Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tips for staying healthy at work

by ABC Health and Wellbeing
Earning a living doesn't need to cost you your health. There are plenty of things you can do to make sure you stay healthy and happy at work.
Published 11/07/2012

For most of us our time at work takes up much of our waking life.
While there's no denying that work can cause stress, aches and pains, it doesn't have to be a negative experience. There are plenty of changes you can make that can help make your work life happier, healthier and more productive.

Don't ignore stress

There's no denying that work can be stressful, but sometimes it's the way we think, rather than situations themselves that leave us feeling overwhelmed.
A job that seems too difficult or demanding might be more manageable if you let go of certain beliefs, such as the notion that you should never make mistakes, or that everyone in your workplace needs to approve of you all time. There are also some great online resources that can help you learn about stress – and the role your thinking style can play in exacerbating it.
Also, if you feel overwhelmed at work, you might talk to your supervisor or look at your work style.
As well, it can help to:
  • Create boundaries between work and personal time. Try not to take work home with you, check your emails outside work hours, or think about work after you knock off.
  • Stay connected with family and friends when you're not working.
  • Try to say no to extra work.
  • Schedule regular breaks at work – no matter how busy you are.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Spend time every day doing things just for you: i.e. regularly do a hobby or activity you enjoy, or catch up with friends.
  • Manage irrational or negative thoughts such as "I have to be responsible for everything": i.e. write down counterproductive thoughts and challenge them with positive or more realistic ones. Alternatively, seek advice on cognitive behaviour therapy or rational thinking skills training.
  • Research and employ stress-relief strategies, such as relaxation and meditation.
  • Avoid relying on drinking or using drugs to help you cope.
Many workplaces also offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which are run by external providers and can offer free help with problems including helping you learn to manage stress.

Don't sit all day

When it comes to our work, many of us spend our days sitting on our bottoms. This doesn't mean we're lazy, but it could mean you're shortening your lifespan.
A growing body of research shows that sitting for hours of your day might shorten your life, even if you're getting the recommended amounts of daily exercise. That's because muscles need to contract for some important processes in the body to occur and long periods being still mean this doesn't happen enough. This affects our body's processing of fats and sugars in ways that increase our risk of heart disease and diabetes.
But if you break up your sitting time throughout the day, regardless of the total time you spend in your chair, you might go some way to help counteract the problem. Why not try to:
  • stand every time you make a phone call (or use a mobile, cordless handset or headset so you can move around even more).
  • move your rubbish bin/printer/filing cabinet further away from your desk so you need to get off your chair to get to them.
  • take the stairs instead of the lifts between floors.
  • walk to a colleague's office or desk to talk to them instead of sending an email.
  • get up to move around for few minutes or so every hour.

When you sit, sit properly

If your job sees you stuck in a chair, make sure your seating arrangement is ergonomic. When using a computer:
  • keep your feet flat on the floor (or use a footstool if needs be)
  • use an ergonomically-designed chair to support your lower back
  • position your keyboard so your forearms are parallel to the floor and allow your elbows to rest comfortably by your side.
  • have your computer monitor at eye level, use your whole arm, not just your wrist, when using a mouse.

Avoid overworked muscles

Whether your job sees you tied to a computer, chopping food or digging ditches, repetitive movements or sustained postures can cause muscle imbalances. One muscle is overworked and becomes tight, while the opposing muscle is unused and remains slack. This not only leads to aches and pains, it can also lead to joints being improperly supported, increasing your risk of injury.
Over time, the overworked muscle becomes even tighter and more fatigued, while the opposing muscle weakens and no longer supports the joint effectively, increasing your risk of injury.
"With someone seated all day, their hips are constantly in a shortened position so it means the muscles in and around the hip joint and lower back become tight, and the buttock and stomach muscles become weak," says Ashley Gardner, exercise physiologist and director of Pace Exercise Physiology in Victoria.
Repetitive manual labour, such as digging, chopping vegetables, carting bricks or even just sitting for long periods, can also cause muscle imbalances.
Chronic postural problems set in when the sustained, poor posture becomes the new 'norm' and you no longer realise you're carrying yourself incorrectly.
The best solution to these problems is to break the cycle of repetition.
  • Alternate your activities – If you are working on a computer, for example, break it up with phone calls. If you are digging, stop for one minute and simply bend backwards.
  • Stretch – Whatever sustained position you are in, think of a logical opposite movement. You don't need complex stretching routines; if you are doing the stretch right, it will feel good.
  • Take regular breaks – Every 15 to 20 minutes break for two to three minutes and aim for a few 20 minute breaks throughout the day.

Look after your eyes

Looking at a computer screen, reading, or doing other close-up work can increase your risk of short-sightedness, especially when you are young. Any task that minimises the "work" your eyes have to do to focus on your screen could be helpful. This may include:
  • Enlarging the display on your computer screen through the software you are using.
  • Getting glasses that magnify things slightly when you are doing extended close-up work.
In the shorter term, prolonged viewing of a computer screen can make any existing vision defects more noticeable. It can also give you what is sometimes known as "computer vision syndrome" – eye strain, headaches, gritty eyes and blurry vision. But this is only temporary and can be minimised by:
  • adjusting the screen display so the contrast is high and the brightness feels comfortable.
  • having lighting that does not produce glare on the screen.
  • giving your eyes regular rests from looking at the screen (The Optometrists Association of Australia recommends you do this for five to ten minutes every one to two hours of computer use. It's a good time to make phone calls or do other tasks.)
Efron says looking into the distance, or even just closing your eyes also gives your eyes a break. "This is total relaxation for your eyes."
This can also help prevent dry eyes. Concentrating on a visual task for any length of time makes us blink less, reducing the supply of moisture to our eyes. "If you look away, you'll naturally blink."
Also make sure you have eye assessments every two years, if you're over 50, your checks should be annual.
If you work in manual labour, construction, mining or other outdoor occupations, the most common eye injuries are foreign bodies in the eye and being hit by objects. Naturally, the best prevention is protective eyewear, such as goggles and glasses.

Monday, 9 July 2012

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a highly infectious respiratory disease that is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, and is known by the medical name pertussis. When the symptoms first come on it often feels like a cold, but the cold then turns into a cough that can last for longer than three months.
It's known as whooping cough, because people with the disease have uncontrollable fits of coughing followed by vomiting, choking or gasping. It is the gasping that makes the whooping sound.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is one of the conditions for which Australian children receive vaccination as part of the national immunisation program.
Experts say immunisation protects between 80 and 90 per cent of children. So it is still possible for kids who've been immunised to catch whooping cough, however people who are immunised are likely to get a milder bout.
Babies are most at risk from complications from whooping cough. This is why some states are now offering free booster doses of whooping cough vaccine to the parents and carers of newborn babies in an effort to stop them from passing the infection onto their newborn baby.
Brisbane paediatrician Dr Bruce Lewis encourages parents of newborns to ask people who plan to visit to first ensure they are immunised against whooping cough.
"You're doing them a favour, because hopefully they won't get it [themselves] and be off work for a month or two," he says.

My kids had whooping cough

by Jean Madden
Street Swags' founder Jean Madden knew something wasn't quite right when her children developed a nasty cough. But she didn't suspect that it was whooping cough.
Published 31/03/2011

It all started when my husband Tim developed a terrible cough, it sounded like a machine gun. It was so bad he hurt his back in a coughing fit. Around the same time my eldest son Harvey, four, also had a cough and a chest infection.
I was heading to Perth for Street Swags – the not-for-profit organisation that I founded and run, which provides swags to homeless people – so I decided to take Tim and our two boys with me. Our baby, Ged, was about five months old at the time.
Before we left on our week-long trip, I went to the doctor several times to make sure the boys were okay to travel. The doctor put Tim and Harvey on antibiotics; but gave them and Ged (who had also had cold and flu symptoms) the all clear to fly. They loved Perth, but Tim and Harvey were both coughing the whole week.
The day we got back home to Brisbane, I had to fly straight to Mt Isa. I then had a night at home and then had to fly to Sydney for a conference. By the time I got there I was sick, congested and headachy.
When I got home late the following night the kids were already in bed. The baby didn't sound so good, he was coughing during the night and by morning he was really starting to gasp. I had taken to swinging him to get some air into his lungs.

Something's not right

Like most mothers, I know my kids and I know when something is not right. I was really worried about the baby, so that morning, my husband took Harvey to pre-prep and I took Ged up to the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane.
They tested the oxygen saturation levels in his blood and used a long flexible cotton tip to swab the very back of his nose before sending us home.
A few hours later we got a call to say he had tested positive for whooping cough and that the entire family had to go back in. So my husband and I, our two boys and Granny headed back up to the Wesley. We were all given antibiotics and sent home to be quarantined for the weekend.
During this time, we took it in shifts to keep vigil over the baby. Every time he coughed he needed to be picked up so he wouldn't choke. This meant one of us was awake all through the night.
The hardest part about it was that we were all sick and exhausted. But it was the baby, because he couldn't sit himself up, who was in the most danger. So we took turns sitting in a chair with him laid on our chests to keep him upright.
The Street Swags annual general meeting was also on that weekend and I had to attend via Skype.

A week in hospital

By Monday morning, I was still really concerned about the boys and I wanted to see my paediatrician, Dr Bruce Lewis. I was worried about Ged's oxygen levels and both the boys had really gone downhill. So we went back to the Emergency Department and the boys were then admitted to hospital.
Dr Lewis and all the staff at the Wesley were fantastic. They kept the boys there a week, until I was sure their coughing attacks were manageable. It was still hard going in hospital, as we had to maintain a careful watch over Ged and pick him up whenever he coughed to help him clear his lungs. Harvey's coughing was so violent I was worried it might cause brain injury.
Meanwhile, I was still running Street Swags from my mobile phone and laptop and trying to reassure other parents around us that we are no longer infectious. I have never seen a play room clear so quickly as when the word got around that we were in the hospital for whooping cough.
Once we left hospital, Harvey still wasn't getting better. Several weeks later his breathing at night was still so scary that I took him to our family ear nose and throat doctor. He put Harvey on some serious antibiotics, which did the trick, and he later cleaned out Harvey's ears, because he had started to go a bit deaf.

Trusting my instinct

We suspect our case of whooping cough came from Tim's work. I feel terrible that we did so much travelling before we were diagnosed, I'd hate to think we had spread it to other people. I'm also really sorry to say neither Tim nor I had been vaccinated.
And while Harvey had been immunised, the baby wasn't old enough to have had his full course at the time he got sick. Even though it's possible to catch whooping cough after being vaccinated, the immunisation likely made the disease milder than it would otherwise have been.
Although I hate hassling doctors, I'm really glad that I did act on my instinct and continue to get the boys seen to. So my advice to other parents: get yourselves and your children immunised, and always trust your instincts when it comes to your kids.


Australia's mental health

by Dr Norman Swan
A national health survey has found a significant number of Australians have mental health issues.
24 08 2009

The psychological wellbeing of Australians has become a lot clearer thanks to the second national mental health survey. The Australian Bureau of Statistics doorknocked thousands of households asking questions about common mental health problems.
They found that one in two of us will have anxiety, depression, or a problem with drug and alcohol abuse in our lifetimes. About one in five people surveyed had had a mental disorder in the last 12 months; and one in four of those had had more than one – losing about nine days of useful functioning every month.
Yet surprisingly few people were being treated. Largely because they felt they didn't need any help or, wrongly, they felt there was no help available. This included people who were suicidal.
It was also found that people with physical illnesses were more likely to have anxiety, depression or problems abusing alcohol and other drugs.
Since this survey was done the Government has provided more access to evidence-based psychological treatments so more people are receiving help. But these deep-seated beliefs that nothing that can be done are a problem, as is the stigma which still exists to people identifying themselves as psychologically unwell.
So it's important that doctors, friends and families recognise when someone has a mental illness and offer assistance, but it's also important to recognize that there may be more than one thing going on at the same time, a physical illness with anxiety and depression, or a drug and alcohol problem with illness with anxiety and depression and they all need to be treated so the person can become well again.

For Reference

Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Author: Henderson S et al. State of the nation's mental health 2007.
URL: http://www.informahealthcare.com/loi/anp
2009;43:591-593
Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Author: Johnston AK et al. Suicidal thoughts and behaviours among Australian adults: findings from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
URL: http://www.informahealthcare.com/loi/anp
2009;43:635-643
Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Author: Whiteford H, Groves A Policy implications of the 2007 Australian National survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
URL: http://www.informahealthcare.com/loi/anp
2009;43:644-651
Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Author: Teesson M et al. Comorbidity in Australia: findings of the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
URL: http://www.informahealthcare.com/loi/anp
2009;43:606-614
Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Author: Meadows Gn, Burgess PM Perceived need for mental health care: findings from the 2007 Australian Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
URL: http://www.informahealthcare.com/loi/anp
2009;43:624-634
Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Author: Burgess PM et al. Service use for mental health problems: findings from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
URL: http://www.informahealthcare.com/loi/anp
2009;43:615-623
Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Author: Slade T et al. 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: methods and key findings.
URL: http://www.informahealthcare.com/loi/anp
2009;43:594-605