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7 Signs It’s Time to Take a Break

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The average American is given 10 vacation days a year … but uses only five of them. And even when we’re away, we’re plugged in. The problem is that while working all these hours may seem virtuous, studies have shown putting in extra time is not actually helping you get more done; it’s just wearing you down. So if three or more of these items apply to you, do yourself—and your work—a favor: Schedule some time off.

1. YOUR JOB HAS BECOME YOUR LIFE…

If work is the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing before you go to bed; if you think about work while you’re out with friends or playing with your kids; if you feel like you couldn’t possibly leave for a few days—it’s time to leave for a few days. Unless you are the President of the United States, your absence is not going to kill anybody. You are not that important. (Sorry.) 

2. …BUT YOU HATE YOUR JOB.

If you previously liked your job but gradually you’ve come to hate it for no discernible reason, it might be time for a break. If there is a clear cause but it’s something you can’t change, you also deserve a few days’ respite.

3. YOU’RE ALWAYS TIRED.

Stress is one of the most common causes of insomnia and poor sleep. If the parade of deadlines in your head is keeping you up at night, or if you start having regular work-related bad dreams, it’s time to step away.

4. YOU’RE MAKING SILLY MISTAKES.

Stress also hinders our performance at work. The more overworked or stressed out we are, the more avoidable mistakes we will make. If your list of little errors is piling up, you probably need to recharge your batteries.

5. YOU JUST CAN’T DEAL.

If you feel thin-skinned and every broken fingernail or missing pen becomes a crisis, you are in serious need of some rest and perspective. Stress can erode our emotional resources, making it harder to deal with problems both big and small.

6. YOUR BODY IS A WRECK.

Stress can raise your blood pressure, upset your stomach, and give you headaches. Working at a desk all day puts stress on your wrists, shoulders, hands, eyes, back, and neck. Every job is hard on your body if you don’t take breaks.

7. YOU HATE EVERYTHING.

Is everything awful right now? Do you dread the thought of getting out of bed and going to work? Do you feel pessimistic about everything? Are you unpleasant to be around? It might be time to get away from it all. (But, it’s important to note, if these feelings persist and are accompanied by a loss of interest in things you care about and/or a constant feeling of numbness or gloom, it may be time to talk to your doctor.)

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

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Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
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Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

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