Monday, January 16, 2017

Studying really does hurt

You know it all too well: The crippling realization that you just spent needed study time watching Netflix, pondering a new hairdo, shopping.

How did this happen?  And furthermore, how is it that you’re still not studying and contemplating what your one-word name will be when you're famous because real legends have one name.  

Studying itself will never be an act of fun, but it doesn't have to be terrible.  In fact, it can and should be treated just as any other activity (with breaks and with movement).  Often, the reason people hate studying so much is because they allow themselves too little time to process information.  They dread the feeling of cramming yet continue to put off.

It’s perfectly fine to have breaks, but let’s try to limit the stops at procrastination station (those  breaks that turn into hours). It’s time to find a better way to study.

Besides the pain of cramming/memorizing information, studying also tends to involve a lot of sitting.  In an ordinary day, we sit a lot at school, but intense studying promotes a longer duration of sitting, one that turns you into a statue.

These days, they say that sitting is the new smoking: that it’s detrimental to your health.  If you’ve ever gone on a study bender or go on them often, you know you’re left with all sorts of pain and headaches.  As it turns out, exercising matters, but if you spend hours sitting a day without additional movement breaks, your health may suffer.

Although reports a person can burn around 60 to 100 calories through intense concentration, writing, and typing, it’s essential that you take some breaks and get up.

Here are some tips to relieve the body and mind from the stress of studying:

  1. Stretch: Remember, sitting is painful.
  2. Dance: Get pumped, turn up the tunes and dance a bit.
  3. Cry: It’s okay, let it out, succumb to the void.  Just kidding, that may have gotten a little dark.
  4. Utilize your resources: Use whoever’s around to cook and keep you hydrated. Or for a respectful quizzing session.
  5. Take a walk: Release those endorphins and stop sitting.
  6. Ditch the phone: AKA, the device of never-ending distractions.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Pivotal Moment

So you’re on a date and all is going smoothly.  The next date is followed by another and another.  You’re spending more and more time at their house and in their lives.  Late nights, data overages, calls out and about.  You utilize Wi-Fi at home and, as much as you can, frequently visit local coffee shops.  

After visit three, you have now worked up the courage to ask the important question: What’s the Wi-Fi password?

But what’s the big deal?  Why is there so much stigma associated with four little words?

Knowing the Wi-Fi password should not be an indicator of a solid relationship but rather a common courtesy.

It should equate to asking if one has a bathroom, having an implied and understood response.  It should be a simple manner.

I hope we can all take a step in the right direction, surrendering our passwords to friends or to customers, with ease.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Can you handle the heat?

Have you ever wondered why your friend enjoys spicy foods so much?  Do you find it strange that they carry their own personal bottle of hot sauce “just in case”?

They just cannot get enough.  But for some reason, you cringe in horror when a tiny speck of wasabi finds comfort on your sushi roll.

Don’t fret just yet but don’t be too proud either.

As it turns out, one’s taste for spice, or lack thereof, is due to a multitude of things and is something that is still not fully understood in the food science community.

However, we do understand parts of the puzzle.

To start with, it’s important to know what spicy really means.  Spicy is not a taste, but rather a sensation and the burn you feel when you eat spicy foods is actually not a burn at all.  Chemical molecules excite pain receptors on your tongue that are linked to the sensation of temperature.   

According to a 2014 online post from Northwestern’s Helix Magazine: “[The] painful burning associated with the consumption of a chili pepper comes from compounds known as capsaicinoids, the most well-known of which is capsaicin.  When they reach the tongue, capsaicinoids interact with a special type of protein located on the surface of nerve cells. This protein, called TRPV1, acts a sensor for the cell giving it information about the outside world.”

These proteins are usually activated as a “danger,” as in the case of contact with physical heat above 109˚F (43˚C), resulting in the response of other nerve cells to send this message to the brain.  The brain thinks you’re being burnt, without the presence of any heat.

“TRPV1 is actually present on nerve cells in many locations on the body so this burning sensation can be experienced elsewhere, which is why you should always wash your hands after dealing with chili peppers, especially before touching your eyes,”stated the Helix Magazine post.

So how does the brain react?

“The brain responds by releasing another type of neurotransmitter known as endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural way of relieving pain by blocking the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals. Additionally, the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for a sense of reward and pleasure, is also released,” the Helix Magazine post explained.

This may explain why thrill-seekers tend to enjoy spicy foods.  The pain is followed by a feeling of euphoria, similar to intense exercise.

It’s generally accepted that the more you commit to the spice life, the more you can handle it.  While genetics may play a role, simply growing up in a household that eats spicy foods regularly would, of course, get you accustomed to the sensation more than someone who rarely eats spicy foods.

Overall, there is still much debate on whether the main aspect of spice tolerance is linked to genetics, environment or personality.

Some of us aren't even looking for a thrill but rather attention because, of course, the best way to impress someone is to drench your burrito with extra spicy sauce.

For professionals it’s a walk in the park, but for newbies, deciding to down a whole glob of wasabi is quite the opposite.

Before any rash decisions, ask yourself, “Can I handle the spice?”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Truth about Secret Santa

Apart from festivities and spreading holiday cheer, a key part of the holiday season is giving, whether it be to our families, our friends or by donation.

One popular but questionable activity is holiday gift exchanges, including the popular secret santa exchange.

You’re probably thinking, “secret’s the best thing out there.”

But really think about it.  You’re given a budget of around $5-10 to spend on someone that, more often than not,  you barely even know. In all honesty, secret santas are not the best way to celebrate the holidays or the best way to spend $10.

My first suggestion, of course, would be to avoid these foolish gift exchanges altogether; however, I understand that that is not always an option.

So here you are, lost yet again in a holiday gift exchange. And you’re wondering, is there any hope?

For starters, buying a gift for someone you don’t know can be intimidating.  

What do you get for someone you don’t know?

A gift card? Hand lotion?  Fuzzy socks?  Yes, all three are are acceptable: they’re generic.  

So with this in mind, there’s no use in getting stressed about finding the perfect secret santa gift;  everyone is in the same boat as you.  

Note to the person that just has to compete: No one expects your gift to be some grand statement.  Don’t be that person who spends three times the amount of money and tries to pass off their gift nonchalantly.
Secret santa in its most basic form is pretty low-key and it’s supposed to be: it’s a collective group of money wasting.

But what do you do when the grabbing aspect is added?  The grabbing aspect is when you can trade gifts to try and get the one you want.  

This situation, I believe, creates the most heated environment of all holiday gift exchanges.  The competitive folk take pleasure in watching people fight over their gift, and most people feel an acute sadness when they get one of the many generic gifts.

I’m not saying that all types of gift giving are bad.  Small-group exchanges can be great if everyone knows each other well and allows for funny or personal gifts to be bought and given.  But the best kind of gifting is the one that doesn’t promise anything in return.

So this holiday season, if you’re forced into a 20-person gift exchange, you’ll probably still buy that generic gift.  Yeah, I admit it, there really is no other way, unless you’re really looking to commit to it.  You can rebel and be the person who brings a white elephant gift (besides, no one will know it’s from you).  However, it’s not what you give or get that truly matters; it’s about getting together and having a good time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bye Mascots

They’re obnoxious, creepy, sometimes fuzzy, have big eyes, large grins, and a hold of my soul.

No. Mascots are not fun, they’re not entertaining, and they are most certainly not cute.  

Okay, maybe I’m the only one who could not bear an extra second around a mascot.

I remember taking trips to Six Flags with my family, and sprinting away from Minnie Mouse and Daffy Duck, oh, and especially the Tasmanian Devil.

Yet, I could handle Fright Fest, for the most part.  

At least at Fright Fest you can still see the person.  Yes, they’re covered in costume makeup or strange garb, however they usually aren’t wearing a full bodysuit.

Mascots, such as the Chuck E Cheese mouse, with its over smiley grin, would give me chills at birthday parties.

Even the Muppets, (those annoying puppets), bothered me.

So why are they so bothersome?

I think there’s something a bit eerie about them in a sort of Scooby-Doo way.  You have no idea who the person is.  Furthermore, I never felt like meeting an overly large version of Dora the Explorer or Spongebob...of course they’re not that big.  No one could fool me.

So no, I will not being attending any Disney On Ice performances this holiday season.  I can respect the talent it takes to wear those dreadful heads and still skate beautifully, but I will not be there.  Some part of me still disapproves or is slightly uncomfortable with the idea.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Talk is cheap, but it works

There’s something significant about our daily interactions with the grocery clerk at Mariano’s, with our math tutor or with clients.

They’re either flip or flop.  On the flip side, they’re friendly, conversational and light. On the flop, they’re short or even non-existent.

I used to believe bland, shallow, everyday conversation was useless and frankly would rather leave it out.  Yet I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, from working my first job to expanding my realm of those I talk to, that these conversations can play an important role in success.

It’s a sort of switch we seem to turn on and also a very important life skill: faking it.

I know it sounds terrible in theory, but in all seriousness, it’s used every day.  Being a good conversationalist is often essential to landing a job and can be of use in any situation.  Doctors need to be able to fake it, to be cheery and interested, especially with younger folks -- to have light-hearted conversation and to keep it going.  It’s something we as humans do with children all the time, but it continues to work regardless of age. The key is not to be too outlandish.  Regardless of the situation, it’s essential to create a comfortable environment where both parties feel they can speak freely.  In a job interview, we usually don't immediately share our political views or ask the interviewer strange questions.  Upon meeting someone for the first time, we usually don't act like complete weirdos, especially if we’re trying to gain something in return.  

Unless it is an interview of sorts, focusing on something about them, rather than you, while still engaging tends to be the smarter maneuver when trying to get something such as a positive experience or even general acceptance.

Take for instance, your first day as a teacher or your first professional meeting.  The majority of people are less likely to joke around before they feel that the environment is comfortable or before they feel accepted.  However, this doesn't mean you have to be nervous and unenergetic.  Talk like it’s the most important thing and speak like it all matters (confidence is the key).

It’s beneficial to believe in yourself and reveal who you are at heart; it's essential to play the game at times.

As people, we are very good at acting and if you don’t believe me, you’re lying to yourself.

In general, we discuss the normal things, create interest in the qualities, or pastimes of others to be nice to make the environment a comfortable one.  By throwing a compliment at a stranger, asking someone questions about their life, and agreeing with what they say--even if you couldn’t care less-- makes the situation comfortable and positive.  Speaking as if you care and prompting one with a smiling energy does wonders.

Once one learns how people tick, it’s really quite easy to talk to anyone.  Once you start rolling with it, confidence and thought is unnecessary, this skill, per se, becomes quite easy to transition into; it’s quite natural.  

But why is this?  Is it because we’re so used to being fake?  Or is it because we want the person to feel comfortable, we want them to have a positive experience.  I believe the latter.  When you’re with a stranger or meeting someone for the first time, it can be awkward, but the more you smile, the more you laugh, the more you show believable interest, it works in your favor.  Successful people are able to ease the minds of those they need things from and are able to do it with a smile.  You may believe it’s wrong to manipulate in such a fashion, but hey, that’s politics, isn’t it?  If you want to be successful, you’ll need to learn the “art of faking it;” you may even start to believe it yourself.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Coffee Shop Whiz

You know him too well.  Hip glasses and cozy sweater serve as a bold fashion statement.  He wears shiny black boots and his hair is just messy enough to suggest he has an intriguing intelligence.

He walks in with swagger, sporting a subtle smile, and he orders his beverage with an extra two shots -- be sure to hold the whip -- it’s all business.

He laughs at your twelve-ounce mocha, your decaf coffee, your passion tea.

He chooses the elevated chairs and plays his perfectly sculpted Spotify playlist, titled “Afternoon Essentials.”  

It has only been a few minutes, but you can hear the overwhelming clatter of the keys.

You do a casual walk-by that turns to not-so-casual.  500 words. Already?  You’re completely appalled and question how this could be.  

But...he knows he can take it to another level.

His subtle smile becomes a smirk as he changes his playlist to “Funk Time.”  Buzzed on all that caffeine, he types rigorously.  

He has to crash soon, you think...Yet all he does is get more done.

He orders a second coffee.

Now, c’mon, you think.  But he doesn't seem to flinch.

Ugh.  You shake your head.  

Why can’t that be me?  So groomed, so alert, so focused, so efficient.  His socks pair perfectly with his tribal print laptop bag.  

Hold up.  

You can do it.  Don’t be fooled by the look, by the style, by the clanking of the keys.  That productive guy in your coffee shop is there for the same reason you are, and you don’t need the look or the excessive caffeine to get things done.  Even if he has that jaw-dropping man bun, don’t let it get to you.