5 tips for keeping stress at bay

1. Get plenty of rest

Sleep is so underrated. And, yet, so powerful. For any insomniacs reading this, I truly feel bad for you. It must be awful to never achieve a good nights sleep and I hope that you manage to find some relaxing coping mechanisms that get you through. For the majority of the population, we do manage to get some sleep, but it’s still not enough. Living in the northern hemisphere the summer nights are long and unless you invest in some good blackout curtains then the nights are very, very long. Going to bed early, no caffeine after midday, electronic shutdown at least 2hrs before bed and making a concerted effort to BE in bed even if I’m not sleeping by 11pm latest helps massively. Stress happens, it’s a fact, but equipping yourself with energy and the best mood possible will ensure you’re able to deal with it and manage the impact it has on your life. A tired mind and body makes this a lot harder than it needs to be.

 

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Not your friends, when looking for the land of nod.

2. Drink lots of fluids

And by this I mean water, mainly. Just anytime you can spend drinking do it. Staying hydrated can stop you from unnecessary snacking, feeling fatigued and feeling stressed. At work, the stress may be rising but keep cool and keep things under control – go for a walk to the kitchen/staff area and drink up!

3. Phone a friend

Checking in with your nearest and dearest ensures you keep you feet on the ground and allows you to put things into context. That really stressful situation you’re going through might be solved by talking candidly to a friend. They might have been going through the same thing or can offer you advice. They might also tell you to get a grip and look at the issue in another way. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, in relaxed, chilled surroundings and shake off your troubles… it really is the simple things in life!

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One of the most relaxed cafes – Hawkshead, Lake District

4. Goodbye midweek drinking, hello morning run!

Simultaneously reducing your alcohol intake and upping your physical activity can make a world of difference. It might be the last thing you want to do on a rainy morning at 6am, but getting up early and getting out for a run will boost your mood, reduce your stress levels and increase your fitness overall. It’s life’s free gym and you only have yourself to compete against. Running has changed my life. I feel fitter, happier because I’m more comfortable in my own skin and less stressed at what life throws at me. Aside from the endorphins, the running gives me an hour of space to myself to think about the day ahead and organise my thoughts. It also allows me to process any difficult situations and find solutions. Give it a go for a couple of weeks and see if you notice any difference…

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Keep drinking to the weekends or special occasions. it might de-stress at the time but the morning after won’t forgive you…

5. Make lists

My life feels like a long list. Even this blog post is a list! But, seriously, if I know I’m up against a stressful day then a list can just make everything seem less daunting and more orderly. Even the illusion that I have some level of control is better than the madness of a typical day where I’m blindly trying to balance my time with work with socialising.

I find this tip particularly helpful on a Sunday at about midday when I’m starting to feel the Monday blues creep in. I grab a pen and a cute notepad – who says practical can’t be pretty! I note down under two columns the things I need to do to ensure a sane start to the week. The first column is a list for work and the second a list which covers personal life, like items I need to post, or collect and people I need to get in touch with. In addition, I give each of these items a number 1 for “priority” or a number 2 for “important but the world won’t implode if this isn’t done today” status. I try not to begin the 2s until I’ve taken a good stab at the 1s. Usually, most work items are under 1 but I still manage to squeeze in some real-life business – it’s important too!

How do you keep stress at bay?

Home help

How to tackle a never ending mountain of housework on top of your day job.

Workwear

When you get in from work put your shoes away on their rack/in their box/in the cupboard and either dump your dirty clothes in the laundry basket or hang your suit up. It sounds obvious but stripping down and leaving your clothes and bags strewn all over the place is an invite for a floordrobe and will lose you time scavenging the following morning. For those used to spending the rest of the evening in your workwear – try changing into something more comfortable and hanging your outfit up. This will take some of the creases out or give you more time to clean it for the next day.

If you’re trying to take out some creases in your shirts then throwing them in the dryer on a speed cycle with some ice cubes will release just enough steam to smooth things out. If you’re really short on time then hanging your shirt/dress up in the bathroom whilst you shower will also steam out some creases.

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preparation makes things run smoother in the morning

Laundry day

We have got into the habit of washing our clothes midweek. The idea of spending my weekends or a rare free day doing laundry and housework fills my heart with dread. If you live in a well sound-proofed flat then you should take advantage of running a wash cycle overnight and hanging the clothes up first thing in the morning. This means that the wash is working whilst you sleep and it’s not left too long to gather that horrible damp smell. One of the best tips my mother gave me was to wait until the clothes were bone dry before folding them away. Woe betide those who fold away damp clothes. If you don’t have a balcony or garden to hang the clothes out to dry then leave them in a room with the window open to allow the air to circulate and to get rid of any potential dam smell. Make sure the clothes aren’t too near to the kitchen, so that they don’t pick up any cooking smells or musty smoke.

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remember to wash on the cold cycle!

Dishes

We don’t have a dishwasher and I’m convinced that getting one would solve 90% of the arguments I have with my partner. Alas, we are living in rented accommodation and can’t install one. So, to make do with traditional washing at the sink tasks we have a couple of rules which might work for you too. 1) DO THEM IMMEDIATELY. The below image is tells a sad tale of what happens when you have friends round for dinner + not doing the dishes the morning after + leaving sticky foods like porridge and cereal to bowls. Just get them done as soon as you’ve finished eating. Then you can relax and not have to pick up the chore later (and it really is a chore). When cooking, clean as you go, don’t have any “dead time” where you’re just waiting for the food in the over to be ready, make sure you wash the utensils and pots once you’re done with that section of the meal. If you have friends round, I tend to boil a kettle and pour the hot water into sticky pots and pans to soak, so even if I’m not getting around to cleaning straight away the job is easier when I eventually get there. 2) Use as few pots, plates and utensils as possible. I you can double up cooking veg in the same pot (mixing carrots and peas etc.) then do so. Likewise for serving on plates – think more platter style where you can throw different foods together. This tip will also encourage people to eat a wider variety of foods at your table as it will be mixed in together.

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warning: explicit content

Hoovering/mopping

I have to confess that hoovering is probably my favourite household task. It makes such a difference and you get instant, visible results. I would guesstimate that I hoover about 3-4 times a week (which even I find excessive) but we are living in a rented flat and the flooring is just the worst to keep clean. You can still make things easier for you with this task by taking your shoes off at the door – think Japanese living! This stops you dragging muck throughout the home and keeps things tidy – see point above about workwear. Limiting your eating places to one or two areas of the home also helps. This stops crummies being dispersed all over your floors. I know exactly where the messiest places are and where I need to pay close attention to hoovering. The kitchen floor, just under the chopping board and bread bin and the ‘favourite’ corner of the sofa where countless TV snacks and game foods are consumed. These are the only 2 places were we’ve agreed eating and making a mess away from the dining table is ok. Otherwise, we’d spend a lifetime hoovering up all over the place. Also, as an aside, try not to eat in bed – I know it’s really good when you’re hungover or feeling under the weather but there’s nothing worse than biscuit crumbs under the duvet and ketchup stains on your blanket. We also bought a cordless hoover recently = game changer. It’s super fast, got great suction and you’re not hampered by the distance of a cord. I’m not going to recommend any particular brand in this post because there are so many good vacuum cleaners out there for a variety of budgets but make sure you get a really lightweight one which picks up dirt and hair really well.

Do you have any tips for making household task less of a chore? Or are you a weirdo like me and enjoy hoovering?

Money saving tips for looking good

We’ve all been there, the skint intern who has to turn up and shine everyday even though their bank account is reaching deep into the negative. It can be hard keeping up with the lifestyles of colleagues who are higher paid or who move within high-flying and high-paid circles. As an intern ‘living’ in Brussels, I really struggled to operate on the same level as the rest of the office who had many benefits (such as free accommodation, paid utility bills, free flights to home and help on the ground with some of the life admin that living in another country entails), none of which I had access to as an intern.

On top of this I was still out partying and socialising as though my bank account accommodated the same pay every month as theirs did. The days and nights rolled by (as I myself rolled in and out of bars and shops and expensive days out) and it all resulted in me being quite short on money – to the extent, that I was coordinating mealtimes with networking aperitifs or free lunches – attending only for the food despite having to go through the dullest of seminars. I was also, as my then boyfriend lived in Germany, using any savings (hahaha…ha) to pay for flights. If Easyjet did loyalty cards, they would owe me a house by now.

Looking back I don’t regret any of this. It taught me to value money and to really consider purchases before committing. It also showed me that investing in my future meant a lot more about time than it did about money. Thanks to the internships and placements I held, I am now in the best job of my life to date and still have people from my past life in Brussels contacting me to congratulate me on where I am.

Below, I’ve included some tips on how and where you can save money when on an internship or just generally if your current wage doesn’t stretch to meet those little extras that add up.

Trainee haircuts

Most hairdressers will have 2 or more trainees on their book. These guys are always looking for models to practice on and their appointment hours are often later on in the day. Some salons will also stay open later into the evening to allow for these bookings. The cuts cost next to nothing and some may even be free. You’ll leave the salon having had a full wash, cut and blow-dry and you may not even have to book time away from the office to do this. They use the same high quality products on your hair as they would if you were being seen to by a senior stylist. They also ensure the finish on the hair (bouncy blow-dry, straight, curly) is up to the same standards as if you had paid full price. But…these appointments may take longer than normal. I still go for a trainee cut from time to time as I don’t dye my hair and don’t want to pay astronomical prices for taking a few inches off. I’ve noticed that instead of the standard 45min session that I normally get they can sometimes take up to 1hr30 as their work needs to be checked by a manager before you leave and they sometimes re-do certain sections to provide the best possible service. Also, they usually ask over the phone how much you would like off the length. Often, they will not accept any clients who want less than 2inches to give them decent space to practice.

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Set aside a bit of time to plan your personal appointments and you could save yourself  money.

 

Beauty college

This is a great tip for anyone looking to get their eyebrows/eyelashes done, waxing or nails taken care of for a fraction of the price. As with the hairdressers, the college is usually open for appointments later in the day and you will be seen to by the friendliest, most welcoming students. They are graded on both the quality and customer service, so they really pay attention to you as a client. Again, the work is checked by a senior member of staff and the only downside I’ve found is that they might have more than one beautician observing or working on you at a time. This will depend largely on the college or the amount of customers they manage to attract. Which, in my local college’s case, is a lot – they offer treatments and services for 25% of the local rate!! Get in!

Commute on foot

Walking to work is an excellent, de-stresser, money saver and sure fire way to keep fit. I would recommend, coming up to summer, to make a point of walking to work, especially if your commute takes you through a park. The benefits of walking allow you to relax on your way into work and on your way home. It’s also a bit of free, gentle, exercise which can give you time to listen to a podcast, your favourite music or just allow you to get some fresh air away from the all too often bed-bus-office combination that we subject ourselves to. Commuting on foot is also a good barrier against the commuter flu. When I travelled to work by train, I used to get ill all the time because of the germs that people carry with them and the close proximity to others in the carriage. Exercise in general can help boost your immune system, making you stronger against coughs and colds. It’s important to take time out of your busy schedule to get a bit of fresh air or move around for a bit. Your health should always come first and compliment your working style, not suffer because of it.

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And breathe…

Lunch boxes

A healthier way and a cheaper way to keep your bank balance and waistline in check. There’s no last minute hesitation at the canteen to opt for the unhealthy choice on the menu and you know where that food has come from and what’s gone in to the meal – not that I’m saying all canteens are disgusting, far from it. I just know that food that sits out can be exposed to coughs, sneezes, hands and other hazards that your lunchbox won’t come into contact with. If you’re trying to eat healthier this is the safest option which will keep you from giving into some of the puddings and extras such as fries which you can normally smell coming from the canteen. In terms of saving money, I try to use the leftovers from the night before. They are still fresh enough and sometimes, especially as an intern, you’re unsure where your social life will take you in the evening – you might never get round to eating that massive vat of cous-cous for the rest of the week. Amen for lunches!

Coffee to go

I don’t really want to think about the amount of money I’ve given over the years to Starbucks and other take-away coffee shops. Of late, I’ve been trying to avoid the coffee giants and if I absolutely have to I’ll buy from a smaller, independent café. However, the true holy grail of saving money on the coffee run is to bring it in from home. Whether this means buying the coffee and storing it in the fridge, and bringing in a cafetiere, or just making the coffee in a thermos and trotting off to work with your flask it all adds up to money saved in the bank. Also, if you didn’t know already, all Nespresso stores offer customers one free taste per visit – usually in espresso form, sometimes with milk if you’re fortunate. Something to remember when you’re out shopping and looking for a pick-me-up on the cheap.

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Dream machine – make your coffee at home in the morning and take a thermos to work = coffee how YOU like it and you save money. What’s not to love?

If you’re doing an internship that pays peanuts, hang in there. In my experience it is worth seeing this through and can be used as a trampoline on to other great roles. If you’ve worked as an intern, and have any good tips on how to save money, please leave a comment in the box below. Or, if you’re thinking about applying for a low paid internship/new job, what are you most concerned about?

Tea and sympathy

Back in school I remember people telling me to “make the most of it now” because  “it only gets harder when you’ve got a job in the real world”. And in some ways this has been true. Getting to grips with the ups and downs of being an adult, not only holding down a job but climbing the career ladder as well and maintaining a good stable mental, social and wellbeing standard. Sometimes it can all get a bit much! Cue the trustworthy friend, boyfriend or colleague with a cup of tea.

 

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Tea for two and two for tea

 

We all need someone who we can let off steam with, whether it’s because we’ve had a rough day, are struggling with an emotional problem or just need to talk to someone. It’s so important, especially now that a lot of our lives are spent staring at computer/phone screens, that we get the right face to face contact with those we love and want to spend time with.

My favourite way to catch up with friends is over a cup of tea or with a breakfast, especially if I’m having a crazy week at work. It’s really good to ground yourself and get a bit of a reality check. It’s also important to see how your friends/loved ones are feeling. They may be going through the same thing as you, or have already been there and could offer some great advice and a sympathetic ear.

 

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Tea, of the chilled, alcoholic variety

It can be tempting after a rubbish day at the office, or a really challenging week, to shut yourself away and spend the weekend on the sofa with Netflix and a glass of wine (or 4) but this won’t do anything for your wellbeing in the long run and might make it harder for you to open up to people when you eventually have to. I sometimes work weekends, as do my friends, so when we manage to coordinate a free day we make a point of a lazy brunch or an afternoon tea somewhere a bit special.

It’s good to re-group, especially on a week where I feel that I haven’t spoken to anyone who isn’t a colleague (completely immersed in work). Just think, it could cost as little as a cup of tea and the results are similar to a £100+ therapy session! You should always have some coping mechanisms that you can infallibly rely on when the going gets tough. whether that’s a good support network, a sport or honed inner strength, it’s so important to release that pressure valve.

 

What are your ways of letting off steam? Do you have a blog, sport, hobby, bestie that you go to as a fail-safe?

A helping hand

A lesson in acceptance and giving yourself a break

Since beginning work in a high-pressure environment, I have realised that so many young professionals, myself included, are breaking their backs every week to maintain the image of these perfect all-rounders who can hold down brilliant jobs, transform into domestic goddesses and maintain a vibrant social life which never impacts negatively on their figure or gives them bags under their eyes. This ‘image’, more often than not, is self imposed – and I’m as guilty as any. It’s easier said than done when fighting against this idea that all young professionals, and women in particular suffer from this, are able to attend 6am gym classes x5 weekly, furnish their penthouses immaculately with BoConcept furniture and have mastered Michelin star level cooking.

There are however ways around the madness of a busy work-life clash. A couple of tips colleagues and friends have given me along the way have ensured that life outside of the office doesn’t slip through the cracks and you can keep yourself sane.

 

Looking after yourself

There is no short cut way to truly looking after yourself other than finding a good work-life balance where you can manage your stress levels properly. There are, however, some helpful tricks that can make the morning rush less frantic and allow you some more ‘me time’ before the world comes at you.

Eyelash and eyebrow tinting. This one means that for roughly 4-6 weeks you don’t need anything other than a light sweep of foundation and lipstick before you leave home in the morning. If you’re someone who feels that they have to have more make-up on then this might not be the best tip for you, as you’ll probably make-up over eyelashes and brows in any case, but if you’re like me and unfailingly lazy when it comes to make-up then this one’s for you!

Hair care. Personally, I find that since growing my fringe out and allowing my hair to get longer, time spent on my hair has reduced. There’s no frustrating tidy up of the fringe and less need to style longer hair overall as it can be tied back on a bad hair day. Also, living in the UK where it rains a lot means that however you left your home in the morning will not translate exactly to the look you are pulling off as you walk into work. Hairspray and dry shampoo are very helpful.

Gel nails. These are good if you can commit to getting them re-done properly every 2-3 weeks, but it’s a great way to avoid chipped nails and having to re-paint in the morning – because you did them too close to bed time and they have the fabric imprint across the varnish. Bravo!

 

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A quick fix hair and make-up solution can save time and you’ll still feel great!

 

Looking after your home

We can’t all afford domestic staff, so unless you are able to pay for a cleaner to come on a weekly basis (I’m not judging anyone here, I have been SO tempted to call for help in this area, a weight is lifted and you’re giving someone employment) then you need to get your domestic chores down to a finely tuned art. There are ways of doing things around the home which are cost free and time saving. I’ll post an article on this shortly which goes into more detail on how the busy professional can score a few hat tricks at home! But for now, my top tips are as follows…

  1. Dedicate one evening a week to blitzing your flat – dust, hoover and disinfect toilets etc. I normally opt for a Friday as weekends are usually when I have people over and this saves me waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays before they come round. Also, if you life in a flat and you have to hoover in the evening your neighbours are less likely to be in and more likely to forgive a quick Friday blitz rather than a mid-week headache.
  2. Food shop online and get home delivery – you spend less money because most supermarkets will save your shopping list preferences so you don’t do that thing where you aimlessly wander the aisles chucking in a few extras, ahem. You also buy yourself a lot of time with this one.
  3. Fake flowers. Yes, the real ones are nice and they smell lovely, but it’s just something else to remember to throw away before they go mouldy. You can get some really authentic looking ones that don’t appear too trashy. Alternatively, cacti. Although these are just like flowers that die really, really slowly.
  4. Get a good dishwasher. The root of 90% of the arguments in our flat is around the subject of unwashed dishes. A good washer will avoid this and any other stress related to plates stacking up. You don’t have time, you don’t have the emotional stability by Thursday to go through another round of ‘whose turn is it’, just get it sorted.
  5. De-clutter x4 a year. It doesn’t need to be more than this if you’re serious about it each time you do it. You don’t want to be rummaging around in drawers at 6am in the dark looking for another black top – and by the way, when was the last time you saw that, has it been washed and where did you hang it? Cutting back on clothes you don’t wear, general bric-a-brac and ‘stuff’ will help you see clearer and have better access to the essentials as you fly out the door in the morning.

 

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Even the most lethal among us have to make an effort to kill cacti, a good option for those without green fingers.

 

Looking after life-admin

My mobile banking app has been the BEST thing that’s happened to me this year. Monday to Friday I’m too busy out making the money to actually manage where it goes, and as Monday to Friday coincides with banking hours then this can make keeping on top of your finances a bit tricky. The last time I went for an appointment at the bank I had to book a morning off in advance with 3 weeks notice! So, being able to transfer money, pay people back and move wages into savings accounts whilst walking to work is a massive benefit.

Opening your mail is one sure fire way to face up to all the business you’ve yet to get round to – which might be the main reason why my post piles up on tables dotted around my flat before I wonder why there are no more clear surfaces. Facing up to the post as it comes in is the best, and really only, way of dealing with it before it gets out of hand. To motivate yourself, think about it this way: that could be an outstanding bill (or, less likely but still possible, you might have money owed to you and this is a notification of such joy!), an important change to your current situation (speaking from experience I have allowed overpriced home and contents insurance to roll over for another year because I didn’t open my post in time – NEVER AGAIN!) or sometimes just a letter or a card from a friend – this would just be rude if you didn’t open this kind of mail in a timely manner!

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Finally, relax! We all mess up, we have all gone to work looking less than our best and we’ve all been that person who is frantically trying to hide dirty laundry and plates in cupboards and under beds before guests arrive. The only pressure you should ever feel to manage any of the above aspects is from yourself. So, give yourself a break and learn to accept that you are perfect already! Everything else is just details…

Do you have any tips for making life easier in the mornings or dealing with life admin? Please share below in the comments.

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