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Five Strategies for Stopping Stress before It Starts to Overwhelm You

Some stress is inevitable, and all of it is not bad. But when stress overwhelms you and affects your quality of life, it’s gone too far. And sometimes, when stress gets to that point, it’s hard to turn things around.

It’s said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it’s true regarding stress as well. Here are five strategies for stopping stress before it starts to overwhelm you.

1. Connect with Friends

Whether you join a choir, take up a sewing class, or join a bowling league, doing something with friends on a regular basis can help keep stressful feelings from piling up. Studies have actually shown that a lack of social relationships can actually have a negative effect on your health that’s comparable to smoking. And when you do have stressful situations, having that group of friends in your life can help you manage those situations better. So making time to be with friends can be a bit of insurance against future stress.

2. Little Breaks

Making a habit of taking breaks between tasks helps your mind reorient itself. It’s not unlike pushing a reset button. It doesn’t have to be long, but a 2- or 3-minute pause before you move from one thing to another helps keep cortisol levels low, experts say. (Cortisol is a steroid-like hormone that your body produces in response to stress, and it can have a negative effect on your health if it’s constantly present.) So scheduling in a few minutes to regroup between tasks, conversations, and events can help a lot to stave off cumulative stress.

3. Go Out in the Woods!

Okay, it doesn’t have to be the woods. But getting out into nature has been shown to be a significant stress reducer. Like all of these preventative measures, try to make it a regular thing, such as daily or weekly. If you can’t take a walk in nature each day or week, you can download nature sounds to listen to, and you can also look at pictures of natural settings. Still, try for the “real thing” at least once a month.

4. Practice Good Nutrition

A healthy diet keeps your body in top shape. Consume lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and foods with healthful fats, like salmon, flax seeds, avocado, and olive oil. Eat whole grains rather than refined ones, and keep sugar at a minimum. A good multi-vitamin is also important, and an additional B-complex supplement can help build immunity and strengthen your body to cope with stress.

5. Get Regular Exercise

This is the one no one wants to admit is necessary, because it seems like so much trouble. But there’s no doubt that regular exercise reduces stress; research has shown this over and over. Perhaps you can combine the need for regular exercise with the need to socialize, and join a Zumba class or take martial arts.

Taking control now can prevent stress from piling up and causing a host of health problems. Take care of yourself first, and your mind and body will thank you!

April 3, 2013

How to Control Stinging Insects in and around Your Home

Controlling stinging insects in and around your home is certainly a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Stinging insects pose a threat to people and animals, so getting rid of them is important for preventing injury.

There is quite a variety of stinging insects, and different methods apply to different types. Therefore, the important first step is to identify what kind of stinging insects you have. Then you can apply the appropriate method. So here are some general tips and suggestions that may help you with stinging insect control in and around your home.

1. Stinging Insects in Walls or Trees

If you have a nest of yellow jackets inside your walls or in trees in your yard, it’s not a good idea to expose the whole nest right away. Instead, spray or dust insecticidal powder around the entry and exit point of the nest. You may need to do this a couple of times, until a large number of the adult stinging insects are dead.

Once most of the adults are dead, seal off the point of entry into your home (for insects in walls). Use caulk or something similar to seal it completely.

2. Hornet and Wasp Nests

Some nests are not in walls, but instead are in aerial nests – often made of paper. For this type of insect, a long-distance spray that can shoot straight into the nest from 8 to 10 feet away is ideal. Aim directly for the nest, and if it is the type with an opening at the bottom, aim into that. Once the insects are dead, you can leave the nest where it is or gather it in a trash bag.

3. Ground Nests

Some stinging insects, like yellow jackets and bumblebees, will make their nests in the ground. Don’t try to dig it up or expose it; instead, go for the entry and exit point of the nest, as in #1 above. Spray or use powder where the insects access the nest. Sources say that the nest will not be reused once the insects are killed.

Some types of stinging insects make tunnels, the tops of which can be seen on the surface of the ground. For these, you can spray the ground where you see the tunnels, then use a rake to damage them. The insects will ingest the poison when they repair the tunnels.

4. Work at Night or in the Evening

Regardless of which method you use to eradicate stinging insects, working at night keeps you safer from stings than attempting to spray or dust in the daytime. Also, wear gloves and a hat, and cover as much of your skin as possible.

Hopefully, if you’re careful and persistent, you’ll get rid of those pesky (and dangerous) stinging insects.

Treating Dry Skin in Winter

Winter can be very hard on your skin. The air is dry and cold, and your skin gets chapped and dried by wind and household heat. For some people, dry skin can become quite problematic in winter, resulting in flakes, redness, or even eczema.

Here are some tips and ideas for helping heal your dry skin, and preventing it from getting too dry again.

Night Creams

Night creams are generally formulated with oil rather than water. This is important for wintertime moisturizing – water-based lotions may be fine for summer, but in the winter you need something oil-based that will seal in moisture, sources say. Night creams tend to be oil-based.

Not all oils are created equal, though, and not all parts of your body will respond well to certain oils. For your face, experts point out that non-comedogenic oils are best. Jojoba and sweet almond oils are said to be good for the face, as they most closely resemble your body’s natural oils. For dry hands and feet, castor oil-based creams can be very effective.

“Spa” Footies and Gloves

Many of us like to slather on the moisturizer at bedtime. But then it all ends up getting wiped off on the bedding. An effective solution is thin cotton mittens or gloves and footies. You can usually get these for very little at your local pharmacy, drug store, or health food store. You can also use cotton socks.

Apply moisturizer heavily to hands and feet (start with your feet), and then cover them with the socks and gloves. The socks and gloves will hold the moisture against your skin all night.

Moisturizing Make-Up

One of the keys to healing and preventing dry skin is to use moisturizer daily. But it can be easy to forget, so using a make-up with moisturizer is a good way to get your skin moisturized each day. Some of these moisturizing make-ups are lightly tinted, while others provide more opaque coverage.

Moisturize the Air

Wherever possible, get moisture into the air in the winter. It will also make the air feel warmer. Sources recommend using a humidifier in the wintertime. If this is not practical, take some other humidifying steps: leave the bathroom door open when you shower; hang your wet laundry up in the house; leave pots of water on heating vents or on wood-burning stoves (safety first, of course).

Minimize Soap

Speaking of showers, we often unknowingly exacerbate dry skin in the shower. Many people scrub themselves all over with soap each time they shower, but this is really not necessary and can even be harmful. Instead, use soap “where it counts” (under the arms, for example) only, and just go over the skin of the rest of your body with a soft washcloth and water. Use soap on your body maybe once a week, and make it a moisture-rich cleanser.

How to Host a Valentine’s Day Party?

Hosting a Valentine’s Day party can actually be pretty versatile. All you really need is to create a warm, loving atmosphere that makes your guests feel welcome and loved. It can be a couples’ party, or it can just be a fun time with a group of friends. Here are some ideas on how to make your Valentine’s party a time to remember.

Pick a Time

If you are going for a romantic love type of theme, an evening time would set the right mood. For a friendship party, you could do brunch or a late afternoon party. If you are having children, early afternoon might work best. The key is to choose a time that fits the schedule and lifestyle of the majority of your guests.

Choose the Menu

There are all sorts of ideas for Valentine’s Day food. Here are some ideas based on party themes and types.

* Couples’ party – Food at a couples’ party can be romantic and share-able, like kabobs and/or fondue. Fruits like cherries, raspberries and strawberries can be dipped in chocolate for a lovely dessert.

* Friends’ party – A buffet is a great way to welcome friends. You can decorate the buffet table with all sorts of Valentine themes, such as candy hearts and cinnamon candy scattered around on a white tablecloth, or muffin papers filled with assorted treats tucked among the food dishes.

-Children’s party * Kids love just about any excuse for a party, and Valentine’s is no exception! Have a trinket as a favor for each child, or a goodie bag with a few candies and toys. Cupcakes frosted in pink, white, red, or purple are pretty and festive, and you can decorate the tops with hearts. Arrange the cupcakes in a big heart on a cloth or platter. For healthier fare, cut watermelon, whole wheat bread, deli meats, and cheese slices into heart shapes.

Invitations

Now that you know your time, place, and basic theme, you can send out invitations. It’s fun to make your own, or you can just buy ready-made ones at the store. You can also do e-invitations, which are gaining popularity. Try to choose invitations that reflect the overall feel of the party.

Decorate

Now to decorate!

* Couples’ party – Votive candles, rose petals, strings of pearls, and flowers make romantic decorations. A single tulip, rosebud, or carnation makes a lovely, simple statement on a dining table, end table, or windowsill. Lighting should be low.

* Friends’ party – For this party, you can combine the favor with the decorations. Have several bouquets of flowers around such as tulips, and let everyone take one home as a gift. Use tulle on your mirrors or wall art to create swags and bows. Have you ever cut paper dolls? Use that technique to make long paper chains of hearts to hang in front of windows or from chandeliers.

* Children’s party – Go for fun with this one. Bring out the stuffed animals and arrange them so they look like they’re having a tea party. Balloons are always fun for kids; tie bunches of red, purple, white, and pink ones in bunches around the room (tie them to the stuffed animals’ “paws” for a really fun effect). Make paper heart garlands using construction paper and string, and let your kids do some window decorations with dry erase markers, cut-out hearts, or store-bought stick-ons.

January 31, 2012

Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy This Winter Season

The winter season can be cold and beautiful, but it is called “cold and flu season” for a reason! Many people associate winter with sickness, and not always just the cold and flu. Stomach “bugs” and mysterious, annoying illnesses seem to plague families in the winter. How can you avoid them? Is there anything you can do to prevent these nasty bugs from bothering your family this winter?

Yes! There are some things you can do to boost your family’s health and help keep illnesses at bay. Here are some tips.

Rest and Sleep

Many families have schedules that keep everyone running during the day and up late at night. But resting and getting enough sleep are very important for staying healthy. While it’s understandable that some nights are late nights, it’s not a good idea to make staying up late and being sleep deprived into habits. Help your children balance activities and homework so they will get to bed on time.

Eat Well!

During the winter, there is not the abundant produce that we have in the summer. But there are still whole, healthy foods that are available and affordable. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat pasta are readily available in the winter. Other healthy foods you can include in your family’s winter meals include:

* Winter squash
* Sweet potatoes
* Dried fruits like raisins, dried apricots, apples, figs, dates, cranberries, etc.
* Citrus fruits
* Frozen vegetables and fruits are more affordable and nutritionally similar to seasonal, fresh produce.
* Salmon and other fatty fish are good sources of fish oil, which is considered important for immune system health
* Greens like kale and collards

Vitamins and Minerals

It may help a lot to have everyone in the family on some sort of vitamin and mineral supplement. What supplement is best depends on everyone’s age and lifestyle; generally, a vitamin and mineral supplement that corresponds to family members’ ages should be fine. Make sure the supplement includes Vitamin D3, a key vitamin in fighting off illness, sources say.

Get Outside When You Can

The weather is not bad all winter. Whenever there is a sunny or milder day, get the family outside to get some winter sunshine and activity. Fresh air is a nice break from germ-laden, indoor air, and sunshine exposure helps your body make that important Vitamin D. If there’s snow on the ground, have snowball fights and build snowmen, and go sledding if you have the right kind of terrain. Winter hikes can be fun, too.

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