These days most people are juggling their job and their family life. Indeed, as you get older, it’s likely you’ll have more commitments compared with your younger days. And that could mean you don’t have a lot of time left for your friends. So even if you have every intention of staying in touch, it’s easy to neglect your friends and even lose contact with them altogether when life gets hectic. But having good friends is important say experts, who believe strong social ties can keep you happy. Some studies even suggest having the support of friends, family and neighbours could boost your chances of living a long and healthy life by up to 50 per cent. Thankfully, there are ways of maintaining your friendships, no matter how busy you are: Connect via social media  Social networks such as Facebook may not be a substitute for real friendships, but they can help you keep in touch with people you don’t see very often and even reconnect you with friends you haven’t seen in years. But try to avoid posting mass status updates all the time – leaving personal messages for individual friends is much more meaningful. Make a regular commitment  When you were younger, seeing friends was something that came naturally. Now, finding time to get together seems so much more difficult. But just because you can’t see your friends as often as you used to, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on your friendships altogether. Try to figure out how often you and your friends can meet realistically – once a month, once every six weeks or once every eight weeks, for instance – and make a firm commitment (even if you decide to meet up once a year, it can help to keep your friendship alive, especially in the case of long-standing relationships). If you have sets of friends who know each other, making plans to meet up as a group instead of trying to see each individual friend on their own can be helpful too. On the other hand, if you can’t get together in person, try organising regular Skype dates with friends who live far away. Make it a regular commitment and it will soon become a worthwhile habit. Do the little things Few people with busy lives have the time for leisurely chats with friends on the phone. But it takes seconds to send a note by text or email; and most importantly, it lets your friends know you’re thinking of them. So whenever you come across something you find interesting on the internet, forward it to a friend who shares your views or your sense of humour. And remember, your friends may well appreciate a few words sent on a frequent basis than longer updates just once in a blue moon. Be good at remembering  If you don’t check in with your friends that often, it’s easy to forget things like their birthdays and other anniversaries. You may think having a busy life is a good excuse, but others may view forgetting big dates as thoughtlessness. So aim to remember the important moments in your friends’ lives, including their birthdays, anniversaries, children’s birthdays and so on, and send them a card or a message on each occasion. To make remembering easier, keep an up-to-date list of dates in your diary or use a anniversary/birthday reminder app on your smartphone, computer or digital device (try Digital Anniversaries, a free app available for Android and Apple devices). Apologise for losing touch  We all know life can get in the way of our plans from time to time. So if you’ve been neglecting one or more of your friends, instead of letting the friendship fizzle out, call or write to them and tell them you’re sorry. It’s better to admit you’ve let things slip than to lose your friendship altogether. Similarly, if you feel a friend is neglecting you, try to understand how easy it can be to lose track. Instead of waiting for them to get in touch with you, make an effort to contact them yourself. You could end up healthier and happier as a result. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019

"I look back on her teenage years as being the loveliest stage of her childhood" said no parent, ever. Living with teenagers can be stressful, exhausting, sometimes fulfilling and certainly unpredictable. Here’s some thoughts on how to help your child transition to a happy and healthy young adult, whilst keeping your own professional and personal life on track. These are based on my own experience and feedback from other parents. Remember you are the expert on what’s right for you and your family, these are only ideas. Be a role model for a happy, healthy and meaningful life Teenagers don’t appear to listen to what we say, but they certainly copy what we do. Pay attention to your own diet, exercise, sleeping habits, alcohol consumption, over-work and other life style choices. That includes letting them observe you having fun and making time for things you enjoy, as well as working and being a parent. It’s not selfish to have outside interests and let your children see that life is for living. Don’t pretend to be a clean-living paragon when you are not. It’s much better for them to see you balance a few days of healthier living to make up for a period of excess, whether through work or play. That’s real life. Turn off the digital devices Teenagers are notoriously critical of their parents so don’t make it easy for them to call you out on double-standards. You can’t expect them to make conversation with you if you are checking your own emails at the dinner table. Try to make some family rules about screen time and stick to them Talk, don’t bottle up your emotions It’s normal to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and tired from time to time. It’s also normal to feel frustrated or angry with your teenager sometimes too. Reach out to people who will support you. At work, advice and feedback is usually helpful. In our personal lives, you don’t necessarily need advice, just someone to listen to you non-judgementally. It’s ok for your teenagers to see that you can feel vulnerable or overwhelmed from time to time. They will learn how to deal with stressful situations from observing how you cope. Avoid comparisons Other people’s children may appear to be coping much better than yours, and other parents appear to be managing their life and career better also. That may be true, or it may not be. Surround yourself with a supportive network and don’t judge your own family life or other people. Life is a marathon not a sprint. If your children are facing difficulties now, then they will learn from their mistakes and build resilience. Don’t beat yourself or them up for not being perfect. You may even have to relax your high standards – maybe one relaxed, home-cooked meal with all the family round the table each week is enough to aim for? Create an easy space to talk As teens become increasingly independent they often spend more time with their friends than their family. This can feel like a rejection. Try and keep the lines of communication open. It is essential to invest your energy in maintaining a good relationship, even when they have trouble communicating. Talk to them about what you are up to, and perhaps they’ll reciprocate. Find the best time to get them to open up. Many parents say that their teens talk to them when they are taxi-ing them around. If your children are more relaxed in the early evening, then grab a cup of tea and chat to them when you get home, rather than rushing to do chores or doing work. Ditch the guilt Some days you simply have to put your professional life first to cope with the demands facing you. That’s modern life and that’s how you pay the bills. Don’t beat yourself up about it. They’ll respect you for your achievements, even if they don’t show it right now. No one says it is easy to balance work and family life. Smaller children are tiring but they are easier to control than stroppy teenagers. It’s hard for many of us to let go, particularly when we are usually in the driving seat in our personal and professional lives. Pick your battles carefully. Like all childhood phases, this won’t last for ever. Written by: Zena Everett Zena Everett is an executive coach and speaker on productivity and career strategy. An organisational psychologist, she has trained in cognitive behavioural coaching and coaches on the Executive MBA programme at Oxford University’s Said Business School. She is a speaker for the London Business Forum. Zena is the mother of two teenagers and a well-mannered basset hound. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019

We use it to network with business contacts, keep in touch with friends and family, find and share information, express our opinions and even for entertainment (comedy cat video fans, you know who you are).  But there’s evidence to suggest many people who use social media fear they’re addicted to it. Should you quit? Quitting social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may have a number of benefits, including the following: Your mood may improve Research suggests that the more time you spend on social media, the greater your risk for depression.  You’ll feel less isolated While you may have hundreds (or possibly thousands) of Facebook friends, if the only time you spend with them (or at least the ones you actually know) is when you’re online, chances are you’ll end up feeling disconnected rather than connected.  You’ll have more self-esteem    Constantly comparing yourself to other people on social media who appear to have the perfect job/relationship/house/body/family is hardly going to be good for your confidence. Indeed, studies have shown people who spend a lot of time on social media experience low self-esteem as well as increased anxiety. You’ll feel more positive    With so many people using social media as an outlet for their anger and frustrations, there’s a risk all that bad feeling could rub off on you. Getting things off their chests online may help many people feel better, but in reading their comments you could risk absorbing some of their negativity. You’ll have more free time Everyone knows how time flies when you’re engrossed in social media. Even when you promise yourself you’ll spend just 5 minutes checking out your Twitter feed, chances are you’ll still be scrolling an hour later.  You’ll be more productive All that extra free time you could have by quitting social media can be put to good use. Instead of being glued to your smartphone for hours on end, imagine what you could do? Realistic approaches Quitting sounds tempting, doesn’t it? But giving up social media altogether may not be the answer.  Set some boundaries Instead of swearing off social media for good, there are other, arguably more realistic options. You could for instance make it a rule to stay off social media when you go out to dinner, when you’re spending time with other people or before going to bed and when you’re in bed. You could also give yourself a time and a time limit for checking your social media, for instance 20 minutes at lunchtime and resolve to stick to it. Give yourself a timeout But it may be simpler to make a habit of staying off social media for 1 day a week. You could also take things a step further and take a 1-day-a-week break from all your digital devices. Unplugging has become a real trend these days, with many people taking breaks, not just from social media but also from the internet and their smartphones on a regular basis. At the very least, an entire day away from your computer or smartphone screen each week could help you remember how good life was before you became a slave to those annoying beeps and alerts. Find out more about taking a break from technology by reading our article Smartphone addiction – do you need a digital detox? Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 25, 2019

Achieving a healthy work-life balance can be a delicate juggling act for most people. But if you're a working mum or dad, balancing the demands of work and home life can sometimes send your stress levels through the roof. Many working parents feel a sense of guilt that they cannot give their work or their home life as much time and energy as they'd like. Indeed working parents have a lot on their plates. They have to cope with the ongoing need to arrange and pay for childcare and manage things like after-school activities, the daily school run and making school holiday arrangements. Many parents are using up their annual holiday entitlement to do everyday tasks such as getting a doctor's appointment either for themselves or their child, sorting out financial matters at the bank or taking their car for its annual NCT. Unfortunately there's no single piece of advice to help make working parents' lives easier. But if you're struggling with stress, here are some work-life balance tips you may find useful… Talk to your manager If your workload keeps getting bigger, it may be time to talk to your employer about the pressure you're experiencing and review your priorities together. You may want to consider asking for flexible working. This may include having flexible start and finish times, working from home or compressing your work week so you don't have to work every day. Working part time could also help some parents juggle the demands of home life and work - finances permitting. Before you approach your manager, prepare what you're going to say. Try coming up with a proposal that not only benefits you but your employer too. You could even suggest a trial period for your new working arrangements to demonstrate that your productivity won't be affected. Also try to choose your moment to have the conversation - your manager may not be open to your suggestions if you ambush them on their way to an important meeting, for example. Switch off Thanks to communications technology it's far too easy these days to be available 24/7. But if you're in a habit of checking work texts and emails after office hours or even while you're on holiday, it could be a cause of family friction. Relationship support charity Relate recommends the following: Try to set a deadline each day to switch off your work phone and stop checking emails Avoid taking work calls or picking up emails while you're on holiday Agree a short window of time when you can respond if there's something really urgent you need to deal with Tune out on the journey home If you're calm and in a good mood when you arrive home, the rest of your family will be more relaxed too. According to the UK charity Family Lives, children pick up on moods and will sense your unhappiness if you run in complaining about work issues. So while you're on your way home, do something that helps put the day's pressures behind you, such as listening to music, the radio or an audiobook. Then gradually switch your thoughts from work matters to your family, so that when you arrive home you'll have put work to rest completely. Get organised Try to plan things in advance for times that are particularly hectic, such as mornings when you're trying to get ready for work while at the same time dressing your children, giving them their breakfast and making their packed lunches. If something can be done the night before - laying out your children's clothes and making sandwiches for their lunchboxes, for instance - it can save a lot of stress in the morning. You could also try creating a family schedule that includes reminders about everything from appointments, family events, birthdays and school activities to household chores and dates when bills need to be paid. You could make your own calendar and put it somewhere everyone will see it - on your fridge, for instance - or use a calendar app that will sync to everyone's smartphone (try Google calendars). Have a regular family night Try to pick 1 evening a week when all members of your family can do something together. This doesn't have to involve anything special, it could be something really simple like having popcorn while watching a DVD or taking the dog for a walk. The main thing is that you do it together, every week. Having a family meal together can also be an important part of your routine as it's the perfect opportunity to catch up with each other's news. Even if you can't eat together every night, try to sit around the table as a family at least once a week. Save some time for your partner Work and children can take up all your time. But don't forget to spend time with your partner too - just the two of you. If it's impossible to have time together once a week, start off by having a night out once a month. It will help you to reconnect and enjoy each other's company again, which is something many couples lose sight of when they have busy family lives. When you spend time together, try to make a rule not to talk about work or your children - or at least not to talk about them and nothing else. Look after yourself With so much going on it can be easy to always put yourself last. But it's important to treat yourself well - it's good for your stress levels and your relationships with family and people at work. Here are a few things you can do to boost your wellbeing, even if you're ridiculously short on time: Eat healthily It may be tempting to live off takeaways and your children's leftovers, but eating a nutritious diet will help you to cope with stress. You don't have to cook elaborate meals, just something simple made from fresh, wholesome ingredients. Be active Try to do something active every day, as exercise can help to reduce stress levels and combat other mental health problems such as low mood. Make time for sleep Get all the sleep you need, as burning the candle at both ends - which may seem tempting if you're a busy working parent - can eventually affect your wellbeing and your health Ask for support Recognise your limits and ask for help when you need it. Don't try to be superman or superwoman - it's perfectly acceptable to lean on those who can support you every now and then. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 14, 2019