Author Archives: Kirsten Chapman

What Is Tapping? How Emotional-Freedom Technique Is the Perfect Stress-Reliever for Moms (or really anyone)

These are stressful times for all of us. I feel like all of my friends report high anxiety, sadness and trouble sleeping. Most news reports support this same trend. Tapping is an interesting technique that, I admit, I always forget about when I am stressed… then I read something that reminds me about tapping and I think, “I really have to use that stress reliever more often.” I found this article and it was a good reminder (again). Let me know if it helps you! ~Kirsten

San Diego-based Irina Jordan is the CMO for concussion-assessment technology company ImPACT Applications Inc. Married with three children, she, like other working moms, deals with her share of anxiety. She felt like she was always on a quest for a healthy stress reliever. Last year, she found a fix almost accidentally.

Irina, who is a fan of author Gabrielle Bernstein, was watching one of her YouTube videos when she “noticed her doing this tapping thing when she was talking,” Irina says. “Tapping her head. Tapping her face. I did a Google search and found she had made videos about that tapping. I watched them, did more research, and decided to try tapping on my own.”

Irina found more tapping how-to videos on YouTube and started practicing the technique a few days later. She hasn’t stopped since. She even taught her children—ages 8, 11 and 14—as well as a community of local businesswomen. “I use it whenever I feel triggered. Maybe I just had a meeting with a colleague and now I feel anxious, so I tap to make that anxiety go away,” she says. She also sometimes taps preemptively. “If I anticipate a stressful conference call, I will tap beforehand.”

Working moms experience a drop in their well-being when they feel inadequate and under pressure, according to research published in the Springer Journal of Happiness Studies. That affects how they interact with their children. Add the pressure of working while caregiving during the COVID-19 era— and not having access to the usual stress relievers, such as hitting the gym or going out with friends—tapping might be the mental-health helper you need now.

A Touching Technique

Tapping, otherwise known as emotional-freedom technique for its anxiety-reducing effect, is a self-help strategy that has people literally tapping on their bodies, homing in on specific acupuncture points on the hand, face, head and upper body. As the tapping takes place, it affects a part of the brain called the amygdala, which controls emotions and the fight-or-flight response, according to Donna Bach, N.D., a traditional naturopathic practitioner and tapping expert, who helped run many tapping studies. Because it’s noninvasive, anyone can do it anytime, anywhere (just wash your hands first).

The majority of people who tap these days, like Irina, learn through free videos on YouTube or phone apps. The New York Times bestselling author and tapping expert Jessica Ortner, who created a tapping app in October 2018, says anyone can learn how to do it in a few hours. The process starts by studying the nine acupuncture points to tap and following the onscreen demos. Then, you can add in some positive affirmations and imagery. Experts suggest saying out loud what you’re hoping to accomplish as you tap each point, such as ditching a bad feeling or achieving a specific goal.

“You can repeat the word or phrase silently. But people who say it out loud tend to stay focused better since their mind doesn’t wander as much,” Dr. Bach says.

“Gently tap seven to 10 times per point using two or three fingers—the same way you might impatiently tap on a table,” Ortner says. “If both hands are free, you can tap with both hands, but if not, one works as well.”

Move through all nine points to complete a round. Experts suggest doing two or three rounds when you’re feeling anxious or upset, spending a few minutes on each round. One round is enough to boost relaxation and create change inside your body, though, Dr. Bach says.

“But if you’re still feeling any fear, pain or anxiety, you can do the whole round over and over again,” she says.

Proving the Point

Tapping has been around only since 1995, when it was first introduced by Gary Craig, a Stanford University engineer, but it’s based on an ancient science—the Chinese meridian system. Tapping and acupuncture practitioners alike believe that we have internal energy called “qi,” which flows through our meridian points. By manipulating those points, practitioners can move and direct the energy that flows through it, calming the mind and body.

Much like acupuncture, there’s plenty of research behind tapping. For example, one of about 100 tapping studies investigated if tapping could affect levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In that study, test subjects were split into three groups: Some people tapped, some did talk therapy with a pro, and the rest relaxed alone in a quiet setting.

“It was a triple-blind study looking at biological markers,” explains Dawson Church, Ph.D., a lead on the study, who is also the CEO of Energy Psychology Group Inc.

“We saw anxiety and depression symptoms drop right away [in the tapping group], but the more impressive thing was that cortisol levels dropped dramatically after just one hourlong session. If you tell me that a patient feels less depressed or anxious that’s great, but if you tell me that patient’s actual biology changes, that makes me sit up and take notice,” Dr. Church says. He’s run dozens of other clinical trials.

Adds Dr. Bach: “When we did our research, we took saliva samples, and we saw lowered cortisol levels and an increase of immunoglobulins, which increases the immune system, reduces heart rate and decreases blood pressure.”

Other studies have linked tapping to reduced food cravings, improved post-traumatic stress disorder, reduced pain and fear during childbirth, improved sports performance, and eliminated dental-work anxiety.

Finding Peace with Tapping

Speech pathologist Maryann Sucich-Massari, from Glen Head, New York, started tapping to deal with a work problem that was keeping her up at night. She read about tapping on hayhouse.com, a website with courses and educational offerings.

“It was 3 a.m., and I couldn’t sleep. I found this video and started tapping, and immediately felt calm.” She didn’t want to learn tapping by herself, so she found a practitioner online. Maryann paid $625 for six phone sessions for that pro to talk her through tapping, giving her scripts to use, and uncovering the big issues she needed to work on.

“Tapping turned everything in my head way down,” Maryann says. She now taps on her own as an antidote to the stress that comes along with a busy schedule, working with children with autism, and taking care of her own family. “There’s a lot of paperwork, and I get lonely since I’m one-on-one with children all day,” Maryann says. “I tap and focus on my emotions and the outcomes I want.”

Ortner, who was a tapper before she was a tapping entrepreneur, says working parents such as Maryann can use tapping at home and in the office—even while in the middle of a meeting. “If you’re with people and you’re feeling stress, you can hold your hand and tap discreetly so no one notices,” she says. Dr. Church notes that situational tapping—before giving a speech, during a tough commute, or while trying to wrangle kids—is actually the perfect time to tap.

Irina says she’s comfortable tapping anywhere, including at the office, and is happy if someone asks her what she’s doing; she likes explaining what tapping is and how it works. “I don’t do woo-woo stuff, and this isn’t woo-woo,” she says.

This “woo-woo” factor is one of the things that can hold people back from trying the technique, Dr. Church says. “The largest misconception people have about energy therapies is that they aren’t visible, so they can’t possibly be effective. It’s hard for humans to accept that energy can change anything. However, we scientists see that it’s changing gene expression, it’s changing biology, it’s changing blood-chemical levels. It’s not mystical or impossible. It’s happening.”

The Tapping Points

Tapping Points with text
. Working Mother

By tapping on the nine points in order, you complete one round of the anxiety-reducing practice.

There are nine tapping points, including the sides of the hands right below the pinkie, as well as spots on the face and upper body. Once you "activate" the starting point under the pinkie, you move around as follows:

Point 1: The “karate-chop point,” right below the pinkie fingers.

Point 2: At the beginning of your eyebrows, nearest to the nose, right where the hair starts.

Point 3: Outer end of the eyebrows, right on the bone.

Point 4: On the bone right below the eye, where your pupils would be if they were lower and you were looking straight ahead.

Point 5: Below the nostrils in the philtrum, the small groove above your upper lip.

Point 6: About midway between the lowest point of your bottom lip and your chin.

Point 7: Middle of the collarbone.

Point 8: Under the arm, right above where your bra ends.

Point 9: At the top of the head.

Written by Karen J. Bannan for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

How to Work from Home with a Baby During the Coronavirus Pandemic

While many restrictions have been lifted for the lockdown, those that can still work from home are doing so. Caring for young children while juggling zoom calls is our new reality for the foreseeable future while we await a vaccine. I hope you find this helpful. Of course, I must note that she recommends finding new toys… think KLEYNIMALS! Stay safe! ~Kirsten

An executive VP shares her tips for balancing work and raising her infant amid a global crisis.

Being a new mom is an amazing challenge in and of itself. Since having my son nine months ago, I have experienced the high of a love like none other, the low of postpartum depression and every emotion in between. Once my maternity leave was over, and I got into the rhythm of working again and feeling comfortable and confident in his daycare, bam—here comes a pandemic.

Working with a newborn at home is definitely difficult. My son is not old enough to e-learn and requires attention from the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep. Today I’m sharing a few tips on how my husband and I have found a working balance to keep everything moving.

1. Set a routine for yourself.

While it’s too soon to really get your infant on a structured timeline, if you are type A like I am, you will need a structure for yourself. Still set an alarm and shower before your little one wakes up. Take a few hours of normalcy after your child’s bedtime to vent with your girlfriends or enjoy a glass of wine.

2. Create a shared calendar with your significant other.

With a baby that cannot communicate its needs, it is so important that someone is always available. My husband and I have gotten into the routine of adding our meetings to each other’s Google calendars so that we are sure that, as much as possible, we are not overlapping in other priorities at any time.

3. Find new toys that entertain and are great for development at your infant’s age, introducing something new each week.

Our current favorites are the Skip Hop 3-Stage Activity Center, the Joovy Spoon Walker, the Fisher-Price Learning Cube and Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Puppy and anything from Kido here in Chicago!

4. Expand the feedings and nighttime routine.

My daycare sends photos of my infant making works of art, learning music with live guitar lessons and doing yoga. And as the saying goes, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I still find time for developmental lessons in the day-to-day, practicing pincer grasp during lunch, holding the bottle in the evening and more. Spend a little extra time together at each feeding break, and at night, read a few extra books and sing a few more songs.

5. Set out a balanced meal plan, even for an infant.

Do this if your child has started solids, to take care of what daycare traditionally provides. Make sure that they are exploring new textures and flavors.

6. On the weekends, turn “family time” into “personal time.”

We are all in an abundance of the former right now. Where you usually would carve out activities with the kids, get some alone-time R&R. Take that bubble bath, make that phone call and let your significant other handle your little one.

Above all, remember, this is cherished time that you won’t get back.

I feel lucky that I’ve been home for my son’s first words (“dada”—sigh), and for him to learn how to crawl—two things that otherwise he would have been at daycare for.

Written by Lianne Hedditch for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

New Discovery Reveals Why Babies Kick In The Womb

I admit that this study is not the newest, but I missed it when it was first published. I also admit that I just needed something fun and uplifting to think about and babies always help accomplish that! Did you have any theories on why babies kick in the womb? Do you agree with the outcome of this small sampling?

Have you ever wondered why babies kick? It turns out it isn't just for the excitement of the mother feeling their child for the first time. In fact, a new study has revealed that a baby's fetal movements are performed in order to map their environment and their own bodies.

This is the first way that babies begin to construct a brain network, making connections and building a sense of spatial awareness. It reportedly determines what part of their little bodies are moving and being touched, in turn.

The study analyzed the brain activity of 19 newborns in the UK via noninvasive electroencephalography (EEG). The researchers realized that the brainwaves of these two-day-old newborns corresponded to their limb movements as they slept.

Neuroscientist, Lorenzo Fabrizi of the University College London, attempts to shed some light on the findings.

"Spontaneous movement and consequent feedback from the environment during the early developmental period are known to be necessary for proper brain mapping in animals such as rats," he explains. "Here we showed that this may be true in humans too."

In these animal studies, previous research had shown that the development and processing of sensory stimuli in newborn mammals was a direct result of isolated limb movements. The resulting neuro patterns, known as alpha-beta oscillations, work in the somatic nervous system to form a map of their body.

Researchers discovered this brainwave process was also prevalent in newborns. This is supported by the lack of these patterns as the newborn acclimates to the new world around them outside of the womb.

The study found that these spatial mappings as a result of fetal movement stop quickly after birth. After a few days outside the womb, these knee-jerk movements do not show the same correspondence to these initial brain waves. Scientists have thusly inferred that these fetal movements are beneficial inside the womb and seek to prepare the baby for the outside world upon birth.

Pretty amazing for a human who can't even cry liquid tears until they reach the end of their first month outside of the womb.

These fundamental aspects of touch are useful immediately from birth for skills like breastfeeding," claims doctoral student, Kimberley Whitehead, of the University College London.

With over 2.4 million weddings occurring each year in the United States, countless babies will be born as a result. Now that we know more about how babies grow and develop both in and outside of the womb, we're able to better care for these little bundles of joy.

Written by LouAnn Moss for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Pandemic Silver Lining: My Kids Finally Understand They Can’t Always Get What They Want

This pandemic has highlighted the existing inequalities in our world and made them even worse. I know how lucky my family is to be able to isolate at home with food on our plates. We are bringing food to people in need and donating to various non-profits, but it still never feels like enough. These are big, scary things for our littlest to comprehend, but perhaps the power of “can’t have” and “no” is a good (smaller) lesson for them in these moments. This article spoke to me for that reason. ~Kirsten

It took COVID-19 to teach my kids (and me) the value of money.

“I want red grapes. Where are the red grapes?” my 4-year-old demanded with a scowl creeping over her face.

We always had green grapes and red grapes plentiful. As two working parents, sleep-deprived and overworked, we had red grapes on hand to stop tears streaming down the face and the inevitable rolling and kicking on the floor. To get more fruit (and not fruit snacks) into her system. To make us feel better about ourselves: our daughter wanted red grapes, so we had red grapes.

And that was pre-COVID-19.

“We don’t have red grapes, we only have green grapes,” I explained. “It’s whatever they have in the grocery store now.”

She whined for a bit. I cleaned the kitchen as I watched her move the green grapes around. My husband helped our 7-year-old with his homework. She mumbled to herself. And then, several minutes later, the bowl was empty. Green grapes gone. She went off to play with her Peppa Pig set.

As the child of immigrant parents, there was no choice between red grapes or green grapes. I didn’t even know there was a choice. I didn’t even know grapes came in different colors. I didn’t even know I could have grapes over a banana. And sometimes there were no grapes at all. It was whatever was on sale at the grocery store that week, plus whatever coupons Ma had scoped out for the additional discount.

We never asked, we never questioned. We accepted what was given.

For my younger brother and me, gifts were only for birthdays and Christmas. We knew we only received gifts on those designated holidays. It was understood.

“Can I get some more Pokémon cards?” my son asked. “I did my homework this week. You can just order it off Amazon,” he added, pointing to my phone.

For my younger brother and me, we got McDonald’s Happy Meals a few times a year during road trips. We treasured those little toys; lining them up against our bedroom windows.

When cleaning our car recently, I discovered some McDonalds Happy Meal toys. Much to my embarrassment, I found that two of the toys had never been opened, nestled in their plastic bags.

For my younger brother and me, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were the two occasions when we would go out to eat. We went to Chengdu, the local Chinese restaurant. I would wear a dress with stockings, spray on some of my mother’s Beautiful perfume and tie a pink satin bow at the end of my braid.

“Mommy, food is here!” my 4-year-old screamed as she raced to the door. Our Seamless delivery had arrived for dinner. “Where are the dumplings?”

In a dual career household with two demanding careers, we were constantly racing. Racing out the door with backpacks, racing back in the door on a conference call while ordering dinner to be delivered. Racing to make the presentation; racing to find a silly hat for hat day at school. Racing to make that flight; racing back the next day to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.

Racing to be great leaders and racing to be great parents in a race that seemed to have no finish line in sight.

And as we raced, red grapes were a way to make our lives easier. Red grapes were a way to avoid tears and kicks. Red grapes were for our convenience, more important to us than to my 4-year-old. Red grapes fueled us, helped us to continue this race. Red grapes, green grapes and the abundance of all the fruits piled into our fridge were a quiet reminder of a life of privilege our parents could never have even imagined for us.

The new coronavirus pandemic had brought about the great slowdown. Our races had come to an abrupt stop.

And red grapes? There were no red grapes to be had. Red grapes had disappeared from our grocery store.

As I educated my children on COVID-19 and explained why red grapes were no longer available, why we could eat green grapes instead and why they tasted the same, how on some days we would eat whatever fruit was available, they nodded and kept coloring on the kitchen table. I’m not sure how much they understood about COVID-19. And I’m not sure how much I understood either.

And what I did understand: our on-the-go, on-demand lifestyle of getting what we want when we wanted and where we wanted to satisfy ourselves and pacify our children was a life that was unraveling. And a life that during this forced stop I looked at and no longer recognized and had a hard time understanding. It’s a life in some ways I am embarrassed we had led.

Our lives were slowing down to start up again. It was an opportunity to understand that those things that gave us convenience and allowed us to race around were actually no longer needed. Maybe those things were never needed in the first place.

During a recent family walk, we passed our favorite bagel place, Think Cup in Jersey City. I explained to the kids that Think Cup and other places were suffering because we weren’t allowed to go and sit and eat there anymore. Our new rule is we can pick up bagels twice a week when they have good behavior. And it’s a way to support and keep our local restaurants open.

During family story time, we go through bins and look for books we haven’t read in a while. My son told me he had already read the Magic Tree House books a year ago and he needed more off Amazon. Our new rule is that we reread the books that we have. For Easter, they each selected one new book they wanted. To my surprise, he agreed.

During our family meals, we remind our kids that the grocery store has now limits per family: one milk, one dish soap, one one of each critical item. We don’t need to hold onto items; we need to be sharing. And we need to be using what we already have. Our new rule is that you only ask for what you can eat. And one addition from my mom’s playbook: your plate needs to be clean at the end of every meal.

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset!” my son loudly proclaimed as he settled in for our mac and cheese dinner, this time made with ziti noodles instead of their favorite elbow noodles. And it took COVID-19 to make us all realize that ziti noodles and elbow noodles in fact do taste just the same.

Written by Working Mother Editors for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

A Panic Attack Can Mimic the Symptoms of COVID-19. Here’s What to Do About It.

It’s hard not to feel anxious during these stressful and trying times. I have been using meditation and breathing exercises to get me through the moments when reality hits hard. Here are some tips I found helpful to share. Sending love and light, Kirsten

Sweating, shortness of breath, a sense of impending doom: The symptoms of a panic attack are never particularly pleasant. But in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic they can be downright disconcerting—especially for people experiencing them for the first time. Here is what to do if you think you might be having a panic attack, and how to deal with your pandemic-related anxiety in general.

If you’re in need of immediate help, call 911 or one of the mental health hotlines listed here.

Shortness of breath is a symptom of both COVID-19 and anxiety. Here’s how to tell the difference.

A panic attack is when your fear or anxiety trigger sudden, physical symptoms with no obvious cause. The exact result can vary from person to person, but classic signs include some of the same symptoms folks have been told to look out for from COVID-19: chest pain, shortness of breath, and a feeling of feverishness or chills. If you’re having chest pain or serious trouble breathing for a sustained period, or when you already feel physically ill, you should absolutely call a doctor. But if you think your symptoms might be due to fear or anxiety, there are strategies you can use to breathe through it.

“The piece that gets people going in a classic panic attack is often that they feel as though they can’t breathe,” says Sheila Addison, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Oakland, California. This is usually because you’re taking very fast, shallow breaths, which minimizes your oxygen intake and causes your muscles to tense up.

Often, Addison explains, focusing on making your breathing more structured—lying down and counting through a pattern such as square breathing, where you count to four while inhaling, pause for a count of four, exhale on a count of four, and pause for another count of four before starting again—can help steady the body and get oxygen flowing normally again. Once you no longer feel starved for air, your body should stop tensing up. Your panic probably won’t disappear in an instant, but it will dissipate.

If you already know you have anxiety, don’t forget to keep doing what works

When it comes to people who have already been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder before, Addison says, the first line of defense is simple: Stick to your usual coping mechanisms.

“Sometimes when a stressor like this comes up and routines get disrupted, people inexplicably stop doing the things that work for them,” Addison says.

If you know exercise helps lower your anxiety, keep exercising—go for walks or runs outside as much as you’re able, or take up yoga at home. If you’re already prescribed medication, keep taking it (and be diligent about getting refills if at all possible). If journaling has been an important tool in managing your stress, don’t stop making your entries. This might sound like common sense, but if your anxiety has been spiking lately, stop and take inventory of your usual strategies and routines. Have some of them fallen by the wayside? There’s no shame in that—it’s a scary time, and doing your morning yoga might feel silly or self-indulgent—but it’s time to get back to your best habits. The CDC recommends eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and disengaging from the news occasionally to give your brain a break.

If you’re experiencing anxiety for the first time, here are things you can try at home

Meditation is a great thing to try if you need to destress, and there are apps to help you get into a meditation practice if you’re new to the idea. But Addison points out that it doesn’t work for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you.

“I don’t meditate,” she says. “I’ve found that trying to do it just stresses me out.”

Still, she says, the broader concept of mindfulness has been very helpful to her and her clients. She recommends reading the works of Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist nun, for help grappling with dark times.

“I’m not a Buddhist myself, but a lot of her work really resonates, especially now,” Addison says. “She talks a lot about how we like things to be certain, we like to have control, and we like to have choices.” When we’re in a situation with lots of rapidly-changing circumstances and looming unknowns, Addison says, our first instinct is to resist that reality as much as possible. In doing so, Chödrön argues, we only add to our own anguish.

“I may not be able to do much about the suffering of canceled plans or missing my family or worrying about someone I love,” Addison says, “but I can do something about the suffering caused by the stories I tell myself about the situation—worrying it will always be like this, or thinking about how unfair it is and how much I hate it.”

But how can we change those stories we tell ourselves? A lot of this comes down to internal dialogue; investigate the way you’re thinking about your current situation and ask yourself what parts of that you might be able to change. Addison thinks a recent resource published by Russ Harris, a psychotherapist and author of The Happiness Trap, is a good place to begin:

FACE COVID is a series of steps for dealing with fear and anxiety in the time of COVID-19. Start by focusing on what’s in your control. The economy, for example, is not in your control. But you can decide you’d like to write out a new budget that takes some of the uncontrollable financial pitfalls you’re worried about into account.

Acknowledge what you’re feeling: Very matter-of-factly recognizing that you’re experiencing anxiety or grief has the dual benefit of encouraging you to be kind to yourself and discouraging your mind from running away with those feelings. Grief is a valid feeling, but it doesn’t have to consume your whole day. Recognize that it’s there, but also that it isn’t you.

Come back into your body. Meditation might not be for you, but taking deep breaths and grounding yourself—or even using one of the breathing patterns mentioned earlier in this article—can help you regain a sense of control of yourself.

Engage in what you’re doing. Smith recommends thinking about three or four things you can see from your current position, or taking note of the smells and tastes you’re experiencing, as a way of refocusing before you move from thinking about your anxiety to honing in on whatever task you have at hand.

The COVID part of the acronym deals with moving forward from the moment of acute anxiety: Committed action is about picking things to do that align with your values and will make good use of your time. You might text a friend who you know is self-isolating, donate protective gear to a local hospital, deliver groceries for an immunocompromised neighbor, or commit to accomplishing some long-put-off task while you’re stuck at home.

Opening up is about continuing to engage with your own feelings, and being as compassionate and patient with yourself about them as you would be with a loved one who came to you for advice. “Values” is a reminder to think about what is important to you and what you would like to contribute to the world during this crisis—sharing kind words and offering emotional support to others. Identify resources by figuring out who you can and should reach out to when you’re in crisis and finding reliable sources of information to keep your anxiety in check. Finally, Smith throws in a “Disinfect and Distance” instruction to remind us all of why we’re cooped up at home alone: To protect ourselves and our communities.

Don’t forget that reaching out to friends and family is still quite possible, thanks to technology—and that some of them may be feeling just as anxious as you are. Sharing love and resources can help both of you feel more calm.

“We’re finding some fantastic ways of staying in touch thanks to technology,” Addison says. “It’s so cliche to blame tech for separating people, but I’m blown away by all the ways people are finding to connect.”

Written by Rachel Feltman for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

How to stop touching your face

Right before the COVID-19 shut downs started, my son and I went into Washington, DC on March 10th to speak to our congressional representatives about World Wildlife Fund and the importance of protecting nature. The coronavirus weighed heavily on my mind and I admit to being all over my son about touching his face. I spent the day constantly swatting his hand away from his face, and dousing his hands (and mine) with hand sanitizer. Here are some helpful tips for you and your family!

Public health officials consistently promote hand-washing as a way for people to protect themselves from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

However, this virus can live on metal and plastic for days, so simply adjusting your eyeglasses with unwashed hands may be enough to infect yourself. Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have been telling people to stop touching their faces.

We are experts in psychological science and public health. Brian Labus is an expert in communicable diseases who knows what people should do to avoid becoming infected. Stephen Benning is a clinical psychologist who helps clients change their habits and manage stress in healthy ways. Kimberly Barchard is an expert in research methods who wanted to know what the research says about face-touching. Together, we used our clinical expertise and the research literature to identify the best practices to reduce face-touching and lower people’s chances of catching COVID-19.

People touch their faces frequently. They wipe their eyes, scratch their noses, bite their nails and twirl their mustaches. People touch their faces more when they are anxious, embarrassed, or stressed, but also when they aren’t feeling anything at all. It's been estimated that students, office workers, medical personnel, and people on trains touch their faces between nine and 23 times per hour, on average.

Why is it so hard to stop? Face-touching rewards us by relieving momentary discomforts like itches and muscle tension. These discomforts usually pass within a minute, but face-touching provides immediate relief that eventually makes it a habitual response that resists change.

Change habitual behaviors

Habit reversal training is a well-established behavior modification technique that helps people stop a variety of seemingly automatic behaviors, such as nervous tics, nail-biting, and stuttering. It trains people to notice the discomfort that prompts their habits, select another behavior to use until the discomfort passes, and change their surroundings to lessen their discomfort.

You may have already changed some of your other habits—for example, by coughing into your elbow instead of your hands, or greeting others with a bow or wave instead of a handshake. But unlike coughing and hand-shaking, people frequently touch their faces without being aware of doing so. The first step in reducing face-touching is becoming aware of it.

Each time you touch your face, notice how you touched your face, the urge or sensation that preceded it and the situation you were in—what you were doing, where you were physically or what you were feeling emotionally. If you usually don’t notice when you touch your face, you can ask someone else to point it out.

Self-monitoring is more effective when people create a physical record. You can create a log where you briefly describe each instance of face-touching. For example, log entries might say:

  • Scratched nose with finger, felt itch, while at my desk
  • Fiddled with eyeglasses, hands tingled, frustrated
  • Rested chin on palm, neck sore, while reading
  • Bit fingernail, nail caught on pants, watching TV

Self-monitoring is more effective if people share their outcomes publicly, so consider sharing your results with friends or post it on social media.

Create new responses

Now that you are aware of the behavior you want to change, you can replace it with a competing response that opposes the muscle movements needed to touch your face. When you feel the urge to touch your face, you can clench your fists, sit on your hands, press your palms onto the tops of your thighs, or stretch your arms straight down at your sides.

This competing response should be inconspicuous and use a position that can be held for at least a minute. Use the competing response for as long as the urge to touch your face persists.

Some sources recommend object manipulation, in which you occupy your hands with something else. You can rub your fingertips, fiddle with a pen or squeeze a stress ball. The activity shouldn’t involve touching any part of your head. For tough-to-break habits, object manipulation isn't as effective as competing responses, perhaps because people tend to play with objects when bored, but touch their faces and hair when anxious.

Manage your triggers

Changing your environment can reduce your urges to touch your face and your need to use alternative responses. Use your log to figure out what situations or emotions are associated with your face-touching. For example:

  • If your glasses keep slipping off your nose, you can use ear hooks or hair ties to prevent slippage.
  • If you bite your nails, you can use a file to keep your nails short, or wear gloves or fingertip bandages, so that nail-biting is impossible.
  • If allergies make your eyes or skin itch or make your nose run, you can limit your exposure to allergens or take antihistamines.
  • If you get food stuck between your teeth, you can brush your teeth after each meal.
  • If your hair gets in your eyes and mouth, you can use an elastic, scarf or hair product to keep it back.

Face it, you may not be able to stop

Most people cannot entirely eliminate unwanted habits, but they can reduce them and just reducing face-touching lessens the opportunities for viruses to enter your system.

Sometimes you need to touch your face: flossing your teeth, putting in contact lenses, wiping food off your lips, putting on makeup or shaving your jaw. Remember to wash your hands first. To adjust your glasses without first washing your hands, use a tissue and throw it out immediately after use. Avoid finger food and using unwashed hands to put food into your mouth. Wash your hands first, or use utensils or the wrapper to handle the food.

Other ways you can reduce the spread of infectious diseases include practicing social spacing, washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or hand santizer, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly. When your hands touch contaminated surfaces, though, the suggestions above may help you avoid touching your face before you wash them again.

Written by Labus for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

A Guide to Safe Outdoor Activities During the Coronavirus Pandemic

With officials urging us to limit unnecessary travel, many of us might be starting to feel a bit stir crazy. Being outside and in nature is important for dealing with stress and anxiety—the exact emotions in overdrive right now. But is it possible to safely head outdoors without putting your and others’ health at risk?

The short answer is yes—we can technically walk, run, and bike alone or with our immediate household without violating social distancing rules. But there’s more to consider before opening the door.

Adhere to official guidelines

Before you lace up your shoes, check what local health officials are saying for your area. “It's really important that people understand the situation that they're in,” says Lisa Miller, epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health. “Understand your own locality and the public health recommendations or public health orders that are in place and abide by those first and foremost.”

In some locations with more cases of the virus, access to beaches, parks, and trails is being restricted. Restrictions can be very localized—while the California Coronavirus Response website says that you can still hike and run outside, individual cities and counties in the state are closing outdoor areas that proved to be too crowded to maintain safe distances. Also, while national park fees have been waived, many are individually cutting back on camping and visitor services, or closing altogether.

For some activities, you may be able to find guidance from local sport-specific organizations. In Salt Lake City, for example, the local rock climbing association has told climbers to stay away from outdoor cliffs, as there are simply too many rock climbers in the area to maintain a safe distance.

If we’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that the guidelines for best practices can change from day-to-day. So stay informed. “If that means you really need to stick to indoor exercise, then stick to indoor exercise,” adds Miller. “If it's still allowed to be outside and exercising, that's great, but really maintain that six-foot distance from people and don't engage in activities that are going to bring you into contact with other people.”

Safe activities: minimize contact, shared surfaces with others

In general, running, walking, and biking solo or with your immediate household can be done with minimal risk of catching or spreading the virus. But sports performed in groups and involving physical contact are a no-go. Miller says to remember that the virus can be spread by direct contact or by touching the same objects. When considering an activity, think about how close you’ll be to others and whether you’ll be touching the same things. The more often a ball or other piece of sports equipment is touched by someone other than yourself, the more risk you’re introducing for disease spread. If your go-to sport has too many uncertainties to make a clear call—say, not knowing if it will be possible to maintain distance at a particular trail or park—it’s better to be conservative and don’t go.

If you’ve satisfied all the above precautions and are ready to go, “wash your hands before you go out,” says Grace Roberts, a virologist at Queen’s University Belfast. “You don’t know if you’re infected.” Also, bring everything you need—water, snacks, etc.—so that you can minimize having to stop at any stores. Don’t use public restrooms or other shared facilities.

Then, when you’re out, avoid touching surfaces with your hands and keep your hands away from your face. For example, you might use your elbow to hit a crosswalk button. Roberts says that when she’s running, she reserves her left hand for hitting the crosswalk button or any other surfaces, while her right hand is used for adjusting her glasses, or handling water and snacks. Once you get home, immediately wash your hands.

Stay local and spread out

Those experiencing a layoff or the newly-found freedom of remote work may have misinterpreted what it means to self-quarantine. In recent weeks, officials in outdoor tourism hotspots have made calls for travellers to stay home. In a letter, hospital executives in the outdoors-centric Moab, Utah-area expressed concern over the impact of tourism: “As a 17-bed critical access hospital, we have no ICU and minimal capability to care for critical respiratory patients. Additionally, we are now concerned that tourism will drive the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

Even the best-intentioned travellers will have to make stops for gas and groceries, introducing opportunities for the virus to jump to new locations. Stay close to home to prevent this. Miller says to think about all the steps involved in a particular activity—will you have to stop for food, equipment, or anything else? The more stops, the more you risk contracting and spreading the virus. “You can’t just think about the end goal,” says Miller. “You have to think about all of those other things.”

Even for local trips, plan routes carefully. Think about which locations tend to get crowded, and choose less-busy alternatives. As the nonprofit outdoor organization Leave No Trace puts it: “Absolutely avoid crowded parks, trails and beaches. Social distancing applies in the outdoors just as it does anywhere else.” And, the group adds, be prepared to pack out any trash, since many parks are only providing limited services right now.

Hospitals don’t need more patients—choose low-risk sports

With many areas concerned about hospital capacity, now is not the time to take any risks. Tommy Caldwell, a professional rock climber, told his Instagram followers last week that he wouldn’t be climbing outside during the health crisis: “Soon taking up space in a hospital bed will amount to a death sentence for someone else."

With ski resorts closed, the Colorado Sun reports that more Coloradans are taking to the backcountry to ski, facing increased risks. Especially if that new crowd includes skiers without essential gear and training, it could place an additional burden on emergency services and hospitals. And, of course, denser crowds means it’s harder to maintain six feet of space.

This advice even goes for city-bound activities, like road cycling. Roberts says that cyclists should think about which routes put them in close contact with motorists. If you’re planning bike rides, you may want to avoid routes where you have to share the roads with cars to reduce the odds of getting in an accident.

“You want to make sure that you are limiting risk and not getting injured because the last thing you want to do is end up in a health care system, especially for communities that may not have a lot of healthcare resources,” says Miller. “Most health care resources right now are really focused on making sure they preserve all the resources they possibly can for COVID-19.”

Written by Ula Chrobak for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Four Essentials You Can Donate to Help Healthcare Workers Fighting COVID-19

Being in social isolation gives us folks at home a lot of time to think—and maybe you’ve been racking your brain to figure out how to help the people fighting on the front lines of the pandemic we are all doing our best to slow down. And while donating cash to hospitals is fabulous, there’s much more you can do, and you might already have the things doctors and nurses need.

Here’s a quick list of useful items healthcare workers need to protect themselves and others from COVID-19:

Protective gear and medical supplies

Listen up, readers who work in other scientific fields, or even paint or work with wood: those protective masks, gloves, protective gowns, goggles, and face shields are crucial on the front lines of COVD-19 response. As we all know by now, COVID-19 is pretty darn contagious, and it spreads through bodily fluids like saliva, often traveling through the air after a sneeze or cough.. So, every time a doctor or nurse takes care of a patient, they risk catching the dangerous virus.

You can donate N95 respirators (which are particularly effective against viruses), surgical face masks, or even face coverings you can somewhat easily make at home. If you make some yourself, you’ll join the ranks of Prada and Kering, which have already pitched in to create masks at their clothing production facilities. JoAnn Fabrics is handing out free supplies if you have a moment or two to stitch a few up.

Medical TV shows like The Good Doctor and Grey’s Anatomy have stepped up, too, donating actual medical supplies and protective gear they keep on set to use as props and costumes.

So think about your hobbies and the gear you have in your closet—it could help someone protect themself from the virus.

If you have loads of bleach, antimicrobial wipes, hand sanitizer, and other disinfecting products, hospitals really need that stuff to protect workers and patients. If you work at an office or school, you might be able to find a shocking amount of unopened Lysol wipes. It’s worth a search if you’re healthy and already have some at home.

Also, if you panic-bought all the Purell in your neighborhood, now’s the perfect time to put those virus-killing chemicals to good use instead of hoarding it. We’re past the point of judgment now, so just do the right thing.

To find out where donations are needed most in your community and what exactly they need, you can search by state on Donate PPE’s website, or check out this Twitter thread to see which universities are asking for donations.

Blood

If you’re healthy, donating blood is something just about anybody can do. Right now, it’s more important than ever because folks aren’t leaving home and blood drives are being canceled. But if you qualify as a donor, you should definitely consider donating blood as a necessary reason to leave home. You can still minimize your contact with other people, too—just make an appointment and have the center call you when they are ready for you to come in.

Blood donations aren’t necessarily going to help patients in hospitals struggling with COVID-19-related illnesses. But hospitals still need that blood for patients who have been in car crashes, must have surgery, or are battling cancer. After all, crashes and other illnesses don’t just stop happening because a pandemic is dominating the headlines.

Contrary to many rumors, however, you won’t get tested for COVID-19 just by donating.

Check out these organizations if you’re interested in donating blood:

  • AABB
  • America’s Blood Centers
  • American Red Cross
  • Armed Services Blood Program
  • Blood Centers of America

Toys, games, and other fun stuff

Being stuck in the hospital sucks—but I can assure you that it sucks a whole lot worse when your community is on lockdown and it’s nearly impossible for friends and family to visit. You can donate toys and games to children’s hospitals pretty much any time, but now is as good a time as ever to think of those in need.

Children’s Hospital Colorado has a wish list of items, including arts and crafts supplies, headphones, playing cards, and essentials like underwear. But, all the toys need to be brand new and in their original packaging, which ensures no bacteria or viruses from the outside world can infect at-risk patients.

To look for children’s hospitals near you, use this tool from the Children’s Hospital Association.

Written by Sara Kiley Watson for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Why COVID-19 can’t beat a good hand-washing

Researchers are still working to understand how deadly COVID-19 is and how it spreads. But they know one thing for sure: Washing your hands is the key to minimizing the novel coronavirus’ powers of destruction.

Hand washing really, really works—and not just during outbreaks of new respiratory viruses. It also helps prevent the spread of a wide variety of disease-causing microbes, known as pathogens, from food-borne diseases like E.coli to flesh-eating bugs. And it works to contain the spread of illness whether you’re the one who is sick or you’re trying to avoid catching something in the first place. (It even works better than hand sanitizer, so lay off the Purell unless you’re on the go).

“Hand washing with soap for 20 seconds is one of the single most important practices to protect yourself, your family, and your community,” says Matthew Freeman, a professor of epidemiology and global health at Emory University.

On a purely physical level, hand washing works by actually removing the microbes from your hand thanks to some basic chemistry. Soap is what’s known as a surfactant, which means it breaks down the oils and dirt on your skin; water rinses the broken-down oils and dirt away, carrying microbes along for the ride. “By rubbing your hands together you create the friction to get the oils off,” Freeman says.

Washing your hands with just water can help a bit if the alternative is not washing your hands at all, but it’s way less effective than scrubbing with suds.

But why does this simple practice work so well to prevent the spread of contagious disease? After all, washing your hands regularly (and properly—see here for instructions) might seem like it’s just a first step. Everything around your hands is still covered in potentially pathogenic microbes.

Again, the answer is pretty basic: your hands touch the world, and they also touch you (and your face. Stop touching your face.) If you are sick, washing your hands regularly makes it less likely that you’ll spread pathogens from your hands to the things you touch, where they can be picked up by others. If you’re not sick, you can pick up microbes on your digits and carry them to your mucus membranes, like your eyes, nose, and mouth. (Stop. Touching. Your. Face.)

People have known about the effectiveness of hand washing for hundreds of years, says Freeman—even if they didn’t know why it worked. For instance, many of the world’s religions promote hand washing as a ritual practice. In the 19th century, as Western physicians stumbled toward an understanding of the germ theory of disease, hand washing slowly became an important thing to do in medical settings (though it was initially shockingly controversial). But it took much longer to get hand washing to the general public, says Freeman. It’s only in the last 40 years or so that public health authorities have started working hard to convince people to wash their hands after leaving the house, before eating, and even—eek—after using the bathroom.

Wash your hands, with soap, for about 20 seconds: it’s a simple recipe for good health.

But “possibly because it’s something that people know they should do, it’s very hard to get a sense of how many people actually do it,” he says. Research has shown that, globally, only around 19 percent of people wash their hands after using the bathroom. But there’s not a lot of data out there about how often people wash their hands at other times, and some studies indicate that even supposed-hand-washers don’t regularly subject themselves to the proper 20 to 30 seconds of sudsing.

Right now, you’re probably seeing a lot more hand washing (and a lot more thorough hand washing) than you’re used to. That’s because all of the messaging in the news and elsewhere about COVID-19 reminds people to wash their hands. But you should really be doing it all the time.

“Changing practices and habits are really hard,” Freeman says. Consider creating what Freeman calls a “cue to action” that encourages hand washing at key times, such as when you enter your house from the outside world. It could be as simple as placing a note where you hang up your keys. Freeman and his wife (who also studied hand washing practices) placed a sticker on the back of their first child’s highchair to remind them to wash her hands before they all sat down to dinner.

This outbreak is likely to change your hygiene habits for the better, and there’s no reason not to change them permanently. “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapeños and you need to change your contacts,” one Canadian health official said recently. Wash early, wash often, and wash well. And don’t touch your face. Seriously.

Written by Kat Eschner for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

11 Moms Who Have to Keep Working During the Coronavirus Outbreak on How Much Their Jobs Have Changed

From those in healthcare to the service industry, working moms share how they're coping.

The growing number of cases of the new coronavirus, coupled with school closures, have forced moms to adjust the way they work. Many are now doing their jobs remotely while watching their kids at home. But others are still required to go into their workplaces, risking exposure, and with the added task of arranging childcare. To get an idea of how they’re faring, we listened to moms across the country in different industries.

1. “As a working parent, I always needed a plan B for childcare in case a child is ill, but this has become a reality more than ever now.”

Nina Brodsky, M.D., F.C.C.M. is a pediatric critical care doctor from Connecticut. Like other hospitals, hers has been “preparing for a surge of patients, and employing several measures to try to mitigate the situation,” like restricting visitors and canceling large conferences. She told Working Mother that at her job, she’s most concerned about her medical staff colleagues “who will bear the brunt of this pandemic.”

At home, Dr. Brodsky is worried about finding alternative childcare. She’s scheduled to be on service in the hospital for the next week and a half.

Another source of stress is making sure her kids practice good hygiene. “Our kids are also listening to all the talk about COVID-19, so explaining the situation to them in a constructive and non-threatening manner may go a long way,” she said.

2. “I live and work in a county with no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but we get patients coming in who think they have it literally every day.”

Anne*, from Illinois, has one child and works as an emergency medical technician for a hospital in a rural area. She said the biggest effect of coronavirus on her job is the mass hysteria from patients. “Most of them have not left the country or even been around anyone who has, they’re just convinced that they’ve gotten [COVID-19] somehow. So we’ve had a huge influx of patients with flu-like symptoms that don’t really need to be utilizing the ER coming in and using time and resources that they don’t really need.”

That includes masks, which her hospital has had to remove from waiting rooms and desks. “People come in and grab them by the fistful, or actually grab entire boxes to take home. Now we’re having to dole them out to patients ourselves. All patients with respiratory symptoms get one, and we will also give them to anyone who asks, but we tell them that due to the shortage and our very real need to have them as healthcare workers, we can only give them one.”

She told us her day-to-day hasn’t changed much yet. She understands that she might be exposed, but that it’s “sort of what you sign yourself up for when you work in the ER.” She continued, “We often don’t know what we’ve been exposed to until after the fact, and this is no different.”

3. “I may carry a travel hand sanitizer around more for the moments when soap isn’t available, but I refuse to let it affect my life at this point. I can’t live in a bubble.”

A registered dental hygienist in Rhode Island, Kristin Macera said she is not afraid of catching the virus. She’s used to washing her hands multiple times an hour because that’s what she was trained to do, and she taught her kids to wash their hands frequently as well.

At her workplace, they can no longer order the same amount of supplies, but so far, they haven’t run out of masks. She does not know what will happen if they do. As for exposure to patients, she told us, “We have agreed as an office that if anyone shows signs of being remotely sick that we will send them home. For the most part if people are sick they do cancel their appointments anyway.”

4. “I make sure to remind families to CANCEL if a child or anyone in the home has a fever or persistent cough.”

Sarah Pampillonia, a mom of two from New Jersey, is a child development specialist. Her job requires her to go to homes or daycare. She told us she doesn’t have more concerns about doing visits due to coronavirus because she and her kids are not immunocompromised. “Maybe I’d feel differently if someone in my home was immunocompromised. I do have one immunocompromised child on my caseload, and always think about HER, and make sure if I don’t feel well, I cancel (but this is how I always conduct myself).”

The NJDOH is sending her job advisories. “We can no longer bring our own toys into homes. Usual precautions of washing hands and sanitizing before and after working with a child are being heavily promoted,” she said. Families are also canceling more frequently or freezing services altogether, though she notes hers haven’t.

5. “As a healthcare worker, it’s just another virus, but as a mom, I’m scared and concerned because I’m on the front lines.”

Michelle Largoza, R.N., has a 3-year-old son who is at daycare three days a week. Her work routine hasn’t changed. “We treat the coronavirus threat like any other airborne illness and use the same precautions. It’s not much different than having a patient with symptoms of tuberculosis, which has been around.”

The shortage of masks, however, have made it a bit more difficult. She said previously accessible N95 masks are now kept under lock and key.

She admits that when she sees the medical supply closet and sees the mask and sanitizers, she sometimes goes into survival mode. “I think, ‘should I take these home to protect my family?’ But then I tell myself, ‘OK, relax. That’s crazy, just go back to work.’”

These moms on social media are also giving us a glimpse of how their work has changed due to COVID-19.

6. “As an ICU nurse, I can confirm we often are short critical care beds for patients. This is the case without coronavirus adding to the needs. We are entirely unprepared as a country.”

According to her profile, the author of the post, @EileenFrn, is a mom too.

7. “I am thankful my job allows flexibility, but it’s still daunting!”

On LinkedIn, Elizabeth McFarlan Scott, a partner at Nua Group, in San Francisco, wrote that she recently had to figure out a setup if she had to work remotely with her kids at home. With her 9-year-old’s school closed, she and her husband have set the expectation that her older son will have to “work” in the office with them for part of the day. They also have a spreadsheet with daily coverage if both kids are out of school and she and her husband have to work from home. It details a plan for what the kids will do, such as chores, playdates in parks, iPad/Tv, and who will be the adult on duty. She also said she’s reached out to other moms to arrange “recess” meetups during the day.

8. “As a single mom not having a paycheck for 5 weeks straight… It’s scary as hell.”

According to her profile, Twitter user @calliieeeeeeee is a teacher aide at a school district that was just closed down for five weeks. Her tweet was in response to another user who asked people to leave their CashApp name if they needed $20 for groceries or to stock up on anything.

9. “As a teacher, I’m being expected to learn and deliver instruction to students along with my own kids who are in grades 6, 4 and 2.”

Sarah Myers, who runs the account @Soccer_3_Mom, is based in Wisconsin. Her tweet was a rely to user Peg Grafwallner, who said she cringes at school districts and some teachers who are creating schedules and plans for students. Peg wrote, “I understand many are trying to create a sense of the new normal. But, let’s just all take a breath and do the best we can in these first couple of days/weeks. The routine will come.”

10. “I work as a bartender waitress in Ohio and I’m not sure how I’ll make it through as a single mom of 3.”

@Jane_love22 responded to a Twitter user who posted an article about a customer leaving a $2,500 tip before a restaurant and bar in Ohio planned to close that evening.

11. “I’m a working mom with two boys. Their school just shut down for at least 2 weeks. I’m a waitress/cook/delivery person at a tiny family owned restaurant that was already not doing great before all this. Now it’s completely dead. I have to pay rent, car insurance and phone bill.”

Kala Sawyer, aka @glamlifejunkie, tweeted to Team PULTE, an account for philanthropist family, the Pultes. They asked people to comment on their thread if their job or kids’ schools have shut down because of the coronavirus, and they need assistance with groceries.

  • Name has been changed.

Written by Maricar Santos for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.