COVID-19 has ushered in an era of uncertainty—uncertainty about the future, yes, but also about how to help each other during these unprecedented times.
Hands down, the best way to help is by practicing social distancing.
But as we all shelter in place, many of us are wondering, “What else can I do? How can I support frontline workers? Should I sign petitions? Organize a fundraiser to purchase personal protective gear for local hospitals?”
Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Erik Vanderlip, weighs in with some answers:
Be emotionally available.
“There are several things you can do to help others right now, beyond social distancing,” says Dr. Vanderlip.
“First and foremost, take care of yourself and those close to you. We need to be extra sensitive to the emotional needs of our loved ones during this time—especially older relatives, and vulnerable people in your community. Talk to your parents, call extended family members, and frequently check in on friends who are self-isolating at home. “
LIMIT UNNECESSARY TRIPS.
Vanderlip also suggests doing everything you can to avoid unnecessary trips.
“We’re still seeing a lot of people on the streets, packing into grocery stores, and even flocking to the coast for weekend getaways. We should only be leaving our homes for essential activities.”
When it comes to grocery stores, Vanderlip says, “While you shouldn’t stockpile groceries, having some necessities on hand in your home—if you’re in a financial position to buy them—is something that can help you and others. That way, you won’t have to take frequent trips to the grocery store.”
“When thinking of ways to help, many people overlook their immediate circle of influence—their friends, family, and neighbors,” Vanderlip reflects.
“Everyone is super focused on raising money for masks and personal protective equipment—but there are probably people in your building or on your street that could use help. Do you have an elderly neighbor, for example? See if you can pick up cleaning supplies, groceries, and other other necessities for them. Help keep them safe by wearing gloves and leaving their packages outside the door.”
CITE YOUR SOURCES.
“Finally, don’t contribute to the spread of rumors or misinformation,” says Dr. Vanderlip.
“Conspiracy theories catch faster than COVID-19, but truth takes longer to spread. Before you share the salacious rumor you heard, check your sources and pause. Fear and misinformation lead to panic, chaos, and poor decision-making. During this time, it’s essential to focus on what we each can control and what we can’t.”
You know how when you hear a word over and over and over again, it begins to lose all meaning?
That’s probably how you feel about the term “social distancing” right now.
But, despite everyone being tired of hearing (and reading, and talking) about social distancing, no two words better explain what we need to do to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Social distancing is, perhaps, the most meaningful phrase of 2020.
One more time for the people in the back: What is social distancing?
As we’re sure you know by now, social distancing describes several precautions that can slow down the spread of COVID-19. These measures include staying home, avoiding crowds, and refraining from touching one another.
Why is social distancing so critical?
If COVID-19 continues to spread, unchecked by social distancing, there might not be enough hospital beds or respirators for those in need.
According to burgeoning research, coronavirus may be transmitted by carriers who are still healthy. That means everyone must practice social distancing—not just those who are sick. Full compliance will help vulnerable populations, such as older adults and immunocompromised individuals, from getting the virus.
We know that living like this is undeniably isolating and inconvenient, even if it’s for the greater good. To help you keep calm and social distance on that, we answered your most burning social distancing questions:
Can I leave my house during social distancing?
Yes. For sanity’s sake, it’s okay—and good—to go outdoors to get fresh air and exercise. The point is not to quarantine yourself, but to avoid close contact with others.
What does “close contact” mean, exactly? Just keep a full six feet away from other people as much as you can.
However, there are a few precautions you should take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
When you leave your home, avoid touching your face and wipe down any surfaces you come into contact with. If you’re out of your home for an extended period, periodically disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
And no matter what, practice impeccable hygiene: Wash your hands before you go out, while you’re out, and when you get home.
That said, you should still be extremely careful. Disinfect takeout containers upon their delivery, and wash your hands before tucking in.
Ordering takeout helps restaurants and delivery drivers earn much-needed income during the pandemic, so don’t refrain from treating yourself.
Is it okay to use public transportation?
Crowded buses and trains, with their oft-touched poles and communal benches, are fertile breeding grounds for germs. To minimize your risk of infection, you should avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
However, if you need to use public transportation to get to work, be sure to carry disinfecting wipes to clean seats and handles, and wash your hands as soon as your commute is over.
Can I go to the grocery store?
Yes, and doing so is likely unavoidable. However, you should try to be strategic about your shopping trips. Pick a time when the store is least likely to be busy, such early morning or late at night. And—without giving in to the urge to panic buy— purchase as much as you’re able to at a time, to minimize your number of trips.
While shopping, remember that surfaces in the store may be contaminated. If possible, use a disinfecting wipe to clean the handle of your grocery cart—and as always, keep your hands away from your face. When you get home, wash your hands immediately.
If you buy fruits and veggies, be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating.
Are you over 60, or immunocompromised? You may want to try and avoid shopping trips altogether, if you can help it. Try shopping oline
What about going to the doctor?
Unless you have an urgent medical issue, you should probably avoid going into the doctor’s office.
However, you can seek out virtual and telehealth options that don’t require an in-person appointment.
At ZOOM+Care, we’re currently asking all patients to start their care by connecting with a provider through Phone or via ChatCare. We will treat what we can remotely, but—if our providers feel it’s medically necessary—can get you scheduled for in-person visit, as well.
Phone and Chat visits will go a long way in minimizing the risk of exposing yourself or others through in-person contact.
Can my friends come over?
We know it’s difficult, but visitors aren’t a great idea right now. This is especially important if you or someone you live with is at high risk, or you live in a communal setting like a nursing home or group home.
Social distancing can be lonely, so it’s important to maintain connections during this time. Try getting creative with technology: Schedule dinners parties via Skype, host a movie marathon on Zoom conferencing, or play games with friends online.
If your mental health is suffering as a result of social distancing, consider consulting with our doctors via ChatCare or booking a Phone visit with one of our Mental Health providers. We can explore your options for treatment and guide you towards the best solution for your mental health.
When I leave the house, do I need to wear a face mask? Will it protect me from getting the virus?
Not necessarily—and unless you’re sick or caring for someone who is, you probably shouldn’t wear one.
Masks are effective at capturing droplets, which are the main source of transmission for coronavirus. If you are in close contact with an infected person, a mask may reduce your chances of contracting the disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are showing symptoms, you should make every effort to isolate yourself from others who feel well.
However, masks don’t protect healthy people from coming into contact with those germs. Because COVID-19 can live on surfaces for days, a mask will make little difference if going to the grocery store or taking a bus.
What’s more, face masks are in short supply. We should save them for healthcare providers and people experiencing upper respiratory symptoms.
Do I need to stay six feet away from my spouse—or even my children?
Not unless either of you is showing symptoms of sickness.
Under most circumstances, if you and your loved ones are living in the same home, you don’t need to stay six feet away from them. (And let’s be real: doing so would be virtually impossible.) However, limit excessive physical contact as much as possible.
We’re practicing social distancing, too. If you or a loved one needs care during this turbulent time, please connect with us via Phone or via ChatCare before coming into a clinic. We appreciate your understanding as we all do our part to curb the spread of COVID-19.
To say these are strange times is an understatement. Cities are eerily still and silent, their streets as empty as Christmas day. Restaurants and bars are shutting down, no longer emitting their friendly nighttime buzz. Store shelves are empty, or nearly so, stripped of everyday essentials like hand soap and toilet paper.
The sights, sounds, and sensations of the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented, except in fiction—and with so much uncertainty comes certain anxiety.
Psychologists define anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” Unlike fear, which is an emotional response to a definite threat, anxiety is our brain’s response to an unknown danger. Anxiety crops up when we don’t have enough information to predict the future accurately.
With a global pandemic permeating the consciousness, it can be challenging to stay calm. It’s even more difficult because the situation is so new and unfamiliar. In essence, there is no framework to help us navigate these uncertain times.
If you’re feeling worried and overcome with “what if” thinking right now, know that you’re not alone. However, if your anxiety has turned into feelings of helplessness or panic, it’s important to find ways to relieve stress, soothe yourself, and relax.
Next time your brain starts spinning out of control, quell your anxiety with these bite-sized tips:
Remind yourself it’s okay to feel anxious
In the words of Carl Jung, “What you resist persists.”
It’s a bit of a paradox, but the more we deny our anxious feelings, the more worried we become. Instead of shoving your worry aside or berating yourself for feeling panicked, take a step back, and recognize that your anxiety serves a purpose.
Fear and anxiety are evolutionary adaptations of the human brain. They motivate us to prepare for potential threats. (Think of it this way: If you didn’t have any anxiety before a test, you wouldn’t study—right?)
In the context of COVID-19, anxiety urges you to take necessary safety precautions to protect yourself and your family.
Being aware of your anxiety (and the purpose it serves) may help you manage your symptoms better.
Next time you feel worried, don’t push your anxious feelings aside. Instead, allow your anxious thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations to wash over you. Practice tolerating uncertainty, allowing your anxiety to be present while reminding yourself that anxiety is an integral part of the human experience.
Flip the off switch
In times of crisis, we all want to stay up to date—but there’s a fine line between being informed and becoming obsessed. If your COVID media consumption borders on compulsive, you’re likely fueling the fire of anxiety.
When the news leaves you overwhelmed, try implementing a digital detox. Allocate strict limits for engaging with COVID content. Tell yourself, “I’m going to check the news once in the morning and once in the evening. I’m going to find out what’s happening today, what the guidelines are. Then I’m going to shut myself off from any COVID-19 media.”
If you’re anxious about missing important updates, you can always ask friends and family to contact you in the event of an emergency.
Stay off social
Social media can keep us connected during times of isolation. However, sites like Facebook and Twitter may also exacerbate our anxiety by exposing us to extreme opinions, conspiracy theories, and misinformation.
If you find yourself growing anxious as you read updates, put down your phone, or walk away from your computer. (Some social media platforms even have built-in tools to help users manage their time.)
Get some exercise
(Even if it’s just a dance party in your bedroom.)
Study after study shows that physical activity reduces anxiety. Aerobic exercise reduces the body’s stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and helps you channel your anxiety elsewhere. Physical activity also stimulates the production of endorphins, your body’s natural mood elevator.
Practicing social distancing? Skip the gym and opt for a solo activity instead: a hike, a run through the park, or bike ride. (Bonus: Studies show that getting outdoors may also boost your mood and improve mental health.) If you’re cautious about going outdoors, there is no shortage of exercises you can do indoors: yoga, squats, jumping rope, running stairs, and even following a video.
Limit alcohol consumption
When confined to your home for long periods, it’s easy to indulge in self-destructive behaviors such as heavy alcohol consumption.
While a glass of wine (or two) may be calming in the moment, alcohol is a depressant. It changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. What’s more, as your body processes alcohol, you may feel edgy, irritable, and stressed for several hours—even an entire day.
Ditch Dr. Google
If you suffer from health anxiety, Dr. Google is not your friend—especially right now.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, which—as you likely know—apply to many diseases, including the common cold. Long story short? It’s impossible to diagnose yourself with COVID-19 via Google.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus and would like guidance from a real doctor, we’re here to help. Currently, we’re offering cost-free COVID-19 risk assessment and advice virtually, via ChatCare.
Use some tried-and-tested relaxation techniques
Whether it’s simple meditation exercises, controlled breathing, or self-compassion practices, mindfulness offers a quick and effective anxiety relief.
One method we love? Equal breathing, also known as box or square breathing. You can practice this technique from a sitting or lying-down position. Here’s how:
Close your eyes. Breathe normally for several breaths, being mindful of the feelings of fullness and emptiness in your lungs
Next, slowly count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale through your nose
Then, exhale, keeping the same four-second count.
As you inhale and exhale, pay close attention to the feeling of your breath entering and exiting your lungs.
After a few minutes, you should be feeling calmer and more centered.
Want to try other relaxation techniques? Several apps can help you practice paced breathing for stress relief, such as Calm and Headspace.
Keep family and friends close—even from afar
According to research, close relationships with family and friends are good for our overall health and happiness. If social distancing is triggering your anxiety, connecting with loved ones via phone or video Facetime may help ease loneliness.
During these conversations, try not to amplify each other’s worries and fears. Instead, we recommend chatting about non-Covid-related topics, finding opportunities to laugh and to restore a much-needed sense of normalcy.
However, if a friend or family member is contributing or exacerbating your anxiety, you may want to take a small break from them. It’s okay (and not at all selfish) to protect yourself from anyone who’s catastrophizing and increasing your stress.
Another way to feel more connected during social distancing? Look out for opportunities to help your neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers. Whether it’s dropping groceries outside someone’s door or coordinating childcare, helping others gives us a sense of purpose—and takes our minds off of our worries for a while.
Seek professional help if you need it
If you’re already vulnerable to anxiety and depression, you may find the coronavirus pandemic completely overwhelming. If you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms that interfere with your work, maintaining close relationships, or taking care of yourself, we’re here for you.
Consider consulting with our doctors via ChatCare or booking a visit with one of our Mental Health providers. Either way, we can guide you towards the best solution for your mental health.
Because virtual options are by far the safest, most efficient way to address your healthcare needs, we’re asking our patients to start their care by connecting with a provider through a Phone Visit, or via ChatCare™.Schedule a visit today.
But even though women outnumber men in the healthcare workforce, they’re still held back from attaining positions of power in the medical world. (In fact, at the top 100 U.S. hospitals, women make up only 27% of hospital boards.)
Today is International Women’s Day, and this year’s message is #EachforEqual. It challenges us to take action for equity, and think about how each one of us can help create a more gender-equal world.
At ZOOM+Care, gender equality is something we strive for daily. We believe that diverse perspectives breed innovation, and because of that, female-identifying employees play a vital role within our company.
Currently, over 71% of ZOOM+Care’s workforce is female-identifying, and four out of ten of our senior leaders are women. While we’re proud of these numbers, we realize there is room for improvement.
This International Women’s Day, we’re committing to recruit, nurture, and advance Zoomers of all genders to positions of leadership within our company.
What’s more, we promise to honor, empower, and amplify the voices of every female-identified person here—not just today, but every day.
To further celebrate the women of Zoom this International Women’s Day, we sat down with Dr. Kelli Westcott (an M.D. of Emergency Medicine at ZOOM+Super). Read on to hear her perspective on being a woman in the healthcare industry, what challenges she faces, and how Zoom helps her achieve a healthy work/life balance.
1. Hi Kelly! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Can you tell us about what it’s like to work in the medical industry as a woman?
It is great fun! I chose to specialize in Emergency Medicine, which is, by far, the best team sport in medicine. I learned early on that I would be called the Registration Lady or the Nurse in the ED—even with an M.D. badge and a stethoscope around my neck. My initial indignation quickly gave way to the realization that I had no time to argue about job assumptions and gender stereotypes. If I have to remind the patient that I am their doctor, and the man in the room is actually their nurse, no problem. When I run a Code, the team knows who the doctor is, and we all work together to ensure the best outcomes. Gender bias is certainly not isolated to female physicians, and I have observed a shift toward more acceptance of female physicians during my years in practice.
2. What challenges do you face?
My initial challenge as a female physician was deciding how I was going to respond to gender bias when it cropped up. I served in the U.S. Navy as a physician after medical school and was told a number of times that females should not be allowed to be officers in the military or that enlisted personnel should have to take orders from officers. These are not fun experiences, but they certainly taught me resilience. Over time I have crafted responses that I hope are neither tolerant nor angry—usually with some humor. Some examples:
A patient says, “What, YOU are the doctor??” Me: “Yes! Can you believe they let girls into Medical School now?”
I have also done a full history and physical, given orders and placed a central line, and the patient asks, “When will the doctor be coming in?” It is very fun to smile and let them know I have been there all along.
3. What is your favorite part of working at ZOOM+Care?
ZOOM+Care has been a fantastic work experience for me. I love working with all the brilliant millennial minds who make Super run smoothly. Mark Zeitzer and Tony Westover hired me, and I have been treated as a physician and colleague from day one. The example that they and other ZOOM+Care leaders set ensures that Zoom+Care lives gender equality and inclusivity.
4. Is it easy or difficult to find work/life balance in your career at ZOOM+Care? How so?
Work-life balance is what we choose. When we enjoy what we do, and we love coming to work every day, we take that joy home to our families. ZOOM+Care definitely is a “joy” job, and my work-life balance is enriched because of it.
5. How does ZOOM+Care benefit you in your career?
ZOOM+Care Super shifts allow me to treat patients the way I want to be treated—seeing Sarah’s quickly, ensuring they get the right care in a short amount of time, getting them the meds they need within minutes, and not hours, of their arrival.
I have also worked in very busy urban Emergency Departments, where ambulance patients wait on gurneys in the hall for hours, all rooms are full, and the waiting room is packed with frustrated and anxious souls. By the time I see many of these patients, they spend the first few minutes of our encounter complaining about their wait time, and I spend a few more minutes apologizing. This never happens at Super. Instead, I get to hear Sarah’s surprise that she is roomed quickly and often has an IV in, labs drawn, and meds are given within minutes of arrival. These interactions bring me joy and career satisfaction.
Let’s all be #EachforEqual. Learn more about the mission of International Women’s Day (and how you can participate) here.
If there were a vaccine that could ward off STIs and cancers, people would line up for it—right?
You’d think the answer to that question would be, unequivocally, “yes!” And yet, plenty of folks say “no” to a vaccine that prevents the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, or HPV.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. (It’s so prevalent, in fact, nearly 80% of people will get in their lifetimes.) Human papillomavirus is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers, and can also lead to cancers of the throat, vulva, vagina, penis or anus.
Luckily, there’s a vaccine for that.
Gardasil 9, the HPV vaccine approved by the FDA in 2014, prevents infection from the HPV types that cause over 90% of these cancers. It also guards against two strains that are responsible for the majority of genital warts.
Since most adults have already been exposed to HPV, the vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 or 12. However, it can be given as early as age nine—and as late as 26. (Some doctors even recommend it for people as old as 45.)
Despite its overwhelming safety and efficacy, fewer than half of American adolescents have been fully vaccinated against HPV. And while adoption is low for a variety of reasons, myths, misinformation, lack of knowledge about the vaccine still are a huge contributing factor.
To help clear the air about this important and potentially life-saving vaccination, we sat down with Dr. Lisa Taublee, a member of Zoom’s Women’s Health Team. Read on to learn more about the vaccine, who it’s for (spoiler: it’s not just for girls!), and why you should consider it for yourself or your child.
1. Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about HPV vaccinations today. CaN You Tell us WHAT HPV is?
Human papillomavirus, known as HPV, is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. There are hundreds of different strains that infect different areas of the body—some may cause warts on the hands and feet, while others may infect the mucous membranes such as the genitals and cervix in women. The strains of HPV that are considered to be high-risk can cause certain types of cancer such as cervical cancer.
2. How common is the virus?
It’s estimated that about 80% of sexually active men and women will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives—though many experts believe that all sexually active adults have been infected at some point in their lives
3. How does HPV spread?
HPV is sexually transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact—unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
4. What are the risk factors of HPV?
The risk factors of HPV are dependent upon a patient’s number of sexual partners, as well as their age. If they start having sex earlier, they’re more susceptible to infection.
5. What are some common misconceptions about HPV?
There’s a perception that men are not affected by (HPV) because they can be asymptomatic. The truth is, men and women alike can be exposed to the virus. Even though men might not show symptoms, they play a key role in the transmission of HPV to women.
It’s also important to note that there is no currently approved test for HPV in men.
7. What is the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is a series of three injections over the course of six months. At ZOOM+Care, we use a vaccine called Gardasil 9. It protects against nine strains of the virus, mostly targeting the high-risk strains that can cause certains types of cancer
8. Why are HPV vaccines important and what are the benefits?
To put it simply, HPV vaccination is cancer prevention. The HPV virus is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S., and the vaccine can prevent more than 32,000 of these cancers from ever developing.
9.Who can benefit from the HPV vaccine? Is it just for women?
The HPV vaccine benefits both males and females. It’s recommended to begin vaccination at age 11 or 12, but it’s approved through age 45.
11. Are there any side effects of the HPV vaccine?
The side effects associated with the HPV vaccination are injection site reactions, as well as possible headaches, nausea, fevers, and dizziness.
12. Are there any myths about the HPV vaccine?
There is a stigma surrounding the HPV vaccine because it targets an infection that is sexually transmitted—and it’s typically given to children who are not yet sexually active. Parents don’t like to think about the fact that their child will eventually be sexually active, but the point vaccinating early is to administer the vaccine well before sexual activity begins. It’s the best way to protect children from life-threatening cancers later on.
Many parents also have concerns that vaccination would encourage or support youth promiscuity, a belief which is not supported by data.
13. What else can you do to Prevent HPV?
Barrier methods, such as condoms, are a form of birth control that can prevent infection—though it isn’t 100% guaranteed to be effective. 1
Studies also show that having an IUD may lower person’s risk of cervical cancer by helping to fight off an HPV infection.
14. Can people already infected by HPV benefit from vaccination?
People already infected by HPV can still benefit from vaccination. There are several strains of the virus that this vaccine provides immunity against—so someone that’s been exposed to one strain can still prevent contraction of strains they have not yet been exposed to.
FROM THOUGHT LEADERS TO PART-TIME YOGA INSTRUCTORS TO MUSICIANS-ON-THE-SIDE, WE HAVE SOME INCREDIBLY TALENTED (AND INTENSELY INTERESTING!) FOLKS WORKING AT ZOOM+CARE. #TOGETHERWEZOOM IS OUR MONTHLY EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT, DESIGNED TO CELEBRATE THESE INDIVIDUALS. THROUGH IT, WE HOPE TO SHINE A LIGHT ON THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE SCENES, WORKING HARD TO SHAPE THE FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE.
In case our ten brand-spanking-new clinics haven’t tipped you off, we’re growing—and fast. But all those shiny new clinics? They need hardworking, passionate people to run them.
Enter Zoom’s Talent Acquisition team: the secret weapon behind our rapid growth.
Having the right people is vital to our success, and our recruiters are adept at finding candidates with the right skill set, and—most importantly—the right drive and personality to deliver the outstanding service you deserve.
As demand for ZOOM+Care increases, so will our presence in PNW neighborhoods—which means our recruiters have been (and will continue to be) busting their butts. So, in celebration of all the hard work they do, we sat down with one of our Talent Acquisition all-stars, Megan Simmons.
While Megan has only been with us since July 2019, she’s already had an incredible impact on ZOOM+Care. (Fun fact: she recently won a Zoomie Award for “Most Quality Hires.”)
Effusive, quick-witted, and a keen judge of character, Megan brightens our office with her smile and sly sense of humor every day. Get to know more about her below:
what inspires you most about your work?
Working at a company that is so mission-driven is powerful. We are working to improve healthcare accessibility and change the way that healthcare has traditionally operated. I get to hire incredibly talented people that will ultimately bring patient care into communities in Portland and Seattle and there is literally nothing cooler.
What advice do you have for prospective candidates?
Do your research! We hire learners here at ZOOM+Care and want professionals who are excited to learn and grow with us. Show me you are adaptable, direct, and transparent.
What are three words you would use to describe ZOOM+Care?
Fast, Transparent, and Innovative.
What is your favorite ZOOM+Care perk or benefit?
Working with smart, hard-working coworkers who also enjoy the chicken strips at River Pig is a huge highlight.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I enjoy waiting in lines because it builds anticipation. Waiting in line for a table at a restaurant? Don’t threaten me with a good time!
WANT A JOB THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE? WE’RE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR TALENTED, CREATIVE, AND PASSIONATE PEOPLE TO HELP US FIX HEALTHCARE. EXPLORE OPEN OPPORTUNITIES.
Is there any holiday more divisive than Valentine’s Day? For many, it’s a day to rekindle romance and spend an evening with someone special. For others, an excuse to celebrate all the love they feel, whether it’s love for friends, family members, or even four-legged companions. And for some, Valentine’s Day is just plain difficult—a glaring pink-and-red reminder of all their romantic disappointments.
Whether you recently suffered a breakup, have a one-sided crush, or are experiencing hardcore Tinder fatigue, February 14th is likely to trigger some painful emotions. So, what should we do when everything is not coming up roses on V-Day?
Science has a suggestion: Instead of focusing on romantic relationships, try showing love to yourself this Valentine’s Day.
But, despite evidence that practicing self-compassion is beneficial, many are resist practicing it. Some of us have a deeply rooted belief that negative self-talk is motivating—that it pushes us to work harder, perform better, and achieve our goals. Others worry that self-compassion is a form of weakness and self-indulgence. Many believe it’s a selfish act that will undermine motivation.
The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth, however. Research shows that being kind to ourselves helps us become stronger, more resilient, and less focused on personal issues. According to a 2011 paper published in Psychological Science, it can even help us overcome adversity. The study indicated that higher levels of self-compassion were related to improved emotional recovery following marital separation and divorce. In another study, veterans who measured higher on the self-compassion scale were less likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
So, how do we learn to practice the invaluable art of self-love and compassion? Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research and Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, describes self-compassion as a three-step process:
Self-kindness. Chances are, you have a voice inside your head telling you how worthless, dumb, or inadequate you are. Self-kindness is all about replacing harsh self-criticism with kinder, gentler words. Instead of telling yourself, “I’m so unlovable. I’m going to be alone forever,” say “I’m lonelier than I’d like to be. Maybe now is the time to find ways to connect with others.”
Common humanity. Acknowledge that suffering is a universal experience and not a personal failure. Tell yourself, “Everyone gets lonely sometimes. I’m not the only person who feels down today.”
Mindfulness. Observe your negative emotions without focusing on them or suppressing them. Simply tell yourself, “I’m feeling sad and lonely today, and I’m having a hard time.”
We understand that self-compassion seems strange and unnatural at first, so we’ve compiled a few simple exercises to get you started. Go on, send some of that loving-kindness your way this V-Day:
4 Strategies for Self-Compassion
1. Ask yourself, “Would I talk to a friend this way?”
Think about a time a friend came to you for help after failing or getting rejected. How did you respond to them? What words did you choose? What tone of voice did you use when speaking with them?
Now, think of a similar situation in which you were struggling, and compare your two answers. Were you as kind to yourself as you were to your friend?
Chances are, you’d never talk to a friend the way your inner voice speaks to you.
2. Give yourself a loving touch.
It feels good to receive a warm hug or comforting touch when you’re upset, right? While this exercise might seem silly, trying giving yourself a soothing touch next time you feel down. Place one hand over your heart, hug or gently rock your body, or simply hold your hands together in your lap.
According to Dr. Neff, “research indicates that physical touch releases oxytocin provides a sense of security, soothes distressing emotions and calms cardiovascular stress.”
3. Memorize a set of compassionate phrases.
When you find yourself caught in a barrage of self-criticism, close your eyes, and acknowledge your suffering. Say to yourself, “I feel sad. This is a difficult situation, and I’m having a hard time.” Then, remind yourself that everyone struggles. Say, “Sadness is part of life. Everyone feels this way sometimes. I’m not alone.”
Now, replace your negative self-talk with words of kindness. “May I be kind to myself. May I forgive myself. May I be strong. May I accept myself as I am.”
4. Write yourself a self-compassion letter
If you’re struggling with self-compassion, take some time to write yourself a short, encouraging letter. Here’s how:
Think of something that you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. It could be related to your personality, the way you behave, or your relationships.
Once you identify something, describe how it makes you feel. Ashamed? Sorrowful? Angry? Try and be as honest with yourself as possible.
Next, write yourself a letter expressing compassion for parts of yourself that you dislike. Take the perspective of a caring friend, and imagine the encouraging things they might say to you in this situation.
Save the letter, and come back to it when you need a reminder to be self-compassionate.
While self-compassion is a useful tool for boosting happiness, it’s important to stay in tune with yourself and identify when you need expert advice. If you or someone you know needs guidance this Valentine’s Day (and beyond), we’re here.
Toddler-sized teddy bears, chalky-tasting conversation hearts, a stress-inducing color palette: There are a lot of things we love to hate about Valentine’s Day. But, at its core, V-Day is not a holiday about roses, or even romance. It’s about love. And there’s a lot to love about love—especially when it comes to your mental and physical health.
According to a growing body of scientific research, love boasts some exciting health benefits. So, in honor of Valentine’s day, we’re examining the ways in which loving relationships (and not just romantic ones, either) can help your mind and body. Read on for four reasons to share the love this February—and beyond:
1. Love pushes you to take better care of yourself.
It may seem obvious, but having a loving partner pushes you to take better care of your health.
Because there’s a lot of denial surrounding medical illness, single individuals may be more likely to shrug off their symptoms. Loving partners encourage each other to go to the doctor—even when they don’t want to. Moreover, couples can often tell if their significant other is suffering from a health problem before their S.O. does.
Beyond helping you spot serious health conditions, your romantic partner may help you change your unhealthy habits. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, both men and women were around 40% more likely to increase the amount of exercise they got when their partner did. The same findings applied to smokers: People were also about 40% more likely to ditch cigarettes when their partner quit as well. Now that’s what we call teamwork.
2. Love can lower your blood pressure.
It should come as no surprise that being close to your loved one can make you feel calmer, safer, and more secure. But did you know that loving feelings can have physical effects, too, such as improving cardiovascular health?
The study discovered that—when it comes to your body’s cardiovascular response to stressful situations—thinking about your significant other can keep your blood pressure under control just as effectively as having them in the room with you. Guess it really is the thought that counts!
3. Love can boost self-esteem and mental well-being.
For the study, researchers interviewed 256 women between the ages of 20 and 45. They inquired about a series of topics, including their relationship status, happiness within the relationship, weight, diet, self-consciousness, body image, and self-esteem.
The conclusion? Being in a loving relationship really does impact your self-esteem. No matter how close a woman was to her target weight, being a part of a self-reported satisfying relationship was linked to having a higher self-image.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that this study was correlational—it didn’t prove cause and effect. But it makes sense that having a loving partner might make you feel good about yourself, right?
4. Loving relationships may help you live longer.
There’s a whole slew of research showing that married people are likely to live longer, giving new meaning to the phrase “’til death do us part.”
Research suggests that these longevity benefits are not from marriage itself, but rather from having consistent, loving social and emotional support. In 2010, a review of 148 studies showed that longer lifespans were linked to ALL close social relationships—not just romantic ones. That means the love you experience from your friends and families is good for your health, too.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting: The latest ‘must-try’ diet trend that promises to curb hunger pangs and help you shed extra pounds.
Amid the deafening buzz of celebrity endorsements, it can be tempting to dismiss fasting as yet another ineffective fad. However, doing so might be a mistake.
Turns out, intermittent fasting is one fad diet that seems to be backed by real science. According to a review published by the New England Journal of Medicine, there are links between fasting and improvements in cognitive and physical performance, cardiovascular health, and symptoms of diabetes and obesity.
But—before you skip breakfast—it’s important to get the facts. We sat down with Zoom’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Benjamin Burton, to get some answers to your most burning intermittent fasting questions. Read on to hear his take on the dietary trend.
1. Hey Dr. Burton! Thanks for taking the time to talk intermittent fasting with us. Let’s cover the basics first: what is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a diet philosophy that entails scheduling specific periods where eating will be significantly limited or avoided all-together.
Several different schedules can be incorporated with the intermittent fasting diet. One popular approach is to pick a couple of days a week where food is significantly restricted (something like eating only about ¼ of what you usually would need in a day) and then eating a normal, balanced diet the other days of the week.
The other approach is to pick a specific period every day to abstain from eating. This is often done in 12 or 16 hour periods. For example, only eating from 7 am to 7 pm daily and fasting for the remaining 12 hours. Or fasting from 11 am to 7 pm and fasting the remaining 16 hours.
2. Why is intermittent fasting so popular?
Dieting is intensely personal, and everyone has different needs. Making healthy food choices can be difficult, time-consuming, and exhausting for some. Sometimes, it’s just easier to decide to not eat at all for an extended period. This helps simplify things for a lot of people. For some people the eating pattern is much more intuitive and easier to follow.
Fasting is gaining popularity in the medical field because there is some evidence that there are a number of health benefits beyond just weight loss. It seems to have additional value in preventing or treating diabetes. Most weight loss programs improve blood sugar, but intermittent fasting can potentially improve blood sugar before a significant amount of weight is lost.
3. Is it safe?
Intermittent fasting, as it is laid out in most mainstream programs, is quite safe. As with anything, if taken to an extreme can become unhealthy. Generally, fasting for more than 24 hours should be done with caution, and fasting for more than 72 hours should be avoided. In any fasting scenario, it is important to stay hydrated. I recommend that most periods of fasting be a “water fast,” meaning abstaining from food but still drinking water. This allows for the benefits of a caloric restriction but protects against dehydration.
4. Are there any myths about intermittent fasting? If so, what are they?
I’m not sure there are many myths, but there are some claims that are not fully scientifically validated yet. These include claims that intermittent fasting will improve sleep, prevent dementia, and prevent cancer. These claims may all be true, but we haven’t fully validated these claims in human research.
5. Are there side effects?
Food provides essential glucose and electrolytes (like potassium and sodium) that we need on a daily basis. The human body has mechanisms that monitor and maintain normal levels of glucose and electrolytes even when a person isn’t eating. However, people that take medications that affect blood sugar (diabetes medication) or medications that affect electrolytes (mainly blood pressure medication) should discuss fasting with their doctor before starting. There are also rare diseases that would prohibit some people from fasting, but generally, these individuals are well aware they should avoid fasting.
6. What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
The biggest benefits that are currently well-validated are weight loss and improved blood sugar control.
7. Will fasting improve overall health?
Intermittent fasting certainly has the potential to improve health. For many people, losing just 10% of their excess weight can result in significant health benefits.
8. Is there a right or wrong way to intermittently fast?
Dieting is an incredibly personal thing. I recommend beginning with a well established intermittent fasting routine. Once a person is comfortable with that, they can try modifying it a little to suit their life situation better. I would discourage extreme fasting for most people. (e.g., fasting beyond 24 hours).
9. Is intermittent fasting for everyone?
No, a hundred times no.
If anyone could find a diet that is safe and effective for the majority of the population, they should get a Noble Prize. Intermittent fasting requires a lot of meal planning and diverging from traditional mealtime routines. It is hard for some people to do this in a typical 8-hour workday if they don’t have a lot of flexibility regarding meal times. There are a lot of other barriers that can really make this program difficult.
10. How many days, if any, are recommended to intermittently fast each week?
There are several different programs. The most popular one currently is a daily 16:8 routine where a person fasts for 16 hours and eats for 8.
11. Is intermittent fasting an effective form of dieting?
It can be. The value of any diet program is calorie restriction and food tracking. Intermittent fasting seems to really click for some people and help them control their food intake.
12. Will intermittent fasting promote weight and/or fat loss?
Intermittent fasting has been found to promote weight loss.
13. Will intermittent fasting put the body into starvation mode?
The “starvation mode” is an interesting theory, and maybe a myth in first world countries. There is an unhealthy starvation state that is achieved with extreme starvation. This requires a level of food deprivation that is generally only seen in severe poverty or inhumane treatment of prisoners. Some diet philosophies like frequent small meals to “keep the metabolism going” or restricting too much and putting the body in a “starvation mode” aren’t really well validated. More likely, people that over restrict put themselves into a restrict/binge pattern. While these people have periods of little food intake, they then slip and binge, thus overeating in the long run. Intermittent fasting directly challenges these “starvation mode” theories, and to some degree, seems to discredit them. Finding the right balance is tricky. It is important to monitor and be purposeful about eating. There is a difference between intermittent fasting and a binge/restrict pattern of eating.
14. What is the protocol on exercise while intermittently fasting?
Exercise, like dieting, is intensely personal. Intermittent fasting is generally used to lose weight. Exercise programs targeted at weight loss would be congruent with intermittent fasting. If someone is exercising to train for an endurance activity or gain muscle mass, intermittent fasting can be used, but this would require a high level of planning and coordination. This would require a lot of individualized research and maybe coordination with health professionals like trainers and nutritionists.
WANT EXPERT GUIDANCE ON YOUR WELLNESS JOURNEY? ZOOM+CARE’S INTERNAL MEDICINE IS HERE TO HELP. SCHEDULE NOW.
A lot has been said about our business model, our proprietary technology, and our innovative approach to care. But make no mistake: Our people are the most important component of our success. Always willing to go the extra mile for our patients, this big-hearted group of professionals is what makes us…well, zoom! Our monthly employee spotlight is dedicated to celebrating the incredible work our employees do inside of Zoom—and the lives they lead outside it.
In December 2019, a long-held goal of ours was finally realized: We launched ZOOM+Care Mental Health in Seattle.
Similarly to Oregon, patients seeking mental-health treatment in Washington can face long wait times and limited options. Our newly-opened Bellevue & 4th Street Clinic helps fill a critical need by providing quality, accessible mental healthcare to East Seattle residents.
Leading the charge at Bellevue & 4th is Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey: An experienced Doctor of Nursing Practice and Psychiatric Mental Health NP. (Officially, her title is DNP ARNP PMHNP-BC. Say that tens times fast!)
Keep reading to learn more about Ebony’s passion for helping others, her advice for prospective ZOOM+Care candidates, and her proudest moment on the job so far.
What inspires you most about your work?
My spirituality is the deepest part of me. It is my internal motivation. It helps me give all of myself clinically to each person trusting me to make sense of their story. I value, metaphorically the books called “people” I have read and will continue to read on my journey. Their stories mean everything to me.
What advice do you have for prospective candidates?
Love what you do, as people from all walks of life are trusting you to make sense of their life’s artwork. Stare at their life’s painting and help them understand that all of the markings are not permanent. Some markings will fade away in conversation, others with medication, but most of them will become less meaningful with time.
What are three words you would use to describe ZOOM+Care?
Cutting-edge, daring, and impactful.
What is your favorite Thing about our approach to care?
Zoom’s presence inside local communities makes care local and accessible.
What is your proudest moment at ZOOM+Care?
Anytime a patient returns to tell me about what has changed in their life for the better.
Doyou enjoy helping others on their journey to better health? We’re hiring!