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Get a Full Recharge from Good Quality Sleep

In movies, we view scenes of people waking up with a start from a nightmare, or because there’s a blood thirsty psychopath or a ghoul lurking in the house. In reality, our sleep can get interrupted due to very mild distractions or even for no apparent reason. This can be a horror in its own right. After all, without good quality sleep, we’d spend the next day feeling fuzzy, agitated and lacking in concentration.

If it is a challenge to stay asleep throughout the night, you might want to consider making some changes to your sleeping habits.

Watching when and what you eat and drink can greatly help to improve your sleep. Generally, try to give at least two to three hours buffer time before your bed time. Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. Slot in a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you really must. But it’s not a good habit. Get your eight glasses of water in the earlier part of the day as drinking before bed can lead to midnight trips to the bathroom. Avoid nicotine and caffeine as these have stimulating effects. Alcohol before bed is also generally not a good idea as it reduces REM sleep (the stage of sleep when people dream), which can lead to loss in concentration and day time drowsiness.

Let your body know it’s about time for bed. About an hour before bedtime, put your work away, dim the lights, put on comfortable pyjamas, listen to soothing music, essentially do anything that will help you unwind. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by bridging the transition between wakefulness and sleepiness.

A clean and comfortable environment makes a difference. It’s challenging trying to fall asleep in a room where the air-conditioning is too strong, or a room so stuffy and humid that you spend the night tossing and turning in bed. If there are mosquitoes in your house, you might want to consider mosquito repellent. Invest in some good noise plugs if crying babies (not yours), screeching vehicles and your snoring partner are a regular affair. Also keep your surroundings as dark as possible as a little light can disrupt melatonin production, thus interrupting your sleep. An alternative is to cover your eyes with an eye mask.

Power napping is another factor that can affect sleep. While these naps are lauded as the new trend to greater efficiency at work, keep them short, no more than 10 to 30 minutes, and only in the mid-afternoon. Long naps and excessive napping can make you feel sleepier otherwise, and also cause difficulties in achieving sound sleep at night.

Additionally, stay active, as exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. A research done by Northwestern University’s Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, in Illinois, US, reported that sedentary adults who exercised four times a week experienced improved sleep quality.

A little discipline goes a long way in improving your lifestyle. If you still have persistent problems falling asleep, do consult a doctor.

Picture from Pixabay

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

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Book Review: The Yellow Envelope

The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan

Kim Dinan always wanted to travel the world. Tired of how little is happening in her life, she decided to quit her job and pursue this dream. She persuaded her husband to do likewise and they sold all their possessions. Before they left, their close friends gave them a yellow envelope containing $1000 to be spent or given away as they saw fit during their travels.

The Yellow Envelope was in fact a project she started in November 2016. She asks blog readers if she could mail them a yellow envelope. All they had to do was to use their yellow envelope to commit a random act of kindness.

Back to her travels, the couple had some great adventures together, but their relationship was frequently challenged. At one point, Kim even considered leaving her husband despite he being supportive of her.

Indeed, travelling the world is rarely romantic and idyllic It takes a lot of courage to give up stability for adventures, the unknown and unpredictable, and to cope with the societal pressures. Those who have contemplated doing the same may find this memoir a wake-up call, or be even more inspired to venture out of their comfort zone.

This book focuses on Kim’s emotional struggles and epiphanies, which would be disappointing for those who are expecting a travelogue or adventure book. Certainly, there are some content about what the couple saw and did, and the people they encountered in Ecuador, India, and Nepal, among others. There is a section for each country visited but the description is superficial. Some of the travel stories are rather interesting. Kim didn’t forget the yellow envelope. The $1000 was put to good use, feeding dogs and helping needy children. It reminds readers that travel is not just about enjoying and experiencing the sights, but it is also about reaching out to those in need.

Kim has a beautiful descriptive writing style. She uses simple words but weaves them together with interesting metaphors, making it easy to relate to her thoughts.

– This book review first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

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Making the most out of leftovers from Chinese New Year

Excess food and items are often the by—products of the holiday season after a robust month of cooking, eating, visitations and gifting. Tempting as it is to shove them into storage or toss them out, it is a terrible wastage of perfectly useable products and does your wallet a great injustice. There are some things you can do to get these out of your house.

First and foremost, make sure that your surplus food and items are in good, edible or useable condition. Check the expiry dates on food containers, and toss out food that has already expired or smell and look strange. Take note of items that are approaching their expiry dates and place them in more noticeable and accessible areas as those are items you would want to utilise first.

Appropriate storage is crucial to ensure that your items retain ‘ their quality as much as possible while you ‘ work on reducing their presence in your house. Festive goodies should be kept in air-tight containers and stored in cool cupboards. Left-over cooked food items should be stored separately in the fridge in airtight, leak-proof containers or wraps. Uncooked meat, fish and chicken should be kept in their original store wrapping. They should also be placed on trays or plates to prevent liquids from dripping onto other items below. Fruits and vegetables should be kept in separate, unsealed and perforated bags. Do not place different fruits and vegetables together as they give off gases that can cause other items to go bad. Do not wash before refrigerating as dampness can cause mould. Ensure that there is space in the refrigerator for cool air to circulate.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Offer your snacks, drinks, hampers and other unused items to neighbours, friends and colleagues. But don’t forget to be sensitive to their needs. I recall a neighbour who wanted to throw out their plant a year ago. Today the plant is growing well in my office because there are green thumbs here. If your neighbourhood has a Facebook account, that is a good place to ask if anyone would like your surplus.

Charities are often inundated by item donations post- holiday season and some of them may cease accepting these until further notice. This is a strong indication that we buy far more than we should and we really ought to watch what we are buying! That said, some smaller and less-funded charities, orphanages and homes might appreciate food and functional products that are in new condition. Do contact the charity beforehand to check if they will accept your donations. www.giving.sg has a relatively comprehensive list of all charities and homes in Singapore. If you have bulky items like furniture and electronic appliances to give away, you may try http://www.passiton.org.sg to find a suitable match for your donation. The Food Bank Singapore has been taking in new, unopened Chinese New Year goodies for distribution to beneficiaries.

If you wish to monetize your items, local selling platform Carousell is handy for all sorts of items. But considering how easy it is to purchase items for cheap online or get them at low cost or even free from those who have bought too much, you might have better luck with a give away.

Last but not least, take note of how much you actually use during the holiday season, and refrain from buying more than that amount next year. Adopt sensible buying habits so you never have to cope with the heartache of wastage and spending excessively, and the headache of managing your surplus.

Picture by Alpha

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

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Book Review: Known and Strange Things

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

Known and Strange Things is a collection of 55 short non-fiction pieces from an approximately eight-year travel period of almost constant writing. Many of these have been published on mainstream publications, with some going viral. They span across a wide variety of topics covering books, movies, photography, travel, politics, personal accounts on race, war, and colonialism.

Cole grew up in Nigeria, has travelled extensively, and currently resides in the US. He is well-versed in the arts and politics, and his writings are fiercely intelligent and highly-opinionated. Cole is a person of colour, identifies as internationalist, and has a deep affiliation with Western culture. As such, his essays on politics and travel are a fascinating and reflective read.

There is a section on photography, and interestingly enough, that turned out to be the most outstanding section in his book, as agreed by other readers. Who would know that the beauty of photography could be conveyed in text? In these essays, Cole shares about the history and aesthetics of photography, virtually rendering a crash course on the background of this art form. Social media enthusiasts will no doubt be interested in what he thinks about lnstagram and Snapchat.

But not every essay might be one’s cup of tea. Certain essays and chapters felt particularly technical and may require multiple reads to digest the information. Even then, they may be over-whelming. Some articles may be deeply appreciated by art enthusiasts and historians, but would otherwise be akin to playing piano to the cow. 0n the other hand, I really enjoyed the ones about his personal experiences related in his accounts of his travels and life. Anyone who enjoys travelling or learning about the world through others eyes are likely to concur.

That said, not everyone would enjoy every piece of writing in the book, but finding at least one enjoyable essay should be easy.

– This book review first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

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There’s a Time and Place for Everyone; Your Future is in Your Hands

You would have heard or read about SkillsFuture, which is one of the best things that the government has implemented to help everyone develop his/her potential to the fullest. The government is stretching its hand to help Singaporeans to look for a whole suite of training courses to help you master the skills of your choice.

This skills mastery is more than about having the right paper qualifications. It is about helping you to be good at what you do currently and how to continually strive towards boosting yourself to reach greater excellence through knowledge, application and experience.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a student, or just taking the baby steps in your career, or you are in your mid-career or silver years. The Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity (CSIP) is here to offer a list of education and training providers, employers, unions, to help you chart a brighter future with skills mastery and lifelong learning. For example, as a student you may want to plan a route that allows you to pursue the right educational programme that fits with your interests, skills and abilities. If you are in your mid-career deepening your skills, knowledge and experience can value-add to your “l expertise and help in your career advancement.

So, why aren’t you doing yourself a favour by going into the SkillsFuture website and explore what’s in store for you?

All eligible Singaporeans 25 years old and above will receive a letter informing them of the activation of their SkillsFuture Credit Accounts in January 2017. It will include a booklet to explain where they can find the list of approved courses and how to use the credit. For those who are turning 25 years old in subsequent years, they will receive their SkillsFuture Credit Account Activation letter by the first quarter of each year. For new Singapore citizens aged 25 years old and above, they will receive their SkillsFuture Credit Account Activation letter within a quarter after they receive their Singapore citizenship.

Best of all, the SkillsFuture Credit is given to you and the government will credit your account with S$500 to pay for the courses. Your credit will not expire and the government will provide periodic top-ups, so you may accumulate your credit. Why wait? Go and visit the website: http://www.skillsfuture.sg

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Image from Pixabay