Friday, 31 January 2014
Mental health is a term I've only been familiar with for a couple of years. Normally it's emblazoned in a tasteful font over a poster or a neat stack of leaflets that I'll stare at blankly while sat in a cold, grey waiting room somewhere.
Before I was catapulted into the world of therapists, GPs, happy pills and the kaleidoscope of self-help that's been pushed rather forcibly in my general direction, plus the vast array of acronyms that get added to my medical notes - seemingly on a monthly basis - mental health equated that there was something wrong with you. You're broken. Something's missing. There's a little link somewhere in your brain without a connection. It compelled you to do bad things. It made my mum drink. It made her cry. And it ripped my family apart.
Poor mental health has been at the core of each and every decision that has formed where I am now. If I were to analyse and dissect big life events, the bugger would be buried under there somewhere like a flesh eating parasite, shaping everything I do. From how I talk, how I dress, how I raise my son, to being crippled by bleak thoughts and being wracked with guilt and hurt.
I'm pretty naffed off with mental health tbh. I'm tired of it, I'm really bloody bored of it, of how it sneaks around me, suffocates me and rips me away from the real world, leaving me stranded, alone, in my head.
Professionally how it's all dealt with has come a long way, but it really needs to go to reach a whole lot further. The fear and shame that can immerse you, leaving you frightened to speak up, to cry, to say you've had a bloody awful day need to be left behind with the other taboos and stigmas we're breaking free of today.
Then there’s the metaphorical bear trap of the correct terminology. Do we say mental health problems? Mental health issues? Or the nice and pretty inoffensive and unobtrusive, but still rather scary sounding - mentally ill?
Good and bad, even the sort where you're clinging onto the edge by your fingertips, mental illness will shape who you are, and show the journey of where you've been and how you've got to where you are right this very second. It's not something to be ashamed of, it's not something to squirrel away behind fake smiles and big personalities to fester away and mutate into an unmanageable mess. Once you stop believing that this thing in your head that makes you think the way you do, see things and feel things the way you do as a Voldemort type creature, name it for what is it, face it, and know you're really not alone.
Or you can drink too much coffee and blog about it, like I do.
Cas lives in Essex and can be found blogging about motherhood and mental health at mummyneversleeps.com. Follow Cas on Twitter and Facebook.
Wednesday, 22 January 2014
I tried the whole web thing five years ago and launched a website called Gunpowder. But it was all wrong. Not only did it cover too many things — food, travel, fashion, motoring, you name it! — but I launched it at the wrong time. Luxury content in the middle of a recession – what was I thinking?! What's more, I had just arrived in London and hadn't yet got under the skin of the city. How did I expect to put together a magazine that Londoners connected with, when I felt alien myself?
So I closed the website down and spent the next five years living and breathing London. What defined London? Who was a Londoner? And what did they do here? More importantly, where did I fit into it all and what did I like about it? As it turns out, it was its food scene that I fell in love with. The restaurants here were unlike anywhere else in the world; despite the recession, they were opening up every day, menus were pushing the envelope like you wouldn't believe, and trends were as fantastic as they were fickle.
So I worked as an editor at a travel guide publisher for a couple of years, soaking up all the city had to offer. It was my job, after all. Then I moved across to a restaurant bar PR agency, representing some of the hottest chefs in the capital and being at the forefront of the coolest new openings. Finally, London – and more specifically, its restaurant and bar scene – is something I get.
Ready to impart my insider knowledge, I had the idea of opening up another website; only this time I'd go for a less-is-more approach, with a simple weekly newsletter sent out to readers every Friday. It would tell them where to go for that hot date on the Friday evening, where they should be brunching on Saturday, and ideas for that perfect Sunday roast. A weekly, weekend guide that was a food-and-drink edit in the truest sense of the word. London is a noisy city – there are countless websites and newsletters telling Londoners where they should be eating and drinking – but few that strip everything back and select only the very best.
So Friday's Child was born, and I set about working on the concept. Who would my reader be? Those who, like me, spend their money and time wisely, but aren't necessarily slaves to fads. We like to check out the latest openings, but aren't the kind to queue for hours, and like a classic restaurant as much as a here-today-gone-tomorrow pop-up. A balanced reader, I decided. One who had outgrown clubbing but still liked a good night out propping up a wine bar or cocktail joint. Then I found the right design company to work on the brand; it needed to be cool, but not too cool for school. A classic design that was very London, and most importantly, timeless. I think I've achieved that, and there's no better feeling than seeing sign-ups on a daily basis. It shows that people are already connecting with the look and feel, without even seeing the content. Which I'm taking as a good sign!
For more information on Nicky Clarke and Friday's Child, visit www.yourweekendstartshere.com. Follow Friday's Child on Twitter and on Facebook.
Thursday, 16 January 2014
When the Christmas decorations have to come down, all of a sudden your house can look a little tired and definitely deprived of sparkle. Because all the glitter is gone, it's the perfect time to change it up and transform your home to a place you never want to leave this year. Here are five ways you can do just that:
Revitalise spaces that have been taken over with clutter by powering through it in small chunks and bagging it up ready to take out of the house. Remember what Oscar Wilde said: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful". I live by this mantra and will only have useful or beautiful things in my home. Charity shops are crying out for your unloved clutter.
A CHANGE OF COLOUR
One of the best ways to keep changing the appearance of your home throughout the year is by starting with a neutral palette. If you've fallen into the trap of brightly coloured themed rooms and are sick of the colour, instead of changing from purple to green or blue to yellow, switch to a neutral palette of white, grey, eggshell blue and light browns. This way, you can bring in colour throughout the year with cheap accessories such as books, vases and photo frames and change your colour theme whenever you need a change.
If you're already all over the neutral palette and feel that a colour pick-me-up is needed why not be bold and introduce some neon accessories.
Save the planet a little bit and save yourself some hard earned cash (ok, in the long run!) by making your home a more eco-friendly place to live. One of the easiest ways to do this is through insulation. Keep the heat in, keep your bills down, save the planet. Loft insulation can save you the most money on average and you might even qualify for a freebie, check the Energy Saving Trust.
There's no excuse not to use energy saving light bulbs - the light produced looks the same as standard light bulbs, costs you a little more, lasts you so much longer.
CAPITALISE ON THE SALES without bargainitis
We’ve all been there; the lure of the 70% off sale ticket does funny things to our heads and we end up with a coat/lamp/pair of stilettos/dog food when we don't even have a dog.
If you can avoid the curse of bargainitis by considering that nothing is a bargain unless you need it, then the sales can be your best friend.
Some of the best homeware buys can be found in the sales and because lots of essential homewear items such as throws, rugs and cushions are considered to be seasonal and have a particular sales push in Winter, these are the items that you're able to pick up for a bargain.
UPCYCLE, THE CHEAT'S WAY
Everyone has something a bit knackered in their homes that can be brought back to life. Whether it's an old desk, chair with a wobbly leg or a photograph frame that's been knocked over one too many times, those items can be upcycled and restored or decorated to become objects of beauty. My toolkit consists of just two brilliant DIY finds: heavy duty glue used by joiners - sticks anything together and fixes even the wobbliest of table legs, chalk paint - paint anything: glass, ceramic, wood, metal without bothering with sanding down or preparing it. A miraculous discovery made for the laziest of us.
Whether you decide to go big (like me with my 17th Century cottage renovation) or small by painting a photo frame, every home deserves a New Year spruce.
Heather runs www.ayorkshirehome.com, a blog documenting the painstaking renovation of a 17th century cottage up north. Find her on Twitter @ayorkshirehome.
Thursday, 9 January 2014
For the next month or so you’ll be bombarded by everyone and everything telling you to stop drinking alcohol, go cold turkey from turkey and to get fit.
It’s always the way; as soon as 1st January rolls around, television, magazines, newpapers, social media and blogs switch drastically from indulgence, spending and treating yourself to fitness, healthy eating and saving money. It is quite amazing what a few weeks of overeating and drinking almost every day can do to us all. As a nation, we see January as a chance to change, a fresh start where anything is possible and we can transform into a better, healthier, fitter version of ourselves.
But your New Year’s resolutions need to come from you to give you the best chance of sticking to them, it’s tempting to go hard and give yourself a long list of strict rules influenced by peer pressure. But if you tailor your resolutions carefully, ensuring that they’re achievable, something you truly want to change about yourself and not something you’re only doing because someone else is.
Personally, I’ve kept my resolutions quite simple but they are all things I would love to change in 2014.
To shape up and lose weight.,. Over the course of last year I lost and gained a stone putting me back to exactly where I was at the end of 2012… So this year I’m aiming to be different, I know I can lose a stone so the challenge is to lose it, but keep it off.
To blog more... and get more involved with the online community. I suppose you could see this guest post as my first step to getting more involved online, I’m looking forward to building up my little corner of the internet in 2014.
To eat more healthily... and to not drink alcohol for January (at least!). October to December was pretty much a binge of indulgence for me, packed with birthdays, meals out, parties and other excuses to drink, eat and be merry. I’m pretty sure the stone I lost was all put back on during this time… My body is in need of a detox!
To save money... When I put my mind to it, I’m really quite good at saving money. The only problem is, I rarely put my mind to it. This year is going to be different though, no more buying sequin covered dresses ‘just in case’ and spending as much as normal people spend on a week’s worth of food for Friday night. Even if I just use it for a holiday, it will have earned it.
Here are some tips to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions and for making them that little bit easier to follow…
If your aim for 2014 is to get fit, don’t start hard and then let it tail off, choose a fitness regime that is manageable for you. You might go to the gym every day for the first week but that’s hard to keep up for an entire year… Set yourself a challenge of doing some kind of exercise a day, whether it’s getting up half an hour earlier to do some exercise or taking a walk during your lunch break. Then add on 2 or 3 trips to the gym or running outside a week, and you have a routine you should be able to keep to.
Set yourself a goal; whether it’s weight loss, fitness levels or taking part in a race; it’s so much easier to get motivated when your progress is measurable or time sensitive.
Find something that you love doing, exercise will be so much easier if you enjoy it!
If you buy lunch every day, switch to preparing something healthy at the weekend to last you for the week. Not only can you control what ingredients are included, you’ll also save money.
Team up with a friend or partner, the more support you have, the more likely you will be to stick to your resolutions.
Drink more water. It will do wonders for you, honestly!
For some inspiration to help you stay motivated... take a look at some of my go-to blogs for when you need a little push in the right direction.
- For healthy food inspiration, visit Ambitious Kitchen. Everything is delicious, nutritious and easy to follow. Try the peanut butter cookie recipes, they're amazing and low calorie!
- If you're pushed for time but want to add more exercise to your life, try the 7 minute workout. 12 exercises packed into 7 minutes using only body weight, it's the equivalent of a long run and some weight work, sorted. Visit www.7-min.com.
- Stock up on vitamins, minerals and even carb blockers all in cute packaging on myvitamins. Visit www.myvitamins.com/
- For workout advice, recipe inspiration, fashion, tips and more with Women's Health.
- For daily yoga inspiration follow amazing yoga genius Laura Sykora on Instagram.
To find out more about Clare Potts and her health and fitness journey through 2014 (and a little rambling along the way), visit her blog Tweet. You can also follow Clare on Twitter and Facebook.