Tag Archives: idioms

Good Words: Stress Relief Phrases

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Here are some phrasal verbs/idioms that are often used when we’re talking about relieving (reducing) stress.

  • “I’m going to treat myself to a piece of chocolate.”
  • “Tonight, I’m treating myself to a hot bath and a novel. I haven’t had time to read in two weeks!”
  • To “treat yourself (herself/etc.) to something” is to do something that you don’t usually do. Maybe you don’t usually do it for time, money, or health reasons.

  • “I’m taking a break from the news. I think I’ll go to the gym or take a walk in the park.”
  • “My friend’s coming over so I can take a break from watching my daughter.”
  • “Playing with my dog lets me take a break from worrying about what is happening.”
  • To “take a break from something” or “take a break from doing something” means to stop doing it for a while.

  • “My son decided to play video games for a while to take his mind off the bad news.”
  • “I’m going to bake some cookies to take my mind off things. Do you want to come over and help?”
  • “I got my mind off everything by going to the gym yesterday. It was good.”
  • To “take [your/my/etc.] mind off something” means to make yourself think about something else by doing another activity.

    Get [your/my/etc.] mind off something” is basically the same. Sometimes “of” is used (“take your mind off of something”/”get your mind off of something”).

  • “My boss decided to give everyone a break by letting us work from home We still have to work, but we don’t have to go to the office.”
  • Give yourself a break and don’t worry about what other people think right now.”
  • I’m giving myself a break by cooking easy things for dinner.”
  • There are two patterns here: 1) “give someone a break by doing something” 2) “give someone a break and do something

    Both basically mean the same thing: to make life a little easier by doing something (working from home, not worrying about what other people thing, cooking easy things for dinner).

    “Give yourself a break and” may actually mean “both relax a little and do this thing” or “first relax a little, and then immediately do this thing to continue relaxing.” All three ways of understanding the meaning of this phrase are so close that it doesn’t really matter.

  • “She’s relaxing with a cup of tea and a book now. Don’t bother her!”
  • “I’m so stressed out–I’m going to go relax with some music.”
  • “You’ve been working on that for hours. Why don’t you go relax with a video game for a while?”
  • To relax with something is to relax while you are using/drinking/reading/etc. that thing.

    If you’d like to use a verb, use “relax and” instead: “I’m going to relax and watch a DVD.

If you’re stressed out right now, but not in an emergency situation, I hope you can give yourself a break from the stress.

Any questions about how to use these phrases? Just leave a comment!

TOEFL, TOEIC, and jobs


I want to talk about something that I have talked about on Twitter. On Twitter, it’s hard to explain an idea completely. So I’m going to talk about it here.

The TOEIC is a test that many companies
in Japan, Korea, etc. use to decide if someone’s English is good enough for a job. A few companies use the TOEFL, but this is usually a very bad idea. The TOEFL tests English for university study, not for business communication.

However, I don’t think the TOEIC is very good, either. It tests normal reading, grammar, and listening more than the TOEFL, but it’s still not perfect or very realistic. Also, its focus is business–it’s not a test of general communication. Actually, the TOEFL should be called the “Test of English for Academic Purposes.” The TOEIC should be called the “Test of English for Business Communication.”

I’ve taught many people who have taken the TOEIC. Some of them have even lived in the US for more than two years. Sometimes people with the same TOEIC score have totally different English abilities: One person is easy to talk to in English, and can write understandable and emotional English, even if it’s not perfect. Another person freezes every time she needs to speak, and writes strange-sounding sentences. But they have the same score (or the second person might score higher!).

Companies like the TOEIC because it’s easy to use. They don’t have to spend much time checking each job-hunter. But I think people shouldn’t trust it too much.

  • Test-takers shouldn’t trust it too much. If you think your abilities have gone up, but your score didn’t, don’t worry. Your skills probably did improve. The test does not measure everything.
  • Companies shouldn’t trust it too much. They should consider other measures of a job-hunter’s English abilities, because they want to find the best employees and provide good service in English. The ones with the best scores may not be the best English speakers or the best employees.

In the US, if a company wants to hire someone who speaks another language, sometimes they ask for test scores. But sometimes they do something that’s better: 1) Someone in the company who speaks the language talks with the job-hunter for a few minutes in that language. 2) The job-hunter is asked to do an example of that kind of work. For example, write an e-mail to a company, translate part of a letter, make a simple advertisement, or something like that. This kind of thing lets the company see if you can do the work they need you to do. It takes more time, but it’s very practical. It also helps the job-hunters, because not everyone is good at taking tests. It gives more people a better chance to show their abilities.

I don’t know how much other countries use this kind of measurement. I know that in Japan, sometimes part of the interview is in English. (That sounds really stressful, but if you need to speak English for that job, at least it’s more realistic than just the TOEIC!) I hope they use other measures sometimes. If you need to speak and write English for a job, it’s good if you can find a company who does this kind of thing. It means they may truly care about finding good employees and providing good service.

Okay, I’m glad I got that off my chest! (<--idiom meaning "to finally tell someone about something that has been bothering you")

P. S. I have extended the deadline for the contest! That means that you have more time to enter. There are not enough entries yet…Please think about a way to study English that works well for you. (Even if it’s for the TOEIC!) Talking to people in cafes? A favorite book? Watching TV shows? Listening to music? Karaoke in English? Traveling to Australia every time you have a vacation? Is there a hobby that made you really want to learn English? It can be really specific or really general. If you can write about it, take a picture of it, make a short video about it, or do anything like that, you can enter the contest! Just e-mail me (Tweet me or contact me for my e-mail address) or comment with your entry! I will send a postcard to EVERYONE who 1) enters the contest or has already entered the contest 2) sends me their name and a postal address through DM, e-mail, or the contact form 3) in the NEXT THREE DAYS (till November 14th, US time). English learners who read this blog only! (People who are both English learners and English teachers are fine!)

Wildflowers

On Saturday, I went to a “Wildflower Festival” at a park. It’s a really big park. It’s not a national park like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, and it’s not a state park, but it’s bigger than a city park. It’s called a “regional park.” Spring is the best time for wildflowers, and I wanted to see some. There were a lot of activities at the festival. In the main area, there were some tents where people could learn about nature. Children could play games and make things. From that area, people could go on hikes with park guides.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

I saw a lot of wildflowers on the hike! The orange one is California’s “state flower,” the California poppy.

Our guide showing us something
Our guide showing us something

A lot of people, including families and older people, went on our hike. I heard a lot of different languages being spoken. It was nice! Our guide was very friendly. She knew a lot about flowers and nature. She showed us a lot of flowers and told us how the flowers worked. It was really interesting. The hike lasted about 90 minutes. I was tired at the end, but happy.

Can you see the birds?
Can you see the birds?

This park is really green and has a lot of hills. (This picture is just a small part of the park.) If you’re in good shape, you can see some wonderful views. I was a little sick last year, so I’m kind of out of shape right now. However, I hiked for about 2.5 hours altogether. (Go me!) After I was done, I went back to the main area and sat down. I watched a band play American, Scottish, and French-Canadian folk music. It was fun! When my feet stopped hurting, I walked to my car and drove home.

Are there any places to go hiking near where you live? Do you like to go hiking?



Notes

“Wildflowers” are flowers that grow naturally. “Wild” means natural and not controlled by humans.

A “region” (n.) is a big area. It might include several places. For example, the Tohoku 東北 region of Japan includes six prefectures. I guess regional parks are called “regional” (adj.) because they include different cities and counties, but they’re not state parks.

“Guide” can be a noun or a verb. When it’s a person noun, it means someone who shows or explains things to other people. For example, a tour guide leads a group of people who are traveling, and tells them about what they are seeing.

“In good shape” is an idiom. It doesn’t mean “a nice body.” It means that you are healthy, so you have enough energy for things like hiking, walking a long way, carrying heavy things, etc. You can also just say “in shape.” (Sometimes we use it to mean that a thing is ready or working properly, too.) The opposite is “out of shape.” People often say “I’m out of shape!” when they get tired too quickly. (We don’t usually use this to say that a thing is not working correctly, though.)

“Go [x]!” To cheer for somebody, you can say “Go [name]!” or even “Go you!” to a friend. This is like “Fighting!” in Korean, and so on. And yes, people sometimes say or write “Today I studied Japanese for four hours! Go me!” or “I got 100% on my quiz! I was so surprised! Go me!” This is very casual and sounds like something a younger person would say. In this case, it’s a combination of encouragement (supporting someone to continue doing something) and praise/congratulations (telling someone they did a good job). When you shout “Go, team!” at a baseball game, then it might be just encouragement if they haven’t done anything yet.

If you have a question about something that I didn’t explain, please comment!