Unwrap the Gift Only You Can Give

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     Hello again! Finals are over and now a different chaos is settling in. Christmas. With so many events to attend, from cookie exchanges to several dinners, it can be easy to run short on time. The kids are home for break and you have even less time for your to-do list(s)! How can you make this time of year less stressful and enjoy the ones you love? Being pulled in so many directions it is easy for many of us to feel out of control. Put yourself back in control and save your sanity! Here are some tips:

  1. Breathe– Oxygen helps remind your body that it is not in emergency mode. Even if you feel like it, your hair is not on fire.
  2. Make a List. Check it twice. Prioritize people, events, recipes, etc. Check with those you will be dragging along, to see what events they find important. Then you can come up with a combined priority list.
  3. Make a New Year’s Resolution to show the people in your life how much you care through out the year, instead of trying to fit it into one season. Out of guilt we often try to see everyone this once a year. Then we vow to meet up more after the holidays. How about actually planning time in the year to get together? Set a reminder on your phone to get a hold of one person each month. This lessens the obligation to see EVERYONE during the holidays. 
  4. Find one outfit that works for you and change up the way you wear it. It can be stressful to pick out the perfect outfits for parties. If you pick one piece, and change up the accessories, add a jacket, loose a jacket, pair with leggings, or wear your hair differently, you can have different looks and keep it simple. You can get ideas from online magazines like http://www.modcitymag.com for tips. 
  5.  Make some of the to-do’s something the kids can join in on. Carve out extra time to complete them. Kids take a little patience and lots of paper towels. The trade off is worth the effort, because kids also make memories special.
  6. Communicate with those who more or less fall lower on the priority vs. time list. Show appreciation for the invitations, and try to reschedule a time after the holidays to get together. This way you can do your part in avoiding drama and letting them know you care about his/her feelings.
  7. Rethink gifting. The commercials will tell you to buy expensive gifts and convince you that it is not fabulous to live within your means. You are not a bad parent, spouse, or friend for not going into debt for Christmas. One of my favorite gifts of all time was a great coffee mug. My friend knew how much I loved coffee and I use it almost every morning. Think about the person and do something to show you care. Maybe you and your spouse could do a coupon book for each other? How nice would it be to redeem a coupon for a back rub or breakfast in bed, or babysitting duty while one enjoys a night out with friends?
  8. Recall your favorite memories. Take time to remember the good moments either of the year or of Christmas’ past. It does the heart good to reflect on positive thoughts. Maybe you have had some tough Christmas’ but you have people who care about you. Thinking about the good things in your life can enhance everything about your life.  
  9. Be a kid. Enjoy the events along with your kids. If you don’t have kids, take the time to be a kid. Soak in all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season. Don’t just get through Christmas, enjoy it.
  10.  Lower expectations. Mainly this probably applies to you. You are one person. You are amazing, and can probably technically physically manage to do most if not all on your list. Think about this though, how are those you care about seeing you? What message are you sending when you are rushing everyone out to be somewhere, pushing your children out of the kitchen so you can make the perfect dish, or freak out about messes? What really matters? If we stop expecting perfection out of ourselves, maybe we can stop expecting perfection out of others. This trickle effect may promote a society change. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” (Sy Miller and Jill Jackson) 
  11. Make meals easy. If you are doing a lot of cooking and baking, meal time can be stressful. Lower the stress by making a breakfast strata for well… breakfast. You could do chili and have it as soup for one night, spaghetti for another(over pasta with reduced-fat cheese), and then a walking taco for yet another (add Frito chips and low-fat sour cream, shredded lettuce, and reduced-sodium taco seasoning). You could also do a shepherd’s pie or other tasty one dish wonders. If you need something light, roast a chicken in a crock-pot and use it to top a salad, shred it and add bbq for a sandwich, or use it for chicken tacos. This way you can feel good about what you are feeding your family without the hassle of preparing big meals every night. You simply make one item work for several days. 

I hope these tips help you and your family better enjoy this season. Feel free to share your ideas below or comments about my tips. Do you feel they are practical? 

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Back to School Sanity

Back to School Sanity

Whether you are the student or the one responsible for a student this is a crazy time of year. You begin to get used to the summer routine just to be thrown a curve ball. I know because I am a student and in my senior year. These are a few things I have done in the past that may help you as well:

1. Get rest. As plain and simple as this may sound, how often do we do so? No one can be their best without rest.

2. Pack lunches the night before, even for those who pack lunch and are not attending school. This avoids the morning rush. Maybe even get the kids involved in making it themselves. They may be less likely to complain too.

3. Get organized. Have a family calendar prominently placed with everyone’s schedule scribbled in. Maybe even chores, so it helps streamline expectations of the day.

4. A nightly routine that brings everyone together, even if only for 10 minutes. Stress can be reduced with a routine and the comfort of knowing you have each other at the end of the day and can provide security.

5. Set your coffee alarm and use it. Maybe you prefer hot tea or oatmeal, but set the hot something to be made, waiting for you to rise. Nothing is more stressful than running late.

6. Reward yourself or your student with something at the end of the day. It may be a nice warm bath, story time, good book in the quiet, or even a square of good chocolate. Find time for something you enjoy even if it is only 5-10 minutes.

7. Remind yourself (or your student) of the positive moments or accomplishments of the day. It is okay to vent over the horrible mishaps and learn from them, but focus on the positive. It boosts your confidence and makes the learning and social aspects of school easier to cope with.

8. Eat well. When you eat well, you nourish your body. When your body feels nourished it keeps additional stress signals sent by your hormones, away. It also boosts your confidence in your decision-making.

9. Remind yourself that perfection is not the goal. Your best is. The ability to let go of the pressure to know everything opens you to become more of a knowledge vessel. It makes the learning experience more exciting and less stressful. Whether you teach or are a student there is always something to learn.

I hope this helps you feel better about the new road ahead! What do you do that helps you or your students feel less stressed? Tips and tricks are welcome!!

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Change Your Space for Free

Change Your Space for Free

Want a new feel for your living space, but no budget? Simply rearrange what you have. A few simple tips: Do not block natural light. Allow room to flow naturally. Create a focus. Make sure the room is functional . You can also switch out rugs and pillows to create a new vibe. Just be sure the theme stays consistent in each piece or plays well with others. This may prove to enhance your mood and reduce stress. You also get a chance to get those pesky areas you can’t seem to reach when cleaning. Who knows what you might be inspired to change next?

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Eat More!

Eat More!

Are you hitting a plateau in your weight-loss efforts? Eat more! You read me right. Sometimes we plateau because we need more to fuel for our burners. Muscles need proper nutrition to build and burn. This is not an excuse to choose poor nutrition. It is a chance to maximize your gains and effort. You only need to add about a fourth of one regular meal size to get the gains. Adding an extra low calorie snack can be the best way to boost your intake. It probably does not take much, but you can play with it and see what works for you. It really depends on how undernourished you might be. Not eating enough results in your body going into survival mode and slows metabolism, stores fat more readily, and signals Cortisol to be released. No body wants that.

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Natural Benefits

Natural Benefits

When is the last time you reconnected with nature? Some studies suggest that surrounding yourself with nature increases creativity, reduces anxiety, may increase attention span, boosts immunity, cheers you up, gets you moving, and even gets you a bit of help in problem solving. So make plans to get outside and live!

Health = Wealth

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So often we associate healthful living with a high price tag. Just the thought of paying for another gym membership, gear, healthy food, and so on can have us racking up numbers fast. Whatever motivation we had to change is going, going, gone. Well I am here to remove some of those barriers. Being healthy can shrink your bottom line and your waistline.

You do not need to have a gym membership to get healthy. You can join a class, as many local schools and churches offer them for only $5 a session. You don’t pay if you don’t go. You can always hire a personal trainer to visit you once in a while to create a program at home with what you have. At-home equipment can be inexpensive. Cardio can be as cheap as a pair of running shoes, dancing video game, or a $10 fitness video. Just keep moving. Strength training can be inexpensive too. Use your own body weight to lift and lower. You can use household products as weights (cans of soup, milk jugs, kids,  etc.). Be creative.

Making your free-time activities (as rare as they may seem) more about actually being active can save you money. Just think about the cost of a movie-night out. The toll can quickly turn into $25 a person if you get a small snack and drink. That doesn’t account for dinner. If you replace every 2 normal movie-night outs with watching the sunset as you walk at the park, heading up to a local gym for a round of racquetball (guest passes are usually available cheap),  stay in for a dance-a-thon, or play kinect/ Wii U active games against your buddies you could save quite a bit over the span of a year. Obstacle races are becoming popular, why not make your own mini-version? Imagination doesn’t have to be left in the school yard. Maybe even have a yoga night at home where you eat a light Indian dish and try new poses. Get creative and make sure it is something you will actually enjoy.

When it comes to healthy eating, it can seem impossible to cut costs. We all have heard that organic is healthier for you. The costs at the store can make your wallet want to duck and cover sometimes. There are good deals, and knowing where to get them is key. First you prioritize what is most important to buy organic. The fruits and veggies with a thin layer of skin are usually the top of the list. Plan some of your meals to be vegetarian to help lower costs elsewhere. You can also compare store prices against local farmers markets. Meat sources can be expensive and full of hormones, so limiting their amounts can help you cut costs. Try to make some dishes that normally call for cheese without it. Let the natural flavors shine. Take one white sugar product out a week and replace it with something fresh. Look in your pantry and see what you already have. Try to plan some meals with those items.

There are ways being healthy may seem to cost more upfront. In the end though investing in your health saves on other costs. Think about how many times you have to buy bigger clothes to accommodate your bigger size. After shopping you may go eat something to make you “feel better” and not cook what you already had planned. Then there are the medications, tests, and surgeries that you have to help pay for because of the symptoms of your lifestyle. They quickly add up! Also think about long-term care when you age. You can either have something to give those you love or need it to care for yourself. Without realizing it, you have robbed yourself and the people you care about of the best you there is. You are pretty stinking great, so don’t do that. 

   Fat-laden meals,  self-defeated attitudes, harmful relationships, sedentary lifestyles, stressful jobs will catch up with you eventually. Learning to limit or even eradicate these things from your life can improve your quality of life so greatly, you will wake up in the morning and go absolutely ape. When you allow these shadows to cloud your true self, it effects your back pocket as well. You can be healthier one choice at a time, and gain back the money you earn one dime at a time.