Take the Stress out of the Holidays with These Simple Tips

The holiday season is right around the corner and some of us are already stressing out. Just the thought of staying up for Black Friday (which starts on Thanksgiving for some retailers), and standing in lines to make sure to get the right gift for everybody without spending too much money is enough to make someone have a full-fledged panic attack.

Fortunately, there are things to do to bring your blood pressure down and end up feeling pretty good about the holidays. Here are some ideas to make this your first real stress-free holiday season.

It’s Good Enough

Sometimes “good enough” is the best thing you can do to de-stress. Why not have a regular Christmas tree this year instead of the 12-foot spruce you got last year? It’s easier to decorate and take down, and they both have that holiday pine smell.

Black Friday

There isn’t anyone who likes to stand in line. Retailers do go a little crazy with slashing the prices on Black Friday, so you can’t really pass up the lines.

Before you go braving the shopping centers, make a list ahead of time of what you want to purchase, and then take a look online to check out everything on your list so that wherever you go you can get in and get out as quickly as possible. Check the hours of each store. Retailers extend their hours for the holidays, and some are even starting Black Friday sales at 8:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

Some retail websites offer deals sent directly to your inbox, so you don’t miss anything. Retailers like Walmart provide an email sign up for Black Friday deals. This makes planning your holiday shopping simple and stress-free.

Free Shipping

Some retailers offer free shipping year-round while others off the free service exclusively for the holidays. After checkout, always save your tracking number and be sure to factor in shipping delays due to weather during your time of purchase to save yourself from potential shipping headaches.

Cyber Monday

If you’re not a fan of the Black Friday crowds, take advantage of Cyber Monday savings. Get online early because popular items tend to sell out quickly. Make sure you go over your final order when you check out—websites do make mistakes.

Shopping Tips

Always look for the hidden cashiers—sometimes there is a clerk standing at a customer service desk or a beauty counter. No matter what you’re purchasing, you can check out anywhere in the store. You can even make a purchase at the pharmacy if you have a prescription waiting.

Get your gifts wrapped for free! Ask about it, because the store may not tell you about it. If the retailer doesn’t do it (which they almost always do), visit the middle of the mall, groups and charities wrap gifts for a small donation.

Final De-Stressing Thoughts

Keep it simple! Maybe this year you could just send traditional Christmas cards instead of the family photo greeting cards you always send out. You’ll save time and money. Plus, you won’t have to worry about wrangling up the family to sit in on a scheduled photo shoot. Send out your cards without a hitch—a USPS spokesperson told Real Simple that the best time to go to the post office during the holidays is 30 minutes after the doors open.

Decorate simply, cook simple dishes or make a reservation and eat out. And if you entertain, make it intimate.

Less work, less stress—it may become a new holiday tradition.

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How Television Can Assist with Stress Management

This article has been kindly supplied by our regular contributor, Jared Hill.

For many people, the hectic pace of daily life is simply too much to handle at times. And while the digital era has brought us an innumerable amount of conveniences, it’s also  made it nearly impossible to escape and simply take a moment to relax. Between work responsibilities, your personal life, and anything and everything else that sneaks its way into your schedule, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Winding down and taking a moment to watch TV may seem like a quick way to become a couch potato, and leave you feeling guilty, but it can actually do more for your health than you realize!

Of course, we’re not advocating living a sedentary lifestyle, but there have been studies that have shown a relationship between stress reduction and laughter. In fact, in a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, they showed that laughter stimulates your organs almost immediately, thanks to your increased oxygen intake. It also causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure (similar to exercise, though not as extreme). This means that with humorous shows, you’ll immediately get a release of endorphins, which not only create a feeling of euphoria but also reduce physical pain. The study showed that frequently having a good laugh will even improve your immune system, since there is a direct correlation between negative thoughts manifesting and chemical reactions in the body, which in turn can lead to illness. In other words, people who laugh more often are not only happier, but healthier. I bet you didn’t know you were doing so much for your health when you sat around watching old episodes of The Big Bang Theory!

Besides providing you with a good chuckle, there is a whole new sub-genre of television shows that encourage making healthier lifestyle choices, which can greatly reduce your stress levels as well as improve your overall health. One of the leaders of this pack is the Food Network, who is working to change their high calorie reputation (although those foods are certainly still there) in order to promote healthier eating and shows. Leading the charge at the Food Network to encourage us to eat not only for our bodies but our minds is Ellie Krieger who, with her show Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger, is showing millions how to not only cook healthy food, but make it delicious at the same time. She has years of experience and a truly impressive resume, which includes two New York Times best-sellers, a period as a NYU adjunct professor, and contributions to a number of shows and magazines, like her regular columns in Women’s Health – she knows her stuff, to say the least. Thanks to the convenience of the Ellie’s Food Network website and on demand TV, you can tune into Ellie’s show anytime you want, and additionally print out her recipes to have on hand for the particularly stressful times, when you should be eating your healthiest.

Of course, the most famous show advocating a healthy lifestyle right now is NBC’s The Biggest Loser. You may think that the lessons learned on there only serve you if you’re trying to lose weight. While that may be true for some, their advocation of a healthy diet and regular exercise are tools that can dramatically reduce both your short and long term stress levels. In another study by the Mayo Clinic it was found that regular exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, allow you a mental distraction, and help improve your sleep, which is vital to keeping stress levels low. So, the next time you’re watching the show, join in on their exercises!

While these ideas might not be the most mainstream, we live in a nation where television still reigns king. If you’re likely to end up watching television at some point in the day, you might as well get a good laugh, some exercise, or learn something new from it. And to think, your mother said too much television would rot your brain…

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De-Stress and Decompress in the Pool

Whether you have your own swimming pool at home or go to the local gym for swim time, a pool can help you relax, unwind, and manage stress. Swimming laps is a healthy, no-impact aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate up and helps you shake off the tensions of the week while conditioning your heart and muscles. Floating in the pool with your sunglasses on and a cool drink in hand lets you decompress and take a mental break. Using the pool for exercise, fun, and relaxation relieves the stress of the day or the week to get you into a better frame of mind.

Relax in the Pool

One way to use the pool to manage stress is to take some time to relax. Float in the water on a comfortable floating recliner, pool lounge chair, or foam sling chair from In The Swim for half an hour after a stressful day at work. Use this time in the pool to practice some relaxation techniques recommended by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Try progressive muscle relaxation by slowly tensing muscle groups and then relaxing them, starting with your feet or your arms. Clench your toes and your leg muscles, hold for 10 seconds, then slowly unclench and relax. Tense, hold, and relax your thigh muscles next, then your shoulders, then your hands.
  • Use visualization to relax while you are floating. Close your eyes and imagine something pleasant, engaging smell, sound, sight, and touch to visualize yourself on a tropical beach, in a beautiful forest, or in whatever comfortable and pleasant place you enjoy.
  • Try deep breathing while you’re floating to release any tensions and frustrations, taking in a deep breath and holding it for a few counts, then exhaling slowly.

Exercise in the Pool

The Mayo Clinic recommends getting active as one way to relieve stress, and swimming is an excellent way to add physical activity without impact on feet, ankles, and knees. Physical activity increases endorphins and other natural chemicals that enhance and promote feelings of well-being, and focuses your mind away from stressful thoughts and moods.

Besides swimming laps, exercise guru Jillian Michaels recommends swimming pool activities like leg lifts, using a kickboard to lay down and kick with your feet, and water walking by lifting your legs up to ab-level while walking the length of the pool. Charlotte Hilton Andersen, fitness author of “The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything,” says the swimming pool is a great place to burn calories and tone your entire body. She recommends exercises like pedaling your legs as if bicycling, doing bicep curls with a weight bar, doing plies, and doing abdominal crunches in the water for the extra resistance to get a relaxing workout.

Play in the Pool

Another recommendation from the Mayo Clinic to relieve stress in the pool is to laugh more and connect with others. This is easy to do in the pool, with water games like tossing a beach ball, playing volleyball, or just splashing around with friends or kids. Laughing with people you enjoy lightens your mood and calms your stress response. Making social connections distracts you from thinking about a rough day or a frustrating problem and helps you to change your focus. Playing or just hanging out in the water are activities that help you manage stress by having fun.

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How to Reduce Online Job Interview Stress

Video chat type job interview is on the rise across many sectors. According to figures released by The Aberdeen Group, a market research firm, over 10% of US based companies used real time two-way video software to interview candidates. If you are about to attend this type of interview, you will do well to read and follow up on the following tips to reduce stress and increase your chances of success.

Software – Most interviews are conducted using the free software Skype or GoToMeeting. Both are not only free, but also cross-platform, meaning that you install the software on your desktop, laptop or tablet devices. Skype also works well on smartphones, but this device isn’t recommended for jobs interviews. Smartphones are prone for interruptions (in-coming call, text message etc) and battery life is often insufficient. Whichever software you use, install, configure and get to know it well before the interview starts.

Configure With Some Thought – Popular video chat software such as Google Hangouts, Viber and Skype require a mandatory username and optional profile picture. Whichever username you pick, be sure it is suitable for the occasion. It will be visible to the interviewer so using a combination of your name is preferable over nickname for example. Similarly, the profile picture is visible to the other party. Once you have signed up and configured the software, send your username to the recruiter.

Pick The Right Settings – The interview should take place in a well-lit noiseless area where background noise is muted and the backdrop won’t distract you or the interviewer. A meeting room is the optimal location if you have access to one. If you are conducting the interview at home, be sure to check and if necessary tidy-up the background behind you. Use the software ‘picture-in-picture’ feature to see how the other party sees you and your surroundings. If possible, disconnect your landline phone, leave a note on the doorbell asking to knock instead of ringing the bell and close the door behind you.

Practice – For most candidates, video chat job interview is new. You will improve your chances tremendously by taking a dry run at it in the form of mock interview. Ask a family member, friend, even an agency recruiter to interview you over video.

Dress The Part – Perhaps one of the most common mistakes that can negatively affect your chances is not dressing professionally head to toe. Beyond studies that clearly demonstrate that dressing accordingly helps you get into the right mindset, there is a chance that the interviewer will see your entire stature. Dressing code tips which are designed for normal face-to-face interviews apply here as well. You should aim to wear solid colour suit with white long sleeve shirt and tie. Dark socks with black shoes can complete your look. Pay attention to your hairstyle and avoid wearing too much jewellery.

During The Interview – Just before the interview starts, switch off all non-essential software to reduce interruption. Look at the camera, not the screen. This is the nearest you will get to make eye contact with the interviewer, a recommended job interview technique to establish rapport.  If you look at the screen, you will lose eye contact and you risk coming across disinterested to the other party. If you require notes (even a copy of your CV) for the interview, prepare these before hand. The noise that searching for papers makes isn’t pleasant to the other party.

Troubleshooting – Technology can at time let you down. However, this is actually your chance to shine. Recruiters often look for ‘problem solvers’ and overcoming an obstacle during an interview will demonstrate just that. If video connection was lost, wait for the initiator to call you back. During which time, you should try and setup a backup device in case your main device is at fault. Other actions to consider:

  • Check your Internet connection

  • Check the software on your backup device

  • Connect your homepage or switch on your mobile phone in case the interviewer is trying to get a hold of you

  • Check your email for the same reason

If all fails, ask the interviewer to continue the interview over phone.

Ending – After the interview is over, email the interviewer thanking them for the opportunity, their time and advising that you are prepared to answer any further questions they might have.

Good luck.

Written by The Carling Partnership Ltd (CPL) an international search and selection company working exclusively within the brewing, distilling, cider and soft drinks industries.


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Celebrate Your Wins

Working exhausting hours day after day without rest or reward is a recipe for a health breakdown. It is vital that you take time out to celebrate your achievements and to take the appropriate rewards.

These celebrations are landmarks of your achievements and also provide motivation fuel to keep going.

Sometimes people have jobs where the reward is the job itself. If you love your work then it will probably be reasonable free of stress. Despite this it is important to take time out and to direct your attention elsewhere. Not only is this psychologically refreshing it is also creatively refreshing.

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