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5 Business Essentials for Surviving COVID-19

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Covid 19

Chances are that your company didn’t weather the coronavirus storm without suffering considerable losses. If only you had a contingency plan for unprecedented global pandemics…

Of course, nobody did. So, lest we dwell on how we could have prepared for the crisis. What matters now is your response to the challenges that lie ahead. Getting back into business and re-opening smoothly requires tackling unfamiliar problems. It’s crucial that you take the necessary precautions. Read on to learn more. 

Facilitate Remote Work

Are any team members capable of performing their duties from home? The option may not be available to everyone. But for employees who can work remotely, minimizing their on-site presence is a smart move. You’ll need to draw up a policy with procedures and guidelines for working from home. Keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Set clear rules and expectations 
  • Provide the correct hardware and software
  • Use encryption and VPN tools to improve security
  • Identify and implement suitable communication software
  • Perform check-ins to assess the wellbeing of external workers

Stay in Touch

Make sure to send out regular updates on where your business currently stands. Routinely informing staff via emails and company meetings will reduce panic and relieve uncertainty. Discuss the precautions you’re taking to ensure their safety. Keeping employees up-to-speed with rule changes and policies can cut down on training times. 

Prioritize Hygiene

Depending on your industry, there are likely certain regulations that you need to follow when it comes to sanitization. Regardless, you’ll want to set aside a budget for cleaning products – you’ll be using them a lot. Here are some basic steps for every business to take:

  • Increase how often and thoroughly you clean
  • Stock up on sanitizers and disinfectants
  • Ask employees to follow cleaning procedures
  • Request that staff who feel ill stay at home
  • Encourage more frequent hand washing 

Don’t forget about masks and gloves. Customer-facing businesses may have to invest in temperature sensors, as well as products such as the Sneeze Guard EZ to protect employees and give them peace of mind that they’re safe. 

Look into Federal Relief

Have you explored your options for government assistance? Numerous initiatives are in place to help small businesses stay afloat. This includes low-interest disaster loans, employer tax credit and income tax deferment. Economic Injury Disaster Loans can be taken out to cover important expenses such as payroll and fixed debts. 

Shift Your Strategy

Now is an ideal time to reconsider how you spend your marketing dollars. If you previously relied on traditional channels, taking a more digital approach can help you save money and expose your business to a larger audience. Aim to cover the basics, including:

  • Setting up social media profiles
  • Building a newsletter mailing list 
  • Creating listings on review platforms
  • Optimizing and refining your own website

The end appears closer than ever, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Contact your suppliers, investors, partners and other key stakeholders to learn how you can safeguard your business and stay afloat while COVID-19 makes its way out. Rest-assured that your efforts will pay off in due course.

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Dopamine and Friends: The Happy Chemicals in our Brain

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Most of us have heard the word Dopamine or Serotonin. They’re often used in popular culture, or described as ‘The Happy Chemicals’. While this is mostly accurate, there are four neurotransmitters (chemical substances) released in the brain that are responsible for the experience of happiness or any other positive emotion. 

Even those familiar with the Dopamine and Serotonin often use them interchangeably, even though they are activated in entirely different activities and circumstances. 

We’re all in the pursuit of happiness in one way or another. One of the core reasons why people begin to try and improve their lives and themselves is so that they can be happier and experience a greater quality of being. 

Knowing about the four chemicals that produce the happiness sensation in the body can almost act as a formula to get your result!

DOSE

Here are the four chemicals that play an integral role in the experience of happiness. 

  • Dopamine
  • Oxytocin
  • Serotonin
  • Endorphins

Dopamine

Dopamine is released in the brain everytime you expect a reward or experience pleasure. This means a bite out of a pizza slice immediately releases dopamine which allows you to enjoy it so much. 

But dopamine doesn’t just stop there. It also has a powerful effect on making you want to take another bite of the pizza, and another, and another. That’s why dopamine is integrally involved in addictions. 

Dopamine can also be linked to motivation. Your brain begins to only want to do the activities that will release the most dopamine. So if eating a pizza releases more dopamine than a salad, that’s why it’s so tough to eat healthy. Similarly, watching a youtube video or scrolling through instagram also gives instant gratification: release of dopamine in the brain. Doing your work or assignments are lower dopamine releasing activities (at first!) which can unmotivate you.

But dopamine isn’t the end-all. We don’t need to blindly listen to this chemical. In fact, if you choose to eat that salad and do your work, you’ll experience an even higher level of dopamine much later after accomplishment: and be proud of yourself too!

Why is it connected to happiness? Dopamine lets you enjoy the good things in life. In cases of mental illnesses like depression, and substance abuse; brains that have severely low levels of dopamine experience anhedonia which is the inability to feel pleasure of any kind. They no longer have the motivation or desire to eat or move or do anything.

Oxytocin

Known as the love drug or even the ‘cuddle hormone’, oxytocin is released with physical contact with loved ones, even if you’re petting your dog! Oxytocin levels in a person can also have a link to how much love they received as children from their parents. People with low oxytocin levels have shown tendencies to feel hostile and suspicious of other people in their environment. 

Oxytocin is integral in our brain’s perception of the social relationships we’ve formed. In a study, a group of men were given a dose of oxytocin and asked to describe their relationship with their mothers. The men who already had a secure and good relationship with their mothers were able to recollect instances and examples of how caring and understanding she was. 

However, men who didn’t have a good relationship with their mothers were able to explain in detail how she wasn’t caring enough or didn’t love him as much as she should have. 

Oxytocin helps us identify and articulate our feelings about all social relationships. In another study dutch students given a dose of oxytocin, they displayed strong preference for Dutch names and aversion to Arab and German names. Oxytocin helps us identify with our group and feel a strong connection and sense of belonging with them. This also means a sense of animosity towards those that don’t ‘belong’. 

So how does oxytocin relate to happiness? You know that feeling when you’re with a friend and laughing uncontrollably about something? That moment can feel like true joy and happiness, and it’s all because of the release of oxytocin. In fact when people say ‘Laughter is the best medicine’, they’re not entirely wrong!

Serotonin

When most people use the term Dopamine for happiness, they actually are referring to serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for mood stabilising, and the feeling of well-being and well, happiness!

But Serotonin does more than this. Common belief is that Serotonin is only in the brain, when actually more than 70% of serotonin receptors are in the digestive tract. Serotonin is closely involved in how regular your bowel movements are, nausea, blood clotting and sleep. In short, the optimal levels of serotonin will ensure smooth bodily functioning. 

Too less serotonin in the body can make the person experience depression amongst other mental illnesses, including suicidal tendencies. 

High levels of serotonin doesn’t equal more happy: nerve cell dysfunctioning and high blood pressure, diarrhea and fever can be some of the symptoms as you’re on the brink of serotonin syndrome. 

Most recreational drugs increase levels of serotonin in the body, which is why people experience the incredible ‘high’ and happiness while on them. A good case in point is MDMA, which increases serotonin levels drastically for the high and subsequently depletes resources for the next day or two. That’s why the ‘downer’ of MDMA is said to be so awful: even nicknamed ‘Suicidal Tuesdays’ for what happens to people after rolling on Molly on the weekend. 

But even apart from illegal drugs, serotonin can be regulated to a great extent by the regular healthy individual. Exercising and being active can help regulate the serotonin in the body, as well as spending time in nature and practicing meditation. Getting sun exposure is a big factor: since Vitamin D levels and Serotonin are closely related!

Endorphins

Next time somebody tells you about a runner’s high, they’re really talking about the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are also more popular in pop culture, commonly linked to exercise.

They also are the body’s natural painkillers. In fact, endorphins have a very similar effect to opioids! They work similarly, relieving pain and flooding the body with a feel-good sensation. 

Endorphins take around 30 minutes to be activated. So while any form of exercise is good for you (including taking the stairs instead of the elevator), if it’s endorphins you’re after, you’ll want a good work-out session. 

Many people experiencing mild forms of mental illness as well as periods of low feelings benefit enormously from pursuing a sport or physical activity. 

For bonus chemicals: don’t just exercise, exercise with friends and sunshine! Then you’ve tick marked all four D.O.S.E and have hacked the code for happiness.

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Do Video Games Relieve Stress?

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We live in one of the most stressful times today. If the global pandemic wouldn’t be enough, we also have to bear the effects of the financial and employment crisis it has caused, not to mention the many other issues we have to face today. Under these conditions, it’s not surprising that stress, anxiety, and depression are commonplace. 

The World Health Organization has called stress the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” a few years ago, pointing out its many negative health effects, ranging from digestive discomfort to headaches, high blood pressure, and in the long term, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. This makes stress relief one of the most important preventive measures one can take. 

Reach for the game

When they go home after a hard day at work (or finally close Zoom, Microsoft Office, and Skype after a long day at the home office), many people like to unwind by playing video games. Is this a good way to de-stress? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Games that involve fighting, shooting – violent games, in general – seem to have the opposite effect. At first, that is. Playing these games can be especially stressful – aside from the difficulty of the game, multiplayer titles also add the occasional fumbling of the teammates who are always blamed for losing. But once the game is over, the stress disappears, leaving relief, a sense of achievement and relaxation in its wake.

Researchers around the world have studied the efficacity of video games as a means of recovery after experiencing stressful situations and found that not only did they reduce the effects of stress but also helped some subjects develop healthier coping mechanisms.

The more casual, the better

Casual games are all around us today, available at every major app marketplace, every online casino, everywhere we look. Slot machines are the games available in the greatest variety – online casinos have libraries of hundreds of them, ready to be played either for real or for fun, with virtual funds. These games fit into the “hyper-casual” category because a player can learn the rules and play them within seconds, and can stop at any time without sacrificing any progress.

A group of researchers from the East Carolina University’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies have looked at the effects of casual games on stress and recovery. They followed a group of students using popular casual games and compared their reactions to a controlled group who were engaged in a web-based activity similar in physical and mental nature to the game-playing groups. 

The results were astounding. Each of the games studied had different effects on the subjects’ brain (reflected by EEG readings) – all of them improved their mood, reduced their anger, significantly reduced their psychological tension, and depression.

Compared to simply relaxing, casual and hyper-casual games are much more effective at reducing stress and its effects. Depending on the type of the game itself, the effects can differ – but they all contribute to stress relief.

Video games are, indeed, a good way to reduce stress. And for many people in these trying times, they are more important than ever as a means of relieving stress – and, in the long term, in helping protect our health.

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A Beginner’s Guide To Energy Pricing

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People tend to notice their electric bill can fluctuate throughout the year. When the bill starts to get too high, they may look to change their power consumption habits or invest in more energy-efficient appliances. But what actually drives the cost of energy throughout the year, and how do the prices really get set?

Fuel Costs

Of course, different power plants run on different fuels from petroleum, oil, natural gas and liquefied natural gas, though of course some still run on coal and others include hydroelectricity and nuclear power. How the fuels are purchased, the way they’re transported and ultimately the way they’re distributed all affect the cost. Plus market speculators all have their own forecasts on where there prices are headed. One such forecast has been showing crude oil currently trending at about $40 a barrel, and the current outlook is that it’s likely to trend downward as the summer months come to a close. Natural gas is also been selling quite cheap lately, and its prices aren’t likely to go up anymore this year.

Geographic Location Costs

Part of the power grid infrastructure and power supply costs are affected by geographic location. That’s because of several factors that include not only the topography of the land and how its roads and infrastructure are designed but also local governments and regulations they may have on power consumption. As an example of how different prices can be across the US, the cost per kilowatt-hour in Louisiana was only 7.65 cents, while the rate skyrocketed to 28.33 cents per kilowatt-hour in Hawaii. Hawaii does have by far the highest power costs of any state, but you certainly will see a marked difference in power supply costs in Maine, and those in California.

Seasonal Costs

Your power bill will usually rise in the spring and summer months and lower in the fall and winter. That’s because it usually takes more power to run appliances like refrigerators, and consumers tend to run their air conditioners more during those months. But when cold winter temperatures become extreme, that too could raise the rate.

Consumer Type

Residential consumers and different types of business consumers all pay different rates on power. Certain industrial consumers will have a more steady rate of consumption, while residential consumers may be more unpredictable in their usage, and it costs more to get it to them. Plus, residential consumers may have limited options in terms of who they can purchase power from.So, in conclusion, energy companies have to take all of those factors into account when laying out a pricing strategy for their power supply. But they can also benefit from energy pricing software which uses real data and advanced algorithms to calculate prices for different consumers. This kind of software can help them reach a good pricing point that will reflect current market conditions and make sure their bottom lines aren’t being hurt; yet at the same time ensure they aren’t unfairly price gouging consumers when it’s unnecessary.

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