Wellness Strategies for Navigating the Holidays

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The holidays are all about Peace and Joy…until they’re not. If you find your anxiety levels rising as the holidays approach, check out these 25 Ways to Fight Holiday Stress from Health.com. Here, we add a few of our own ideas for coping with four common holiday-stress triggers:

Scenario 1: Gift-Shoppers’ Nightmare. You’re on your fifth loop of a way-overheated department store, searching for that perfect something to give a person you either don’t know very well or who doesn’t need another material possession in their life. Think outside the gift box! Is there an experience you can create? A service you might provide? Some personal talent you can share? Maybe there’s a charity or cause to which you can donate in their name.

Scenario 2: Dinner Disaster. You have a glossy-food-magazine vision of perfection for your holiday feast. Now you’re thirty minutes out from mealtime and things are spinning out of control in the kitchen. Ask. For. Help. Most people would rather contribute and feel useful than stand around sipping cocktails while you struggle. Graciously accepting help creates a wonderful opportunity to connect authentically with your guests and will be far more memorable than your picture-perfect meal.

Scenario 3: Dieters’ Paradox. You’re walking into a lavish party. You’ve read all the articles and tips about how to ‘stick to your diet’ and ‘beat the holiday weight gain.’ But, oh, so much temptation! In floods the guilt, so even if  you do blow it (as you very possibly will), you don’t enjoy it at all. Accept that, no matter how disciplined you are throughout the year, there’s a very good chance you’ll indulge at least once or twice during the holiday season. Give yourself permission to truly enjoy and find solace in NEDA’s Declaration of Independence from a Weight-Obsessed World.

Scenario 4: Cranky Relative Syndrome. You’re staring down 4–6 hours in which you’ll be captive audience to Uncle Frank’s inebriated political rants. Or maybe you’re just the one person in your family with a radically differing lifestyle or viewpoint, and, for one reason or another, you don’t have an option of simply refusing to attend. First, take a moment to appreciate that you have people with whom to celebrate the holidays (many don’t). Then, arrive well prepared with a list of noncontroversial subjects and talking points to which you can redirect conversation. Or bring and encourage plenty of distracting activities such as card, board, and parlor games; a nostalgic singalong; a look through old family photo albums and yearbooks; or maybe just a long walk in nature after the meal.

Before and after the holidays, set aside at least a few hours to indulge in real self-care. That might involve exercise, physical pampering, hiring a professional team to clean your house, or maybe just a perfectly solitary afternoon with a cup of tea and a great book. Happy holidays!

Take a Stand in Your Own Personal Work Style

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You’ve probably heard by now that ‘sitting is the new smoking’—at least according to scores of media stories referencing the catch phrase widely attributed to treadmill-desk inventor Dr. Jack Levine. Even worse news is that regular exercise might not be enough to offset the ill effects of copious sitting. If you work long hours at a desk job, you might greet this news with fear and trepidation—but there is actually quite a lot within your power to change. Standing doubles your metabolic rate, keeps core muscles strong, and is essential to both basic and dynamic anatomy and physiology. Here is a 7-step plan for transitioning to a lifestyle of less sitting at work:

  1. Go gradually. Acknowledge that your body needs time to re-learn how to stand comfortably for long periods. Start with a small daily goal and build from there.
  2. Check your posture. To avoid muscle and joint pain, cultivate a correct standing work posture, which is probably very different from how you’ve been sitting. If you struggle with this, seek the advice of an orthopedic specialist, chiropractor, physical trainer, or certified yoga instructor.
  3. Invest in equipment that enables you to stand and work comfortably. Purchase or request an adjustable/standing desk and a balancing type of chair. Less stable than regular chairs, balancing chairs force you to keep core muscles engaged, both strengthening your core and burning off calories and blood sugar to boot. If not in control of the office budget, ask for the right equipment anyway! The worst that can happen is your request will be denied.
  4. Look for any opportunities to stand and move more throughout your day. Walk around when taking calls. Drink lots of water and use the least conveniently located restroom. Park far away from your office or cubicle. Choose stairs over elevators. Get your computer reassigned to a printer at the far end of the building. Walk for at least half of every lunch hour and on breaks.
  5. Evaluate all the tasks you do each day; reserve sitting for only ones requiring the greatest concentration. You will be amazed at how many medium and low-concentration tasks you can complete more effectively and energetically while standing and moving.
  6. Preach! Think about it. If you can get enough coworkers onboard, entire meetings might be conducted either standing or walking, which is certain to make them shorter and more productive. Be prepared with examples and evidence to support what you’re doing and willing to evangelize a bit to bring others around to your way of thinking.
  7. Be patient with yourself. Keep reminding yourself that, even when you don’t feel 100% in control of your work situation, there are always opportunities to make choices and to take micro-actions that support your own good health and well-being!

Five Simple Projects to Minimize Back-to-School Stress

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Last year around this time, we offered six tips to Get Organized for Back to School. This year, we’re highlighting five simple home projects that are guaranteed to make your family’s school-day routines flow better, faster, and with much less parental stress.

Make space. Clear out and donate old clothes, sporting equipment, outerwear, and so forth. When you do thisbefore school and fall sports really get rolling, it helps your kids to more easily and independently assess their wardrobe options, decide what to wear, and find what they need under the duress of morning rush. Dirty clothes are also more likely to end up in the laundry, and having sufficient space for clothes smooths laundry workflow overall—yes, things can actually be routinely cleaned, folded, and put away!

Purge and deep-clean the kitchen. When you’re done with closets and drawers move on to your kitchen, inspecting and tossing expired foods and deep-cleaning your fridge, freezer, and cabinets. This will give you space to stock up on nutritious, energizing snacks and fast, easy-to-prepare weeknight meals.

Make several weekday menu plans. Waiting until ‘day of’ to decide what’s for dinner is a recipe for overspending on food, increasing food spoilage and waste, adding to daily mental stress, and falling into food and nutrition ruts. Plan out a few weeks’ worth of rotating weeknight menus and shopping lists to keep things interesting, nutritious, and cost and time efficient.

Take inventory. As you are freeing up space in your home—and before hitting those big back-to-school sales—make an inventory of what you already have and exactly what you need in terms of clothing, athletic gear, school supplies, snack foods, and so forth. This enables you to shop with precision, saving time and avoiding impulse buys.

Make an easy checklist system for kids to manage on their own. A story went viral recently about a school principal in Arkansas who is turning away parents seeking to drop off forgotten items such as lunches and lunch money, gym clothes, and homework. The principal’s goal is to encourage kids to problem-solve on their own. But, some kids are just naturally disorganized. Even if you don’t have a chronic forgetter on your hands, try hanging a dry erase or similar board by your exit door. Encourage your kids to create their own daily checklists and take responsibility for collecting what they need before leaving the house. This has a triple benefit of relieving your personal mental workload, avoiding SOS calls and trips to school to deliver forgotten items, and teaching your kids skills that serve for a lifetime.

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Summer Cleanout: Collecting Clothes for Charity

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Late August is the perfect time to clear out and donate old clothes, free up space, and reorganize closets and drawers. If there’s a rainy day on your horizon, here are 5 tips for getting it all done quickly and effectively:

Select a charity that picks up. To motivate yourself, go ahead and schedule a pickup date, being sure to allow time for laundering and dry cleaning of donations as needed. Plan to sort and pack by size, age, gender, and season so donations can be easily prepared for resale.

Gear up and pile up. Collect sufficient quantities of bags, boxes, and bins for packing up your donations. Then, pull every single thing out of closets, dressers, and storage bins and pile them all in the middle of a room. Be sure to include accessories: scarves, bags, belts, jewelry, and footwear, too.

Set rules. For example, resolve to donate anything that is in relatively good condition, BUT: doesn’t fit, is out of style, has not been worn recently (or often), still has the tags on six months after purchase, or fails to flatter. Toss any garments that are: torn, stained, smelly, shabby, have been used for sleeping, swimming, or as undergarments.

Purge ruthlessly (or recruit a friend to help). Instead of saving something for when you lose a few pounds, resolve to reward yourself with something new instead. If it’s too shabby to wear in public, it’s probably too shabby for working out in too. Heck, if you are going to be exercising and sweating, you deserve to look good doing it! Resist the urge to burden others with unsolicited hand-me-downs. If you know your frugal sister-in-law loves receiving your kids’ old clothes, go ahead and hand down. But never foist hand-me-downs on anyone who might be simply too polite to refuse.

Re-store your keepers mindfully. Some ideas for organizing the clothes you keep are by: color, type of garment, season, frequency of wear, or whole coordinated outfits. Before putting everything away, check out different folding techniques and other tips we have for turning over closets that not only save space but make it easy to find things and make full use of your wardrobe.

Cleaning Myths Debunked: Cleaning for Cold & Flu Season

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With cold and flu season in full swing, you might be taking a few extra cleaning precautions such as disinfecting doorknobs, kitchen and bath fixtures, handheld digital devices, TV clickers, and so forth where germ transfers are most likely to happen. Due to clever marketing tactics and media hype, however, many people don’t understand how disinfectants really work, so they end up spending time and money without gaining any additional protection from illness. Here are five common myths debunked when it comes to disinfecting for cold and flu season:

Myth #1 Cleaning surfaces and avoiding physical contact with sick people prevents illness.

Truth Most cold and flu viruses are contracted via the eyes and nose, and new victims typically inhale viruses from coughs, sneezes, or just the exhaled air of infected hosts up to six feet away. An estimated 30% of people infected with flu exhibit no symptoms, making them impossible to avoid. While cleaning surfaces can help, frequent, thorough hand washing and not touching your eyes and face are still some of the best defenses against contracting colds and flu. When water and soap are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a smart second choice, as they have been proven to kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses when used properly (at least a dime-sized amount of product rubbed in for a full 30 seconds over all surfaces of the hands).

Myth #2 Sanitizers and disinfectants kill germs on contact.

Truth The solutions all require different lengths of time to kill different types of germs, but almost none work instantly. Most sanitizers and disinfections require 5 to 10 minutes to kill all germs. Those that claim for marketing purposes that they “Kill in 30 Seconds” might kill only one organism that fast, but take 5 to 10 minutes for all the remaining important germs! Spraying and immediately wiping dry with disinfecting or sanitizing cleaners kills no more germs than regular soap.

Myth #3 Sanitizing, disinfecting, and antibacterial mean the same thing.

Truth Each means extremely different levels of germ kill. Sanitizing kills 99.9% of bacteria only, while disinfectants kill 99.999% of viruses, fungi, and bacteria. It sounds like a small difference, but that 0.099% reduces exposure to germs by 100 fold! Buyer beware: so-called antibacterial soaps are only required to contain antimicrobial agents and don’t actually need to prove they kill more than their non-antibacterial counterparts.

Myth #4 Sanitizers and disinfectants kill every type of bacteria and virus.

Truth To legally state “kills 99.9% of germs,” sanitizers and disinfectants must only prove they can kill a few specific types of pathogens and may not work on the ones you really care about, such as cold and flu viruses. As a rule, if the package doesn’t list it, the solution doesn’t kill it. To find out which germs your product works on and how long it takes to kill them, you’ll need to read the fine print.

Myth #5 Sanitizers and disinfectants kills germs on any dirty surface.

Truth Sanitizers and disinfectants only need to prove they work on flat, non-porous, and already clean surfaces! Neither can penetrate dirt or into porous surfaces where germs often hide. To kill ALL germs, you first need to clean and rinse away dirt and loose germs, then apply a disinfectant to kill any germs still clinging to the surface. Sloppy cleaning with disinfecting cleaners not only leaves germs behind, it leaves food for germs to feed on and multiply, and enables them to build resistance, leading to superbugs. Long story short, clean well!

The MaidPro House Cleaning Difference Newark, DE

New Castle County’s premier home cleaners.

At MaidPro Newark, creating clean houses is our priority. We are located in Newark, and deliver personalized, precise services to Bear, Christiana, Claymont, Edgemoor, Elsmere, Greenville, Hockessin, Manor, Marshallton, New Castle, Newark, Newport, Pike Creek, Port Penn, Stanton, Talleyville, Wilmington and Yorklyn. Whether you want shiny floors in Claymont or sparkling bathrooms in Yorklyn, just call us for all your Wilmington area residential cleaning needs.

Professional maid service, with a personal touch.

We know and trust our MaidPro employees on a personal and professional level. Our cleaning PROs undergo thorough background checks prior to employment and are bonded and insured. They also receive extensive maid service training to instill the skills needed to clean to the highest standards—yours! And while we strive to help our employees work to their greatest ability, we also make sure to have fun. Because when you love what you do, it shows in your work.

Shake Off Those Winter Blahs!

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If you feel unusually tired, unmotivated to go out and exercise, or find you have developed an affinity for binge-watching TV and comfort foods, you might be suffering from a case of winter blues. Here are seven quick ideas to get you out of winter hibernation mode and ready for spring—which, according to Punxsutawney Phil, is right around the corner!

Stop blaming yourself. The shorter days of winter have been altering your circadian rhythms and the complex hormones that regulate sleep, hunger, and feelings of well-being. According to Psych Central, the best way to reset your internal body clock is to allow yourself to wake naturally (versus setting an alarm) at least on weekends and to get at least 20 minutes each day with some skin exposed to direct sunlight. That doesn’t have to be outside. On super cold days, try taking a long drive, sitting near a window, or joining your wise pet for a nap in the sunny spot on the floor.

Buddy up! Ask a person whose company you really enjoy to join you for a daily exercise routine. The social aspect will energize you, and on the days you really don’t feel doing it, your buddy can motivate you and vice versa.

Check your gear. If you shy away from exercising outside in winter, check the quality of your outdoor gear. You’ll be more likely to head outside if you’re confident you’ll be warm and dry the entire time. Is your attire warm enough for all temps? Does it allow for delayering as your body temp rises? Is it designed to wick away perspiration? Does it help you to feel safe from hazards such as snow or ice underfoot and passing vehicles? Having the the gear attire handy for all weathers is a great motivator.

Dress upon waking. When you sit around all morning in comfy slippers and jammies drinking coffee or tea, it’s much harder to persuade yourself to get up and go. Dress for exercise as soon as you rise in the morning and you’ll be far more likely to actually walk out the door.

Discover new winter activities. Skating, skiing, sledding—all are great fun, but have you ever tried snow shoeing? Ice fishing? Maple sugaring? Curling? Winter bird watching or amateur photography? Building a snowman or starting a snowball fight are other great ways to get your heart pumping while you soak up some sunshine in late winter months.

Focus on signs that spring is coming. Maybe it’s a web site that shows day lengths growing by two-and-half minutes each day, browsing seed catalogs for your garden, tuning into the drip, drip of icicles melting, or the gradual return of morning birdsong. Focus on the positive and your mind-body-spirit is bound to follow.

Plan a summer vacation. Maybe it’s a week at the beach, a series of fun day trips, or even a productive stay-cation where you take on a strenuous home project you’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The point is to give yourself something to look forward to and/or something to work toward in terms of optimizing your health and physical fitness.

Good Habits to Start the New Year

How often have you made a big New Year’s resolution (“I will lose 40 lbs; go to the gym every day; quit [bad habit].”) only to fail by January third or fourth? This year, instead of setting one giant goal, try establishing a few easy, good habits to crowd out the bad ones. Just a couple new good habits can accumulate to all the things you really want such as improved health, less stress, and more happiness. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Sleep more, sleep better. Go to bed earlier. Leave electronic devices—phones, tablets—elsewhere. Set your alarm for the time you really intend to rise and stop hitting snooze, which only trades deep sleep for a less restful variety. Also, tune into natural circadian rhythms by exposing yourself to sunlight during the day and keeping your environment dark-ish at night.

Make your bed every morning. Studies show this actually leads to more restful sleep. It also makes your bed healthier by keeping out dust and allergens, and sets a tone of productivity and accomplishment for the rest of the day.

Prep for your morning the night before. Figure out what you are going to wear. Wash, iron, and lay out clothes. Pack lunch. Anything that makes your mornings less harried and rushed will minimize the time you spend in high-adrenaline, stress mode during each day.

Do now. When you see something that needs doing—a light bulb or battery that needs changing, a picture that needs hanging—do it right then instead of adding to a list that hangs over your head like a black cloud.

Eat the rainbow. Phytonutrients give fruits and veggies their brilliant colors. Eating the rainbow—red, yellow, orange, green, purple, blue—is an easy way to ensure you get a full range of vital nutrients into your body every day.

Move a little each hour. Walk. Stretch. Squat. Shake. Jiggle. Dance. Jump rope. Exercise with hand weights. Do anything that gets your circulatory and lymphatic systems moving.

Find one tiny way to save each day. Clip coupons, skip fancy coffees, borrow vs. buying books, and so forth. Take the money you save and actually put it into an account or take advantage of programs that automatically transfer ‘loose change’ on transactions into savings or investment accounts. At year-end, you can spend it all on a luxury you really want.

Contrary to what you might have read, it often takes much longer than 21 days to establish a new habit. Research shows, however, that—even if you mess up periodically—perseverance will get you there in the end. You just need to start somewhere and keep going!

Happy New Year!

DIY Scents to Make Your Home Like the Holidays

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Ever wonder why particular aromas have the power to instantly evoke cherished childhood memories? It’s because your sense of smell is the only one of the five with a direct connection to your mood, memory, behavior, and emotion. With the incredible power of smell in mind, here are six easy and inexpensive techniques to fill your home with evocative holiday and winter scent combinations.

Simmer pots. A scented simmer pot consists of nothing more than water, fruits/fruit rinds, fresh herbs, and spices, simmering gently on a back burner, in a crock pot, or atop a wood-burning stove. It’s likely you already have most of the ingredients for a yummy smelling simmer pot or can easily find them at your local grocer’s. Think: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, fresh ginger root, vanilla beans; baking extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint; and fruits such lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, apples, and cranberries. The possible scent combinations are endless. Be inspired by this simple winter recipe.

Potpourri. The word translates as ‘rotten pot,’ following a 17th century French custom of collecting and layering fragrant herbs and plants over the course of spring and summer, allowing them to ferment and mold, then mixing in aromatic spices in the fall and winter to scent rooms. Contemporary potpourris favor drying over fermenting and molding of plant materials – something you can accomplish quite easily in your oven on low heat with a baking sheet and parchment paper. Check out these winter spice and aromatic winter potpourri recipes.

DIY scented candles. You could spend upwards of thirty bucks on one great-smelling holiday candle. Or you can spend a great deal less making dozens of winter-scent combos to either burn in your own home or give as holiday and hostess gifts. DIY scented candles are a great way to use up mason or jelly jars and other beautiful containers you might have lying around the house or can pick up for next to nothing at yard sales and thrift shops. If melting wax seems like too much work, try this simple technique for making scented olive-oil candles.

Essential-oil combos. Used for thousands of years in spiritual, cosmetic and natural health practices, essential oils are thought to represent the purest essences of plants. They also happen to smell wonderful. Only a few drops will go a long way to scenting a room and there are countless combinations of essential oils you can assemble to evoke happy holiday and winter feelings. Do read up on safety precautions when using essential oils, as some can be unfriendly to pets, children, and the elderly. Some simple ways to diffuse winter and holiday essential oil combinations are with a DIY reed diffuser, creating your own EO-based room air spritzers, or using essential oils to make classic winter decorations such as cinnamon-scented pinecones.

Scented fire starters. If you have a traditional fireplace or outdoor fire pit, consider creating your own scented fire starters to layer comforting, traditional winter scents over the smell of burning wood. You can create dry sachets, plant and herb bundles, or these aromatic wax fire starters. Note: scented fire starters are not for use in gas fireplaces or enclosed wood-burning stoves.

 

Pet-friendly Plants To Keep Your Home Healthy

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Typical homes are chock-full of items that can be responsible—either by virtue of chemical composition or the way in which they are manufactured—for releasing harmful chemicals into the air. But fear not! Houseplants can be cultivated to filter many of those chemicals right out of the air you breath and look great doing it.

We went through a NASA Clean Air Study and crosschecked all of the houseplants with the ASPCA to provide you with a list of all of the pet-friendly ones. Enjoy the greenery and fresher air in your home!
FLOWERING PLANTS

  • Dendrobium Orchids (Dendrobium spp.) With over 1,000 varieties, these flowering beauties filter airborne xylene and toluene particles. Light, temp, and watering requirements vary by type, so careful research for specific varieties is a must.
  • Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) Also proven to filter xylene and toluene, moth orchids can bloom for up to eight weeks and will flower repeatedly with attentiveness and care.
  • Turf Lily (Liriope spicata) Often used outdoors as a landscaping plant, turf lily works well inside to filter formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia. While it does not require direct sun, it does need abundant watering and relatively humid air.
  • Gerber Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) Revered for oversized, vibrantly colored blooms, Gerber daisies filter benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. For spring through fall, Gerbers want lots of direct morning sun and regular watering plus fertilizer. In winter, less frequent watering and indirect sun are preferred.
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) One of the easiest houseplants to grow, spiders also filter formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. Spider plants thrive in well-drained soil and bright, indirect light. Mature spider plants will produce spiderettes, which you can easily propagate into even more air-filtering plants.

PALMS AND OTHER LEAFY PLANTS

  • Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) For indoor use, look for pygmy date palm, but don’t be fooled by the name; mature plants can reach over six feet tall! Date palms prefer full sun and dry-ish, peat-based soil with lots of drainage. Filters: formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.
  • Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens) Inside, areca palm grows to 6-7 feet and filters formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. Areca prefers warm temps and moist, well-drained soil.
  • Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) Filters formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene and will grow in low light conditions. Offer adequate drainage, high-quality potting soil, and filtered water at room temperature.
  • Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) Filters formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia, but grows tall and wide, so reserve for large indoor spaces. There are many species, each with different cultivation requirements so research carefully.
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ’Bostoniensis’) These lacy green houseplants filter formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, but are rather finicky about their environment. They want cool temps, high humidity, indirect light, and soil kept consistently damp.

If you have a history of killing off houseplants, this additional advice might help you to mend your ways in pursuit of the best possible indoor air quality!