The United States—indeed, the world—is rife with conflict, aggression, and violence. Never has it been so important to be able to de-escalate tense situations. Everyone can, and should learn de-escalation skills.

What is it? According to the Department of Homeland Security, it’s the use of communication or other techniques during an encounter to stabilize, slow, or reduce the intensity of a potentially violent situation without using physical force, or with a reduction in force.

Medical De-Escalation

The Texas Medical Liability Trust suggests several steps appropriate for medical settings, but they seem to me to apply more generally. For examples and possible responses, see their website.

  1. Move to a private area (if safe to do so).
  2. Be empathetic and non-judgmental.
  3. Respect personal space.
  4. Keep your tone and body language neutral.
  5. Avoid over-reacting.
  6. Focus on the thoughts behind the feelings.
  7. Ignore challenging questions.
  8. Set boundaries.
  9. Choose boundaries wisely.
  10. Allow silence.
  11. Allow time for decisions.

Using Words and Body Language

The US Department of Homeland Security offers these concrete suggestions:

Verbal De-Escalation

Tone + Volume + Rate of speech + Inflection of voice = Verbal De-Escalation
Tone: Speak calmly to demonstrate empathy.
Volume: Monitor your volume and avoid raising your voice.
Rate of Speech: Slower can be more soothing.
Inflection: Be aware of emphasizing words or syllables as that can negatively affect the situation.

Instead Of… Say…
“Calm down.”“I can see that you are upset…”
“I can’t help you.”“I want to help, what can I do?”
“I know how you feel.”“I understand that you feel…”
“Come with me.”“May I speak with you?”

Non-Verbal De-Escalation

Verbal cues to de-escalate a situation mean nothing if they’re accompanied by aggressive body language. The DHS recommends using these body language cues to de-escalate a situation.

Instead Of…Try…
Standing rigidly directly in front of the personKeeping a relaxed and alert stance off to the side of the person
Pointing your fingerKeeping your hands down, open, and visible at all times
Excessive gesturing or pacingUsing slow, deliberate movements
Faking a smileMaintaining a neutral and attentive facial expression

De-Escalation Abroad

I mentioned that situations calling for de-escalation are worldwide. The following appears on the website of the New South Wales Department of Health in Australia:

When there are signs of anger or verbal aggression it is important to remember that

  • You need to stay calm.
  • Anger may be a sign that the person is in distress, experiencing fear or frustrated.
  • It is not possible to reason or problem solve with someone who is enraged.
  • Effective communication skills are the key to settling, resolving and de-escalating a situation.

A good way to remember this is to “LOWLINE.” Use the strategies below to de-escalate a situation:

  • Listen to what the issue is and the person’s concerns.
  • Offer reflective comments to show that you have heard what their concerns are.
  • Wait until the person has released their frustration and explained how they are feeling.
  • Look and maintain appropriate eye contact to connect with the person.
  • Incline your head slightly, to show you are listening and give you a non-threatening posture.
  • Nod to confirm that you are listening and have understood.
  • Express empathy to show you have understood.

It is not your job to stop the person being angry, but these steps may help to make the person feel calmer. It is only then that you can look at how to deal with the situation and their concerns.

Law Enforcement

Some of the most widely publicized situations when de-escalation is (or should be) used involve law-enforcement.

High-profile, deadly confrontations between law enforcement officers and civilians generate widespread public concern. Public officials and policy makers from across the political spectrum have embraced de-escalation training as the key to safer interactions between police and the public.

According to Dr. Robin Engel, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, “De-escalation training teaches officers to think about use of force in different ways. Instead of, ‘Can I use force?,’ the question becomes, ‘Should I use force?’”

Also, according to Engel, “We’re pushing this out into lots of places, and there’s a growing body of evidence that de-escalation training, if done properly, can make a police officer’s job safer.”

All of the above imply professional situations—police or corrections officers with civilians or prisoners, mental health workers with patients, etc. But consider family situations or disagreements, meeting with work colleagues, or issues with neighbors. The possibilities are endless.

Bottom Line: De-escalation techniques should be learned as a life skill. They are likely to be your best bet for keeping a bad situation from getting worse.

Historical Mystery as a Peek at Past Life

Today’s guest blog was written by Kathleen Corcoran

History was one of my favorite subjects in school, mostly because I’m a very nosy person. I always wanted to know details of other people’s lives. What did samurai have for breakfast? How do Inuit living above the Arctic Circle stay warm? Where did Irish Druids camp? These questions, not battles and trade agreements, are the types of historical mystery that I want to know!

Fortunately, many historians share my nosiness (though they’d probably word it more professionally) and have written fascinating works of historical fiction to explore these tiny details. One of the best methods to explore the daily lives of a variety of people in the past is through mystery series. Over the course of solving a crime, an investigator typically must interact with a variety of people. And I get to read about all these interactions and be as nosy as I like!

These mystery series are some of my favorites for the amount of detail the authors have included and the way they’ve represented the tensions and different viewpoints of the time periods in their books.

Sister Fidelma by Peter Tremayne

While performing her legal duties in 7th Century Ireland, Sister Fidelma comes across an awful lot of crimes. In the course of her investigations, she travels widely through Ireland, England, and Rome, interacting with people in every profession and social class along the way. She also has a front-row seat for the seismic changes happening at the time in the Catholic Church, which I found easier to follow in fiction than in my history textbooks.

Perveen Mistry by Sujata Massey

One of the reasons I enjoy historical mystery series is that the person investigating typically has a reason to look into people and places the reader might not otherwise know about. In the case of Perveen Mistry, social convention dictates that she is the only one who can talk to the people involved in the cases she solves. Along the way, the reader can learn about daily life, religious strictures, and legal tensions in 1920s India.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

In addition to recreating the atmosphere of New York City in 1896, Caleb Carr walks the reader through the early days of forensic psychology. This historical mystery series focuses on the evolution of psychology as a science and the use of forensic science as a tool for the police. The beginnings of the modern police force, cameos by real figures from history, and juxtaposition of New York’s gilded mansions and slums evoke the atmosphere of the time.

Charlotte & Thomas Pitt by Anne Perry

Murder mysteries set in Victorian London are nothing new, but I particularly like the way these books explore middle-class attitudes toward police and respectability. In solving his cases, Inspector Pitt frequently comes up against butlers and ladies of the house who simply refuse to cooperate. After all, detectives ask so many rude questions and behave quite above their station! It’s a good thing Inspector Pitt can rely on his wife Charlotte to help him navigate the minefield of social sensibilities.

The Tay-Bodal Mysteries by Mardi Oakley Medawar

The first book in this historical mystery series takes place in 1866, among a gathering of the bands of the Kiowa nation. While Tay-Bodal goes about the business of solving a murder, the author includes descriptions of people around him preparing food, discussing treaty negotiations, repairing clothing and equipment, and going about their daily routines. These books have so much detail about the time period, but they also make it much easier to follow historical events occurring and their impacts on the people involved.

Sano Ichiro by Laura Joh Rowland

In feudal Japan, Sano Ichiro must dance cautiously around court politics, rigid social hierarchies, and a million unwritten rules of behavior to find justice. His investigations are set against a backdrop of major events in Japanese history, including the 1703 earthquake in Edo and the tale of the 47 Ronin.

Lt Billy Boyle by James R Benn

Even in the middle of a global war, someone still needs to bring murderers to justice. When the Army higher-ups find out about newly-enlisted Billy Boyle’s background as a detective in Boston, they put him to work tracking down people who commit murder in times of war. He visits just about every European conflict in World War II, giving the reader a look into the world of French partisans, the Irish Republican Army, and the Sicilian Mafia in the 1940s.

Li Du by Elsa Hart

China has an astonishing variety of climates, cultures, languages, and history. Li Du, an Imperial librarian in the early 18th Century, experiences many of them while investigating mysteries. Sometimes, he works on behalf of the Emperor, and sometimes he works despite Imperial wishes. His questions take him into a Tibetan guesthouse, the underbelly of civil service exams, and behind the scenes of negotiations with Jesuit missionaries.

Benjamin January by Barbara Hambly

Set in the 1830s in New Orleans, this historical mystery series highlights all the ways that city have changed and how it’s stayed the same. Benjamin January, a Creole physician, deals with the complexities of a pre-Emancipation city, moving through many layers of society while tracking down miscreants and murderers. The reader meets voudon practitioners, fancy hotel patrons, and riverboat smugglers among details of music and food that bring New Orleans to life.

The Hangman’s Daughter (Die Henkerstochter) by Oliver Pötzsch

This series starts out on a very small scale, set entirely within a small Bavarian village in 1659, just after the Thirty Years’ War. As the sequels progress, the author takes the reader through all of Bavaria, weaving discussions of folklore and politics with the history of the region.

Three Imperial Roman Detectives

Marcus Didius Falco (by Lindsey Davis) works as a private investigator of sorts, looking into crimes without the official backing of the state. One of the most interesting things I found in this series is the discussions of the various forms of Roman law enforcement and jurisdiction. There is also a spin-off series of mysteries starring Marcus Didius Falco’s daughter, allowing the reader to see some of the other side of the gender divide in Roman society.

Gaius Petreus Ruso (by Ruth Downie) is a Roman army doctor (a medicus) posted to the far northern reaches of the Empire, in Britannia. While he solves crimes, the reader sees a wide swath of Imperial Roman society, with plenty of details about the local tribes in what is Chester, England today and their uneasy truce with the Romans.

Libertus (by Rosemary Rowe) has earned his freedom from slavery by the time the first novel in this series opens. However, this backstory allows the author to explore the intricacies of Roman practices of slavery and social hierarchies through Libertus’s detective work.

Edie Kiglatuk by MJ McGarth

This isn’t actually a historical mystery series, but the setting and details are so fascinating that I’m including it here. Edie Kiglatuk is an Inuit guide, schoolteacher, and sometimes hunter on a tiny island far north of the Arctic Circle. She investigates crimes in her community while dealing with settlement politics, historical trauma, and some of the most inhospitable terrain humans manage to survive. In later books in the series, she visits other communities in the far north of Russia and Greenland, and the reader gets a glimpse of the cultural similarities of communities separated by so much distance.


Humans have seen butterflies as deeply symbolic for at least as long as they’ve been making art. In poetry, paintings, music, dance, and fiction, the butterfly signifies the human spirit. They symbolize hope, eternity, and rebirth. But beyond their metaphorical significance, butterflies inspire humans in many other ways.

Butterfly Eyes

Butterflies will always win a staring competition. They have two compound eyes, containing up to 17,000 mini eyes, each with its own lens, a single rod, and up to three cones. Where humans have cones (photo-receptors) for three colors, butterflies have photo-receptors for up to nine colors, one of which is ultra-violet. But what they don’t have is eyelids; hence, they’d always win.

Butterflies eyesight has inspired technology developments potentially beneficial to us all. Professor Doekele Stavenga teaches evolutionary biophysics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. “The optical principles evolved in nature have inspired improvements of LEDs, for instance, and colour discrimination processing,” says Stavenga.

Butterflies perceive a spectrum of light beyond human capabilities. This extraordinary vision has inspired scientists to develop multispectral surgical cameras. These cameras, mirroring the butterfly’s sight, help surgeons see more than ever before, making surgeries safer and more precise.

Butterfly Wings

“Only some [butterfly wings] are really transparent. … Morphos (and many others) are structurally coloured, due to optical multilayer reflections,” explains Stavenga.

In 2015, a group of researchers revealed the science behind transparent butterfly wings. Nano-structured pillars of random heights cover each wing surface. Scientists found that the extreme irregularity of these pillars barely reflect any light.

Scientists studying these phenomena in butterflies can apply that understanding to developing new smartphone screens.

Butterflies don’t flap their wings to fly, only to take off. They have “cymbal wings” that “clap.” The distinctive wing clap collects a pocket of air and use it to fly. “Just before the clap, it seems like these wings bend, form like a pocket shape. And then that collapses and they push out again, creating a jet of air, basically,” says Professor Per Henningsson at Lund University in Sweden.

“The shape and flexibility of butterfly wings could be really key to small micro vehicles or drones, that need to be really lightweight and efficient,” Henningsson says.

Butterfly Wing Inventions

The Key Program for International S&T Cooperation Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Shanghai Science and Technology Committee, and the National Key Research and Development program have been funding research into the energy capabilities of butterfly wings. They recently published four elements of progress achieved by studying butterflies.

  • By employing the different properties of butterfly wings, featured researches have successfully fabricated thermal, medical, and vapor sensors, anti-counterfeit security devices, photocatalysts, photovoltaic systems, triboelectric nanogenerators and energy storage systems.
  • More research is necessary but researchers suggest that the applications should extend to photothermal imaging and therapy in cancer treatment and management. The good performance recorded by medical sensors for health monitoring and photothermal capabilities of butterfly-wing-inspired materials will aid in the detection, imaging, therapy, and monitoring of terminal diseases.
  • Similarly, photothermal materials inspired by butterfly wings can gain interest in the emerging stealth technologies research for modern-day warfare and scientific research technologies, such as rockets.
  • Lastly, butterfly wings have exhibited numerous and diverse properties that enable them to respond effectively to external stimuli.

Butterfly Behavior

Butterflies (and moths to a lesser extent) serve as part of a group of ‘model’ organisms that researchers use to investigate many areas of biological research, including such diverse fields as navigation, pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, genetics, population dynamics, and biodiversity conservation.

New research on butterflies is proving that these insects are capable of an astonishing range of clever behaviors. They can thwart attacks or outwit competitors. Their abilities range from learning lessons to navigating long distances. “They don’t have a lot of gray matter in their brains, maybe just a cubic millimeter,” says Georgetown University biologist Martha Weiss, “but with it they can do everything they need to do.”

A lot of research concludes that abundance of butterflies is often an indication that an ecosystem is thriving. For one thing, butterflies are an important link in a food chain, as predators and prey. Both adult butterflies and caterpillars are an important source of food for other animals such as bats and birds.

Butterfly Migration

Monarch butterflies have a longer lifespan than most and will take flight from their native USA and Canada habitats to the warmer climate of Mexico for winter. Some migrating monarch butterflies travel over 4800km (2983 mi) to reach their warm winter home.

Butterflies only flutter on takeoff. Long-distance migrants like monarchs will save energy by holding their wings in a flat “V” and gliding. “When they’re migrating, monarchs will fly a few feet off the ground in the morning until they hit a thermal rising off some barren earth or asphalt. Then they’ll rise like a hawk.” So says Orley Taylor, a University of Kansas ecologist and director of Monarch Watch, a mark-and-recapture program. Monarchs can ride a thermal to 5,000 feet.

Out of sight of humans, butterflies on their way to their usual wintering grounds in Mexico each fall migrate in such dense concentrations that they show up on radar. Despite flying 2,000 miles on paper-thin wings, their mastery of low-powered flight means they arrive barely winded. “A lot of monarchs arrive in remarkable condition,” says Taylor. “They look like they just hatched.”

Butterfly Food

Whether they migrate or not, butterflies are important pollinators. We think of honey bees as great pollinators, and they are, but they confine themselves to a much smaller range than even stay-at-home butterflies.

Nectar is an important component of a butterfly’s diet. Technically, butterflies can’t eat anything and instead drink all their nutrients. Proteins and minerals gained during the caterpillar’s diet of plants and ants are stored for the butterfly. It’s essential for metamorphosis and sustaining the butterflies through to reproduction.

Thanks to the effort of their crawling caterpillar stage, butterflies are free to get their sugar-fix of instant energy from nectar. You might see butterflies drinking from wet soil or puddles. Gulping up muddy water helps butterflies regulate their temperature and increases their salt supply. People have even found butterflies lapping up the salty tears of turtles. And they will suck up blood if the opportunity arises!

Butterfly Habitat

Like rats, the only continent butterflies can’t be found is Antarctica due to its sub-zero climate.

Because of their sensitivity to environmental changes, butterflies make an ideal specimen for scientists how climate change influences biodiversity. As the planet warms, researchers in Scandinavia have noticed that these beautiful insects have gradually altered their range, expanding northwards. Researchers in Sweden and Finland have discovered an astonishing 64% increase in average provincial species richness, expanding from 46 to 70 species per province.

Butterflies are aesthetically pleasing and few species cause any damage to commercial plants. They are a diverse group of insects containing around 20,000 different species. North America is home to more than 700 of these species. Each type has various behavioral and structural adaptations that allow them to survive in various environments.

Microgravity during a space flight creates almost weightless conditions. Still, astronauts were able to observe metamorphosis of the Monarch and Painted Lady butterflies in space. With a little difficulty, the butterflies managed to emerge. However, they had some trouble navigating. They bumped into the sides of their habitat and struggled to fully expand and dry their wings as quickly as they would here on Earth.

Butterfly Anatomy

Butterflies have taste buds across their wings, feet, and antennae as well as their proboscis.

Butterflies are day insects and “sleep” hanging upside-down from leaves. Hanging on leaves actually protect them from rain and any early morning birds.

Butterflies with ‘warning colors’ like the orange and black of the monarch and the long-winged tiger and zebra butterflies are less concerned with hiding while they rest. These colors indicate to predators that they will be poisonous to eat. Some butterflies have evolved to store the toxins from the milkweed they eat as caterpillars.

Although their habitats range all over the world, butterflies have a fleeting life, with an average lifespan of around three to four weeks. However, it varies across species. In 2009, scientists did a large-scale study and found that butterflies’ lives span from a few days to almost a year.

Bottom line: Butterflies deserve their symbolism. In literature and art, butterflies signify hope, love, and the soul’s eternal nature. In science, butterflies symbolize (and inspire) advances in research and technology.


Today? Yesterday? Every day? Tax Day? If any of the pet peeves that follow tick you off, you’re not alone!

Table Manners

Some people’s table manners can be more easily excused than others
  • Open mouthed chewers
  • Slurping
  • Loud chewers
  • Slathering food with salt/ hot sauce/ketchup before even tasting it
  • Cracking gum
  • People talking with a full mouth
  • Chewing gum/cracking
  • Spitting
  • Talking about what you are eating
  • Demanding everyone wait and take 500 Instagram photos before eating

Phone Etiquette

Interrupting training with the shogun to answer your phone
  • Taking phone calls in public
  • Being on their phone too much
  • Facetiming without headphones
  • Staring at their phone rather than watching where they walk
  • Texting during a meal
  • Ending a call without saying good-bye
  • Ignoring an in-person companion in favor of a phone screen
  • Using speech-to-text in public
  • Constantly filming in public rather than engaging

All Around the House

Leaving overflowing ashtrays on every table and counter
  • Leaving the toilet seat up
  • Singing (badly) in the shower
  • Leaving empty containers in the fridge
  • Not replacing the toilet paper
  • Leaving lights or ceiling fans on
  • Being loud when someone in the house is trying to sleep
  • Leaving dirty dishes on counters or in sinks next to the dishwasher
  • Wearing shoes in the house
  • Leaving cupboard doors and drawers half open
  • Not closing bottles or other containers completely
  • Opening a new container before the old one is empty
  • Using things without permission, e.g. clothes, accessories, car
  • Not putting things away (clothes, sandwich-fixings, etc.)
  • Failing to throw away empty containers
  • Playing music or watching TV with the volume turned way up

Speaking Politely

Shouting everything they say through a megaphone
  • Interrupting
  • Finishing another’s sentences
  • Talking over one’s conversation partner
  • Talking too loudly
  • Turning the topic of every conversation back to oneself
  • Talking during a movie
  • Gratuitous swearing
  • Stopping the conversation to correct someone’s grammar
  • Talking to someone who is trying to read
  • Using LOL or OMG during a face-to-face conversation
  • Constantly talking about a particular obsession (health/diet/exes/etc.)
  • Saying “like” instead of “said” (I’m like, “Duh!”)
  • Treating every conversation like a monologue or performance

Any Time, Any Place

Walking three-abreast and blocking the entire sidewalk
  • Being habitually late
  • Self-entitled people
  • Attempting to control everyone and everything
  • The silent treatment
  • Encroaching on others’ space, particularly in crowded areas
  • Clicking a pen
  • Repetitive tapping
  • Cracking knuckles
  • Nose-picking
  • Mean-spirited gossip
  • Knee bouncing
  • Cutting in line
  • Littering
  • Unsolicited advice/recommendations
  • Constant throat clearing/coughing/sniffing
  • Passing gas or belching
  • Clipping nails in public

Does it Have to Take All Kinds?

People who leave their shopping carts in the middle of the parking lot
  • Particular family member(s)
  • Particular friend/acquaintance/neighbor
  • Surly servers/salespeople/cashiers
  • Dog owners who don’t train or pick up after their pet
  • People who cut in line
  • Grumpy people venting their bad mood on servers/salespeople/cashiers
  • Bad drivers
  • One uppers
  • Know-it-alls
  • Strangers (or friends) encroaching on your personal space
  • People who randomly command you to smile
  • Strangers calling you Honey or Sweetie
  • Standing up the minute a plane gets to the gate

Common Pet Peeves

A survey of 544 people conducted by Survey Monkey listed these top fifteen pet peeves at home and at work.

Bedmates who hog the entire bed and all the blankets despite being tiny and having their own fur coat
  • Leaving common spaces messy (63%)
  • Colleagues complain about their work and/or specific colleagues (53%)
  • Manager doesn’t give you credit when it’s deserved (50%)
  • Neglecting to take out the trash (45%)
  • Bedmate takes too much of the blanket (39%)
  • Colleagues show up late to meetings (33%)
  • Colleagues fail to recognize your contributions (31%)
  • Talking loudly over the phone (30%)
  • When a bedmate moves around too much (29%)
  • Taking food without asking for permission (24%)
  • Cooking something that smells unpleasant (22%)
  • Bedmate wakes you up early in the morning (22%)
  • Bedmate is on their phone or computer late at night (22%)
  • Playing music loudly (22%)
  • Occupying the kitchen for a long period of time (20%)

The results indicate that younger people (18-29) and older people (45-60) differ in their peevishness. Which group is more often peeved varied depending on the item.

More Specific Pet Peeves

A similar survey reported on PromoInfoTools found a lot of overlap with Survey Monkey, though some seem to be distinctive. (I’ve shortened or edited some of the answers for the sake of brevity.)

Drivers who don’t use their turn signal
  • Crunching! Especially on the phone.
  • People tailgating
  • People being hypocrites
  • When people don’t believe what I’m saying is true
  • People not showing up on time for appointments
  • People using items and then not putting them back where they found them
  • Being late for anything
  • When people do not take responsibility for their actions
  • When people take what is said at face value and jump to conclusions and judgements without doing their own research for the truth
  • People not putting their shopping cart back
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Correcting or “cleaning up after” someone else’s mistake(s) or sloppy work
  • When someone interrupts me when I’m talking to interject what they want to share
  • When my time is wasted. Take my money, or my material items, but not my time.
  • People who categorize people by income, position held, school jocks and nerds, etc. We are all human and deserve to be treated as such, not by our categories.
Garbage not emptied when full in kitchen or bathroom(s)
  • Inconsiderate people
  • Roadside trash and the people who throw it out their windows
  • Wasting water
  • When people don’t make eye contact or acknowledge you when your paths cross
  • Being lied to and the person thinking they are getting one up on me
  • Lack of customer service
  • Being told someone will call back but they never do
  • Lack of communication
  • People hitting “reply all” on an e-mail when it should be directed to a specific person
  • Traffic
  • When the waiter interrupts my conversation to ask if I want more water
  • People who don’t get to work on time. It’s disrespectful to your coworkers!
  • People who can’t “stay in their lane” – Do your job, I’ll do mine
  • Lack of basic manners! Using please and thank you is all I ask
  • Toilet seat and/or cover left up when not in use
  • Discrimination of all types, racial trauma, micro-aggressions, bigotry. Internalized and systemic racism affect us all.
  • Robocalls!

More Specific Pet Peeves

More people are interested in pet peeves than I ever imagined! If you are interested in a particular category of pet peeves, there’s probably a survey for that. For example…

Forbes: Survey: The Biggest Pet Peeves Of American Dog Owners

Zety: List of 28 Common Office Pet Peeves

Cmmonline: Survey Reveals Americans’ Restroom Pet Peeves

Bottom Line: Pet peeves are everywhere! It’s important to note: something that’s a minor annoyance—or not at all annoying—for one person is especially irritating for another. Ask yourself if your pet peeves are worth the emotional toll they take. If so, find out how to deal with them. That advice is also available online!


I suppose there might be people out there who can file their annual tax returns stress-free. Congratulations! For the rest of us, condolences!

Money and Stress

In 1943, the US government enlisted the help of Donald Duck to educate Americans about how to pay their income tax and why it was important to the war effort.

“Money is a major source of stress on people, and what tax season does is shine a great big spotlight on the issue,” Michael McKee, a Cleveland Clinic psychologist and president of the U.S. branch of the International Stress Management Association, told WebMD. “Money takes center stage at tax time, even if you might have been able to push it to the wings the rest of the year.”

A 2004 survey sponsored by the American Psychological Association found that nearly three-quarters of Americans cited money as a significant source of stress. Money is also consistently among the top causes of marital contention, says Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist and financial self-help author based in Washington, D.C.

Heightened Tax Stress

And nothing focuses us on money like tax time. Anyone can face the stress of having money due and too little money on hand. For those who itemize, there are additional sources of stress:

eFiling comes with the risk of computer glitches or internet lag affecting your tax returns.
  • The frustration of the forms’ language
  • Finding time to do the work
  • Filing for an extension
  • Missing documents
    • (This is a biggie. It could be anything, but it’s often receipts. I won’t go into the time my husband inadvertently threw away all of our 1099s.)

Then there are miscellaneous stresses:

  • You finally wedged a CPA appointment into a jammed schedule only to discover that said CPA has moved, you can’t find the office, miss the appointment, etc.
  • Your CPA retired last summer
  • A bigger accounting firm absorbed your old one and now communications are via a headquarters in South Carolina (or wherever)

Sources of Financial Stress

But virtually every item on the topic index is rife with sources of stress. These may or may not be directly related to the taxes due, but dealing with them at tax time could well trigger strong emotions. Here is a select list:

Tax season causes everyone financial stress. These stacks are just some of the $110,000,000 worth of stamps the IRS used to send out tax forms in 1914.
  • Alimony paid or received (or not)
    • …and associated hostility
  • Business use of home
    • …and the strain it puts on family
  • Casualty or theft loss
    • …and the aftermath of being a victim of crime
  • Child and dependent care expenses
    • …meeting them, but also finding such services in the first place, and possibly the precariousness of arrangements
  • Contributions
    • …a willing tithe to church, or possibly being pressured to support your alma mater
  • Education expenses
    • …and doubts about whether the degree is worth it
  • Foreign assets, expenses, taxes, and income
    • …and what to do about off-shore accounts and tax shelters, should you be one of those people
  • Gambling winnings (or losses)
    • …and whether to join Gamblers Anonymous
  • Gifts
    • …to whom and what and whether they were freely given
  • Medical and dental expenses
    • …and the trauma of diagnosis, surgery, recovery (or not)
This income is from an Etsy shop, right? Nothing nefarious to report here!
  • Miscellaneous income and adjustments
    • (They really expect people to report illegal income??)
  • Mortgage or education loan interest paid
    • …and the continuing burden from years ago
  • Moving expenses
    • …and whether the move was up or down, willing or forced
  • Sale of home, stock, or other capital assets
    • …and why the sale? Was the market down at the time or up?
  • Unemployment compensation
    • …and whether it was enough, whether it ended too soon, whether filing for it was humiliating
  • Sale of home, stock, or other capital assets
    • …and why the sale? Was the market down at the time or up?
  • Unemployment compensation
    • …and whether it was enough, whether it ended too soon, whether filing for it was humiliating
Whether taxes are justified …and if you ought to throw tea in the harbor to protest.

If you are filing a joint return, remember (and remind your spouse if necessary) not to displace anger/frustration rooted in the process.

Other Sources of Tax Stress

The Darius Vase depicts, among other scenes, the Royal Treasurer receiving taxes from conquered nations of the Persian Empire, circa 340 BCE.

Then, too, sometimes there are ongoing issues about money. For example, if one partner is a spender while the other partner is a saver and a worrier. This can result is resentment at tax time, when a couple may examine how their habits are affecting their lives and marriage.

“Of course, we all bring our individual emotional baggage to tax preparation. Fear of the government also emerges at tax time. Some clients of financial counselor Karen McCall are so afraid of the IRS that they won’t take even the most innocuous deduction. “They’re paralyzed because the IRS is an authority figure, and if they have unresolved issues around authority figures in their lives, that can cause a lot of fear.”

Sometimes, that fear of filing taxes stems from is understandable. As Michael McKee says, people who have been through audits can suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome during tax season for years afterward.

Avoiding Tax Stress

You may not be able to avoid all stress at tax time, but consider ways to lessen it. Mellan and McCall offered these tips in a WebMD article on coping with tax stress.

Little known fact: if you set all your money and assets on fire, you won’t have to declare them as assets to the IRS!
  • To avoid last-minute stress, file early and break up the job into little pieces, Mellan suggests. Do your taxes while listening to music or whatever else makes you feel relaxed.
  • For filers with math anxiety, Mellan recommends hiring a preparer or investing in tax software. Tax software typically collects information through an “interview” and the computer does all the calculations.
  • Fractious couples should strategize on ways to avoid chronic money fights, Mellan says. For example, try communicating financial information through notes or other modes that won’t carry an accusatory tone.
  • McCall suggests channeling tax-time stress into a resolution to track your finances more carefully. Better money management is the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises each year, she says.
  • Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can turn to your buddies at the IRS. Options include filing an extension or setting up an installment plan for tax payment. For more details, visit the IRS website at
This would all be so much easier if the IRS explained taxes like they would to a preschooler.

Bottom Line: Tax time is stress time. You’ll just have to deal, starting with recognizing the danger zones and ameliorating as best you can.


I enjoy watching athletes in a variety of sports, and basketball is one of my favorites. In honor of March Madness, I started looking into what goes on off the court. Some of the elements that make basketball so entertaining are relatively recent developments, but many have been around since the very beginning.

B-Ball History

James Naismith with the peach basket and soccer ball from his early game

Basketball began in 1891, invented by James Naismith, a 31-year-old graduate student and instructor at Springfield College. Luther Gulick (then the College’s physical education superintendent, today renowned as the father of physical education and recreation in the United States) charged Naismith to come up with a new game. The goal was to create an indoor activity that college students could play during the long New England winters. The bonus was that it’s a less injury-prone sport than football. Students quickly adopted the new pastime, and it’s grown in popularity since.

Naismith’s creation was an amalgamation of many games of the time, including American rugby (passing), English rugby (the jump ball), lacrosse (use of a goal), soccer (the shape and size of the ball), and something called duck on a rock, a game Naismith had played with his childhood friends in Bennie’s Corners, Ontario. Duck on a rock used a ball and a goal that players could not rush. The goal also could not be slammed through, thus necessitating “a goal with a horizontal opening high enough so that the ball would have to be tossed into it, rather than being thrown.”

The First Game

Naismith nailed two peach baskets to the lower rail of the gymnasium balcony, one at each end. An assistant stood at each end of the balcony to collect the ball from the basket and put it back into play. It wasn’t until a few years later that someone thought to cut the bottoms out of those peach baskets so the ball could fall loose. (I’ve abbreviated this history of basketball from the Springfield College website.)

James Naismith with the 1899 University of Kansas basketball team

The first game ended in a brawl. “One boy was knocked out. Several of them had black eyes and one had a dislocated shoulder,” Naismith said. “After that first match, I was afraid they’d kill each other, but they kept nagging me to let them play again so I made up some more rules.” (Quoted from a National Geographic article on the history of basketball.

Early Rules

On January 15, 1892, the Springfield College school newspaper, The Triangle, published the original basketball rules.

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).

3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.

4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.

6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3,4, and such as described in Rule 5.

7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).

8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.

10. The umpire shall be judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.

11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made, and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

12. The time shall be two 15-minute halves, with five minutes’ rest between.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.

First draft of James Naismith’s rules for “Basket Ball”


The website HoopTactics chronicled the major changes in basketball since those earliest years. Here are the areas of change, in chronological order. You can look them up. Virtually everything has changed!

The gender, nationality, race, location, and equipment of these college basketball players have all changed from that first Springfield game.
(from the 2015 World University Games, held in South Korea, USA playing Canada)
  • Team size
  • Substitutions
  • Baskets
  • Backboards
  • Balls
  • Scoring
  • Timing
  • Shot clock
  • Fouls
  • Free throws
  • Passing, not changed from original Rules 1 & 2
  • Dribbling
  • Out of bounds
  • Midcourt line
  • Three-second area
  • Free throw lanes
  • Center jump
  • Goal tending
  • Offensive basket interference
  • Dunking—“Alcindor Rule
  • Game coaching

Note: These changes apply to men’s basketball, and vary somewhat by level: high school, college, professional, international.

Women’s Basketball

Women have been playing basketball almost from the very beginning. However, the road to the WNBA’s creation has not been an easy one.

Senda Berenson

Senda Berenson, a gymnastic instructor, at Smith College, Northampton, MA, introduced women’s basketball in 1893. She proposed changes to Naismith’s rules for several reasons. The original rules encouraged what many saw as unsportsman-like conduct, including violent fouls and “star playing.” (from Senda Berenson, “The Significance of Basketball for Women.” Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide for Women: 1901-1901 (1901)) Berenson’s changes attempted to curb this behavior and to encourage a uniform set of rules to allow for intercollegiate tournaments.

Women originally played with three zones sections with two players stationary in each section. In 1938, the three court sections where reduced to two, with two stationary guards, two stationary forwards, and two “rovers” who could move around the entire court. For decades, people commonly referred to this system as women’s half-court basketball, six-on-six basketball, or basquette.

1903 official rules for women’s basketball
(from Vintage Basketball)

Early organizers of collegiate women’s sports also had to confront society’s expectations of women. They had to adjust their play style to be allowed to play at all. Social mores of the time also forbade male spectators at practice and games.

Early discussions among female athletes and coaches illustrate the extremely difficult position they faced when trying to promote women’s basketball. As historian Mercedes Townsend writes, “[T]hese women largely focused on navigating through the social ideals and expectations that defined womanhood and, in turn, affected popular opinion on women’s participation in sports.” In a time when women were increasingly organizing and protesting for more economic, political, and social participation, many saw basketball as a useful tool for gender equity. “Proponents of women’s basketball considered the sport an important opportunity to showcase both the physical and intellectual ability of women, and to further validate the growing opportunities for women in the country.”

The University of California at Berkley and Stanford University played the first intercollegiate women’s game in 1896. Two teams in Illinois played the first known interscholastic women’s high school basketball game that same year.

University of California at Berkeley Women’s Basketball Team of 1899

The Amateur Athletic Union conducted the first ever women’s national championship in 1936. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) held the first women’s world championship in 1969. In 1971 women were (finally) allowed to play full court. Louisiana Tech won the first NCAA championship in 1982. In 1995, Oklahoma was the last state to switch from court sections to full court play in high school games.

Perhaps the most important event to occur in women’s basketball, as well as all women’s sports, was the enactment of Title IX in 1972, equalizing men’s and women’s sports. Today, women’s teams play basketball with the same enthusiasm and intensity as men’s teams.

Just the Facts

The following ten basketball facts come from the Basketball Museum of Illinois:

Michael Jordan reportedly wore his college basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform for every game as a good luck talisman.
  • Michael Jordan wasn’t always great. In his sophomore year, Jordan tried out for his school’s team. He has often spoken about not seeing his name on the team list and bursting into tears. Instead of dwelling on it, though, he used the fact his name was not there to push himself harder.
  • In 1949, the NBL and BAA leagues merged, changing their name to the National Basketball Association. While the NBA describes it as an “expansion,” the two groups combined to create a 17-team league across several cities.
  • Organized basketball first recorded a dunk in 1936, performed by a Texan named Joe Fortenberry. In the ’60s, the NBA banned dunking in games altogether, though they rescinded this rule in 1976.
  • It wasn’t until 1966 that any NBA team hired a black coach. The Boston Celtics hired Bill Russell, a well-known professional player, to lead their team.
  • In 1976, women’s basketball became an Olympic sport. In 1978, America started the Women’s Basketball League. That league collapsed in 1981. Starting in 1996, women play in the WNBA.
Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues (5’3″) with Manute Bol (7’7″)
  • Over approximately 16,000 games against the Harlem Globetrotters, the Washington Generals have only ever won 4 games.
  • The three-point line didn’t exist before 1979. For decades, it moved back and forth in test games before ending at its current location of 23 feet, 9 inches from the basket.
  • As of now, the tallest NBA player ever is Gheorghe Mureșan at 7-foot-7. He played from 1993 to 2000 and scored 3,020 points for two teams, starting with the Washington Bullets/Wizards and New Jersey Nets.
    • [My addition: Yasutaka Okayama, 7’8” is the tallest player ever drafter for the NBA, but he never played in the NBA,]
  • At 5’3” Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues is the shortest NBA player. He played for four different teams during his 14- season NBA career.
  • Jameson Curry signed a ten-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. The coach finally subbed him in as a game was about to end. He played 3.9 seconds, the record for shortest time played. The team released him from the contract shortly thereafter.
None of the rules really apply for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Basketball Fun

And then there are these fun facts from across the web:

Lisa Leslie at the 2008 Summer Olympics
  • Players in the first basketball game played with a soccer ball rather than a basketball.
  • During the inaugural game between the Los Angeles Sparks and the New York Liberty on June 21, 1997, basketball legend Lisa Leslie made history by scoring the first basket in the WNBA.
  • The WNBA started with 8 teams and expanded to 12. The NBA has 30 teams.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters, famous for their entertaining tricks and stunts, have been around since 1926.
  • In basketball, players can make shots worth different numbers of points – one point for a free throw, two points for a regular field goal, and three points for a shot made beyond the three-point line.
  • The highest-scoring NBA game ever took place on December 13, 1983. The Detroit Pistons defeated the Denver Nuggets by a score of 186-184! Was anyone playing defense?
With specially designed chairs and a few adaptations to the rules, wheelchair basketball has been popular since its creation in 1944.
  • The average NBA player runs 2-3 miles per game!
  • In recent years, the WNBA has become a leading advocate for social justice, with players and teams using their platforms to champion important causes and promote meaningful change. It is a beacon of diversity, equality, and athleticism, showcasing the immense potential of women in sports.
  • The 2020 Tokyo Olympics marked the 30th anniversary of basketball’s debut as an official Olympic sport.
  • Wilt Chamberlain currently holds the single game point record. He scored 100 points in a single game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.
  • In 2015, Stephen Curry became the first of the NBA players to make 400 three-pointers in one season.
  • Stephen Curry has been an NBA All-Star ten times, 2014-2024.
  • Male athletes in basketball (as well as golf, soccer, baseball, and tennis) were still earning anywhere from15% to nearly 100% more than females in 2023. Well, this one isn’t such a fun fact!

Bottom Line: Basketball is more complex and interesting than most viewers realize.

Women’s sports often serve as a pathway to social change and equality
(2020 Iranian women’s basketball team at the Pan-Asian games)


Why not? There are now upwards of 50,000 named species worldwide, on every continent except Antartica. Chances are you cross paths with spiders frequently.

The vast majority are harmless. They’re actually helpful to humans. Without spiders to eat pests harmful to agriculture, it’s thought that our food supply would be at risk. And there would be a heck of a lot more mosquitoes, ants, and flies around!

Some people actually leave spiders alone in their houses to take care of these other household pests.

Is Everyone Afraid of Spiders?

Even so, spiders are far from popular. We all try to avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable, and most people are not comfortable with spiders!

If you give children a free option to tell researchers what sorts of things they fear the most, both boys and girls report “spiders” as their top fear (the second fear is being kidnapped, third is predators, and fourth is the dark).

Insight Pest conducted a survey about people’ fears, with the following results:

  • The first question we asked in the survey was on the most frightening pests in general.
    • Interestingly, the most frightening pest for most people is actually a snake.
    • Spiders are second, followed by wasps.
  • Men are more scared of snakes and wasps than women are, and women (24%) are more scared of spiders than men (17%).
  • Level of spider fear (1-10): men 4.4, women 5.6
  • Fear of spiders by age: 26% of those 18-34; 20% of those 35-54; 13% of those 55 and older.
  • Level of spider fear (1-10): 5.1 for those 18-34, 5.0 for those 35-54, and 4.70 for those 55 and older.
Telaprocera Joanae

Visit the website for more info on the worst place to find a spider, how people deal with spiders, who would tolerate a house infested with spiders, sleep problems related to spiders, etc.

FYI, to remove a spider in the house, put a clear plastic cup over it, slide a thick paper sheet under the cup and spider, and let it go outside.

Based on the literature, arachnophobia affects 2.7–6.1% of people in the general population and is significantly more prevalent among women than men. Arachnophobia differs from a fear in that a phobia is an intense and irrational fear. Most spider phobias are completely unwarranted. Only 0.5% of spiders are potentially harmful to humans and most of those are in Australia and South America.

Why Do We Fear Spiders?

Daniel Frynta at Charles University, Prague, and colleagues posit that we evolved to fear not “essentially harmless” spiders but a dangerous close relative with a similar body plan. Scorpions do pose a real threat, killing an estimated 2,600 people every year. Their data don’t prove that people generalize an evolved fear/disgust of scorpions to spiders. Unlike the vast majority of spiders, scorpions are also an ancient group, and species with a venom tailored to mammals are native to Africa and the Middle East — so our distant ancestors and dangerous scorpions could have evolved side-by- side. “Fear of scorpions therefore seems to be better warranted than fear of spiders,” the team writes. The corresponding conclusion is that our brains over-generalize, reacting to spiders in the same way.

Other explanations of spider fears include classical conditioning following a traumatic incident, and learning from parents and those around the child.

Don’t Be Afraid!

Fun facts that may (or may not) make spiders seem less creepy.

Micrathena Sagittata (Pikachu spider)

According to National Geographic, most species are carnivorous, either trapping flies and other insects in their webs, or hunting them down. They can’t swallow their food as is, though—spiders inject their prey with digestive fluids, then suck out the liquefied remains.

Spiders are arachnidsi.e., their skeletons are on the outside—so they aren’t insects. They have eight legs, a body in two segments, a spinneret to exude incredibly strong silk, and fangs generally able to inject venom.

Synalus Angustus (Narrow Crab Spider)

Though all spiders have venom to one degree or another, only a handful are dangerous to humans. Those include the black widow and the brown recluse, both found in the United States.

Though not all spider species build webs, every species produces silk, a strong, flexible protein fiber. They use the silk to climb, to tether themselves for safety in case of a fall, to create egg sacs, to wrap up prey, to make nests, and more.

Most spider species have eight eyes, though some have six. Despite all of those eyes, though, many don’t see very well.

A notable exception is the jumping spider, which can see more colors than humans can. Using filters that sit in front of cells in their eyes, the day-hunting jumping spider can see in the red spectrum, green spectrum, and in UV light.

Bottom Line: Wherever spider fears come from, they are as common as they are irrational. And spiders are fascinating!


March is one of those in-between months, not really winter and not yet reliably warm. But there are literally hundreds of occasions for celebrating in March so, much to enjoy! Here are some you probably hadn’t considered.

For example, March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month. I will abstain, thank you very much, because I have a severe anaphylactic reaction to guinea pig dander. On the other hand, eating guinea pig—as I did in Peru—is perfectly fine. In Peru, guinea pig is a major source of protein, analogous, perhaps, to chicken in the United States.

And there is March 10, when we “spring forward” and set the clocks ahead one hour—as if anyone wants to celebrate “losing” an hour.

Celebrating Days in March

Dress in Blue Day, 3/1 (fundraiser/ awareness for colorectal cancer)

I’m sorry to say, we’ve already passed several great days, but feel free to mark your calendar for next year.

World Book Day, 3/7 (first Thursday in March)
National Napping Day, 3/11 (Monday after Daylight Savings starts)
  • International Astrology Day, 3/20 (same day as the Northern Hemisphere Spring Equinox or the first day of the astrological sign of Aries)
  • OK Day, 3/23 (not to be confused with Oklahoma Day, which is April 22)
  • Earth Hour, 3/30m 8:30 pm (worldwide event: turn off all power for 60+ minutes to help save the planet)

Celebrating Weeks in March

Weeks for those who need a little extra time to get with the program.

Celebrating All Month Long

Month-Long Observances for those who are into party time, all the time.

Of course, March has St. Patrick’s day, (3/16) and Easter (3/31 in 2024), but they are so well-known they need no reminders. But if you haven’t already started observing the United Nations’ International Year of Camelids, you can start now. You still have ten months to celebrate llamas, alpacas, camels, dromedaries, vicuñas, etc….!

Bottom Line: There’s always a reason to celebrate in March—or at least to get involved and expand your awareness.


Circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes an organism experiences over a 24-hour cycle. The word stems from the Latin “circum” (approximately) and “diem” (day). Light and dark have the biggest influence on circadian rhythms, but food intake, stress, physical activity, social environment, and temperature also affect them. Most living things have circadian rhythms. In humans, nearly every tissue and organ has its own circadian rhythm—which is why I’m talking about your body’s clocks, plural—and collectively they are tuned to the daily cycle of day and night.

Circadian rhythms influence many functions, such as:

  • Sleep patterns
  • Hormone release
  • Appetite and digestion
  • Temperature

How Long is a Circadian Rhythm?

Early research suggested that most people preferred a day closer to 25 hours when isolated from external stimuli like daylight and timekeeping. However, this research was faulty because it failed to shield the participants from artificial light. Although subjects were shielded from time cues (like clocks) and daylight, the researchers were not aware of the phase-delaying effects of indoor electric lights. The subjects were allowed to turn on light when they were awake and to turn it off when they wanted to sleep. Electric light in the evening delayed their circadian phase.

More recent research has shown some more specific things:

A study by Czeisler et al. at Harvard found the range for normal, healthy adults of all ages to be quite narrow: 24 hours and 11 minutes ± 16 minutes.

In normal subjects in the real world, the body’s “clocks” are reset, primarily by exposure to light, so that they follow the 24-hour light/dark cycle of the Earth’s rotation.

When the Body’s Clocks Break

Circadian rhythms can fall out of sync with the outside world because of factors in the human body or environment. For example

Drowsiness, poor coordination, and difficulty with learning and focus may occur when circadian rhythms fall out of sync short term.

Working swing shifts can also disrupt the body’s clocks. Forcing oneself to wake up and go to sleep at varying intervals from one day to the next leaves the body confused. Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) can cause trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping deeply, and waking up. People who work as nurses, late-night retail workers, overnight hotel staff, or fire fighters (just to name a few) often experience insomnia, hypersomnia, or both.

Jet lag causes disruptions in the circadian rhythm because modern travel allows the body to cross time zones faster than the body’s clocks can adapt. Earlier methods of travel, even early air travel, were slow enough that the body could keep up with changes in sunrise and sunset times. That’s why you won’t get jet lag on a boat!

Long-term sleep loss and continually shifting circadian rhythms can increase the risks of obesity, diabetes, mood disorders, heart and blood pressure problems, and cancer, and can also worsen existing health issues.

Changes With Age

According to National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information circadian rhythms shift throughout the lifespan, peaking in lateness during adolescence and then gradually shifting back as we age. This shift mirrors the U-shape curve of happiness, which some researchers suggest may be related.

Consistent with the transition to a morning chronotype in older adult humans, the circadian phase of sleep onset and wakening advances with age, whereby older adults (mean age of 68 years) report preferred bedtimes 1 to 2 hours earlier, on average, compared with younger adults (mean age of 23
years) (National Institutes of Health (NIH).

With age, people are less able to recover and recover quickly from disruptions to our circadian clocks. Changes to the circadian rhythm are a common cause of sleep problems in older adults .

Bottom Line: Be aware of your body’s clocks and work with them, not against them, to maximize your physical and mental well-being.


Not body language—facial expressions, gestures, movement, etc. Rather, body parts used in clichés and idioms that mean more than the words. Keep your nose to the grindstone or Have a silver tongue.

Linguists have noticed that English is not the only language with idioms full of body parts. Czech, Korean, Malay, Pashto, Turkish, Igbo, and Vietnamese (just to name a few) are full of body part phrases that mean more than the literal sum of their parts. It seems, no matter what language you speak, your brain reaches for parts of your own body when looking for interesting ways to express yourself.

So, head to toe, here are examples.


  • Hard-headed
  • Soft in the head
  • Bang your head against a brick wall
  • Keeping your head above water
  • Able to do something standing on your head
  • Keep your head down
  • Hold your head high
  • Bite someone’s head off
  • Head in the clouds
  • Head in the sand
  • Bring something to a head
  • Can’t make heads or tails out of something
  • Drum something into someone’s head
  • Head to toe
  • Keep your head in the game
  • Fall head over heels in love
  • Get a head start on something
  • Get someone or something out of one’s head
  • Give someone a head’s start
  • Go over someone’s head
  • Have a good head on your shoulders
  • Head someone or something off
  • Hit the nail on the head
  • In over your head
  • Lose your head
  • Keep your head
  • Off your head
  • Scratching your head over something


  • Right brain/left brain
  • Brain storm
  • Brain fart
  • Brain buzz
  • Brain freeze
  • Brain dead
  • Braining (to hit someone on the head)


  • A pain in the neck
  • Stick your neck out
  • Neck and neck
  • Breathe down your neck
  • Dead from the neck up
  • Up to your neck
  • Neck of the woods
  • Millstone round your neck
  • (Competitors are) neck and neck
  • To save your neck
  • Risking your neck
  • Wring his or her neck
  • Rubber necking


  • A chip on your shoulder
  • Come straight from the shoulder
  • Give someone the cold shoulder
  • Put your shoulder to the wheel
  • A shoulder to cry on
  • Stand shoulder to shoulder
  • Shoulder a burden


  • Arm of the law
  • Cost an arm and a leg
  • Give your right arm
  • Up in arms
  • (Keep) at arm’s length
  • Strong arm someone


  • Give a hand
  • At hand
  • Out of hand
  • Bite the hand that feeds you
  • Change hands
  • First hand
  • Hands down
  • Have a hand in
  • A firm hand
  • Hand something over
  • Hand in glove
  • Heavy handed
  • Hand holding
  • In your hand
  • Lend a hand
  • Out of your hands
  • Wash your hands of
  • Get your hands dirty
  • Hands full
  • Hands tied
  • Live from hand to mouth
  • All hands on deck


  • Something will put hair on your chest
  • Get something off your chest
  • Keep your cards close to your chest
  • Chest thumping


  • Spineless
  • (Send) a shiver down someone’s spine
  • Spine-tingling
  • Spine of steel


  • Change of heart
  • Heart of gold
  • Eat your heart out
  • Know/learn something by heart
  • After your own heart
  • Cross your heart
  • Lose heart
  • Follow your heart
  • Heart skips/misses a beat
  • Take heart
  • Follow your heart
  • Break your heart
  • Have your heart set on/against something
  • Heartbeat away
  • My heart bleeds
  • Bleeding heart
  • Heart of stone
  • Soft-hearted
  • Young at heart
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Big-hearted
  • A heavy heart
  • From the bottom of your heart
  • Get to the heart of the matter
  • Be halfhearted about something
  • Have a heart-to-heart talk
  • Heart in the right place
  • Pour your heart out


  • Gut feeling /reaction
  • Gut punch
  • Beer gut
  • Blood and guts
  • Bust a gut
  • Go with (one’s) gut
  • Gut feeling /instinct
  • Gut it out
  • Gutted
  • Gut-wrenching
  • Hate someone’s guts
  • Have someone’s guts for garters
  • Have the guts (to do something)
  • No guts, no glory
  • Puke (one’s) guts out
  • Slog/sweat/work your guts out
  • Spill your guts
  • Split a gut


  • Not have a leg to stand on
  • On one’s last legs
  • On the last leg (of a journey)
  • Pull (someone’s) leg
  • Put your pants on one leg at a time
  • Have/find your sea legs
  • Get/give a leg up
  • Break a leg (theater)
  • To have hollow legs
  • To leg it
  • To talk the hind leg off a donkey
  • To pull someone’s leg


  • Bee’s knees
  • On one’s knees / bring to one’s knees
  • Knee-high to a grasshopper
  • Weak in the knees
  • Take a knee (football)


  • Cold feet
  • Foot in the door
  • Have two left feet
  • Get off on the wrong foot
  • Have itchy feet
  • Put your foot down
  • Feet on the ground
  • Foot the bill
  • Get back on your feet
  • Feet of clay
  • Get your feet wet
  • Swept off your feet
  • Best foot forward
  • Have a lead foot
  • One foot in the grave
  • Bound hand and foot
  • Dead on my feet
  • Foot in both camps
  • Jump in feet first
  • On the back foot


  • Achilles heel
  • Bring someone to heel
  • Cool one’s heels
  • Dig in your heels
  • Be a heel


  • Dip one’s toes in (the water)
  • Keep someone on their toes
  • Step/tread on someone’s toes
  • Toe the mark

Bottom Line: When words about body parts don’t literally mean what they say, they can be used in an infinite number of ways.