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Avoiding stress through the festive period

clip_image001Christmas is definitely one of the most stressful events of the year, with the expense of buying gifts, the heightened expectations and last minute organisation – all of which can undermine our best intentions.

Whilst Christmas is also a happy and joyful time, it can sometimes get the better of us. Here are some practical tips that can help to reduce your “Christmas stress”…

Plan ahead

Make a to-do list of the things you need to organise: shopping, food, presents, decorations, seating plans or travel arrangements. Then try to prioritise the items on your list, so for example recipes can be made ahead of time and frozen, reducing the number of tasks in the run up to Christmas day.

Shop online – avoid all other stressed people on the high street and shop in the comfort of your own home. If you’re ordering food online book your delivery slot early enough as the prime delivery spots may be booked early.

Managing the relationships

· clip_image002Don’t expect miracles; sometimes the thought of the family all being in one place without bickering can bring on undue tension. Try not to anticipate it all kicking off!

  • Avoid any known triggers, for example if some subjects are off limits with certain family members then use distraction and quickly move the conversation onto something else.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing to cope with anxiety or tension.
  • Get the family involved in an after-lunch activity, then there will be less likelihood of arguments.
  • Avoid self-medication: people under stress may hit the alcohol which can alleviate stress.

Related articles:

· Christmas on a budget tips

· Reasons to love November

Christmas on a budget tips

So it’s that time of the year again where the old bank balance is starting to wince at the thought of Christmas costs. However, it doesn’t have to be an all-out spend-fest, here are some tips to help cut back on the cost of Christmas for your family:

The run up

· clip_image002Get the kids involved and make your own decorations, a glue stick and some glitter will always keep small people happy (adult supervision recommended, no one wants the dog to resemble a Christmas tree!).

· After wrapping the presents, let the kids put their own mark on it for the grandparents and the family. It encourages involvement, and they’ll be proud of their work of art!

· Create an activity advent calendar planned around nativity plays and other obligations such as shopping, buying the Christmas tree and decorating the dining room. This way everyone can get involved – get a real team going!

Food frenzy

· Don’t go mad with the food; “special” food for clip_image004each meal isn’t always necessary and chances are you’ll probably throw loads of it out anyway.

· Create a buffet from the leftovers on Boxing Day, sometimes grazing as and when is just what you need after Christmas day indulgence.

· Use the bones of the turkey for stock – make the most out of the bird!

· Shops are open again on the 27th so you only really need to cater for two days; don’t be fooled by TV adverts showing tables full of food and think you need to replicate them!

Perfect presents

· Look at giving family presents. Games that the clip_image006whole family can enjoy together, and maximise some of the time you have with each other.

· Use the pound shops for stocking fillers.

· Make a game of present-giving for the kids – treasure hunts around the house and garden will make the present-opening last longer.

· Do a secret Santa for the adults with a price limit.

· Don’t buy over-priced tat that no one wants or needs, avoid the tacky mugs or joke toilet rolls, you’re probably only buying it for the sake of it!

· Adults would probably prefer a nice bottle of wine instead of the annual address book or naff toiletries – quality always triumphs over quantity!

The build up to Christmas is exciting, so make the most of it by getting everyone in the family involved!

Related articles:

Reasons to love November

So the clocks have gone back and every day feels clip_image002like a lay-in as the sun isn’t glaring through the curtains at stupid o’clock; its officially ok to start getting excited about Christmas. Is November the best month of the year? Quite possibly. Here are some more reasons why November could be the best:

1. No more muddy festivals or rained-out barbeques. Its now acceptable to tell your friends that you had a great weekend staying indoors eating jacket potatoes and watching Back To The Future without getting judgemental looks.

2. Hearty winter food. Cottage pie, dumplings, casserole – ah, how we’ve missed you.

3. Movember – the only time you can grow a moustache without having to excuse yourself for looking like you fell out of the 1970s.

4. Sunshine – something we rarely seem to get in the summer, but accompanied with clear blue skies it has to be November.

5. 60 denier tights to protect your legs from the chill and merrily throwing away the razor (until Christmas party season). Hey, if it works for Movember?!

6. Dark evenings means that you no longer have to leave the house for a big night out in full make up, where otherwise you resemble Coco the clown in broad daylight.

7. Christmas markets with twinkling lights, shiny gifts and an excuse to sample the mulled wine on offer.

8. Reintroducing log fires, also appreciated by pets.

9. Fog – nature’s silk tulle.

10. Wrapping up in your gloves, hat, scarf, coat and boots and feeling like Anna Karenina. And ultimately having to peel off the layers due to excessive sweating as soon as you step in the shops.

11. And finally, did we mention…. SANTA’S COMING!!

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Related articles:

· Organising your home

· How has social etiquette changed?

Common household items with secret uses

clip_image002Who knew! There are lots of items in our house that have additional uses. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Chalk

· Rubbing chalk on collar stains absorbs the oil and makes the stain easier to clean.

· Chalk in cheesecloth can prevent tarnishing silverware by absorbing the moisture.

· Chalk wards off ants – chalk contains calcium carbonate which ants don’t like, so draw a chalk line around ants’ entry points into the house.

Wax paper

· Add a sheet of wax paper between stacked pans to prevent rust.

· Shine up taps after cleaning to prevent water spots and finger prints.

· Clean can openers by running the wax paper through the gears so that they run smoothly.clip_image004

· Add wax paper between wet pages of a book to make it as good as new once dry.

Vinegar

· Pour vinegar in the cracks between bricks and patio flagstones to prevent weeds; the acidity can kill off weeds in one dousing.

· Freshen up wilted leaf vegetables by soaking them in two cups of cold water mixed with a tablespoon of vinegar, leave for 10 minutes, rinse, dry and serve.

· Prevent mouldy hard cheese by wrapping a vinegar-soaked cloth in vinegar around it and sealing in an airtight container. The vinegar prevents mould spores.

Salt

· Remove dirt from spinach and green leaves by swirling them around a bowl of salty water.

· Clean greasy pans by shaking some salt into them – the salt absorbs the grease.

· Remove burnt spots from the bottom of your iron by sprinkling salt on brown paper and running the hot iron over it.

 

Petroleum jelly (Vaseline™)

· Rub petroleum jelly into pets paw to clip_image006soothe dryness and cracked pads.

· Dab around your nails to neaten your nail polish application, if you make a mistake the polish will easily wipe away.

· Dab some around light bulb threads when putting a new light bulb in, this will prevent dirt and dust and be easier to remove without sticking.

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· Organising your home

· How has social etiquette changed?

How has our social etiquette changed through the decades?

clip_image002There’s no denying it, our social etiquette has changed significantly in the last few decades. British etiquette was quintessential and renowned throughout the world, with the English placing a great deal of importance on good manners. However, here are some courtesies that have been left by the wayside:

1. Gentlemen were expected to open the door for ladies; now if he does this he’s afraid that he’ll be accused of chauvinism.

2. It was suggested in the bygone era that children should be seen and not heard. Now if children don’t scream, shout and cause mayhem people assume that they’re not well adjusted.

3. Cohabitation prior to marriage with another person was considered a sin. In this day and age it’s considered the norm; in fact if a couple are considering marriage and they don’t live together then people think there’s something wrong!

4. Table conversation was considered good manners. Now with our busy schedules, getting everyone to the table for dinner, let alone to have a conversation, is actually considered something of an achievement.

5. Speaking with your mouth full was bad manners, apparently it’s not anymore. However, I have yet to see people encourage this: “David, what have I told you about speaking with an empty mouth?”.

6. When a person said “Excuse me” they waited until they got the attention of the other person. Now “Excuse me” is accompanied with elbows and quite possibly a shoulder shove – a good reason to take up Kung Fu.

7. “May I have that, please?” has been replaced with “Give me that, will you?” When you remind people about the magic word, they look at you as though you’ve suggested jumping off a high rise building for fun.

8. During conversation it was expected that both parties would make eye contact. Now if you insist on eye contact during a conversation you immediately offend the other party as you’ve interrupted their interaction with an electronic device.

Modern life has become a minefield of do’s and don’ts. Whereas once abandoning the fish knife – the height of chic for Victorians – was seen as the ultimate sin, does our lifestyle that’s based around technology determine how we now fit in?

Read our tips to leaving work at the door to take further steps to improve your work/life balance.

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· Managing your work/life balance

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Work/life balance: 10 tips for managing in the workplace

clip_image002Time. Do we have enough of it at work to finish our tasks and meet our deadlines? Here we offer some tips to get productive and stay balanced at work; simple changes that you can put into effect straight away. These tips may also change how you look at your projects and work more effectively, improving your time management skills.

1. Start your work within five minutes of sitting down at your desk; avoid procrastination first thing in the morning as this will only distract you from starting your work.

2. Value your time and other people will do the same.

3. When things become pressurised, ignore emails and concentrate on the job in hand. Regular interruption will only hold you up from reaching your deadline, unnecessarily prolonging the job in hand.

4. Are you putting off a task? Why? Are you worried about it? Is it too difficult or too boring? We can waste a lot of time and energy on the things we’re putting off – the task is still going to be there so face up to it, it still needs to be done.

5. Finish your working day at a fixed time, avoid letting work take over your evening. If you do need to stay often set two finishing times, one for the ideal day and one to complete overdue work, but still set a time to go home, even if it’s a little later than the ideal day.

6. Sleep. Sleep deprivation has the same impact on workers as binge drinking (read HR Magazine article). Women are more at risk than men, with 35% of women having poor sleep compared to 31% of men. There is a profound correlation between depression and poor sleep.

7. Complete a time audit or diary of your work in one week and see where all your time is going. This could show areas for improvement and redistribution of effort.

8. Take small breaks when you need them during the day to help you refocus and recharge.

9. Don’t underestimate how long something will take. It’s better to be ahead rather than behind on a deadline.

10. Take breaks from work in the evenings, weekends and on holiday to help you to stay productive in the long term.

Simple changes to your working day will help you to see where your time is going and identify any reasons for any unnecessary pressure. It’s not that complicated, it’s just about taking a step back and reassessing where your time is going.

Read our tips to leaving work at the door to take further steps to improve your work/life balance.

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· Managing your work/life balance

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Work/life balance: an employer’s responsibility

clip_image002The work/leisure concept was invented in the 1800s with the supporting definition that happiness was to have as little separation as possible between work and play. The expression “work/life balance” was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s to describe an individual’s balance between work and personal life.

Employee assistance professionals suggest that there are many reasons for the increasing conflict between work/life balance, one being that parents who are affected by work may avoid family life in order to manage their work obligations and the accelerating pace of technology.

Companies are now realising the importance of work/life balance in their employees’ productivity and creativity. Recent research has shown that employees who saw that their company’s efforts to support work/life balance were favourable and as such employees indicated lower intentions to leave their organisation, and were more likely to recommend it as a place to work due to improved job satisfaction.

Employers are now able to offer a range of initiatives such as flexible working hours, with more proactive employers providing compulsory leave and strict maximum working hours that encourage employees to go home on time, and not work after hours.

In Europe, the Working Time Directive has implemented a maximum 48 hour working week, although many other countries have opted for fewer working hours. The European Quality of Life survey discovered that countries in South Eastern Europe had the most common work/life balance problems. In Croatia and Greece, 70% of working citizens suggested that they were too tired to complete household chores at least several times a month because of work pressure.

In Britain, legislation has been granted to allow parents of children under six years old to request a more flexible work schedule. Employers must approve this request as long as it doesn’t damage the business.

Read our tips to leaving work at the door to take further steps to improve your work/life balance.

Work/life balance in the UK

clip_image002[11]The British are becoming more and more aware of the issue of a work-life balance, especially with the current nature of the economy and business environments forcing many employees to work longer hours. However, the UK is taking the lead from larger international corporations where policies have been introduced to reduce the pressure of work on private life. This current thinking aims to improve work-life balance for all parties: the company, the individual and the customer.

People in the United Kingdom on average work 1,654 hours a year

Whilst the working week is officially set at 48 hours, the UK has opted out of the European Working Time Directive which means that employees may work more hours if they provide written consent. As such, UK employees are working longer hours with an increased intensity of work. Many employees suggest that they are now working as hard as they can and unable to work any harder. These factors contribute to work/life balance awareness and the important issue of how work demands are regularly affecting family commitments.

Workers in the UK currently work the longest hours in Europe, take the shortest lunch breaks and enjoy the fewest public holidays

Unless employees can manage the demands of work, family, home and leisure then they are more susceptible to illness and stress and unable to perform to their full potential.

Employers are now recognising the importance of a fit and healthy workforce by providing incentives such as free fruit, discount gym membership or organising lunchtime activities. Eating lunch at your desk is one of the most common sights in a modern office environment, but it’s a proven fact that getting out of the office at lunchtime helps to refresh employees and maintain concentration throughout the day. As such, more and more companies are offering activities such as yoga, running clubs or team competitions.

Getting the balance right is tricky, sure, but talking your work hours through with your boss is a positive step. Making the smallest changes can make a big difference to you and your family’s lives. Try to come home relaxed - people pick up on moods so take 10 minutes to wind down, leave work at the door and enjoy your family time together.

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How to leave work at the door

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Had a rough day at the office? When we feel this way it’s inevitable that we will go home and complain about what’s going on at work. We need to change this habit otherwise we’ll bring everyone else around us down, having a negative effect on the whole household. Here are some tips to help you leave work at the door.

  • Remember when we were at school and parents asked what we learnt at school that day? It is a positive question- so when you walk in talk about the best thing that happened in your day, regardless how small it was. This will have the effect of starting the evening off on a positive note.
  • Use the commute to switch off and put your favourite music on. Singing along can even help you to refocus – however if you’re on a train or bus this may not endear you to your fellow passengers…
  • Avoid taking work home with you, if you remember that you have to do something for the following day then send yourself a reminder email and put it out of your mind.
  • Act like a tourist on your way home – it sounds strange but we are constantly thinking and don’t take the time to enjoy our surroundings. Instead of concentrating on what happened in our work day, appreciate the scenery and look at things you perhaps haven’t noticed before.
  • Change your clothes as soon as you get home. This is a physical reminder that you’ve been at work and can help your mind to shut off. This also helps children when they come back from school; changing out of their uniform can shift their mindset too.
  • Take some time out for you to chill out; sitting and talking can go a long way to reconnect with the household.

There’s no need to make too many changes, otherwise you may face a brick wall to alter everything at once. Everyone has times where they are unable to switch off from work, but try taking one simple step at a time and enjoy your home without letting work come through the door with you.

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· How important is a work/life balance

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Tips to manage work (to achieve work/life balance)

clip_image002Our school days seem a distant memory: no responsibilities, a free and easy life... These days, however, we seem overwhelmed by work and finding that perfect balance is a challenge for us all. Here are some tips to help you manage your work life, in order to spend more time in your personal life.

“My work day and commute prevents me from finding the time to spend on basic things such as shopping, housework or spending time with my family and friends...!

Tip #1 – time calendar

We budget our money, why not budget our time? While you can earn more money, it’s hard to earn time lost. Work out how much time you’re spending working and you’re left with time you can spend on your actual life to do the things you want and need to do.

Tip #2 – manage expectations

So you have to work late one evening; try leaving work early later in the week to make up for the personal time lost. Most businesses don’t pay you for the extra work, but you feel a responsibility to meet work deadlines. Employers should understand the importance of personal time.

Tip #3 – look at what’s important

What’s more important, your job or your life? Sadly most people will assume it’s their job, however some countries will suggest it’s their life – these are people that even build siestas into their working day and still achieve what they want because they are managing their time effectively.

Tip #4 – less is more

Working mad hours isn’t always productive. Work more, sacrifice your personal life, and get stressed. The stress of long hours reduces productivity and can cancel the benefits of working extra hours. You do best by working fewer, higher-quality hours.

Tip #5 – schedule personal time first

If you schedule personal time first then you can meet work deadlines in the left over time in your schedule. Organise a family dinner at the same time each evening, and you will find a way to meet your work deadlines in order to get home at that time. If not, then complete the work at home after dinner – this way it’s not eating into your personal schedule.

All these small changes aren’t that hard to build into your day: work less, do more and have a better life!

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