from improved sleep and digestion to reduced stress and anxiety. To reach your goal, use the BetterMe Blog as a guide and stay committed every day. With enough dedication, you can achieve your fitness goals and transform your body for the better.

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Health

How can the self-employed tackle burnout? Expert shares top tips

Self-employed people such as business owners or freelancers may be more susceptible to burnout due to long working hours and the weight of responsibility that they carry.

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Photo by Nubelson Fernandes from Unsplash.com

With workers returning to the office in their greatest numbers since the pandemic, the number of people suffering from burnout or stress-related illnesses is also on the rise.

Self-employed people such as business owners or freelancers may be more susceptible to burnout due to long working hours and the weight of responsibility that they carry. 

For many work and life have become intertwined, fortunately, Private Rehab Clinic Delamere has shared tips on how you can tackle burnout when self-employed and the common signs.  

How you can tackle burnout

1. Set Goals and Priorities

Having a mountain of work, with no plan in place to move forward can sometimes feel overwhelming. It can help to take a step back to assess which of your tasks need prioritising, and which ones will help you to achieve your goals.  

2. Speak to Your Colleagues or Clients

Being honest with the people that you are working with or for, about your mental health can often make things a lot a lot easier. You may be surprised at how understanding other people are of your situation.

By being open with others, you will have a better understanding of what to expect from each other, meaning that you will have a stronger professional relationship going forward.

3. Ask for Help

Never be afraid to ask for help if you feel that your stress is becoming too much to handle and you start to show signs of burnout. Getting external advice through counselling or therapy can give you a new perspective on a situation to guide you through any problems.

If you do not feel comfortable with counselling, then simply reaching out to friends and family can be enough to help you talk through your problems.

4. Schedule Time-Off

Sometimes when work life is becoming too stressful, all you need to do is take a short break from it all. Returning to work after a much-needed break can give a person a more positive mindset.

Those who are self-employed are often in charge of their own schedule and can over look the need to take holidays. In fact, some surveys have shown that nearly one in ten business owners go up to five years without taking a holiday.

5. Consider Changing Things

If your line of work is causing you constant stress and it feels that there truly is no way out, then it may be worth considering if you are genuinely following the right career path for you.

It may be the case that you do not need to change your career path altogether, but that your daily work routine simply needs to be altered. Consider making small changes such as your place of work. If you are stuck in an office or at home all day, you may benefit from finding a co-working space or coffee shop to work in.

Sometimes changes can be as simple as investing in new equipment or simply taking more regular breaks from your working day. By implementing these small changes you are less likely to burnout from stress.

6. Put Self-Care First

Work-life can be demanding, especially for any self-employed people who are under pressure to meet deadlines for various clients. However, when we demand too much of ourselves, it can be damaging to our physical and mental health.

Remind yourself that you come first. Maintaining a healthy sleeping and eating pattern, while keeping up a rewarding social life and strong relationships is more important to your mental well-being than anything you do while on the clock. 

Spotting the signs of burnout

1. Feeling Tired All The Time

If you are waking up feeling exhausted and find that you are still feeling drained even after you have been awake for a few hours and a cup of coffee in your system, then this may be a sign that you have burnout.

2. Lack of Motivation

During burnout, a person may find themselves completely withdrawn from their workplace or work tasks. Simply going through the motions while at work without any kind of motivation – or taking no joy whatsoever from your accomplishments at work – could indicate that you are experiencing burnout.

3. Recurring Health Problems

A person suffering from burnout may experience frequent and recurring headaches and muscle pains, as well as feelings of indigestion and stomach aches.

4. Feeling Irritable

Finding yourself easily irritated or frustrated, even by small things, and then snapping out at others is a possible sign that you are carrying too much stress from work.

6. Self-Deprecating Feelings

When someone is suffering from burnout it can have serious effects on their mental health. A person can have a heightened sense of self-doubt, feel like a failure and even experience impostor syndrome.

A person with burnout may also experience increased feelings of isolation and detachment from their colleagues, friends and family.

7. Increased Procrastination

When burnout occurs a person may find themselves avoiding their responsibilities, regardless of how small those responsibilities may be. Instead, a person will fill their time with procrastination and indulging in comforting distractions.

8. Coping Mechanisms

During burnout, a person may be more likely to turn to other comforts and coping mechanisms such as comfort eating junk food or even consuming alcohol and/or drugs. Engaging in any habit excessively to cope with stress may be a sign of burnout.

9. Change in Sleeping and Eating Habits

Stress can mess with our natural cycle and someone who is experiencing unnaturally high levels of stress may find that their sleeping habits are altered as they end up staying up late and sleeping in.

A person may also find themselves skipping or avoiding regular meal times, having a loss of appetite at some points in the day, or craving comforting junk food at others.

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Fitness

6 Exercise safety tips

Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are more aware of their health and wellness. Now, as social restrictions ease, you may find yourself stepping up your workouts, whether you’re training for an event or working to improve your game in a recreational league.

Sprains, strains and injuries can happen to even the most seasoned athletes. When you’re testing your limits, even a minor injury can alter your performance. Consider products and supports like these from the CURAD Performance Series product line, available at Walmart and Amazon, to help you get back in the game quickly and safely.

Find more resources to support your fitness journey at CURAD.com.

Keep Dirt and Germs Away

The more active you are, the harder it can be to find a bandage that stays with you all day or all game long.

Spray Away Sore Spots

Controlling mild pain can help keep you at the top of your game, and a topical analgesic works fast to heal common pain brought on by fitness and exercise, such as pain in knees, feet, shoulders and backs.

Put Pain in the Past

When recovery becomes the name of the game and pain relief is needed after daily workouts or bodily injuries. Cold packs work to heal bruises, reduce swelling and relieve headaches and general pain points while microwavable heat packs provide satisfying heat therapy to address sore and stiff joints, muscle cramps and tension.

Reduce Impact of Knee Strain

Weak, injured or arthritic knees can come from many sources, including tendonitis and a wide range of conditions that result in strain or overuse. An adjustable band can provide support for on-field sports and during workouts or everyday activities.

Manage Pain and Relieve Pressure

If you participate in endurance and strength exercises or certain sports, you may ask a lot of your joints. Kinesiology tape can be configured a multitude of ways to help reduce pain and improve blood circulation, as well as relieve tension and pressure.

Control Back Strain

When your back is strained, your body and performance can suffer. A mild or moderate sprain can benefit from strong support and compression.

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