Monthly Archives: September 2017

You Can Breathe A Sigh of Relief…

You know how sometimes you just feel like sighing?  Nothing is really wrong. But you find yourself worrying that something may be wrong.  You’re not facing any “emotional trauma” that you know of.  It just happens; perhaps several times in a row, maybe really big sighs. Well, according to an article on the Science Alert website, a team of researchers believe they have found that the sigh is “actually a crucial reflex that keeps our lungs healthy,” and the reflex appears to be controlled by neurons that manufacture and release one of two neuropeptides.

Researchers, Mark Krasnow, from Stanford University School of Medicine and Jack Feldman from the University of California, Los Angeles, and their team found “two tiny clusters of neurons in the brain stem that automatically turn normal breaths into sighs when our lungs need some extra help – and they do this roughly every 5 minutes (or 12 times an hour), regardless of whether or not you’re thinking about something depressing.”

It’s as though we have different buttons to turn on different types of breath.  For example, one may control regular breaths and one may control another, like a sigh, a yawn, or a cough, etc.

“A sigh is a deep breath, but not a voluntary deep breath.  It starts out as a normal breath, but before you exhale, you take a second breath on top of it,” Feldman explained.  “When alveoli collapse, they compromise the ability of the lung to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.  The only way to pop them open again is to sigh, which brings in twice the volume of a normal breath.  If you don’t sigh every 5 minutes of so, the alveoli will slowly collapse, causing lung failure.”

The research team studied the process in lab mice and, of course, more research will be required to see if the same “pathway” occurs in humans, but they feel “the similarities in the mouse and human systems” are leading them in the right direction.  For people who suffer conditions that stop them from breathing deeply or for those who sigh so often that it becomes debilitating, the scientists feel it may be possible to to offer relief once they work out how the process is regulated.

As for emotional sighing, there is still the question of whether it works in the same way.

“There is certainly a component of sighing that relates to an emotional state. When you are stressed, for example, you sigh more,” Feldman said. “It may be that neurons in the brain areas that process emotion are triggering the release of the sigh neuropeptides — but we don’t know that.”

So, don’t fear the sigh – Sigh on!  It’s good for you!

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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I Wanna Live Forever!

Gilgamesh and his best friend Enkidu had many adventures together. Then Enkidu died. Gilgamesh was inconsolable with grief and loneliness. But he was also afraid of his own death. So he wandered endlessly in search of the secret to never dying.

Gilgamesh’s story is told in the Epic of Gilgamesh, written between 2150 – 1400 BCE.  It was the first major piece of literature in the western world, predating even Homer’s stories about the destruction of Troy.  Gilgamesh was a mythical king of Uruk, a Sumerian city-state in what is now Iraq.

His story may have been written over 4000 years ago but Gilgamesh was not so different from us today.  We are still looking for the magical elixir of life.  Gilgamesh hoped the gods would tell him the secret to immortality but they never did.

Today, our “gods” are the allegedly scientific studies on the benefits of exercise and food.  I say alleged because the studies usually provide conflicting advice and are often sponsored by industries that have a stake in the outcome.  Consider how the definition of “healthy” food changes constantly.

Years ago a study told us not to eat eggs because they have cholesterol which is bad for us. Then a study told us that eggs are loaded with protein; so they are good for us. The poultry industry celebrated.  Another study told us sugar is bad for us. Then a study arrived claiming that lab rats died from consuming saccharine and other sugar substitutes.  Suddenly sugar is good for us again. Sugar beet farmers and sugarcane refineries rejoice.

Along with diet, we’re told to exercise regularly. What does “regularly” mean? One study tells us to exercise until our hearts are thumping and we’re soaked in sweat. The next study tells us that we can achieve excellent health and long life from as little as fifteen minutes of daily exercise.   Recently, a BBC news story cited a new study which claims that prolonged sitting will kill us no matter how much we exercise.

What no one ever admits is that if we live forever, we’ll outlive all our friends. Then we’ll be as lonely as Gilgamesh was after Enkidu died.  Instead of agonizing over living forever, I’ll support a scientific study that says we should enjoy life with our friends, our favorite foods and exercise when we feel like it.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Done Dreaming


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

By Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, c. 1994

I write today in honor of and in solidarity with the 800,000 Dreamers whose dreams have this day been shattered by the decision of President Trump to discontinue the Obama-era program that protected them from deportation.

I am not interested in the legalities of this situation.  I am interested in the humanity.  These are human beings, brought to this country as children – children who had no ability to object or to decide their own fates.  They know no other country.  Most were too young to remember another place or way of life.  They are in school, studying, becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers – and now our government, the government of the United States of America, is telling them that they are unwelcome.

My heart is breaking for these young people.  This action is wrong.  Whether the program expires in 6 months (which will happen unless Congress, which to date has been unable to act in a bipartisan manner for years, is able to act) or is extended or completely dropped, these young people are irreparably harmed.

They are harmed by knowing that some people in this country see them as aliens, as outsiders, even as enemies.  They are harmed by living constantly with fear and stress.  They are harmed most of all by broken trust.  Will they ever trust again?

And – It is not their fault.

I am writing my senators and congressman today about this situation.  I hope that you will, too.  It is about justice, fairness – but most of all it is about being a caring human being.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at

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Happy Women’s Labor Day!

We Can Do It

Labor Day, 2017 is now past history, but just barely. So I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on how, or whether, things have changed for working women between the years my mom hung up her chalk as a young, pregnant schoolteacher, and this summer when my adult daughter, newly minted Master’s Degree in hand, began her professional life.

Most obvious to me is that my daughter is 30, several years past the age my mother was when she put her teaching career on the shelf. And while she has many friends who are already starting families, many more are right with her when it comes to delaying motherhood in favor of career. In an article published this past spring by CNBC, a US Census Bureau report found that in 1970, 80 percent of adults were married by age 30 while today that same number will marry by age 45. Indeed, my mother married in 1955 at 23 and I was married in 1979 at the tender age of 21. And although I am trying to be patient while awaiting the arrival, someday, of grandchildren, I wholeheartedly support my daughter’s focus on her education and career.

One of the most obvious changes, at least to me, lies in my daughter’s choice of career. She is passionately dedicated to the business of sports. In fact, she’s been a sports junkie all her life, participating in a wide variety of team and individual sports and being an avid fan. But rather than sit on the sidelines, she pursued both an undergraduate and a graduate degree that positioned her to pursue sports as a career. And she’s not alone in finding opportunities. Her current boss, also a woman, has moved through the ranks of leadership in college athletics and is still climbing. Admittedly, women continue to face significant challenges in the sports world, but the fact is, the door is open and women like my daughter are marching confidently through. Weigh this against the advice my grandfather gave my mother when she expressed a desire to attend law school, “Nice Jewish girls don’t become lawyers, you should be a teacher.” I was horrified when I learned this, especially since my grandfather had been a lawyer! In fact, a New York Times article from last year reported that for the first time, women make up the majority of law students!

It’s no secret that women’s pay continues to lag behind that of men. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women still earn 20 percent less than men. That’s despite the fact that women are half the American work force, are the sole or co-breadwinner for families with children and have higher education. So while we’ve “come a long way baby,” there is still work to be done.

I think the most significant change I’ve experienced is that women are finding their voice. Women of my mother’s generation were so often belittled, minimized and ignored. I still, occasionally, am ignored when I’m with my husband despite the fact that I am every bit as educated and intelligent and do most of the talking! But my daughter and her friends are forces to be reckoned with. Young women today have no qualms when it comes to speaking up for themselves, taking charge and expecting to have opportunities. We, their mothers, have prepared them for a world that includes them and in fact, needs them. Life is about change; some comes slowly and with great difficulty, some comes fast and furious. I believe today’s young women stand on some very broad (no pun intended) shoulders. Their burden is to continue the struggle, continue to raise their voices and to do what women do best, build bridges of opportunity for yet a new generation.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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