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"The holidays are coming and I'm filled with dread over the parties, the visitors, the baking, school plays, etc. I find myself gritting my teeth before Halloween and not breathing a sigh of relief until after the New Year. My kids get tired and whiny and misbehave, which just makes matters worse. Help!"
A. The holidays are filled with stress. We want to be hospitable, cheerful, and spiritually focused on Jesus, but in reality we are busy, sleep-deprived, and financially strapped. Here are some ideas you can implement to pare down the busyness of the season.
Have a couple's conference:
Begin by sitting down with your spouse before Thanksgiving and deciding which people and events are most important to your family this holiday season. As you look through the list, eliminate the less-important events.
Plan for family time:
Block out one day of each weekend in November and December to keep unscheduled. Guard these days for the good of your family. If you can't manage to block a full day each weekend, block out two half-days. Once your calendar is full, schedule any remaining "get-togethers" for January, when the calendar is more open and kids need interesting things to do.
Empathize with your kids:
If you're feeling tired, so are your kids. When they get crabby from over-stimulation, take them away from the activities and say, "I'm feeling tired. I bet you're feeling tired right now, too." Your child will probably agree.
If you can, let her take a break from the action by retreating to her room, even if you have company. If you're out and about, remind her of the next quiet time in the day and the upcoming family day during the weekend.
Don't host unless you want to:
If you have small children (7 and under), I recommend you avoid hosting a family event. Ask a parent or a sibling with older children to host, but offer to bring a dish or help with the day's cooking and cleanup. Some people feel pressured to host because they are the only Christians in the family and they want to make sure the celebrations focus on Christ. But being a stressed-out host will only brew resentment and tension, and your kids will react to that. God understands the physical and emotional demands of young children, so let others help.
Set spiritual goals:
Meet as a family and ask each person how he wants to celebrate Jesus' birthday. Schedule each request on the calendar and make it a family event. One child might want to bake a birthday cake for Jesus, another might want to act out the Christmas story with the whole family. A younger sibling's request may not be particularly exciting to an older sibling, and vice versa, so explain that being a family means honoring each other's wishes and celebrating together. Decide which church events your family will participate in during the season, but be careful not to let these activities overload your schedule. Finally, be sure to pray with your family to remain focused on the gift of God's Son.
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