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    Your Most Urgent ‘Down There’ Questions Answered By Experts

    Tada! We asked the experts to tend to your most pressing sexual health questions so you can’t stop shooting in the dark or wondering if there’s something wrong with you. Given the sensitivity of the vaginal region and the important role it plays in reproduction, we really cannot afford to take any chances when it comes to anything sexual health. From STI symptoms, how often to use pantyliners, pre- and post-period diarrhoea to HPV screening and period syncing, find your answers below so you can finally be at ease or know if it’s time to take the next step.

    READ MORE: What’s The Difference Between STDs And STIs?

    Should I be using a pantyliner daily or not?

    “Similarly to how the eye cleanses itself by producing tears, the vagina also produces discharge for the same reason,” says Dr Esther Rockson, a specialist obstetrician, gynaecologist and aesthetic gynaecologist. Naturally, she adds, some women produce excess discharge – a condition known as leukorrhea. Those women may prefer to use pantyliners daily. But hold up! “Always choose a breathable, unscented, cotton-based pantyliner.”

    Word of caution: change your pantyliner at least thrice daily to prevent cross-infection between the anus and the vagina. “These two areas share a short distance, so there’s a risk of getting UTIs from E. coli, a bacteria found in our poo.” Remember to always wipe from the front to back! Not much discharge? There’s no need to wear a pantyliner, advises Dr Rockson.

    Why do I get diarrhoea before and after my period?

    Relax, it’s all down to the hormonal changes in our bodies during this time. Progesterone, a sex hormone released by ovaries after ovulation usually decreases just before your period starts. These low levels speed up bowels, giving way to changes in your digestive system i.e. loose stools, sometimes passed frequently, agree experts. Then there are prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds that are released during your period. They are responsible for period cramping and also cause the gut muscles to contract intensely, thereby resulting in diarrhoea.

    READ MORE: The 9 Best Natural Lubes For A Happy Vagina

    What should I use to wash my va-jay-jay?

    “The inside of a vagina isn’t meant to be washed with products, so water and just your finger will do. For the vulva (the outer part), plain water will also do, but you may also use a mild, non-acidic soap that doesn’t irritate the skin,” says Dr Rockson.

    How often should I go for a pap smear?

    Cape Town-based obs-gyn registrar Dr Rendani Maboko says SA’s current guidelines recommend that Pap smears be done from the age of 21. A Pap smear is recommended every five years and every three years in HIV-positive women. “We are currently pushing to screen yearly on HIV-positive patients,” she says. For the general population, adds Dr Maboko, women who are sexually active should start HPV screening at age 30. “We recommend 30 because HPV has a high prevalence and can be quite transient in nature, especially in younger women,” she explains.

    READ MORE: There Are Actually Some Pretty Big Misconceptions About Egg Freezing In South Africa

    Is period syncing a real thing?

    You’ve just been camping with your girls and now your period’s early. Period syncing stems from the idea that the menstrual cycles of women who spend a lot of time together usually end up aligning. “However, to date, no scientific study has been able to prove that period syncing is actually a real phenomenon,” says Dr Maboko.

    What are the telltale signs of an STI?

    Discomfort as well as a change in the colour and smell of your discharge are some of the earliest signs. “A grey-coloured or yellowy, frothy discharge that smells fishy. Or you could develop ulcers or a rash around the area which could be a sign of herpes. The later signs will be genital warts and the likes,” says Dr Rockson. More

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    What’s Sceletium And What Does It Do?

    The buzzy plant has cropped up in supplements, drinks and as tinctures. Here’s what we know about the herbal medicine and plant sceletium.

    What is sceletium?

    Sceletium tortuosum is an ancient plant. It’s also called kanna or kougod and has been used for ages by the Khoisan people of South Africa. Carl von Linnaeus, a Swedish biologist, described and classified the plant in 1753.

    Traditionally, the medicinal herb has been used by the Khoisan people for various ailments. Sceletium was chewed or smoked and used to relieve toothache, abdominal pain, and as a mood-elevator. It was also used as an analgesic (pain relief), hypnotic, anxiolytic (anxiety relief), thirst and hunger suppressant, and for its intoxicating/euphoric effects.

    Now, it’s commonly used as an anti-depressant or to reduce anxiety. Added to that, some people are using it as an alternative to party drugs. Scientists are uncovering its properties as a cognitive enhancer.

    What does it do?

    The plant has positive effects on the central nervous system. It has potential as a SRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or antidepressant. However, more clinical studies are still needed to explore its full potential. Redditers also describe using it to ‘feel right’. So far, this is what small studies have shown:

    Anxiety and depression

    Small studies reveal that sceletium may be useful in reducing anxiety, depression and stress response. But these studies were small. Simply put, we need more larger-scale studies.


    In a small randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study in healthy subjects, people taking the herb daily for nine weeks said they slept better.

    Is sceletium safe?

    Very little data exists to point to how sceletium would interact with other medications in the body. It’s best to chat to your doc before taking it, especially if you’re already taking an antidepressant.

    Where to get sceletium

    For now, if you want to enjoy its reported effects (calm and restful sleep), you can have sceletium in capsule, drink or tincture form.

    Euphorika Sceletium Tortuosum Extract

    This tincture lets you control the dosage, especially if you like to microdose.

    Sereen Sceletium Capsules

    These capsules contain 200mg of sceletium and may improve focus and cognitive function.

    Tea of Life Honeybush Sceletium

    Enjoy the calming effects of this kombucha blend. Plus, probiotics could improve mood over time.

    Keen to read more?

    Women’s Health participates in various affiliate marketing programmes, which means we may get commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. More

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    What To Know About MPox, Treatments & What To Do If Infected

    Unsurprisingly, winter sees its fair share of viruses doing the rounds. And now, South Africa is witnessing an outbreak of mpox (previously known as monkeypox). As of June 2024, the South African government has confirmed 16 cases of mpox since the outbreak in May 2024. These confirmed diagnoses come from laboratory testing. All cases are males, aged between 23-43 years old.

    What is mpox?

    Mpox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Per the South African government, “it can be transmitted to a person through contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus.”

    Anyone can become infected, regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender or race. The people most at risk include children, pregnant people and those with chronic conditions (like HIV, TB or diabetes). While the virus is preventable and treatable, three people have died in South Africa from mpox.

    Mpox can spread by:

    touching, kissing or having sex with an infected person

    hunting, skinning or cooking infected animals

    being in contact with contaminated materials like sheets, needles or clothes

    passing on the infection to your baby, if pregnant

    What are the symptoms of mpox?

    Per the World Health Organisation (WHO), “common symptoms of mpox are a skin rash or mucosal lesions which can last two to four weeks, accompanied by fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes.”

    Typically, the first symptoms include a sore throat, fever and muscle aches.

    For some people, the first symptom may be a rash – but everyone is different. The rash can appear anywhere on the body. Your rash could appear:

    on the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet

    on your face, mouth or throat

    in the groin or genital area, including the anus

    Some people also have painful swelling of their rectum or pain and difficulty when peeing.

    What to do if you have mpox

    According to a statement released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, “The Department of Health urges members of the public who experience suspected symptoms of Mpox disease to visit their nearest healthcare provider for screening and testing to ensure early diagnosis and effective treatment to prevent further spread of the disease.”

    For treating mpox, the focus is on treating the rash, managing pain and preventing complications. The recovery from mpox could take two to four weeks.

    The WHO recommends staying home, treating your symptoms and isolating from others. If you’re around others, wear a mask and cover up lesions.

    To treat the rash, the WHO recommends the following:

    cover lesions when around others

    do sitz baths with baking soda or Epsom salts

    take painkillers

    don’t pick at your skin or pop blisters – this can spread the rash

    clean your hands very regularly to prevent spreading the virus

    Read more to stay healthy: More

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    Actress Temi Otedola On Why She Prefers A Simple Wellness Routine

    At first glance, Temi Otedola (the newly announced L’oreal Paris Digital Brand Ambassador for sub-Saharan Africa) gives off the vibe of someone who doesn’t skimp on self-care. Always styled elegantly for a 28-year-old, and a fan of a clean make-up look that still allows her skin to breathe, it’s no wonder the Nigeria-based actress is one of Africa’s most loved personalities.

    Naturally, Temi is honoured to be L’Oreal Paris‘ first digital brand ambassador, a role that will see her face plastered on the brand’s digital, and some in-store campaigns, across Africa.

    “My job is to spread the L’Oreal Paris message across Africa digitally, as that is the new frontier,” she beams. She adds: “I hope to be the first of many incredible African women in this role, and not just from Nigeria. L’Oreal Paris is a brand with a very rich legacy, but it’s still new to our space. Not new in terms of products, but awareness. I look forward to sharing about the science-based research that they do on their products and melanated skin, specifically,” shares Temi, who also adds that she can’t wait to remind women that ‘they are worth it’, per the powerful L’Oreal Paris slogan.

    In addition, through this role, Temi hopes to leave behind a legacy of having reminded young women that there is no universal beauty standard – and that comfort with, and confidence in, self trump everything else. Below, Temi shares some of the wellness practices that help her step out into the world fully radiant (and with an assured bounce in her step).

    READ MORE: How To Tailor Your Skincare For Hormones, Per Experts

    Skincare routine that I swear by

    “To be honest, I’m very simple with my skincare. So long as my skin is hydrated and I’m wearing sunscreen, that’s really where it stops and ends. Where skin is concerned, I do think that less is more. I love using  hyaluronic acid  but I think the more things we use on our skin, the more irritated it becomes.”

    “I love a facial once a month. Like I said, hydration is my top priority. But, I also always say that it doesn’t matter how many skincare products you use, if you don’t drink water or sleep enough, it’s all pointless really! I know it’s clichéd, but self-care is more important a lot of the time. I’m on a plane every few days so if I don’t back it up with sleep, my skincare routine will be pointless.”  

    Sleep catch-ups

    “If you give me the time, I could sleep up to 14 hours – I am that person [chuckles]! Unfortunately, I’m not able to do that. I can’t nap, although I wish I was able to. Let’s say I have the odd one day off and I know the next three weeks are going to be crazy, I will happily sleep for 14 hours [chuckles]. This relationship with sleep runs in my family. My 92-year-old grandmother wakes up at 5am daily, goes to her farm and she’s in bed by 8pm. I hope to be like that at her age!”

    Favourite way to stay fit 

    “Yoga is my favourite thing ever! During the pandemic when we couldn’t go to the gym, I got into yoga classes on YouTube. I love YouTube because you can get anything you need – and it’s free. I enjoy walking as well, it’s the best way to experience a new city, especially when I’m travelling.”

    READ MORE: How To Change Up Your Skin Routine For More Hydrated Skin This Winter

    Favourite way to nourish my body

    “So, I have this amazing smoothie that I love to make in the morning. It has flax seeds, chia seeds, frozen berries, spirulina powder, almond butter and a few other good things. I just throw everything in because I can just sip on it while I’m on the move all morning. I also love taking green juice, as well as fresh ginger and lemon. With all the travelling that I do, if I don’t do this daily, I will fall ill at some point. I think it’s so important to give yourself these little boosts throughout the day, be it a ginger or turmeric shot, because they help boost your immune system.

    I was vegetarian for six years and that’s very rare in Nigeria [chuckles]. I was one of five out of a population of two hundred million. I found myself hopping on and off the vegetarian diet. Having seafood now and again is also good for my iron. I think it’s important to always listen to our bodies at all times.”

    My best way to stay focused

    “Let’s say I’m on a movie set, and call time is 4am and I know that I’m going to be there until midnight, it’s actually best to put my phone away and be as present as possible. The issue with our phones is that we can be in twenty different places at once – almost like you’re teleporting yourself. You could see one message or email that could change your entire mood for the day. I only touch my phone when I feel grounded in my day. When we were shooting with L’Oreal Paris, for instance, I tried to take in as much of the present moments as possible. Our phones are a great communication tool, but they can also be very addictive and disruptive.”

    READ MORE: Everything To Know About Double Cleansing – And Which Products To Use

    Best way to de-stress

    “I love all things aromatherapy, something I inherited from my mother. I always have incense or candles burning in my room. Amazon has these eucalyptus shower steamers which I love using after a long day. They help take weight off me.”

    Best way to hone confidence

    “Confidence and beauty are what’s underneath the skin, they’re not surface level. In the past, I’ve been very honest about my insecurities and my own journey with beauty – and how in the end, I actually decided that I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I’m only trying to be the best version of Temi. You want to try be the best version of yourself at any given time, it’s never about aspiring to be like anyone else.

    Social media has made made people feel like their lives are not enough. When in fact, we should be inspiring and encouraging each other, and constantly reminding ourselves that who we are is enough.” More

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    These Changes Mean You Might Have An STI – Here’s What They Mean (And What To Do)

    Part of being a woman assigned at birth can mean there’s always something worrying you. Feeling super emotional? Your period might be on the way! If your period is a little late, you’re probably already obsessing over whether you’re pregnant (even though the last time you had sex was years ago)! And if you experience any vaginal changes? You guessed it – you’re worried you might have contracted an STI. While these are all valid concerns, we’re here to break down the most common STI symptoms and what they mean. The good news is that there are things you can do to protect yourself from infection and treatments are available. But arming yourself with knowledge about STIs can go a long way in keeping you safe.

    Why is knowing STI symptoms important?

    The more you know about STI symptoms, the more you can protect yourself. And, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), “in 2017, there were an estimated 2.3 million new cases of gonorrhoea, 1.9 million new chlamydia cases and 23 175 new syphilis cases among women aged between 15 and 49.” The website continues to note that “these high numbers of STI cases in South Africa have partly been due to inadequate prevention and treatment gaps.” Indeed.

    Um, what’s the difference between an STD and an STI?

    Excellent question! An STI (sexually transmitted infection) “refers to an infection that is transmitted through sexual activity,” explains Dr Mpume Zenda, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and sexologist. “A sexually transmitted disease (STD) refers to a specific condition or illness that has developed as a result of a sexually transmitted infection.” Noted!

    STIs include curable infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomonas. An STI could also be an incurable but treatable condition, like herpes simplex virus, HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV), Dr Zenda explains.

    READ MORE: What’s The Difference Between STDs And STIs?

    How treatable are STIs?

    Per Dr Zenda, it depends on the infection. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomonas can be cured with antibiotics. Incurable STIs like herpes, HIV and HPV can be treated with medication and “effective treatment with antiretroviral medication suppresses viral replication,” Dr Zenda notes.

    Can you have an STI but no symptoms?

    Yes, you can. “Some STIs cause no symptoms or only mild symptoms,” says Dr Zenda. But, importantly, even if you exhibit no symptoms, you can still pass the infection on to someone else. For this reason, “if you start a new sexual relationship, get tested for STIs,” advises Dr Jireh Serfontein, clinical head of My Sexual Health Pretoria. Also, “the risk of contracting HIV is much higher if you have an STI, so get tested and treated,” she says.

    How long does it take for an STI to ‘appear’?

    “Every STI has its own incubation period,” explains Dr Zenda. “For some, the body begins to produce antibodies and symptoms in as little as a few days.” Below are the typical timelines for when STI symptoms appear. But know that for some people, it can take weeks or months for an infection to manifest.

    Gonorrhoea: 1 – 7 days

    Chlamydia: 7 – 21 days

    Genital and oral herpes: 2 – 12 days

    HIV: 2 – 4 weeks

    HPV: 1 month – 10 years

    Syphilis: 3 weeks – 20 years  

    Because STI symptoms can take long to show up, it’s important to get tested. It’s also why STI tests use antibodies to detect infection and not symptoms, explains Dr Zenda.

    READ MORE: 8 Things You’ve Heard About STDs That Are Totally Untrue

    What happens if an STI never gets treated?

    Because STIs affect the reproductive tract, explains Dr Zenda, the risk of untreated STIs is that they can affect your reproductive organ. “Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), caused by infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries can lead to infertility,” she says. Added to that, here are other complications from untreated STIs.

    Untreated STIs can affect your pregnancy

    “Pregnant people with untreated chlamydia, for example, are at a greater risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth,” explains Dr Zenda.

    Untreated STIs can infect a baby

    Per the National Institutes of Health, a sexually transmitted infection can cross into the placenta and infect the baby in the womb. “High HIV viral loads increase the risk of transmitting the virus to the child during delivery or breastfeeding,” explains Dr Zenda. “Gonorrhoea can be passed from parent to child during vaginal delivery, causing a potentially severe eye infection. Syphilis and herpes can be potentially fatal in a newborn.”

    READ MORE: How Long Does A UTI Last And Can It Go Away On Its Own?

    STI symptoms and what they mean

    Burning sensation when peeing

    While your first instinct could be to think that a burning sensation points to an STI symptom, Dr Zenda says it’s more likely to be a UTI (or urinary tract infection). But yes, in some cases, an STI could cause the burning sensation because of cross-infection, she says. “The pain comes from inflammation in your urinary tract. Bacteria can cling to the lining (mucus membranes) of the urethra, which is the tube urine comes out of, causing inflammation.”

    Per Dr Serfontein, “STIs that cause burning can include herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, ureaplasma or mycoplasma.”

    Unusual discharge

    While discharge can change in quality throughout your menstrual cycle, there are times when your discharge signals an STI. “Changes in the colour, texture, smell or amount of your usual vaginal discharge may mean there is a problem,” says Dr Zenda. “Vaginal discharge that is chunky, foamy or accompanied by itching and changes in colour may mean you have an infection.”

    But! Not all unusual discharge means you have an STI. In some cases, a change in your PH levels, like with a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, could result in unusual discharge. In any case, those require treatment, so see your doc.

    READ MORE: At-Home Test Kits: From Ovulation To STDs, Here’s How To Get Results At Home

    Abnormal bleeding

    Two periods in one month? What fresh hell? Take heart: abnormal bleeding could be caused by things other than an STI. It could be a side-effect of starting a new contraception method, but still, it’s very important to see your doctor to rule out any other serious causes, “especially when the bleeding is heavy, post-intercourse, or associated with pain and offensive odour,” says Dr Zenda. Other causes of abnormal bleeding include:

    Cervicitis (inflammation)

    Vaginal tears (especially from poor lubrication)

    Polyps or fibroids

    Pregnancy-related (from ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage )

    Infections including, STIs

    Cancer (cervical, vaginal or endometrial)

    If you’re experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding, see your doc, stat.

    Itchy vaginal sensation

    Unless you’ve just shaved down there, the itching sensation is not normal, says Dr Serfontein. “It can mean that there is irritation of the skin and mucous membranes in the genital region,” she explains.

    However, it might not be an STI symptom, either. “A yeast infection (thrush) caused by candida typically presents with an itching or burning sensation,” explains Dr Serfontein. Another thing that could cause that itchy sensation? Dermatological conditions like lichen sclerosis. “Some women might experience itching or burning due to side effects of a contraceptive pill as well,” adds Dr Serfontein.

    But if your itching is a sign of an STI, there will be accompanying symptoms, says Dr Serfontein. These could include abnormal vaginal discharge. “But it is important to note that you can have those infections without any symptoms at all, that is why it is so important to get regular STI testing,” says Dr Serfontein.

    Painful sex

    Again, there are other reasons sex could become painful other than an STI. “It is important to determine when the pain started, what type of pain you have and where exactly you experience the pain,” says Dr Serfontein.

    For one, painful sex could be a result of vaginismus. “This is caused by the muscles around the vagina that are in spasm and will result in penetration being painful,” explains Dr Serfontein. In this instance, even using a tampon could be too painful.

    If your pain is deep and located in the lower abdominal area, it could be caused by a cyst or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). “This usually occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from the vagina to the womb (uterus), fallopian tubes or ovaries,” says Dr Serfontein.

    “It is not that easy to distinguish between sex-related pain and pain caused by an STI,” Dr Serfontein notes. But there are STIs that can cause pain during sex, like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, which causes vaginal irritation that can lead to pain. “Genital herpes can cause blister or sores in the genitals which can also lead to painful sex,” says Dr Serfontein.

    In any case, pain during sex is not normal, she says, so go and see your doc if this happens to you.

    READ MORE: Why Am I Bleeding During Sex? Gynaecologists Explain Common Reasons And Treatments

    Bumps on the vagina

    Bumps could be caused by infection or benign conditions like ingrown hairs, says Dr Serfontein. Infections that could result in bumps include:

    Genital warts: “These lesions will be wart-like in appearance and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV),” says Dr Serfontein.

    Molluscum: “These lesions are flesh-coloured, round and painless bumps. This is caused by a viral infection called molluscum contagiosum.”

    Genital herpes: “These lesions are blisters and are caused by the herpes virus. It would typically be accompanied by pain in the genital area.”

    Pelvic pain

    “Pain means that there is a problem, it is important to see a doctor,” says Dr Serfontein. “Pelvic pain could be because of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This usually occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from the vagina to the womb (uterus), fallopian tubes or ovaries.”  You might also experience abnormal discharge, says Dr Serfontein.

    But aside from being an STI symptom, pelvic pain can also be caused by these:

    Bladder infection (UTI) – “A UTI might also cause burning urine or frequent urination,” says Dr Serfontein.

    Cyst on the ovaries

    Problems with the gastrointestinal system

    Referred pain from other regions

    If you’re experiencing any of these unusual symptoms, it’s always a good idea to get things checked out by a doctor. More

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    Yes, Happiness Can Boost Productivity – Here’s How

    As humans, we’re constantly in the pursuit of happiness. And that pursuit grows, the more we learn about its benefits. Martin Seligman, considered the ‘Father of Positive Psychology’, said “…the happiest people tend to be those who pursue the full life– they infuse their life with pleasure, engagement and meaning”. With that in mind, could it be that happiness can boost productivity? Experts say yes. Here’s what you need to know.

    Meet The Expert: Nisha Rodgerson is a clinical psychologist with a special interest in neurodiversity and neuropsychology and works at The Couch.

    Why Happy People Are More Productive

    When it comes to boosting productivity in the workplace, there’s a lot of emphasis on processes and tools, but what many fail to recognise is the significant impact that a person’s mood and emotional well-being can have on productivity levels. “When we’re happy, we’re more likely to approach tasks with enthusiasm and energy, leading to greater focus, efficiency and effectiveness,” explains Nisha Rodgerson. “Also, a positive mindset enables individuals to adapt more readily to challenges and setbacks, maintaining momentum and productivity even in the face of adversity.”

    Your Brain Under Stress

    It all has to do with brain chemistry. “The brain undergoes remarkable changes depending on our emotional state,” says Rodgerson.

    “When we experience happiness, the brain releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with feelings of pleasure and contentment. Conversely, during periods of sadness or stress, the brain may produce higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This can impair cognitive function and decision-making abilities.”‌

    While some people may work well under pressure – and may even claim to work better under pressure – there’s a difference between the thrill of an imminent deadline and the chronic stress that comes with feeling like you’re constantly behind or working in an environment that makes you unhappy.

    “During periods of stress, the brain’s stress response system, primarily involving the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, becomes activated. This leads to the release of cortisol and other stress hormones, which can have profound effects on brain function,” says Rodgerson. “Chronic stress has been associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions such as the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which are involved in memory, emotion regulation and decision-making.” What this means? Missed deadlines, difficulty focusing, indecision and work that’s not up to scratch. Yikes. It gets worse. Unhappy workers are also more likely to have higher rates of absenteeism, as well as presenteeism (where you’re physically present but not doing anything constructive), says Rodgerson. “One’s attitude towards work plays a pivotal role in determining productivity levels”. 

    Building A Happier Workplace

    Fostering a workplace culture where people have a positive attitude towards work can go a long way towards improving the productivity of the business. “By prioritising happiness and well-being in the workplace, employers can unlock the full potential of their workforce, leading to increased productivity, creativity and overall organisational success.”

    Image by Freepik

    This goes beyond having a pool table, fancy coffee machine or pizza party. While these are nice to have, what goes further is demonstrating a deeper understanding of people’s needs and giving them the tools to solve the problems that are causing their stress. According to Rodgerson, this may look like:

    Encouraging work-life balance. Offering flexible work arrangements, paid time off and wellness programmes can help employees manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

    Providing opportunities for growth and development. Investing in employee training and development demonstrates a commitment to professional growth and fosters a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

    Cultivating a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. Promoting open communication, recognition of achievements, and collaboration can enhance morale and create a sense of belonging.

    Offering perks and benefits. Providing benefits like health insurance, retirement plans and employee assistance programmes demonstrates care for employees’ overall well-being and can improve job satisfaction and retention rates.

    ‌“Being in a positive mood not only enhances cognitive function but also fosters creativity, problem-solving skills and resilience.”

    Taking Charge Of Your Destiny

    Here are Rodgerson-recommended well-being strategies you can use to boost your mood and productivity. 

    Move more. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-lifters and reduce stress.

    Practise mindfulness and meditation. These techniques can help alleviate stress, promote relaxation and cultivate a positive outlook.

    Seek support. Spending time with friends, family or colleagues can provide emotional support and enhance feelings of connection and belonging. Seeking out therapy is also a form of support.

    Set realistic goals. Breaking tasks into manageable chunks and celebrating small victories can boost confidence and motivation.

    Prioritise self-care. Getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy can significantly impact mood and overall well-being.

    Use technology to your advantage. There are apps and websites available that can assist in goal setting, progress tracking, mindfulness and increasing holistic well-being. 

    Happiness-boosting Websites At Your Disposal

    WHOLE introduces one to healthy habits and allows you to maintain them. It keeps you accountable for your healthy daily routine.

    October Health keeps you in the loop with health professionals and allows you to receive accurate medical information. Your goal to being happy is assured with October Health.

    SoSerene is an amazing system which helps integrate holistic healthy living into busy lives, with a focus on supporting mental health. Check this app out for any tools to improve your well-being. More

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    What To Know About Swine Flu Symptoms + What To Do

    This season, the winter flu has come, with health officials warning about the reported cases of swine flu (now called N1H1). Here’s what to know about swine flu symptoms and how it differs from the ‘regular’ flu.

    What is swine flu?

    To answer this, we need a brief science lesson. Within the flu family, different strains exist. The ‘typical’ flu differs from swine flu (called Influenza A (N1H1)) because it’s a different strain.

    N1H1, or ‘swine flu’, is so named because it usually circulates in pigs but is now infecting people. This doesn’t mean people are getting sick from interacting with pigs – the virus spreads from humans to humans. This is called a “variant influenza virus”, according to the World Health Organization. And, interestingly, the same virus was also called the Spanish flu in 1918.

    Other strains that people have been infected with include influenza B/Victoria and influenza A(H3N2).

    What are the swine flu symptoms?

    According to the Western Cape government, these are the typical symptoms of N1H1:

    A sudden onset of high fever (usually above  38.3°C)


    Runny or stuffy nose

    Sore throat


    Body aches



    Lack of appetite

    Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea

    Many of these symptoms don’t seem much different from the ‘regular’ flu and the treatment is also much the same. However, there are cases when you should seek emergency care, per the Western Cape government:

    Fast breathing or trouble breathing

    Bluish or grey skin colour

    Severe or persistent vomiting

    READ MORE: What To Eat To Avoid Colds And Boost Your Immune System, According To A Dietician

    What is the treatment for N1H1?

    If your case is mild (and not severe), the Western Cape Government advises the following measures:

    “Stay at home for seven days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer,” the website notes.

    Drink plenty of fluids (coffee and tea don’t count here: rather stick to water, electrolyte blends and broth.)

    Take your prescribed medication from a doctor (these may include anti-viral meds)

    Take painkillers to relieve fever and body aches, like paracetamol or ibuprofen. Important: only take pain medication for instances where you have pain or fever.

    Throw away used tissues as soon as possible to prevent the spread of infection

    Wash your hands regularly, to avoid spreading disease.

    READ MORE: Are Wellness Shots With Turmeric, Ginger, Or ACV Actually Good For You? A Dietician Weighs In

    How to prevent getting ill

    Health experts always advocate for regular hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing and staying healthy by eating lots of vegetables and drinking plenty of water.

    Also, it’s a very good idea to get a flu vaccine. These can be done at your doctor, clinic or pharmacy. If you’re at risk of having a severe case of flu, you should get a vaccine. Per the South African Government News Agency, people at risk include:

    Adults older than 65

    Pregnant people

    People with underlying illnesses such as heart and lung disease 

    People living with HIV and tuberculosis

    READ MORE: 3 Superfoods To Add To Your Grocery List This Winter 

    Michelle October

    Michelle is the features editor at WH. She’s immensely curious about the world, passionate about health and wellness and enjoys a good surf when the waves are good. Find her on Instagram here. More

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    8 Things You’ve Heard About STDs That Are Totally Untrue

    Unhappy news: STIs are on the rise in South Africa. This year, the Gauteng Department of Health issued a plea for South Africans not to engage in risky sexual behaviour after the region saw a spike in Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS), something commonly caused by gonorrhoea and chlamydia. One thing that could be driving rising STI levels? STD myths, along with many people having unprotected sex.

    To avoid spreading misinformation – and STIs – we’re debunking some common STD myths with the truth.

    STD Myth: Once you’ve got an STI, you can’t get the same one again

    Reality: STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are bacterial infections and “once you’re cured of those, you can absolutely be re-infected,” says Fred Wyand, director of communications for the American Sexual Health Association, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting sexual health. It’s especially common with gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Researchers from the Netherlands found 20.4 percent of women with chlamydia were re-infected when tested again five to eight months later.

    Myth: You can’t get STIs from oral sex

    Reality: “In general, most of the STIs we talk about don’t do their thing quite as well in the mouth as well as they do in the genital or anal area,” says Wyand. Even though oral sex is safer sex, it’s not risk-free, and vag contact is not a requirement to become infected. Gonorrhoea, syphilis, and chlamydia, to a lesser extent, can all be passed orally.

    Myth: You can’t have two STIs at once

    Reality: Having two STIs at once – called co-infection – is extremely possible. “Actually, having one STI may increase the susceptibility to another,” says Wyand. Take herpes, for example. An outbreak can act as a breeding ground for HIV if your partner has it. Being infected with other STDs also increases your risk of developing HIV. Plus, a 2020 study also found that 83.3% of HIV-positive women in KwaZulu-Natal have other STIs too.

    READ MORE: Can You Really Get An STD From Kissing?

    Myth: If you don’t have any symptoms, you’re STD-free

    Reality: “It is very common for any STD to not have apparent symptoms,” says Wyand. Chlamydia, in particular, is known as a silent infection since it’s light on warning signs. “Women can go much longer with chlamydia without seeing or feeling anything atypical,” says Wyand. In fact, a study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases found that 63 percent of cervical chlamydia cases and 54 percent of gonorrhoea cases were symptom-free.

    Myth: You can only catch herpes during an outbreak

    Reality: From sores around the genital area to cold sores around the mouth, it’s easy to see why so many people think they can spot a herpes infection from a mile away. It’s not so simple, though. Even if there are no sores in sight, the infection could be lurking beneath the surface. “The virus can and does become active even if you don’t see anything,” says Wyand. Still, that doesn’t mean herpes will automatically be transferred to a partner. Many couples are able to keep their sex lives active without the unaffected partner ever acquiring it, so long as they’re open to using condoms and having honest discussions, says Wyand.

    Myth: A pap smear tests for STDs

    Reality: Many women assume (incorrectly) that a yearly visit to the OB-GYN is all it takes to make sure everything down there is A-OK. A pap smear tests the cells in your cervix for cancer and HPV but doesn’t take STIs into account. To cover yourself, ask your gyno to tack on an STI test at your next visit. That might call for a blood or urine sample, or another swab test.

    READ MORE: What’s The Difference Between STDs and STIs?

    Myth: The pill protects you from STDs

    Reality: The Pill’s main job is to keep you baby-free, not STI-free. Condoms are the only birth control method that acts as protection against STDs.

    Myth: Only women with many partners have STIs

    Reality: No slut-shaming here. While it’s true that the more partners you have, the more you’ll be exposed to infections, STIs rear their ugly heads even in monogamous relationships. Each party brings their own sexual history to the bedroom – and sometimes that history involves an STI. “Even in a monogamous relationship, if either one of the partners has had previous partners, there could be an STD from many years ago that they’re not even aware of that can still be transmitted,” says Wyand. Truth is, most sexually active people will have an STD at some point, so it shouldn’t be shameful. “More and more we’re saying, ‘Do you know what it means to have an STD?’” says Wyand. “It means you’re pretty normal.”

    READ MORE: It’s Time To Stop Believing These Sexual Health Myths More