Recipe: Salted caramel and apple upside-down cake

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Your mental health toolkit

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According to The South African Depression and Anxiety Group, as many as one in six South Africans suffer from mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Here are a few ‘tools’ to promote mental wellness in everyday life.

Podcast: Where Should We Begin?

Romantic relationships aren’t plain sailing and getting expert advice from the comfort of your home can be a great help. Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist and a New York Times bestselling author of The State of Affairs and Mating in Captivity. Her relationship podcast, Where Should We Begin?, touted as ‘a podcast for anyone who’s ever loved’, tells the stories of real couples. From infidelity to loss and sex-related issues, she provides insight to help couples empower themselves.

Why this tool? Life is busy and the audio format of a podcast makes it a tool you can use on the go, for example when you’re in your car on the way to work, doing your chores or working out.

Available for free on Spotify and iTunes.

Mobile App: Calm

If you struggle with anxiety, insomnia or stress, meditation is helpful, as it aids deep relaxation and calms your mind. This mindfulness app is for beginners and provides guided meditation that helps to, for example, relieve stress, improve focus and concentration and boost self-esteem and gratitude. The length of the meditations ranges between 3 and 25 minutes to fit any schedule, and there are even options for work and school.

Why this tool? Most service apps can be personalised according to your preferences. They generally work faster than websites and can be easily accessed from your phone.

Available for free on Google Play and the App Store.

Book: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Do you struggle with productivity, time management and breaking bad habits? You’re not alone and the right tools can help you. Atomic Habits, a book by James Clear, offers practical strategies to help you reshape your negative behaviours with small changes. This not only extends to work, but to personal habits as well, including giving up smoking, reducing stress, losing weight and reaching career milestones. This book also helps with insight into how to get back on track if you’ve lost sight of your goals and putting your plans into practice.

Why this tool? A book can be easily placed in your bag or car to be enjoyed anywhere and doesn’t require internet access. If you prefer e-books, you can easily save it on your smartphone or tablet and it doesn’t require internet access.

Available on Takealot and Loot.

Mental health group: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)

SADAG is a non-profit organisation that offers mental health support and has a team of health experts and volunteers. It provides help in the form of support groups, 16 emergency counselling lines, workshops and educational materials. Best of all, SADAG’s resources are free to use and cover a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, trauma and bipolar mood disorder. You can also get free medical treatment with a SADAG referral, in some cases, and if you want to help your community, you can apply to receive training as a volunteer.

Why this tool? Support groups and counselling can help you to feel understood and less alone, and teach you effective coping mechanisms. As helpful as technology is, sometimes human interaction is necessary. 

Information available on the SADAG website.

Physical activity: Move your body however you like

According to research published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, exercise has a positive effect on mental health, particularly when it comes to treating anxiety and depression. The research states that aerobic workouts like running, jogging, dancing, swimming, walking and cycling are especially helpful. You can get started with apps such as Aaptiv or free home-workout videos like on Team Body Project, or join a local exercise class, whether you like to box, dance or cycle.

For more advice related to mental health, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


How to reclaim your guilty pleasures

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While a harmless guilty pleasure brings joy and release, it can be seen as embarrassing or taboo. Here’s why guilty pleasures can be good for your wellbeing, and what healthy indulgence looks like.

From watching your favourite show and enjoying a delicious slice of cake to taking a day off, indulging in life’s pleasures is often associated with guilt. Laziness, selfishness and weakness are also tied to leisure. But why?

According to Psychology Today, guilt may arise from your perception of judgment, either from yourself or others. This is often associated with anything society views as ‘bad for us’. We are also made to feel ashamed for not being ‘productive’, ‘moral’ or having ‘self-control’. As a result, anything pleasurable is seen as something that needs to be earned.

The benefits of indulgence

  • Doing something for fun gives you a mental break and gets you out of problem-solving mode. This helps you to deal with stress and pressure better.
  • It’s healthy to embrace your need for all kinds of treats and restricting yourself makes it more likely that you’ll overindulge.
  • Entertainment can help with emotional release. For example, you may cry or laugh while watching a show, and this has a cathartic effect.

Tips for indulging healthily

Taking a lazy day

Despite what you’ve been taught, this is not unproductive and can allow your mind and body to recharge. This makes you less prone to burnout, helps you to be more creative and aids in better sleep.

What this could look like:

  • taking a day off work, shutting down your computer and not reading emails
  • saying no to plans and spending all day in bed watching your favourite show
  • switching your phone to Airplane Mode and ignoring texts and social media for a day
Eating whatever you want

Food not only nourishes your body, but can also be good for your wellbeing. And although it shouldn’t be used as an emotional crutch, it’s perfectly fine to eat for the senses. Furthermore, depriving yourself of your favourite foods because they are labelled ‘unhealthy’ could lead to overindulgence.

What this could look like:

  • eating your favourite foods in moderation
  • getting takeout, on occasion, when you don’t feel like cooking
  • having comfort foods, or healthy alternatives, when you’re stressed or feeling down
Treating yourself

Since many people have suffered financially during the pandemic, overspending shouldn’t be encouraged. However, it’s still important to do nice things for yourself now and then, staying within your budget, of course. This is part of self-care because it reminds you that you deserve to be treated well.

What this could look like

  • finally checking out your digital shopping cart
  • subscribing to a streaming service such as Netflix, or going to a spa
  • buying something just because you like it, not because you need it

For more lifestyle advice related to mental health, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


Hepatitis: Risk factors and prevention

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3 ways to reflect on your finances

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Do you always think before you swipe your bank card? When last did you go through your bank statements or credit report? Reflecting on your habits can help you gain a better understanding of your financial status.

Financial reflection involves deep-diving into your finances to learn how you can manage your money more effectively. Here are three ways to get started.

1. Assess your financial behaviour

Look at your bank statements for the last three months to get a clearer understanding of your financial habits. For example, you’ll be able to identify late payments, bounced debit orders and overspending. They could also show positive patterns such as paying more than the minimum amount owed on a credit card or reducing your monthly entertainment expenses.

2. Identify your triggers

Your financial past impacts your financial decisions and understanding your ‘why’ makes it easier to make better choices. Perhaps you splurge when you’ve had a bad day, or you struggled financially before, so now you are hesitant to use credit when it would actually be helpful. Pay attention to your spending patterns so you can tackle the root cause of the issues.

3. Find better ways to manage your money

If you are unsure of where to start, go back to the basics. For example, draw up a budget, eliminate unnecessary expenses and reduce your debt. Your financial coach is available to guide you, from choosing better financial actions to cultivating better habits.

For more financial advice, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a finance professional. E&OE.

When is the best time to buy prepaid electricity?

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Have you been buying your electricity at month-end or throughout the month? You’ve likely been overspending. Here’s how Eskom’s Incline Block Tariff system works and why you should consider buying your electricity units at the beginning of the month, plus general electricity-saving tips.

How does Eskom’s Incline Block Tariff system work?

The Incline Block Tariff system was designed to encourage low consumption and to make electricity affordable.

Prepaid electricity units in South Africa can be worth R1.40 per kWh and can cost as much as R2.69 per unit close to the end of the month. This is because the price of electricity units in South Africa is split into tiered blocks. For example, this means:

  • Everyone starts in block 1 at the beginning of the month, when units are most affordable. The price per unit for block 1 is R1.26 for the first 50 units.
  • Once you’ve purchased the maximum number of units for block 1, you’ll move to block 2 where you’ll be charged R1.62 per unit, capping at 350 units. Thereafter, you’ll move into block 3 and then 4, depending on how many units you reach.
  • Each household is, therefore, billed differently based on the number of units they buy and how far up the tier of blocks the amount goes. The more power you use every month, the more you will pay.

The good news is that even if you reach block 2, your purchase history resets in the new month and you’ll move back to block 1. You can find your area’s tariff block here.

How to get the most out of your units

According to energy expert Ted Blom, the average South African family – with two adults and three children – spends approximately 1,000kwh per month (1,000 units). The price of the number of units you use will vary depending on the block tariffs.

Due to this, it’s best to buy the electricity that you need once per month and in block 1, before you reach 350kWh if possible, otherwise you’ll be charged at a higher rate. Monitor how many units you use per month by keeping a log to get a clearer idea of your household’s usage, and then calculate how much you’ll need to spend based on that.

Electricity-saving tips

The less power you use, the fewer units you’ll need and the less money you’ll have to spend. Here are some tips to make your units and go further every month:

  • Try to do all your washing in bigger, fewer loads rather than many small loads.
  • Use LED light bulbs as they use 90% less electricity and last up to 20 years.
  • Don’t set your fridge to an unnecessarily cold temperature. Set your refrigerator between 2°C and 5°C and your freezer between -20°C and -22°C.
  • Cover your geyser with an insulation blanket.
  • Consider investing in a solar geyser system or panels.
  • Only use the heater in one room and for a specific amount of time.
  • Switch off all unused appliances at the wall.
  • Limit the number of baths you take and how full you fill the tub, or take shorter showers instead.

For more advice related to saving, read this helpful article:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


Your leave explained

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Strategies to overcome the mid-year slump

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Everyone experiences a work slump now and then, but the halfway point of any year can make it increasingly difficult to maintain motivation. Fortunately, it’s possible to revive job satisfaction by reigniting your drive and reassessing your goals.

When your brain switches to autopilot, you make conscious, automatic decisions without realising it. This helps you accomplish all your daily tasks. As a result, you could be trapped in a mid-year slump without realising it.

Signs that you could be experiencing a mid-year slump

  • Every day feels like a rinse and repeat of the previous day. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing new tasks, hobbies or work you normally enjoy, you’re always bored.
  • You are reluctant to exit your comfort zone. When you’re in a slump, you’re more likely to lack the drive or passion you initially had. This demotivates you and leaves you with no enthusiasm for working towards your goals, trying new things and excelling.
  • Dreading going to work most days and experiencing heightened work-related stress (virtually or in-office) is a regular occurrence.
  • You are desperate to make a change or an escape. This could include searching for new job roles, new cities or courses to study. You may also spend a lot of time daydreaming about other situations without taking action.

How to reignite your drive

Determine why you’re in a slump

Figuring out the main trigger for your slump can help you tackle the issue. For example, it can be difficult to be motivated or excited about work if you’ve mastered your current role. This could mean you need to try new tasks at work, such as volunteering in a different department, or upskill with interesting short courses on a learning platform such as Coursera. Writing down how you are feeling and or talking to someone you trust can help you to identify your triggers.

Reset your goals

If you’ve been struggling to achieve your goals or haven’t achieved many of them thus far, you may lack the confidence and drive to follow through. Relook at the goals you’ve been working towards and assess whether they are realistic and still meaningful. Write down the goals which are still relevant and try breaking them down into smaller components to make them less daunting. Devise a plan to meet each one with a set deadline.

Reactivate your motivation

Discovering what energises you is key to activating your motivation. What makes you feel most alive or inspired? For some, this could mean taking a walk, journalling, listening to a podcast, drawing or sitting by the ocean. Do activities that ignite your drive and schedule them daily.

Break out of your comfort zone

Slumps are often rooted in being stuck in your comfort zone, so push yourself to gradually change your routine. This could be as simple as getting up earlier, including a morning walk in your daily routine or trying new dishes. Then work your way up to exploring a new hobby or an unfamiliar work task.

Set healthy boundaries

This could mean saying no to working overtime, telling your team you won’t be answering emails after clocking out for the day or delegating work when possible. It’s also important to talk to your manager if you have any work-related issues, particularly if anyone is overstepping the boundaries you set.

For more advice related to work, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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