Friday, February 17, 2017

Fatigue and Disability

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Fatigue is a common experience for almost everyone, a feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. When we over-exert, either physically or mentally, we feel fatigued. Most of us have experienced fatigue as a symptom of the flu or a cold.

If we have allowed our bodies to become de-conditioned and then try to return to normal activity levels, we are likely to experience fatigue before we get back into shape. If we become stressed, the overabundance of adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone, can cause body changes that use additional energy and leave us feeling fatigued.

These types of fatigue come on gradually, and all can be alleviated by a rest period after which we are back to normal functioning.

Unrelenting fatigue can be an invisible symptom of many types of disability. A diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) immediately comes to mind as an example. Persons with CFS have extreme persistent fatigue, seemingly without identifiable cause, that is not mitigated by rest1. Perhaps as many as 80% of persons with multiple sclerosis deal with a particular type of fatigue called lassitude2, which can come on suddenly and may feel like “hitting a wall.” Fatigue can also be a side effect of various disability medications and treatments3.

Fatigue is a symptom that occurs three times as frequently in persons with disabilities as it does in the general population4. For non-disabled people, it is possible to “push through” fatigue. But with many types of disability-related fatigue, ignoring it and continuing to exert effort only makes things worse. A variety of strategies are helpful in managing the effects of disability-related fatigue. Several will be shared on this blog over the next few weeks.


References

1 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2015). Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/

2 Fatigue, National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Fatigue

3 Fatigue, Mayo Clinic Staff (2016). Retrieved July 11, 2016 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/fatigue/basics/definition/sym-20050894

4 Thompson, L. (2004). Functional changes affecting people aging with disabilities. In B. Kemp, & L. Mosqueda (Eds.), Aging with a disability: What the clinician needs to know, (pp. 102-128). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Image Credit: marusya21111999, Pixabay

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Humpday Hint: De-stress the Cyborg

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

The average technology-filled 21st century urban lifestyle is not a relaxing one. Jobs come with long commutes and traffic jams. At work and at home, machines and gadgets demand constant attention. Emails, messages and texts trickle into your life in a steady, inexhaustible stream. Life is now cybernetic, with people intimately linked to smart phones, tablets, computers, laptops, game systems, GPS devices, e-books, television and all manner of consumer technology. We have become cyborgs, fused with our machines, plugged continuously into the Internet, connecting to the world and each other through a 24/7 freeway of social media platforms which include networking and blogging sites, image and video sharing sites, personal broadcasting and collaboration tools, widgets, social bookmarking and news aggregation and of course, virtual worlds and virtual reality platforms.

For many older people, consumer technology is still regarded for the most part as augmentative; that is, something that enhances a chosen lifestyle and its tasks, functioning as an 'aid' rather than a 'driver'. For the 'Generation Z' who have grown up using and being surrounded by such technology, however, 'personal tech' is a way of life. Personal technology is central to their lives, indispensable, fundamental, immediately impacting how they think, respond to, and address life situations. Gen Zers negotiate life with technology, and live through their technology. On the extreme end of this trajectory, a Gen Zer's personality and self-worth may be enmeshed in their social media and their reception -- if they get many 'likes', it gives them a 'high'. Too many 'dislikes', and they crash, damaging their self-regard. For such Gen Zers, experiencing anxiety and withdrawal symptoms when deprived of their personal technology is not uncommon.

Whether we like it or not, urban living in the 21st century has become synonymous with cybernetic lifestyles. Machines are all around us, on us, even in us, helping us, connecting us, freeing us and providing opportunities unimaginable a century ago. Yet this same sea of perpetual connectivity in which we live also generates more stress than ever before, not least because it is extremely hard to disassociate ourselves from it. To help manage stress, we need to recognise our reliance upon this human-machine connection, and to come up with ways to use it to advantage without being devoured by it.

Does This Sound Like You?

You can't live without your smart phone.
Can you remember the last time you left your phone in another room and forgot about it? Do you check it constantly for messages, or social media pings? Do you get anxious if the battery is low? When was the last time you remember leaving it off? Can't recall? Do you take your phone out the moment you have a wait on your hands, or a queue to stand in? Do you feel anxious, nervous or restless if you're in a no wi-fi or no phone signal area? If all this sounds familiar, you're on the road to connectivity addiction. Being 'connected' all the time may seem satisfying, but it can also overstimulate you. Constant stimulation is stressful for the body and mind. If you are always 'on', the body and mind does not get to rest or regenerate. This sort of stress, eventually, can lead to depression or anxiety.

TIP: Give yourself an electronic break once a week, even if for just half a day. Switch off the phone and all other electronic devices for several hours. Let your mind rest and recuperate. Be aware that if you're used to being constantly connected, you will experience some anxiety the first time you try this.

You facebook or tweet all the time.
In these days of Facebook and Twitter, people feed off and thrive on display. Part of that process involves presenting themselves in images as they wish the world to see them, in order to receive a response they hope to get, and while we are all guilty of this process to some extent, social media has transformed the politics of such performance into an addictive 'instant gratification' loop, accessible 24 hours a day. Are you constantly checking the number of 'likes' on the images you post to social media? Are you constantly thinking of what to post next on Facebook or Twitter? Are you on cloud nine when you get a high number of 'likes', but feel down or miserable when you get too many 'dislikes'? If this sounds familiar, you need to be careful you are not setting up a harmful cycle where your sense of self-worth and self-confidence is being dictated by your social media audience -- most of whom are total strangers to you.

TIP: Take a mental step back. Remember that your social media followers or readers may be, for the most part, people who do not know you. The internet is a place where anonymity lets people be as rude or contradictory as they want. Do not let their opinions govern how you feel about yourself, or how you treat yourself.

You take pictures of EVERYTHING.
The convenience of a digital camera in our phones has changed lives. Everyone can now be a photographer. We can record everything, at any time, anywhere. Precious moments can now be stored forever, with a click. Being able to record emergencies, accidents and incidents at a moment's notice are all advantages of a camera with video capacity which lives with you in your pocket. Massive memory cards allow storage of thousands of shots, without the hassle of film. Phone cameras, in the right place and the right time, have saved lives, reputations and solved crimes. Is there a downside to this? Yes, possibly. If you find yourself haphazardly taking pictures of EVERYTHING, simply as a matter of course, or from a fear of 'missing something', you may have a problem. How many of these shots do you actually access, later? Substituting the camera for your eyes actually encourages people to pay less time and attention to the things they take pictures of, as they think "not to worry, I've got pictures of it." The result is a poorer, less clear and less stable memory of the occasion. The reason, as Bastyr University psychologist Dr Diedre Clay explains, is because "[t]he lens is a veil in front of your eyes and we don't realize it's there."1

TIP: Take pictures, but enjoy the moment. If you're visiting a place or attending an exhibition, do not rush past everything, leaving the experience to your camera. Focus on things and people with your own eyes, allowing your mind and senses to store the experience and your own responses to it. Participate and soak it up.

You don't actually talk to anyone.
Do you prefer texting your friends to talking to them in person? Are you more comfortable hanging out online to meeting them in the flesh? Would you rather connect through social media than make appointments in the physical world? In this age of ultra-connectivity, we can have relationships with people without ever having to leave the bedroom. Our phones, computers and Internet connection allow us to connect with any number of social media, forums, chatrooms, daterooms and virtual worlds to talk and interact with people from all over the world -- in real time. For many people, the Internet has revolutionised their horizons of possibility, allowing access to news, knowledge, help and human connections in ways not possible for them before. Can too much of a good thing be problematic? Yes, if it is removing your ability to interact healthily and appropriately with people in the flesh. Many Gen Zers are losing (or have not acquired) the 'real life' social skills that members of a community need to maintain the health, coherency and stability of that community. Some are finding it difficult or awkward to interact with 'real' people away from the computer screen. Experiences, feelings and empathy are in danger of being 'flattened' or lessened by the 'quick grab' snapshot nature of Facebook, Twitter or phone texting.2 And while the easy anonymity of digital interaction and our own computer screens are safety shields, they can also distance us and reduce feelings of responsibility and consequence. Internet trolls and cyberbullies, for example, thrive on anonymity and the protection afforded by NON face-to-face conflict: in the physical world, they would think twice before saying the same things to someone in person.

TIP: Try to meet up with family members or friends at least once a week.

Multitasking is a way of life.
Multitasking in this day and age seems unavoidable. With machines, messages, work, friends and family needs vying for attention all the time, people have learned to multitask. We eat lunch at our work-stations, watch TV while working on the computer, answer texts while doing the dinner, watch the kids while helping others on the forums. Are we more efficient or productive? Or just more stressed, overstretched and anxious? Perhaps even feeling, as Bilbo Baggins once put it, "like butter scraped over too much bread"? The stress and wear and tear from too much multitasking can be insidious: you may find yourself anxious and nervous without knowing why. If multitasking is making you a bundle of nerves, it's time to rethink.

TIP: If at all possible, handle one task at a time, so you can focus on its details to the best of your ability. Make lists of priority jobs, and stick to the list. Instead of being distracted by five tasks all at once, pay attention to the single job at hand, enjoy the concentration, let your brain process everything comprehensively (not fleetingly), and live in the moment.

References

1 Rossi, Carey, '12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health', Health

2 ibid.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tips & Advice for Newcomers to Second Life, Part 1

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

We'll share a few tips for the novice Second Lifer here, in installments. Second Life® can be a delightful, useful, fun, creative, and educational environment; the tips here will help make your experience as good as can be.

Cautions & Courtesies

Some of these tips may sound a bit scary to a new or first-time Second Life resident, but keep in mind that there are many parallels in real life to Second Life; unsavory people and things exist in both worlds. Common sense and erring on the side of caution, unless you know for certain something is safe, is always prudent.

  1. Do not automatically accept friendship offers, group invites and teleport offers from people or groups you do not know. Apply the same caution in Second Life that you would in real life.
  2. Be careful about accepting items, gifts, hugs, bites, kisses, animations, etc. from people you do not know. Giving permission to a disguised offer can turn over control of your avatar to a stranger.
  3. Never click on any items you find lying about in sandboxes, no matter how interesting they look. Malicious items are often disguised and left in sandboxes to tempt newcomers. Clicking on them can give hackers access to your avatar or your account.
  4. Never give out personal information, such as passwords or account details, to anyone.
  5. Think carefully before you give out real life details to anyone, such as information about your life, person or whereabouts.
  6. There are REAL people behind every avatar. Respect that.
  7. Many people prefer to be asked first, before being hit with a friendship offer, especially from people they do not know.
  8. Respect other people's privacy and rights, even though you are in a virtual environment. For example, do not just teleport into people's houses without first asking their permission.
  9. Be considerate with text and sound gestures. Large text gestures push chat off the screen, and disrupt conversation. Also, some people use text-readers with text-based viewers in SL, and the ASCII symbols in text gestures will turn the readout into meaningless babble.
  10. Remember that many people have 'alts', or alternative accounts, in Second Life.
  11. Please do not beg for money.

A Few Tips to Help Prevent Lag

'Lag' is the effect suffered when your viewer and the Second Life environment are not performing to the best of their capacity.

Lag can be caused by these things:

  • overloaded servers
  • crowded sims
  • incorrect bandwidth and graphics settings
  • inadequate computer ability
  • interference from SL maintenance procedures
When there is lag, a primary symptom is slow response in your playing environment -- missing or slow display of chat, difficulty moving, unresponsive scripts and teleports, problems opening inventory or changing outfits, all manner of interrupted or truncated actions or commands, and other problems.

To keep lag as low as possible:

  1. Keep your viewer's graphics settings as low as possible.
  2. Keep your 'maximum bandwidth' lower rather than higher.
  3. Keep your 'draw distance' lower rather than higher.
  4. Reduce the level of detail on any slider you do not need, such as 'terrain' or 'trees'.
  5. Reduce the maximum number of particles.

All of these settings are found in Me > Preferences (If you are using the third-party viewer Firestorm, Avatar > Preferences).

The following links will show you how to adjust your settings for optimum performance:
http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Lag
http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/How_to_reduce_lag
https://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/How-to-improve-Viewer-performance/ta-p/1316923

Editor's Note: For those using the Firestorm viewer, a good resource about lag can be found here: http://wiki.phoenixviewer.com/lag

Images Source: Pixabay

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Humpday Hint: Tech Tip - Locating a "Lost" Cursor

Contributing Author: Alice Krueger

If you have trouble seeing, or simply have multiple windows open at once, it can be frustrating to find the cursor. Here are some tips to try.

On computers using Windows

  • Go to the classic Control Panel, then Mouse Options.
  • Under the Pointers tab, you can choose Large or Extra Large.
  • Under the Pointers Options tab, you can Display Pointer Trails to see the cursor as it moves.
  • Still in the Pointers Options tab, at the bottom, you can choose to "Show Location of Pointer When I Press the CTRL Key."
  • Remember to click OK to save your changes.

On many Macs

  • Go to Universal Access (or Accessibility) in system preferences.
  • Cick the Mouse tab, and use the Cursor Size slider to increase the size of the cursor. But you may not want a permanently larger cursor, so read on.
  • If you use a Mac, OS X, v10.4 or later, you can download the free Mouse Locator app, which circles the cursor in green when you want to find it.
  • If you have the El Capitan Mac OS, simply wiggle the mouse, and the cursor will temporarily enlarge.

Image Credit: Pixabay