3 Things You Should Be Doing to Beat Holiday Stress

beat holiday stress

Breathe. Take a step back. Focus on now.

We all know the basics of mindfulness. However, when things start moving quickly, as they often do over the Novermber-December holidays, it’s easy to forget. Stress can cast a shadow over the holidays – but these holiday mindfulness tips can help beat stress before it makes its mark.

Let Your Emotions Come

For many people, the holidays invoke a whole host of mixed emotions. The decorations and the music can bring both the warm, fuzzy side of nostalgia and a sense of loss and longing over days gone by. Gift-giving can invoke both excitement and anxiety over giving (and receiving) the perfect gift. For those who find themselves alone, the holidays can exacerbate feelings of isolation.

This is normal. Expect it and accept it. Don’t bury your negative emotions for the sake of playing the perfect host – give yourself time and space to acknowledge your feelings, and if possible, share them with someone you trust.

Know Your Needs

Once December rolls around, you often find yourself with a whole lot more on your plate than you did in previous months. Even if your family eschews the mandatory gift-giving, it’s likely you’ll be expected to appear at a number of holiday-related functions, which can ramp up the stress for those who find these events difficult. The marathon of obligations can be exhausting.

Don’t let your own needs get lost in the holiday hustle. You can’t please everyone, and sometimes, it’s better to sit out for your own sake. If you find yourself the host of these events, find someone who can help share the responsibilities so you have time to care for yourself as well.

Let Go

Just think: a few weeks from now, you’ll probably be sitting down with your family for a traditional holiday meal. Does the scene fill you with excitement? Or did a little bit of dread just enter your heart?

Some people have nothing but good feelings for their families. But for many, family gatherings are a mixed bag. There are happy reunions, to be sure, but there are also old grudges and difficult memories.

By now, you’re probably already looking ahead to 2018. While it’s important not to dwell too much on things yet to come, living in the past can be just as destructive. The holidays can be a helpful opportunity to contemplate things you’ve been holding onto, and let go.

Exercise Can Help With Your Depression

We all know the amazing things that regular exercise does for the human body and our overall health. However, did you know that regular physical activity is also good for your brain? Not only does it help to make us mentally sharper, exercise can actually help you to overcome bouts of depression and/or anxiety.

You know how good you feel after a workout? Those brain chemicals generated by physical activity can also help depressed people achieve a greater sense of balance. Best of all, they are doing it in a completely natural way that has other benefits for them as well and can supplement additional forms of therapy without causing any kind of conflict.

By Anne Kohler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Getting out to the gym, or even just going for a run in the area, increase the possibilities for human connection. That means a better chance of meeting someone who can become a friend and an ally. People suffering from depression and anxiety will often isolate themselves, but this only makes their conditions worse in the long run. Getting out of their home and exercising has a dual benefit in this case.

People with mental health problems usually don’t sleep well because their minds are often racing with distracting thoughts they have trouble turning off. Exercising helps to tire you out; when timed right, this can increase make both body and mind more receptive to sleep.

Exercising, particularly when doing activities like Pilates which stretch the muscles, can be great for reducing muscle tension. People battling mental health problems tend to have tense muscles, which leads to discomfort, additional anxiety or depression, and poor sleep. Stretching and relaxing those muscles can help to reduce the symptoms by causing both mind and body to attain a greater sense of ease.

 

Don’t Forget the Importance of Fire Safety

Contemporary life has many responsibilities, so it is difficult to keep up with all of them. That can often mean addressing the most urgent ones first and then ultimately forgetting about some other important issues. For example, if our furnace dies, that is something at the forefront of our mind and a problem that will be fixed posthaste. This results in things like fire safety not always receiving the attention they should. Here are some reasons why you need to remember this important issue:

Smoke alarms

Make sure that you have one installed on every floor of your home including the attic and basement. Be sure to periodically test them to make sure that the battery or electrical connection is still working. Mark a date on your calendar each month so that you remember to do it.

Keep an eye on the stove

It always pays to be attentive when cooking because you food tends to turn out better that way. Also, it makes for a safer kitchen since you are keeping an eye on what you have cooking. Do not ever put something on the stove and then leave the kitchen for an extended period because you may come back to a house on fire.

Map out an escape plan

Sit down with your family and discuss what you will do in case of a fire. Make sure that everyone knows where the exits are and what they should do if they cannot access one of them. If you are not sure about how to do this, consult your local fire department for advice.

Smoking safety

If you must smoke, make sure to do it outside only. Do not under any circumstances smoke in bed or anywhere near oxygen containers. Make sure that all cigarette and cigar butts are extinguished (you can use water just to make sure). E-cigarettes are not exempt from safety concerns; they can have faulty batteries that ignite during charging.

Thinking About Starting a Blog? Here’s Why You Definitely Should

Do you have a blog? Are you thinking about starting one? Blogs have become extremely popular over the years, so we are guessing that you probably already know someone who has one. Or at least had one. It seems like many blogs are started in earnest, but soon abandoned.

So, let us say that you want to start a blog, but do not want to fall into the trap of losing interest early on. Here are some reasons why you should go ahead and give it a shot:

Practice makes perfect

While it sounds like it would be worlds away, writing is actually not all that different from, say, hockey. The similarity being that the more you practice, the better you get. It is important to maintain a regular schedule with a blog, so that means you will be writing on a regular basis. It may be time-consuming, but you will get better and it will get easier.

Meet others with similar interests

Whether your blog is read by only 100 people or 100,000 people, it provides a way for you to connect with others who have similar interests. This can result in wonderful, long-lasting friendships and sometimes even romantic relationships.

Lets your voice be heard

Before the days of the Internet, it was tough for the average person to get their opinion out there and heard. The Internet helped to level the playing field significantly. You can post and comment on social media, but having your own blog can add a level of credibility to your opinion.

You can sometimes make money with it

Blogs that have significant followings can attract major advertisers and some blog writers have been able to quit their regular jobs as a result. It can also bring you to the attention of publishers who are willing to pay you for your writing.

Your Essential Canadian Fall Maintenance Routine

Yet another Canadian summer has gone by, and it’s already time to get ready for the long, chilly winter to come. Don’t wait until the snow rolls in to prepare – take care of these essential home maintenance tasks before the last leaf hits the ground.

Check Safety Devices

It’s never a bad time to inspect your smoke and carbon monoxide detector, but it’s especially important to do so in the fall. You’ll be switching on the furnace and lighting the fireplace in the next few months, so make sure you’re protected in case of trouble. Replace batteries and test your devices to make sure they’re in good working order.

Have Your Furnace Inspected

Your furnace has been sitting dormant for the last few months, so now is the time to get it back up and running. You don’t want to wait until the cold weather hits to discover you have a problem. HVAC companies are flooded with calls at the start of each winter, and you may have to wait in line or pay a premium if you need service right away. Instead, call the pros now and have them test for leaks, check the efficiency of your furnace, and replace the air filter.

While you’re at it, it’s time to put away the air conditioner for another year. If you have a window unit, remove it and put it somewhere safe and dry until spring, and cover outdoor units to protect them from the incoming weather.

Drain outdoor faucets

You won’t be doing much gardening or car-washing this winter, so it’s best to drain out your outside taps. Shutting them off isn’t enough, as there may be leftover water in the pipes that could freeze and burst when it goes below zero. All outdoor faucets have an indoor shutoff valve, usually located on the wall of your basement where the pipe exits the house. Shut it off, then open the outside faucet to let it drain completely before turning it back into the off position.

Caulk Windows and Doors

Gaps and cracks in windows, doors, and other opening are one of the biggest sources of heat loss in the winter. To keep your heating bill from rising, do a check of the perimeter and caulk over any gaps you see between windows, doors, vents, exhaust fans, and any cables or pipes running outside the house (including the above-mentioned tap.)

If you feel a draft coming in, but you can’t spot a hole, there’s an easy way to check. Light a candle and hold it to the cold spot; if the candle flickers, you’ve got a gap. You can also identify small gaps with the help of a professional energy auditor.

Clean Eaves and Downspouts

It’s a messy job, but not as messy as dealing with the potential consequences of neglecting your eavestrough. When the channel gets clogged with leaves and debris, water can build up on your roof and seep into the house. The problem gets worse when winter rolls around, as the debris forms an ‘ice dam’ and causes snow to build up.

Once the trees are mostly done losing their leaves, climb up and remove as much of the debris as you can. Be sure to wear safety gloves, and always use safety equipment to prevent falls. If you’re not confident or you lack the necessary equipment, hire a professional to do the job for you.

 

The Benefits of Massage

Everyone loves a good massage, especially after a long day of work or a particularly vigorous game of team sports. But have you ever thought about the actual benefits of a massage? Sure, it is a great way to relieve stiffness and pain, but here are some other things to think about the next time you are lying on the table and your massage therapist is working out those kinks:

Anxiety AND DEPRESSION

Anxiety can be difficult to live with. When we are anxious, it is common for our muscles to tense up and knot. You know the feeling: you can almost feel the muscle lumps under your skin. That state can be extremely uncomfortable, which has the side effect of potentially making a person’s anxiety even worse. Massage causes your muscles to relax, making it easier for your whole body to follow suit.

Anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand, and studies show that massage can also help to ease the effects of depression.

BETTER SLEEP

The more relaxed you are, the better your sleep will likely be. Also, if you suffer from pain, the relief a massage brings can also make it easier to drop off at night.

HELPS COUNTER THE EFFECTS OF SEDENTARY JOBS

It seems like there is a new report every week on the negative effects of jobs that find people spending extended amounts of time sitting. In addition to the negative effects this can have on your circulation and heart, it can cause your muscles to become knotted up, as well as neck and back strain; a massage can help a lot with these.

IMPROVE YOUR EXERCISE LEVELS

Most exercises are more effective if the participants do some stretching first. Massage is even better at relaxing those muscles and leaving you in a physical state that is perfect for everything from Pilates to marathon running.

Relaxation Techniques for People With Anxiety

It is normal to feel some anxiety in life; it can even be a positive thing in small doses. However, when it becomes a daily occurrence or actually leads to panic attacks and other debilitating moments, this is of definite concern. There are many reasons why anxiety occurs and a therapist is the one best qualified to determine what may behind it. However, there are things you can do on your end to relieve the symptoms of anxiety:

Deep Breaths

When you feel yourself in the grip of anxiety, take several deep breaths. Set aside a few minutes a couple of times each day to practice this technique. Exhale slowly. You should feel your heart rate start to slow down. This can be done anywhere. Close your eyes if it helps you to retain focus.

Exercise

Exercise is good for us on many levels, and it also helps us to relax. It doesn’t have to be very involved; even a simple walk will help. However, if you are motivated to do something more involved and intense, absolutely do so.

Visualization

We all have places that we enjoy and hold fond memories for us. Do you like the ocean? Close your eyes and imagine gentle waves lapping against the shore on a calm summer’s day. Now imagine the sounds that go with it: a calm breeze, the water rhythmically reaching the shore and receding, the sound of seagulls talking to one another down the beach, etc. This sounds like a simple method, but it can be highly effective.

Creativity

Do you like to draw? Paint? Create word games? Doing something that stimulates your creativity can be highly effective at distracting your mind. It also helps you to accomplish something positive at a time when you are feeling unhappy about how life is going.

How and When to Start a Vegetable Garden in Ontario

Living in Ontario means dealing with fluctuating temperatures year-round, which can be a challenge for novice gardeners. But you can still have your own successful vegetable garden if you plan it right and take regular care of your plants. Here’s a starter’s guide to starting a vegetable garden in Ontario.

Size and Location

If you’re new to growing your own food, it’s best to start small. The bigger the garden, the more maintenance it’ll take to keep it healthy. We recommend choosing an area in your yard between 3 and 5 metres square. You can always expand it next year if you find you have a knack for gardening!

Choose a spot where the ground is level to ensure water doesn’t pool at one area of the garden. Vegetables need at least six hours of sun a day, so choose a spot on the southern or western side of your house that gets plenty of light.

It helps if you can pick an area close to your faucet. This will reduce the time it takes to water your garden.

Preparing the Soil

Before you start planting, prepare the soil by raking out stones and pulling weeds. The best soil for gardening is soft, loamy, and rich in nutrients. If you’re planning an organic garden, be sure your soil is organic as well.

Choosing Plants

Ontario has a short growing season, but there are still many vegetables that do well in our climate. Easy beginner plants include tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, chard, radishes, peppers, cabbage, lettuce and beets. Pick your favourites, but be sure to have a mind for companion planting. Not all vegetables do well when planted side-by-side.

As a beginner, one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether to start from seeds or seedlings. Seeds are less expensive, but they can be a challenge to get going. Buying plants from a nursery costs more, but it gives you a leg-up by eliminating the trouble of germinating the seeds. Planting seedlings also lets you start later in the growing season; seeds need to be in the ground as early as spring.

When to Plant

Here in Ontario, the weather is far too volatile to set strict planting dates. Instead, it’s best to pay attention to the soil temperature and frost when determining when to plant.

Most seeds should be planted a certain number of week before or after the ‘last frost date’, meaning the date after which there’s only a 10% chance of a hard frost. That falls mid to late May for most of southern Ontario, but it can vary year-to-year. The soil temperature can also fluctuate with the weather.

This is another reason seedlings are an easier option for newbies!

Planting

When it’s time to plant, mark your rows with stakes to indicate what kind of vegetable is there and when it was planted. Follow the instructions on the seed packet or card that came with the seedling; otherwise, you can find guidance on how to plant different vegetables on the Farmer’s Almanac site.

Be sure to plant taller plants on the northern and eastern side of your garden plot. Otherwise, they could shade the shorter plants and reduce the amount of sun they get.

If you’re working with seedlings, choose an overcast day but dry day on which to plant. This will reduce the stress on the plants.

Weeding

You should start weeding your garden right away, as they compete with your plants for nutrients and growing space. If you let them grow too much, you risk damaging the roots of your vegetables when you pull the weeds out. Set a regular schedule of once or twice a week, depending on your weed situation.

Weeding is easier on days when the soil is moist, such as the day after rain or watering.

Watering

Most vegetables need 3-4cm of water each week to thrive. You must water your plants several times a week if it doesn’t rain, especially when your plants are young. Small plants have shallow roots, so they can’t reach the moist soil further below the surface.

Always water in the morning or early afternoon. Watering later in the day means the leaves will be wet overnight, which makes them more susceptible to pests and fungal disease.

Mulching

Mulch is a soil cover made from organic material like hay, leaves, peat moss, or grass clipping, Once your plants have reached a height of 10cm or more, you should lay mulch around them. This helps to prevent weeds and cools the soil down to conserve moisture.

Planning a Landscape in 7 Steps

Creating a beautiful landscape takes time.

A landscape should be both beautiful and functional for the people who use it. Home renovation shows make it look easy, but good landscaping takes a lot of time and planning. Before you break ground, be sure you’ve considered each of the following steps in the landscaping process.

1. What Do You Need?

Think about how you plan to use the space. Do your kids need somewhere to play? Are you hoping to start a vegetable garden? How often do you have friends and family over for dinner? These answers should inform the decisions you make regarding your landscape. Don’t forget to consider special needs, such as pollen allergies and the need for wheelchair access.

2. What Do You have?

Many landscaping mistakes occur because the person forgot to consider the space they’re working with. It’s worth the time to study the sun, wind, and drainage patterns of your yard before you start planning the landscape. For instance, you may not want to put a patio in an area that gets tons of sunlight, but a vegetable garden would go great there.

3. Consider Maintenance

How much time and money are you willing to spend keeping your landscape beautiful? Think about how much effort it’ll take to mow that lawn, water those flowers, and weed that garden bed. You can cut the time you spend on maintenance by adding some low-maintenance plants, like shrubs and trees, and covering areas of lawn with a patio.

4. Sketch it Out

While you surely have a vision of the perfect yard, it can be hard to visualize the steps you need to take to make it come together. Once you’ve decided what need from the space, draw an overhead map of your yard on a piece of graph paper and start sketching it out.

5. Start with the Hardscape

Hardscaping refers to elements of the landscape that will remain static, like a porch, sidewalk, driveway, deck, fence, patio, or rocks. Adding the hardscape usually involves some construction, so you should get it done before you start planting.

6. Lay the Soil

It takes time for plants to grow in and look their best, but you can speed up the process and ensure your plants take root by adding good soil with organic matter. Loose, fertile soil will help your new plants establish quickly. The DIY Network recommends using a garden hose to lay out the lines of your garden beds, then use orange spray paint to mark the lines before you put down soil.

7. Choose the Right Plants

Your choice of plants will depend on your personal preference and the climate where you live. However, there are a few key points for greenery success in any landscape:

  • Plant to compliment your house. Put low-growing shrubs and plants in front of low windows an porches, and larger plants at the corners of the house to help frame it.
  • Plant around focal points. Choose a stand-out feature that draws the eye, like a tree, sculpture, rock, or shrub, and coordinate your flower beds around it.
  • Plant with variety. Select plants of various sizes, shapes, and colours to make your landscape interesting. Spread them throughout the yard to pull the design together.

Home Maintenance To-Do’s Before the End of the Summer

Preventative home maintenance will help you avoid fall and winter disasters.

With the summer more than halfway over, it’s important to make the most of the warm weather while it lasts. There’s still time to check a few things off your home maintenance to-do list. Here are a few tasks that are best done before the fall rolls around.

Clean the Fireplace

Fall weather can be unpredictable. Sometimes, you don’t see a speck of snow until December; other years, you see kids out trick-or-treating in full winter clothing. If you’re lucky enough to have a real, wood-burning fireplace in your home, you might want to light it as early as October. Get it clean and ready to burn before the temperature drops.

To do this, get down on all fours and shine a light up the chimney from inside. Open the damper and inspect for bird or rodent nests, loose or damaged bricks, or sticky residue from previous seasons (called creosote). If you spot one of these problems, you should turn to a chimney-cleaning professional to help get your chimney up to code.

Test the Heating System

Hopefully, it will be many months before you have to switch on the furnace, but it’s still best to get your system in order now. HVAC companies get swamped in the months leading up to the winter, so you should get any problems taken care of before the busy season.

To test your heating system, try turning the thermostat up five degrees on a cool evening. If the heat doesn’t turn on and stay on, something is either wrong with the thermostat or the system itself.

Try replacing the thermostat’s batteries to start. Once you’ve ruled that out, call a heating and cooling expert to check and service your system.

You should also replace the air filter on your furnace before the cold weather hits. This will ensure your system runs efficiently when the time comes.

Clean the Gutters

It’s important to clean the gutters before the winter. Debris left behind can cause ‘dams’ of ice to form around the edges of the roof, causing snow to pack up and create the risk of leaks or roof damage. But cleaning the gutters can be a dirty and somewhat dangerous job, so you don’t want to be up on the roof in the brisk fall weather.

Take Care of Trees

Like cleaning the gutters, inspecting and trimming the trees is an outdoor task that is far easier to get done while it’s still nice and warm out. You’ll want to remove weak, brittle tree limbs that could break off and fall under the weight of the snow, especially near the house. This will also help spur new, healthy growth next season.

Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors

You’ve heard it a million times, but too many people still ignore this critical home maintenance task. It’s best to check your detectors and replace the batteries at least every few months. Your safety detectors are very important in the winter, since we tend to shut our windows and use fireplaces more often.

But why not wait until fall? Because it’s an easy to forget, especially once the busy fall season gets going. Do it before you get distracted by back-to-school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas holidays.

How to Make Your New House Feel Like Home

Moving requires a lot of planning and can be quite stressful. However, this work is balanced by the excitement that most of feel when we move into a new home. This house or condo may be one we have been dreaming of for sometime, so it is a real accomplishment to know that it will be yours for years to come.

However, a new home can also seem a bit off-putting at first. This can be particularly true if you have lived in one place for many years.

Here are three easy ways that you can help to make a new house feel like home faster:

ASSEMBLE YOUR BED

There are certain necessities we all require, one being a good night’s sleep. Unless it’s late and you are absolutely exhausted from the move, do not sleep on the floor. We are all used to our beds, so sleeping it in as much as possible during those first few days in the new house provides an important sense of comfort and familiarity.

Bring Out Your Favourite Things

We all have certain things we love and cherish. They might include a favourite painting, a photograph, or a family heirloom. These all help to remind us of home and loved ones, so you can give your new place that same feeling by unpacking them and placing them on display.

Maintain Your Regular Routine

It can take awhile to get all of your things into the new house and plan where they will go. Otherwise, you should try and stick to your normal routine. Go swimming on Saturdays? Keep doing that. Always play cards with friends Sunday evening? Don’t cancel (in fact, invite them over!). Maintaining our everyday routine is a way of telling our mind
that everything is fine and on schedule. Work your unpacking
around your regularly scheduled activities.

Where Does Broil King Rank Among the Best Performance BBQs?

Where Does Broil King Rank Among the Best Performance BBQs?

Wouldn’t it be easier to choose a new BBQ if you could just fire them up and throw on a few steaks right there in the store? You can’t tell much about how a BBQ performs just from looking at it. After all, there’s more to a grill than meets the eye.

Luckily, Consumer Reports tested 100 gas BBQs so you don’t have to. Their ratings can help you determine who has the best performance gas BBQ for your needs.

Like many of you, I always prefer to buy local if I can. So let’s look at how Canadian manufacturer Broil King holds up against its competitors in the gas BBQ arena.

Durability

Durability is a problem with gas BBQs in general. The burners are often the first piece to go, and most gas BBQs don’t last much longer than ten years. But Broil King ranks well compared to its competitors, beating out Char-Broil, Char-Griller, and Napoleon with ease.

In a review of the Broil King Sovereign, one Consumer Reports reader writes:

“Grill is long lasting. I have owned mine since 2007. Had one burner go bad under warranty and the company sent me a complete set along with the gas rail. Did not expect that. The firebox slightly warped,sent a picture. Two days later a new firebox was delivered. Both issues were in the first three years and no problems since with some very heavy usage.”

Appearance

It’s no surprise that KitchenAid, known for its colourful, trendy, appliances, snags the top spot for appearance. Kenmore (which does poorly in all other categories) also caught the eyes of readers in this category. As for Broil King, it sits somewhere in the middle, along with competitors like Weber.

Grilling Performance

This is where Broil King shines. Broil King BBQs of all sizes are rated highly for cooking performance, particularly the Sovereign, as one reader writes:

“The versatility is the main reason I am sold on this grill. I have rigged up a smoker and the grill will hold a very steady temperature to cook low and slow. I have even made beef jerky on it at low temperature to dry the meat yet not “cook” it.”

Ease of Cleaning

This is another pain point when it comes to gas BBQs. Scraping off the charred remains of your meal is something you accept when you live the BBQ life. But not all grills are created equal, and that’s true when it comes to cleaning them as well.

Boilmaster, Char-Broil, and Char-Griller lose out big time in this category. Weber and Napoleon are somewhere in the middle. Broil King, in all its kingly dignity, does somewhat better. It’s not the pinnacle of cleanliness, but it stands out among its competitors as being slightly less of a pain to clean.