Monday, November 28, 2011

Ask Us Anything: Am I Getting Sick?

"I've been waking up every morning with a dry, scratchy throat that goes away in the mid-afternoon. Am I getting sick?"

Registered Nurse Robert Mages Responds:

Your dry scratchy throat may not actually be you getting sick at all, but could have other root causes, such as allergens, irritants, dry air or excessive snoring.

My recommendations are as follows:

First, you may want to use a humidifier. If the air in and around your sleeping area is excessively dry, the increased humidification of the air would help to moisten and possibly sooth your throat. In the cooler months, we often turn on the heat, which causes increased dryness in the home and can lead to increased discomfort.

Second, try increased dusting, cleaning and vacuuming, especially if you own pets. Pet dander or dust could be the culprit.

Third, talk to your primary doctor to see if you may need a sleep study. The soreness could be from a partial obstruction of the respiratory structures that occurs when we are sleeping and vibrations from our breathing result in noise or snoring. Sleep studies are available at the Catholic Health sleep labs and in your own bed through some doctors' offices. Sleep studies can help to diagnosis sleep apnea and possibly help you to sleep more comfortably each night.

— Robert Mages, RN

Robert Mages is the Nurse Manager of the Open Heart Unit and Critical Care Unit at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How High Heels are Hurting Your Feet

“I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot,” said Marilyn Monroe.

While the inventor of the high heel remains in question – the shoe is said to date back to ancient Egypt – our debt of gratitude may not be as high as Marilyn estimated.

“Both short-term and long-term, high heels can cause some problems,” said Dr. Samuel Ruggiero, a podiatrist at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus, who appeared last week on the CW-23’s the Winging It! TV show.

Doctors of podiatric medicine blame high heels for postural and even safety problems, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association.

“From the lower back down are a series of joints and ligaments that fire together. Throw off or alter one joint, and you throw off any or all of those parts,” says Dr. Ruggiero.

While Dr. Ruggerio doesn’t expect that women are going to give up their heels, he recommends a compromise instead: limit your time wearing them whenever possible.

“When I was going to school in New York City, a lot of times the secretaries and career women were going to and from their offices in nice sneakers. That’s a nice compromise. It’s the people who wear high heeled shoes all the time that we’re seeing problems in,” he said.

If you’re thinking of forgoing the heel altogether and wearing flats instead, be aware that ballet flats don’t provide arch support, which can cause a number of problems, including bunions, hammertoes, and heel spurs, all of which can require surgery to correct.

If you love the look of ballet flats, consider buying over-the-counter inserts to provide extra cushioning.

Although high heels and ballet flats cause their share of problems, Dr. Ruggiero cites flip flops as the worst of all.

“Those are possibly the worst shoes ever created because they expose your feet to injury. Just last summer, my daughter was at a party and a thunderstorm broke out. She ran in flip flops and knocked one of her toenails off.”

In addition to making us vulnerable to injury, flip-flops don’t provide any arch support. As a compromise, Dr. Ruggiero recommends wearing arched sandals instead.

To view Dr. Ruggiero's appearance on Winging It!, click on the video below:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In the News: Cooked Meat Provides More Energy

Early humans ate raw meat as early as 2.5 million years ago. So, why do we cook over stovetops today?

A new study suggests that cavemen switched to cooked meats because they offer more energy than in their raw form (Source: MSN).

Rachel Carmody, the Harvard University student who conducted the study, said: "It is astonishing that we don't understand the fundamental properties of the food we eat. All the effort we put into cooking food and presenting it – mashing it up, or cutting it, or slicing or pounding it – we don't understand what effect that has on the energy we extract from food, and energy is the primary reason we eat in the first place."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making it Work

Tim Gunn, star of Project Runway and Chief Creative Officer at Liz Claiborne Inc., works in an industry that's known more for cultivating divas and temper-tantrums than for kindness.

And yet, in his latest book, Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making it Work, he credits good manners for paving his way to success.

Good manners, he writes, leads to "better relationships, more career success, and less personal stress."

Gunn's Golden Rules exudes such positivity and kindness for others that it has changed the way that I think.

When I'm stuck in traffic, I don't yell in frustration or throw up my hands at the person who cut me off. I ask myself, "Is being rude or angry going to make traffic move faster? Are my plans so urgent that they can't wait another five minutes?"

The answer, of course, is always no. Why make a bad situation worse? Unfortunately, not everyone subscribes to this theory.

When I first moved to Buffalo in 2005, I was driving on Elmwood Avenue near Bidwell Parkway when the light turned red. The man in the oncoming lane of traffic hollered "You couldn't let me in?" and released such venom that I sat there in dumb silence. He called me all sorts of names, each one an expletive worse than the last.

What he said was shockingly hurtful, and the irony of it is that he expected a kindness of me but was unwilling to show any himself.

Tim Gunn's Guide to Living Well

"In this book, I will share my thoughts on what constitutes a life well lived," Tim writes.

He encourages us to be thoughtful, but in doing so, he never sounds preachy or patronizing. He comes across as a friend, someone talking to you, not at you, and shares stories of his life, including the things that he has struggled with and learned from.

Gunn's book addresses everything from cultivating relationships to being a considerate houseguest.

Some of his words of wisdom:


Be a good listener.

"Listen and listen intently when you’re being spoken to about something."

When an opportunity for conflict presents itself, take the high road.

"Don’t get into a conflict in that moment. You’ll feel better about yourself for it."

Gunn subscribes to the theory of not burning bridges. You might need those bridges later on. But don't let yourself become a door mat either. Gunn says that even as you take the high road, think about how you can avoid such a situation in the future.

Don't tolerate racism.

"It isn’t bad manners to point out when someone is being gallingly racist. You have an obligation not to let it slide."

Earlier this year, I encountered racism in someone whom I'm close to. We were traveling at the time, and I struggled with what to do – should I say something and cause an argument or bad feelings? Would it only draw more attention to him? In the end, I kept my mouth shut, and I wish that I hadn't.

I still think about it with sadness – not only because of his ignorance but because of my cowardice in not standing up for what is right.


Be low maintenance.

"The people who have the best careers and the best lives (and often who do the best work) are not the demanding, screaming, flinging divas. They’re the people who take their ego out of it and put all that energy into their creative life. Everyone wants to work with people who are low maintenance. You have a huge advantage over the competition if, in addition to being a talent, you are easy to work with."

Keep learning.

"If you’re not learning, what makes you want to get up in the morning? Why wake up if you have it all figured out? People who coast are not having any fun. It’s also dangerous. People around you are still working and pushing themselves. If you don’t keep up, it doesn’t matter how advanced you were when the race started – you’re not going to win it."

I see a lot of coasting when it comes to new technology. People will say, "I just don't get that stuff," and "Oh, that's for young people."

But, the world around us is changing. We have to change with it, or we risk making ourselves obsolete. You wouldn't expect your doctor to stop learning – that would be bad news for everyone. Hold yourself up to the same standard.

Be open to change.

"'But this is the way we’ve always done it.' I banned that phrase from my office. You just mustn’t think that way. There is always room for improvement."

Take risks.

"Risk taking in fashion is fun, but risk taking in our careers and in our education is essential. Ambitious people are more attractive and more fun to be with than people who maintain the status quo."

Gift Giving

Give to people who appreciate it.

"Whether you get or make a present for someone, you want to have the gift appreciated, or at least acknowledged. When there is no reaction – no thank-you card, no e-mail, no phone call – you start to wonder whether it even arrived. It’s like throwing gifts into a big black hole. If people don’t even acknowledge your gifts, you have to assume they don’t like them and don’t want any more. When people don’t communicate with you, you can only go by their actions, and if their actions are to give no indication that they want you to keep doing what you’re doing, you might as well stop."


Always look your best, and look appropriate.

You don't need to spend a lot of money to look good, and you'll feel better for it.

"It feels good at the end of the day to take off your fancy shoes and put on your slippers, but it also feels good to know that all day you looked good and smelled good and that the people you encountered had a positive impression of you and enjoyed having you around."

Gunn harbors a particular hatred for Crocs:

"I’ve yet to see any condition where Crocs look good, including the beach. Why not flip-flops? I know Crocs are affordable. Well, so are Converse and lots of other brands that don’t look like hooves."


    Provide Food Options for Everyone

    "As much as I believe it’s good manners to eat what’s put in front of you as long as it won’t send you into anaphylactic shock, I also believe that, when a host, you really need to think about what will suit your guests. I think it’s bizarre when you assume no one is a vegetarian or has an allergy."

    Before I became a vegetarian, it didn't occur to me that someone might not eat meat or might have an allergy to peanuts.

    But now that I'm on the other side, I've found myself in countless situations where I couldn't find anything to eat, not even a side dish. I've also been made to feel as if my eating preferences are a personal affront to the host, designed to inconvenience him or her. I try to avoid those situations whenever possible.

    Being a Houseguest

    Be independent, and be considerate.

    "To be a good houseguest, you should be as independent as possible. You should buy groceries or take your hosts out for dinner. Pick up after yourself. Pretend to have a good time even if you’re not. Say, 'I’d like to make a dinner reservation tonight. What’s your favorite restaurant?' Try not to break anything. Be quiet."

    Giving Advice

    Be helpful.

    "The question I ask myself before giving advice is: Is what you want to say really going to help them? When you’re thinking of volunteering advice, you also need to ask yourself this question: Will revealing my feelings on this subject actually help?"

    This one was an eye opener for me. I couldn't understand why my husband didn't want to know when he had a pen stain on his shirt or his outfit didn't match. His response would be, "Why would you tell me that? I can't do anything about it now!" To which I would reply, "I just thought you'd like to know."

    But, he was right. I didn't help to fix a problem, I created a problem where there was none before. Now, if I'm going to say anything at all, I say something before we walk out the door, not after.

      Gunn's Golden Rules should be required reading, it has such valuable advice. The book is available at the following libraries:
      • Central (downtown)
      • Audubon
      • Clarence
      • Clearfield
      • East Aurora
      • Julia Boyer Reinstein
      • Kenmore
      • Lancaster
      Click here to search the catalog.

      Friday, November 18, 2011

      And the Winner Is...

      Becky P.!

      Congratulations, Becky! You will be contacted by email to arrange for the shipment of your prize, Dance with Julianne: Cardiac Ballroom.

      Becky was chosen at random from our commentors and email newsletter subscribers, using a random number generator:

      Thank you to everyone who entered our first giveaway! Keep reading for your chance to win future contests.

      If you have any suggestions as to what you'd like to see for future prizes, leave a comment below.

      Wednesday, November 16, 2011

      In the News: Don't Worry About Your Running Form

      A few years ago, I tried to take up running with the help of my husband, who runs at least four miles every day. As we jogged, he advised me on my posture and how my foot should fall. I found it awkward, and after we'd circled the block, my lungs burned so badly that I was ready to return home.

      Within a week, I decided that running wasn't for me. I found it difficult, and my lack of coordination didn't make things any easier. 

      But according to a New York Times article, we awkward runners can rejoice, as there's no such thing as a perfect running form.

      “There is good evidence that your body is exquisitely lazy and will find the easiest way for you to run,” said Carl Foster, professor of exercise and sports medicine at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

      Studies have found that we automatically run in a way that is most efficient for our own bodies. If we change our natural form, we're less efficient and more prone to injury.

      I might give running another try. And if I do, I'll finally remove the tags from the exercise clothes that I bought this summer.

      Tuesday, November 15, 2011

      Giveaway: Dance with Julianne: Cardio Ballroom

      Get a head start on your New Year's resolutions! Subscribe to our monthly email newsletter or leave a comment below, and you'll be entered to win the exercise DVD Dance with Julianne: Cardio Ballroom.

      A winner will be chosen at random at the end of this week – Friday, November 19 – and will be announced on the blog.

      Please note that if you enter by leaving a comment, you must include a name (either a screen name or your first and last) so that we know who to contact.

      Dance with Julianne: Cardio Ballroom

      Two-time “Dancing with the Stars” champion Julianne Hough is ready to share her best-kept secrets and techniques for getting a lean, toned dancer’s physique!

      Known for her standout choreography, contagious enthusiasm, and ability to teach anyone to dance, Julianne will motivate you to dance the Cha Cha, Jive and Paso Doble with her in this fun and effective workout – no partner needed!

      These fat burning moves are carefully choreographed to keep your heart rate up and help you dance your way into fabulous shape. “Dance is the best way to exercise.” Julianne says. “You’ll have so much fun, you won’t even realize you’re getting a great full-body workout.”

      Monday, November 14, 2011

      How to Help Your Parent Reduce His or Her Risk of Falling

      While you’re visiting mom or dad for the holidays, teach your parent how to prevent falls, one of the most common injuries among seniors.

      Physical Therapist David Avery of Catholic Health's Partners In Rehab and AthletiCare says that Erie County residents over the age of 75 are three times as likely to have been hospitalized as a result of a fall.

      In some cases, falls are caused by the surrounding environment – poor lighting or frayed carpets, for example. In others, low blood pressure or muscle weakness is the culprit.

      Here’s what you can do to help reduce your parent’s risk of a fall:

      Monitor His or Her Blood Pressure

      According to the National Institute of Aging, low blood pressure after meals can result in inadequate blood flow to the brain, which causes small strokes that impair walking, balance and memory.

      If your parent is taking medications to lower his or her blood pressure, ask a doctor or pharmacist if they can be taken between meals instead. (Source: Institute for Aging Research).

      Inadequate blood flow is also a concern when getting out of bed.

      "Coming from a lying position to a sitting position, sometimes the pooling of blood goes into a lower extremity, and they don't get the blood flow to the head,” says Avery.

      He recommends counting to 10 before getting out of bed to prevent a fall and possible injury.

      Check His or Her Surroundings

      Note any potential hazards in your parent’s home that could cause a fall. These include:
      • Clutter on the floor and stairways
      • Poor lighting
      • Electrical cords
      • Changes in floor levels
      Place frequently used items within easy reach, so that mom or dad doesn’t need to bend over clutter to retrieve them. Keep cordless phones near the bed at night so that there’s no need to get up to answer it.

      Check that paths are clear, such as from the bedroom to the bathroom, and ensure that lighting is adequate. Consider installing night lights so that nighttime trips between rooms don’t result in a fall.

      Remove throw rugs and make sure that other obstructions, such as pet toys, aren’t blocking foot traffic.

      Establish an Exercise Program

      To keep muscles strong and the body sturdy, regular exercise is required.

      Tai chi is popular among seniors because it is a low-impact activity that can improve balance, coordination, and physical functioning.

      To help mom or dad get started, consider giving a tai chi exercise DVD as a Christmas present. Or, schedule a class that you can take together. Classes are available from the Taoist Tai Chi Society in Amherst, Buffalo, and West Seneca.

      Make a Doctor’s Appointment

      For anyone at any age, a primary care doctor should be seen at least once each year. For seniors, regular visits are especially important because we tend to develop more health problems as we age.

      At Catholic Health’s primary care offices, patients 65 years of age and older are screened for balance to determine the likelihood of a fall.

      If balance is poor, vestibular therapy, provided by a physical therapist or occupational therapist, may be recommended. Balance and coordination problems affect the ability to walk, run, and jump. If mom or dad has issues with these functions, it’s best to seek help as soon as possible.

      Ask when your parent last saw his or her doctor and if a balance assessment occurred. If not, arrange for an appointment to make sure that any problems are diagnosed or prevented before an injury occurs.

      By taking these precautions now, you can help to minimize your parent's risk of a fall and prevent injury.

      Friday, November 11, 2011

      How to Get a Discount on Your Next Gym Membership

      The following article is a guest post written by Jessica P. in Williamsville. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Catholic Health.

      Everyone knows that physical activity is an important part of being healthy. But for many of us, the cost of gym memberships can be prohibitive.

      Here’s what you may not know: if you have health insurance, work for a company that employs more than fifty people, or are a college student, chances are that you’re eligible to receive a discount. Read below to find out if you qualify.

      Insurance Discounts

      Blue Cross Blue Shield of WNY

      Blue Cross Blue Shield of WNY offers its members discounted rates for health-related services. Its website states that all members are eligible, although some restrictions may apply.

      Discounts include:
      Click here for a complete list of gym discounts.

      Some plans also cover fitness classes. Body Shaping by Sandy is a popular choice for those interested in Zumba, Yoga or Tai Chi. Classes are held at different times, days and locations to fit your schedule.


      Univera members can show their member IDs at participating gyms to receive a discount. Benefits include:
      Click here for a complete list of gym discounts.

      If you’re a Univera Solutions Healthy Choices member, you’re covered for up to $300 per calendar year for “lifestyle benefits” that can be applied to health club memberships. Click here for more information about these benefits.

      Independent Health

      Independent Health members are eligible to receive:
      • 15% off the price of a three month program and two classes per week at Fit Physique in Kenmore
      • $50 discount with the purchase of an annual membership to Omega Health and Wellness in Hamburg
      If you’re a member of the FlexFit Active plan, $250 will help to cover the cost of a gym membership. FlexFit provides plans for families (allowing the $250 to be put toward activities such as swimming lessons and gymnastics) and independent subscribers (allowing the $250 to be put toward vitamins and alternative therapies).

      Click here for a complete list of member discounts (PDF).

      Other Insurance Companies

      Other insurance companies may offer discounts as well, since they have a vested interest in keeping you healthy. Check with your insurance provider to learn more.

      Employer Discounts

      Even if your health insurance plan doesn’t offer a gym discount, your employer might.

      Discounts for Gold’s Gym are offered in 86% of companies that employ over 50 people. Participating companies include Time Warner Cable, Exxon Mobile and Barnes and Noble.

      Click here to see if your company participates in the discount program.

      If your company isn’t listed, ask the gym about a corporate discount. For example, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo (JCC) offers discounts to companies with five or more people who are interested in joining.

      Student Discounts

      Many gyms offer memberships to college students at a discounted rate. The JCC offers a discount with proof of attendance. To be eligible, you must be enrolled for a certain number of credit hours.

      Contact the gym that’s of interest to you and inquire if a student discount is available and what the eligibility requirements are.

      Income-sensitive Discounts

      If the cost of a gym membership would break your budget, apply for financial assistance.

      The JCC offers fee assistance for those who are unable to manage the cost of a membership. Click here for more information (PDF).

      The YMCA Buffalo Niagara also assists those who are unable to pay the full price of membership. Visit their website to download a financial assistance application.

      Now that winter weather is approaching, gyms are offering even more incentives for us to join. Some of the best deals are going on right now. Research your health insurance, start a company wellness program or take advantage of your college student status.

      Because discounts may change or restrictions may apply, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance carrier or gym of interest before committing to a membership.

      Good luck at finding the best possible deal you can get on your next gym membership!

      Wednesday, November 9, 2011

      In the News: Public Smoking Bans Reduce Smoking at Home

      A new study has found that people who live in counties that ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars are more likely to shield their families from secondhand exposure at home, especially if they have young children (Source: MSN).

      When the New York State smoking ban took effect in 2003, I remember it caused an uproar at the donut shop where I worked. The shop was a smoker's haven, with a regular group of smokers cycling in and out for two to three hours at a time, perched over their ashtrays at the end of the counter.

      I was so used to the smoke that I couldn't smell it. But, we had our share of angry customers who brought back donuts because the smell lingered on the food.

      At home, I was surrounded by the smoke from my mom's cigarettes, and unknown to me, I sometimes smelt of it too. After we were married, Ben confided that while we were dating, he could smell smoke in my hair. I was mortified.

      I know that the smoking ban still has its opponents, but I'm grateful that I no longer have to be surrounded by something that can harm my health or cause me embarrassment.

      It's a common argument that smokers have the right to smoke where they please. But, I disagree. Knowing that smoking can harm the people around you, why would you persist in smoking in public? It's disrespectful to others and says that you don't care about their health or their comfort.

      That some smokers have taken the bans a step further and outlawed smoking in their own homes is heartening. It's considerate of people living in the same household, especially non-smokers. Plus, it prevents the furniture and entire house from smelling of smoke. To me, it's a win-win.

      What are your thoughts on smoking bans in public places? Are you for or against? Has the ban in New York State had an impact on your smoking at home?

      Monday, November 7, 2011

      Ask Us Anything: Will Cardiomyopathy Come Back?

      "After my first child was born, I found out that I had Postpartum Cardiomyopathy.

      After 3 years, my ejection fraction went back to normal, and I got pregnant with my second child. Things stayed the same. What are the chances of it coming back with a third pregnancy?

      Could I have a vaginal delivery after two C-sections? Would a doctor support my decision if I was to try for a third?"

      Dr. Bruce Rodgers Responds:

      Peripartum or Postpartum Cardiomyopathy is a weakened heart diagnosed within the final months of pregnancy or within five months after delivery.

      If you have had a prior pregnancy complicated by Cardiomyopathy, subsequent pregnancies do impose an increased risk, even if the left ventricular function (ejection fraction) returns to normal.

      The risk of recurrent Cardiomyopathy may be as high as 20% in a subsequent pregnancy; if this occurs, the chances of the ejection fraction recovering are lower than they were in the first pregnancy. This is especially true if the ejection fraction was less than 25% in the first pregnancy in which the Cardiomyopathy occurred.

      In addition, even if heart failure does not occur in a subsequent pregnancy, there may be a reduction in your left ventricular function (ejection fraction) that may be permanent. Effects may range from mildly reduced exercise tolerance to more serious symptoms, depending on the severity of impairment.

      Decisions to have additional pregnancies should be undertaken with the understanding of the risks involved. Such a decision should not be made lightly and should be made in concert with your obstetrician and cardiologist, weighing the risks against the individual’s desire to have an additional child, and the impact on the individual’s family should those risks be realized.

      The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists new published guidelines do allow for a “trial of labor after cesarean section (TOLAC)” after two previous Cesarean sections if certain conditions are met. From the description given, you may be a candidate. However, this decision must be made with your obstetrician, weighing the risks and benefits.

      – Dr. Bruce Rodgers

      Dr. Rodgers is the Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Catholic Health and Director of the Fetal Testing Unit at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.

      If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

      Friday, November 4, 2011

      Afternoon Tea at Asa Ransom House

      Did you know that tea has been found to encourage weight loss, lower cholesterol, and increase mental alertness? (Source: WebMD).

      I drink tea every morning, and for the past year, have been making the rounds of tea houses in Western New York. My most recent visit: Asa Ransom House, a historic bed and breakfast in Clarence that was built, in part, in 1853 (the dining rooms were added in 1975).

      Asa Ransom House

      Asa Ransom House

      Tea is held in the Ransom Room, to the right of the main entryway. The dining area is what you'd expect of a bed and breakfast – floral wallpaper, a hearth, and a sea of solid, wooden furniture. The room – the entire house, really – looks like it's been plucked from somewhere in New England.

      Asa Ransom House

      My friend and I were seated at a corner table next to a window overlooking the porch:

      Asa Ransom House

      To begin, we were presented with a choice of Harney & Sons teas, along with a pot of hot water.

      Asa Ransom House

      Asa Ransom House

      Next we received a tiered tray of scones, sandwiches and cakes, causing some surprise that we had arrived at the main course so quickly.

      Visits to other tea houses had been more leisurely, with one providing a salad and another warm scones before the sandwiches and cakes were served. At Asa Ransom, I didn't feel as if I were lacking in food, but I missed the staggered service, which made the experience seem like more of an indulgence.

      Asa Ransom House

      The sandwiches had names that I couldn't pronounce and one contained tuna and the other chicken (off limits to a vegetarian). The cucumber sandwiches are usually my favorite, but the bread tasted stale and stiff.

      For me, tea was more of a dessert fest. Cheesecake and a chocolate cake were among the sweets served, along with cookies and a slice of strawberry.

      We spent probably an hour and a half at the table, never feeling rushed or as if were occupying needed space. We shared the dining room with one group, but they were out of sight, giving the impression that we had the area to ourselves.

      After tea, we found that the inn's other public spaces were equally inviting. I wished that I could sit in the lounge with a good book, especially since we had visited on a rainy Saturday. A chess board and half-finished puzzle implied that guests also considered the lounge a welcome place to relax.

      Asa Ransom House

      Off of the lounge, a small gift shop sold tea cups and tea pots, gift books and candles.

      Asa Ransom House

      Clarence-themed items, such as ornaments and mugs, added local interest. Unfortunately, they didn't suit anyone on my Christmas list, since none are from or have an affiliation with Clarence, so I left empty handed.

      Asa Ransom House

      Overall, I enjoyed tea at the Asa Ransom House. Although other tea houses can boast of better food, presentation, and more unique gift shops, this historic house offers an environment that is difficult to replicate.

      Even the dog was charming:

      Asa Ransom House

      Tea is offered on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and reservations are recommended. The cost is $16.95 per person.

      Click here for more information about afternoon tea at Asa Ransom House.

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011

      In the News: Loneliness Can Keep You Up at Night

      A new study has found that feelings of loneliness may cause you to toss and turn at night (Source: MSN). Participants who felt most alone had what the study authors called fragmented sleep and woke more often.

      However, loneliness is not the same as being alone. You could be in a crowded room and feel as if you're invisible or unable to make an emotional connection with someone else. The emptiness that you feel is caused by not having as much social interaction or intimacy as you would want.

      Everyone experiences loneliness at some time in their lives. To combat it, you might try volunteering (Volunteering at Catholic Health), which can increase your self-esteem and introduce you to people whom you otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to meet.

      If you're feeling lonely, try out the following strategies recommended by Psychology Today.

      Improve Your Social Skills

      Learn how to build and maintain relationships by taking a course, reading a book, or seeking professional guidance. Make it a point to practice your social skills each day – say hello to a stranger or get to know a co-worker.

      Seek Out Opportunities to Socialize

      In addition to volunteering, you might consider joining a sports team, book club, or other group activity. Check out the website Meetups to find groups in the Western New York and Buffalo area. Groups focus on movie nights, board games, fitness, hobbies, and more. There's even a group for people who are new in town.

      Think Positively

      When you're lonely, you're on the lookout for negative social cues. You interpret trivial events (such as a co-worker neglecting to say "hello") as a slight. Persistent loneliness is often caused by a cycle of negative thinking. Breaking that cycle can help you to regain your happiness and get a better night's sleep.
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