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Meet Aaron Berg, the Comedian Behind the New Amazon Documentary ’25 Sets’ – Newsweek

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Aaron Berg takes his stats seriously. "Comedy is a numbers game. I think I'm one of those fortunate guys that has my batting average up higher because I focus on the audience so much," the comedian told Newsweek ahead of the release of his new documentary, 25 Sets, set to premiere on Amazon Prime on October 15.

It's not uncommon for a working comedian in New York to perform four or five sets in an evening, but in September 2015 Berg, 47, set out to break the record for most shows performed in a single night. The documentary follows the Canadian-born comedian as he darts between clubs across the the city in his bid to complete 25 sets by morning. Between performances, fellow performers including Janeane Garofalo, Impractical Jokers' Sal Vulcano, Billions' Dan Soder and others pop in to riff on Berg's record attempt and what it takes to stand out in New York's comedy scene.

With humor that is sometimes raunchy, sometimes revelatory, Berg talked to Newsweek about the documentary, working the crowd and pushing the limit.

The previous record for most sets in one night was held by Steve Byrne, but he only had 13 sets. Why did you want to chase 25?

Initially, I'd set out to do 18. Once I found out Steve's record, I was like, "I think I could do 18." I started putting the schedule together, and the numbers got up to 23, and I go, "I may as well push more." I had scheduled 26 sets. At that point, I was like "Oh, if this goes well, I could double his record," which seems mind-blowing to me. I did want to double it, but I knew as the night progressed, there's no way we're getting that 26th set. I just knew it couldn't happen. It was in Times Square, and we had spent so much time below 14th Street that to zip up there would've just shot us in the foot, and it would've cost us two more sets if we would've done that.

Was there any mental or physical preparation before doing the sets?

The most I'd done prior to that was nine, so I ran seven the Saturday before just to get a feel, and it hit me that by [the fifth set] I was tired. I was like, "This is weird. I usually do five, and I think I've been in my head."

Physically, I did not go to the gym that day, because I was like, "I want to save up what energy I have." I ran stairs for 20 minutes, just to feel better in terms of cardiovascular. Mentally, I basically said, and this was the mantra for the whole night, "In New York comedy, everything works out." I had this very positive attitude that if I was late, there would be another comic that would be able to go on and buy me time, or if I was early, comics would shift around. That was the mental attitude I went in with: It's all going to work out no matter what. There were highs and lows. Exhaustion kicked in around 18 sets. If you watch, you'll see where the comedy just became so base at best, where I was literally pointing out what people are wearing, like "You have a black shirt on" and trying to find something funny in it. It is exhausting in that regard.

When did you start leaning into crowd work [improvising jokes about audience members]?

I was like, "I can't keep doing the same act," because comedically I wasn't evolving. I saw there was more stuff to talk about than just my personal life being a middle-class Jewish immigrant who became a stripper. It was about the 12 year mark, where I basically threw everything away, and I'm like "I'm just gonna work by the seam of my pants," and I kinda leaned into that. It works beautifully for New York, because the volume of sets that you're doing, so you get to really get comfortable onstage, and you get to talk to people from all backgrounds, all different walks of life, all different countries. That's the beauty about New York. It's what makes New York comics stand out more. It's this ability to be on your heels and be in the moment and crush in front of any type of crowd. It was about six years ago where I was like, "Yeah, I'm gonna throw everything out and just focus on this."

I think comedy club audiences tend to hang onto what they hear from crowd work more than prepared material, because they feel like they're part of the show.

That's exactly what I think. They feel more invested in it. Even if you're doing insult comedy, the people that aren't insulted will be like "Hey, why am I not getting insulted?" They'll feel insulted that they're not getting insulted.

In the documentary, you do one set for a group of 3 tourists from Holland. Is doing a crowd work for an audience like that a lot more difficult? Do you have fun doing those sets?

I tried my best, but I'm not going to lie. That's like doing crowd work for three of your family members who don't speak English. I'll have fun onstage all the time, because there's also this glamour about New York City comedy like, "Hey, it's still New York City. Anything can happen. This guy could be a huge exec from Holland who wants to sign me to open for the Dutch Carrot Top." When it's bad, it's still bad, but New York comedy teaches you. That bad one, you don't hang onto, because you have another set in an hour. Comedy can't run you down, because whatever you learn, you keep your mouth shut, you take it to the next set and you just keep going.

Do you worry that comedy audiences have changed since you've filmed this in 2015?

There is an inkling of change happening in terms of live performances right now. Outrage online would lead you to believe that it's changed drasticallyit hasn't. I do standup every night in New York City and across the country and in Canada as well. It hasn't really changed. People are more vocal with their disapproval in a live show now than they were before. That's because they feel empowered by online presence. If someone doesn't like a joke, if it falls into one of those buzzword categories: if it's stereotypical or it deals with race or trans-rights or sexism or misogyny, people will vocally say, "I disagree with that." They will say that out loud, whereas people didn't use to say that. They would not laugh or they would groan. It's becoming more commonplace to deal with these incidents as they occur.

The beauty of it is that it does open up conversation, which is the goal of provocative comedy. Above and beyond laughter is to open up discussion, and it's doing that. I do believe in evolving. I do believe comedy does have to evolve, and I do believe that words have to evolve. Language does have the right to evolve, but I still have the right to offend people, and I still have the right to be provocative. The fortunate thing without going too far is it's shocking but it's funny.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Meet Aaron Berg, the Comedian Behind the New Amazon Documentary '25 Sets' - Newsweek

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My Wave: Mental health in spotlight this month – Highway Mail

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THERE is always a lot happening in October.

The countries most publicised music festivals like In The City and Rocking the Daisies take place. Matrics say goodbye to their respective schools to prepare for final. It is breast cancer awareness month and something just as important, Mental Health awareness month.

Mental health is something that not only affects the youth, but also older generations who probably werent taught the complexities on mental health on social media and other walks of life. Although I feel we shouldnt isolate mental health awareness to one month, its something we should make others constantly aware of.

Its a crisis, especially if The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) states that nine percent of all teenage deaths are due to suicide and that only car accidents and homicide account for more deaths than suicide in youths in the age bracket of 15-24. Which is a very alarming assessment.

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Mental Health awareness month shouldnt be limited to social media discourse. There should be some active groundwork such as introducing it into the Life Orientation curriculum which would be brilliant.

Another thing young people should take note of is regularly checking up on yourself as well as friends and family who suffer from a wide-range of mental illnesses. As difficult as it may be, ask for help because no amount of stress is worth your health.

ALSO READ:Consider the mental state of Influencer kids

Vocabulary is also important when talking about mental health awareness month. Refrain from using ableist language to describe basic things or events.

Using ableist words like crazy or insane can offend people who are struggling with mental health and have been called those words in a derogatory manner. Ableist language can devalue people with mental disabilities.

One thing that has impact is social media users being brave enough to share their struggles with mental health on various platforms.

Other users need to be empathetic and understand that it isnt a trend. Users that share their struggles need our everlasting support.

Lethu: I think Mental Health Awareness month would be great if it really helped bring awareness. I think people dont take mental health seriously so it becomes one of those things. We definitely arent educated enough about mental health and I think theres an attitude of not being interested in learning either way. Which is unfortunate.

Brandon: Millennials have found themselves in turmoil with the worlds silent killers depression, anxiety and insomnia. Being a generation with such a bright future, the plight of mental health issues has dimmed things down, including our ambitions, self-esteem, confidence and the undying light we grew up having. We want to revolutionise, yet we carry a burden of ourselves and of the world. Its frightening seeing so many young people suffer silently, but we will heal, we will get better.

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My Wave: Mental health in spotlight this month - Highway Mail

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Mental help for the police: The only solution to an emerging peril – Dhaka Tribune

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With at least three suicides by police officers so far this year, grave concerns have risen over whether the irregular work pattern of thepolice is taking a psychological toll Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Why our police are in need of mental healthcare?

Selim Jahangir, attached to a police outpost in Kurigram sadar upazila, wore his uniform proudly for over 12 years. But on the afternoon of August 28, he killed himself.

With his parents, his wife, and his eight-year-old son in the house, the 35-year-old police sub-inspector (SI) went up to his bedroom and shot himself with his service revolver.

He was declared dead on arrival at the local hospital.

The domestic help told the media that there were no discernible marital conflicts in Selims life. With at least two other confirmed suicides by members of the police this year, grave concerns have risen over whether the irregular work pattern of the police is taking a psychological toll.

Men and women in the police force are in with the long standing stigma in society when it comes to mental health.

On June 2, SI Sudip Barua, 45, of Gowainghat police station in Sylhet, hanged himself in his quarters. Similarly, on May 7, Constable Sharmin Akter, 22, of Tangail Police Lines, hung herself in her quarters.

Following Selims suicide, Kurigram Superintendent of Police(SP) Mohibul Islam Khan posted his reaction on Facbook: Selim was supposed to sit for an exam to be a full inspector the next day. His parents came to support him for this test We have learned that Selim was suffering from depression for a year, but his colleagues might not have known that.

This is a reminder of the need for regular psychological counseling for our police force. It is a widely available facility in other countries.

SP Mohibul further noted that although instances of suicide are filed as unnatural death cases, the reasons behind them are seldom investigated.

What is behind the stress?

SP Mohibul said many police have to live away from their families, which could possibly be one of the reasons for suicides in the police force.

Dhaka Tribune reached out to several other men and women serving in the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, who agreed to speak on condition of not disclosing their identities.

An additional deputy commissioner of police said that workload, duty hours, and pressure are major issues, noting that police work is more criticized than appreciated or thanked, in comparison to other professions. Furthermore, the senior police officer identified monotonous duty, shorter periods of rest and leisure, risk in the line of duty, and lack of internal facilities as contributing factors to mental stress among the police.

A sub-inspector said: I have to patrol for 12 hours everyday. And then I have to investigate the cases assigned to me or help file General Diaries. Sometimes I have to forego leisure or sleep to work on the cases.

And if I give up a nights sleep for duty, the pressure continues for several days, and it begins to reflect in my attitude.There are no limits on working hours for the bosses or us. And some people take drugs, even though it is a crime, but they use it to cope with the stress. They need treatment, the SI added.

Another SP also said there are some members of the police who abuse drugs, which in their opinion, also aggravates the stress of depression.

A traffic sergeant said: I get stressed out when citizens do not follow the rules of the road and traffic conditions fall apart. Sometimes people in high positions abuse their power, and if I ask them to abide by the law, they push back. You cannot imagine the mental stress that hassle can cause just because you are trying to do your job.

A senior police officer said where police are posted is a major factor among junior police, constables in particular, as sub-inspectors and above can afford to keep their families close to them. But constables and naiks are cut off from their family support.

The officer also pointed out long shifts, and irregular eating and sleeping patterns, as leading factors in the poor mental health of many in the police force. The inability to find any meaning in their duties was also noted, in addition to a lack of professional and respectful interaction between senior officers and lower-ranked members of the police.

Several police constables concurred with the officers latter remark, saying that many officers maintain a colonial, dismissive mentality towards the service people they command.

What can be done?

SP Mohibul suggested regular counseling programs and psychologists could be attached to police units. He also urged that there be a swift recognition of the hazards of mental stress in the occupation.

A senior police officer suggested reforming officer attitudes and the recruitment process, saying: If we recruit more people, the shifts can be more evenly divided and it will ease the pressure on our service members.

A police constable said they hoped for higher authorities to conduct research into what is causing the stress and to act accordingly.

The Police Staff College recently conducted a study titled Factors influencing police personnel's behavior in professional work.

Contacted, Additional Deputy Inspector General Md Golam Rasul, a faculty member at the staff college, refused to disclose any information on the study as it is yet to be published.

Helal Uddin Ahmed, associate professor at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), said: Police should be trained to cope with stress from the first day of their training. The stress levels vary, but one form of stress is not greater or worse than another. Hence, the training should also be variable.

He also suggested that the NIMH and other concerned government bodies can help with stress relief and promote mental health welfare around the country.

Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general (AIG) (media) at police headquarters, said: Policing is a challenging profession. Every member of the police has to go through unexpected and unusual circumstances throughout their career, which leads to a lot of stress. Stress can build up to all kinds of physical and mental problems and police training centers are providing workshops and separate sessions to learn how to cope with stress. But in order to ensure the greatest benefit, we are working to turn it into a fully-fledged module in the training regimen.

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Mental help for the police: The only solution to an emerging peril - Dhaka Tribune

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October 20th, 2019 at 9:29 am

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Never Plan a Future With People Who Don’t Have Future Plans – The Good Men Project

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Dont expect to see positive changes in your life if you surround yourself with negative people-Anonymous

Planning your future is pointless with people who dont have a future plan. Never plan a future with people who dont have future plans. Some people are just okay living permanently in the present. They dont have the big picture of the future. It is impossible to feature in a future that you cant picture. Never build your life around a man without future plans.

One of Nigerias most respected and eminent men of God, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, once said; Nobody must be the reason why you fail in life. It has been spiritually and psychologically ascertained that when a man fails in life, his friends and associates are the first set of suspects. One of the marks of great leaders is the ability to surround themselves with very competent people. An authentic companion and associate must be willing to hurt you with the truth but never comfort you with a lie.

Kevin Eiken Berry said, Look carefully at the closest association in your life, for that is the direction you are heading John C. Maxwell captured it better and succinctly by saying, Your network determines your net worth. One of the infamous Roman emperor and the last emperor of Rome, Emperor Nero, blundered his way to oblivion by surrounding himself with people and advisers that were not in harmony with peoples hopes and aspirations. Ancient sources confirmed that when the young emperor surrounded himself with Romes brightest minds to include the great philosopher Seneca, the result was five years of exemplary government, but the moment he chose a wrong detour in bringing in intellectual invalids, his empire fell like a pack of cards. A pathetic summary of the emperors reign reads: Nero, the emperor that fiddled while Rome burned! Our company will ultimately determine what accompanies us in life.

Not everyone you lose is a loss! Trying to keep people in your life when they have overstayed their season of relevance in your life can be seriously inimical to your growth. There are some sets of people you must avoid planning your future with. No matter how seemingly important they are, they will eventually bankrupt your future.

#1 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH SHALLOW-MINDED PEOPLE:Life is deep and simple, and that is why we must never plan our future with shallow and complicated people. Eleanor Roosevelt once said,Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.You cant have deep conversations with shallow-minded people. Shallow minded people are unable to see beyond their nose! Never plan your future with people who cant see with anything other than their eyes. Dont say deep things to shallow people and dont talk about shallow things with the deep people. The price of shallow conversations may be a corresponding loss of capacity for deep thinking.

#2 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH AN INSECURE PERSON:The greatest threat to your future is an insecure companion. An insecure person will always short-circuit your growth and advancement simply because they are threatened by it. An insecure person will always ruin other peoples happiness just because he cant find his own. Baylor Barbee said,Relationships fail because people take their own insecurities and try and twist them into their partners flaws. Insecure people would always put an unhealthy demand for you. Their unhealthy demand for excessive validation and attention can cripple you emotionally. Insecurity would make your partner compete with you, instead of complimenting you.

#3 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH PEOPLE THAT ALWAYS FIND FAULTS IN YOU:You would definitely need sincere feedbacks from people, but not from people with keen eyes for faults and are psychologically blinded to the goods in others. Spend more of your time with people that help you find solutions and remedies to problems, not faults.

#4 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH PEOPLE THAT DONT KNOW THEIR WORTH:When you plan your future with people that dont know their worth, they will eventually infest you with worthlessness. People that dont know their worth will always settle for less and will also help you do the same.

#5 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH PEOPLE THAT DONT HAVE INNER DRIVE:Life is not about what you drive, but what drives you. What drives people matters. When you plan your future with people that lack inner drive, they will bankrupt you in your journey of destiny fulfillment. The world is moving so fast that it is only people that are driven from within that can catch up. When a man is driven by values, things of value will ultimately come to him.

#6 NEVER PLAN A FUTURE WITH SOME THAT CANNOT PICTURE THE FUTURE:You cant feature in a future that you cant picture! There are some people that are just unable to conceive or picture the future you are planning with them. Many dreams have been stifled and many latent potential have been perpetually buried just because some people planned their lives with people that lacked the big picture view.

#7 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH PEOPLE THAT CANT TELL YOU THE TRUTH: Great people surround themselves, not only with people that say what they want to hear, but with people that say what they ought to hear. To finish strong in life, you will need people that can always give you sincere feedback even when it is hurtful. Andy Stanley said, Leaders who dont listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.

#8 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH NEGATIVE PEOPLE:Dont expect to see positive changes in your life if you surround yourself with negative people. You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life. When the wrong people leave your life, the right things start to happen. Tom Ziglar said, Negative people dont want solutions. Solutions mean they have to work to find something else to be negative about. Negative people have problems for every solution.

#9 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH PEOPLE WITH BAD ATTITUDE: Thomas Jefferson said, Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. No matter how buoyant you are, staying around someone with a bad attitude can significantly bankrupt your life. The greatest liability in life is a bad attitude. A man with a bad attitude is a liability to himself and every other person around him. Zig Ziglar said, A bad attitude is like a flat tire; you cant go anywhere until you change it.

#10 NEVER PLAN YOUR FUTURE WITH PEOPLE THAT CANT SEE YOUR WORTH:Your value does not decrease based on someones inability to see your worth. Try spending more time around people that affirm your worth and help you nurture your potentials. I have often said that when you learn how much you are worth, you will stop giving people discounts. Tim Fargo, If you want to improve your self-worth, stop giving other people the calculator. In order to avoid emotional trauma before they happen, we must constantly detoxify ourselves from four categories of people. Eliminate anyone who constantly lies to you, disrespects you, uses you, and puts you down.

Dont go into the future with a liability. Go into the future with people that will add value to you and increase your worth. You will need people that believe in you; people that invest in your dreams and goals. People that will bring the best and not the stress out of you. Mark Twain once said, Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. When you are seeking to bring big plans to fruition, it is important with whom you regularly associate. Hang out with friends who are like-minded and who are also designing purpose-filled lives. Similarly, be that kind of a friend for your friends.

You must be willing to let go of people that are short-circuiting your growth and progress. The wrong people are not necessarily bad people; they may be good people that are not going in your direction. Moving with people that are not going in the same direction as you will greatly set you back in life. Look out for people of like-minds and like-values. Dont follow people blindly.

The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious- John Sculley

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Never Plan a Future With People Who Don't Have Future Plans - The Good Men Project

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Women In Wellness: Continue to learn and find new challenges With Dr. Carla Marie Manly & Beau Henderson – Thrive Global

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Continue to learn and find new challenges: Even if health issues keep you from engaging in the type of challenges you enjoyed in earlier years, studies show that the mental health thrives when we continue to learn and challenge ourselves throughout life. Rather than staying with the same activities or old routines, its important to carve out time to embrace new learning experiences and challenges.

As a part of my series about the 5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement I had the pleasure of interviewing Clinical Psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly. Dr. Manly is a practicing clinical psychologist and aging expert with a passion for helping others optimize their lives. As an author and speaker, Dr. Manly enjoys creating greater awareness and wellness throughout the world. Her latest book, Aging Joyfully, guides readers into finding vast fulfillment in the more mature years of life.

A former investment manager, I returned to the field of psychologymy passionin my 40s. Having spent the first few decades of my adult life raising children, managing a very successful business, and creating financial wellbeing, I wanted the second half of my life to be spent focusing on creating internal successfor myself and others!

One of the most interesting stories is my new-found fame among older and younger populations. Those in their 20s are discovering me as a guiding light for their future, and those in their 40s, 50s, and beyond are also gravitating toward my work as a light for their more mature years. This story is stunning to me for many reasonsnot the least of which is having youthful minds be star-struck as a result of my humble life learnings and offerings.

During my first speaking engagements, the learning curve was rather large. Looking back, I realize that my greatest mistake was in over-preparing for my engagements. I quickly foundafter a few humorous stumbles that were embraced with kindness by the audiencesthat the events were more successful when I kept things simple. By showing up as authentic me, learning and growth were abundant for all.

My parents have passed away, yet I now seemore than everthat they were both truly bright lights in my life. As the ninth child in a family of ten children, my mom and dad (both children of immigrants) had their hands very full. And, although they were imperfect, they taught me the important of integrity, lifelong learning, and hard work. These skillsand so many morehave helped me achieve the success I have today.

Every person has unique needs when it comes to fulfillment and optimal wellness. Yet, we often consciously and unconsciously look to others we admiretheir schedules, routines, and goalswhen creating our own life goals and routines. Unfortunately, what might work beautifully for the man across the table or the woman in the magazine might be too muchor too littlefor our own needs. Thus, I suggest that my colleagues take the time to focus on their own unique needs. It is certainly wise to embrace the wisdom of others, yet there is nothing more profoundly helpful than learning to notice what works right for YOU. And, when you determine what works well for your lifedo more of it. As you determine what is harmful or not beneficial for youdo less of it. This concept is simple yetfor many of usextraordinarily difficult to due given internal and external pressures. Yet, the price we pay by not listening to the inner self is highwhen we get on a treadmill without taking note of what is appropriate for oneself in the here and now, chronic stress and burnout occur. Research shows that chronic stress and burnout take an enormous toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Think outside the box when it comes to creating a fantastic work culture. Dont be afraid to get out of the routine that may have molded your business environment for decades. If you want your work culture to be amazing, you may need to make some profoundly amazing changes. Employees love working in environments that are open, honest, and uplifting. When employees feel valued and honored, theyll give extraordinary gifts through hard work, new ideas, and commitment. Sadly, Ive seen so many employees mired in anger and resentment when employers dont create a team-oriented, open work culture with clear, achievable goals. If in doubt about what to do to create a fantastic work culture, reach out for insights from a specialist who is able to view the issues with objectivity and keen awareness. Life tip: Reach out for insights from others. Give excellent training. Be present to support your employees on an ongoing basis. Your employees are part of your family; appreciate them. Give up micro-managing and give your employees the freedom to soar. Yes!

As a clinician and researcher, I have found that retirement can negatively impact ones health if the retiree has not adequately prepared for the many changes that can come with retirement, such as loss of social connections, changes in daily routine, and a lack of activity and challenge in post-retirement life. All of these issuesand many morecan lead to depression and irritability. As well, if post-retirement life is sedentary, the decline in activity can contribute to a host of debilitating health conditions including cardiac concerns, diabetes, and stroke. In addition, primary relationshipssuch a marriagecan also be negatively impacted due to the changes and stress that often accompanies post-retirement. When a primary relationship is negatively affected, the individuals general well-being is certainly impacted.

My most recent book, Aging Joyfully (Familius, 2019) made a huge impact on my own life. Although nowhere near retirement myself, the research and discovery involved in writing book has had a profound impact me. As the author, I found myself delving deeply into medical research, clients case studies, and the lives of friends to learn more about the upsides and downsides of aging and retirement. Through this intensive process, I learned a great deal about myself, about ageism, and need for us as a society to RE-ENVISION AGING.

If I could start one movement, it would be a movement to TEACH OTHERSchildren and adultsabout the power of integrity and respect. By introducing basic concepts such as these to children AND adultsmany of whom have no idea what real integrity and respect look likewe could change our world for the better. I so believe thisfrom my heart and soul.

I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul. (Invictus, Henley). This quote from Invictus reminds me that, no matter how challenging my life might be at times, I am responsible for the outcome of each moment. I am responsible for my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. This truth guides me.

Ariana Huffingtonshe shines and radiates vibrant, beautiful agelessness. Oprah Winfreyshe radiates intensity and commitment to good. Yitzi Weinerbecause you strive to do good in the world; I truly honor that about you. Gavin Newsombecause he has the power in California to institute programs in our schools that could change the future of our state-and the world.







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Women In Wellness: Continue to learn and find new challenges With Dr. Carla Marie Manly & Beau Henderson - Thrive Global

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BWW Interview: Beyond Mental Borders’ Armand Antony & Alexandra Brynn Are Redefining Mentalism In Toronto – Broadway World

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As they near the end of their first year, Beyond Mental Borders-comprised of Armand Antony and Alexandra Brynn-has seen their act go farther than they could have anticipated. Their live show CONNECTION, held twice monthly at The Rec Room, has become an incredibly popular event that's sold out it's last few shows with no sign of slowing down.

On a cool autumn morning, Antony and Brynn were already tucked away in a cozy corner of a downtown Toronto caf when I arrived. They're young, friendly, have great chemistry (based on how often they could finish each other's sentences), and don't subscribe to the stereotypes other magicians and mentalists often fall into-making our conversation about their whirlwind of a year all the more interesting.

Let's start at the beginning; how did you both get into mentalism?

Antony: I started off with card tricks just to mess around with people at work, and eventually learned how to flip that around into the concept of mind reading, and realized just how much more of a reaction I got from that. I got to see a couple different mentalists and see their performances, and there's something just way more intriguing about someone who can influence an audience in that way, so I started learning, trying to figure out what could be done and what was possible.

Brynn: I'm an actor, so I had a weird introduction-magic and I came together without me really knowing it. Back in the UK I was performing in a Hollywood Special Effects show produced by the company that does Champions of Magic; I was around all this magic so it kind of rubbed off on me. Fast forward to this year, Armand was looking for a partner to develop the act, so we just came together and it all sort of worked out.

What was that act that you were working on?

Antony: The act originally started with myself and a friend of mine, because I was petrified of doing a variety show slot I was offered alone; I had never done anything like it before. And my friend had done some assisting before, but I decided I didn't really want to do the clich magician-assistant thing. When Alexandra came on, it started off as the two of us trying things out, and it just worked out for us.

Brynn: We had our first meeting in here, at that table over there!

Antony: Basically when we met, we had three weeks before our very first show. So that was fun!

Brynn: It was a lot of reading, a lot of rehearsing, but you're a fun person to work with.

You both seem to have a great connection (pardon the pun), so I'm curious-what was the dynamic like when you first started working together?

Brynn: One of the first things when I came into it, I hadn't seen his show previously, but was I saying that especially in this day and age, the whole girl coming onstage with a Vegas showgirl attitude and assisting or being sawed in half was not for me. There are a few jokes in the show about it, and how that's not our deal. We were coming at it from an equal partnership, and having a strong female character onstage is really important to what we do and in making our audience comfortable.

Antony: I think also-Alexandra's said this, too-you can probably count the number of female magicians in Toronto or in Canada on one hand, which sucks, and I'm glad that we have a...

Brynn: Platform?

Antony: Yes!

Brynn: Yeah, a platform to try and promote females in magic or mentalism. I forget what show it was, but there were these two little girls off to the side of the stage who were bouncing around and dancing throughout the whole thing, and after they came up to me and gave me a big hug and said "That was so cool, we wanna do that!" which was so nice because in the past magic or mentalism was more of a thing that boys did with a deck of cards.

My main thing was I wanted to make our show accessible. When I was younger and thought about magic shows I'd think about David Copperfield or older men doing this big thing-and David Copperfield is amazing, I'm not saying he's not-but I wanted to make our show a thing where people could come and see it even if they didn't know anything about magic or mentalism. And it's not a guy in a suit and a woman in a sparkly dress; it's more like jeans and a leather jacket, and just being cool instead of stuffy.

Now for anyone reading who might not understand mentalism, what would you say is the best way to describe it?

Antony: My favourite way of describing it is, where magic is sleight of hand, mentalism is sleight of mind. Our goal is to create the perception of mind reading, and mind reading isn't real. For us it's just using a variety of different skill sets, so it's using body language, micro expressions, psychology, it's a lot of reading that goes into just trying to look at a concentrated thought and peel that apart, and reveal it to yourself or the audience or whoever.

Brynn: We say right at the beginning of the show, you know we're not psychics, we're not mediums, we're not fortune tellers. We don't claim to do any of that stuff. All the stuff that we're doing is just studying who comes into the room. It's a lot of people watching and trying to gleam what we can, or using psychology and some of those mental tricks to try and influence what choices people might make. It's pairing (the science) with what goes into making a show, and what goes into theatre.

Does your expertise in mentalism have any effect your relationships outside of work?

Antony: I'd say anytime I have something I'm working on, I take it to my dad. The atmosphere changes from 'we're having a good time,' to just 'no, no, no, no,' (laughs) because while he finds it fun, he has to walk away for five minutes to try and process it and he's always like "I can't figure it out."

Brynn: My family lives in BC, but even my mom who's a huge magic skeptic, looks at what we do and thinks it's interesting because of the psychology behind it. She finds it really cool to see how the mind works.

And outside of family-is it something you always have running in the back of your mind, or can you shut it down pretty easily?

Antony: I personally don't look around the room and study people. I will say there are certain components that you start to learn over time, there's a fun little routine where you try to determine what someone's tells are when they're lying. Even being on a date I've found my mind could be going through a million things and I have to step back and say, I need to turn this off right now because I'm just not paying attention to what I'm supposed to be.

Brynn: One of the funniest things happened on a walk-around at an event. There was this big group of guys and we were messing with their heads a little bit, and this one came up and was like "Oh man, I don't know if I'd want to date you because you'd totally get in my head, you know what I'm thinking right now!" So it is funny, and you learn to anticipate what people are going to think or say, but I'm not sitting here watching you and going like, she's going to do this when she gets home later, and she's going to take the TTC (which, for the record, I did do) but you definitely do get more aware of people's emotions or reactions to things.

Let's talk a bit more about CONNECTION. You mentioned you tend to alter the act on a month-to-month basis-could you walk me through that development process?

Brynn: I think it changes, so sometimes one of us will come into the room and go "Hey, wouldn't it be really cool if we did this thing, but we did it completely different in this way?" Then we workshop things, try to figure them out, but it is very hard with the nature of what we do for us to be in a room working together without people to test things out on-so we use some of the other shows we do around the city to test those things out, workshop them, and then bring something into CONNECTION when we feel confident with it.

Antony: We've been looking into 2020, and there's been a lot of us saying "Wouldn't it be cool if we did this, this, this and this?" But there's no method-

Brynn: No, we're not looking through a handbook of how things are done, it's more like "This would be a cool idea, why don't we figure something out with this?"

Antony: And then we have three months to figure out exactly how we're going to do it.

Brynn: It's not like we're writing a story; we have to figure out how it's going to be done, how it's going to look to the audience, will these steps make sense to them-because the audience needs to understand what we're doing in real time. We've had times where we've tried to do something and explained it to a person and they go "Wait, that step is confusing, and that step is confusing," and we have to take a step back and realize that we need to explain more, or in a different way.

I guess directing audience members and having them involved has resulted in some tests not working out exactly as planned?

Antony: Oh, what an interesting time to ask that question!

Brynn: First of all we have people on stage, and these people-all the venues that we perform in are venues where alcohol is supplied-and you never really know who's been drinking. And we never say, you know, if you've had more than five drinks don't put up your hand. So, there is that aspect when people come onstage, you never really know what they're going to say or what's going to happen, or if they're going to drop something. But because our show is real and it's done in real time, some things are going to be different. Sometimes things go wrong, and when they do we have to rely on our connection-no pun intended-and our style as performers to carry it through and just say, you know, this stuff is not science, it's an art form-things go wrong, but that's often when things are the funniest, I think, and when the audience has the most fun because they see us poking fun at ourselves.

Antony: I think it also makes us, the whole performance, a little bit more human. We say right from the beginning that mentalism isn't about illusions, or us making something disappear-this is us using a variety of skills to try and figure out what people are thinking. And believe me, if we could do that at 100% accuracy, we'd be in a great place! Not just in this act, but in life in general! So, I mean, sometimes it's just as honest as saying "Okay, cool, we didn't get that right and that's totally okay, but we also have another 59 minutes of the show where everything has gone right."

Brynn: Exactly.

Antony: I think it doesn't really ruin any credibility, but if we were missing everything it'd be a different story!

You can see Beyond Mental Borders monthly at The Rec Room, 255 Bremner Blvd., Toronto, ON.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

You can also keep up with Beyond Mental Borders on Instagram and Facebook

Photo courtesy of Beyond Mental Borders

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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BWW Interview: Beyond Mental Borders' Armand Antony & Alexandra Brynn Are Redefining Mentalism In Toronto - Broadway World

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Donald Trumps sanity is not the question. The real issue is how he got into office – The Guardian

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While writing a New Yorker profile on Donald Trump in the late 1990s, Mark Singer attempted to discover something about the businessmans private thoughts, as opposed to his outsized, public persona. When Singer asked him what he thought about when shaving in front of the mirror, Trump did not really understand the question.

OK, I guess Im asking, do you consider yourself ideal company? Singer said. You really want to know what I consider ideal company? replied Trump. A total piece of ass.

Divining, assessing and adjudicating the mental health of this US president has become more than just a parlour game

Divining, assessing and adjudicating the mental health of this US president has become more than just a parlour game. Following a 2017 conference, 27 psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health experts wrote a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, arguing it was their moral and civic duty to warn America that for psychological reasons, Trump was more dangerous than any president in history. They diagnosed him with everything from severe character pathology to delusional disorder, which can be added to the more common verdicts of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder which are regularly offered.

His behaviour and comments over the past fortnight would appear to not only confirm these conclusions, but to suggest his condition is deteriorating. There has been the appalling treatment of Harry Dunns parents, and his reference to his own great and unmatched wisdom. He sent a letter to the Turkish president, Recep Erdoan, warning him: Dont be a tough guy. Dont be a fool. I will call you later. On Wednesday, in a single press conference with the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, he attacked Google, Amazon, Germany, France, Spain, his guest and the European Union, as well as several US intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Later that day, Democratic leaders walked out of a White House meeting with him after he continually insulted them. But not before he told House speaker Nancy Pelosi: I hate Isis more than you do, and claimed I captured Isis in one month.

As the threat of impeachment leaves him more isolated, and an election he may lose makes him more vulnerable, we can expect more bizarre behaviour and, consequently, more attempts to frame his actions as those of an unstable and unhinged despot. Such depictions are tempting. They should also be resisted.

Trumps state of mind is, of course, relevant. He is the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military forces in the world. He has the nuclear codes. He is impulsive and capricious. He lies constantly, unashamedly and apparently compulsively. It is deeply worrying that the executive powers of the presidency lie in the hands of a man who is at one and the same time so brittle, aggressive, vindictive, ridiculous and self-obsessed. His decision to abandon a longstanding ally in Kurdistan and pull US troops out of Syria, against all military advice, is a case in point.

But to reduce his presidency to this one man and his frail mind is to ignore how he got there, all he has said and done since he has been there, and how he remains there. (It also risks reducing mental health to a lazy slur.) Just because he believes he will go down in history as a great man doesnt mean we have to subscribe to the great man theory of history the theory which claims events are moulded not by ordinary people, social movements and economic processes, but by key individuals who stamp their will on the world through force of personality.

For along with Trumps personal frailties is a series of political characteristics that underpins his anomie. He is a misogynist, a racist, a xenophobe and a nationalist. Those are not psychological descriptors but political ones, fortified by systems and ideology.

As such, his behaviour has been irascible but hardly erratic. The rhetorical objects of his disdain are not random. He has not lashed out at the National Rifle Association, the religious right or white people. Politically, his tantrums invariably find their mark in the weak, the poor, the dark, the female, the Muslim, the marginalised and the foreigner. (He will attack powerful people, but not simply for existing. They must cross him first.)

These inclinations were clear when he stood for the presidency. He has been every bit as bigoted, undisciplined, indiscreet, thin-skinned and braggadocious as his campaign promised. And he won.

This was not because people didnt see those things, but because they either didnt care, cared about other things more, preferred him to the alternative, or simply didnt show up. As such, his victory marked a high point for the naked appeal of white supremacy in particular and rightwing populism in general, and a low point for the centre-left, neoliberal agenda.

True, he did not win the popular vote, but nonetheless close to 63 million people voted for him. True, his party lost the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term elections. But they also gained two seats in the Senate the first time the party holding the presidency has achieved that since 2002 in the wake of a synagogue shooting and mail-bomb attacks inspired by his rhetoric. True, more than half of the country wants to impeach him; but about 40% still approve of the job hes doing. The one thing that stands between him and impeachment is the party behind him in both houses.

Even his thuggish America first foreign policy stands as part of a tradition. In 1964, when the Greek ambassador tried to point out the shortcomings of the US plan to partition Cyprus, President Lyndon Johnson replied: Fuck your parliament and your constitution We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr Ambassador. If your prime minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution he, his parliament and his constitution may not last long. He would never have put that in a letter. But three years later, Greece was under a brutal military junta backed by the US from which it did not emerge for seven years.

In other words, this particular form of insanity if that is what it is enjoys mass, if not majority, support, institutional defence and historical precedent. It is the mindset of more than just an individual. Trumps presence serves a purpose and interests. If he is a lone wolf, how do we explain the likes of Boris Johnson or Silvio Berlusconi, who share so many of his idiosyncratic traits, from accusations of sexual harassment to a cavalier attitude towards democratic norms and casual racism.

The great man of the age, wrote Friedrich Hegel using great to mean powerful rather than wonderful is the one who can put into words the will of his age, tell his age what its will is, and accomplish it. What he does is the heart and essence of his age; he actualises his age.

As such, in his desire to blame everyone but himself, in his lies, bullying, despotism, insecurity, ineptitude, cheating, scapegoating, preening self-regard, vanity and ignorance, Trump is an emblem of the free-market, white supremacist nationalism that is ascendant in this moment.

Ultimately there may be a medical or therapeutic intervention that can help him; but only a political intervention can help us get rid of him.

Gary Younge is a Guardian columnist

This article was amended on 18 October 2019 to correct an indiscrete/indiscreet homophone

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Donald Trumps sanity is not the question. The real issue is how he got into office - The Guardian

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Ten Ways To Increase Your Motivation At Work – Forbes

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While external factors of course have an impact on our motivation levels at work, the attitude we bring each day is self-determined. Attitude explains how someone fired from his own company might then become a business icon.

Based on my experience as both a professor and consultant, here are 10 behaviors and attitudes that help increase self-motivation and professional effectiveness:

1. Accept reality and others as they are. Self-motivation begins with having realistic and appropriate expectations of work and of those around you. Instead of demanding that circumstances conform to your wishes, accept them as they are and, from that point, find room for improvement.

2. Know yourself and accept that you have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes we seem to think that making a mistake is intolerable in a good professional, that it leads to disaster. But if we do not come to terms with our own fallibility, we end up piling on frustration and missing out on opportunities for improvement. Being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses allows you to be more effective and may save you from a downward spiral of low self-esteem. Acknowledge your mistakes, but also appreciate your successes.

3. Don't complain. Imagine you own a fast-food franchise and a bad batch of meat is discovered in another location of the same chain. You have done nothing wrong, but your business will be affected. In this situation, a franchise owner could either complain about the stroke of bad luck or be proactive and establish concrete measures to minimize the negative impact of the news. Complaining solves nothing while focusing our attention on that which we cannot control.

4. Appreciate what you have and be grateful. "Psychological hedonism" is a mental mechanism by which we accustom ourselves with astonishing ease to the progress of our work and then no longer appreciate this progress. We must make a pointed effort to pay attention to the positive, to what is working well. When we emphasize what we lack rather than what we have, we can end up discouraged.

5. Bring a positive attitude to your task. A business study showed that positive, optimistic salespeople billed 90 percent more than those saddled with negativity. And that is because the attitude with which we handle a situation or task influences the final result. In other words, if you go to a party thinking it will be boring, you probably won't have much fun, as your initial attitude will make it more difficult. Now, do not confuse positivity with naivet or a lack of realism.

6. Set relevant goals and challenges. According to the goal-setting theory of Edwin Locke, we are motivated when we perceive that our goals can be achieved and will involve considerable effort. Also, we are more motivated by more relevant goals. Therefore, important goals goals that provide something of value to others are more inspiring than an intrinsic objective (e.g., professional development) or extrinsic one (e.g., a raise or promotion).

7. Imbue what you do with meaning. Given the same task, one worker may just carry stones while another helps build a building. Going to work each morning to get paid is not the same as going to serve the community and develop personally. It's about finding important motives for doing what we do and giving our best to the task. A full life is not dependent on our occupation, but our ability make our actions matter.

8. Be proactive. When we take decisive action at work, rather than sit back as spectators, we take on more ownership and feel more motivated.

9. Raise hopes and rely on responsibility. The key to motivation is not so much doing just what we like, but instead pouring the most enthusiasm into what we have to do. And when enthusiasm fades, take responsibility to carry on.

10. Be persistent and persevere. If we give up when faced with obstacles, we head into a negative feedback loop being discouraged, with sapped enthusiasm, making us less likely to achieve our goals. Trying to overcome obstacles is, in itself, a motivating force. Determination and perseverance in tough times are the way to rekindle motivation.

While we cannot control everything around us, we can control our own attitudes and behaviors to our own circumstances. As such, following the ten principals outlined above can help us improve our motivation in all aspects of our lives both professional and personal.

By Pablo Maella, Senior Lecturer of Managing People in Organizations, IESE Business School

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Ten Ways To Increase Your Motivation At Work - Forbes

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What do you do when you’re sick of carrying the mental load for your household? – ABC News

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"Can you bring the washing in? It's starting to rain," you ask with your head in the oven as you check on the lasagne.

"Yeah, in a minute," he says from the couch, staring at his phone.

"Don't worry, I'll do it then," you say with a small huff. It's just easier to do it yourself.

What's this story about?

Even if you haven't really heard about the "gender gap" or "mental load", if you're a woman in a heterosexual relationship then you probably know what they are.

To explore these issues and how you might resolve them, we've put together a "choose your own adventure" that puts you in the story and lets you play out a common scenario and see how, or if, it changes depending on what you choose.

You can follow it just as a bit of a story, or you can take some tips and try it out in real life. It's really up to you.

You come back in with the washing basket of slightly damp clothes. He's still on the couch scrolling on his phone.

You start to hang the clothes out on the clothes horse, then stop to go get the lasagne out before it burns.

As you walk back to the oven, you notice the house plants look limp and make a mental note to water them, adding the task to the rest of what you've got to do tonight; book the dog in to see the vet, do the washing up, iron your clothes for tomorrow, research new car insurance options and is that report due tomorrow or Thursday? You'd better check.

While you're planning out your to-do list, you notice the power bill stuck on the fridge was due two days ago.

"Hey, did you pay the power bill?" you ask.

"Oh, damn. Sorry I forgot. I'll do it tomorrow can you remind me?" he says.

"I'll just pay it now," you snap, getting the bank app up on your phone.

"What's with the attitude? I said I'll do it, just leave it. You need to relax," he says.

Relax? How can you relax when you have to keep track of everything all the time? You start to see red and know you're about to blow up.

The ABC's Australia Talks National Survey reveals that when it comes to little jobs around the house, plenty of women are over it. In fact, 44 per cent of women surveyed say they would be happier if they spent less time running errands and doing chores, compared to 32 per cent of men.

We asked 54,000 people about their lives. See what they told us and how you compare.

We often hear about the gender gap in the context of the workforce (we all know men get paid more than women, right?), but data shows it's just as prevalent in the home.

Despite women working in paid employment more than they have in the past, they're still doing more of the household chores, life admin and running around after kids (if you've got them).

The 2019 HILDA Survey breaks the "female-male housework gap" down clearly.

If you are a woman in a childless couple earning the same money, you are likely doing four hours more housework per week than your male partner.

An equal-earning couples with kids? Women are doing seven hours more housework per week, plus an extra seven hours of childcare.

Even if you are the breadwinner in a family with kids, you are probably doing five hours more housework and eight hours more childcare than your partner.

And research shows men enjoy more leisure time than women, which perhaps explains what they're doing instead.

On top of that, women are often the ones to remember when the bills are due, the kid or the dog needs its vaccinations, and to remind their partner of the things they need to do.

That stuff is sometimes called the the mental load; the organising, list-making and planning that you do to manage your life and the life of those dependent on you.

And here's the thing, being the boss of your own household might sound like a powerful role, but it doesn't exactly help you build a rsum and get a promotion, and it means you have less time to look after yourself.

It can also impact how your partner feels about themselves. You probably don't mean to, but telling someone what to do, or taking control all the time, can send the message that they're not good enough.

Like what you're reading? Sign up forthe ABC Life newsletter to see more

While almost half of the Australians surveyed in the ABC's Australia Talks National Survey consider themselves to be feminists, one in five think our society would be better off if more women stayed home with their children.

And one in three Aussies think changing expectations around gender roles have made life more difficult for men, including 44 per cent of men themselves.

So how do we improve things?

It sounds cliche, but talking about it can be important especially with your partner.

Inequity in roles can cause both stress and resentment, which can erode a sense of wellbeing and relationship satisfaction.

Starting a conversation about the mental load can help even things up between a couple, and can bring you closer together.

If you're both keeping track of household chores and sharing the work, you'll both have more time to devote to each other and less time feeling resentful or downtrodden.

There is also research that domestic fairness is positively correlated to a better sex life! Who doesn't want that?

For bigger picture stuff, breaking out of traditional gender roles helps everybody, not just women.

And the more we break down those gender roles and have real conversations that lead to action, the more society can begin to reflect equality and respect for everyone, regardless of gender.

We spoke with a wide range of psychologists, social workers and therapists who all work in the field of relationships while putting this guide together.

Special thanks goes to Relationships Australia NSW CEO Elisabeth Shaw, relationship counsellor Paul Gale-Baker, couple and family therapist Jacqueline McDiarmid, psychologist Annie Cantwell-Bart and Lee Town, director of Anger Management Institute Australia.

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What do you do when you're sick of carrying the mental load for your household? - ABC News

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Understanding seasonal affective disorder – Johnson City Press (subscription)

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After record-breaking heat over the summer, many have been looking forward to autumn, but not those of us bracing ourselves for seasonal affective disorder, a major recurrent depressive disorder that causes and exacerbates episodes of depression annually.

An estimated 10 million Americans are affected by it, and the disorder is most common in women ages 18-30, according to Psychology Today.

If youre already prone to depressive tendencies the rest of the year, you too may be bracing yourself for less sunlight and less warmth. It might not help that this year, the fall colors are expected to be less vibrant here in Northeast Tennessee.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD (an appropriate acronym, might I add), is usually most prevalent in the winter months of December, January and February due to the colder weather and shorter days, but many experience a decline in energy and motivation as early as October.

Much of this has to do with the lack of sunlight as the days get shorter, which causes our brains to produce more melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy and lethargic. As this is happening, our brains produce less serotonin, the hormone responsible for managing stress and mood balance.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the symptoms of the winter blues often include increased suicidal thoughts, change in appetite, irritability, oversleeping, decreased physical activity, a heavy feeling in the limbs, hypersensitivity to social rejection, general dysphoria and more.

Treatment options can include some combination of light therapy, vitamin D supplementation, antidepressant medications (in serious cases) and counseling. Mental health experts recommend trying to stay physical while taking advantage of available sunlight whenever possible. Its also important to plan pleasurable activities with friends whenever possible.

Two years ago, when I touched on the topic with East Tennessee State University psychology professor Julia Dodd, I was bracing myself for a change in my own mood. She also recommended staying busy to maintain a positive attitude and resist the tendency to self-isolate.

Some of the ways to ward that (SAD) off is to make sure youre staying active, staying involved socially, doing the things you enjoy and getting out of the house as much as possible, Dodd said.

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Understanding seasonal affective disorder - Johnson City Press (subscription)

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