Important Chimney Maintenance Tips You need To Know

chimney maintenance

chimney maintenanceIn spite of the ambiance and relaxation that a fireplace provides, there are also inherent fire dangers. To combat the risk of fire or inhalation of dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, it is important for you to make chimney maintenance part of your home maintenance plan. Follow these tips to keep your chimney in good shape and prevent fire hazards.

General Chimney Maintenance Tips

Both metal and masonry chimneys require maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly. At the very least, you should have your chimney inspected annually before each heating season. In addition:

  • Have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to reduce creosote buildup.
  • Make sure your masonry chimney has a flue liner in place to reduce the possibility that the masonry could absorb creosote.
  • Replace damaged liners, as they will allow creosote to accumulate and heat to escape.
  • When hiring someone to reline your chimney, only allow the contractor to use a product that has been tested and listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Specific Chimney Maintenance Tips

There are two types of chimneys that require specific maintenance to limit the risks in your home.

  1. Fireplace inserts—Make sure the vent is connected to the flue of the chimney.
  2. Factory-built metal chimneys—Do not use natural gas, fuel oil vents, well casing, stovepipe or other material in the chimney, as they cannot withstand the heat in the wood burner.

Keep These Precautions in Mind

Do not vent more than one heater or appliance into a single flue, as major complications can arise. If one fuel-burning appliance is connected to a flue and then you attach another appliance, such as a water heater, you are running the risk of various problems. Such problems include heavy creosote accumulation, deterioration of the flue or CO gas drifting into your home.

For additional home maintenance guidance and homeowners insurance solutions, contact us today.

 

 

5 Ways To Deal With Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Unhealthy Coping MechanismsWhen times get tough, it can be instinct to look for a coping mechanism. Coping mechanisms can help people feel like they’re escaping reality by relieving stress or being able to distract their minds. While this is a normal feeling, it becomes a problem when one turns to unhealthy coping mechanisms, which can be harmful in the long run.

This article explores ways to turn unhealthy coping mechanisms into healthier alternatives.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

There are typically four main reasons people turn to unhealthy or destructive behaviors: mental health, stress, isolation and neurobiology. Here are some of the most common unhealthy coping mechanisms:

  • Oversleeping—Sleep is a common way that people try to escape. While sleep is good for your overall health, too much sleep can inhibit the amount of movement your body needs daily.
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use—Substance misuse can be a dangerous coping mechanism as it can have serious long-term side effects such as health complications, addiction and death.
  • Over- or under-eating—Over- or under-eating outside of the recommended guidance can cause health issues. Try to stay within the recommended daily intake guidance.
  • Impulsive retail spending—Excessive shopping can lead to financial problems. Making small purchases over time can also lead to hoarding or family problems.

Alternatives to Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

It’s normal to have feelings of wanting to escape from reality due to stress or anxiety. Healthy coping mechanisms can help address stress and anxieties in a positive way—and also develop into long-lasting habits.

Check out these healthier alternatives for coping with stress or other unpleasant emotions:

  1. Create task lists. Unhealthy coping mechanisms can prevent you from reaching your short- and long-term goals. Making a task list of personal goals can help you achieve the things you want and elevate your mood by physically seeing your accomplishments when they’re checked off the list.
  2. Talk about stress. Find someone willing to listen to you, such as a close friend, family member or mental health professional. Putting your feelings into words can help alleviate stress and feelings.
  3. Address negative feelings. Negativity is a normal part of life. Trying to avoid it is called avoidance behavior, which can result in reaching for unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  4. Learn your triggers. Knowing what you negatively respond to can help help you keep track of and be aware of how you react.
  5. Pick up a new hobby. For example, outlets such as painting or picking up running can be therapeutic. Incorporate a frequent time and space to practice your new hobby.

Practice Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Having negative or overwhelming emotions is normal.   It’s important to consider using healthy coping mechanisms to help deal with stress. If you have an ongoing emotional problem, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Understanding The Effects Of Deep Sleep And Tips For Improving It

Deep Sleep

Deep SleepSleep is crucial for your overall health and well-being. There are generally considered to be four sleep stages—awake, light, deep and REM sleep. Deep sleep is the key repair and restorative stage of sleep, and it’s necessary to feel your best each day.

Learn what deep sleep is and how to improve it for overall well-being.

Deep Sleep Explained

Deep sleep occurs during the third stage of the sleep cycle, according to Healthline. During deep sleep, electrical activity in the brain appears as delta waves, which can be classified as long, slow waves. Deep sleep typically occurs within an hour of falling asleep and occurs in shorter periods as the night progresses.

Deep sleep is categorized in the body by slow breathing and heart rate function, as well as relaxed muscles. It can be challenging to be woken up during this stage of sleep, and when woken, it’s typical to feel groggy for an hour or so after.

The Importance of Deep Sleep

Deep sleep has a significant impact on overall health and well-being. According to WebMD, this is due to your body releasing a growth hormone to build and repair muscles, bones and tissues and help the immune system function. Deep sleep also aids cognitive function and memory and impacts language learning, motor skills and brain development.

A lack of deep sleep may cause issues with learning or remembering information. You are also more prone to getting sick due to weakened immune system function. Some signs you may not be getting enough deep sleep may include:

  • Feeling unrefreshed and drowsy
  • Experiencing reduced alertness and attention
  • Having trouble learning and forming new memories
  • Craving high-calorie food

Improving Deep Sleep

Finding ways to improve your sleeping patterns is a good place to start if you believe you’re not getting enough deep sleep each night. Try some of these tips for achieving deep sleep:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule.
  • Reduce caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Ensure your sleep environment is quiet, dark and cool.
  • Create a bedtime routine that relaxes you and prepares you for sleep.
  • Take a warm bath to help induce deep sleep before bed.
  • Listen to binaural beats that can help induce delta waves for deep sleep.

Improving deep sleep patterns takes time and practice. If you’re struggling with your sleep, it could be beneficial to seek medical guidance from your physician.

CONCLUSION

Knowing what deep sleep is, its importance for your overall health and how to improve your sleeping habits can positively impact your health.

For more information on improving your sleep or general sleeping patterns, seek professional guidance.

A New Year’s Resolution For A New You

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Resolution

Many people choose the new year to make changes in their financial and personal lifestyle. Whether you want to save more money, get out of debt, loose weight or start a healthier lifestyle; the start of a new year with a new year’s resolution is the way to go for many. We have some tips that will help you begin this new year off strong. 

A new year’s resolution for financial stability

Financial stability starts with reviewing your current financial resources. This is important because your current finances affect your ability to reach your goals and protect those goals from potential financial crisis. These are the resources you will draw on to meet various life events. To start, calculate your net worth – this isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Your net worth is simply the total value of what you own; your assets, minus what you owe; your liabilities. This gives you a snapshot of your financial health. 

First, add up the value of all your assets. This includes personal possessions, vehicles, homes, checking and savings accounts, and the cash value (not the death benefit) of any life policies you have. Include the current value of investments, such as stocks, real estate, certificates of deposit, retirement accounts, IRAs and the current value of any pensions you have. 

Now add up your liabilities: the remaining mortgage on your home, credit card debt, student and personal loans, taxes due on the profits of your investments if you cashed them in, and any other outstanding bills. Subtract your liabilities from you assets. Do you have more assets that liabilities? Or more liabilities than assets? According to Forbes Magazine “If you have $10 and no debt, you are richer than 15% of American Households put together.”

Your goal is to create a positive net worth, and to have it grow each year. Review this number yearly to monitor your progress. Make a monthly budget to help keep yourself accountable for your spending.  Websites like Mint.com help you keep track of your income, expenses and net worth on a daily basis. 

A new year’s resolution for a healthier you

There are numerous ways to create a healthier you. Healthy portion sizes and making time for fitness are two common ways to accomplish that goal. 

Healthy Portion Sizes

  • A serving of meat is about two or three ounces – about the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of your hand. 
  • One serving of grains is equal to one slice of bread, one ounce of cereal, or 1/2 cup of pasta or rice. 
  • A serving of fruit or vegetables is equal to one piece of fresh fruit or vegetable, 1/2 cup chopped, or 3/4 cup of fruit or vegetable juice. In general, it’s not as necessary to be vigilant about vegetable and fruit intake, as any amount is healthy – just make sure you’re getting enough while being aware of the sugar content in fruit. 
  • The key to any meal is to have 75% of your plate covered with vegetables and 25% covered with meat or pasta. 

Make Time For Fitness

  • Park your car far away, and walk farther to your destination.
  • Participate in a charity run, walk or bike event. 
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. 
  • Squeeze a stress ball while at work to relieve tension. burn calories, increase flexibility, and improve blood flow. 
  • Exercise during your lunch hour, even if it’s just a walk around the block or up and down a flight of stairs. 

Getting even 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day will improve your health. It will also make you feel better overall and can be fun. 

Set yourself up for a successful new year

In conclusion, the point of a new year’s resolution is to make changes in your life. Make sure to set reasonable goals and don’t set unrealistic expectations. You don’t want to start off the new year with a goal that is impossible to reach. There are numerous resources available online and as an app that can help you along the way. Budget websites and apps, workout videos and apps, even calorie counters are easily accessible and will help you along the way. 

Most of all, stick with your goals and you are on the right track to a new you! 

4 Tips For Preventing Burnout During The 2022 Holiday Season

Burnout

BurnoutAccording to Microsoft research, nearly half of employees have reported that they are burnt out at work. The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been adequately managed. Everyday life is hectic enough without the added stress of the holidays. The season’s challenges include attending celebrations, coordinating gift-giving, planning finances and balancing various family obligations. It’s no wonder that burnout can feel unbearable during this time of the year.

Even though levels of burnout are high, there are ways to help avoid burnout and manage it so you can enjoy your holiday season. This article highlights tips to help prevent burnout during the 2022 holiday season.

1 Set Realistic Expectations

It’s impossible to do everything. When the holidays hit, there are a lot of moving pieces to consider for a successful holiday season. Setting realistic expectations is crucial, so you don’t overcommit to tasks.

One easy switch is to send holiday e-cards versus sending physical cards. This can help you connect with loved ones while saving time putting together envelopes and postage. Other ways to help keep tasks realistic during the holidays are to break down goals into digestible tasks, set timelines and reward yourself for checking items off your to-do list. No matter what your holiday to-do list looks like, it’s essential to keep it realistic.

2 Start Early

No matter your holiday plans, spreading out your tasks and starting early will help with stress levels. This is due to not waiting until the last minute to complete tasks and rushing through responsibilities. Consider the following ways to prepare ahead of time:

  • Send digital invitations for parties or hosted events at least two weeks in advance.
  • Make necessary purchases a few weeks in advance.
  • Decorate a few days before any hosted events.
  • Arrange food plans, such as who’s bringing certain dishes to share at least one week in advance.

Planning ahead and starting early on tasks will help prevent last-minute stressors.

3 Take Time to Recharge

It’s essential to make time for activities that refuel you, such as reading, spending time with friends and going on outdoor walks. Recharging can help alleviate burnout. By taking time for yourself, you are creating a balanced schedule by focusing on more than just work and the holidays.

4 Maintain Boundaries

It’s important to set boundaries between the time you can take to do things and the time you need to rest. To maintain healthy boundaries, you can start by avoiding overcommitment by scaling back on tasks and having a firm end time for parties. Boundaries protect your emotions and your physical space. They can be a healthy strategy as you navigate the holiday season and a full calendar. For example, you could say “no” to an all-day gift exchange, but make time to stop by for a couple of hours to see loved ones. Don’t feel guilty about scaling back and setting time limits. The less stress you have to endure, the more fun the overall experience will be.

Conclusion

Burnout during the holiday season is common, but you don’t have to suffer. You can manage burnout by setting realistic expectations, starting early on holiday tasks, taking time to recharge and maintaining boundaries.

If you experience burnout during the 2022 holiday season and these tips aren’t helping, reach out to a doctor or mental health professional.

3 Tips For An Injury Free Workout

workout

workout

Exercise is a great way to combat stress, lose weight and boost your energy. To get the most from your workout, it is important that you add warming up, cooling down and stretching to your exercise routine. These three simple steps are proven to prevent painful and costly injuries later.

Warming Up

Warming up allows your body time to adjust from rest to activity. It increases blood flow to the muscles so they stretch easily, reducing the risk of muscle tears. It also lubricates joints and carries oxygen to the heart.
To effectively warm up:
• Use movements that are similar to those you will use in your workout, such as light calisthenics, walking, jogging, etc.
• Gradually increase the intensity of your warm-up.
• Don’t overdo it! Your warm-up should be about 15 minutes and intense enough to cause a light sweat.

Cooling Down

As with warming up, cooling down should include movements similar to those in your workout, but at a gradually decreasing level of intensity.

Stretching

After cooling down, stretching helps to build flexibility and range of motion. When stretching:
• Use gentle and fluid movements and breathe normally.
• Work specific parts of your body, maintaining each stretch for 20 to 60 seconds.
• Never force a joint beyond its normal range of motion; you should not feel any pain.

Workout Healthy Hints

Many muscle and bone injuries are the result of skipping a warm-up and cool-down before and after exercise. Remember, preventing an injury is easier, cheaper and less painful than trying to recover from one.

4 Tips You Need To Know When You Do Winter Vehicle Storage

Vehicle Storage








Vehicle StorageWhen winter comes and brings the snow and cold with it, it’s time to think about vehicle storage. You should store your recreational vehicle – or any vehicles that won’t be in use – to avoid damage from the harsh weather and roads and to ensure it’s in good working condition for spring.

Use these tips if you plan on vehicle storage this winter:

  1. Clean your car—Thoroughly cleaning your vehicle inside and out not only makes it look nicer, but also prevents dirt and acidic materials from eating away at your car and causing it to rust.
  2. Change the fluids—Having clean oil, fuel stabilizer and brake fluid, and a full tank of gas will help protect your car while it’s in storage and will help it run smoother when spring comes.
  3. Protect your car—The best way to prevent the winter elements from damaging your vehicle is to keep it covered, whether it’s in your garage, a local storage facility or at a family member’s home. If you plan on keeping your vehicle outdoors, consider using a weatherproof car cover.
  4. Check tires and brakes—Inflate your vehicle’s tires to their maximum air pressure, so they can slowly deflate as the temperature drops. Also, don’t engage your parking brake as it may become frozen. Instead, use chocks (wedges placed under car tires) to ensure your vehicle doesn’t roll away.

Start it Up

Even in storage, it’s wise to start your vehicle periodically for 10-15 minutes to get the proper oils and coolants running through it. If your vehicle has a cover on it, remove it and roll down the windows before running. If your vehicle is stored in the garage, ensure that the garage door is open and the windows are down for proper ventilation before starting your car.

Don’t forget to call you insurance agent to discss your auto insurance coverage as well. 








3 Things You Should Know About Sunglasses And UV Protection

sunglasses








sunglassesWhile spending time in the sun offers health benefits and may be part of your daily routine, you have to be careful to protect yourself from its ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays not only cause sunburn, but they can also damage your eyes and hurt your vision. This article provides more information about how the sun can hurt your eyes, when you should be wearing sunglasses and what you should look for when buying a pair.

1) The Risks of UV Radiation

There are two types of UV radiation you should be aware of when it comes to protecting your eyes: UVA rays and UVB rays. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), UVB rays are more likely to cause sunburn, but UVA rays penetrate deeper. However, exposure to either can damage your eyes. There are many medical issues that can arise from long-term exposure to UV rays. Wearing sunglasses can help prevent the following:

  • Photokeratitis—Sunburn of the eye
  • Cataracts—A disease that causes the lenses in the eyes to be cloudy and blurs vision
  • Macular degeneration—The loss of central vision caused by the breakdown of the macula
  • Pterygium—A growth that can form as a result of UV rays and dust and particles accumulating on the white part of your eye
  • Skin cancer—Cancer that develops on the sensitive skin around the eyes

While all of these diseases sound unpleasant, the good news is you can take meaningful action to help prevent them by properly wearing the correct sunglasses.

2) When to Wear Sunglasses

Much like sunscreen, you should always have your sunglasses nearby. UV rays are at their peak from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so it’s especially important to wear your shades if you plan on being in the sun during those hours. You should also be aware that even on cloudy days when you cannot see the sun, UV rays are still present and can cause damage if you do not take preventive measures. A useful practice is to take your sunglasses everywhere you would take your cellphone or wallet.

3) What to Look for in Sunglasses

When it comes to sunglasses, not all are created equal. It is important to find a pair that contains the key components that will actually provide the protection you need. Here are some considerations when shopping for sunglasses:

  • Make sure the sunglasses have a sticker or tag promoting their UV-blocking capabilities. According to the EPA, sunglasses with 99% to 100% UVA and UVB protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure.
  • Search for a pair with larger lenses and a wraparound style. These will not only protect your eyes but also provide more coverage for the delicate skin around the eyes.
  • Pay attention to the darkness level of the lenses. You should try to find a pair with the same level of darkness throughout the lens. However, if a pair has a gradient effect, make sure the darkest part is at the top of the lens, and the transition to the lighter part is slow.

It is important to remember that just because a pair of sunglasses covers your eyes, it does not mean it is providing protection. Effective options aren’t always the most expensive, but it is important to find the right pair. Be diligent when shopping for sunglasses to ensure you are best protecting your eyes.

Takeaway

The sun’s UV rays can cause damage to your eyes if you do not take precautions. Wearing sunglasses and making sure the sunglasses you choose are actually protective are important to ensure good eye health.








Prioritizing Wellness During the 2022-23 School Year

Wellness








WellnessMany may be excited for school to start after a long summer. However, the new school year can come with new and recurring challenges. The 2022-23 school landscape looks different from previous years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mask mandates are on the retreat, with many schools ending preventive measures such as quarantines and regular screening tests. Additionally, COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available to school-aged children.

Although the school year seems to be back to normal, caregivers, parents and children will likely still face uncertainty, stress and other emotions. The return to school and its associated routine can impact everyone differently; therefore, it’s worth taking a proactive approach to approaching wellness during this transition.

This article explores ways to care for yourself and your children during the school year.

Checking In With Children

Although schools, playgrounds and lunchrooms may seem more normal this school year, children may experience stress and uncertainty. Children may even engage in more social situations than in previous years during the pandemic, which can create different environments. 

As such, you should monitor your children for signs of anxiety or distress. Be on the lookout for changes in a child’s behavior and mood or physical symptoms, such as:

  • Increased defiance or irritability
  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Less energy
  • Sadness or crying
  • Nausea, muscle tension or dizziness
  • Refusal to go to school or engage in virtual schoolwork

If a child or others in the home shows any of these signs, they may have anxiety about their schooling situation. Children are resilient, but it’s still important to pay attention to signs of anxiety—and seek professional support if any warning signs persist.

Taking Care of Yourself

With school back in session, here are some healthy ways for working parents and caregivers to make the school year more manageable and balance their work and personal responsibilities:

  • Set reasonable expectations. Establish realistic expectations about what you think you can accomplish each day or week. Don’t be hard on yourself. Cut yourself some slack and focus on completing high-impact items and responsibilities.
  • Develop a schedule. Creating a routine that works around your work schedule and family needs is essential. Additionally, consider consolidating certain activities such as housework, chores or extracurricular activities to one or two specific days to help everyone stay focused.
  • Set boundaries. If you feel stretched thin between being a good caregiver and an efficient employee, it may be helpful to set some boundaries. Remember that you’re in control of how you’re expending your energy and can free up mental space to allow yourself to be more present where and when it matters.
  • Create healthy habits. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat well so you can be fully charged to take on the day. It’s also important to stay active and incorporate movement into your daily routine. It may help to schedule a workout first thing in the morning, during lunch or in the late afternoon so it will fit in around school.
  • Make good use of weekends. If school and work both happen on weekdays, be sure to use the weekends to recharge, reduce stress and have fun as a family. If you prefer alone time, make that a priority. Everyone needs a break from responsibilities, whether that’s work or school.
  • Ask for help. Lean on your networks for support if you need help getting through the workdays. With many extracurriculars and school programs back, don’t wait to ask others for help if you’re overwhelmed. Be honest and communicative with your family and co-workers if the current situation isn’t working well.

It’s also important to recognize your unhealthy coping methods and find alternatives such as meditating, exercising or talking with a friend.

Conclusion

Although school is back in session and starting to resemble the pre-pandemic days, caregivers and parents may still seem stretched thin balancing caregiving and working. Children may also feel overwhelmed with school and social aspects. You can explore healthy ways to cope with lingering uncertainty and make balancing all your personal and professional responsibilities manageable.

If you’re feeling stressed or experiencing burnout related to kids returning to school, talk to your manager about your situation and to learn more about employer-offered resources.

Additionally, talk to your doctor or a licensed mental health professional if you’re concerned about your or your child’s mental health.








How To Stay Healthy And Avoid The Flu This Fall

avoid the flu








avoid the fluIt’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the temperature is getting cooler, and you’re doing everything you can to avoid the flu. No one enjoys being sick, but some of us are more prone to sickness than others. Knowing where you are most likely to come into contact with germs and what you can do to prevent sickness are key for this fall season. 

Germ Hot Spots

There are several “hot spots” to keep in mind when it comes to germs. 

  • Doorknobs
  • Light Switches
  • Elevator buttons
  • Water fountain handles
  • Microwave door handles
  • Telephones
  • Bathroom faucets
  • Handrails

These areas are high traffic areas that can be touched by numerous people. When you touch a doorknob you never know if the person who touched it before you sneezed into their hand and didn’t was it. Yuck! 

What You Can Do to Help Yourself Avoid The Flu

  • Wash your hands. Even if you are cautious of what you touch, there is a chance you’ve still come into contact with some germ. To protect yourself from illness, it’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially before you eat or after you cough, sneeze or use the restroom. 
  • Keep your distance. Illnesses can spread fast. Keep your distance from others who are sick. 
  • Get the flu shot. Yearly flu shots are the single best way to prevent getting sick. Contrary to popular belief, flu vaccines cannot cause the flu, though side effects may occur. Often, these side effects are minor and may include congestion, coughs, headaches, abdominal pain and wheezing. 
    • Did you know many health insurance plans cover the flu shot at 100% or a small copay? If you need help determining your health insurance benefits, we can help. Give us a call or click here or here to learn more about health insurance benefits.

Taking the extra time to wash hands and wipe down surfaces could mean the difference between a happy fall and an unpleasant fall spent on the couch sick. Stay healthy and do your part to spread the word to others.