5 Ways To Lower Work Related Stress

Everyone doing the nine-to five grind has to deal with similar issues at work, the office politics, the great or not so great boss, hierarchical challenges, conflicts of interests, and miscommunication.

Expectations, deadlines, achievements, and goals can all add up to a bucket full of stress, more than you’d like to be carrying.

Choosing ways to reduce the load is a great way to work smarter rather than harder. Here are five ways you can reduce the pressures at work to lower your stress levels:

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Recognize What You Can And Can’t Control

The well-known Serenity Prayer can be useful for all, whether you are a recovering alcoholic or not! “God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Being able to discern the difference between what you can and what you cannot control removes a lot of unnecessary stress. You can immediately stop stressing over all the things you cannot control. This frees up energy to focus on what you can control.

How To Deal With Criticism Pt 1

The fact of the matter is, no matter what you do in life, you will be criticized on it.  Whether you're a writer, an artist, a designer, a chef, an executive, it doesn't matter.  No matter what career you choose, there will always be criticism.

How to Respond, Not React to Criticism

Now if you are not the best at receiving criticism or if you are the type of person who is easily offended by criticism, this could really hurt your career and ultimately your ability to develop as a person.  Often times, when we are upset by something, we, as humans, have a tendency to react, sometimes overreact. 

Ultimately though, with criticism, it is much better if we can reach a point in our lives that we have the ability to breathe, think on it and then respond, not react.  There are three very simple steps that you can practice in your life and then put into action when it comes to criticism. 

Number one, love what you do.  Seems simple enough, right?  The truth is, if you really love what you do, then your work will reflect that.  And if you truly love what you do, then you will find yourself becoming more open to outside criticism.  If your work is nothing more than a hobby or something you do just to make money, it will be much harder for you to receive criticism. 

Number two, believe in what you do.  You should only do something that you truly believe in.  If you have strong convictions about what you do, then someone's criticism of your work will fuel those convictions, not dismantle them.  Plus, you will be able to not only receive the criticism graciously, you will actually be able to have conversations about it!

Number three, find the positive in everything.  Unfortunately, criticism inherently carries a negative connotation.  There are not many people who hear the word criticism or critic and think, "Oh how wonderful!  I am being critiqued today."  So with any criticism, it is imperative to find the positive aspects of it, no matter where or who it comes from. 

Let's face it, you are going to be criticized by people in all facets of your life.  But if you can integrate these three very simple steps into your life, you will find that that terrible feeling will begin to go away, and you will be able to respond, not react, to the comments being made.  Over time, you will actually welcome criticism.  It may sound crazy now, but give it time.  It really can happen for you!

Eye-Opening Criticism

Think about a time in your life when someone criticized something you did and it really affected you.  Perhaps it came at a time when you were already feeling down, and it really hurt you.  You probably said to yourself, "Why would someone say that?  That's just mean."  Perhaps you will even allow it to fester and make you angry.

But what you may not realize is that how you react to criticism can change your life, either for the better or for the worse, and it can even change the lives of those around you.  If you allow criticism to upset you, then you will, eventually, become a very angry human being.  This really doesn't do any good for you and it doesn't do any good for anyone around you either.  If you allow it, negativity will do nothing but breed more negativity.  And who wants to live like that?

Instead, try to take that very moment, when you receive the criticism, and tell yourself that from every negative critique comes positive change in your life.  If you can keep an open mind, that negative critique has the power to have a positive impact on you in more ways than you could ever imagine.  It can make you smarter, it can make you stronger, it can make you a more patient person, it can help you develop better personal skills, it can help you see your work from different angles, and really, in general, you will be a much happier person.  If you can do nothing else, at least take that negative and turn it into what fuels you to do better. 

The most exciting part of criticism is that it can actually bring ideas and people together.  It can even change the course of history.  Think about people like Nelson Mandela.  What if he decided to give up?  What if he let all the negative criticism around him, from the citizens in his country, from the media and from politicians, pull him down and make him angry and violent?  Do you think the same outcome would have occurred in South Africa?  No way! 

Sometimes criticism can be the key element that ends up opening people's eyes to see an injustice.  It can open people's eyes to a different way of doing something, and not just in the political world.  How do you think art movements like Impressionism, Surrealism and Modernism came about?  How were strides made in terms of new technology?  Do you think those people were surrounded by only positive feedback?  Of course not!  But look what they were able to create and how many lives they impacted!

Criticism as Appreciation

You know, people hear the word criticism and they almost automatically flinch.  Their heart beats a little faster and they prepare themselves for the worst.  It's a pretty safe bet that those same people never looked up synonyms for the word "criticism."  If they did, they'd see words like appreciation, appraisal and observation; none of which carry the same negative connotation.   

Who doesn't want their work to be appreciated?  There is great value in the appreciation of a work.  Think about the art world.  If someone said they appreciate your work of art, would you cringe?  Of course not, because even though they didn't tell you what they appreciate about your work yet, you assume it's a good thing.  And your assumption is based solely on your interpretation of the word. 

Why can't we see criticism the same way?  In today's society, people are so afraid of the word criticism.  Why doesn't it offer the same happy feelings that the word appreciation gives?  If someone tells you that they love your work, don't you want to know why?  If someone says they hate your work, don't you still want to know why?  There is so much that you can learn from someone's opinion or critique of your work.

Let's go back to the appreciation of your work of art.  Let's say that person explained to you that what they actually appreciate about your work is the fact that it reminds them of a sad, very emotional time in their life.  Your assumption just hit a brick wall.  Your work is supposed to represent the most joyful moment of your life and here this person feels sad just by looking at it.  But this is their opinion. 

This is their critique of your work based on their life's experiences.  No one on this earth has had the same experiences.  We all see things differently and therefore we all have different reactions.  And this can be applied to every facet of life.  People have different experiences and those experiences create different reactions.  Now since when did that become a bad thing? 

 Instead of hearing the word criticism and immediately cringing, try to think of it in a different light.  You are gaining knowledge.  You are gaining an insight into someone else's world.  They are sharing their experiences with you in the form of their critique of your work.  They are showing an appreciation of your work based solely on their own experiences.  Not so bad anymore, right?

Criticism and Language

Criticism, for many people, carries the same meaning as judgment.  In fact, one of the top synonyms of criticism is judgment.  And one of the top synonyms of critic is judge.  No wonder people have such a hard time with this term!  Who wants to be judged?  Obviously, people get defensive when it comes to being criticized.  They can't see the benefits, because the judgment side of it is so overpowering.  And in today's society, the word judgment doesn't exactly carry a good connotation.

But if you go back in time, a clearer picture of why those two words are synonymous with words like judge and judgment begins to form.  In the English language, we often forget that our words have a social and historical context to them.  Language develops out of culture, and it affects how we perceive the words we use.  There can be so many connotations to a word, and if we don't look at the historical and social context, we can miss the whole point. 

Let's take just two words as an example.  First, the word "awful" used to mean something that was inspiring.  Today, awful means something bad or terrible.  Quite a difference, right?  Complete opposites really.  For the second example, take the word "thongs."  Thongs used to refer to a pair of flip-flops, but we all know very well that that is not what people refer to now when they say, "I want to buy thongs."  In fact, I can just imagine the reaction of a teenager who overhears that sentence, especially if it's their grandmother who says it.

Judgment and criticism have also suffered the same, although not as comical, misconceptions.  A judgment was the opinion of a person of high regard.  It used to carry the meaning of a belief or opinion based on study and higher education.  Today, we often think of a judgment as an opinion based in ignorance, not education. 

The word judge has gone through even more changes.  In Jewish history, judges were leaders.  The word had a positive connotation of strong, protective individuals.  Then, judges became those who bore the responsibility of sentencing those who committed crimes.  Again, not meant to have a negative connotation, but perhaps during the years of slavery, that all changed.  Today, we tend to think of judges more so as those on American Idol or The Voice.

The point being, we need to take a deep breath and a step back when we think of the words criticism or critic.  Although they have been distorted over the years, they truly do represent concepts that mirror our idea of positive feedback, which is only meant to help you develop in your area of expertise.

Criticism & Success

Nowadays, criticism has such a negative connotation that most people automatically react poorly to even just the term itself, without even thinking about its benefits.  People think that the phrase "constructive criticism" is just something people made up so they could put a positive swing on bashing your work.  What happened to turn such a positive form of communication into a hated and feared concept?   

Perhaps our upbringing has tainted our idea of criticism.  Could it be that people took this term and used it to justify their judgments on your life's choices?  Perhaps you heard one too many times that they were just giving you "constructive criticism" and you shouldn't take it so personally.  Perhaps in school you weren't the strongest in one subject and the teacher made fun of you and called it criticism. 

But criticism really should be one of the best forms of helping others succeed.  Criticism is meant to come from experts in the field.  It is meant to be positive, despite what it has become over the years.  And although for many, it feels like a personal attack, maybe there can be a way for us to see how it is a learning experience for not only the person being critiqued, but for the critics themselves. 

For the person being critiqued, it is a way to grow in their field.  There is so much to learn from someone who is experienced in your profession.  Everyone has experiences in life and in the business realm, and criticism is a great way to share those experiences with others.  If you're a writer, you will become a better writer through criticism.  If you're an artist, you will become a better artist through criticism.  Someone will open your eyes to another perspective and your work will evolve into the best work you've ever done.

And criticism benefits the critic just as much as the person being criticized.  The critic is learning, at the same time, a new perspective.  They are learning the perspective of the writer or the artist, and they can, in turn, use that perspective to help them develop their own work.

A true critic is meant to first put themselves in the shoes of the artist.  Next, they should look at the work from the public's view.  Then they should look at the work from their own view, from their own experience in the field.  Think about it.  If you are getting advice from someone who just looked at your work from three different angles, that's three different angles than your own.  Think about how much you could learn, and think about how much that would help you grow as an artist or a writer.  The possibilities are endless!

Finding Your Ikigai

Many people in the world today are suffering a crisis of identity. The modern world is not at all conductive to a sense of purpose. Families live apart from each other. Marriage and relationships are not expected to last, or to produce descendants. We work to put food in our mouths, not for joy or out of a sense of duty to our fellow man. We buy and consume all manner of products in a desperate attempt to feel as though we're part of something, using clothes, phones, and cars to symbolize our status, or our belonging to a particular social group. We skip from hobby to hobby, always consuming, never learning skills or developing ourselves intellectually. We have lost faith in religious order, government, and our fellow man.

But it turns out the problem isn't in what we pursue in our lives as a nation, but as individuals. Many of the things mentioned above bring purpose to individual people's lives, just not to everyone. One person may feel their life is full of meaning when they have two children, whereas another may find that children distract them from their love of the arts. Likewise, in every possible source of meaning they are a million and one variables. One person who finds meaning in rearing children may be a parent, another may adopt or foster, another may become a teacher, another a pediatrician, another a writer for a children's show or magazine. Someone who finds meaning in the arts may be a creator, a historian, or even a collector or patron. No pursuit in life is automatically meaningful, no matter how deep and important it may seem to you, or to the people around you. No pursuit in life is automatically meaningless, no matter how aimless and idle it may seem to you, or to the people around you.

So how do we find meaning in our lives, when the things we believe will bring meaning, and the things we are told to do, may not be meaningful at all for us?

The Japanese have a concept called Ikigai

The word is a combination of the words “iki”, meaning “life”, and “kai”, meaning “result”, or “worth”. The idea behind it is that there is something in your life, or something which could become a part of your life, that brings value to everyone and everything around you: yourself, your family, your community, and your environment. This is your life purpose, your Ikigai, and when you find it you will have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, something you enjoy more than anything else during the good times, something to help you through the hard times, and something to provide a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day, letting you rest well in your bed at night.

Many people find their Ikigai eventually, usually by accident. They become a parent, land a dream job, start travelling, write a book, find religion, or create an invention, and suddenly realize that this is what they needed to do all along, that this is what they want to live and die for, that this is their contribution to the planet. For most of these people, however, this discovery comes after years of soul searching, or even decades of aimless wandering. The vast majority of them will not find their Ikigai until they are in their forties or older, sometimes leading to unwanted commitments and a deep sense of regret about the past. And those are the people who find it. Many more people never find their Ikigai, and struggle every day to find meaning in the little things around them, which often do not provide the sense of purpose they need.

 So how do we find an Ikigai? Well, first we need to start by finding the four meanings.

The four meanings of life are: love, talent, usefulness, and profit

These four meanings are the cornerstones of your Ikigai, and all four need to be present. However, it is not as simple as leaping out and picking something with all four meanings. This is because each meaning needs to be discovered separately, being unique to the individual and their environment.

Discovering what you truly love, the Kondo method for life

If you have investigated purposeful, meaningful living, you have likely come across minimalism and the Kondo method. If you have not, then quite simply the Kondo method is a way of de-cluttering. You take every item in your home, ask yourself if it truly brings joy to your heart, and if not, you get rid of it. Discovering the things you truly love is a similar approach. You write down a list of everything you are grateful for in life, then you go through with a fine tooth comb and ask yourself “could I live without this?” Naturally, you can live without many things. But if the idea of going without something or someone tugs at your heart, then you love it.

Discovering what you do well, using your time efficiently

This one involves a habit which is dangerous when not done consciously: comparing yourself to others. You need to consider everything you do and scale it based on how well you do it. The point scale goes:

Can't Do – Worse Than Average – Average – Better Than Average – Better Than Most

The things you can do average or above are the most important, as these are things which you have the potential to develop into fine skills. However, the longer you have been doing something, the more likely it is your limit. Something you do averagely after a week is therefore more likely to be a talent of yours than something you do better than average after a decade.

Discovering what the world needs, the charity that builds civilization

This one involves stepping completely outside your own personal interests. To discover what is useful and lacking in the world. Some things are lacking but not needed. Some things are needed, but available. Some things are lacking but we cannot provide them. The point is to write out a list of things which are needed right now, whether or not you believe you can help them come to fruition. This is important on two levels. Firstly, it tells us what sort of a world we live in and what may be expected of us. Secondly, it tells us what gaps there may be in the market for people with our skills and interests. Which leads us to...

Discovering what you can profit from, sustaining yourself

This covers all possible sources of employment. Just log onto any job hunting website and read the listings in your area, even the ones which do not apply to you. These are the ways people can make money in your little corner of society. These are the ways in which you can sustain your own life. You won't be able to do all of them. Not all of them will be truly necessary, and therefore not all will be stable. Not all will be enjoyable. But that is what is available right now in terms of ways to support yourself.

So what can we do with these four life meanings? We must combine them, to find something greater than the sum of its four parts.

Action: the combinations of twos add value to our lives

Each of those individual lists of meanings is completely pointless without action. The refrain goes: “You are what you repeatedly do.” But you can't repeatedly do something just because it is nice, you're good at it, it's needed, or it makes money. Very few of these things we can actually do. In fact, the only one we can actually do at all is what we are good at. We cannot do something we love but can't do, we cannot do something the world needs if we can't do it, and we can't make a profit from something we cannot do. And if being able to do something is all it has going for it, we will not be able to keep it up. Imagine repeatedly doing the same thing over and over without anyone using it, without getting paid for it, and without enjoying it. Over time these pursuits become completely stale to us. So the only things we do are a combination of two or more meanings. The Japanese theory breaks down the combinations into a mere four, not a full six, but the other two still exist and could be defined as the four virtues.

The four actions

The four actions defined by the concept of Ikigai are passion, mission, profession, and vocation.

PASSION is the combination of talent and love. When we combine talent and love, without use or profit, we find something that we can do, that we enjoy doing, but which does nothing for us socially or economically. It brings us joy and uses our skills, but nothing else.

MISSION is the combination of love and use. When we combine love and use, without talent or profit, we find something that we enjoy, that is needed, but which we cannot deliver upon. It is not of a high enough standard to help others, nor to make a profit for ourselves to live on.

PROFESSION is the combination of talent and profit. When we combine talent and profit we find something which we can do very well and make money off, but which brings us, and those around us, no joy. It has no security and no pleasure behind it.

VOCATION is the combination of profit and use. When we combine profit and use we find something which is needed and which we can live off, but which we do not enjoy and are not skilled at. As such we are unlikely to develop the skills in this field and are likely to quit or be replaced by someone more dedicated.

The two virtues

Secondarily, we have the combinations which we cannot always act upon, but which represent the ideals that civilization is built upon. These virtues are important for our emotional and spiritual health.

SELFLESSNESS is the combination of talent and use. Selflessness is a virtue because it connects us to others and brings society together. Nobody is useless to society, but not everyone is useful and capable all the time. For example, Stephen Hawking is an amazing mind, but without the support of others we could never hear his thoughts. Or an intellectually different child may bring profound joy to her parents, but will always need the support of those around her. By supporting each other, even if we gain nothing from it, we allow everyone the opportunity to give something to civilization, which benefits us indirectly by preserving our great societies.

SELFISHNESS is the combination of love and profit. Many people believe selflessness to be a virtue and selfishness to be its polar opposite, a hateful, hurtful behavior. However, selfishness is better defined as self-care. If we were selfless all the time, we would use all our time on charity, give away all our goods, and starve in a ditch. There is always more need than we have resources to offer. Selfishness is that line in the sand where we provide for ourselves first, where we put on our own oxygen mask before helping others. And this virtue allows us to continue helping others for longer, to multiply our usefulness to society, and to build a society according to our own ideals.

However, neither the actions nor the virtues are your ikigai. They are good pursuits to have around the sides, but none of them is a good reason for living. Your ikigai has to add even more.

Our emotions: many people get stuck when they come to a combination of threes

A combination of three meanings is often a plateau for people seeking a sense of purpose, and the longer it takes to get there, the more likely you are to stop at this final hurdle. These four combinations are so difficult to overcome because they genuinely bring us deep joy by stimulating our four positive emotions. However, we must move beyond the four positive emotions if we are to find our Ikigai.

The four emotions

Positive emotions can be so hard to create that when we find one, we may think of it as the Holy Grail and become highly defensive of it. Although all of these combinations are good for us, none of them provide a sense of true purpose or peace. It is important to find them, because they are essential to reaching our Ikigai, but we must not stop when we get here.

SATISFACTION is the combination of love, talent, and profit. When we do something we enjoy, are good at, and make money from, we tend to feel satisfied after a day's work. However, the downside of this emotion is that it comes with uselessness. As your actions are not needed, it is possible that your profit will be lost some day, setting you back to a passion. This uselessness leaves us seeking something more to connect us to humanity as a whole.

COMFORT is the combination of talent, profit, and use. When we do something we are good at, can make money from, which is needed, we tend to feel comfortable. However, the downside is that our life has little fulfilment. We do not enjoy what we do, we just wake up every morning and do it, because we have grown used to it and because we are afraid that it is the best there is. This lack of fulfilment means that you are not happy, and this action cannot be your ikigai.

THRILL is the combination of profit, use, and love. When we do something we can make money from, which is needed, and which we love, we tend to feel excited. However, the downside of this emotion is that because we are not good at what we are doing, our future under this action is deeply uncertain. We cannot rely on this action to sustain us forever. This uncertainty means that you are relying on luck to continue this action for your life, and it cannot be your Ikigai.

DELIGHT is the combination of use, love, and talent. When we do something which is needed and we love, and that we are good at, we feel a genuine joy, a natural high at being connected to our own wellbeing and that of others. However, the downside is that we cannot profit from these actions, so we have no wealth. This leaves us in the position of relying on others, of not putting in as much as we take out, eventually building resentment on both sides: on theirs because you do not contribute, and on yours because you have no wealth.

The one and only Ikigai

The reason so many people get stuck at the emotional hurdles presented by the combination of threes is because of how much hardship and sacrifice it takes to get there. We have learned throughout our lives that we discover meaning through trial and error. We find a profession, or a passion, but we have to give them up because they do not provide us with all that we need from life. It can be very disheartening to find something satisfactory, or comfortable, and to realize that it still leaves a little void in our sense of purpose. However, this hurdle is actually the easiest to overcome.

Whereas in the case of meanings we cannot stick to one meaning on its own, and in the case of actions and virtues we cannot improve upon them, and must leave them behind, when it comes to the combination of three which leads to emotional fulfilment we don't need to throw it out the window and try again. Discovering our Ikigai is not a case of doing something completely new, but of tweaking and specializing combination of three to add the final meaning to it.

For example, a teacher may love her work, be paid for it, and be good at it. But if her service is not needed it can lead to instability. She must therefore find an aspect of teaching which is needed, for example special education, private tuition, or simply teaching in an area where her skills are necessary.

Or a sculptor may be talented, providing creations that the world needs, and be paid for it, but feel empty as the art the world wants and needs is not what they wish to create. He must therefore find a client for his more personal, intimate works, someone who will buy the art he loves creating.

When you are that close to your Ikigai, it takes literally a single step to reach it. So don't settle for a pleasant emotion. Take that last step and find fulfilment.

11 Tips For Becoming A Morning Person

Research shows that the early bird actually does catch the worm. Early risers are inclined to better grades in school, more productivity, faster career advancement, less stress, and a feeling of greater happiness than their late-waking counterparts...

11 Tips For Becoming A Morning Person


Research shows that the early bird actually does catch the worm. Early risers are inclined to better grades in school, more productivity, faster career advancement, less stress, and a feeling of greater happiness than their late-waking counterparts. Unfortunately, studies also reveal that your late-sleeping or early-rising inclination may be genetically hardwired.

About 1 or 2 in 10 people are natural morning birds, or Larks. Night Owls comprise roughly 2 or 3 in 10. The rest are Hummingbirds, arising early sometimes, late on other days, flitting back and forth between Night Owl and Lark status.

If your sleeping habits are pre-destined because of your genes, is it possible to reset your biological clock? Sleep researchers have proven you can. To reap the many benefits of getting up early, follow these tips for a transformation from Hummingbird or Night Owl to morning Lark.

1 – Set a Waking Schedule... And Stick to It

Natural early risers get up at the same time every day, even on holidays or weekends. You should do the same. Your internal clock is just like a mechanical one. It can be programmed. You can't change your natural sleeping and waking inclinations overnight, but you can do so over time. You may find yourself, from time to time, staying up late. Regardless, don't sleep in the next morning.

You have to aggressively set a waking schedule for early in the morning and stick to it. You may find this process difficult at first. Going to sleep earlier than usual could lead to sleepless nights of tossing and turning. If you find yourself tired in the mid afternoon, treat yourself to a 20 or 30-minute nap. Only do this as long as your nap-time does not leave you foggy and drowsy.

2 – End Your Sleep with Sunlight

Night owls and hummingbirds can become morning larks by sleeping with their blinds or curtains open. When you let daylight awaken you naturally, this gentle process can help slowly reset your biological clock. You should still set an alarm, timing your alarm to go off when the sun rises.

3 – Go Outdoors Early in the Morning

As soon as possible after waking up, go outside. Take your dental floss or cup of coffee outside to add part of your morning process to this new routine. Exposing yourself to daylight in the morning helps make you alert. You can trick yourself into getting up early by having someone set your clock ahead. Don't watch them do it.

This way, you don't know if your clock is 5, 10 or 15 minutes fast. This gives you a small and simple safety net that guarantees you are up early enough to enjoy a morning outdoors. If weather or some other reason keeps you from going outside upon rising, head for the sunniest window in your home. You can alternately buy daylight bulbs that effectively reproduce artificial sunlight.

4 – Kick the TV Out of Your Bedroom

You have to understand that your bedroom is for sleeping. This means removing your television, any electronics with LED displays, excess furniture, clothing and any other items that don't promote a sleep-friendly environment. Don't kid yourself, saying that you are only going to watch TV for "a few minutes" before bedtime. Just 10 or 15 minutes of watching television, texting on your smart phone or checking in on Facebook alerts your brain and all of your senses. This makes it very difficult to fall asleep.

5 – Read a Good Book Before Bedtime

Reading somehow lends itself to sleep-promotion, unlike watching television. So does listening to soothing music. However, you should limit the amount of time you spend on either one of those activities. If you decide to read or listen to calming music before you shut your eyes at night, do it for the same period of time every night.

You will notice that routine and repetition are mentioned throughout these tips. That is because your brain responds best to consistent and repetitive action when you are trying to break an old habit or adopt a new one.

6 – Prep for the Morning the Night Before

Night owls are usually rushing around in the morning because they hit the snooze button several times and are running late. You can help your early morning rising by making it relaxing and easy on your nerves. The night before, set out the clothes you're going to wear the next day.

Pack your lunch if you take lunch to work. Prepare your kid's lunch boxes, program your coffee maker to go off automatically in the morning, and do as much as you can for your morning routine the night before.

7 – Use Mood Lighting at Night

Only use dim lights at night in your bathroom. If you have to answer the call of nature in the middle of the night, a blast of bright lights can make it difficult to go back to bed. The same is true for your pre-bedtime rituals. Brushing your teeth or removing your makeup should be done with minimal lighting, and the lighting you use in your bedroom at night should also be soft and sleep-friendly.

8 – Stop Hitting the Snooze Button

People who hate getting up in the morning tend to do it several times. That doesn't make much sense, does it? A night owl is blasted awake by his morning alarm. He dreads the thought of getting up, so he hits the snooze button for 5 more minutes of rest. 5 minutes later, the alarm goes off again, and the whole feeling of hating to get up is repeated.

Morning people arise immediately upon hearing their alarm. You should do the same. You actually make yourself more tired and cranky by trying to catch several 5 or 10-minute snooze button naps before you decide to finally, begrudgingly get out of bed in the morning.

It will be difficult at first, but after a few weeks you will have programmed yourself to live without your snooze button. If this process means immediately enjoying a cup of caffeine-rich coffee in the morning so you can stay awake, that's fine, but don't overdo it with more than 1 cup.

Everything You Need To Know About Being An Introvert

You May Be an Introvert If…

Not sure if you are an introvert or just shy? The two can go hand in hand, but they don’t have to. Many introverted people aren’t shy – they just enjoy people in smaller doses than extroverts. See how many of these fit your personality. If most of them do, you are probably an introvert.

  1. Introverts revel in time alone – they need lots of time to think and dream. They enjoy creative and solitary pursuits.
  2. Introverts are social – but don’t need to be around people a lot. While other personality types crave the excitement of a party, introverts would rather be talking one-on-one with someone who has interesting ideas.
  3. Introverts tend to listen more than they talk – until someone brings up their favorite topic. Then they will ask questions and excitedly discuss the intricacies of the issue. Until then, they are happy to quietly listen and learn about those around them.
  4. Introverts are keen observers – since they are often quietly listening, they observe a great deal about the people and environment around them. They enjoy this. While their friend is shopping in the mall, they will be people-watching… that is if their friend can drag them to the mall.
  5. Introverts are often very perceptive or intuitive – it may partially be all the observing they do, but they tend to be insightful and good judges of character. They may seem to know the deeper motivations behind other people’s actions or words than others may be comfortable with.
  6. Introverts are excited by ideas – this is why they perk up at the mention of a new interest of theirs. They want to dig deep into the inner workings of everything that fascinates them.
  7. Introverts have rich inner lives – with all the thinking going on, this isn’t surprising. They are more than content to ponder how and why something works, just for the mental stimulation.


  1. Introverts need their own quiet space – yeah, like a man cave. They need a place they can call their own where they can just be and think. They are most contented in that space.
  2. Introverts have a couple of close friends – rather than a lot of acquaintances. They are looking for deep, enriching relationships with people they trust, rather than good-time friends.
  3. Introverts can get cranky if they spend too much time with people – so if their friend does get them to go to the mall, they shouldn’t expect it to be an all-day adventure. Being around people, especially a lot of people for an extended period is draining for introverts.

Ways Introverts Interact With Their Environment

Introverts interact with people and their environments differently than extroverts do. Because their brains are hardwired differently, they don’t feel the same way about people and events, and their behavior demonstrates that. Here’s a list of ways that introverts interact differently with their environment than extroverts do.

Don’t get “high” on their environment – Extroverts experience a release of dopamine, a feel-good hormone when they are in a crowd. They take on the energy that surrounds them and live it up. In other words, they get a “high” from it. Introverts, on the other hand, shut down and hide in a crowded environment.

Think before they speak – Introverts mull things over before deciding on a logical conclusion. While extroverts often think aloud, introverts engage in an internal dialogue before opening their mouths to speak. This fact has encouraged the belief that introverts are shy or antisocial because they don’t just jump right into a conversation as extroverts do.

Live near the exit – When they are in a crowd of people, introverts subconsciously head near the exit to stand. They always want to have a way out if the environment becomes too overstimulating. By standing near an exit, they can escape and take in some solitary time, if needed. This has earned them a reputation for being snobby or standoffish.

Screen calls – Highly focused introverts are more likely to let their voicemail deal with an unexpected call than to answer it. They dislike being interrupted when they are focused on a task, so even if the call coming in is from a friend or family member, they will often call them back rather than risk breaking their concentration.

Prefer texting or emailing – Introverts love some of the newer technology available to them because it gives them a socially-acceptable way to avoid small talk. They much prefer to text or email others because the informal chit-chat is considered unnecessary when communicating in those ways. They can get straight to the point without coming off as rude.

Drawn to solitary, creative work – Understandably, introverts lean towards careers that allow them to focus on detail-oriented tasks that are creative and can be easily done alone. Their mono-focus gives them the ability to perform detailed work and, being able to skip all the office chit-chat, reserves their energy so they can complete highly creative tasks.

Make excellent public speakers – This may seem counter-intuitive based on what you know about introverts, but think about it. If they are on stage, you don’t have to mingle. Mingling means energy drain and small talk to the introvert, but when they are informing people of a topic they are interested in, they are enthusiastic and energetic.

The Reason You’re an Introvert is in Your Brain

Most of us believe our personality is the reason for our introversion. And part of it may be. However, a recent study proves that the brain of an introvert works differently from an extrovert’s. This means no matter who our parents were or what our environment was like growing up, we were born hard-wired as an introvert. Let’s look at the details of the study to learn more.

The study included many different people from all ages, cultures, and walks of life. They were shown images of objects and people’s faces as their brain waves were monitored by an EEG. Scientists found that introvert’s and extrovert’s brains reacted differently to the two different types of pictures.

Specifically, what the scientists were looking for in the brain was the P300 wave, which is caused when we experience a sudden modification in our environment. The researchers discovered that extroverts started P300 brain activity when they saw a picture of a person’s face, while introverts showed this brain activity when they say pictures of objects.

Now, this study does not give extroverts more ammunition to say introverts don’t like people or are snobs. But what it does tell us is that introverts give more emphasis to objects than they do to people. On the other hand, extroverts give more attention to people than to objects. And this makes sense if you think about what drives each of these two different types of people. Introverts are energized by spending time in solitary pursuits, figuring things out, but extroverts are energized by being around people.


Introverts, of course, care deeply about their loved ones, but they don’t need to have a steady stream of stimulation by people or events like extroverts do. And introverts can also enjoy being around people, especially around a small group of intimates. However, they don’t need this interaction as frequently as extroverts do. We are all social creatures – introverts just do socialize differently than extroverts.

How does knowing about this study help you? Well, if you are like most introverts, you have at least one extrovert in your life who is always pressuring you to get out of your shell and out of the house. They may tease you about being a shy homebody and incessantly invite you to join the fun at social events. Now you can explain that your brain simply works differently than theirs and that you don’t enjoy the constant stimulation of other people’s company as they do.

Surprising Facts about Introverts

 Super creative – According to scientific tests, the percentage of introverts who are creative is much higher than with extroverts. One speculation for this is that it’s due to the inordinate amount of alone time introverts set aside, much of it for thinking of new ideas. Typically, one needs quiet time to encourage creative ideas to be formed.

Rarely get lonely or bored – With all the alone time introvert schedule for brainstorming, they rarely find themselves bored. There’s always a new thing to try, a new plan to implement or a challenge to overcome. Their worlds are in their minds, so wherever they go, they rarely are lonely or bored.


Reserve trust – Introverts prefer to observe other people’s behavior, body language and words before determining whether or not they are worthy of their trust. Rather than share deeply with others, they reserve their trust for those they are intimate with, and there are usually only a handful of those people.

Prefer writing – When given a choice between communicating in writing or verbally, the introvert will usually take the written route. Writing out their ideas gives them time to fully think through what they want to say and how they want to say it. When communicating verbally, introverts have to think on their feet, which they find uncomfortable.

Quality producer – Introverts are extremely productive people – when left to their own devices. When they can work in a way they like – alone, without distraction, they mono-focus to produce great results. In fact, some find it astounding how many brilliant ideas an introvert can brainstorm, plan and implement. They are not just thinkers – they execute their unique ideas.

Easily distracted – On the other side, introverts can be easily distracted. This occurs typically when they are overstimulated or have too many ideas to implement. When there’s too much to do, or their ideas are coming faster than they can put them to use, they can falter deciding what to tackle first.

 Mysterious – Extroverts find introverted individuals mysterious. Think about it – they stand off to the side and observe everyone’s comings and goings without revealing much of anything about themselves. Extroverts often claim introverts are hard to get a real sense of, which can be either alluring or disheartening.


On a continuum – Introversion is not a one size fits all. We are all unique and run along the lines of a continuum, as with all things in life. You may recognize yourself in some of the above characteristics and not so much with others. Or, you may be more social than other introverts, enjoying a party, as long as you know about it ahead of time.

Communication Struggles That Only Introverts Have

Some of the issues that introverts have when communicating with others are due to the very definition of being an introvert. Extroverts may not understand these things about you because they don’t experience them. By understanding why you should struggle with these types of communication, you can better explain them to those extroverts in your life.

Your conversation must be brilliant – Due to perfectionistic tendencies, introverts frequently don’t speak up, even when they have something to say because they fear it won’t be insightful enough or it will come out all wrong.


Neglect phone calls – You much prefer to text or email because you can skip the small talk and it’s socially acceptable with those forms of communication. But phone calls… shudder! You find yourself procrastinating making important phone calls or returning calls, even to those you love. You have to feel energized enough to be an enthusiastic participant in the conversation, which can cause you to put off making calls, even if they are vital.

Difficulty thinking in groups – Because you need to think before you speak and because you need to have silence while you ponder, you find it challenging to participate in the conversation when there are comments and ideas flying everywhere. You may feel like you can’t gather your thoughts well enough to contribute to the conversation.

Big groups exhaust you – When you have to be around a lot of people, especially if you don’t know them, you feel exhausted fast. One reason for this is because it involves a lot of small-talk, which doesn’t come naturally to introverts. Putting out that much effort wears you out.


Dislike working in groups – Working in groups can be even worse for an introvert than small-talk. When you must rely on others to communicate in ways that aren’t comfortable or understandable to you, it’s a real challenge to complete the project. There’s also the issue of your perfectionism too. Because of your practice of thinking through every possible issue and solution, you are committed to only turning out perfection… but others in the group don’t often care as much about this as completion, or they have a very different perception of what “perfection” is.

Feel lonely surrounded by people – Introverts often feel left out of a rapid conversation, whether it’s at a party or a work conference. This often occurs because, by the time you determine what you want to say and the best way to say it, the group has moved onto a new topic. You can easily feel left out and lonely during these discussions – more so than if you were actually alone.


11 Superfoods To Add To Your Smoothie


Smoothies are a refreshing way to get some really good nutrients, vitamins and minerals into your body. Also, since there is no one true definition for smoothies, you can make them however you like. Some people add milk or other dairy products, while others use ice and water. Sweeteners may or may not be used. Fruits and/or vegetables of all types are in play. Simply put, it is up to you exactly how you make your smoothies.

One thing that almost everyone agrees on is that a smoothie is made for health purposes. People drink a smoothie rather than a soft drink or some other unhealthy beverage to try to impact their health in a positive manner. Herbs and spices, nutritional and herbal supplements, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, protein powder and seeds, nuts, milk and even tea are added to the ingredients of a smoothie with the sole purpose of giving yourself a natural health boost. Following that way of thinking, why not add “superfoods” to your next smoothie?

There are some amazing foods nutritionists and health experts agree dramatically improve your overall mental and physical health and wellness levels. Many times they don’t even change the flavor of your favorite smoothie, or have very little taste impact. The next time you whip up a healthy smoothie, add some of the following 11 super foods to make your refreshing drink as healthy as possible.


Blueberries taste great, they are full of healthy fiber, they add a wonderful blue/purple hue to your smoothies, and they decrease your risk of contracting heart disease. Eating blueberries regularly can lower unhealthy cholesterol levels and has been directly related to lower rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and early death, while promoting healthy, young looking hair and skin.

These yummy little berries deliver phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, manganese and vitamin K, all of which contribute to healthy bones. Additionally, zinc and iron are two minerals many people have insufficient levels of in their bodies, which are important for keeping your joints healthy. Because of the above-mentioned minerals, a regular consumption of blueberries decreases blood pressure naturally, helps diabetes sufferers manage their condition, prevents the development of cancer, improves mental health and promotes healthy digestion. If those are not enough good reasons to add blueberries to your next smoothie, try this one … they taste great! 

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds get healthy levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids into your body. As you probably know, omega-3 is are present in very high levels in fish. Not everyone likes to eat fish. This is a great to ensure you are getting omega-3 into your body if you don’t want to eat fish 3 to 4 times a week.

Chia seeds are also chock full of calcium and dietary fiber. This means they promote bone health and a strong digestive process that promotes healthy body weight maintenance. A tablespoon or two in your smoothie and a little extra time blending can deliver a lot of health benefits. By the way, Chia seeds are almost totally tasteless in a smoothie, so you don’t affect the flavor of your favorite recipe.

3  Goji Berries

You may not find a better immune system booster than Goji berries. Chock full of healthy antioxidants and vitamin C, some studies show that Goji berries support healthy vision and circulation. These are incredibly tasty little berries as well. Delivering more than 20 minerals and vitamins that support head to toe health and well-being, Goji berries have been a mainstay in Asian cultures for centuries, and deserve a place in your next smoothie. Add some natural sweetness to a refreshing beverage with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Goji berries.  

4  Acai

Acai is present in nature as a berry, but you can find Acai berry powder if you look around. As always, it is recommended that you choose natural, organic Acai berries rather than processed powders, unless you ensure your powder doesn’t contain unhealthy ingredients. If you can’t find it in your local area, it is available online through retail outlets like Amazon.

It’s predominant claim to fame in natural health food circles is its dramatic ability to aid in weight loss and a healthy weight maintenance. However, Acai berries also pack plenty of free radical killing antioxidants that promote heart health and fight cancer.

5  Spirulina

Spirulina is a micro algae that grows naturally in fresh, warm water lakes. Actually, it’s blue-green color is what gives some fresh water a greenish tent. It can be purchased in a powder form that works great in smoothies. Rather than reaching for an unhealthy protein powder supplement, why not choose natural spirulina instead? You get protein, amino acids and antioxidants your body craves, you promote the detoxing of dangerous toxins and poisons from your body, and you also benefit from an excellent source of iron. Spirulina is between 55 and 70% protein, a higher level than chicken, beef or soybeans. Add 18 essential and nonessential amino acids and more than a dozen other minerals, vitamins and nutrients, and you see why you should probably start adding spirulina to your next smoothie today. 

6  Hemp Seeds

Choose either hemp seeds or hemp powder and you receive 50% more protein and dramatically higher levels of dietary fiber than if you use a soy-based protein powder. There is some research which shows that soy may not be the best food to put into your body, and hemp protein allows for a healthy substitute.

Athletes constantly eat hemp seeds and use hemp powder in their smoothies and beverages because of its ability to quickly repair muscles. Add 1 to 4 tablespoons of hemp powder for a huge dose of protein, but just remember that the more hemp product you use, the stronger the taste.


7  Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is so unbelievably healthy that it definitely qualifies as a superfood. Adding just 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to your daily diet means stronger, healthier, younger looking skin, hair and nails. When you cook with coconut oil, you enjoy the highest flash point of any healthy oil. This means that unhealthy oxidation does not occur, which is what happens when commonly using other oils to fry, sauté and bake. You can rub coconut oil into your hair for a shiny glow, apply to your skin for multiple health benefits, and coconut oil helps you lose weight by aiding your body in the way it metabolizes fat.

You can also plop some into your next smoothie.

If you are making a 16 to 32 ounce smoothie, a tablespoon or two of coconut oil will go unnoticed. It will not affect the taste of your smoothie, and studies show coconut oil supports healthy mental functions. You also experience an increase in natural energy, while this wonderful oil goes to work killing harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses in your body.

 8  Bone Broth

While bone broth is usually consumed as a warm soup, it makes perfect sense in a smoothie. Especially if you are adding a lot of fiber or more dense vegetables or fruits, this can help add much needed liquid to your drink. The gelatin and collagen in bone broth can fill important holes in your diet. Collagen improves the strength and health of your nails, skin and hair, and gelatin is full of marvelous anti-inflammatory properties that keep your digestive process working properly.

You can notice real benefits to the appearance and health of your skin, hair and nails in as little as 5 to 7 days if you add 1 cup of organic bone broth to your diet daily, and you can easily do this by adding it to your smoothies.

9  Avocados

Along with blueberries, avocados have long been considered a superfood. If you are looking to thicken up a smoothie, a healthy avocado is perfect for the job. You get more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals, healthy fats and protein, and healthier, younger looking skin. Avocado is also good at making you feel full longer, which means you may eat fewer calories throughout the day, leading to weight loss. 

10  Eggs

Eggs are known by many nutritionists as having “perfect” protein. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, it was thought that eating too many eggs could lead to serious cholesterol problems. We now know this was based on faulty research, and since eggs deliver virtually no carbohydrates and very few calories for all the wonderful nutrients they deliver, they deserve a place in your diet.

However, not everyone likes to eat eggs scrambled, fried or boiled, the traditional means of preparing eggs. A simple solution is to add 1 or 2 eggs to your smoothie, because they are such a good healthy-protein source. This means you don’t have to turn to protein powder that may have negative side-effects and unhealthy processed chemicals and other materials that are not good for you.

11  Apples

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. This could be because apples are full of healthy dietary fiber and natural sweetness that keeps you from snacking on unhealthy sugar-filled snacks and sweets. Apples are also packed full of healthy antioxidants that fight free radicals, chemicals that lead to increased risk of contracting cancer. There are a lot of good reasons to add some apple (peeled) to your next smoothie recipe. 

Bonus Smoothie Health Tip

Whether you make your own smoothies or buy them at the retail level, remember this. Too many fruits can cause an overabundance of sugar, which leads to health concerns. You also want to ask a lot of questions if you are not preparing your own smoothies. There could be unhealthy protein powders, sugar, syrup, dairy products or nutritional supplements involved in making your smoothie that don’t agree with you, or could lead to health problems.

When you make your own smoothies at home, you control every step of the process. That means you can use only the healthiest ingredients, including the 11 superfoods above that guarantee a natural health boost that improves your wellness from head to toe.

15 Foods To Eat Before & After Workouts

15 foods to eat before and after workouts


Do you actively think about what you should be eating before and after a workout? If you are like most people, you do not and that is a mistake. Why? Your body needs a certain kind of nutrition in each stage of an exercise workout. In this article, we discuss in detail about what to eat both before and after a workout and why those types of foods are best at both ends of an exercise session. 

Before Working Out

As part of your routine of preparing for a workout, your food should mainly consist of both simple and complex carbohydrates in addition to lean protein, healthy fats and fluids. As far as carbs, the simple ones which consist mainly of sugars, digest quicker to give you the quick energy you need at the beginning of your workout. The complex variety, along with fats and proteins, digest slower and provide a more stable blood sugar level to give you enough energy to carry you though to the end of your workout. Recommended foods eaten before a workout to give you the energy you need in the beginning include:


Make your own from yogurt or a milk either dairy or plant-based, such as almond or soy. Add in some fresh fruit and either oatmeal or granola to increase the consistency if you want. Otherwise thicken it up by adding ice cubes before blending.

Greek yogurt and trail mix

Much like a smoothie, the dried fruit in the trail mix provides the energy you need at the beginning while the nuts and seeds help toward the end of your workout.

Whole wheat toast topped with peanut butter and sliced bananas

The fruit in this pre-workout combo gives you the quick energy you need while the toast and peanut butter digest more slowly. For a little kick, add a dash or two of cinnamon. Not only does it add flavor, but it is proven to stabilize blood sugar, so you don’t get the “sugar crash”. 

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread

It is hard to go wrong with a PBJ sandwich. The peanut butter has the protein, the bread the complex carbs and the jelly the quick-digesting simple carbs. If you are prone to cramping, throw on a sliced banana on top of the jelly to boost the potassium. And it doesn’t need refrigeration!

Oatmeal with fresh fruit and walnuts

Oatmeal and walnuts take longer to digest while the fruit gives you almost instant energy. The walnuts also have Omega-3 which is a protein so your muscles can get a jump on repair and rebuilding as soon as you are finished exercising. If you don’t have fresh fruit, drizzle a little honey on it instead for some natural sweetness and a quick boost of energy.

Apple wedges and almond butter

Here again, the fresh fruit gives you the boost you need in the beginning, while the almond butter carries the load until the end.

Fruit salad on quinoa with sliced avocado

The sugar in the fresh fruit provides the quick energy while the quinoa helps level out the blood sugar to prevent spiking. The avocado provides the healthy fat and helps prevent inflammation in the muscles. 

Multi-grain crackers with hummus

Spread about 3 tablespoons of hummus on 10 crackers for a great on-the-go snack. You can even make little sandwiches out of them by using two crackers and some filling. As an alternate to hummus, you can use guacamole.

Which is right for you?

One school of thought suggests you should exercise on an empty stomach because you burn more calories and hence more fat. However, studies have proven that you’ll burn about the same number of calories regardless if you eat beforehand or not. The difference is if you don’t have enough spare calories to burn in your kidneys and liver, as is the case if you exercise right away in the morning, your body could end up taking it from your muscles causing a loss of muscle mass which is never good.

After Working Out

Once finished with your workout, your focus should be eating complex carbohydrates, protein and a little healthy fat – the unsaturated kind within the “window of opportunity” 30 minutes to an hour after exercising. Why is the window of opportunity important? Because after an hour post-workout, the body’s ability to replenish the glycogen in the muscles decreases by 50%. Not only does this delay the repairing and rebuilding of the damage done to your muscles from exercising, but you will not have the energy necessary to keep your metabolism burning at it high level for hours afterward – called afterburn. The complex carbs help replenish the glycogen that was used up during the workout while the protein helps the muscles start healing the micro tears that happened and help grow them larger. Don’t go overboard on the protein; 10 to 20 grams is enough. The healthy fat helps break down the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, that are chocked full of antioxidants. Foods that work well post-workout include:

Protein shake

One banana, a scoop of protein powder and some almond milk makes a great post-workout snack. Add in a few ice cubes to thicken and get it cold.

Grilled chicken and mix vegetables

Spread some heart-friendly olive oil on the chicken and veggies before grilling to add in some flavor and color to the meat.

Veggie omelet with avocado

Eggs are one of the best natural sources of protein for your muscles. The avocado of course is your source of unsaturated fat. 

Grilled salmon with sweet potato

In this case, the fish provides the much-needed unsaturated fat and the complex carbs comes from the sweet potato.

Tuna fish on whole wheat toast

Whole grain provides the complex carbs while the tuna is a good source of complex carbs and healthy fat. Instead of using mayo on the bread, spread a thin layer of hummus and a few leaves of spinach. Be sure to buy the canned tuna packed in water instead of oil. That way you won’t lose the omega-3s as they are an oil and will not mix (and get thrown out) with the water as they would if packed in oil.


No, not take-out, delivery or even one you buy in the store. This one is made at home on a whole wheat crust with a little buffalo wing sauce, topped with fresh vegetables and a chopped up grilled chicken breast. The beauty of it is it only takes 15 minutes from start to finish and gives you around 55 grams of protein along with 10 grams of fiber.

Burrito and Beans

If you like Hispanic cuisine, try a burrito filled with a ½ cup of black beans, ½ cup of brown rice and 2 tablespoons of guacamole, rolled and topped with a little salsa. Fiber, complex carbs and a healthy fat all rolled into one! 

Chocolate milk

This drink hit the newer post-workout crowd by storm (or should we say again, as the older body-builders have used this trick for a long time). In the past, water or a sports drink was the liquid of choice after a workout, but where else can you replace the carbs, calcium, sodium, sugar and water lost during your workout in one glass, along with the getting the protein your muscles need in recovery. Chocolate milk is perhaps the perfect post-workout drink. It falls in line with the research results from Central Washington University that found at carb-to-protein ratio of 4:1 as being the perfect combination for post-workout muscle recovery. 

During a Workout

So far, we have covered in great detail how to eat before and after a workout, but what should you be doing during a workout? If you are working out over 60 minutes, you can lose up to 2% of your bodyweight in fluids which affects your performance. To prevent this, drink 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes during your workout. For endurance workouts lasting over 90 minutes, consume some simple carbs along the way, like a sports gel pack, banana or one ounce of dried fruit along with alternating between water and a sports drink to keep your fluid levels up. These are only a small number of the food combinations you can make and eat both before and after a workout. With a little creativeness, you can create your own delicious and nutritious pre- and post-workout meals.

Stay hydrated

In most cases for exercise workouts lasting less than an hour, the best hydration is just plain water. Make sure you start your exercise program hydrated by drinking at least two 8-ounce glasses of water about two hours before starting your exercise workout. Keep drinking enough water to replace what you lost about every 15 minutes. Rehydrate with another two glasses or so after your workout. If you work out for over an hour, or in hot humid conditions, then you might benefit from a sports drink as it can help replenish lost electrolytes and fluid. A good one should have around 14 to 15 grams of carbohydrate in 8 ounces. Sodium should be around 110 milligrams with potassium at 30 milligrams. The sodium and potassium get these two electrolyte level back up where they belong and prevent muscle cramping. 

Eating right before and after a workout not only improves your performance, but also help you recover faster. Carbs (both simple and complex), protein and healthy fats all play a role in not only getting you ready for a workout, but refueling you afterwards and starting the recovery process. Eating the right foods “does a body good.”

How To Prepare For Shortages

How to Prepare for an Electricity Shortage

Electricity is an essential part of our lives today. So much so, that when we are left without it we can have a very hard time getting by. And yet electricity shortages happen all the time. During extreme weather events power lines can be affected, or areas will shut off electricity to try and keep everyone safe. Sometimes our energy provider will shut off our electricity due to changing wires, unpaid bills, or even a simple mix-up. From time to time we may actively go somewhere without electricity, such as going camping, too. Sometimes we will get fair warning that our electricity is going to be shut off, but most of the time? Most of the time there is no warning at all. So what can we do to make sure we are ready for an electricity shortage, no matter what the reason? There are a few essential measures we can take to prepare for a shortage.

Have alternative light sources

The very first thing we will notice during an electricity shortage is that the lights don’t work, possibly just at home, but possibly anywhere. It is hard to understand how much we rely on electrical lighting until we aren’t able to use it. So make sure to be prepared. Candles are a good conventional source of light, but wear down fast and carry the risk of fire. Make sure you have some, just in case, but prioritize some high quality, battery-powered LED torches. LED torches last a very long time, just don’t store them with batteries still inside them, and keep your batteries in their original packaging, in a Tupperware box, to avoid discharge and damp damage.

Keeping tech charged

Make sure your tech stays charged, especially your phones, as they can be a life saver, especially if the phone and internet signal is still going strong. Invest in a good power bank to keep your phone charged in case of an emergency. Keep your power bank topped up by charging it every three months or so. You may also wish to consider getting a spare, low-energy phone, like a non-smartphone, or a very low end smartphone, and keeping it on PAYG with a tenner of credit and all important numbers saved on it.

Keeping food from spoiling

During a brief electrical shortage, it may be that your fridge or freezer will recover power in time to protect your food. But if you want to maximize your changes, make sure to keep things as cold as possible. Make sure your freezer is mostly full, and if it isn’t full enough, add two liter bottles, half full of water, to bulk it out. The more compressed your freezer is, the less heat leaves it. And during an electrical outage, put fridge items in a cooler bag with 1-4 of these two liter bottles, to keep it cool and fresh.

Keep your car fueled

During an electrical shortage, two things happen which will affect your ability to fuel your car. Firstly, most gas pumps are electric, so nothing can be got from them. And secondly, even at older pumps that may still be active, there will be high demand from people seeking fuel to get them to see loved ones, to power generators, etc. So, hedge your bets and keep your car fueled, and maybe a spare tank of fuel, at all times.

Getting a generator

Speaking of generators, they are an amazing idea if you are very reliant on electricity. If, for example, you have a machine which is keeping you alive, then you absolutely need a generator. However, in less extreme situations, such as having to deliver work during a local power outage, a generator will still come in useful.

Finding a source

When we’re looking at a large-scale shortage, such as during a natural disaster, there will often be a supply of electricity provided by the government. Find out where your electric hotspots are and keep a record of them. When in doubt, use your charged PAYG phone to call emergency services and ask for advice.

How to Prepare for a Fuel Shortage

In the case of a fuel shortage, many of us are woefully unprepared. This is because although electrical outages are common parts of our lives which we have learned to adapt to, and food and water shortages are common enough that we have at least considered them, most of us have never had to consider the risk of a fuel shortage.

However, fuel shortages are very much possible, and are indeed common in other parts of the world. Things that can cause a fuel shortage include:

Disputes between fuel providers and their suppliers or employees

A long term, large scale electrical shortage causing the shutdown of gas stations.

The slow reduction in fossil fuels creating physical, financial, or legal restrictions which will stop us using fuel.

In these situations, there are no ways of acting suddenly, so it is vital to be prepared well in advance. Here are some things we can do to prepare for a fuel shortage.

Use less fuel

If the shortage looks like it will affect you for more than a few days, work out how to use less fuel. For example, if you live far out consider buying in a month or more of groceries and focusing on frozen, freezable, or tinned good, to minimize shopping trips. If you live in an urban setting, walk to the shops and shop little and often. Consider working from home if at all possible, or condensing your work days so you have to travel less. Carpooling and public transport are also great ways of splitting fuel costs.

Have a low-fuel or fuel-free transport alternative

If you really need to get around but your regular vehicle uses a lot of fuel, consider keeping an alternative which uses less fuel. What your alternative is will depend on where you live. If you live in the city and are close to the places you need to get, a bicycle is a good choice. But if you live far out in the country and need to cover greater distances, a low-fuel motorbike or scooter could be a life-changer. Some people who live rurally will also benefit from using horses or cattle for travel. If you don’t have your own livestock, make arrangements with someone who does in case you need fuel-free transport urgently.

Keep a stockpile of fuel

This is a very clever idea, but many people get it wrong. The common mistake is to buy a pile of jerry cans, fill them, and stash them away long term. Petrol or diesel in a jerry can in your garage only has a healthy life of three to six months before it becomes useless. If you intend on keeping a stockpile, fill up jerry cans with 4 month’s worth of regular fuel use and cycle them. That means keeping a date sticker on them, when your fuel is low topping up from the oldest can, and filling a new one. This cannot be done as effectively with more sensitive engines, though, as it can wear them down.

Always keep your tanks full

A simple way to make sure you are ready for a brief fuel shortage is just to keep your vehicle/s topped up. Again, you rarely get much warning when a fuel shortage hits, it is generally well into it that most people find out, and by then it is too late to fuel up. By never letting your tank drop below half full you can make sure you have enough to keep you moving if there is a brief fuel shortage. This could make the difference between getting things done and not getting things done in a fuel shortage, or between running out of fuel fast and having enough fuel to get you to an area where the gas pumps work again.

Have wood burning and coal burning heating options

Finally, if your home uses gas, petrol, or diesel to run your heating, then you will need to have a few alternative options. A simple metal stove which burns wood or coal, has a chute to direct smoke out the window, and warms up the room quickly, could be a literal life saver if you need fuel to heat your home.

How to Prepare for a Food Shortage

Food shortages can happen to any of us, for whatever reason. It is easy to think that a food shortage will only happen to other people, but the fact of the matter is that natural disasters, losing a job or our homes, or even running out of food at the wrong time can affect any of us without warning. For this reason, we need to be prepared in case a food shortage hits us and we don’t know what to do.

Keep a stockpile

The first and easiest step is to keep a stockpile at home. It is estimated that most houses have 3-30 days worth of food at all times, so we need to make sure our food allocation is closer to the 25-90 day area. If you have enough space, try and keep it all at home, somewhere hidden in case of looters. If you do not have much space of your own, talk to neighbors about starting a collective stockpile for a few of you, or even for your street. This would be kept somewhere secure, nearby, that you all have access to, but which is out of sight from the street.

Important stockpile goods are all things with a long life. This means we want to avoid anything fresh, or poorly sealed goods such as part-baked breads. A minimum 2-3 year shelf life is required. Good ideas include:

  • tinned goods
  • jarred goods
  • dry pulses
  • dry fruit and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • pasta
  • flour
  • dried, sealed meat and hard cheese

And don’t throw tins or jars out just because of their best-before date! This date means nothing regarding how edible the food is, it just refers to taste, consistency, etc. Any food that can be safely stored in a can or jar for over two years can be stored pretty much indefinitely so long as the container is not damaged.

Be wary of damp as well. Any food which is in a metallic container must be elevated away from the ground and stored away from water leaks. Food in paper containers is completely useless and must not be stored. Unwrapped foods are also useless, especially if you can’t check on them regularly. Make sure as much food as possible is in water-tight containers, such as plastic bags.

Picking the right type of food

Make sure you have a wide variety of foods. Tinned and jarred meats, tinned and dry fruit and vegetables, grains and pulses in plastic bags, are all excellent for nutrition, and if you can keep some shelf-stable supplements this is very important too. But don’t forget that you will need plenty of pure and simple calories too, so don’t skip chips, sweets, and chocolates. They have a long shelf life, come wrapped tightly in plastic, and are loaded with calories whilst taking up very little space, making them great emergency foods.

Finally, typical bulk buying strategies of getting large containers are not a good idea. Why? Because once they’ve been opened these containers are useless, cause vermin, fungi, and damp can get into a container once it is opened. So unless you plan on eating 25lbs of lentils, or 1lb of ravioli, or 5kg of sugar all in one go, try and keep your stockpile in small containers which cover one or two meals for your family at the most.

Grow your own and know where food grows

Fresh food can be very hard to get by during times of crisis, so it is important to have access to your own fresh food wherever you are. Growing some food in your garden or an allotment are great ideas. But if you can’t grow your own, consider finding out about community gardens, ornamental edible plants people grow, and local wild edibles. Don’t go for anything that is questionable, but crab apples and blackberries are safe bets.

Learn where collection zones are

Finally, it is highly important to remember that in the event of a crisis, personal or widespread, there are NGOs and government official schemes designed to deliver food to people who need it. If you find yourself suddenly without food, find out where your nearest food bank is and see if they have anything to help you out.

How to Prepare for a Water Shortage

Lack of water is not something we think of as affecting first world nations, but developed countries can and do suffer water shortages in many situations. During natural disasters water may be very scarce, or at least clean, fresh, healthy water may be. Often whole cities are supplied by a single reservoir too. Should there be a problem with this water supply, such as drying up or contamination, then you will need to find water elsewhere. And finally, during droughts it is not rare for local governments to enforce restrictions on how and when water is used, to help it go further.

So what can everyday people like you or I do to ensure that we have enough water to last us during a shortage? There are several ways of prepping for such an event:

Do not overuse the water you have

It should go without saying, but if you are short on water, you need to use it carefully and cleverly. We all know the basics: don’t wash your car, don’t water your lawn, etc. However, there are other ways of using water efficiently. For example, when washing the dishes fill two small tubs that fit in the sink, one with soapy and one with clean water. Use the soapy water for washing and dip in clean water to rinse. Or when cooking vegetables or pasta, save and refrigerate the water and reuse it for up to 48h, at which point finish by making a stew. Having a very shallow bath rather than a shower can help too. You won’t be immersed, but just sat in the water and you can use a jug to pour it over yourself.

Keep a rainwater collector

Just because the water reservoir has dried up doesn’t always mean it will have stopped raining. So set up a large rainwater collector to grab as much water as humanly possible. If you have methods for purifying water, then there is another trick you can use. The bigger the surface of the collector, the more water it collects per minute. So your house is a huge rainwater collector. Keep your gutters clean and place barrels underneath them to gather water. At the very least, you will have some water for cleaning outside, watering plants, or giving to pets. But, if you can purify it, you will have washing water, or even drinking water, for free.

Keep water filters

Whether you plan on collecting your own water or not, make sure to make use of a water filter, or store them in case you need them. Home water filters are an amazing tool, and very advanced in this day and age. So much so that you can get systems which will all but completely eliminate toxins, bacteria, and parasites. Shop around and find yourself a very good one. Water filter systems mean that you can safely drink rainwater, or purify contaminated water which is coming out of your tap, or even recover water which has been left in a jug and gone a bit stale.

Stockpile sugary drinks and mild alcoholic beverages

It is ordinarily very bad advice to drink sugary drinks and alcoholic drinks instead of water, as they will slow down how quickly you hydrate. But when we are facing a long term water shortage, slow hydration is better than no hydration. Fresh or bottled water has a nasty habit of going stale very quickly, and can grow bacteria of all kinds. Sugar and alcohol will help keep bacteria at bay if you really have no other options.

Buy and eat watery fruits and vegetables

Finally, often when there is a water shortage the rest of life carries on as normal. But what do you buy when the supermarket is all out of drinks? Simple: watery plants. Many plants have a high fluid and mineral content which makes them excellent for hydration. So buy up cucumbers, oranges, tomatoes, radishes, pineapple, coconut, all kinds of melon, etc., and try and use them to stay as hydrated as possible until water is available again.

6 Reasons Why Walking is Great for Women

10 benefits of cardio

Walking is often overlooked as a cardio activity because it is something we do every day. So much emphasis is placed on hard workouts like CrossFit and running, that most women forget that walking is one of the best forms of cardio out there.

While it cannot be denied that the results that you get from walking will come much more slowly than what you’d get with high-intensity training, the fact of the matter is that you will get results. If your diet is clean and you’re at a caloric deficit, walking can be a very effective form of cardio.

The points below will state why women who have led sedentary lives or prefer less strenuous workouts should adopt walking as a form of cardio training.

1.. Easier & Low Impact

Walking is easier to do and you’ll not be panting and gasping for air like you would with running or other strenuous forms of exercise. If you’ve not exercised in a long time, walking will be a great way to start getting active. If you’re overweight, it will also be easier on your joints.

You’ll be less likely to develop joint pain or delayed onset muscle soreness. Ideally, your walks should be brisk and purposeful. This will get your heart pumping and boost your metabolic rate.

2.. Strengthens Your Joints and Bones

Walking prevents or delays the onset of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis by strengthening the bones. Women with these problems have noticed an improvement in their condition when they started walking three to five times a week.

3.. Makes Exercise a Habit

One reason so many women give up on their weight loss and fitness journey is because they start skipping workouts. Once they do that, they feel guilty that they’ve let themselves down and they end up quitting. The truth of the matter is that they often dread the hard workouts.

While high intensity interval training and weight training are very useful for getting fit and healthy, they are strenuous and require determination. Women who do these forms of exercise have usually inculcated the habit of regular exercise. That’s how they stick to the program. Habit is what keeps you going when motivation starts to wane.

However, women who do not have that habit will throw in the towel because it just seems too torturous to train so hard. Walking, however, is an easy form of exercise. 30 minutes of walking is nowhere near as intimidating as a 30-minute high intensity interval training session.

So, women who fear tough workouts can still adopt walking and benefit from exercise. Even moderate exercise is better than no exercise. Once you develop the habit of walking regularly, you may try short runs and so on. But when you’re starting off, walking is much easier to adopt.

4.. Helps Relieve Stress

Stress causes a plethora of health problems. Walking helps to relieve stress. It gets better if you walk somewhere scenic where you can appreciate your surroundings. It’s a wonderful and natural form of stress relief.

5.. Promotes Better Sleep

It’s also a great way to overcome sleep disorders. Studies have shown that people who walked 3 to 4 times a week for 4 months were able to sleep faster and for longer periods. The goal is to walk early in the day so that your body is calm by bedtime.

6.. Burns Calories and Fat

Walking burns calories too. It may not burn as many calories as other types of training but it does burn calories and that’s what matters. As mentioned earlier, some exercise is better than none.

If you’re at a caloric deficit daily, you’ll still lose weight. It may take longer but you’ll get there. The price to pay for speed is exertion and tough workouts. If you’re willing to be patient, walking will help you shed all the excess pounds and get you to your ideal weight in time.

These 6 benefits should convince you that walking is a wonderful form of exercise. Even for women who engage in high-intensity activities, replacing a workout with a walk every now and then will give your nervous system a break from the continuous stress placed upon it by hard training. If you’re inactive, do start walking today. Your body will thank you for it in future.