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Have 5 minutes? Easy tips for finding moments of Zen

(BPT) – From work to working out, kids’ activities to household tasks and so much more, modern life has never been busier. The problem is hectic schedules can lead to unnecessary stress.

If you’re one of the many people who feel frazzled on a regular basis, you’re probably longing for a vacation or a day at the spa. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to cut stress that you can sneak into everyday life. From mealtime to bedtime, if you start embracing small moments to be more mindful, you’ll be surprised how fast you can cut down on overall stress.

Here are five simple examples of how you can find your own moments of Zen today:

1. Take a 5-minute walk.

Whether it’s getting fresh air or just getting yourself moving, a change of place and pace can reduce stress and give you a few moments to relax, especially during hectic times. For example, take a 5-minute break while dinner’s cooking to walk around the block. Weather not right for a walk? Give your body a quick stretch with an at-home yoga session.

2. Find quick-and-easy solutions.

If making dinner for your family seems like a daunting task, choose quick-and-easy options designed to take the hassle out of meal prep, like SeaPak’s Shrimp Scampi or Popcorn Shrimp. The frozen food aisle is a great place to begin your journey toward finding your happy place in the kitchen. Here, you can find a variety of products that taste great and require minimal prep work, so you can dedicate more time to doing the things you love, like spending quality time with your family.

3. Choose quality over quantity.

Make the most of your time each day by being intentional with your activities. Whether it’s playing a new board game with the kids after dinner or watching a TV show with your spouse, small quality moments can help you relax and enjoy yourself and your family when at home.

4. Take time to reflect.

When using great-tasting, low-hassle products like SeaPak to make dinner, you’ll be spending way less time in the kitchen. Take those extra moments to reflect on everything you accomplished during your day or week. This will help give you a sense of pride and is a real confidence-booster.

5. Break from technology.

Take a break from technology, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Set down your phone, turn off the television and step away from all electronics. Just giving your mind a break from the active world of technology can reduce stress and help you mentally reset, especially during mealtimes, where being present is particularly important.

These are just five simple examples, but moments of Zen can be found anywhere if you take the time to look for them. Remember, the little moments are what make the biggest impact in life, and by embracing mindfulness, you’re setting the stage to be able to focus on what really matters.

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Childhood vaccine rates increase but more parents also are refusing

(BPT) – Childhood and adolescent vaccination is considered by many to be one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century, but based on the results of a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), there is still more work to do to ensure children and teens are protected against the diseases vaccines were developed to eradicate.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield: Health of America Report shows childhood vaccination rates climbed 12 percent among young commercially insured members. Data shows 69 percent of young BCBS members born in 2010 were up-to-date on their CDC-recommended vaccinations by the age of 2 years and 3 months compared to 77 percent of children born in 2013.

The study also found that the rate of documented vaccine refusal — in other words, doctors charting parental refusal of vaccines for their children — went up by nearly 70 percent for children born in 2013 compared to those born in 2010 (4.2 percent versus 2.5 percent, respectively).

The result of vaccine refusal can be dangerous, not only for the child who is vulnerable to diseases like measles and diphtheria, but for the community at large.

It played itself out in Minnesota last year, when a measles outbreak in the Twin Cities exceeded the total number of cases reported in the entire U.S. the year before. Health officials didn’t have to look far for the cause. Spread of the highly infectious disease started in the state’s Somali-American community.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the vaccination rate among Somali-American children dropped from the high 80s to a low of 42 percent last year in response to the anti-vaccine movement’s targeting efforts, fueling the outbreak. But the disease wasn’t confined to the Somali community. It spread throughout the Minnesota public school system as well, infecting non-vaccinated children.

The disease is nothing to take lightly. At the low end, it causes fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat and a rash, but it can be deadly, spawning pneumonia, blindness and even encephalitis. One especially alarming complication lurks in the brain for years after a person has recovered and mysteriously reawakens, causing seizures, coma and death. No one who has contracted that complication has survived.

Low uptake of HPV vaccine

It’s not just childhood vaccines that parents are refusing. According to the BCBSA report, only 29 percent of adolescents received a first dose of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine before their 13th birthday.

The HPV vaccine rates lag far behind other adolescent vaccines, meningococcal and Tdap, which have rates of 72 percent and 82 percent, respectively.

And that’s a problem. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31,500 people die every year from cancers caused by HPV.

It’s a heartbreaking statistic, especially because the American Cancer Institute estimates that, if all teens were vaccinated against HPV, cervical cancer would be eliminated within one generation.

What parents can do

The key to protecting children and teens from diseases like measles, rubella and HPV is vaccination, according to the CDC.

Talk to your child’s doctor about the safety and benefits of vaccination, if you have any doubt.

Vaccinate your children according to the CDC-recommended Seven-Vaccine series: Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP), Heamophilus Influenza (Hib), Hepatitis B (Hep B) Polio (IPV), and Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR).

Vaccinate your adolescent against HPV, Meningitis and DTaP.

For more information, or to download the Health of America report, visit www.bcbs.com/healthofamerica.

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Ideas to help you reap big rewards from your garden

(BPT) – Get active outdoors with a hobby more satisfying than binge-watching another television series. As a pastime, gardening can help you eat delicious, more flavorful food while transforming your patio or yard into a colorful hangout for butterflies and bees.

Many people don’t realize how easy it is to have a fresh supply of crisp veggies, fragrant herbs or fresh-grown flowers. Whether you have a balcony, rooftop or patio, gardening is a hobby that quite literally allows you to harvest big rewards.

One of the most exciting parts of gardening is deciding what to grow. With thousands of plants to choose from — flowers, vegetables and herbs — a small pot of soil can be a canvas for creativity.

To find the most popular flowers and plants this year, we checked in with Ball Horticultural Company, a global leader on all things gardening, to see what the top trends are in 2018.

Strong and colorful

When spring arrives, we all crave color and warmth to celebrate the end of winter. To get that wow factor — and get it fast — try planting flowers that grow and fill in quickly and thrive in extremes. The Megawatt Begonia brings magnetic color even in shaded spaces. It’s also a low-maintenance option if you’re new to gardening. Likewise, the Echinacea Sombrero Sangrita is a perennial flower that returns each year with stunning red blossoms.

For foodies who want to show off

Every chef knows the secret to tasty cooking is great ingredients. For many gardeners, the truly magical combination is finding that edible veggie that looks as good as it tastes. Take 2 Combos combine two sweet pepper plants with a touch of heat and beautiful orange and yellow fruit. There’s also a combo of a slicer and cherry tomato perfect for small spaces and for snacking and cooking. Speaking of peppers, a new, attractive variety is Candy Cane Red Pepper. It has green fruit striping that ripens to red and offers up crisp, sweet flavors, much like a candy cane!

A refuge for bees, butterflies and beyond

There are dozens of reasons people choose to garden: fresh food, interior and exterior decoration, relaxation, stress reduction and more. One emerging trend is that people want to make their garden a destination for pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A few captivating flowers that attract these beautiful and helpful creatures are:

* Lucky Star Pentas — Provides butterflies summer-long flower clusters in eye-catching colors

* Copper Prince Ornamental Millet — This thriller makes a dramatic statement with foxtail plumes that birds feast upon

* SuperBlue Lavender — A deeply colorful and fragrant bee magnet

Gardening helps you relax and decompress. What’s more, there is a huge amount of satisfaction involved in seeing your vegetables and flowers grow. Follow these trends and watch your plants blossom and beautify your home and yard. After all, we could all use a little more color in our lives.

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How to keep your seafood wild

(BPT) – Every day, consumers are bombarded with buzzwords when selecting groceries — natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and so on. Coupled with news headlines about the environmental impacts of growing, raising and catching food, it’s no wonder many of us are becoming more confused about which choices are right for our diets, our budgets and the environment. And nowhere is this issue more confounding, perhaps, than in the seafood section.

Fish and seafood are flavorful sources of protein, and the variety and versatility of the ocean’s bounty is no mystery. What may be considered a mystery is whether all the options in front of us are sustainably sourced. Some are labeled wild, others farm-raised, but questions remain given the limited information provided and the fact that mislabeling can occur (an independent study of the open global market found an average mislabeling rate of 30 percent for all fish and seafood).

With the world’s growing demand for seafood, ocean environments are increasingly strained. The livelihoods of approximately 10 percent of the global population are supported by the oceans through artisanal and commercial fishing careers. Overfishing — when too few adult fish remain to breed for a healthy population — has been an issue for some species, and it can decimate fish stocks and habitats as well as the fishing communities and economies that rely on a healthy supply.

Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing continues to occur around the world and can exacerbate overfishing problems. IUU fishing generally disregards quotas and the environment, as does destructive fishing, which may expose delicate ecosystems to explosives or chemicals.

Fortunately, industry groups have developed standards and certifications to help us navigate the murky waters and find some clarity. For 20 years, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), for instance, has been refining its science-based standards for certifying sustainable fisheries and introducing traceability in its efforts to keep the oceans wild and teeming with life for generations to come. And, seafood that has been determined to meet the MSC’s stringent standards is marked with an easily identifiable blue fish label.

By looking for the trusted blue fish label, seafood shoppers can be assured that their purchase:

* Represents only wild fish or seafood from fisheries assessed by an independent third party to meet strict science-based criteria.

* Supports sustainable fishery practices and good management that adapts to changes in the environment.

* Traces back to a certified sustainable fishery and is kept separate from non-certified fish and seafood.

* Features correct labeling, providing peace of mind while selecting food for the dinner table.

Of course, not all certification labels are the same. To make a truly informed choice, you might consider doing a little homework before deciding which label to seek and support with your shopping and dining-out dollars. Several well-regarded international organizations maintain best practices for food production, sustainability and traceability, providing recognition of certification and ecolabeling programs that meet them. Organizations like the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), ISEAL Alliance (the global memberships association for sustainability standards) and the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) are all considered reputable sources for more information.

With a little research, you can gather information that helps ensure the seafood you put on the table can be traced to its source and verified as wild and sustainable. At the same time, its enjoyment can be guilt-free: each purchase provides incentive for more fisheries, retailers and restaurants to join the movement to support transparency, traceability and sustainability in our food system. By speaking with their wallets, consumers have the power to track their seafood from ocean to plate and keep it wild.

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March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month: Know When to Stop Before You Start

(BPT) – The bright lights. The energy and laughter that fills the room. Casinos are fun and exciting to the vast majority of people but for some, they can be problematic.

Casinos are a form of entertainment, so how do you ensure what’s meant to be a fun and leisurely activity continues to be a positive experience? Time spent at a casino should be a planned and budgeted entertainment option — like you would approach an evening out for dinner or a sporting event. There are preventative measures that can be taken to help ensure that an experience at a casino remains a fun one.

Leading experts in the field of gambling research maintain that it starts with being an informed consumer who understands the realities of gaming. “Being informed means understanding your thoughts about the next big win, beating the odds, and finding the hot machine or deck of cards,” said Dr. James Whelan of the University of Memphis. “Misunderstanding these thoughts about chance can lead to harmful mistakes and excessive losses of money. Informed consumers know that setting limits on how much you spend and how long you play is the best way to not let these thoughts result in you losing more than you can afford.”

Here’s what everyone should keep in mind before their next casino visit.

Betting on a winning streak

It’s always exciting to hit a jackpot, but winning streaks are highly uncommon and beyond anyone’s control. Each spin of the wheel or roll of the dice is an independent event, which means that the chances of a specific outcome aren’t influenced by previous outcomes. So rolling snake eyes once makes you no more (or less) likely to roll snake eyes again.

The chances of beating the odds

Casino games are designed with a house advantage. Mathematically, the house advantage is a measure of how much the house expects to win, expressed as a percentage of the player’s wager. For example, in a wager with a house advantage of 5 percent, the player will lose, on average over time, $5 for every $100 wagered. Because the odds always favor the house, the longer or faster a person plays a casino game, the more the person should expect to lose even in skill­-based or hybrid games. In the same way, the more a person wagers, the more the person should expect to lose.

Believing in superstitions

It might be fun to imagine that rubbing a rabbit’s foot improves a player’s chances of hitting a jackpot, but the reality is that this “magical thinking” has no impact whatsoever. Cheating aside, there’s nothing a player can do — no ritual or lucky charm — to influence the outcome of any casino game. Superstitions can’t determine whether a player wins or loses because every casino game — whether it’s blackjack, craps or a slot machine — is based on randomness, or on chance.

Lisa Arroyo has worked at Harrah’s Joliet Casino in Illinois for the past 25 years. Like everyone who works at a Caesars Entertainment property, Arroyo thinks about gambling as a fun activity you pay for, like going to the movies or to a theater performance.

Arroyo has heard customers laughing and having fun playing blackjack — and she has also heard customers make troubling statements that have caused her concern. “We definitely don’t want people to come in and spend more than what they have budgeted. We want our guests to simply have fun and gamble responsibly. If someone makes a statement or series of statements that concern us, we will have a discussion with the patron and inform them of responsible gaming options and alternatives if needed.”

Gambling responsibly?

Is responsible gaming an oxymoron? Not at all. Arroyo wants gambling to be a choice made for the right reasons. She is one of the advocates of Caesars Entertainment’s Responsible Gaming program, the first hospitality gambling program of its kind to formally train employees on the importance of Responsible Gaming.

The premise of the program involves Arroyo and her colleagues across Caesars’ global network of properties, called Responsible Gaming (RG) Ambassadors, who are celebrating their 15th year of assisting casino guests who may not be gambling responsibly. If comments or statements are made that are concerning to any employee, that concern is brought to the attention of the RG Ambassador who will sit down with the guest to address the reported concern, offer problem gambling program assistance and help resources, and answer questions. “We just let them know that if they feel like they might have a problem, we’re here to answer questions and help,” said Arroyo.

She informs people who express they might have a gambling problem to ask themselves some of the following questions.

* Do I lose time from work due to gambling?

* Is gambling making my home life unhappy?

* Have I ever felt remorse after gambling?

* Do I ever gamble to get money to help pay debts or to otherwise solve financial difficulties?

* Does gambling cause a decrease in my ambition or efficiency?

* Do I ever gamble longer than I had planned?

Caesars Entertainment wants everyone who plays at its casinos to be there for the right reason — to simply have fun. For the past 25 years, Caesars has been committed to promoting responsible gaming and has provided assistance to guests who may not be gambling responsibly. This year, Caesars’ Responsible Gaming Ambassador Program is celebrating its 15th anniversary with 815 Responsible Gaming Ambassadors that may assist guests with problem gambling help resources.

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5 ways to care for and comfort your sick child

(BPT) – If you’re a parent, a big part of your job is making sure your children feel well. No matter how many times you wash their hands, sterilize their toys or keep a sparkling clean house, inevitably the germs will win. All parents know that taking care of a sick child can be a stressful experience that can leave you feeling helpless — especially when they have a cough that is keeping them up at night.

On top of that, if you’re trying to juggle a job, keep the house in order and get enough sleep yourself, the experience can feel overwhelming.

Emily Schuman, founder of the popular lifestyle parenting blog Cupcakes and Cashmere, has had more than her fair share of days spent taking care of her toddler when she is sick. The following are some of her best cough and cold remedies to help care for your little one when they’re sick.

1. Sleep is great medicine

Parents know that a sleepy child is a crabby child. Just as sleep is vital for a child’s mood, it is also a crucial step in combating coughs and colds. Naps and early bedtimes should be a priority. To help your sick child sleep better and longer, you might have to give them more cuddles than usual!

2. Reduce their coughing

One of the worst parts of taking care of a sick child is hearing them cough, which is also uncomfortable for the child. In fact, a recent Vicks VapoRub survey* found that nearly all (94 percent) moms say coughing from being sick makes sleeping difficult for their child, and 92 percent say finding symptom relief to improve their child’s sleep is top priority. Fortunately, Vicks VapoRub, a cough remedy moms have used for over 100 years, is safe, effective, has long-lasting vapors and is fast-acting for children ages 2 years and up. When applied on the chest or throat, the medicated vapors in Vicks VapoRub last up to eight hours, to help quiet the cough, which in turn helps moms and their children sleep better and get the rest they need.

3. Bring out the humidifier

With winter comes dry air, and when you add in central heating, the air is even dryer. This is particularly uncomfortable when you have a cold or cough. Placing a humidifier near your child’s bed can do wonders as far as allowing them to breathe more comfortably and sleep better.

4. Feed them nutrient-rich foods

When you’re sick, it’s easy to gravitate toward comfort food like mac and cheese or sweets. But it is important to make sure your child gets plenty of nutrients from food like fresh fruits and veggies. Soups and smoothies are perfect ways to get your little ones to eat these foods.

5. Provide them with activities and distractions

Being sick is not fun, and not just because your child feels lousy. They’re also cooped up, bored and incredibly restless. Make sure you have plenty of rainy-day activities, like coloring books and special toys, ready for them. If they feel up to it, encourage them to make a fort out of the couch cushions. It’s also the perfect time to let them have extra screen time.

It’s hard to have a sick child at home, but getting ample sleep, having Vicks VapoRub on hand, using a humidifier, eating well and being prepped with some creative distractions can go a long way toward comforting your child and making things easier for the entire household. And remember as stressful as it can be caring for a sick child, nearly nine in ten (87 percent) moms say it can be a bonding experience.*

* This content is based on an online survey conducted by Kelton in October 2017 among a sample of 1,016 American mothers with children between the ages of 2 and 17.

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