Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and d├ęcor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.

Fermented Foods – Choose Beneficial

Many vegetables are grown in a fertile valley far away. Almost as soon as they are harvested, they are flash-frozen and transported on refrigerated trucks to a supermarket near you. You have a freezer at home, and the delivery of healthy nutritious vegetables from farm to consumer is completed easily. Refrigerated trucks keep fresh-picked vegetables viable long enough that your green grocer’s shelves remain well-stocked throughout the year.

Go back just a few decades, and you will find that this was not the case. Winter produced very sparsely populated shelves in the green grocery section of the market. Go back just a few more decades and you will discover that people had to find creative ways to sustain themselves through harsh winters and on long journeys. For thousands of years, people have fermented foods to preserve them for when supplies of fresh foods were not available.

The Romans preserved cabbages with salt, and Genghis Khan fed his armies fermented cabbage to sustain them on their campaigns through Europe. This use of preserved, fermented foods was a common practice for travelers as a source of nutrients. As late as World War I, allied forces relied on fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut as we now know it, to supply nutrients to soldiers on the battlefields of Europe.

The process of fermentation helps to preserve the food for use many months later. Fermentation also generates many health benefits for the consumer. The essential nutrients and vitamins are preserved. Sugars are broken down so they are more easily absorbed with far less insulin or allergy reaction, in the case of lactose intolerance to dairy products. The process also generates enzymes that are essential to supporting the digestion of foods that we eat. Finally, they are natural probiotics, jam-packed with beneficial microorganisms.

A healthy gut, supported by a strong population of beneficial bacteria, serves as a powerful booster for your immune system. The digestive tract is where nutrients are extracted from food and absorbed by the body. Enzyme and microbial activity accelerates digestion and generates enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants that are essential to health. They also protect us from pathogens and flush out toxins from our bodies.

You can find a variety of ready-to-use fermented products at your local supermarket. They include yoghurt, which is fermented milk (usually cow’s milk). The fermentation process breaks down the milk lactose to make it easier to digest and the yoghurt supplies billions of helpful bacteria. Be careful of brands with large amounts of sugar added, as that will create other problems. Another healthy fermented product from milk is kefir, a drink often found in the supermarket refrigerator.

Kombucha tea is another good source of enzymes and beneficial microbes. Kombucha is made from fermenting black tea. Other products you may find in the supermarket include kimchi, a Korean version of fermented cabbage and a mixture of other vegetables. Raw apple cider vinegar is also loaded with beneficial bacteria and has many different uses apart from supporting a healthy digestive system. You may find Japanese products like miso, and natto, both loaded with microbes and used in cooking soups, marinades and sauces.

If you feel adventurous, the processes for making your own fermented yoghurt, kefir, pickles and kimchi are relatively easy and they require no special equipment. Select healthy organic ingredients and you will be able to rely on the process for creating your own healthy, nutritious probiotic foods.

Features to Expect in Future Smartphones

Smartphones are the most common thing now. They are much different to the so called mobiles. As the name already indicates they are much smarter than the mobile phones. These are handy devices that every person uses as means of communication with friends and relatives. Earlier the phones were simply used for calling purposes. But now with advancement in technology phones are used for multiple purposes. A simple smartphone is now loaded with multiple apps, cameras and of course the primary calling functions.

It is expected that the future smartphones are going to have certain features which are going to make the phones even more powerful. The features that might make their way are –

1. Augmented reality- This something that provides us more information by combining the computer data so that we have real life experience of what we see. It will give you all relevant information by the use of your phone’s camera. The augmented reality apps that is available now makes use of the GPS to provide information. But now it has limited recognition accuracy which is expected to increase in the coming years.

2. Flexible screens- There might be a time when you can adjust the size of the screen according to your needs. Suppose you want to play a game or watch a video you can do that by folding and unfolding the portable screen size. This can be made possible with the help of Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) technology.

3. In-built projectors- Not only the screen, we hope that you will be able to show movies to your friend and family by projecting the screen in an appropriate place. This has the mightiest possible chance of replacing the TV that is used as gaming consoles.

4. Seamless voice control- Though voice control has been there in earlier phones but the voice recognition function was the best one. In the later years, it is expected that there would be seamless voice control that might take interactivity to the next level.

5. 3D screens and holograms- Many of the Smartphone have high-defined cameras that offer sharper resolutions than the human eyes. Still, our thirsts for good photos are not over. The companies are thus, now moving their focus from the 2D smartphones to the 3D smartphones. The next in this route is likely to be the holographic projections. This will enable you to resize your photos to whichever size you like removing out the unnecessary things.

We guess that you are already excited to think of the things. Imagine what you would do if you get all these features in your handheld smartphone. Isn’t the idea awesome? Yes, it is definitely. All you have to do now is hold your breath, and wait for the awesome features to come to the market.

Multitasking High Cost

In today’s busy world, multitasking is so common that juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities might seem like the best way to get a lot done. While multitasking, what we are really doing is quickly shifting our focus from one thing to the next. Switching from one task to another makes it difficult to avoid distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow us down, thereby reducing our efficiency.

It has been found that when chronic multitaskers focus on just single task, their brains are less effective and efficient. But, on the other hand, the evidence suggests that if they stop multitasking, they will be able to perform better.

Experts also suggest that the negative impact of chronic, heavy multitasking might be the most detrimental to young minds. At this age, in particular, brains of teens are busy forming important neural connections.

High Cost of Multitasking –

When we multitask, our attention is expended on the act of switching gears from one task to other and, as a result, we never get into the zone for any of the tasks, affecting our performance. Multitasking affects performance in the followings ways:

It Slows One Down – Contrary to the common belief that multitasking saves time, actually it slows us down making us spend more time on an activity because we are jumping back and forth on different activities. Every task requires a particular approach. Once we get into a groove for an activity, we can do it fast and better.

One Makes Mistakes – Experts estimate that multitasking can cause as much as 40% loss in productivity. It has been found that the human brain can handle two complicated tasks without too much difficulty because it has two lobes that can divide responsibility equally between the two. However, adding another task can overwhelm the frontal cortex and increase the number of mistakes one makes.

It Stresses One Out – Multitasking keeps us perpetually in “high alert” mode, which sooner or later can stress us out and cause some stress-related problems.

It Makes One Miss Out – People, who are busy doing two or more things at once, don’t see the obvious things in front of them. For example, while talking on cell phone, we miss noticing an acquaintance passing by us. This is termed inattentional blindness because even though the cell-phone talkers are looking at their surroundings, none of it is actually registering in their brains.

It Makes One Miss Important Details – One is likely to miss important details while doing one or more things at once. It happens more so with older people. Researchers say that as the brain ages, it has a harder time getting back on track after even a brief detour.

It Can Make One Overeat – Being distracted during mealtime can prevent brain from fully processing what one has eaten. This can result in overeating. Even people who eat alone should refrain from turning on the television while eating.

It Can Dampen Creativity – Multitasking uses up most of working memory. So it can take away from our ability to think creatively because so much is already going on in head.

It Can Be Dangerous – Driving when texting or talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free device, is as dangerous as driving drunken. Even that doesn’t stop people from doing it.

It Can Hurt Relationships – Using a cell phone during a personal conversation can give rise to friction and distrust between partners. Do your relationship a favor by paying your partner some exclusive attention.

Conclusion –

We all multitask at times but it has become a common trend amongst many, especially children and youngsters. In fact, we do it at a high cost because researchers have found that it can cause brain damage resulting in cognitive impairment and a decline in IQ. Moreover, multitasking has been found to slacken our emotional control. In this context, it is all the more important that children and youngsters should avoid multitasking as their young brains are growing.