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You’re Drinking Too Much. How To Cut Back

By Alison Bowen, Chicago Tribune (TNS)

Maybe your 2015 ended with a bang of booze. If you’re nursing a holiday hangover, perhaps it’s time for a change.

Whether your family has an addiction history that’s prompting a rethinking, or you are simply questioning whether a cocktail should accompany every night’s dinner as an appetizer, it never hurts to re-evaluate health choices.

We talked to Dr. Indra Cidambi, psychiatrist and medical director for the Center for Network Therapy in New Jersey, which helps guide patients through detox.

One clue it might be time for a change? If you find yourself explaining that your alcohol intake is a reasonable amount, whether to yourself or others.

“When we don’t want to do something, as human beings, we justify,” she said.

This interview has been condensed.

Q: So, New Year’s resolution season. Is January a good time to cut back?

A: It’s not a good idea to do something because of the season, because that’s not why you should do it. You want to really look at the whole bigger picture. Do I really want to do it? And if so, you need to jot down at least three reasons.

Q: How do you decide if it’s time to drink less?

A: If I feel that my drinking has been impacting my day-to-day life, other people are pointing out to me, “You’re drinking too much.” That means the functioning of that individual is being jeopardized. The question is, should I be drinking, should I be cutting down, or should I quit drinking?

Drinking alcohol in moderation or not drinking at all would be the question.

Q: What is drinking in moderation?

A: The guideline is, one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65 years of age. If it is a man (65 or younger), up to two drinks a day.

Having said that, that kind of moderate alcohol use is really unheard of.

Q: What is considered more than drinking in moderation?

A: More than three drinks a day, or more than 7 drinks a week, for women and men over 65. Four drinks a day or more than 14 drinks a week for (younger) men.

Q: What are the pros and cons of going cold turkey?

A: (For addicts) cold turkey is very dangerous. You really want to cut down mindfully, depending on about how much and how long the person has been drinking. Go to the primary care doctor. Be honest about how many drinks a day you’ve been drinking.

For regular drinkers, if somebody is drinking three to four drinks a day, they cut the drinking to two drinks a day, one drink a day. Bring it down. Say, “Today, maybe I will not drink. Let me try to kind of quit my evening drink as soon as I walk into the house.” Instead of going three times a week to parties, cutting down and going once.

Q: Is it helpful to cut out one thing, like beer or liquor?

A: One drink is one drink. People will say, “I no longer want to drink hard liquor, I’ll only do red wine or white wine.” It’s really the justification again.

©2016 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: The guideline for moderate alcohol use is one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65, or two drinks a day for younger men. And, says Dr. Indra Cidambi, “one drink is one drink,” whether liquor, beer or wine. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

 

Happy Holidays! Now Ditch The Smartphone

By Cindy Krischer Goodman, Miami Herald (TNS)

In a world where the lines between professional and personal are becoming more blurred every day, December may prove to be our most challenging month.

Experts forecast this holiday season we will do more online shopping than ever before and almost half will be done during the workday. Along with shopping at work, we will do some of our online giving as well (a third of charities’ online donations are made in December).

And when we do get time off to enjoy holidays with friends and family, we will stay connected to our workplaces, checking our inboxes from our smartphones.

Google predicts this will be our most connected holiday season ever, a trend that worries South Florida management consultant Tim Bryce, who sees tech addiction as an increasing threat to work-life balance. “We have gone from computers to smartphones to watches and eye sets and are getting to the point where people are connected at all hours.”

As new devices flood the retail marketplace for the holidays and apps make it easier to comparison-shop, there is no doubt that mobile technologies are becoming an even bigger part of our lives.

Maria Espinosa, a Miami sales professional, admits she has a 24/7 technology habit, and fears the next few weeks will be tough. Already, Espinosa sleeps with her smartphone on her nightstand to check work email before she goes to bed and within minutes after she wakes up.

Now, she plans to check her personal email throughout the day at work, eager to jump on holiday offers from some of her favorite retailers. “I don’t want to miss anything,” she says.

Bryce says managers will need to make difficult decisions about how much to step in to help their tech-addicted employees. Some employers don’t seem to mind the role of cyber-policeman.

A 2015 CareerBuilder survey found about a third of employers monitor which websites their employees are visiting and care what their employees are doing online, even if it isn’t necessarily affecting their performance. Not surprisingly, 56 percent said they have blocked certain websites from access at work, up 3 percent from last year.

But as one tech expert notes: “Everyone essentially has a computer with the Internet in their pockets and if an employer thinks they are not going to use it … that’s crazy because they are.”

Forty-two percent of employees plan to use their own smartphones or tablets to shop at work, up from 27 percent last year. And even more told CareerBuilder they will use their smartphones during the workday to research products, look up store hours and check product availability.

Oddly enough, senior managers will struggle most with blurred boundaries. About 53 percent of senior-level employees admitted to CareerBuilder they’ll use company time to go cyber-shopping. Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, says it is not surprising that more people are bringing personal activities to the workplace when they are bringing more workplace activities home.

Of course, holiday situations pose tech challenges outside the office, too. Family can easily become offended when one member is staring at mobile screen while in church or gathered for a holiday meal.

The same is true at holiday parties. While you may think you are being responsive to work demands, your fellow party guest may find your texting inappropriate. In fact, a 2009 Intel Holiday Mobile Etiquette study revealed most people would be offended if they were at a holiday party and someone attempted to use their smartphone or mobile device. However, the survey also found most of us believe business requires that we always be connected, even if it means picking up our cellphone during a meal or at a party.

David Greenfield, director of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in Connecticut, says creating boundaries can be particularly challenging when our tech use takes up more time and energy than we realize. For example, if you think you are spending 15 minutes online, you likely will spend 10 times that or as much as 150 minutes, he says. “We need more conscious self-awareness of our technology use.”

Greenfield believes there is a growing awareness that we are too wired, too connected and that it’s not healthy. He suggests we reclaim balance in our lives through tech breaks coupled with more conscious face-to-face interaction, an effort that often requires pushing through the initial discomfort when we power-down. “If you can tolerate the discomfort, the next time it gets easier.”

Nova Southeastern University management professor Robert Preziosi says we should also consider asking our managers for help deciphering what really needs a quick response. “Our addiction to respond to everything as soon as we get it is unnecessary. If you have a sense of priorities, that can go a long way to helping you enjoy your holidays.”

ABOUT THE WRITER

Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com. Read her columns and blog at worklifebalancingact.com.

©2015 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Japanexperterna.se via Flickr

5 Signs You May Be On A Compulsive Shopping Binge

By Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press (TNS)

You don’t need to have a “shopping addiction” to overspend during the “All I want for Christmas is more” season. Triggers encouraging you to buy more and save more are everywhere.

But if you want to hold on to some of your cash, it can help to consider if you’re about to get trapped in a compulsive shopping binge. Here are some of the signs of trouble:

— Do you walk like a zombie-shopper toward flash sales and today-only specials?

A big trigger for online shoppers is the “flash sale.” Customers who sign up for texts and emails from certain online retail sites complain of being tempted daily or even a few times a day by all sorts of “limited-time” specials, according to Terrence Daryl Shulman, author of “Bought Out and $pent!” and a counselor of compulsive shoppers.

Maybe the “super savings” last only two hours. But the time limit — much like all those early morning Black Friday specials — create a sense of urgency and a shopper’s rush. Shulman said he’s had a number of female clients say the alerts contributed to overspending. The shoppers had to put a stop to the texts.

“They’re like crack, and they often have to unsubscribe to them,” Shulman said.

Traditional retailers are creating that limited-time feel with their sales, too. Kmart recently brought back its Bluelight Specials, which run in every store, every day and, no surprise, are offered at Kmart.com, too.

— Are you ashamed to admit that all those holiday shopping trips really aren’t working for you?

A variety of legitimate reasons exist for slamming the brakes on gift buying — a job loss, loss of overtime pay, concerns about a limited retirement plan or a small amount of college savings. And some people need to control shopping because they’re dealing with an addiction.

“Some people really get such an adrenaline rush that it can overtake them,” said Shulman. Some studies indicate that about 6 percent of the population deals with compulsive spending, he said.

How do you stop spending way too much on gifts or having way too many people on your gift list?

“It would be great if you could tell people the truth,” Shulman said.

While many are too embarrassed to admit to troubles, it’s not all that unusual for friends to say they’d like to limit holiday spending or cut back. It can happen more often than one would think.

— Do you even know how much you are going to spend for the holidays?

One way to keep a clear head in the midst of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and every flash sale from now until the New Year is to actually sit down and decide how much you’ll spend in total for the holidays. Do you want to spend $400 or $700 on all the gifts, dinners, holiday outfits, baked goods, parties and donations?

“It’s much more than who is on your Christmas list,” said Katie Bossler, a financial counselor for the GreenPath Debt Solutions office in Detroit.

Bossler, 35, said her family turned to the secret Santa idea maybe six or seven years ago when some family members dealt with layoffs during an economic downturn. The limit is $25. And she has creatively bought coffee, movie tickets, books, bottles of wine, even special steaks from the butcher as gifts. (You keep the meat frozen and then put it in the gift bag right before the exchange, she said.)

The idea is to buy something “very small but sweet.”

Bossler targets spending $300 on everything for the season, which she says is very doable. She plans to spend about $30 on a tree, another $30 on cards with postage, give cash tips to people in her everyday life who help her. Her friends don’t do gifts but get together for a holiday meal.

While some might not be running up big credit card debt, they could still be spending more than they need to do.

“Are you using savings that’s earmarked for something else?” she said.

— Can you play a game and just spend cash?

One trick is to take only cash with you on various shopping trips. If you want to spend only $40 on each gift on a given list, take an envelope, mark it with one name and stuff $40 in that envelope. Then spend only that amount on gifts for that person.

Or maybe you want to put a set amount of money on gift cards that you’d buy before you head to the store and later use to buy gifts. The idea is to figure out a way to control impulse spending.

Bossler said such an envelope system can help you avoid being tempted by adding on other items or accessories just to take advantage of sales or buy something cute.

“You can’t overspend cash, but you can definitely overcharge a credit card,” she said.

Often during the holidays, sales or promotions challenge you to reach some limit, say being required to spend $100 to save $25.

Target, for example, has a new Black Friday deal this year in which shoppers who spend $75 or more on Nov. 27 will receive a 20 percent discount to use toward purchases on any day between Dec. 4 and Dec. 13.

Amazon.com was offering a free $10 promotional gift code for targeted customers who bought a $50 Amazon Gift Card, but the program is available only for specific customers through Nov. 30.

— Remember: Free isn’t necessarily free.

When shopping online or via catalog, one of the gotchas is often a spending limit to get the free shipping.

In some cases, shoppers can look at options for in-store pickup to avoid shipping costs.

Toys R Us, for example, recently lowered the minimum purchase required for free shipping from $49 to $19. Toys R Us offers six- to nine-day delivery for free shipping on purchases of $19 or more. The shipping price goes up to $5.99 for a similar shipping schedule on orders under $19. But one could opt for free in-store pickup on any order and avoid shipping costs entirely.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at stompor@freepress.com.

©2015 Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A shopper buys a TV inside Best Buy as the store opens in Newport, New Jersey November 27, 2014. Best Buy opened on Thanksgiving evening at 5pm, ahead of many other Black Friday retailers. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz 

 

Shelter From The Storm: Homelessness At Its Worst Since The Depression

The scale of the homeless population is so massive, it’s difficult to visualize. But Ian Frazier, writing in The New Yorker, comes close when he illustrates it: “Yankee Stadium seats 50,287. If all the homeless people who live in New York City used the stadium for a gathering, several thousand of them would have to stand.”

From coast to coast, homelessness in America is rising.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s biennial report, which was published Monday, the homeless population in Los Angeles County increased 12 percent over the last two years. Encampments—such as tents, makeshift residences, and people living in vehicles—increased 85 percent to 9,535, the report notes.

The Los Angeles Times blames the rising homeless population — 44,369 since January — in part on gentrification. With rents increasing and new luxury residences replacing the cheap hotels, motels, and single-room apartments that offered sanctuary to the poor, housing for the transient is growing scarce.

The increase in homelessness is exacerbated by the changes wrought by gentrification, but is rooted in a lack of funding for shelters and other services, once handled by the city, which have now largely fallen on the shoulders of religious not-for-profit groups. High unemployment rates and a void of legal protections has hindered progress further.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to eliminate homelessness among veterans in the area, offering to house all homeless vets by the end of the year. Though Garcetti said that this project was more than halfway done, the number of homeless veterans remains at about 4,400, only 6 percent lower than it was two years ago.

This news comes after the Obama administration offered $30 million in grants and services to Los Angeles County, which has the largest homeless-veteran population in the nation.

New York City maintains a legal right to shelter for its homeless, but it has more than its share of issues when handling its homeless population. Homelessness in New York is the highest it has been since the Great Depression—60,167 people are homeless, meaning about 1 in every 152 New Yorkers lives on the street.

Homelessness “is both the problem and the symptom,” says the Bowery Mission, an organization that has provided services to help New York City’s homeless for over 130 years. According to its mission statement, homelessness is both the result and cause of “chronic substance abuse, financial instability caused by unemployment or underemployment, mental illness, domestic violence, sexual victimization, and more.”

However, as in L.A., it’s not all terrible news. The homeless population has dropped 5 percent since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. The record decrease — 92 percent in the borough of Queens, for instance — does not diminish the fact that the majority of the homeless are situated in the city’s center. “Nearly 60 percent of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population is in [midtown] Manhattan,” according to prominent advocacy group Coalition for the Homeless.

City officials announced that they will commit $100 million in annual spending to measures aimed at ameliorating the homeless crisis. The money will be directed toward more affordable housing, legal assistance, and job training, according to a recent New York Times article.

But one problem stands out from the reports on the Los Angeles and New York City homeless populations: The statistics are underreported, reflecting how difficult it is to accurately record the total number of people living without permanent shelter.

Furthermore, many of the unsheltered homeless reject help. “Normally they will not accept service unless it’s on their own terms,” reports the Times.

Recovery for the homeless is a multitudinous process. The Bowery Mission’s stance is that any effective solution will need to take into account the individual’s spiritual, physical, and emotional needs, and that the homeless should not be pushed to the fringes of our cities.

Photo: J J via Flickr