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How to handle family arguments at Christmas

clip_image002[8]While your TV might be filled with families enjoying a harmonious and joyful Christmas dinner around the table, it couldn’t be any more different for those of us who find personalities clashing and tempers fraying come Christmas.

According to research from Travelodge, the average British family will have around five arguments on Christmas Day, with the first one taking place as early as 10.13am.

One of the most common arguments comes first thing in the morning. Christmas morning is especially exciting for kids and chances are they will be up at the crack of dawn eager to open their presents. However, conflict can arise when other members of the family are slightly less enthusiastic about getting out of bed. Try and find a compromise and encourage bed dwellers downstairs with the smell of coffee and breakfast.

Once presents are out the way, the next big arguments tend to come from the kitchen where, oblivious to the rest of the family, the person designated to cook for the day is on the edge of madness and just a curious inspection from one of the in laws about how the turkey is looking could send them over the edge. The best way to avoid a meltdown is to ask in advance if the chef would like some help and if not then avoid the kitchen like the plague. If you’re unlucky enough to be the chef then make sure you do as much cooking prior to the day as possible and make it clear to your guests as to whether you would like their help or not.

You might think that food could quash further arguments but disagreements during meal time are just as likely to happen. With a long morning before your Christmas dinner and plenty of time sat around with not much else on your mind but food, it’s very easy for everyone to get a bit greedy when certain dishes get passed around. To avoid arguments over who ate all the stuffing, you should plate up meals in advance and leave the leftovers in the kitchen for everyone to pick through once their main meal has gone.

Once all the food has been gobbled away and the washing up taken care of it’s time to relax and this usually involves some Christmas themed TV. Unfortunately, not everyone can always agree on what to watch and you might find that many of the requested programmes clash. You can solve this problem in a few ways; first of all, many channels now have a +1 version where their shows are broadcast an hour later. You could also record it, watch it on an “On Demand” player like BBC iPlayer or simply opt to ditch the TV all together and play some party games.

Christmas is all about making the most of the time you have with your family but if you are feeling anxious about making it all go to plan then have a read of our free guide on taking the stress out of your Christmas.

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How to have a low calorie Christmas

According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), the average Brit will gorge on over 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone resulting in an average weight gain of 5lb by New Years Day. We all know how difficult it can be to avoid the mince pies, chocolates and bread sauce, and after all for many people it’s the one day of the year where they allow themselves to eat exactly what they want, so is there a way of getting your fill of festive treats without the stress of added weight gain?

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15 Xmas gift ideas for people who have everything

Whether it’s an awkward aunt or a crabby cousin, almost of all of us have someone in the family that make your Christmas shop a painful chore. Here are a 15 gift ideas for the people who are really hard to buy for.

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7 ideas for magical Christmas crafts

Christmas is almost upon us and what better way to spread some cheer throughout your home than with some homemade decorations? Here are four easy crafts which are guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit and transform your home into a winter wonderland.

clip_image002Snowmen crafts

You can make your own snowmen with everything from light bulbs to candles and salt and pepper shakers, but one of the most enjoyable ways is with pom poms.

First, get hold of two fluffy pom-poms, one large and one small. Take the ends and tie them together so that they form the shape of a snowman’s body and head, then trim off the ends of the string. After that’s done, you can attach some pipe cleaners for arms, sequins and buttons for eyes and then finish them off with some old shoelaces for a scarf.

DIY advent calendars

Not everyone has a sweet tooth and sometimes it’s much more fun to create your own advent calendar. Hanging shoe racks are great for this purpose and you can transform them into an advent calendar simply by sewing or painting numbers on to each of the pockets. For gifts, you should think about what your loved ones might enjoy. While chocolates are the traditional treats, you could store everything from miniature homemade chutney and jams to poems, bookmarks and photographs inside.

Stockings

What would Christmas be without stockings hanging by the fireplace? They are a traditional part of Christmas decor and are quite easy to make. Simply find two pieces of matching felt, draw a sock shape with a pen and cut out. Next, staple the edges together, add a loop so that it can hang and embellish it by sewing in your child’s or loved one’s name.

Homemade cards

In all the rushing around for presents, it can be easy to forget about Christmas cards. Don’t fear though as you can have lots of fun making your own provided you have a few pens and some craft materials. Try drawing a smiling Santa Claus and gluing on cotton wool for a beard, or make a 3D Christmas tree out of felt triangles and circles.

Snowglobes

Snowglobes are fascinating for children and adults alike. To make your own, find a jar with a lid and pick out a plastic figure that you’d like to house inside. Next, fill with tap water (boil it first), glitter and liquid glycerine, available from most craft stores. Then all you have to do is screw on the lid tight and turn it upside down!

Cookie decorations

If you think you can restrain yourself from eating them all before Christmas then edible gingerbread or cookie decorations are a great way to bring your Christmas tree to life. Simply bake cookies using your favourite recipe and make sure to cut out a small hole before baking so that you can insert ribbon for hanging on the tree.

Festive pinecones

A nice touch for your home can be the addition of some painted pinecones. Popular colours for painting them include gold, silver and white and they can either be placed upon the mantelpiece or hung on your tree with your other decorations. For added shine, you should use spray paint.

Christmas crafts are a great way to get in the festive spirit but they are also an enjoyable and productive way to spend time with your family and friends. Click here for more inspiration for making the most your time with your loved ones.

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Gift anxiety – what is it and how can you avoid it?

clip_image002When you’re a child, Christmas Day is a very special occasion. You’ve spent the past few months (possibly all year) telling your parents how much you want that shiny new bike or dolls house and if you don’t get it then you probably aren’t going to make too much of an effort to hide your crushing disappointment that Santa Claus didn’t get your order right!

However, as we get older and we realise that it’s actually our friends and family who are responsible for gift buying, sitting around the Christmas tree and handing out gifts can become a much more complicated affair that can leave many people very anxious and stressed.

What is gift anxiety?

People can feel anxious about giving and receiving gifts for all kinds of reasons. Not only are there financial pressures that come with buying presents for friends and family, especially for children, but there is also the worry that the person might not like the gift. From the receiver’s perspective there is the pressure of making sure that person who has given you the gift knows that you are appreciative, even if you might not actually like the gift you have been given. Here are some of the common worries that are associated with gift anxiety:

  • “I am worried that they won’t like the gift”
  • “I couldn’t afford to get them what they wanted, I hope they aren’t disappointed”
  • “This person is so hard to buy for, I hope this will do”
  • “I wish they hadn’t spent so much money on me”
  • “I really don’t like this but I can’t let them know I’m disappointed”

Giving gifts

As enjoyable as Christmas Day can be and as much as we want to show our loved ones how much we care about them, the process of finding presents can be a difficult one. From battling the queues on the high street to finding gifts for people who have everything they want, it can be hard to get things right. Givers are often worried about whether the person will like the gift they have given, whether they might have it already and most of all whether they will be disappointed.

Receiving gifts

Christmas presents are a two way thing and hopefully you will receive just as many presents as you give away. However, receiving presents can be just as nerve racking. Commonly people will become very anxious about the amount of money the other person may have spent on them, whether they might already have the gift, how they will still show appreciation despite not wanting a gift and if they don’t like the present then how they will return it.

What to do

The most important thing to remember is that Christmas is supposed to be fun and most people will be happy with any gift they receive – as the saying goes “it’s the thought that counts”. However, if you aren’t willing to settle for that and want to make doubly sure that you both receive and give away presents which are truly wanted then you should make sure to make a Christmas list. Preparing a Christmas list with a number of items that you would like is a sure –fire way to make sure that all parties involved get something they truly want. By listing items you want throughout a range of prices you need not feel guilty about how much money someone has spent on you, and as a buyer you have the option to purchase something that won’t break the bank but still shows that person you appreciate them.

For more tips and advice on making Christmas time as stress free and enjoyable as possible, see our full length guide here.

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Could regular breaks be the key to increased productivity?

Staying chained to your desk all day is almost always a bad idea. Regularly taking just a few moments to step away from your workstation has been proven time and time again to focus your mind, make you more at ease, relieve stress and most importantly improve your productivity. See below for some facts on why micro-breaks could be the key to increased productivity.

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For more information on reducing stress in your day to day life, see our guide ’20 proven ways to wind down and relax’.

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How to cook your way to relaxation

cutting-board-925544_1280Most people when they’ve had a long and particularly difficult day can’t think of anything worse than spending their last few precious hours at home before bed time slaving over the oven and cooking healthy food. In most cases, people’s gut instinct will be to eat out or to pick up the phone and order a take away. While this saves time and fills you up, it’s not always the best course of action to take. In this article we will look at how cooking your own meals can be an effective method of stress relief and explain why a healthy, balanced diet is good for your mind.

Healthy, nutritious food is one of the quickest routes to stress relief. Fresh food is much more likely to be packed full of the essential nutrients that your body needs and less likely to include the fats, oils and processed ingredients that can leave you feeling groggy, tired and unable to perform to your best ability the following day.

By preparing and cooking food yourself, you set yourself up for a task which you are certain to be rewarded for. While your day might be stressful, with jobs left incomplete and no finish line in sight, the process of cooking a meal allows you to set a goal and to achieve it.

In addition to this, if you prepare all the food on your plate yourself then you can be sure that there are no nasty surprises, such as added sugars or fats which can heighten your risk of diabetes and cause weight gains which can leave you feeling blue.

Foods with high vitamin and mineral levels actively help to reduces stress levels but what are some of the foods you should avoid?

One common way to aggravate stress is to drink tea, coffee, energy drinks and anything with caffeine in it. While you may have an initial perk from drinking caffeine, the stimulation can leave you feeling a lot worse once it wears off, as well as causing unwanted side effects like anxiety and insomnia.

Take away foods are a quick and easy fix when you’ve had a long day and don’t feel like cooking but they tend to be full of fats and carbohydrates which can induce stress. A healthy balanced diet is a sure fire way to make sure you get all the vitamins that you need, as well as helping you to lose weight which can make you feel better about yourself.

Finally, preparing and cooking food with your partner or children can be a great way to spend your time together and help you unwind, thinking and talking about something other than work, or even just letting off some steam.

For more information on reducing stress in your day to day life, see our guide ’20 proven ways to wind down and relax’ .

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8 ways to survive a really bad day

It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are, sometimes it just seems like the world is against you. You sleep through your alarm, the shower runs cold, traffic is bad, work is demanding and you don’t know what to do. It’s very easy to let stress get the better of you in these situations but by forming a few good habits such as getting some extra sleep, making time for breakfast and organising yourself more efficiently then you might just make it out the other side!

 

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#1 – Have an early night when you can

There’s a lot that we don’t know about sleep, but what we do know is that it is the time when your body can finally rejuvenate and repair itself. A lack of sleep will make you irritable, sluggish and worst of all unproductive. If you have an important day ahead of you then you should get an early night so you’re in good form the following morning.

 

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#2 – Make time for a good breakfast

If you already know that you are in for a particularly difficult day then it’s important that you fuel up and give your body enough energy to get you through. Additionally, research suggests that a regular breakfast can prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

 

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#3 – Plan your day

Writing down all the things that you need to get done in your day can go a long way towards providing a feeling of self control when you are in a stressful situation. Make a list of what jobs you need to do and if that list looks overwhelming then try breaking them down by how high or low a priority they really are.

 

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#4 – Cut the caffeine

While caffeine can help you to stay alert and to concentrate for a short time, it can also have some nasty side effects such as nausea, fatigue and depression which are the last things you need on an important day. Reduce your caffeine consumption and drink more water to survive the day from hell.

 

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#5 – Shake it off

Your body and your mind are connected and negative emotions such as stress can leave your whole body feeling sore, tight and painful. Do your best to keep your body active through the day, whether it’s going for a long walk on your lunch break, moving around the office or simply just taking the time to stretch your arms and legs and roll your shoulders round.

 

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#6 – Don’t skip lunch

It might seem like a good idea at the time but if you skip lunch then you are bound to be counting the clock for the last portion of your day. Skipping lunch also means low blood sugar, which will give your energy levels a real kicking. It’s much better to take the time to eat something and to come back ready for action.

 

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#7– Focus on one task at a time

You might think that you can answer an email and make a telephone to two different people at once but research suggests that productivity is increased massively when sticking to just one task alone.

 

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#8 – Tomorrow is another day

One of the most important things to remember when everything is going wrong is that you are not superman. You might be able to get a good portion of things on your to-do list done but some days you just have to accept that it might be better to try again another day.

 

For more information on reducing stress in your day to day life , see our guide ’20 proven ways to wind down and relax’.

 

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Why is exercise so good for stress and well being?

muscles-up-musculos-para-cim-1516632When you’ve had a particularly tough day it’s typical that you’ll want to relieve your negative emotions through one of two ways: you’ll either want to relax with your favourite TV soap and a cup of tea or alternatively you might decide to hit the gym for a big workout. In this article we’ll look at some key reasons why exercise can be a great choice for de-stressing and improving your well being.

Stress and Endorphins

Physical activities are known to boost the production of endorphins. These are a group of hormones which are secreted from your nervous system and serve to block pain signals from the brain. However, they serve another important purpose in creating our feelings of pleasure. So if you’ve had a particularly hard day then some heavy action in the gym can help release some feel-good hormones.

Self-Esteem

Aside from the instant rush that physical activities can bring there are also the long term benefits to consider.

Many people struggle with low self esteem, and the reasons why can vary. Some people begin to struggle with self confidence from a very young age, perhaps through bullying, unhappiness over their physical traits or a particularly embarrassing event which happened to them. For others, it might be that they lose their self confidence through bereavement, illness, or through the breakdown of a relationship.

While statistically many people who fall into these categories will deal with their low self-esteem through unhealthy habits such as eating disorders, this is never a permanent fix. In fact, these types of habits can create a repetitive pattern which has a negative impact.

One way to combat poor self-esteem is through a regular pattern of exercise, which can help improve your mood and allow you to think clearly. On the physical side of things, it can help to clear up your skin, improve your physique and to lose or put on a healthy amount of weight.

General Health

Aside from the impact on your stress levels and your self-confidence there are a whole host of other ways that introducing some exercise into your daily routine can help improve your health. Research suggests that some of the leading types of deadly illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer can be avoided through regular exercise and other ailments such as arthritis, depression, dementia and fractures can also be impacted significantly.

How to get started

Raising your activity levels doesn’t have to be frightening and there are many different routes back into exercise. Low impact exercises such as Yoga, Pilates and swimming can be effective if you have had injuries to your body, are particularly overweight or if you are new to exercise. Alternatively, if you are ready for high impact exercises then jogging, weight training and interval training can be beneficial.

Exercise is just one way that you can boost your endorphins and improve your mood after a tough day. See our guide ‘20 proven ways to wind down and relax’ for more tips on stress busting.

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