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Election Stress Relief

Try our body scan to find a moment of calm — right now

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Animation: Yana Pan

As we approach Election Day, Elemental is bringing you a progressive body scan for stress relief (also known as progressive muscle relaxation therapy; read more about the science behind it here). Each day, you’ll focus on and relax one part of your body to find a moment of presence and calm. Today, we dial in to the neck and jaw. Find earlier installments here (for the feet), here (for the legs and lower back), here (for the core), here (for the chest), and here (for the shoulders, arms, and hands).

Pause.

Take a nice big inhale… and a long exhale.

Tune in to yourself; tune out everything else. …


This forced mini jet lag seems to be fueling everything from stress and sleeplessness to a surge in car crashes

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Credit: Abdul Aziz Bin Mohamed / EyeEm / Getty Images

You’re not the only one losing sleep and ranting over the change to and from daylight saving time. A survey in July revealed that 63% of Americans support eliminating the seasonal time changes. The lost or gained hour of sleep has a lot of scientists and lawmakers peeved as well.

In fact, there’s a veritable war going on against this frustrating, outdated, and arguably ineffective and unhealthy artificial time warp, which, interestingly, has its very roots in efforts to battle real wars.

There was a time when the nation could fall back on the idea that daylight saving time made sense: saving energy during wartime or when oil prices skyrocketed in the 1970s. Fast-forward to 2020, and, well, this forced mini jet lag seems to be fueling everything from stress and sleeplessness to a surge in car crashes, with conflicting evidence on whether it saves energy. …


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Exact Sciences employees, Scarlett Lee and Xavier Robinson, holding samples. Photography: Lyndon French

Colon cancer screening should begin at age 45, new guidelines say. During a pandemic, this at-home poop test has emerged as a key solution.

As the number of Covid-19 cases began to explode in the U.S. in March and April, Americans retreated to their homes and put routine medical care on the backburner. Not getting Covid-19 — and protecting health care workers against the disease — became the collective goal. Traditional doctor visits plunged, elective procedures were canceled, and any other care deemed nonessential — including cancer screenings — essentially came to a halt. Specifically, the number of colonoscopies, the bedrock of colon cancer screening, fell nationally by 90%.

The disruption at Exact Sciences was almost immediate. The company is the maker of a colonoscopy alternative called the Cologuard test, which screens poop samples for cancer DNA. Exact saw the number of its poop-filled kits arriving for analysis at its Madison, Wisconsin, headquarters plummet by 80%. Like many businesses around the country, Exact froze its spending, imposed pay cuts, and furloughed some employees. The pandemic “has been a real step back in our efforts to prevent cancer and detect it early with colon cancer screening,” says Kevin Conroy, Exact’s chairman and chief executive officer. …


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Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

Experts say the immune system’s reaction to SARS-CoV-2 could shift brain activity in ways that disrupt sleep-wake cycles

Corey McPherson knows that he contracted SARS-CoV-2 back in March. He also knows that by late April, when he turned 36, he’d mostly recovered from his acute symptoms — his fever and pain and breathing problems.

But if you ask him now to recall that time, he says that there’s not a lot he could tell you. …


These times are unprecedented, and so is this mental health crisis

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Photo: Bundit Binsuk/EyeEm/Getty Images

If you or someone you know need help, consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255) for English, 1–888–628–9454 for Spanish.

Covid-19 cases aren’t the only stats that have climbed since March. As the pandemic has progressed, so have rates of depression — and it’s not just a tiny jump. A new study estimates that depression rates have likely tripled due to the pandemic. Tripled.

The study, conducted by Boston University School of Public Health and published in JAMA Network Open, found that 27.8% …


Election Stress Relief

Try our body scan to find a moment of calm — right now

Image for post
Image for post
Animation: Yana Pan

As we approach Election Day, Elemental is bringing you a progressive body scan for stress relief (also known as progressive muscle relaxation therapy; read more about the science behind it here). Each day, you’ll focus on and relax one part of your body to find a moment of presence and calm. Today, we dial in to the shoulders, arms, and hands. Find earlier installments here (for the feet), here (for the legs and lower back), here (for the core), and here (for the chest).

Pause.

Take a nice big inhale… and a long exhale.

Tune in to the present moment of your breath, and release any narratives, ideas, and thoughts that will bring worry or fear to the present moment. …


Election Stress Relief

Try our body scan to find a moment of calm — right now

Image for post
Image for post
Animation: Yana Pan

As we approach Election Day, Elemental is bringing you a progressive body scan for stress relief (also known as progressive muscle relaxation therapy; read more about the science behind it here). Each day, you’ll focus on and relax one part of your body to find a moment of presence and calm. Today, we dial in to the chest. Find earlier installments here (for the feet), here (for the legs and lower back), and here (for the core).

Pause.

Take a nice big inhale… and a long exhale.

Let go of thoughts that may have triggered tension in your chest.

Feel your chest expanding and softening with every breath you take. …


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Illustration: Maria Chimishkyan

Test Gym

Your ideal cardio program is the one that motivates you to continue day after day and keep pushing

By now, you know that cardio workouts are excellent for improving your overall health and fitness, but with so many options, you can be forgiven for being confused about the best approach. Runners swear their activity is best, while cyclists, swimmers, and triathletes all make similar claims. Even the title of fittest athlete is up for grabs, with triathletes, CrossFit competitors, Nordic skiers, and more all vying. The options for cardio training are nearly endless: circuit training, the one-minute workout, high-intensity interval training, spin bikes, and treadmill routines, to name just a few.

If you’re feeling perplexed, take heart. Finding your optimal cardio workout might seem like a complicated project, but it turns out that you can achieve your best cardio self by mastering a few fundamentals. …


Screenings save lives, but can do serious harm too

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Photo: andresr/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic will surely prompt more death from causes beyond just Covid-19. There will also be a notable number of deaths from cancer since delayed screenings and diagnoses will mean worse outcomes for many. The Director of the National Cancer Institute predicts as many as 10,000 additional deaths from colon cancer (4,700) and breast cancer (5,300) over the next 10 years as a result of just a six-month delay in screenings.

But there is a critical element missing from such alarming statistics.

Counterintuitively, the delay in screening will also probably reduce some sickness and death, and save the health care system billions of dollars. Modern screening technologies are now finding many cancers that will almost certainly never cause the patient any harm — types of breast, prostate, thyroid, and even lung cancer that have the cellular characteristics of cancer, but will never kill. This phenomenon is known as overdiagnosis. When a doctor tells a patient they have cancer, people hear the frightening “C-word” and many opt for surgery or another invasive treatment to remove an understandably frightening, but essentially nonthreatening, disease. …


Ahead of Halloween, I’m thinking about self-control and king-sized candy bars.

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Image: Perry Gerenday/Getty Images

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

Your brain wants Halloween candy 🍫

I have a pretty gnarly sweet tooth. Like, “can’t keep a pint of ice cream in the freezer because I’ll finish it” kind of sweet tooth. …

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