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Do People Really Want Birthday Gifts?

Do People Really Want Birthday Gifts?

Birthdays are instantly associated with gifts and paying special attention to the one celebrating. For one day a year, each of us becomes the center of attention and our wishes are fulfilled. But that might not always be the case, surprisingly. While as kids most of us liked throwing a big birthday party and looked forward to the colorful wrapped packages our friends would carry, some of us have changed a little or ended up disliking birthday traditions. Some people don’t like to celebrate their birthday after a certain age, but still appreciate gifts. Others have established a strict no-gift policy in their lives. Or they might prefer activities and spending time with friends and family more than a packaged object. Remember the friend who has been traveling the world this past year? He can’t use a fancy decorative bowl. Mothers of young kids have no space to store another toy, so no wonder they seem terrified at the site of a big plush bear. Everyone is different, and everyone is continually changing because of personal choices or unexpected happenings. So next time you think about mailing a fun birthday gift to your friend who you haven’t seen in two years, stop and think how much things could have changed in their life. Ask yourself if it is what they need or if it is the best you could give them right now.

Statistics and examples

While there are no official statistics that reflect people’s preferences when it comes to receiving birthday gifts, I am pretty sure the results would be widely varying if everyone told the truth. Many times we really need a particular thing or have a long wish list, but telling others that feels selfish and uncomfortable. Even if you say you need new clothes, for example, no one can ensure that you won’t end up with five floral dresses and two hand knitted beanies when you actually wear black suits everyday.

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For me, the most difficult person to choose a gift for will always be my mother. It’s because she is very selective when buying for herself, and she rarely likes what others get her. Deep down I know she doesn’t want us to spend money and that’s why she tells us she wants nothing every year. There were some success stories, but mostly it has been a miss with the presents I have made/bought for her. My dad hands her an envelope and she can get herself whatever she likes. Such an easy way to go, but I think it just works better with certain people.

As for my father, he really appreciates my thoughtful presents, the handmade ones or the ones I have been planning for a long time. However, he would never admit he didn’t like anything, so he is the easiest kind of guy to choose a gift for.

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A friend of mine from university would make a wish list a month before her birthday and show it to everyone. Items in the list ranged from eyeliner to a mobile phone, so I guess the first ones to choose were the luckiest.

My husband and I, after many stressful years spent thinking of creative ideas, have agreed that the best gifts are the ones we need. We don’t really expect anything else besides spending our birthdays with each other, but if there has to be a gift, it will be something from our wish list or “need” list that we will use all the time. I got him a gadget and he got me sunglasses this year. They are things we’ve been using daily and now carry extra value, making us take better care of them. A different case is my brother, who doesn’t expect gifts, but asks for them strategically (from our parents, obviously). He won’t gift others anything either, unless he finds something really cool or he can afford an expensive present. I like that he doesn’t put too much stress on the topic and goes with his own flow.

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My rule of thumb

If you asked me what I like for my birthday, I would always tell you there’s nothing I need. You could get me anything and I would be content. That doesn’t mean I’d keep it forever and not re-gift it though. All I can promise is that I’d be genuinely happy with your gesture of thinking of me on my special day. Although I get more joy from giving presents to others, receiving them feels awesome too. The best presents I can remember, were from people I didn’t expect a gift from and the ones I had asked for. On the same note, I always feel the need to give others birthdays presents, because it’s their day and I need to remind them that. For people like my best friend, birthdays are grumpy days, with no celebrations. That doesn’t stop me from giving her something small when I meet her a few days later. After all, it’s a way of celebrating her and expressing my gratitude for her being in my life. As a rule of thumb, I go with something small when the birthday girl/boy is not expecting any gifts and for something really meaningful or what they asked for, in case it’s a family member or close friend (who’d be secretly sad/disappointed if I didn’t give them anything).

Why birthday gifts disappoint

While Christmas gifts are usually the hardest to shop for, birthday gifts are no better. You may only have one person to focus on, instead of 20, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult. Chances are you often forget about birthdays, unless you put them on the calendar, phone alarm or are reminded by social media alerts. The lack of time rushes you to get something last minute just for the sake of it, spending more money than you can afford or choosing something totally unrelated to the birthday person. Sometimes you have literally run out of gift ideas after many years of getting presents for him/her. Also, we all know that dreadful person who already has everything and what we get should be nothing short of spectacular. It happens though, that people change and what you thought would make your high school friend jump of joy, fails to give her the slightest smile. Or there is a particular current intention in their life, such as going clutter free or living a more meaningful life. No matter how appropriate or expensive your gift is, it will end up trashed/sold/donated because it doesn’t sync with their intention.

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How to prepare better gifts

To make things easy for yourself, get back to basics and write this down if you need to. “No one should expect gifts for their birthday and you don’t have to get every one something. But every present should be chosen with a purpose and received with gratitude.” To ensure this, do your homework. Here are some simple tips to help you get it right every time:

  • First of all, go on and ask them. They might not tell you what they really want, but they will for sure let you know if they don’t want gifts for any reason.If they are just being thankful and reflective on what they already have in their lives, it’s up to you to decide on a gift or not. Make sure it adds value to what they are doing. Spending time together or sharing a special activity is always unforgettable. Donating to a cause they care about is a nice pick too (you can also apply this to kids/teenagers).
  • If the reason they don’t want gifts is because they are not celebrating this year, ask why. For cases of loss or illnesses, go with flowers and a short note. Reading heartfelt and encouraging words during difficult times is comforting
  • When you have decided to buy something, set a budget and find the best your money can get you.
  • Consider their interests and likes. The less generic the gift, the more chances they will like it.
  • Whenever you can, choose a “package” gift, something you can share together, like going out for dinner or taking a weekend trip.
  • If you know them well, get them something  they love, but would never buy for themselves.
  • When you can only afford small or cheap things, make sure they are either beautiful or useful.
  • Edibles make perfect gifts, as long as they fall in the range of that persons favorites. They can be easily shared, which makes things more fun. Also, no clutter left behind.
  • If the person has an expensive item on their wish list, offer cash or gift certificates towards it. They will remember you as one of the people that made it possible for them to buy it.
  • When you live far away from each other or don’t communicate often, rely on the internet to find possible hints for what they like. Social media platforms and website where people share their wish lists make it easy to see a pattern of what they care for.
  • Sometimes you have to go the other way round. Start from yourself and think about what it is that you really want to say to them through your gift. If you want to express love or appreciation, choose something that best reflects what love or appreciation means for you. When you want them to be surprised or laugh out loud, put your skills to work and deliver that. It might not work well in every case, but at least you had an intention behind your gift and you can always explain that to any confused or disappointed gift receiver.You might be surprised at how many people will react differently after a short explanation note or a verbal story, telling you “It totally makes sense now!”
  • If nothing helps and you are short on time and ideas, try your luck with a fun quiz. Don’t expect much though. The best it can give you is a hint (or a good laugh) and maybe spark a better idea eventually. Also, here are links to a horoscope gift guide, DIY gift ideas and free meaningful gifts to inspire you further.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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