Why You Shouldn’t Use Q-Tips to Clean Your Ears

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iStock

When we feel like cleaning our ears, many of us reach for a Q-Tip. But while the tiny cotton-tipped sticks may seem like the perfect earwax removal device, using them to get gunk out of our ears does more harm than good. In the short Business Insider video below, otolaryngologist Erich P. Voigt explains why sticking a Q-Tip into your ear isn’t just ineffective—it’s downright dangerous.

When we use a Q-Tip to remove ear wax, Voigt explains, we actually end up pushing wax toward our ear drum, where it can get stuck and harden. If you use Q-Tips too often, wax can end up hardening along the entire length of your ear canal, and you’ll end up with an inch-long “crayon amount” of wax.

Voigt is far from the only doctor who recommends keeping Q-Tips away from your ears: Otolaryngologist Stephen Rothstein gave similar advice in an interview with Slate back in 2013, explaining that the old adage “never put anything smaller than an elbow in your ear” has some real truth to it. “Buy Q-Tips if you want to make an ear doctor rich,” he quipped.

Fortunately, you don’t have to get rid of your Q-Tips completely. The versatile cotton swabs have plenty of uses, from cleaning faucets to unsticking zippers. Plus, they’re totally safe for cleaning the outer part of your ear, just as long as you don’t push them into your ear canal.

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8 Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety Disorder

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iStock.com/fizkes

If the thought of having to attend a networking event, office holiday party, or family reunion with your uppity out-of-state cousins fills you with dread, then you might have social anxiety disorder. Also known as social phobia, the pervasive fear of being judged by one’s peers affects an estimated 15 million Americans. If you think you might be one of them, a physician can recommend the best course of treatment for you, but there are a few tactics you can try in the meantime. Here are some tips for coping with social anxiety disorder.

1. Ease into social situations.

Everything gets easier with practice, and the same concept applies to socializing. Avoiding parties and large gatherings may provide temporary relief of social phobia, but it isn't a long-term fix. To get started on your road to overcoming anxiety, the Mayo Clinic outlines a few steps that can be found in most cognitive behavioral therapy regimens. This form of psychotherapy challenges people's negative thoughts about social situations to help alleviate anxiety. One such step is to set small, manageable goals for yourself, like giving a stranger a compliment or asking an employee in a store for help finding something. Keep doing little tasks like these until you start to build confidence. Once you’ve mastered these social skills, you can more on to more challenging scenarios.

2. Prepare talking points to combat social anxiety disorder before an event.

We’re not saying you should memorize your lines, but it will ease some of the tension if you come to a party or networking event with a few conversation starters in mind. If possible, do some snooping to find out what some of the other guests are into, or check the news for interesting ice breakers. Just take it from author, life coach, and self-proclaimed “party-impaired individual” Martha Beck: “When you find yourself standing at the bar or reaching a dead end in a conversation, news of a sighting of Bessie, the Lake Erie monster, or some other tidbit that caught your attention will make it that much easier to mingle.”

3. Lay off the caffeine.

You may think that a cup of joe will perk you up and make it easier to conquer your fears, but it may end up making your social phobia worse. Coffee, chocolate, and soda are best avoided because stimulants such as these can elevate your levels of anxiety.

4. Get plenty of sleep.

In a similar vein, make sure you get plenty of sleep before your next big event. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends that you get at least eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re sleep-deprived, you may notice that it’s harder to immerse yourself in social situations.

5. Identify your negative thinking patterns.

Think back to the last time you felt anxious. What kinds of thoughts were you having in that moment? Did any of them make you feel worse? If so, you might be getting swept up in negative self-talk, which can fuel social phobia and make you feel more anxious. Identifying these thoughts when they pop up is the first step to confronting and changing them, according to the Social Anxiety Institute.

6. Imagine what would happen if your worst fears came true.

It may seem counterproductive, but asking yourself “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” is a good way to confront your “inner critic,” according to author and clinical psychologist Ellen Hendriksen. Avoid words like “always,” “never, “everybody,” and “nobody”—they’re vague and tend to overstate the risks you face. Instead, think about your specific fears of any given situation, and you will probably realize that “failure”—whether it’s tripping on stage or sounding awkward—isn’t as bad as it seems. The more you rationalize it, the more “‘Everyone will think I’m a freak’ turns into ‘The five or six people I talk to at the party might notice my hands shaking and think something is wrong with me,’” Hendriksen writes in her book How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. If you do this enough, social situations won’t seem quite as scary.

7. Focus on someone else.

When you’re talking to someone, really make a concerted effort to listen to what they’re saying. This will help shift your focus away from your own insecurities. “The trick is to focus on anything except yourself, and that magically frees up a lot of bandwidth,” Hendriksen tells Vox. “When we’re able to do this, we come across as much more authentic and open and the anxiety disappears.”

8. Be proud that you put yourself out there.

Instead of scrutinizing every little thing you said or did after a social event, give yourself credit for simply doing something you find challenging—and living to tell the tale. Establishing a system of “self-reward” will help decrease your anxiety in the future, according to Robert L. Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City. “Who deserves more congratulation than you for trying hard to confront what is difficult?” Leahy writes in Psychology Today. “Just trying, just going, just staying in, and just tolerating the discomfort are reasons for reward. Each time you face your fear, you win and your fear loses.”

New Memory Foam Neck Pillow Takes the Pain Out of Travel

iStock.com/izusek
iStock.com/izusek

Travel can be a pain in the neck—quite literally. Kinks and cramps don’t have to be part of the package, though. Edge Signature, whose lineup of practical travel products includes a digital luggage scale and an anti-theft backpack, has designed a memory foam pillow that adapts to the contours of your head and neck.

The True Adaptive pillow has been given an ergonomic M-shape, with the two bumps in the back providing some extra support for your neck. The problem with many travel pillows is that they don’t hold your neck steady when you start to doze off. “The deeper we fall into unconsciousness or our sleep state, the more relaxed our muscles will be,” Edge Signature writes in its Kickstarter campaign for the True Adaptive pillow. “This makes it practically impossible for us to get a good rest or sleep while sitting upright as our neck muscle will have to keep working to support our neck.”

That’s where the pillow’s high-density memory foam comes in. It will stay in place even as you move around, and an adjustable string in the front makes it fit as loose or as snug as you’d like. There’s even a smartphone pocket on the side, so you won’t have to worry about finding your phone in a dimly lit aircraft cabin.

When you’re done using the pillow, fold it up and place it back into its carrying pouch, which can be clipped onto your suitcase or backpack. After returning from a long trip, you can remove the cover and throw it in the washing machine to get it ready for your next big adventure. The zipper is hidden, though, with the advantage being that you won’t have any plastic bits poking you in the face while you’re trying to nap.

The pillow’s usefulness isn’t limited to travel, either. Wear it at your office desk, or while studying or reading for extended periods of time. Backers who pledge $39 or more before January 9, 2019 will get the True Adaptive pillow and carrying pouch at a 35 percent discount. U.S. shipping is free.

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