How Reading More Can Benefit You

This guest post is by Nick Baker of The Daily Encounters Blog.

The act of reading can be tricky, but also rewarding at the same time.  The main setting of reading at a young age is in school, yet the reading of school books can sometimes be boring, and seem pointless.  This is one reason why we stop reading once we get out of school—we think back to how reading all those educational books was boring, which in turn gives us no motivation to read books when we no longer are forced to.


Image used with permission

This lack of motivation to read once we grow older stops us from benefiting from the many advantages reading provides to us.  Reading is able to make you more valuable as a person in many ways: as an employee, as a friend, and as an innovator.

Employers rarely ask people if they read or what their favorite books are while they conduct an interview.  That doesn’t mean that your next boss can’t tell whether or not you read, or that you can’t find an opportunity to bring up books you have read.

Vocabulary is one way people can tell if you read. The more you read, the broader your vocabulary gets—as long as you have the motivation to look up what words mean when you come across words you don’t know.  You can use your vocabulary in conversation with employers or business associates to show them you’re knowledgeable. You can even intimidate them with your extensive vocabulary!

Reading books that are centered on your area of business is a great way to boost your career and give you an advantage over others, making you more valuable to your company.  Of course, being more valuable to your company puts you in a better position to get a raise or promotion.

Reading can also be used as a social tool either to make friends, or to further your friendship with current friends.  Reading provides you with insight into other cultures whose people have different backgrounds and personalities. It can help to make you more confident in talking to people from different places, with different interests, since you’re more knowledgeable thanks to your reading.

Along with broadening your knowledge of other cultures, reading always gives you something to talk about with other people, whether you’re discussing a book you’ve read with someone who’s read it or is interested in it, or talking about world or local events you’ve read about in newspapers or magazines.

Innovation is spurred by thought and creativity, both of which reading amplifies in the brain.  No matter what book you’re reading, your brain is working hard and new ideas are always popping up.  Fantasy books can lead your brain to think of more out-of-the-box ideas, whereas biographies and documentaries can spur an idea in your head to follow someone else’s example.

Reading has always had a place in society as a learning tool; however, the learning from books does not have to stop once we leave school.  Books always hold valuable lessons that can advance you in certain aspects of your life—as long as you maintain reading a part of your daily activities.

Nick Baker also writes a Blog about Daily Improvement which gives its readers daily articles on simple things they can do every day to make them happy and improve their life.


Feeling Good(er) About Separation and Divorce

This post is by Denise of Whereapy.

I didn’t want to do it; I really did not. Get a divorce, I mean. And yet, here I am.

What I had hoped would be the “sabbatical” that my then-husband and I had talked about for years as an option for me to deal with the stress of being a homemaker morphed into “I want a divorce” two months into the separation.


Image copyright Maxim Malevich -

I can’t say it was a total shock.But I had hoped that a reprieve was all that would be needed in order for us to both see things more clearly—and to get back to making “it” work. However, as one of my favorite lines from a certain song goes, “You can’t always get what you want.” For the moment, I’m focusing on the follow-up to that, “but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

But how does one get what they need?

Review and reflection

There are platitudes a-plenty for “overcoming” the “devastation of divorce.” Just spend an hour searching the internet, and you will come up with more recommendations than you can handle for everything from wading through legal waters and how to handle your affairs—of all types—to just remembering to breathe; because in the midst of upheaval, many people forget to do the kind of breathing that helps one heal.

We all know that there will be anger, guilt, and shame. Even if there was no “big sin” committed during the marriage by either party, there is shame in having failed. And we all know that everyone at least professes to want “what is best for the kids” when there are kids to be considered. But what does that look like in real life? On a personal level?


For me, it looked like chaos and confusion. At times, it still does.

If a relationship isn’t working, but it’s broken enough to leave, how many times do you try to repair it? Will I ever know the answer to that question? Perhaps not. Therein lies the guilt. You may find it crushing to face the fact that the many years of service and sacrifice you made for your family and significant other are just a distant memory for them.

I lost a part of me in the decades I spent as wife-mother-business partner. Now I am searching again for who I am and hopefully will “find myself” in middle age. Perhaps I might never have done that without the impetus of a failed marriage.


For anyone finding themselves in the position of separating from a long-term committed relationship—especially those who are doing so not necessarily of their own volition—I offer the following few suggestions for locating the light at the end of the tunnel:

  1. If at all possible, “play nice” with your ex.
  2. Get to therapy, and quickly. Different types suit different folks; but everyone needs it.
  3. Gather your network of friends apart from those you established while you were part of a couple.
  4. Get out of the house! Go places, do things, see people. Even if you don’t want to—especially if you don’t want to.
  5. Be creative. Try new things that you couldn’t or wouldn’t allow yourself to do when you were with your ex.
  6. Journal—yes, men too!
  7. Work, but not too much. Drink, but not too much. Eat yummy food, but not too much. Be merry—no limits!
  8. Exercise. This is a tough one for me to recommend, but honestly, it does help. Endorphins!
  9. Create a routine, and stick to it most of the time, on most days—except when the urge to get spontaneous overtakes you.
  10. Meditate, pray, and contemplate in quiet stillness. Listen to whatever messages may find their way to you, take what you need, and leave the rest.

Denise owns Another Person’s Opinion At Your Service, an advocacy and administrative support service for personal, business, and professional enrichment. In her spare time she writes for the therapy blog Whereapy.

Three Ideas to Help Men Become More Thoughtful

This guest post is by Mike Bundrant of theiNLP Center.

A lot of good men could be more thoughtful of the women in their lives. These guys have all the right intentions, but thoughtfulness just doesn’t come naturally. Is this you? You diligently go about your business as a breadwinner and may love to putter around the house, but she wants something more.

What does she want, specifically?

She wants to know that you are 1. thinking about her and 2. willing to extend yourself to meet her needs. If she doesn’t get ample evidence of these two things, she may not be happy no matter what else she gets. Worse, at some point she will stop asking you to meet these needs, but the needs won’t go away. When this happens, the end is near! She will eventually leave you, or leave you emotionally. Either way, your relationship is over.

I know what you may be thinking.

“Whenever she asks me for something, I give it to her. What’s the problem?”

This is great. It means you are considerate when you are made aware of her needs. Keep it up – don’t stop being considerate. Just know that it doesn’t meet criterion number one above. It doesn’t prove you are thinking about her, even though you may still extend yourself by doing what she asks.

For example, which do you think will make her happier?

  1. She asks you to help with the dishes and you do so without complaining.
  2. You realize she needs help with the dishes without being asked and offer to help.

Another example:

  1. She reminds you that you haven’t brought her flowers lately, so you go get her some.
  2. You surprise her with flowers well before she feels she needs to mention it.

It isn’t rocket science. Still, I am amazed at how many guys, myself included, don’t put this into practice. Nothing can replace the powerful combination of being thoughtful (considering her wants and needs before being asked or reminded) and extending yourself (reaching out, going out of your way to do something for her).

But don’t do this…

I once gave a coaching client a list of 100 thoughtful things he could for his wife. I wanted to help him with ideas and get his mind moving in a certain direction toward being more thoughtful and romantic. Well, he took that list and gave it to his wife. “Honey, I’m going to be more thoughtful now,” he said. “So, review this list and circle the things you want me to do for you. I plan on doing one a week.”

When his wife told me about the event, I was dumbstruck! And I still am. I suppose this approach is better than doing nothing at all, or is it? At any rate, the point is—there is no adequate substitute for being purely thoughtful, especially in the minds of many women.

Three tips

Here are three ways to remind yourself to be thoughtful so she doesn’t have to. Remember, this is written to guys for whom thoughtfulness does not come naturally. Here you go, men:

  1. Get your mind moving in that direction. Brainstorm ideas and create a list of things you can do for your partner. If you never think it – if you don’t open your mind to ideas in the first place, thoughtfulness has no chance of becoming natural for you. Keep your list a secret!
  2. Schedule it. Put it on your calendar and mark it as a high priority. Just don’t tell her that you need to remind yourself to be thoughtful in this way and remember, this is your life and she is a very important part of it. She is more important than paying the bills or mowing the lawn or tinkering in the garage. She’s more important than any hobby you might have. She’s even more important than your career to your overall happiness, when it comes right down to it, is she not? All you need to do is be thoughtful and extend yourself—make it your highest priority! The good news is that a little effort in this department goes a long way.
  3. Deal with your narcissism. If you are resisting this concept, then you may have a narcissistic streak that you need to come to terms with if you want thoughtfulness to become more natural to you. There are lots of resources, therapists and coaches who are well prepared to help you.

The bottom line: If you think you may be less thoughtful than you could be and it impacts your relationship, there is no better investment of your time and energy than to get this one handled. Being thoughtful pays dividends in ongoing and often unexpected ways for years to come. Just do it!

Mike Bundrant is a mental health counselor (Retired, NM) and internationally recognized NLP trainer. Find Mike at theiNLP Center. iNLP also offers a free personal development mini-course.

Making the Most of Holidays Together

Hel-lo holidays! Whether you’re escaping the cold for warm shores or shacking up in the wilderness for a bit, holidays can really test a couple’s bond.

Sadly, most couples will end up fighting at some point, which can be really upsetting when you’re trying to have a good time together. But when you think about it, on holidays you’re around each other 24/7 with little to no time alone; you may be immersed in a completely different culture, unable to speak the local language; you may find yourselves having trouble negotiating public transport while out of your comfort zone…

Depending on how well you deal with that kind of stress, you can see how it can be a recipe for conflict.

In order to make the most out of your precious time off, follow a few easy rules to help you get through the holidays unscathed.

1. Work out what you want from the holiday

Make sure you have this discussion ahead of time. I’m a sit-by-the-pool-and-do-nothing sort, but my husband much prefers to explore. We usually have a day on/day off arrangement so we can both get what we need to out of a holiday. Talking about what you want before you actually go on holiday will influence everything from where you actually go, to what you do when you get there. Planning the holiday this way is part of the excitement, so put some effort into it.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Holidays are not the place for nagging, moaning, or criticizing. Try to look on the bright side throughout the holiday to ensure you have a great time. Make the effort to be extra-nice, turn any upsets into adventures, and keep a smile on your face—even if your flight gets delayed (time for a wine at the airport!) or you aren’t sure where your taxi driver has dropped you off (a chance to explore new territory!).

3. Be a million miles away

If you’re on a holiday, you are there to get away from your everyday lives, so make sure you switch off. Set up email autoresponders back at home, switch the mobile off, and focus on your partner—and on relaxing yourself. You may also get the urge to have deep and meaningful conversations while you are away, but focusing on your financial problems or any of the other big issues from home will only leave you frustrated. Talk, but focus on the here-and-now to keep yourselves in the moment—escapism on a holiday is not only healthy, it’s the whole point.

4. Get some alone time

It’s important to strike a balance and spend a little time alone as well. Take yourself off to the day spa or golf course alone, spend some time reading or shopping by yourself, take walks solo… Being around each other all day, every day can be a bit too intense.

5. Spice it up in the bedroom

Two words: Holiday sex. (Need I say more?)

Happy holidaying, lovebirds! Tell us about your favorite holiday together…

5 Ways to Slow Down This Holiday Season

This post is by Rachael of

The holidays are always about good food, relaxation, and family. Or at least, that’s how we pretend they are. For most people, the reality is that the holidays are a chaotic time of last-minute preparing and entertaining, stressful shopping, eating poorly, and ultimately being exhausted by the “most wonderful time of the year.”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos that ensues the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with a few days off and people we care about coming together, we should be relishing in this time instead of trying to shift our attention to what we’re told is important.

While all your friends and family are buzzing in and out of stores, eating a few too many pieces of pumpkin pie, and hosting tons of holiday parties, you’ll be set with these five ways to slow down this holiday season.

1.    Plan meals and food gifts ahead

Cooking for the holidays

Image copyright Noam -

Set aside a few hours on a weekend to plan out your meals through the month so you can have peace of mind and not have to worry about last-minute planning or be tempted to order takeout. Take it one step further and prep some of your ingredients in advance. Think about chopping vegetables for meals later in the month, then freezing them. Or preparing slow cooker meals and placing in freezer bags, so on a busy day, you can defrost the ingredients and toss them right into your slow cooker with almost no effort.

If you plan on giving out any type of food gifts, like cookies or quick breads, prepare these early as well. Many cookie batters and baked cookies and quick breads will freeze fantastically for up to a few months. Get started now and you won’t have to think about it again until it’s time to start handing them out.

2.    Determine your priorities and be okay with saying “no”

If you’re often bombarded with too many requests for get-togethers or family events, take some time to write down what your priorities are. List the events you know are coming up and the ones you’re certain you will make time for in your calendar. Write down three goals for the season and if an event doesn’t meet one of the goals, be okay with declining the invitation.

3.    Shop at home or give handmade gifts

For so many of us, the holidays are more about shopping and gifting than they are about savoring the time we have surrounded by the people we care about. Flip this notion and vow to do all your shopping online from home, or create handmade gifts, so you don’t have to worry about fighting crowds or getting frustrated not finding the perfect item for someone.

The go-to solution whenever I can’t think of a gift to give someone is to make something. I tend to favor food gifts and handmade crafts, but you could also just write a nice letter to someone or find a photo of the two of you and having it framed. The more thoughtful gifts we give this year, the better we can feel about giving them out.

4.    Start a brand new tradition this year

Make it a point to start a tradition to take in some of the most enjoyable parts of the season. Bundle up the whole family, pack some hot chocolate, and take a car ride around town for a Christmas light parade. Find a local venue that puts on a show or offers ice skating at a low cost for an afternoon of fun. These simple but festive activities can really get you in the holiday spirit and help you to enjoy the people you’re with.

5.    Make a date with close friends

You don’t have to see everyone you know on Christmas Day or on a specific holiday. The “holidays” are plural for a reason! Make your plans with people last throughout a few weeks leading up to Christmas or the New Year so you don’t get burned out. Setting a date to get together and catch up in the middle of the month when stress levels are high is a great idea to get some quality time in and break up some of that stress that you and your friends are probably encountering.

Remember, the holidays don’t have to be stressful and chaotic if you make plans to simplify and set aside time for the things you really care about. These are just a few ways to slow down this holiday season so you can make the most of your time to relax with good food and people surrounding you. What are some of the ways you like to slow down for the holidays?

Rachael is the blogger behind and is the author of How to Cook For Yourself: A Complete Beginner’s Guide. She writes about her passion for food, eating well while saving money, and inspires people to get familiar with their kitchens and cook for themselves.

5 Festive Date Ideas

Off the back of the couples’ holiday survival guide, I thought you might appreciate some suggestions on festive season date nights.

Plan a couple of these in the run-up to Christmas so you and your sweetie can spend time together alone among the chaos! A relaxing night alone for the two of you can be a soothing balm among the shopping crowds, family arguments, and financial strain of Christmas time.

Festive dates

Image copyright Tomasz Trojanowski -

At the very least, find something that the two of you love doing and turn it into your own Christmas tradition—something to look forward to each year, just for you and your relationship.

1. Ice skating

Gliding over the ice hand-in-hand, all rugged up in your mittens and scarves? Anyone who’s watched the couples’ skating at the Olympics knows it’s pure romance on blades. If you’re not quite Torville and Dean, you can settle for shuffling your way around together, holding each other up.

At any rate, cold noses and a warming hot chocolate or eggnog afterwards will definitely up the romantic ante.

2. Christmas movie marathon

Snuggle on the couch together and hold your very own Christmas movie marathon. Instead of popcorn, make your snacks mince pies and warmed, spiced nuts and get into the spirit of the holidays with a classic (It’s a Wonderful Life) a romance (Love, Actually) or even a comedy (Bad Santa) if that’s more to your tastes.

3. Christmas lights

Go for a late-night stroll or drive and check out all the Christmas lights around your neighborhood. They really are magical.

4. Attend carols night

Find out when your town or city’s carols night will be and go along to add your voices to the chorus. Singing is a great way to boost your mood and release stress.

5. Volunteer together

Your help is needed—go together to a soup kitchen or a toy drive and lend a hand. The real meaning of Christmas is found in these places.

Do you and your partner have your own special Christmas tradition? Tell us about it!

How to Be Positive When Everything Seems Like it’s Falling Apart

This post is by Lea of

At times life can throw so many curve balls that it feels like things are falling apart one after another. Just when you seem to fix something, another thing falls to pieces. When it rains, it pours right?

It’s not easy maintaining your positive attitude and motivation when a downward spiral consumes you. For instance, it you are having financial troubles you may get anxious every time another bill or notice comes in.

However, focusing on the point that you don’t have money is not going to pay them.

The pointlessness of worry

Take a second and think about the pointlessness of worrying. When you worry, do you come up with great ideas to get you out of a jam? No, if anything, you shoot down every suggestion presented to you. Worrying may be an emotion that you feel the need to express, but don’t linger in it. It is an idle state that will get you nowhere fast.

At some point you’ll have to face this problem and all the time you spent worrying is not going to provide you with a solution. It is bad enough that you are in financial turmoil—there is no benefit in worsening your mental and emotional state.

Instead, devote your time and energy to doing something more constructive. Stop focusing on the negative and take positive action.

The effort is worth it

Your situation may not be easily changed, but it can be changed. The effort you put into it will be worth it in the end.

If you need some help getting into a more positive place, practice the attitude of gratitude. Be thankful for what you do have even when it feels like everything has fallen to shreds. Something is still very much together.

If you’ve had to give up little extras, like going out to dinner weekly, in an attempt to save money for something else, be appreciative that your basic needs are still covered. Be glad that you can still but food in your fridge, even if you have to cook and serve it.

No matter how small the item is, acknowledge it because will help improve your state of mind so that you can be productive.

When your emotions have changed from negative to positive, think about what you can do. Brainstorm your next course of action, things that you can do to put yourself in a better place. Maybe research the issue to get the ideas flowing. Look up articles and tips to save or make extra money. Talk to someone about it. Another person may have workable solutions you haven’t even considered because you were too busy moping around. There is always something—even small steps add up.

While you are searching, keep in mind that there are ways to overcome your situation, regardless of what it is. You just need to be proactive when it comes to finding these solutions. Even if an opportunity just presents itself to you, you need to be open enough to realize that it’s worth a try, and do it.

Small steps add up

In order to get over your problems, the first and most vital thing you need to understand is worrying will not help. You must to be positive and take action, otherwise you are just stalling.

A positive attitude is an effective characteristic to have while doing what you need to do overcome your issues. Knowing that something is out there to help you is the motivation you need. Stay positive, have faith in yourself, and take action, and you’ll find yourself in a better place sooner rather than later.

Lea is a conscious living advocate and personal development coach. She enjoys helping others reach their potential and achieve true happiness. You can get your free guide to personal development at

5 Tips for More Online Dating Success

This post is by Nabil Gulamani of

Many men enter the online dating world thinking that all they have to do is write a brief profile and message a bunch of women to succeed at getting more dates.

The Internet is a great tool to meet people but many men think that using the Web is a substitution for solving all of life’s social problems, including overcoming shyness.

The fact is that online dating can be as challenging as traditional, offline dating, and if men don’t understand the key fundamentals, they will fail to attract women—especially the quality women who they’ve been wanting to meet for a very long time!

Here are my tips on how you can increase your chances of online dating success and supercharge your dating life.

Make sure that you have high standards

If you want your dating profile to stand out more and be read by more women, show that you have some kind of standards.

If you are looking for women that are athletic and like the outdoors, clearly state that on your profile. If you want to meet a woman that wants to party on a Friday night, mention that on your profile also.

Many men think that if they set high standards on their profile than that will limit their opportunities. The truth is that if you start setting high standards, you will attract the women that you really want to attract, rather than waste time with women you don’t really want to spend time with.

Be optimistic in your writing style

Women are attracted to men with positive personalities. If you want to get dates with quality women then you have to show that them that you are ambitious and like yourself.

On your profile you always want to show that you are passionate about what you’re doing with your life. If a woman reads your profile and gets a clue that you lack passion, she will skip your profile. The last thing she wants is to spend time with a man that complains about how his life really sucks.

The reason women are really attracted to optimism is because it is shows that you have a healthy and well-balanced life style. Women want a man with purpose and mission.

Use a great photo

Men, stop posing in front of the mirror to take a picture of yourselves! It shows that you are insecure and suggests a lack of personality.

Instead, add a variety of pictures that show your true personality. You want to show the woman that is browsing your profile that you have a life, and that you are going to be the rock star of her life if she decides to spend time with you.

The first impression is very important. If you decide to stand there with just your boxers on, looking half asleep, you will be dreaming to get a date for the rest of your life, but it won’t happen!

Don’t be afraid to tease women when messaging them

Many men are afraid to take the risk to tease women when they are chatting with them online. Teasing women shows that you are comfortable in your own skin and don’t really care about how they’re going to react.

Many men work hard on establishing great connection with women but start having boring conversations with them later. Then they log on to their online dating profile and are frustrated to see that the women that they were just chatting to have blocked them, or no longer want to chat to them.

Women get stormed with a million messages from all sorts of different men and they know which of those men come across confident and experienced. The reason men are afraid to tease women is because they’re afraid that they will get rejected. Don’t be afraid of rejection! Men who take the risk to get outside of their comfort zones and don’t care about the outcome are the ones who are going to score dates with the beautiful women (because risk-taking is a sign that you have guts!).

Take a few minutes to think about men who have achieved amazing things in the past; these are people you have probably read about in history books. The reason these men were able to achieve great success was because they took risks! Once a man starts taking risks in his dating life, he will start to see results that will get him ahead.

Be consistent if you want to succeed

Do you give up after just sending one message to a woman? If so, you are not trying hard enough.

Yes we all know that bothering women by slamming their inbox with a bunch of messages is going to make you look like a creep, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be consistent with sending more messages to the same woman.

Many woman really appreciate a man who’s consistent, because it shows her that you really want to connect and get to know her more.

Simple steps to get started with online dating

  1. Sign up to open an account.
  2. Start filling out your profile description.
  3. Find some good pictures of yourself and add them to your profile.
  4. Start searching for women that you are attracted to and message them right away.
  5. Keep updating your profile so all the information about yourself is current and up to date.

So what are you waiting for? You are sitting in front of the computer reading this. You might as well go open an online dating account and start meeting the women that you have been waiting for.

Nabil Gulamani is in sales and helps businesses nationwide with their Direct Marketing. During his free time he blogs about self-improvement and personal growth to help people improve their overall lifestyle. You can visit his Self-Improvement blog

How to Beat the Winter Blues

This post is by Stephanie Staszko of Blue Octopus Flat Fee Recruitment.

Winter blues aren’t uncommon as dark nights descend and the stress of Christmas looms. Coping with cold weather, flue outbreaks and the stress of Christmas are all to blame for the so-called “winter blues.” Winter, however, doesn’t have to be such a depressing season; it can be a time for enjoying family over Christmas, making fresh starts at the New Year, and feeling optimistic about the following year.

Here are a few tips for beating the winter blues.

Meet new people

Dark nights and cold weather make it easier to become reclusive and withdrawn—after all, the prospects of venturing outdoors are so unattractive!

Joining a new club can be an excellent way to expand your social circle in the cold months, and the wider your social circle is, the more people you’ll have to talk with. The club you join could be related to a New Year’s resolution you plan to make, such as joining a fitness class or learning a new craft.

Joining different clubs can help to vary your working week and break up your routine, which is the very place where boredom often originates. Also, it can provide you with somewhere to escape from the stresses of Christmas as you indulge in an activity you enjoy.

Take a break

There’s no better way to vary your lifestyle than by taking short breaks away to different destinations. Not only does a holiday give you something to look forward to, it also helps you to relax and broaden your geographical knowledge. Mini-cruises can be a great way to take a city break on a budget, and there are often many offers on holidays in January as it’s considered to be the “low” season in many destinations.

If you really want the ultimate Christmas holiday, you could go on a winter sports trip! Not only will you learn a new activity, you can experience the mountainous regions and take in some astounding views. Furthermore, you don’t have to feel stressed over Christmas dinner, as it will be made for you!

Ski holidays, however, can be quite expensive so you may require a holiday loan in order to visit one of the top destinations. Different websites offer different types of holiday loans so make sure you shop around to find the best deal.

Socializing with old friends

Meeting up with old friends and reminiscing can really lift your mood. If there’s a friend you haven’t seen for quite some time, arrange to meet them and recount fond memories—or even create some new ones!

Remembering good times you’ve had in the past can help you to feel like you belong again if you’ve been lacking motivation recently. Laughter is a great stress reliever and instantly lightens your mood, so dig deep and reminisce over the wackiest and funniest memories you’ve had.

Creating life achievements

To avoid the January blues that follow Christmas you need to keep your mind active, and nothing occupies the mind more than working towards certain goals and achievements.

Why not set yourself personal or career-based targets to reach by the end of January? It could be something as simple as taking on a renovation project in one of the rooms in your house. Not only will this keep your mind busy, you’ll also have a redecorated room whilst keeping costs to a minimum. And you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of achievement when it’s finished.

Winter could be the perfect season to try out new activities and experiment with challenges you’ve never attempted before. Avoid lying around your house because of the cold: embrace the weather and use it to your advantage as you beat those winter blues!

Written by Stephanie Staszko on behalf of Blue Octopus Flat Fee Recruitment. Steph enjoys writing various posts on recruitment for candidates and employers alike. You can find her on Twitter @StephStaz where you’ll find more career/recruitment posts.

Surviving the Holiday Season: a How-to Guide for Couples Everywhere

I can’t quite believe I’m already writing about the holiday season, but ignoring it until the last minute is what gets me into trouble every year. So if the shops have declared it holiday season (and believe me, they well and truly have), then I guess we all need to start planning.

Oh, the cumulative pressure of the holidays on a couple. There’s really nothing quite like it.

Done right, it has all the makings for disaster—the financial pressures of gift-buying and party-throwing; the family pressures to have a really lovely time together even though, after just a few hours, they’ll drive you batty; and the sheer exhaustion from fighting crowds while shopping, spending meticulous hours planning, cooking entire turkeys and eggnog, and partying into the night—and then doing it all over again.

In order to get through it unscathed, take heed of these practical tips for surviving the holiday season.

1. Spend time together, alone

Among the chaos, make sure you allocate a moment or two to yourselves, to breathe, decompress, and enjoy each other’s company. Start a tradition you both enjoy that you can look forward to each holiday.

If you’re really busy, make your alone time productive too, by baking together in the kitchen with a bottle of wine, or wrapping presents on the lounge room floor with your favorite tunes on in the background.

2. Start shopping now

The later you leave the shopping, the longer it’s going to take (hideous lines) and the more money you’re going to spend (quick, we’re running out of time to decide on a present! Just get that!).

Sit down together now and make the full list of family members you need to buy for and how much you’re going to spend. If you really do start now, then online shopping is perfect—there are no lines, the gifts are delivered, wrapped, to your door in time for Christmas, and you can easily track what you’re spending as you go.

That means less arguing over who was supposed to get your in-laws presents, and less financial stress at the last minute. Plus, you won’t be too tired come the celebration days of the holidays.

3. Be a mind-reader

Understand that when your partner is stressing, it will rarely be about you.

Learn to read what’s going on for them—whether their family is getting to them, they’re overwhelmed with the number of things they have to get through, and so on.

Don’t bite back. Support them as best you can by offering to help, diffusing the situation, and letting them vent. Open and honest communication is crucial during stressful times.

What about you? Any great tips for helping survive the holidays together, besides chugging eggnog?