From our Friends at Safety.com

by Mary Blowers

Teens, we know you might be struggling during this pandemic. Your social lives and your education have been upended, and we know that coping with those changes can be difficult. If you’re staying up to date on COVID-19 news, you know that certain groups are more at risk during this pandemic than others. You may not personally be high risk, but you likely know or love someone who is over the age of 60 and/or has preexisting conditions.  Surveys have shown that many adolescents have rising anxiety over the health of your family members, which can make any of your normal stressors even worse. 

In this strange time of social distancing, your anxiety is at an all time high, while your level of support may be at an all time low. We know you are stuck at home without your usual social groups and routines, so we want to offer some non-traditional support options so that you and your family can feel safe from the outside world. Luckily, there are considerable online resources on everything from home security to emotional support to addiction management that can help you to feel more at ease. Take a look at the list of mental health resources that we’ve compiled below, and then keep scrolling for support on issues related to cyberbullying, substance abuse, smartphone addiction, and more.

Mental health resources

  • Teen Mental Health 
    • This organization delivers the top scientific information on mental health in an accessible, easy to understand format. They also have tips and resources specific to issues surrounding COVID-19. Their information is delivered in a variety of formats including videos, animations, brochures, e-books, face-to-face training programs, and online training programs.
  • Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
    • SAHM is an award-winning organization that focuses on improving young adult’s mental health through clinical practice, care delivery, research, advocacy, and professional development. In addition to their usual mental health services, they are now offering help with new stressors related to COVID-19 like teen mental health and coping, parenting and caring for one’s family, resources for online education, guide to discussing social distancing, and sexual health considerations.
  • Youth Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • This lifeline understands the reality of young adult mental health and the serious danger of suicide. Youth Suicide Prevention doesn’t ever disregard your feelings because of your age or assume that you are just seeking attention. They offer coping resources and helpful guides to making safety plans. You can visit this site,  Text “START” to 741-741, or call 1-800-273-8255 if you would rather talk to someone. 
  • Suicide Prevention Recource Center
    • SPRC focuses on preventing suicide through a series of steps that are systematic and data-driven. They offer education, screening, treatment through their programs and practices to best meet a variety of needs. They have a goal to increase “help-seeking” and they aim to address many of the barriers that might prevent you from reaching out. 
  • JED Foundation
    • This nonprofit organization partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. JED recognizes that teens are becoming overwhelmed by anxiety as this pandemic continues, so they have developed a Coronavirus Mental Health Resource Guide specific to young adults. 
  • TeenHealth Matters
    • This organization focuses on providing resources for everything related to teen health including mental health and suicide prevention, stress management, sexual health, drugs and alcohol, and physical health. Their site is designed to provide resources to you, your friends, your parents, your mentors and the people who care about you most to best help you stay safe, happy and healthy. They also offer helpful podcasts and videos. 
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    • NAMI started as just a group of like-minded families, but it has become the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to helping the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. They also recognize that COVID-19 is posing additional challenges to people living with mental illness and are providing information and support to help.
  • Ok2Talk
    • This unique organization is a NAMI and Tumblr community where teens and young adults can safely talk about their mental health by sharing stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope. Ok2Talk allows anyone to post thoughts, poems, inspirational quotes, photos, videos, song lyrics and messages of support in a safe, moderated space. 
  • Apps that Can Help with Mental Health:
    • Mindshift CBT
      • This app offers free evidence based mental health based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and it helps you take charge of your anxiety. It provides quick tips for shifting your thinking, breathing, and coping with issues as they arise. It also has features for keeping a thought journal, facing fears, and expanding your comfort zone. 
    • notOKapp
      • This app was created by teen sister and brother who realized the importance of being able to tell someone the moment that they knew they were “notOK” and developed this app to meet that need. When you download the app, you select 5 trusted contacts who you want to communicate with if you are not ok. When you are in need, you simply open the app, push the red button, and the app will immediately alert your trusted contacts and even send out your GPS location.
    • Top 25 Mental Health Apps
      • These apps address a variety of needs including but not limited to anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, OCD, and suicide prevention. These apps are either reasonably priced or free and can offer you quick assistance when you need it.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has become so wide-spread that you likely know someone who has been a victim – maybe you personally have had to face those online attacks. Unfortunately, now that everyone is online so much more, there may be even more instances of cyberbullying. Dr. Sameer Hinduja said that certain groups may be more prone to fall victim to online bullying during this pandemic: “It is also very possible that xenophobic or racist cyberbullying may go up,” she said, referencing parent complaints that their Asian children are being targeted. With this increased potential for harassment and without teachers and school staff to intervene, you may need to take advantage of online resources to keep your friends and yourself safe from cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying resources

  • Teens Health
    • This site helps to explain what cyberbullying really involves. This form of harassment takes many forms and Teens Health aims to educate parents, teachers, and teens about the potential dangers involved. It also offers a helpful guide for what to do if you become a victim and who to contact. 
  • StopBullying
    • StopBullying addresses the danger young adults face online, and they offer a list of warning signs to watch out for in your friends or loved ones. If you are a victim of cyberbullying, they also have a guide to “Get Help Now” that tells you who to contact in a variety of scenarios. 
  • Cyberbullying Research Center
    • This organization offers a list of “Top Ten Tips for Teens” who are targeted by cyberbullying. The Cyberbullying Research Center suggests blocking bullies and even reporting their posts to the platform provider. They also have resources that you can use to educate other teens to help keep you and your friends safe while online. 
  • Teens Against Bullying
    • This organization cares about the ideas and opinions of kids and teens and offers videos and resources to help victims understand that they are not alone. You can peruse their support options or listen to advice from real teens. 
  • Go Speak Up!
    • This app gives students and schools an opportunity to prevent bullying by increasing reporting. It allows students to anonymously report incidents through either the website or the phone app. When you use this app to report cyberbullying, you are not only helping victims, but you are also empowering yourself by standing up against harassment.

Substance Abuse Addiction

Among teens, abusing substances as a way to cope with your isolation and anxiety is not uncommon. Since there are no legal recreational substances for teenagers, those who are utilizing illicit substances are doing it in secret, which is even more dangerous. Due to your age, you are already at a higher risk for mental illness and depression, and social isolation and pandemic worries make those concerns even worse. It’s understandable that you are looking for distraction or comfort during this time, but misused substances pose serious dangers to your health. If you or a friend have found yourself in this situation, please seek out one of these resources.

Substance abuse resources

  • Addiction Center
    • This organization talks about the dangers of recreational teenage drug use developing into long-term adult addiction. They recognize the additional pressures from COVID-19, and they make it easy to contact a professional, even during this time of social distancing. From their home page, you can easily call  for help, or request that a professional call you. 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    • SAMHSA offers support for both mental illness and substance abuse, recognizing that often those issues go together. While they do not provide professional counseling, they can put you in touch with professionals who can help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service.
  • American Addiction Center
    • This organization recognizes that teens have different needs than older substance abusers. They have research-based treatment models that aim to address the unique circumstances related to age and life experiences of a teen or young adult. They also believe in utilizing community, family, and peer support to overcome substance abuse. You can call them at (888) 832-7603 or request that a professional call you.

Smartphone and Device Addiction

Drugs and alcohol are the first things that come to mind when you think of addiction, but your phones and devices can also be extremely habit-forming. As you find yourself at home and alone more now than ever, you are likely to become even more wrapped up in your phones and devices. While it may seem like a harmless outlet, there is actually considerable evidence that smartphone addiction and social media are negatively affecting mental health, making device-addicted teens more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety, as well as sleeplessness and impulsive behavior. In fact, between the years of between 2011 and 2015, there was a spike of major depressive episodes among teens increasing by 50 percent within those few years. San Diego State University Professor Jean Twenge says that smartphone use has replaced time that teens would normally spend socializing in person or sleeping. 

While you are stuck at home, you are likely increasing your screen time, and since school is remote and online for many of you, you may find yourself using devices over 7 hours a day. Teens are becoming hyper-connected to their devices even though many realize that they are online too often. Smartphone and device addiction can cause chemical disruptions in the brain, meaning that this type of addiction could be associated with damaged cognitive and emotional processing. If you or your friends are finding it impossible to disconnect, look into the resources below.

Smartphone addiction resources

  • Help Guide
    • This resource explains that smartphone addiction can cause issues related to virtual relationships, information overload, cybersex addiction, and online compulsions. They describe warning signs, and withdrawal symptoms, and self-helps guides for quitting the habit. Their step-by-step guide and goal-setting plan can help you to reduce your internet use without added anxiety. 
  • Thrillist – 13 Ways to Break Your iPhone Addiction
    • This guide offers tips for incorporating different habits into your daily routines. They suggest easy to apply changes, like not bringing your phone into your bedroom, turning off notifications, or keeping your bathroom tech free. These changes still allow you to use your devices when you actually need them, but limit any other use.

RELATED : BACK TO SCHOOL AFTER THE SHUTDOWN

Social Distance Activities

Alright, we’ve talked about how this pandemic is causing increases in mental health issues, cyberbullying and addictions, but now we want to share some alternative outlets to keep your mind off all the stressors. Exercise can be a major help when it comes to staying physically and mentally healthy. In fact, research suggests that elevated levels of aerobic activity and strength training can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Of course, exercising is more difficult to do in isolation with limited equipment, so you may need some additional resources to help you get started. If workout programs aren’t your favorite pastime, check out our list of other game and activity resources below.

Work-out resources

  • Aaptive
    • This app provides unlimited access to thousands of work-outs, with 30 new ones added each week.  Their focus is on developing wellness through exercise and they adapt to all skill levels.There are expert trainers to guide and support you through each workout, and you can even incorporate your favorite music. 
  • obé fitness
    • This app will help you fight boredom in your workout by providing unique, curated content throughout the day in addition to on demand work out programs. They also have a feature that lets you export your workout schedule to your calendar app so that you can plan your days to include exercise while social isolating. 
  • DanceBody
    • This program also offers an anywhere anytime workout model, but they focus on developing a dance physique. They have both live classes and on demand options. DanceBody has a free trial so that you can determine if it’s a good fit for you.

Games or activity resources

  • Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic 
    • Many of your favorite outdoor activities are still safe during COVID as long as you practice safe distancing. The Mayo Clinic has a list of those safe activities that will help you keep your body active and your spirits up. Some of the activities they suggest are walking, running, hiking and biking.
  • House Party App 
    • Although you may be trying to limit your social media usage, you will likely still want to connect with friends from a safe distance. The house party app is free, and it allows you to video chat on any wifi enabled device without the public interactions on other apps. 
  • Bunch Group Video Chat and Games
    • Bunch is a free gaming app that brings people together through the games they love, even when they are physically apart. Basically, it allows people to group video chat while playing their favorite multiplayer games. It offers silly low risk games that are fun for all ages and skill levels.

RELATED: THE WHINY LITTLE RICH KIDS

Meditation and Disconnecting

In addition to physical activity, meditation and self-reflection can be essential for keeping your mind healthy. The National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health says that studies have investigated meditation benefits for different conditions. Taking time to meditate may be exactly what you need to disconnect from social media and find peace in your mind and home. If you are interested in meditation, but don’t know where to start, we have a list of resources to help you get started.

Meditation resources

  • Headspace
    • Headspace is a meditation and sleep app that has a “How to Meditate Guide” for beginners. They are committed to both providing expertise in meditation and also studying the science of meditation. Their goal is to increase the health and happiness for all of their users. 
  • Calm
    • Calm is an app for sleep, meditation and relaxation. They also have body-focused video lessons on mindful movement and gentle stretching so that you can also incorporate some light exercise. Calm uses nature scenes and sounds to enjoy while relaxing, sleeping, working or studying.
  • Ten Percent Happier
    • This app focuses on meditation, stress management, sleep and happiness.  Ten Percent Happier utilizes the expertise of highly accomplished meditation teachers, and they have a “Basics” guide for beginners who want to get started in meditation. Additionally, they have a Coronavirus Sanity Guide that may help you find your center during this strange time.

Conclusion

There are a myriad of mental and emotional obstacles that you as teenagers must navigate in near isolation during the pandemic. You may feel lonely without your usual school and social environments, which can make it especially difficult to cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Since you are spending more time online than ever, you are at greater risk of cyberbullying and developing smartphone addiction. You may also be more sedentary than usual, not exercising or taking care of your physical health. Luckily, there are online resources, apps, communities and people out there that can help. Use our safety guide and reference links above to find the specific support you need, and most importantly, please remember that you are not alone in your struggles with the pandemic.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SAFETY.COM

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Whenever we finally have the next election in Louisiana, there will be constitutional amendments on the ballot.  Didn’t know?  Aware but not sure of the details?  We got you.  Read on for a concise and easy to understand breakdown of the 4 amendments you will see.

Amendment 1

Authorizes streamlined electronic filing, remittance, and collection of sales and use tax 

 “Do you support an amendment to authorize the legislature to provide for the streamlined electronic filing, electronic remittance, and the collection of sales and use taxes levied within the state by the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission and to provide for the funding, duties, and responsibilities of the commission?”

YES VOTE  Creates a new statewide tax commission that would collect all sales taxes handle all electronic tax filings and create new policy for all state and local sales taxes. The appointed commission would replace all current tax commissions and take away any and all local control of sales tax collections.

NO VOTE Leaves things as they currently are. 

Shallow Dive into the Issues

Most states have a central collection agency that passes money back to the local municipalities.  Big businesses would view the state more favorably.  The current system has every parish and even cities in parishes collecting their own taxes. This is unfair complex and oppressive. Supreme court rulings probably make the system unconstitutional.  But taking away local control means outsiders control not only collection but policies, rules and regulations. 

Amendment 2

Lowers maximum allowed rate of income tax and allows providing a deduction for federal income taxes

 “Do you support an amendment to lower the maximum allowable rate of individual income tax and to authorize the legislature to provide by law for a deduction for federal income taxes paid?”

YES VOTE Reforms and updates Louisiana’s tax code

NO VOTE Maintains Louisiana’s current tax code that dates to 2003.

Shallow Dive into the Issues

The current system is at odds with the federal tax system.  When federal taxes get lowered, then individual Louisiana state taxes are actually increased.  And when federal taxes are raised, then individual Louisiana state taxes are reduced but state revenue is also reduced.  If you are interested in tax reform for Louisiana then a vote yes will implement a cascade of tax reform.

Amendment 3

Allows certain levee districts to levy an annual tax for certain purposes

 “Do you support an amendment to allow levee districts created after January 1, 2006, and before October 9, 2021, whose electors approve the amendment to levy an annual tax not to exceed five mills for the purpose of constructing and maintaining levees, levee drainage, flood protection, and hurricane flood protection?”  

YES VOTE Allows  5 levee districts created after 2006 to raise property taxes without a voter approval.

NO VOTE Requires the 5 Levee districts to get voter approval before raising taxes

Shallow Dive into the Issues

Older districts can raise taxes by 3 mils without voter approval.  But these 5

  • Chenier Plain Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority (Calcasieu, Cameron, and Vermilion Parishes)
  • Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District (Iberia Parish)  
  • Squirrel Run Levee and Drainage District (Iberia Parish)  
  •  St. Tammany Levee, Drainage and Conservation District (St. Tammany)
  •  Tangipahoa Levee District (Tangipahoa Parish)

Must get voter approval.  The whole state votes. The districts and the state must approve the change for it to go into effect.

Amendment 4

Increases amount of allowed reduction to certain dedicated funds when a budget deficit is projected

“Do you support an amendment to increase the amount of allowable deficit reductions to statutory dedications and constitutionally protected funds from five percent to ten percent?

YES VOTE Lets the governor transfer more dedicated funds to fix a budget deficit.

NO VOTE Keeps the current 5% cap on use of dedicated funds

Shallow Dive into the Issues

The state’s budget must be balanced. When there is a deficit, the governor can take raid dedicated funds to the tune of 5%.  This change increases that to 10%.   

Now you know! #Geaux Vote

The NFL is about a 1/4 of the way through the season. The Saints have battled through displacement, injuries, inconsistency, and an adjustment period. Here’s a statistically based assessment of where they stand.

Offense:

The offense has been terrible this year, one of the worst of Sean Payton’s career. They’re down in almost every statistical category – points per game, total yards per game, passing yards per game, rushing yards per game. 5 games into the season, the offense has just struggled to move the ball, especially through the air.

At quarterback, Jameis Winston is only completing 60% of his passes for 178 yards a game. That’s near the bottom of the league statistically. His overall QB rating is skewed by the fact that he has 12 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. But 4 of those came in one game where he threw goal line touchdowns after the Saints ran the ball down the field. 4 others have come on big plays. Simply put, the Saints have had few sustained drives through the air. In a quarterback driven league, there’s no way you can consider yourself a SuperBowl contender with stats like that.

Part of it can be chalked up to the Saints missing both starting wide receivers. And part of it can be chalked up to Winston just not reading the coverages, or bad play calling on Sean Payton’s part. Whatever the reason, the Saints have got to get the passing game together in order to make the playoffs for the 5th consecutive year.

Saints All Pro Receiver Michael Thomas

Reason to be optimistic: Michael Thomas is coming back. There’s no getting around it. The Saints’ season hinges on Michael Thomas. On paper, he’s not only the best player on the team, but he’s one of the best in the league. The last time we saw a healthy Can’t Guard Mike he was the 2019 Offensive Player of The Year, leading the league in yards and receptions. That year he caught 80% of the balls thrown to him for an average of 9 receptions and a 107 yards per game. To put that in perspective, Jameis Winston barely threw for over 107 yards in each of the first 3 games this season.

Thomas’ presence should open up the offense. With less attention thrown his way, Marquez Calloway should shine as a 2nd option. Alvin Kamara should see more favorable matches coming out the backfield. And in pressure situations, Thomas should serve as a security blanket for Winston when no one else is open or he has trouble reading coverages down the field.

Reason to be concerned: Who knows which Michael Thomas will return. His consistency on the field has been matched by his inconsistency off of it. The last 2 years, his tweets have risen to Antonio Brown levels. Last season, he was suspended for fighting. And this year, he stubbornly waited until training camp neared to have ankle surgery, which is why he’s not on the field now.

Defense:

The defense has been carrying the team. And if you had to pick a MVP so far, it would have to be defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Since 2017 all Allen has done is scheme up the best defense the Saints have had since the Dome Patrol.

Reason to be optimistic: The defense is actually slightly better this year. They’re only giving up 18 points per game, 3 points less than the 21 they gave up last year. They’re also only allowing 79 yards rushing. That’s down from 93 last year. And despite going up against 3 of the best running backs in the league – Aaron Jones of the Packers, Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers, and Saquon Barkley of the Giants, they have yet to give up 100 yards to a single back.

This means that opposing offenses have been forced to be one dimensional. And even with teams resorting to throwing the ball more, the Saints D hasn’t been giving up big plays down the field consistently. They also rank 3rd in creating turnovers, up a spot from last year.

Reason to be concerned: They’re not sacking the quarterback. The Saints rank 29th in sacks so for this year. Last year they were 8th. They loss an elite pass rusher in Trey Hendrickson. And no one has stepped up to replace him. Cameron Jordan is in year 2 of a late career slide. Marcus Davenport is inconsistent when he does manage to stay on the field. Carl Granderson and Tanoh Kpassagnon have shown flashes. But this lack of a pass rush is partly why the Saints failed to close out the Giants game. This may become a big problem when they step up in QB class later in the season.

Special Teams:

Punter – Blake Gillikin has made us forget all about Thomas Morrestead.

Kicker – absolute disaster. The Saints are now on their 3rd kicker – 5 games into the season.

Reason to be optimistic: Wil Lutz will eventually come back.

Tidbits:

*  Alvin Kamara is averaging 3.9 yards per carry, down from 5.0 last year, but he’s a much better runner now.

*  Malcolm Jenkins is actually playing good football. He’s projected to finish with 86 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, 6 pass defenses, and 10 tackles for a loss.

*  11/14 – 12/2. @ Tennessee, @ Philly, then home against the Bills, and Cowboys. Those 4 weeks will tell you all you need to know about this team.

Prediction:

This team most likely has a ceiling of 11-6. But they’re a disgruntled Michael Thomas or an injury away from being 9-8 or 8-9. In the meantime, sharpen your teeth. Because this should turn out to be a nail biter of a season.

Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.

What you learned to do isn’t working. 6 ways to begin to turn your life around.

KEY POINTS

  • We often struggle because our old coping styles no longer work.
  • Knowing your old dysfunctional patterns helps you know how to begin to run your life better.
  • Discover what you can’t do and experiment with acting differently.

Life can deliver its share of troubles and we step up and handle them as best we can. But, for some, their struggles seem never to end. While they, too, are doing their best, what often fuels their difficulties is how they are running their lives. They seem to repeatedly fall into the same potholes, replicate the same dysfunctional patterns, and react to problems in old ways that no longer work.

If this seems to be true for you, maybe it’s time to step back, stop doing what isn’t working, and begin replacing this outdated psychological software with upgraded versions. Here are some of the most common potholes and patterns to stop alongside their new-and-improved replacements. See which resonate most with you:

Stop being a victim

You’re upset because your partner always brings up that incident at Christmas that he knows makes you angry. You’re tired all the time because you’re always going a hundred miles an hour juggling work, kids’ demands, and everyday life. The core problem here is that you see yourself as a victim of others and their reactions, a victim of the life that you have created.

What to start doing: Yes, you can’t control your partner; you feel trapped in a lifestyle that drains you. But most of all you’re not taking responsibility—for your emotions and your reactions, for the choices you make even when you feel like you are not making choices.

Stop being emotionally driven

Being emotionally driven easily overlaps with feeling like a victim. What we’re talking about here is you running your everyday life based on how you feel. You’re tired, so you don’t mow the lawn or do your taxes; you’re overwhelmed about the new project at work, so put off tackling it; it’s already 2:00 pm, the day is shot, and so you mentally kick back and coast—you’ll tackle it tomorrow.

Folks who have high anxiety or who have AD/HD are often emotionally driven: They do what they do based on how they feel. The problem with this is that you understandably avoid what you don’t want to do, what is uncomfortable, and don’t follow through when the going gets tough.

What to start doing: The underlying problem is that your emotional brain is driving your life rather than your rational brain. It’s time to stop your rational brain from being a passenger and to allow it to become the driver: time to learn to act despite how you feel; time to develop some perseverance, some discipline so your feelings aren’t constantly derailing you from success.

Stop being passive

It’s okay; that’s fine; no problem; whatever. If you find yourself saying these often, you probably get kudos for being laid back and accommodating, and as an extra bonus, you avoid a lot of conflict and confrontation. But it comes at a cost: by going along and essentially letting others make choices for you, you are living the life of a child rather than an adult who shapes his life by making his own decisions. Periodically, you may find yourself feeling resentful; you may flare up and be self-destructive. Rather than living a life that reflects your unique purpose, the moral of your life is to not make waves, not get into trouble.

What to start doing: While those who are emotionally driven pay too much attention to their emotions, those who are passive tend to not pay enough attention to them. If you feel like it’s time to stop being passive, you have two skills to develop: One is listening to your gut, paying attention to what you don’t like, don’t want to; two is doing something with it.

Speak up, be assertive, tell others how you feel and think. Even if it takes three days to figure out how you feel, that’s fine; it’s okay to take baby steps. All you have to do is act. Not perfectly, not because you expect some magical outcome, not because it will make someone else happy. Simply speak up and act rather than leaning back and doing nothing.

Stop being a martyr

You volunteer for every committee; you’re always doing for others. That’s fine if that is part of your values, your vision of a good life. But all too often, it’s about anxiety, walking on eggshells. While the story you tell yourself is that you are just being a good person, you’re being over-responsible and being good so others like you, to avoid the conflict that may come from saying no. You can tell when you are losing control of your life when you get burned out, or, like those who are passive, you periodically feel resentful that others aren’t appreciating what you’re doing or are not pulling their weight. If this happens to you, your life is out of balance; you’re being a martyr.

What to start doing: Like the others, realize and acknowledge when this is happening. Next, do what you struggle to do. Keep your hand down when they call for volunteers; learn to say no. Change your expectations about what you expect from others in return. Use your burnout as a wake-up call to tell you that you are not living your life.

Stop settling

The vacation your partner planned was “okay.” The salary increase wasn’t what you expected but “understandable.” Good for you for not overreacting and being critical. But…if you are doing this a lot, if your life is an endless series of compromises and watered-down experiences, if you are always settling, eventually it’s going to back up on you. Yes, it is good enough, but like that poor woman who in old age regretted eating too many beans and not enough ice cream, do you too need to learn to slow down on the beans and try going for more ice cream?

What to start doing: Speak up and try not to rationalize that what you get is good enough, or that it’s probably what you should only expect. You deserve more than you think; you can get more than you believe you can. And you have to believe it and try living it to find out.

Stop cutting and running

The relationship isn’t working out—you ghost him. Your supervisor is awful, and you quit. Your mother makes some nasty comments about your partner, and you decide you’re done and never want to talk to her again.

This is about coping with hurtful situations by cutting them off—the situation, the pain, the person. The problem here is your anxiety and your coping style works so you keep doing it. But the downside is that your life becomes a series of emotional cutoffs and unresolved problems; the hurt isn’t ever really resolved. You never learn the lessons that life can teach you. You stay the victim; your life is an accumulation of problems swept under the rug.

What to start doing: Don’t run; talk. Don’t run; tackle the problem. Your supervisor may still be a monster, your mother sticks to her nasty ways, but you’ve pushed back. You’ve been that adult rather than the scared, angry 10-year-old who runs away. At some point, what you say will be heard and the problem will be fixed.

The theme here is clear: Figure out what you can’t do, where you settle, resign, go on auto-pilot, or avoid what is hard. Stop doing it. Try doing the opposite.

The NOLA Project theatre company is getting a new leading artistic

voice.

Ensemble member Brittany N. Williams (HARRY AND THE THIEF, SPARE MISSION 1) has

been tabbed as TNP’s first-ever Co-Artistic Director. She will assume the role in January of

2022.

Brittany N. Williams

“I’m thrilled to be joining The NOLA Project team as Co-Artistic Director,” Williams said.

“Working with this brilliant group of artists as an ensemble member has been wonderful and I’m

excited to help us grow and evolve as a company and as part of the greater New Orleans

community.”

Williams, is an actor, singer and writer. You last saw her on stage in TNP’s last in-person production,

HARRY AND THE THIEF (Vivian), at the Contemporary Arts Center in 2020. During the

pandemic, she penned one of the company’s four original PodPlays as well as provided her

voice for it and two others. Outside of TNP, Williams’ credits include Stage Door Songbook: Cole

Porter (Susan), Mary Full of Gray (Mary/writer) and she was the The National World War II

Museum’s 2019 Stage Door Idol winner.

Williams will share Artistic Director duties with current AD A.J. Allegra.

“I couldn’t be happier to announce the addition of Brittany N. Williams to our new shared

leadership model at The NOLA Project,” Allegra said. “She is a passionate, smart, and creative

theatre artist with an incredible depth of knowledge and experience. The pandemic-forced

pause in our work allowed our ensemble to look inward at ways in which we could strengthen

and improve our organization. And, I am so pleased that in the tradition of NOLA Project, and the

spirit of ensemble, we selected one of our own to co-lead the next era of The NOLA Project.”

Originally from Baltimore, MD, Williams performed across three continents – including a year

spent as a principal vocalist at Hong Kong Disneyland – and several US states prior to

relocating to New Orleans in 2017. Some favorite out-of-town credits include Universal Robots

(Helena), Margaret I (Joan of Arc), Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Nansi – Helen Hayes Award

nom.), Antony and Cleopatra (Soothsayer/Clown), and Lear (Cordelia/Fight Captain). Williams

holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Howard University and an MA in Classical Acting from the

Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.

Last time we saw her

Williams’ latest work will be on display this fall when The NOLA Project and the New Orleans

Museum of Art present her new play, TELL IT TO ME SWEET, in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

For more information on the original outdoor production, running October 29-November 14, please visit

NOLAProject.com. PRESS CONTACT: kclaverie@nolaproject.com | 504.913.5057

 In an unprecedented move, two opponents endorse each other during an election

District “C” Councilmember Kristin Palmer and District “D” Councilmember Jared Brossett announced that they are taking the unprecedented step of endorsing each other for the Council At-Large before the November 13th Primary. Palmer and Brossett are running against each other in a four-way race for the Division 2 Council At-Large seat that includes former State Senator JP Morrell. Typically opponents in the same race do not endorse the other until after one loses.

Why would they do this?

The opponents see an opportunity to move voters away from their primary opponent JP Morrell.  Polling shows Morrell making the runoff with either of them.  For Palmer this is a political calculation.  In addition to politics, the personal dispute between Brossett and Morrell just got revved up significantly. 

Brossett and Palmer have worked together on the Council on multiple issues, including the $15 an hour minimum wage for city employees. They worked on the growing Airbnb problem. But this unforeseen action is not only shocking but politically risky for each of them.  

We will see how or if this unprecedented move affects the primary.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

Wait, the party out of power was complaining about the party in power trying to raise the debt ceiling? What year is it? I feel like we’ve been here before. Some would call this deja vu. Others would call it a glitch in the Matrix. But this is the debt ceiling debacle.

This episode played out predictably. I had trouble deciphering if it was a new one or just a re-run. At the heart of it all was the funding of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget.

Democrats, the party in power, we’re trying to rally two holdouts in the Senate. And Republicans were running around talking about how the budget would usher in the total ruination of the country. This all made for high drama.

Senators Sinema and Manchin contribute to the Debt Ceiling Debate

HOLDOUTS 1 & 2

Senator Krysten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, also known as holdout #1, got jacked up in a bathroom by some citizens who still actually take national politics seriously. Not like literally jacked up, but you know, confronted, politely questioned in public about why she’s stalling President Biden’s budget.

Holdout #2, Senator Joe Manchin, a Republican who identifies as a Democrat, did what he usually does in highly partisan showdown. He got squeamish when Democrats started asking how he’ll be voting. Manchin subjected his fellow Democrats to a lot of public foot stomping over the green energy policies included in the budget. This shouldn’t be surprising. He’s a Democrat from West Virginia, a coal mining state that has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000.

Meanwhile, Republicans were dealing with their own internal drama. In one breath, it wouldn’t make proper partisan sense to be seen voting with the Democrats. But in another, it also wouldn’t make much political sense to sit back and watch the Democrats nuke the filibuster.

The filibuster is the only weapon a minority party in the Senate has to influence legislation. It takes 60 votes to break one, which is something no party in recent memory has had. So, a compromise is forced. Naturally, the threat of losing the filibuster scared the bee gee bees out of Mitch McConnell. So, he did the unthinkable: he rallied votes on behalf of the Democrats.

In the end, McConnell betrayed his party (their words) and did just enough to throw Democrats some cover fire until December. Instead of actually voting to raise the debt ceiling to cover the budget, Republicans and Democrats agreed to raise it just enough to cover the bills until December. The price – $480 billion.

People who try to make sense of this ask: why when they vote to spend money we don’t have, they just don’t also raise the debt ceiling to cover it?

The answer: because there’d be no incentive to curb spending. Imagine if every time you were about to max out your credit card, the bank just increased your credit limit. You know all the trouble you’d get into?

Right now, the federal government is in $28 trillion of trouble, mainly because it has just that – unlimited credit. The debt that incurs is usually only a problem to the party that’s not in control of spending.

Over the years, the rhetoric surrounding the budget and federal spending has degenerated to stomp speeches and red meat for constituents. You can look for this to intensify until one party, probably Republicans, actually do something crazy like block the other party from raising the ceiling. Then all catastrophes will break loose.

But the good people in Washington made sure that is something we won’t have to worry about until Christmas. Think of it as a premature lump of coal in your stocking. In a month and a half, we’ll actually see if they will take all the merry out of Christmas.

By TiOnka Writez

On September 9, 2021,  President Biden signed the executive order to mandate the vaccination of all federal employees and employees operating with one hundred people within the private sector by 12/08/2021. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued guidelines. Unvaccinated employees are to submit a negative COVID-19 test result every 72 hours before reporting for duty. In true American fashion, the edge of a life-altering event stirs dissent. We understand the need to stop the virus. But the plan of tampering with the working classes’ lively hood is a bit extreme.

The three most common vaccine questions are:

1) Are you vaccinated?

2) When will you get vaccinated?

3) Why won’t you get vaccinated?

Depending on who is asking, you may need to ere on the side of caution when preparing to answer. The decision to vaccinate or not is causing a rift in home and work environments worldwide. The unvaccinated now face hostility. How did we, as a “united” nation, get here?

Now, I know what you are thinking. This COVID-19 virus is no joke. Humans have never faced this before. And you cannot fathom why anyone would object to a scientifically formulated and tested solution. However, The unvaccinated have real issues to consider. Initially there was confusing and mixed messaging. For instance, medical professionals advise patients to take the “shot” to save lives. But a liability waiver is necessary to proceed with vaccine administering. And multiple contracting cases and deaths by COVID-19 are on record in vaccinated individuals. Warnings of use labels, of course, are available on all over-the-counter and prescribed medications. But the difference here is choice and the ability to proceed with informed consent.

The first amendment (“Freedom of Speech”) means freedom of expression. If individuals express their desire not to receive the vaccination, accept their decision. Amidst the debt ceiling debate, now is not the ideal time to threaten Americans’ job security. Stifling employee wage-earning potential and restricting medical coverage for COVID-19 testing is counterproductive to replenishing a depleted economy.

We should develop a solution that considers the position of all parties involved. The most relevant question here is, who or what constitutes a valuable person?” The answer is simple; every living person holds value. And their opinion matters. Don’t bully or shame people for staying strong in their conviction. Placing restrictions on employment is not the best create trust and cooperation with the citizens you are attempting to save.

To vaccinate more people, appeal to what matters to them. Implement a solution to address daily issues like the unstable workforce or unjustly inflated insurance rates in certain areas. Address their concerns without gaslighting them, overlooking how they perceive your message or threatening them with excessive force.

RELATED: For some lack of access is the issue

         

            In my recent pandemic rant, I railed against adults, who, for no good reason, refused to get vaccinated. I argued that it constitutes reckless endangerment of our children. As I write this, yesterday (August 25), a baby and a 14-year-old football player died in Louisiana of COVID.

            My daughter Rebecca, who is a physician and has a nine-year-old, thought my rant was spot on. My son, Jonathan, also a physician and whose 8-year-old just recovered from COVID, could relate to my frustration, but he thought I should be more understanding of the unvaccinated. And my unvaccinated friend V called me up to say I can’t just call her a baby killer. I didn’t, and yet . . . what do the facts say?

            I know V extremely well and love her. But I can’t for the life of me see how she reaches her anti-vax conclusion. She’s not stupid. In fact, she is brilliant. She doesn’t buy conspiracy theories. She’s never been betrayed by doctors or the medical establishment. She’s generous and community oriented. But she’s not a Republican. And yet she’s one of those people I referenced in my rant that you can’t reason with.

            I have to grant, therefore, that my son’s approach may be more useful. He had a patient last week, an elderly woman with underlying conditions, who refused to get the shot because she was sure that the Lord would take care of her. He affirmed her strong faith and said he wanted to tell her a story/joke. You know, the one about a person in dire straits who refuses three rescue offers because she believes God will save her. She dies and then takes God to task for not answering her prayers. And God says, but I sent you X, Y, and Z.

            Jonathan, being a homeboy, gave it the New Orleans spin of a woman on a rooftop after Katrina. Boats and a helicopter came to the rescue, and she waved them away. His patient laughed uproariously and said she’d think about it. He had occasion to call her several times as a follow-up to their appointment asking various questions about her medical history. On the fourth call, she said she had some surprising news. She got the shot.

            “Great!” he said. “What made you decide?” She said she shared the hilarious story with a friend. When Jonathan called, she said that was God’s second message to her. When he called again – that was God’s third message. “I got in my car,” she told him, “To drive to the Walgreens. And if nothing happens on the way, I’ll know that God wants me to get the shot.”

            Jonathan is 1 for 0 on convincing people. I am 0 for 0. So I have to admit, as good and righteous as my rant felt – yes, his approach is proving more effective.

Breakthrough infections are to be expected, but it doesn’t mean the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t working.

by Linda Geddes

As a growing number of people in wealthy countries get fully vaccinated, questions are being asked about why some of them are still becoming infected with coronavirus, in some cases even being hospitalised with COVID-19. Such “breakthrough infections” are to be expected, but just how common are they, and what should you expect if you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 having been fully vaccinated?

Vaccine efficacy

No vaccine is 100% effective. Even the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine – one of the most powerful disease prevention tools we have – is only 96% effective against measles after two doses, while the seasonal flu vaccine is only 45% effective. Still, it is estimated to prevent 130,000 flu deaths in the US alone each year.

COVID-19 vaccines can and do protect the majority of people from hospitalisation and death, which is why as many doses need to administered around the world as rapidly, and equitably, as possible.

Clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines found them to be 94-95% effective against all symptomatic COVID-19 disease after the second dose. This doesn’t mean that we’d expect 5-6 in every 100 people to develop COVID-19, but that there was a 94-95% reduction in new cases of the disease among people who had been vaccinated, compared to unvaccinated individuals. China’s Sinopharm vaccine was 78% effective and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was 67% effective in clinical trials. Protection against hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 was even higher.

With large numbers of people being vaccinated, and as almost all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in some countries, it is inevitable that a small proportion of fully vaccinated individuals will become infected. An even smaller proportion will become seriously ill and die. What’s important is that the risk of a serious outcome is vastly lower for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to those who have received no vaccine doses.

Breakthrough infections

In the US, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has been quantifying the number of breakthrough infections, which it defines as cases in which SARS-CoV-2 is detected in a respiratory specimen 14 days or more after an individual has completed all recommended vaccine doses. Between 1 January and 30 April, 2021, 10,262 breakthrough infections were reported from 46 US states. At that time, 101 million people in the US had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For comparison, there were 11.8 million COVID-19 infections recorded during the same period – so these vaccine breakthrough infections represented only a tiny fraction of the total number. Also importantly, not all of these individuals reported feeling ill – 27% of those experiencing a breakthrough infection were asymptomatic.

Since 1 May, the CDC has only been identifying and investigating those breakthrough cases in which the individual was hospitalised or died due to any cause (i.e. not just as a result of COVID-19). As of August 2, 2021, more than 164 million people in the US had been fully vaccinated. In that time-span, the CDC identified 7,525 patients with a breakthrough infection who were hospitalised or died.

Shorter milder illness

Another recent analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, analysed breakthrough infections among almost 4000 essential and frontline workers in Arizona, USA, vaccinated with either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Of the 205 coronavirus infections identified, the majority occurred among unvaccinated workers – with only five fully and eleven partially vaccinated individuals testing positive between mid-December 2020 and mid-April 2021. Those who had received at least one vaccine dose had a 40% lower viral load (the amount of live virus a person carries) on average, a 66% reduced chance of testing positive for COVID-19 for more than a week on a PCR test, and a 58% lower risk of experiencing fever, compared to unvaccinated individuals. Their other symptoms also subsided about six days earlier and they spent two days fewer ill in bed, on average.

“The mechanisms by which vaccination attenuates COVID-19 are largely unknown, but the effect is probably due to recall of immunologic memory responses that reduce viral replication and accelerate the elimination of virally infected cells,” the researchers wrote.

Delta variant

The initial clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines were conducted before the emergence and spread of new variants, such as Delta, which are able to overcome the immunity afforded by COVID-19 vaccines to some degree.

In a recent study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, researchers at the Indian Council of Medical Research explored the possible reason for an increased number of breakthrough infections reported across the country. They collected nose and throat swabs from 677 individuals who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after receiving one or two doses or India’s Covaxin vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, or the Sinopharm vaccine. Genetic analysis revealed that in 86% of cases, the breakthrough infection was triggered by the Delta variant – although this could simply be a reflection of the variant’s prevalence at that time.

Other research also indicates that the vaccines may be less effective at preventing coronavirus infections in the face of the Delta variant. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were 88% effective at preventing symptomatic infections, whereas the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was 67% effective. A single dose of either vaccine was only 37% effective, underscoring the importance of receiving both doses.

However, COVID-19 vaccines still appear to be highly effective at preventing hospitalisation and deaths from the disease. Data from Public Health England, where the Delta variant now accounts for most COVID-19 cases, suggested that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 96% effective against hospitalisation with Delta after 2 doses, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was 92% effective after 2 doses.

Living with the virus

Most experts agree that COVID-19 is now effectively endemic, meaning it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population and trigger outbreaks, although it may pose less a danger over time. Many had hoped that once a certain proportion of the population had been infected, or vaccinated against the disease, herd immunity would kick in, meaning those who hadn’t encountered the virus would be buffered from infection by those who were already immune to it. The spread of Delta, and other variants that can partially escape the immunity provided by vaccination or previous infection has raised the threshold for herd immunity, with some even questioning whether it can be achieved at all. However, COVID-19 vaccines can and do protect the majority of people from hospitalisation and death, which is why as many doses need to administered around the world as rapidly, and equitably, as possible.

Could New Public Board Do a Better Job?

In New Orleans, the city council regulates the power company.  This is a unique occurrence.  Everywhere else across the state, the state-run Public Service Commission regulates the power companies for local municipalities.  The commission regulates insures that every district has safe and reliable power at reasonable rates.  Utility regulation is complex and important.  Utility commissions make life changing decisions.  Should the city council regulate Entergy?

The state’s Public Service Commission has  five commissioners that represent different parts of the state. In New Orleans, while the entire council must approve any regulation, the utility committee interacts directly with the power company.  This unique authority provides citizens direct access to all of the regulators.  That council members are the regulatory body, a heightened sense of politicization affects the policy decisions. 

Is this the best solution? 

The notion of local control seems great.  Now, council members have direct management of the power company with access to the company executives circumvents excessive bureaucracy.  And for the company, New Orleans officials directly hear their concerns.  Win-win right?

The complexity of utility regulation is significantly high.  Even the state’s commission hires advisors and experts to help it understand their choices.  And the New Orleans City Council annually spends over a million dollars on utility consultants and attorneys.  Finding the sweet spot – a financially strong and profitable power company that provides safe, reliable and affordable electricity – is an extreme challenge.  Add in climate change and the stakes get higher.  Our Hurricane Ida experience exposes our vulnerability.  100% of the metro was out of power. 

Role of the City Council

The council is the legislative and partly administrative branch of city government.  New laws, potholes, marijuana laws, city budget, crime, internet and cable TV, housing, water and land use are some of the important work done by the council.  Our members serve four-year terms.  The approve the city budget.  The council has several subcommittees that meet regularly in addition to the normal every other Thursday regular meeting.

Entergy New Orleans(ENO) is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, the city’s only Fortune 500 company.  ENO has been the power company in New Orleans for 99 years.  And ENO is guaranteed a reasonable profit. They must provide always on electricity and gas to homes and businesses. Additionally, the company must maintain the power grid for the city.  ENO attempts to maximize its’ profit through efficiency and minimizing expenses while continuing to provide high quality service.

Justice and Beyond Meeting Headed by Pat Bryant and Dr. Dwight Webster

Relationship Issues

The very nature of this business partnership requires informed and committed regulation.  Business intends to make the most profit possible providing desired service or products.  In the case of Entergy, cutting costs to increase profits might result in potential calamity.  Some have claimed the tower that collapsed during the storm is a prime example. They say the rusted and twisted metal indicates lack of proper maintenance.  Though not a part of ENO, this example provides insight into the difficulty regulators face.  How to oversee the wide and complex power grid.

But the New Orleans City Council is much more than just a regulatory body.  The city council must provide public policy, laws, budgets, and a host of other responsibilities. And the complexity of utility regulation is immense.  Even our state commission hires consultants and law firms.  Furthermore, none of the current council members is a utility expert.  The field is a specialty that requires specific skills and knowledge. We ask too much of council members. They are already burdened with everyday city stuff to oversee a powerful company.  Combine term limits to this equation and it’s no wonder that the same questions come up year after year.

Entergy is able to monetize our city government structure.  Council members cycle off every eight years.  New council members usually have no knowledge of the utility committee’s actions. Sometimes the new members’ campaigns were supported by ENO. Their ability to regulate may not be compromised. However, they may have more information about Entergy’s desires than the city’s position.

Therefore a diverse new board comprised not only of City Council members, but also citizens, independent industry experts, Entergy representatives, the New Orleans representative on the Public Service Commission, and university representatives should serve staggered 8-year terms.  This board should only regulate ENO.  This relieves burdened and inexperienced council members.  This new board will ensure that the threats of climate change are mitigated.  In other words, if we can not keep the lights on, then we no longer exist. 

The new power and gas board of New Orleans means we have a strong city for another 100 years.