Maternal depression and natural disaster-related stress may affect infants’ temperament

A new study demonstrates that prenatal maternal depression has important consequences for infant temperament. Furthermore, the negative impact of prenatal maternal depression appeared to be magnified when pregnant women lived through Superstorm Sandy.
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Business Travel Survival Guide: Do more and stress less with these tips from a successful millennial CEO

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“Behind every great woman, are great women.” As founder and CEO of the wildly popular networking platform Create & Cultivate, Jacyln Johnson practices what she preaches. With two successful businesses and recognition from Adweek, Forbes, Fast Company and Entrepreneur under her belt by the age of 30, Johnson doesn’t just have a career—she creates them

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The Deadly Stress of Being a Black Woman in America

The evidence is irrefutable: Racism is getting away with murder as the leading cause of maternal and infant deaths and premature births among Black women.

Such is the conclusion of two major reports released this year in 2018. The first is a collaboration between the University of California San Francisco and California Department of Public Health: “California’s Maternal and Infant Health Assessment,” presented in July to First 5 California, a state-wide commission aimed at improving the lives of women and children. The second, “Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap,” is based on research by Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Insight Center for Community Development.

It was once thought that the most significant factors in deaths among pregnant women or the cause of premature births were so-called “risky behaviors.” The most obvious adverse behaviors included smoking, alcohol abuse and drug use. Long-term studies showed that a reduction in risky behavior and increasing women’s access to education and employment opportunities shifted maternal and infant outcomes. It was proven that if women received more education and enjoyed economic security through employment, they were less likely to engage in behaviors that placed them and their unborn child at risk.

That is no longer the case. Both of these reports blow that thesis out of the water.

What the studies revealed was that assumption of positive health outcomes for mothers and infants through a reduction in risky behaviors and improved socio-economic status was certainly true—but only for white women. The Duke study made crystal clear that Black women with higher education and more economic success were at an even greater risk of early death for them and their infants during pregnancy and were more likely to deliver prematurely.

Serena Williams and the premature delivery of her first child illustrates the major findings of both reports. At the time of her pregnancy, Williams was an athlete in great physical condition; she had no evidence of “risky behaviors” and had access to the best medical services. What then caused her to give birth premature? Was it just a fluke, or did her premature delivery prove the case that these studies are making? Was racism—and the accumulated stress of being publicly denigrated, a recipient of unequal treatment—responsible?

It is rare for a scientific study to make such a provocative declaration that racism is the primary cause of maternal and infant deaths and premature births for Black women, and even rarer for researchers grounded in data to declare unconditionally, and with emphasis, that “there is no safe age for Black women to have children.”

That is such an all-encompassing pronouncement it leaves little room for misunderstanding.

Racism. Without any hesitation, both of these studies point clear and definitive fingers, supported by data, at racism as the primary cause of Black women maternal and infant deaths. Regardless of age and socioeconomic circumstances, Black women have the highest maternal and infant deaths and premature birth rates among any other group in America. “For Black women,” they report, “exposure to discrimination and racialized stress throughout the lifespan can negatively impact birth outcomes.”

While such a conclusion seems counterintuitive, it points to the everyday reality of professional Black women. While working in high profile professions or in leadership positions may improve their socio-economic status, a side-effect is that, more often than not, they find themselves working in hostile work environments that contribute high levels of stress to their lives. Additional stress may emanate from the fact that professional women often live in predominantly white communities, where they may not experience community support and acceptance. At work and at home, Black women are in direct contact with high levels of micro-aggression, targeting, exclusionary behavior and overt racism.

We witnessed this with Serena Williams. Although she is the reigning tennis queen, Williams has had her fair share of stress brought on by racism. She has been booed by predominately white audiences when she won tennis competitions. Her most recent encounter with unequal treatment were the challenges of her tennis attire being judged inappropriate, and the penalty she received for challenging comments made by a judge. (The public, and other white tennis professionals, agreed that Serena was in the right—and pointed out that white players, men and women, have made similar challenges and comments and none were penalized nor reprimanded in any way.)

Just like in health, a double standard for Williams was at play. Did the stress Williams encounter over the course of her tennis career play a significant role in the premature birth of her daughter? Is she the poster woman for how racism is getting away with murder?

One Black OB-GYN physician thought so. In a piece for Vice, Sanithia L. Williams, MD, asserts that, based on the information already presented, it’s highly likely that racism played a part in Williams’ difficult birthing experience—and that the world is lucky she did not die. Too many other Black women have.

The adverse, and sometimes deadly, outcome of coping with racism as a Black woman in America is not accidental. The concept of “murder” requires a level of premeditation—in this instance, rooted in the ongoing discrimination and structural forces of racism that deliberately sets forth barriers to the progress of Blacks. Even successful individual Black women such as Williams are subjected to unequal and unjust treatment and public disparagement as they make their way in the world.

The lives of Black people in America have been shaped by living under a system of oppression that harkens back to slavery. While the institution of slavery may have been dismantled, it was replaced with structural oppression that manifests itself in the form of socioeconomic and political inequality that lead to systemic disparate treatment in health care, personal and public disparagement (“angry Black woman,” “hoes and bitches”), cumulative acts of microaggression and daily exposure to stressful and hostile work environments and living environments.

The results of these studies are not new—but in truth, conditions that seem to adversely impact Blacks as a group do not receive the same medical priority attention. The adverse impact of living while Black under racism has been taking its toll on the health of Black Americans for generations. We have the highest incidence of hypertension and diabetes than any other group in America, except possibly Native Americans (also a highly oppressed group). And while all people of African descent live with the stress of racism, Black women face intersecting systems of oppression that include gender alongside race.

“Racism and sexism are inextricably intertwined, combining into one hybrid force that is founded in the devaluing of (Black) women and racist perceptions of gender roles,” one group of scholars said in reporting research supported by the National Institute of Health. “Throughout history, essentializing and contradictory images of African American women have pervaded U.S. culture.”

There is virtually no safe place for Black women. It is our hope as a group that the genius and technology we have contributed to the shaping of American culture, despite the barriers constructed by racism, become permanently inscribed in America’s history. We are very much a part of the cultural and political DNA of this country, and have made significant contributions to America’s reputation as a world leader. We have kept this country on a path of moral righteousness that lives out the principles of its Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

We too sing: “America, we are its people.” We are contributors to this country’s genius. We are part of “we the people.” And we must stand strong against racism getting away with the murder of our Black mothers and infants.

This essay originally appeared in two parts on Insight News. Read them here and here. Republished with author permission.

Irma McClaurin is an award-winning columnist, activist anthropologist and consultant. She was associate vice president and founding executive director of the University of Minnesota’s first Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center from 2007-2010 and president of Shaw University from 2010-2011. 

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Celebrate More, Stress Less

For many people, the holidays are a time of joy and celebration. It’s a time when we focus on visiting with family and friends, sharing meals, and bundling up to enjoy winter activities. But for some, winter and the holiday season can bring increased stress — and too much stress can take a toll on both mind and body.

Here are 4 tips to help you stay ahead of seasonal stress:

  1. Don’t try to do it all. Going from event to event can be exhausting. Focus on traditions, people, and activities that truly bring you joy — and give yourself permission to skip the rest. Think quality, not quantity.
  1. Spend time and money wisely. Create a budget and stick to it. Consider asking people what they want instead of feeling like you have to spend hours searching for the perfect gifts.
  1. Let go of perfection. It’s okay if your house isn’t spotless and that things aren’t made from scratch. Give yourself a break — and ask for help often.
  1. Give yourself the gift of self-care. Prioritize workouts, healthy eating and getting enough rest. Maintain your routine and do things that make you happy.

Other self-care strategies, tools, resources and activities for a healthy state of mind are available on the Wellness Resources page on kp.org/mentalhealth.

And remember, sometimes holiday stress can trigger more serious issues — or make existing mental health conditions such as depression worse. Many people need extra support this time of year. If you need help, it is important to discuss any concerns with your primary care physician or a mental health specialist.

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How parents protect children from the long-term effects of stress

When young children experience violence or poverty, the effect can last well into adulthood. But new research suggests that a strong parental relationship could override some of these effects, by changing how children perceive the environmental cues that help them distinguish between what’s safe or dangerous.
Parenting News — ScienceDaily

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#Over40 – How To Stress Less This Holiday Season

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends and to anticipate the joy of family at Christmas and Kwanzaa due to your efforts. But it can also be the most stressful time of the year as many of us are cooking, cleaning, making travel plans for ourselves and others, and sometimes being forced to be around people for extended periods of time that we either have difficulty getting along with or unresolved issues with.

How can you keep the happy in Happy Holidays and truly enjoy your loved ones? Here’s our guide to how to make the holidays stress-free.

 

MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

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Is this your idea of the perfect Christmas family? But your family can barely be in one room together, never mind coordinate a whole photo shoot? Don’t let social media dictate how you enjoy your holidays. Yes, celebrities, reality TV stars and your irritating perfect neighbors with the annual Christmas light display look great…from the outside.

You don’t know their reality or what it took to get to that place. Don’t stress yourself if your family doesn’t wear matching pajamas or you don’t have a nuclear family unit. Just try to do your best to have a holiday you enjoy. If you’re alone, use the time to detox from social media and catch up on reading or rest. Or volunteer, which will go a long way towards lifting your spirits. If you’re facing a loss or other family crisis, don’t try to do too much, and focus your holiday on healing and uplifting each other, instead of going crazy buying gifts no one is in the mood to enjoy.

TAKE TIME FOR SELF:

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The holiday hustle can be taxing, but it’s still important to take time for self. If that means just shutting the bathroom door, turning off the phone and indulging in a good soak, a few hours at the golf course or getting a mani/pedi, make sure you schedule in that time. Once the holiday are in full swing, it will be harder to get that time so make sure you literally add it into your schedule.

EXERCISE

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It’s likely the last thing on your mind but exercise can help clear your head and reduce your holiday stress. If you already have a fitness regimen, try to add an extra session or do something different – a yoga or Pilates class or something else relaxing. Many cities and fitness places also offer meditation classes and sometimes they are free.

BE REALISTIC ABOUT MONEY

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If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. While you’re running around worrying about what to buy your kids, the lesson you might be teaching them is that material things are more important than love or family. If you know you can’t get every item on their list, pick one and encourage your children to do something as a family – maybe volunteer, or do something free – many cities have a schedule of Kwanzaa events that are low to no-cost.

Also, most cities have blocks that decorate their homes or light shows or similar events, that are also free. Remember that there is a reason for the season, and that reason is not just money, shopping and material things.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY

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Sometimes despite your best efforts, you can’t be with family during the holiday or they can’t be with you. That’s where Facebook Live, Instagram, group text and group Facetime comes in handy, along with newer options like Echo and Alexa, and Facebook’s new video chatting device, Portal. If you can’t all sit down to dinner, you can at least share some family time via these devices. You can also share photos with family via the Cloud if you have an iPhone or via Amazon Photo sharing. 

You can also post video on Instagram and on stories and tag each other to e-share the holiday.

DON’T FORGET DATE NIGHT

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No matter how stressed you get, make some time, if you have a significant other, to bond with that person, even if its just a Starbucks date. It will get you some alone time that doesn’t involve shopping, running errands or figuring out how to pay for the holidays. If you can’t get away together, try a staycation at a local hotel.

Or let your family have the house and you go to a hotel nearby. The important thing is to catch up and bond so you can share some of the stress. If you’re fortunate enough to have a good partner, enjoy him/her and don’t let that go no matter how busy the holiday gets.

PHOTO: ThinkStock


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If you are suffering from ‘stress brain,’ you might be making some bad financial decisions

To safeguard or drive financial portfolio gains, it's key to pay attention to how stress caused by everyday life affects our financial decision-making.
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Studies highlight lasting effects of early life stress on the genome, gut, and brain

Excessive stress during fetal development or early childhood can have long-term consequences for the brain, from increasing the likelihood of brain disorders and affecting an individual’s response to stress as an adult to changing the nutrients a mother may pass on to her babies in the womb. The new research suggests novel approaches to combat the effects of such stress, such as inhibiting stress hormone production or ‘resetting’ populations of immune cells in the brain.
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Kaiser Permanente Helps Oakland International Airport Passengers Reduce Stress and Maintain Good Mental Health

OAKLAND, Calif. — Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest integrated health care system, has introduced some practical and whimsical ways for passengers departing Terminal 2 at the Oakland International Airport to reduce the stress of air travel and encourage them to stay healthy this busy holiday travel season and beyond. This effort is part of nonprofit Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to the total health of body, mind and spirit of the communities it serves.

Portions of the security checkpoint at OAK Terminal 2 have been transformed to depict some of the most soothing aspects of nature, including the sights and sounds of a California redwood forest, a blue sky filled with clouds, and a 1,500-square foot “living wall” filled with plants that act as natural air filters.

“Our work with the Port of Oakland is a natural extension of our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve,” said Janet Liang, president, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “We understand people have an opportunity to experience good health habits where they live, work, play and in this case, travel. Our airport expression is another example of our commitment to creating positive environments throughout the Bay Area community Kaiser Permanente has called home for almost 75 years.”

The new features at OAK Terminal 2 include:

Living wall of plants with a sign that reads 'thrive - Kaiser Permanente'

Kaiser Permanente has installed a massive living wall at the Oakland International Airport that cleans the air naturally and helps reduce the stress of air travel for passengers.

The living wall: Taking up the entire west wall of the security checkpoint area, the wall contains 34 unique plant species, including 13 that, according to a NASA study, help clean indoor air naturally and improve the ambient environment. 

Bringing the outdoors in: Travelers are greeted by large white clouds suspended from the checkpoint and atrium ceiling. Soothing sounds of nature can be heard from speakers strategically placed near the checkpoint area. Messages on panels throughout the checkpoint encourage passengers to “breathe in,” “relax” and “thrive.”

H2O to go: Passengers will be able to refill their reusable bottles at new hydration stations, installed just past the security checkpoint. The stations dispense premium purified drinking water to help keep passengers hydrated before and during their flight.

These elements are all aimed at alleviating the anxiety, frustration and fear commonly felt by travelers, and they are part of a much broader effort by Kaiser Permanente to improve mental health and wellness in the communities it serves. This larger effort includes, but is not limited to, the Find Your Words public service campaign to de-stigmatize depression and Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools Program, which includes efforts to improve the emotional and social well-being of students and staff.

“Support for emotional health and well-being is built into Kaiser Permanente’s overall approach to total health,” said Don Mordecai, MD, the national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente. “Our goal with transforming Terminal 2 is to help improve the travel experience for people and to help them find a bit of calm in what can often be a stressful environment.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Kaiser Permanente’s contribution to the ongoing transformation of Terminal 2 at Oakland International Airport. This uplifting introduction at the screening checkpoint positively influences the early stages of the passenger experience,” said Bryant L. Francis, Port of Oakland director of aviation. “This addition at OAK creates a more relaxing environment for outbound travelers as well as the hundreds of employees based in Terminal 2.”

 

About Oakland International Airport
Oakland International is the fourth busiest airport in California and second busiest in the San Francisco Bay Area. Serving over 13 million travelers annually, OAK is the closest airport to the region’s top business and tourism venues. It is also the closest airport for most local residents. Oakland’s air service roster to over 60 nonstop destinations is offered on 12 different airline brands. The vision of Oakland International Airport is to offer customers a world-class experience and be the airport of choice for Bay Area residents and visitors alike. OAK is operated by the Port of Oakland, which also oversees the Oakland seaport and 20 miles of waterfront. Together with its business partners, the Port supports more than 73,000 jobs in the region and nearly 827,000 jobs across the United States.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 12.2 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.

 

The post Kaiser Permanente Helps Oakland International Airport Passengers Reduce Stress and Maintain Good Mental Health appeared first on Kaiser Permanente.

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Europe’s top banks ease past ECB’s latest stress tests; Barclays ranks lowest

Results of the stress test of Europe's bigger banks released Friday revealed that all of the financial institutions in the EU wide examination passed the European Central Bank's "adverse scenario".
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The stress pregnant immigrants face in America

The current political climate could be an added stress factor among pregnant immigrant women, experts say. One woman, who migrated to the US from Mexico nine years ago, shares her pregnancy journey and the complications she faced. Meanwhile, authorities warn there has been a concerning trend of “birth tourism” in America.


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