Summer holidays are here. The kids are at home, full of energy and running around and raring to go. How on earth are you going to survive the next six weeks let alone get any work done? Here's some top tips to keeping the kids occupied during the summer holidays.
TV and DVDs
Too much TV will result in a very grumpy, bored child who won't leave you alone. Use it sparingly and it'll keep the kids quiet for you when you really need it. Playing the occasional DVD or sitting them in front of Cbeebies will buy you a bit of relaxation time, but don’t abuse this option!
Small children graze constantly, and get grumpy when they can’t, so have a good supply of healthy snacks on hand to keep them going throughout the day. It may be better to keep chocolate and sweet treats to the afternoon, to avoid a surge of energy during the morning time.
The garden is your friend in summer. If it's sunny let the kids play outside while you do some gardening or even put your feet up. You’ll still have to join in with their play from time to time, but you might actually get some time to yourself.
Break up your day
Set yourself ‘shifts’ – do some jobs around the house for an hour, then play with the kids for an hour, then back to preparing the dinner, and so on.
Arrange trips out so you all have something to look forward to and don’t end up driving each other stir crazy. Let them run off some steam and (hopefully) tire themselves out a bit – the park, soft play, bikes rides etc
Buy your child a scrapbook and get them to keep a diary of what they do every day over the summer holiday. They can also draw and add pictures to make a fun summer book of all their activities, which they can show to their teachers when they return to school. This will grantee to not only keep them occupied but also but also ensure they are practising their reading, spelling and writing over the summer, as well as getting the creativity flowing.
Remember it's all about compromise.
Playing with Friends
Brilliant! The kids have been invited out to play with a friend – and you get a whole day to get jobs done around the house or simply relax. Just remember to return the favour – you’ll need to have little people over to play at some point, too. That may even be a positive thing as kids occupy each other.
Kids are fun!
At the end of the day it was your choice to have kids – so have fun with them! Play with your children there is nothing they love more than your attention so spend time building some happy memories with them.
If all else fails, good old-fashioned bribery can sometimes do the trick! Just make sure you keep your promises - how do you expect them to if you don't?
It can be daunting when your list of New Year’s Resolutions is as long as your arm. In addition to the post-holiday blues, not being able to keep your resolutions by late January may increase your stress levels. After the holiday’s when the decorations have been taken down and packed away for another year.
When your holiday decorations are packed up and stored away, the frustration of an unused gym membership or other reminders of failed resolutions can make the later winter months feel hopeless.
However, it is important to remember that the New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes. It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behaviour and promise to make positive lifestyle changes.
Setting bite sized realistic goals throughout the year, instead of a one, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach what you are striving for. Recognising that you need to make positive lifestyle changes is the important factor and not the extent of the change that matters.
By making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance that you will keep them throughout the year, incorporating healthy behaviour into your everyday life. Follow these tips when setting a New Year’s Resolution:
- Start small — Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, take regular walks instead of hitting the gym hard 7 days a week. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.
- Change one behaviour at a time — Unhealthy behaviours develop over time. Therefore, replacing unhealthy behaviours with healthy ones takes time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.
- Talk about it — Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of co-workers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.
- Don’t beat yourself up — Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor setbacks when reaching your goals are completely normal. Don’t give up completely because you ate a chocolate bar and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.
- Ask for support — Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking support from family or friends who may be able to help keep you motivated.
As February celebrates love, we could not think of a better time to consider what we can do to love ourselves a little bit more.
Why? Evidence suggests that increasing our self-esteem can help to reduce depression. Although it is normal during periods of low mood and depression to be critical about ourselves, it is unhelpful for our psychological wellbeing. So, here are a few tips on how to improve your self-esteem:
- Write a list of your positive characteristics
- Keep a list of things that you have done well/ enjoyed or achieved over the next week, no matter how big or small
- Each time you have a self-critical thought, think or say a positive statement out loud to yourself (positive affirmations)
- Imagine what you would say to a friend to make them feel better, and think the same about yourself or say it aloud
- Do something enjoyable for yourself
- Treat yourself each time you achieve something
- Spend time with people who bring out the best in your character
- Laugh - watch a funny television programme/ film or spend time with fun people.
Almost invariably it happens a few days after the end of Ramadan: the letdown.
Fasting is finished; the nightly prayers are over; the group gatherings to break the fast have vanished. We can eat, drink, and be merry again when the sun is shining. And that special feeling you have in your heart-the one that keeps you going despite your hunger and thirst-gradually fades away.
The spiritual high evaporates, and all you are left with are the bad habits you tried to shed during Ramadan, but mysteriously rear their heads once it is over. The lessons learned and spiritual benefits gained during that month are intended to carry over for the rest of the year until next Ramadan.
Yet frequently they do not. Is there anything we can do about it? Absolutely and here are five ways we can try to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive and well throughout the rest of the year.
Good Habits Kept Up
More than just denying oneself food and drink, the fast of Ramadan is a complete body-and-soul fast. Although this should be the behavior of the believer at all times, when one is fasting, he or she should take special care not to harm anyone, curse anyone, or do anything wrong.
For instance, you might want to consider continuing going to the mosque for congregational prayers throughout the year not just for Ramadan. You may even want to think about quitting smoking. Smoking is prohibited during daylight hours during Ramadan, which makes it the perfect opportunity to quit cigarettes.
Fast Throughout the Year
The fast of Ramadan is obligatory for every adult Muslim, but there are numerous other fasts that Muslims are encouraged to undertake throughout the year, that you might want to try and participate in. For instance, Prophet Muhammad encouraged Muslims to fast six days of the month of Shawwal, the month after Ramadan. The reward is equivalent to fasting the entire year. For Ashura, the day that commemorates the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, Muslims are encouraged to fast that day as well as the day before. (Ideally, Muslims should fast the first nine days of the month of Dhul-Hijjah, when the Hajj occurs.)
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims gather together and perform the Isha, or night prayer, and then special devotional prayers, called Tarawih, in congregation (together these are called, qiyam, extra devotional night prayers). This is a wonderful part of Ramadan where everyone is together in the the mosque, and get to hear the entire Qur'an recited.
You could think about having your own "mini-Tarawih" at home. You can read from the Qur'an itself and If you continue this throughout the year, it is quite possible to finish reading the entire Qur'an many times over. This is an excellent way to keep the feeling and spirit of Ramadan alive.
Ramadan is also the month of charity. Along with teaching the believer discipline and spiritual focus, the fast of Ramadan is a potent reminder that there are millions of people around the world who must forgo food and drink involuntarily, out of sheer poverty. As a result, Muslims are frequently motivated to give to the poor during Ramadan, and the reward for an act of charity-already substantial-is multiplied many times over in the month of Ramadan. Why not consider giving to charity when Ramadan is over and perhaps donate a little bit of what you earn to help the poor.
Another beautiful aspect of Ramadan is the frequent invitation to people's homes for iftar meals after sunset. Here, Muslims gather and break their fast together. This is an opportunity to see friends (and maybe even family) they do not normally get a chance to see during the rest of the year. Why not keep up the contacts made during Ramadan throughout the rest of the year? Have monthly gatherings at each other's homes or at a favourite restaurant. Let it not be another year when you say to a friend, "Wow! I haven't seen you since last Ramadan!"
Help to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive throughout the rest of the year.
Christmas is a time for being merry and enjoying family parties, but it can be stressful too. The family are stuck indoors, the children are overexcited, there’s the tree to decorate, presents to buy and wrap, and food to cook. It’s no wonder the festive feeling can fizzle out. Make sure this Christmas doesn’t become a day to remember for all the wrong reasons.
Follow these simple tips to keep yourself well this Christmas.
- If there have been any family disagreements during the year, try to resolve them. Plan to get together before Christmas to talk about whatever problem you had so you can look forward to seeing family and not dread the fall out.
- Plan the day and delegate jobs to be done amongst the family. Don't slave away for hours in the kitchen all on your own and feel like people are taking you for granted.
- Discuss your plans with others, including any children who will be there, so that you can listen to their ideas and wishes for the day. Then you can come up with a celebration which includes things that please everyone.
- Have a timetable for Christmas Day so that you don’t all sit around for hours doing nothing. Try to make sure you won't be spending a lot of time with a difficult person or someone you don’t get along with.
- Don’t drink alcohol excessively particularly at Christmas time when emotions can run high.
- Plan some down time particularly for Children who can get overexcited. Take the family on a long walk for a change of scenery and some fresh air. Everybody will feel refreshed and pleasantly tired instead of irritably tired.
In today's world exams are an unfortunate necessity. There is a lot of pressure on young people to succeed and exam stress is therefore a big part of many people's lives. Whilst this article can't make the exams go away it will hopefully help you to deal with some of the stresses that you might be feeling and that in turn will allow you to focus on your exams.
Stress is natural part of life. It's your body's way of responding to changes in the world around you. It changes how your body works and puts your mind into different moods. When you're getting stressed about an exam - it just shows that you really care about the result you will get. That can be helpful if it pushes you into working extra hard as you try to get a good mark. But, it can be unhelpful if you get too worried and the effects of the stress stop you performing as well as you could. When exams get too much, the stress can show in your body.
Common signs of stress:
- feeling tired
- aching body
- crying and feeling sad
- panic attacks
- difficulties sleeping
- stomach upsets
- have itchy skin rashes
- more likely to get colds and 'flu
We all think negatively sometimes, but developing a positive attitude will help you do your best in your exams. Here are some tips to thinking more positively:
- Picture yourself getting good results – visualise how happy you are over and over in vivid detail. If you maintain a positive 'I can do it' attitude building up to your exams, your stress will be transformed into positive energy that can be harnessed to enhance your performance.
- View the exam as a time-limited project that will come to an end. Look forward to the fun and challenge in store on completion.
- Remember it's only an exam! It might feel like it but it's not the most important thing in your life. And there's always the resit!
- An exam is simply an opportunity to show what you know.
- Exams are designed to HELP you, and provide your tutors/teachers with feedback so they can help you further.
- You will be just the same person before and after the exam. Exams don't measure anything really important about you.
- You have had a number of successes already and have actually passed many exams - hold on to that. Focus on the positive aspects of the past rather than the negative ones, as this will spur you on to yet more successes.
Stopping negative thoughts
When we become anxious we begin to have negative thoughts ('I can't answer anything', 'I'm going to fail' etc). If this is happening, halt the spiralling thoughts by mentally shouting 'STOP'! Or, picture a road STOP sign or traffic lights on red. Once you have literally stopped the thoughts, you can continue planning, or practice a relaxation technique.
Use a mantra
Derived from meditation, a mantra is a word or phrase which you repeat to yourself. Saying something like 'relax' under your breath or in your mind, over and over again can help defuse anxiety.
Looking out of the window, noticing the number of people with black hair, counting the number of desks in each row... all help to distract your attention from anxious thoughts and keep your mind busy. Mental games such as making words out of another word or title, using alphabetical lists etc. are all good forms of distraction.
It can help to carry or wear something with positive associations with another person or place. Touching this bridging object can be comforting in its own right, then allow yourself a few minutes to think about the person or situation which makes you feel good. This can have a really calming effect.
During an exam anxiety or panic we often give ourselves negative messages, 'I can't do this', 'I'm going to fail' and I'm useless'. Try to consciously replace these with positive, encouraging thoughts: 'This is just anxiety, 'it can't harm me', 'Relax, concentrate, it's going to be OK', 'I'm getting there, nearly over'.
A good way to minimise the amount of stress that you are feeling is to create a revision timetable. This way you can make sure that you have plenty of time to revise all the subjects that you need to do. Having a revision timetable will also give you the chance to build in rest breaks and time to spend relaxing. This will help you to stay calmer. If you find yourself sitting and getting more and more stressed you need to take a break. Go for a walk or take an hour to watch some television do something to take your mind off your stress.
Spring usually begins in March and it is during this month that we start to notice a change in the weather and hopefully see less grey dreary days and sunnier, clearer days. Often people describe the start of spring as a time when they come out of hibernation and start to think more positively and plan ways to improve their wellbeing.
Evidence suggests that there are many factors that improve wellbeing and most people would agree that giving to others is a good idea. Studies state that an act of giving or kindness (no matter how small) can increase our mood, provide a sense of purpose and self-worth and can lead to us feeling more satisfied with our lives. It can also serve to strengthen relationships and build new ones, and as social contact, is essential for our wellbeing and sense of belonging, it can only be a good thing.
However, we often lead busy lives and our time and energy is precious, so giving to others can seem like another job to put on our “to do list”. It is important to remember that giving can take many forms, from small everyday acts to larger commitments. Remember improving your wellbeing is the aim here, so think about the time you have available to give and tailor what you do accordingly.
It may be useful to think about how you would feel if someone did something kind for you and this may enable you to think about ways you can help and give to others.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how you can start to give, and hopefully help you realise that the smallest acts can have a positive impact on both yours and the others person’s wellbeing.
Today, you could:
- Say thank you to someone, for something they’ve done for you.
- Phone a relative or friend who needs support or company.
- Ask a colleague how they are and really listen to the answer.
- Offer to lend a hand if you see a stranger struggling with bags or a pushchair.
This week, you could:
- Arrange a day out for you and a friend or relative.
- Offer to help a relative with DIY or a colleague with a work project.
- Send a card to someone you know has been ill.
- Offer to babysit for someone who needs a little time to their selves.
- Sign up to a mentoring project, in which you give time and support to someone who will benefit from it.
- Volunteer in your local community. That might mean helping out at a local school, hospital or care home.
Keeping active will not only help maintain a healthy body, but can help maintain a healthy mind too. Scientists have discovered that exercise makes your brain release chemicals that make you feel good - the same chemicals that you get from antidepressants. For mild depression, research shows that physical activity can be as good as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
For good mental health, you should aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week. Don't panic - this isn't as bad as it sounds! The key word here is moderate.
Moderate exercise means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, but you can still talk. It could include things like:
- Take the stairs not the lift.
- Go for a walk at lunchtime.
- Walk into work.
- Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey to work.
- Organise a work sporting activity.
- Have a kick-about in a local park.
- Do some ‘easy exercise’, like stretching, before you leave for work in the morning.
- Walk to someone’s desk instead of calling or emailing.
- Take the kids swimming.
You can do it as one 30-minute session, or break it up into shorter 10- or 15- minute sessions. Choose something you enjoy - if you hate it, you won't stick to it. Find something that fits into your day and is right for you.
Of course, when you're feeling down, exercise is often the last thing you feel like doing. That's why it's useful to exercise with a friend, so you can motivate each other. Set goals and measure your progress, so you can see the difference it makes.
Exercise doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good - slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise.
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