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Six Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season

Six Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season
Six Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season

    Barring the sudden mutation of bird flu into Super Death Flu, most winter illnesses aren’t life-threatening (except to the elderly and the very young). Catching whatever bug is going around will usually just slow you down for a couple days, making you feel miserable. They’re more inconvenient than anything else. Still, American businesses lose millions of working hours to employee sickness, most of it due not to missed work days (Americans don’t use sick days) but rather to lowered productivity due to employees coming in sick.

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    There’s no sure-fire way to make sure you don’t catch cold or flu, but there are a few things you can do to increase your odds. And if you do get sick, there are also a couple things you ought to keep in mind to avoid spreading your illness to your friends, co-workers, and loved ones.

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    1. First of all, forget the anti-bacterial soap. Anti-bacterial soap offers no particular advantage over soap alone — it’s the washing that counts, regardless of the soap. Even if anti-bacterial additives worked, though, they still wouldn’t help much, since the main threat in flu season is viruses, not bacteria. Meanwhile, the introduction of anti-bacterial substances into our hand soap, laundry detergent, dish soap, hand lotions, toothbrushes, and just about everything else contributes to the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria — in the long run, posing a greater threat than the risk of normal household bacteria pose today. These products should only be used in clinical conditions — hospitals, doctor’s offices, labs — to minimize the rate of resistance development.
    2. On the other hand, use hand sanitizer. The active ingredient in most hand sanitizers is alcohol, not specialized anti-bacterial agents. If you cannot wash your hands, and there is no visible dirt on your hands, hand sanitizer is a reasonable second line of defense. Use it before you eat or prepare food, of course (but only if you cannot wash), but also after using public transportation, visiting the bank teller window (or anywhere else where people put their hands a lot), using a shopping cart, or selecting meat at the supermarket.
    3. Better yet, wash your hands. But do it right, instead of the way you wash your hands now. A good hand-washing is more effective than hand sanitizer, regardless of the kind of soap you use. The problem is, most people don’t wash long enough to get a good hand-washing. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to assure real cleanliness. How long is that? About as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times through (you don’t have to sing out loud if you don’t want to, though).
    4. Avoid the buffet. Yes, buffets are amazing — bountiful cornucopias of delights. They are also among the least sanitary ways to serve food. Almost every customer before you has touched the tongs, spoon, or spatula the food is served with, introducing all manner of bacteria and viruses into the dish (I said “almost” every customer — the rest just stuck their hands right in). Food is rarely kept hot enough to kill any germs that get on or in it; generally, buffet food is kept at a temperature well within the comfort zone of food poisoning bacteria. Yum!
    5. If you do get sick, stay home. A lot of people go into work sick, feeling that they have too much on their plates to miss a day. Those people are profoundly disturbed, and should see a therapist or life coach immediately. In any case, the reality is that more productivity is lost due to sick workers than to absent workers. You can do the math yourself: if you go into work and work at 50% effectiveness for five days, instead of staying home for two days and coming in fully recovered the third, you’ve lost half a day’s work (50% + 50% + 50% + 50% + 50% = 250% vs. 0% + 0% + 100% + 100% + 100% = 300%). On top of that, you risk infecting your co-workers, reducing their productivity as well, and costing your company a heck of a lot more than your two days off.
    6. If you can’t avoid people, at least cough properly. Cough into your sleeves, not your hands. When you cough, cover your mouth with your elbow or shoulder, not your hands. I know, it seems gross, all those germs just lingering around in your sleeve, but better in your shirt (which you rarely touch anyone or anything with) than on your hands (which you touch everything with). Bacteria and viruses will quickly die in the fabric of your shirt or blouse, while the oils and warmth of your hands will keep them alive for hours. Bottom line: you won’t be spreading germs everywhere you go.

      Following the advice above will not completely eliminate the risk of illness, but it will certainly reduce your risks and, if you do get sick reduce the threat you pose to others. Certainly a healthy diet and lifestyle can help, as can a round of flu shots, but neither of those is very useful if you don’t minimize your exposure to the germs that cause illness. Unfortunately, the trend over the last few years has been to put our trust in virtually useless anti-bacterial soaps, leading us down the wrong path entirely. Good hand-washing habits, being careful about where you put your hands in the first place, and common courtesy are far more effective.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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