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Dealing with your finances during the pandemic

Dealing with your finances during the pandemic

New research from LinkedIn suggests that coronavirus is dividing the nation when it comes to our finances. While 22% of furloughed workers are struggling to afford their rent or mortgage repayments, almost half of those surveyed said they are financially better off and have saved an extra £300 in the past month. 

It seems lockdown is a tale of two halves. For every person who is still earning their normal salary but working from home and saving on that expensive commute, there’s somebody who has been furloughed or lost their job totally.

Finance expert, Iona Bain, says that these times are unprecedented and there are a lot of people who are getting no help from the Government.

“The research tells a tale of two extremes,” she says. “There’s also a lot of people who are falling through the gaps when it comes to government support and loans.”

However grim it seems though Iona says there are things that you can do right now that will also help your future finances.

“Whatever side you fall on, there are definitely things you can start doing to get in control of your finances,” she says. “It’s the habits you form now that will benefit you in the future.” 

Iona Bain’s tips for looking after your finances

Know what support options are available to you

Make sure you understand what resources are available to you at the moment. The three main avenues to look at as an individual are the benefit system, the coronavirus self-employed income support scheme, and the hardship fund. You can apply for Universal Credit if you are on low income, you are out of work, you are over the age of 18, and if you or your partner have less than £16,000 in savings.

I would highly recommend going to www.turn2us.org.uk to see what benefits you may qualify for. If you fall through the gaps, there may be additional help available through industry specific associations and charities, so it’s worth doing your research.

Protect your pension

A lot of people are really worried about how the current climate will impact their pension, and I would strongly recommend seeking professional advice to help you build a retirement savings plan specific to your circumstances.

You are entitled to a ‘Pension Advice Allowance’ which is up to the value of £500 from your pension pot to help cover the cost of a financial advisor.  Alternatively, you can also find free advice from advisors via the Emergency Financial Advice website which has been set up specifically to help people concerned about their retirement funds at this time.

Build a financial buffer

If you’re fortunate enough to be in a position where you are able to save during these unprecedented times, try and build up a savings buffer. Begin to save for the sake of saving, without having an end goal in mind.

Though savings rates with the Bank of England are at a record low, there are other challenger banks offering slightly higher interest rates. Don’t be discouraged by the current climate, if you remain patient you may see these interest rates start to increase over upcoming months

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What living through this pandemic has taught us

What living through this pandemic has taught us

I have to be honest. When I sat down to write about what lessons I’ve learned while living through the pandemic, I was stumped. I couldn’t think of a single thing. Nothing.

I was stumped.

How could I not have learned anything? I thought about what I’ve been doing… I have had my head down finishing off my third book; something that keeps me shut away in my bedroom at my new makeshift writing space. I used to work in the kitchen, but now the kids use it as their classroom I had to find somewhere else to call my own. My desk started out as the laundry basket dragged in from the hall, with an upside-down tray on top of it, where I rested my laptop. After a few weeks and an increasingly sore back it was clear that this wasn’t a long-term solution. So I moved a small table and chair from another room and I created my happy place; a space by the window in our bedroom, where I put a plant, some flowers, a candle and my crystals. And I wrote.

When I wasn’t writing the book, I was writing for the site, or having meetings with Nick in our office about next moves for This Girl Is On Fire. I’ve done a lot of laundry, changed a lot of sheets, cooked a lot of dinners, listened to the kids tell me about what they’re up to online with their friends and watched a lot of Nashville on TV. I’ve exercised in some form most days – but the enthusiasm for it that I started lockdown with has definitely dwindled. I can’t look at another YouTube exercise class…

Oh! That’s one thing I’ve learned. I never want to go to dance aerobics. I thought I did; I really loved the idea of it, but after trying them out online I’ve realised that I will never get the hang of them. I forget the instructions, I can’t keep up and I end up more irritated then invigorated by the time it’s over. So I’ve gone back to what I like – yoga, weights and skipping, doing it in my time, by myself.

I guess that’s another thing I’ve learned. I work at my own speed. Nick and I are very different in how we work – he is up like a shot before the alarm has finished beeping and has done his morning exercises before I’ve finished brushing my teeth. I tried to keep up with him for the first few weeks, but he got annoyed that I was holding him up, and I got annoyed that he was pushing too fast. So now we do our own thing.

I haven’t learned a new language, or taken up painting, or any of the other things that have been thrown into the mix of things we are ‘supposed’ to have learned during lockdown. I don’t think we are supposed to do anything other than survive mentally and physically when the world has gone into global meltdown. I’ve just tried to stay consistent and focused on goals so that I feel like I have achieved something by the end of the week – even if it’s not by the end of the day, because not every day is amazing.

I suppose I have learned that it’s ok to do things my way, that I don’t have to fit in with what anyone else thinks. I’m more Dory to Nick’s Rocky; I don’t see every day as a fight to be won. I forget things, I get side-tracked and distracted, I try and do too many things at once and do none of them as well as I should. But I always keep moving forward. I just keep swimming. And at a time when it feels like the world is drowning, I think that learning to swim is a good enough lesson to learn.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook is our Head of Content and has learnt that having no social engagements has been a revelation

“I don’t think I’ll ever know the full effect lockdown has had on me until this crisis is well and truly over, but the one thing I’ve really realised is just how much I love having NOTHING in the diary. I’m a big planner, you see.

Part of this is borne out of necessity. With a husband who works shifts and a young son to look after, there are only certain nights I can go out. My months get booked up very quickly. However, it’s also because I love being busy and having things to look forward to. It’s also a little because I want to be liked AND I don’t want to let down anyone, ever. I live a very full life. Some days I don’t stop as I hurtle from appointment to appointment and while I relish this, as an introvert (I know, I’m complicated!), I need to recharge every so often.

Regular life doesn’t offer this opportunity very often so I’ve taken lockdown as one major piece of chill time. It’s made me realise I often say yes, when I mean no and that being in a bit more often doesn’t make me boring or unlovable. When we finally come out of this crisis, I’ll be planning less and letting things just happen a bit more. After weeks of just staying indoors, a few surprises will be just what my body and soul need!”

Rebecca Martin, a digital consultant, has learnt how much she misses human contact

“When first asked what I’ve learned about myself during lockdown, I felt should come up with something really positive. That I’d learned a new skill or discovered a new talent. What I’ve actually learned is how much of my time was spent with people. And how much I miss them.

I’m single, a self-employed freelancer and live alone – so I chose to move in with my parents and younger sister as soon as lockdown was announced. I love my flat, I love living by the sea, but everything I love about my life involves my family and friends. Dinners out, cinema dates, box-set-and-cheese nights, business meetings, networking events, dating, holidays, bars – and those taken-for-granted passing handshakes or hugs. Oh, how I miss those passing “see you soon, get home safe” hugs at the end of every meet-up.

On paper – being single, living alone and working alone sounds like the loneliest existence ever – and I’ve often thought it sounds pretty sad. But it never was, because I was always surrounded by amazing friends, colleagues and family (and a tiny niece and nephews). I was rarely alone, even when at home.

Now, I miss them dearly and can’t wait to fill my calendar with too many pizza nights and rosé dates. And now I realise how lucky I am.”

Sharn Rayment, is a social media producer, who has learnt to tap into her creative skills during lockdown

“Working as a writer and in social media, I’ve always been described by others as a ‘creative’, but it’s a label that’s never quite sat right with me. I pride myself on my grammatical accuracy, my logic and my ability to organise – traits I wouldn’t necessarily describe as ‘creative’.

But when lockdown hit and my clients switched to remote working, I was being called upon to shoot and edit videos in my spare bedroom, design graphics from scratch, come up with and test out new creative concepts, and pitch them to big wigs, all from my kitchen table. For once, I was forced to embrace my inner creative, and it came easier than expected. No longer was I panicking about getting e-mails sent on time or catching a train to get to a city meeting – my new ‘worries’ were more about getting my ring light in the right position to shoot makeup hacks than booking a meeting room for four at 2.30pm.

I hadn’t realised how all these small management tasks were getting in the way of what I loved to do – create and share original ideas with the world through the wonder that is internet. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m just grateful that in these testing times I finally have the headspace to do it.”

Hannah Verdier, is a writer and personal trainer, who runs Everybody Personal Training

“Lockdown has made me want a proper job. I’ve been freelance for 12 years, but I would give anything for some security right now. And the idea that we’ll all go back to normal and back to workplaces when the time is right. I’ve been suffering with loneliness for years, but brushed it off and dealt with it by planning nights out with friends, having chats at the gym and sitting in coffee shops.

With all these things gone I’ve had to face up to it and it’s tough. I’ve made friends with my neighbours and spent more time with my children, which is lovely, but when lockdown ends I need to stop drifting and get some structure.”

Emma Lazenby is a mum of three very lively kids and has learnt that it’s the little things that really matter in life

A lovely thing I’ve learned about my lockdown experience is that – in a time where I thought I’d feel so lonely, I’ve actually never felt less alone. When I talk to friends and family, that throwaway question ‘how are you’ is now so heartfelt and we just don’t stop thinking about each other. Ever. And we all consider people outside our immediate circle like never before. It feels like the world’s suddenly got smaller. And kinder. And we’re all so much better for it. 

Secondly, oh the solace I’ve found in food! I love cooking and feeding my family (when the littlest ones don’t throw it on the floor or at my face, obviously) and mealtimes are the only solid structure we have right now. I’d be lost without them. And just planning dishes for the day ahead – it gives me something mildly creative to think about!

Lastly, just being able to occasionally lose myself in books or music has been EVERYTHING to me. Little doses of escapism have kept me sane. When this is all over, I’m determined to make sure I take a few minutes each day to mentally teleport to another place for a little while!

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Shut the duck up

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How to have a digital declutter

Woman with sticker on her phone saying digital detox
Woman with sticker on her phone saying digital detox

How to have a digital declutter

Being forced to socially isolate for the health and safety of ourselves and the people around us is tough enough, but with many of us filling this void in time with an unhealthy obsession with rolling news, views, hearsay and scaremongering on social media, now would be the perfect time to attempt a 30-day technology detox.

Not everything has to go – we need to know what’s happening in the world, carry on with work and stay in touch with loved ones -but do we need every app that we have become so addicted to?

Digital Minimalism - Cal Newport

Cal Newport, who has been described as the ‘Marie Kondo of technology’, believes that 30 days is all we need to wean ourselves off our digital devices.

In this  exclusive extract from his new book Digital Minimalism : Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, he talks us through an experiment he ran using 1,600 volunteers, to see how they coped with stepping away from technology for a 30 Day Digital Detox.

The first step is defining your technology rules, the next step is to follow these rules for thirty days.

You’ll likely find life without optional technologies challenging at first. Your mind has developed certain expectations about distractions and entertainment, and these expectations will be disrupted when you remove optional technologies from your daily experience. This disruption can feel unpleasant.

Many of the participants in my mass declutter experiment, however, reported that these feelings of discomfort faded after a week or two. Brooke described this experience as follows:

“The first few days were surprisingly hard. My addictive habits were revealed in striking clarity. Moments of waiting in line, moments between activities, moments of boredom, moments I ached to check in on my favourite people, moments I wanted an escape, moments I just wanted to ‘look something up,’ moments I just needed some diversion: I’d reach for my phone and then remember that everything was gone.”

Like several other parents who participated in my experiment, Tarald invested his newfound time and attention in his family. He was unhappy with how distracted he was when spending time with his sons. He told me about how, on the playground, when they would come seeking recognition for something they figured out and were proud of, he wouldn’t notice, as his attention was on his phone.

“I started thinking about how many of these small victories I miss out on because I feel this ridiculous need to check the news for the umpteenth time,” he told me. During his declutter he rediscovered the satisfaction of spending real time with his boys instead of just spending time near them with his eyes on the screen.

Three friends sat around the table all on their phones

An interesting experience shared by some participants was that they eagerly returned to their optional technologies only to learn they had lost their taste for them. Here, for example, is how Kate described this experience to me:

“The day the declutter was over, I raced back to Facebook, to my old blogs, to Discord, gleeful and ready to dive back in—and then, after about thirty minutes of aimless browsing, I kind of looked up and thought . . . why am I doing this? This is . . . boring? This isn’t bringing me any kind of happiness. It took a declutter for me to notice that these technologies aren’t actually adding anything to my life.”

She hasn’t used those services since.

Several participants discovered that eliminating the point- and-click relationship maintenance enabled by social media requires that you introduce alternative systems for connecting with your friends. A digital advertiser named Ilona, for example, set up a regular schedule for calling and texting her friends — which supported her most serious relationships at the cost of some of the more lightweight touches many have come to expect.

“In the end, I just accepted the fact that I would miss some events in their lives, but that this was worthwhile for the mental energy it would save me to not be on social media.” 

A woman scrolling through Instagram

Other participants settled on unusual operating procedures during the reintroduction process. Abby, a Londoner who works in the travel industry, removed the web browser from her phone—a nontrivial hack.

“I figured I didn’t need to know the answer to everything instantly,” she told me. She then bought an old-fashioned notebook to jot down ideas when she’s bored on the tube.

Caleb set a curfew for his phone: he can’t use it between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., while a computer engineer named Ron gives himself a quota of only two websites he’s allowed to regularly check—a big improvement over the forty or more sites he used to cycle through.

Rebecca transformed her daily experience by buying a watch. This might sound trivial to older readers, but to a nineteen- year-old like Rebecca, this was an intentional act. “I estimate that around 75 percent of the time I got sucked down a rabbit hole of un-productivity was due to me checking my phone for the time.”

The Digital Declutter Process

  1. Put aside a thirty-day period during which you will take a break from optional technologies in your life.
  2. During this thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviours that you find satisfying and meaningful.
  3. At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies into your life, starting from a blank slate. For each technology you reintroduce, determine what value it serves in your life and how specifically you will use it so as to maximize this value.

A number of people ended up aborting this process before the full thirty days were done. Interestingly, most of these early exits had little to do with insufficient willpower—this was an audience who was self-selected based on their drive to improve.

More common were subtle mistakes in implementation – technology restriction rules that were either too vague or too strict. Another mistake was not planning what to replace these technologies with during the declutter period— leading to anxiety and boredom.

Those who treated this experiment purely as a detox, where the goal was to simply take a break from their digital life before returning to business as usual, also struggled. A temporary detox is a much weaker resolution than trying to permanently change your life, and therefore much easier for your mind to subvert when the going gets tough.

Step Number 1: Define your technology rules

During the thirty days of your digital declutter, you’re supposed to take a break from “optional technologies” in your life. The first step of the declutter process, therefore, is to define which technologies fall into this “optional” category.

When I say technology in this context, I mean the general class of things we’ve been calling “new technologies” which include apps, websites, and related digital tools that are delivered through a computer screen or a mobile phone and are meant to either entertain, inform, or connect you. Text messaging, Instagram, and Reddit are examples of the types of technologies you need to evaluate when preparing for your digital declutter; your microwave, radio, or electric toothbrush are not.

Woman reading a text message

Once you’ve identified the class of technologies that are relevant, you must then decide which of them are sufficiently “optional” that you can take a break from them for the full thirty days of the declutter process. My general heuristic is the following: consider the technology optional unless its temporary removal would harm or significantly disrupt the daily operation of your professional or personal life.

This standard exempts most professional technologies from being deemed optional. If you stop checking your work email, for example, this would harm your career—so you can’t use me as an excuse to shut down your inbox for a month.

Don’t, however, confuse “convenient” with “critical.” More importantly, the inconvenience might prove useful. Losing lightweight contact with your friends might help clarify which of these friendships were real in the first place, and strengthen your relationships with those who remain.

Step Number 2: take a thirty-day break

Good luck!

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Cultivating your career in a crisis

Woman working from home with a child on her lap
Woman working from home with a child on her lap

Cultivating your career in a crisis

As a career fulfilment coach, I help women to create careers that they love. One of things I’ve often noticed is it takes a crisis at work for someone to decide they need to make a change.

The coronavirus crisis has had a huge impact on us all. Thinking about having a fulfilling career now might seem like a distant possibility when we are in the middle of a global pandemic, but there are many similarities between the journey my clients go on and the situation we are in today.

For many of my clients, the catalyst for working with me is a negative experience at work – a grievance, being made redundant, a health scare or the pressure of caring responsibilities. The women who come to me often feel overwhelmed, stuck and in need of some support to find their way through.

Typewriter with the words crisis on it

Our whole lives have been turned upside down and it can be very disorientating, but there are steps we can take to feel more in control and to make a plan.

Cultivating a fulfilling career isn’t about the big moments, the promotions or a new job – it’s about the small steps you take every day to make a career that works for you. It’s only by tending to our career every day, doing the work, that we achieve big results in the long run and now more than ever we need to be taking those small steps. We can’t change the situation, but there are lots of things we can do to get through it.

Recognising the scale of the change

When you are facing a difficult situation every day, it’s easy to underestimate how much of a challenge you are dealing with and the impact it is having on you. It’s only when you take a step back that you realise the pressure you have been under.

The last few weeks have been a huge period of upheaval. Families that often spent the day apart are now under one roof for most of the day. People living on their own who had a support network of friends and family are now physically isolated, and for all of us, something as simple as going to the supermarket has completely changed.

Take a moment to think about that – it’s a lot to deal with and however you are getting through this, you are doing a great job!

A pastel pink journal with a pen on it

Take ten minutes

While we may think that being at home all day would mean you have lots of extra time on your hands, in practice the day soon fills up with jobs and activities.

Have you actually stopped to sit and think about what has been going on or have you been rushing from task to task to get everything done?

Taking 10 minutes out of your week to journal what has been going on can help you to think about your situation.

Grab a cup of tea, a pen and paper (or a device if you prefer), find a quiet spot and write about how you have been feeling. Just let it flow. If you are struggling to write, then try these prompts:

  • How have I felt over the last few weeks?
  • What has been challenging for me?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What would I like to change?

Try to write without judgment or criticism of how you are feeling and be kind to yourself. It is only when we take a step back from a situation that we can see what we need. Getting through each day is a big achievement and whatever you are feeling, know that this is valid and the first step to feeling in control and making a plan.

What really matters to you right now?

Women in particular are told that they can have it all. What we are not told is that this often means having to do it all, which at the best of times in unsustainable, let alone during a global pandemic. If we acknowledge that we can’t do it all, that we will have to make some compromises.

When you lose the things you once took for granted, such as being able to see a friend for a coffee and a chat, it can really highlight what is important for you. The same is true of our careers. Being faced with a change in situation can really make us appreciate what we love – or hate – about our work.

In the short term, we need to focus on what is important in our work right now and how that fits with our life. The boundaries between work and life are even more blurred than normal so being clear on what your priorities are will really help. If you have less time and attention to pay to your work, you want to make sure the tasks you are doing will have the greatest impact.

A flat lay of a to do list

The same goes for our home life, being able to let go of the things which are nice to have but don’t make the biggest impact can free up time and head space to focus on what will really make a difference.

To work out what is a priority for you, make a list of all the things in your career and life that are important.

  • For each area you list, write down what are the must haves that need to get done and what are the nice to haves that you could let go of.
  • Put the list into priority order.
  • When planning out your time work through the list of must haves first and then only move on to the nice to haves if you have enough time and energy.
  • Recognise that you may need to lower your expectations of what a must have is so that you can get everything important done.

Focus on what you can control

When going through a period of crisis or significant change, it’s really common to feel out of control. This can leave you feeling demotivated, frustrated and stifled from getting on with any work.

Focusing on what you can’t control is really unhelpful. It can cause you to feel trapped by the situation, that there is nothing that you can do to change it. It is also wasted energy.

By focusing on what you can control, you direct your energy and focus into things that can make a difference to you.

When thinking about your own situation try to reframe your thoughts and questions to put the focus on what you can control. For example, rather than asking “How can I cope with being asked to work from home” ask yourself “What can I do to make my home working space a productive place to be?”

Focusing on what you can control isn’t going to make the challenges go away, it won’t suddenly fix all of the problems in the world, but if you can feel even a little bit more in control of your life you will be in a better position to manage a new way of working.

Map with pins stuck in it

There is more than one way to get from A to B

When things don’t quite go to plan you can either give up or you can make a new plan. When a physical route has closed, we don’t just turn around and go home we instinctively look for the diversion signs, but in our careers, we don’t always think this way.

This situation has shown us just how adaptable people can be when the need arises. I’ve always heard that older people either can’t or won’t embrace technology and now we are seeing grandparents setting up Zoom calls to stay in touch with their grandchildren.

Employers that have been reluctant to embrace flexible working now find themselves with whole workforces stuck at home and are making it work. The route that they had planned to take was closed so they have had to find a new way.

To find a new route go back to basics, ask yourself:

  • Where are you trying to go?
  • Where are you now? Then you can see how far you have to travel. When you are clear on your destination you can start to look for new routes to get there.
  • What assumptions are you making about your career that could be holding you back?
  • Is there a different route you could take?
  • What is one small step you could take to get you back on track? It might be as simple as taking a proper lunch break or booking in call with a colleague to talk about how you are feeling.
Sign saying you've got this

You’ve got this!

When you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed try to remember to:

Reflect: Take time to appreciate what you are dealing with and be kind to yourself if you need to rest or take a break.

Prioritise: Consider what is most important to you and only work on the tasks that will have the biggest impact.

Control: Focus your time and energy on the things that you can control and try not to worry about things you can’t change.

Plan: When your work doesn’t go according to plan, take a step back and then make a new plan

You are doing a great job in an incredibly difficult situation. You don’t need to make big long-term goals right now. If you can get through the next few weeks washed, dressed, and doing ok in your work that will be a huge achievement.

Laura Cloke is a career fulfilment coach who helps women create careers they love. Based in Kent (UK) but coaching across the world, her action-orientated approach empowers her clients with the path, tools and mindset to transform their careers.

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Girl on Fire: Kelly Bond, Adventure instigator and lifestyle orchestrator

Kelly Bond, The healthy + chilled lifestyle orchestrator and Adventure instigator
Kelly Bond, The healthy + chilled lifestyle orchestrator and Adventure instigator

Girl on Fire: Kelly Bond, Adventure instigator and lifestyle orchestrator

Kelly Bond, 39, loves an adventure. Whether it’s snowboarding or camping in the wild, she loves the great outdoors – and pushing herself. And now she wants to persuade other women that happiness lives in the wild!

Grow Her Wild was started by Kelly as a way to share her love of the outdoors and adventure with other women, but it quickly became something much more, after she realised being at home with her little girl Millie wasn’t enough for her.

“Grow Her Wild came about because I’ve been at home with Millie and I kind of felt I need to have a word with myself,” she says. “I thought I’ve got to change something. I can’t just sit here, so I started to look at what it could do, rather than what I couldn’t.”

As someone who has always loved things like paddle boarding and bush craft, she decided this was the way to go.

“I kind of formed Grow Her Wild as a bit of a blog, but now what I’m finding is it’s turned into more of a lifestyle thing. It’s kind of taken on its own thing and covering so much more!”

Out of this world…

After suffering from anorexia in her late teens, Kelly decided to go into the health and nutrition industry as a way of trying to help herself back from the eating disorder. As well as providing her with a new career, it also propelled her into the world of bodybuilding! This was no ordinary body building though – it ended up with her placing third in Miss Galaxy Universe.

She says: “I booked a competition space, hired a coach and so the adventure began.

“5am starts. Eating tins of tuna at random hours. Training at random hours outside of working PT hours. A lot of sleep and money and supplements…”

Despite it being so gruelling she says she wouldn’t change it for the world!

“I was a woman in a bikini on stage with confidence BUT I wouldn’t recommend it to the everyday woman just wanting to feel good in her own skin,” she advises. “That’s why I now focus on the whole health of women and not just their packaging.”

Finding herself

While pregnant with her daughter, now a lively toddler, she suddenly felt unwell.

“I mean at three months pregnant, I was still doing CrossFit and in weight vests and then suddenly I really wasn’t well,” she recalls. “It took me a while to be taken seriously by doctors. Turns out it was blood clots in my legs and lungs and gestational diabetes.”

Her life was suddenly put on hold and she said she spent the following years in a world of confusion.

“I really didn’t feel like I knew who I was anymore,” she says. “I didn’t know who was looking back at me in the mirror. It was just bizarre.”

Thankfully earlier this year, she finally received a diagnosis of May–Thurner syndrome, a compression in blood vessels, which then causes blood clots. The mum of one has since had stents fitted and, in her words, feels “like a whole new woman.”

The one constant that has got her through tough times was her love of the outdoors, which led her to becoming a Bear Grylls Survival Academy instructor. While she loves pushing herself in the wild, she says that she hopes all women see that they can have a place in nature.

“Everyone is capable of something out there,” she states. “That’s the beautiful thing about it. You don’t necessarily need loads of kit or to be traveling miles to do it. You don’t have to disappear off to Kilimanjaro or wherever – you can just find a local bit of woodland and go for a trudge around it!”

On Fire Life Questions

What’s one of the favourite things about your job?
Seeing people connecting. I run family camps and you see families turn up – the kids are on the phone, they’re not talking to each other. There’s this kind of resistance when you first meet them then as you see them complete tasks like building a den and sleeping in it during the night, they start working together. By the end of it you see them all sat there chatting to one another. I’ve had parents come to me say the experience was amazing, simply for the fact they’ve spoken to their child about what was going on in their life. It’s just so special.

What is that one kernel that you’d like wish that other women knew?
You’re far more capable than you give yourself credit for, whether it’s everyday little situations to massive mammoth challenges. You can do it! We all second guess ourselves. Just get started and get stuck in – you’ll get through.

What’s your quote that gets you through testing times?
You’re not failing, you’re just mid conquer. You know when you have those days where you feel like, Oh God, why am I bothering? It just kind of puts it in perspective a little bit then.

How do you approach the work/life juggle?
I’ve learned to take the approach of be organised to be disorganised. Sort what you can – the basics and everything – and all you can do is roll with the rest. As long as I know that all bases are covered that I can have covered and the rest just, go with the flow!

What would you tell your teenage self?
Never lose your young and give less f*&ks! Don’t lose that ability to be excited about even the little things. Just go for stuff and not care what other people saying.

"Don't lose that ability to be excited about even the little things. Just go for stuff and not care what other people saying."
Kelly Bond, The healthy + chilled lifestyle orchestrator and Adventure instigator
Kelly Bond

What’s your best self-care tip?
I take the approach of not being afraid to be selfish, because we all need different things at different times. It’s easy, as a mum in particular, to ignore those needs, no matter how small they are…  Once they go to bed, run a bath, have a face mask and a nice glass of wine, rather than tidying up.

Now we’re in lockdown, it’s actually a great time to look after yourself and use your time wisely – but wisely doesn’t mean setting yourself up to fail. Experiment with new recipes and new ways to exercise. Make a weekly menu. If upping your exercise is your thing and you fail on day two don’t beat yourself up; what will really work for you going forwards? I like to encourage one exercise multiple times throughout the day e.g. squat while the kettle’s on or lunge in your favourite box set breaks. Just make taking care of you actually about you!

What book, film or song has been a big influence on your life?
GirlBoss by Sophie Amoruso. It’s so real and unpolished and true to life. It’s one of the things that shows that you can come up from adversity, follow your gut and go for it. And nine times out of ten it should pay off in one way or another!

What’s the one thing you’d like to be remembered for?
Leaving a little bit of a legacy with Grow Her Wild and ideally helping millions of females all over the world to live a better way of life. Everyone’s got their own battles going on, but if you can help people get through life a bit easier then it’s winning.

Any tips for coping with lockdown?
I’m taking it one day at a time. If I think too far ahead, I feel too restricted and cut off. If I don’t think at all I lose a bit of drive and motivation. I wake up and roll with the day – having a toddler to hand makes this extremely easy!

What is first thing you want to do when lockdown is finally over?
There’s so much… Visit & hug family and friends. Mix with strangers! Visit the local coast. Get out on a paddle board. Set up very laid back camp gatherings for women & children. Go between local shops (butchers, bakers, health food stores) without worry – and talk to people in them! Sit in a proper local pub. Get signed up to take part in some adventures. Basically – EVERYTHING!!

Follow Kelly on Instagram and find out how you can go wild on her official website Amoruso

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The best online courses to take you to that next level

The best online courses to take you to that next level

You’ve watched everything on Netflix, played bingo with your friends via Zoom and decluttered your house – but you’ve still got more time on your hands than you’re used to. If this sounds familiar, you’re not on your own, more and more people are opting for online courses to fill up their lockdown time.

Obviously in lockdown, online courses are the only option if you want to expand your knowledge of skill-base, however, there’s lot of positives to online learning. You can take them when it suits you best – some of us are definitely not morning people! – and you can go at your own pace. They’re especially good if you’re juggling working and looking after kids, enabling you to still acquire new skills.

If you’re not self-motivated though, it can be heard to learn this way. The best thing to do is pick a course on something you WANT to learn. It’s much easier to stay motivated with remote learning, when you’re excited to learn about it.

It can also be really useful to block out time in your diary for when you’re going to tackle your online learning as otherwise life can get in the way. So with all that in mind, here’s a selection of the courses we’re loving at the moment…

If you don’t know what you want to learn

Udemy bills itself as the ‘world’s largest selection of courses’ with over 100,000 online video courses. From learning how to code to clowning for money, there really is a course on anything and everything you might want to learn.

If you need to find a little inner calm

If you suffer from anxiety or are just a little more stressed during these unsettled times, These Ten Per Cent is worth every penny. It’s basically a daily meditation coach in your pocket, and features guided meditations to teach you exactly how to relax, as well inspiration from engaging talks and the ability to access your own life coach.

If you want it short and sweet

Most courses that are offered online are a mixture of video and worksheets, but Highbrow is slightly different in that it delivers quick 5-minute daily lessons direct to you via email. With courses on a wide range of topics from improving your relationship to the basics of book-keeping, each course is designed to be digested first thing, over your morning cuppa. It’s great if your life is just too manic and being delivered directly to you inbox means you’re more likely to read and learn.

If you feel stuck

Founded by entrepreneur and personal coach Sarah Pittendrigh, her I CAN course aims to get you out of those ruts – whether that’s personally or professionally. Sarah says: “This course is designed to help you re connect with yourself or your business, reignite your fire, get the clarity to create and nurture an action plan to success.”

If you want to un-tap your creativity potential

Perhaps having a bit more time in lockdown has got your creative juices flowing – if that’s the case then Craft Courses is for you! Whether you’re interested in calligraphy, interior design or making hand sanitiser, we guarantee you’ll find something to fire up your craftiness. Who knows, you may even find a new talent?

If you’re starting your own business

Talented Ladies Club is a female-led organisation that inspires women through articles and online training. Their courses are aimed at those with (or perhaps starting) a small business or freelancers and cover a range of really useful things. You can learn about SEO and why it’s important to your business or learn how to build a successful Twitter account. There are also great courses on manifesting money and how to find your dream job – it’s a definite one to bookmark if creating a successful business is high on your list.

If you fancy being the next Darcy Bussell

Always wanted to know your arabesque from your grand jeté? Then now’s your chance. The Royal Academy Of Dance has now collated a whole raft of ballet classes – for all ages and experience – on their website. What’s more, they are free, so if you’ve ever fancied pirouetting around your living room, now’s your chance!

If you want to take your business online

You may already have your own business, but whether it’s stalling due to the lockdown or you know there is more you can do, Emma Bond’s Online Business Accelerator course could help you. She goes step-by-step through how to bring your business into digital, including creating online courses.

If you want to understand your dog more

We’ve all heard of human psychology, but if you want to understand why your pooch acts the way they do, you might fancy taking this animal psychology course by Stonebridge College. From cat and dog communication to rabbit psychology – yes, really – this course will help you prevent possible psychological issues.

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Top 10 books to read in isolation

Top 10 books to read in isolation

1. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

Full of ideas and strategies that have helped millions of people worldwide, Louise Hay’s seminal book is the definitive bestselling book on self-healing.

 

2. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

You might feel like the last person on earth to not have read this book and wondering whether it’s worth all the hype. I don’t know about you, but if something is too popular I am put off it until the fuss dies down. I’m the same with movies and hit singles – I know, weird. This book however is worth the hype. It is gentle, warm, insightful and yet pin-point accurate in outlining how terrifying it can feel to be on earth sometimes. Written before the global pandemic, it’s never felt more resonant, and will help soothe the soul.

3. The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein

In this time of uncertainty, Gabby’s stories and universal lessons provide a framework for releasing the blocks to what everyone most longs for: happiness, security and clear direction.

4. The Comparison Cure: How to be Less ‘Them’ and More You by Lucy Sheridan

With more time on our hands and less actual interaction, it’s not surprising that we are all sliding down that slippery, god-awful slope into the hellhole that is social media comparison. Even those who think they are smart enough not to, who know how ridiculous it all is, are finding ourselves comparing everything they are doing/not doing, eating/not eating, coping/not coping with people they either barely know or don’t know at all on Instagram and Facebook. Lucy is like a friend who takes you by the hand and shows you how to stop being so silly. We all need a friend like Lucy.

5. Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King

In such times it is easy to focus on the negative aspects of life. In Good Vibes Good Life, Vex provides tired-and-true wisdom inspiring you to harness the power of positivity.

6. The Five Effects of Kindness by Dr. David Hamilton

Being kind to one another is more important now than ever. To help persuade us, former chemist David Hamilton shares the scientifically proven health benefits of kindness and how they can transform your life.

7. F**k it: The Ultimate Spiritual Way by John C. Parkin

In this inspiring and humorous book, John suggests that saying F**k It is the perfect Western expression of the Eastern spiritual ideas of letting go, giving up and finding real freedom by realising that things don’t matter so much (if at all).

8. Riders by Jilly Cooper

I know. It’s not a self-help book per-se but oh my, this is exactly what we all need when the world seems to have gone to shit. Pour some wine, demand solitude from the rest of the house, run a bath, lock the door and indulge. What’s it about? Mainly saucy romps in the hay by the horsey set, but so much more…

9. Take a Moment: Activities to Refocus, Re-centre and Relax Wherever You Are with Mind and Michael O’Mara

This isn’t so much a book as a ‘self-care companion’ which encourages you to write down any niggling thoughts that you may be having, breathing exercises, body scans and tips for dealing with anxiety and panic. All proceeds go to the incredible mental health charity Mind.

10. Mindfulness For Mums by Izzy Judd

Being in lockdown adds a whole new dimension to motherhood, especially for those with young children who now don’t have their usual friendly distractions. Izzy has put together a series of activities and exercises to be done alone (when you can) and with the children, to help ease your frazzled mind. Written pre-lockdown, these work just as well now.

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Keep your business dreams alive 

Keep your business dreams alive 

When people are hoarding toilet paper, and you’re stress-snacking on old Christmas nougat (or is that just me?), working on your mindset seems like the least important thing right now, but hear me out. 

When you have your own business, mindset is pretty much the only thing you can control. 

You don’t always know the results from your latest marketing campaign, your customers are often unpredictable, and when something like Corona pops up, what’s a Boss Babe to do? 

Freak out? 

NOPE. 

Ditch your business? 

NOPE.

Your customers are watching closely right now – to see who is being a leader, and who is contributing to the panic. 

Having created a multimillion-dollar business without taking outside investment or working my guts out (while also raising young kids), many women ask me my number-one secret to success. 

The answer: mindset. Continually working on your mindset is honestly the most important – if not the only – thing you have to master. Everything else, you can just Google. 

But when unexpected problems come up (and really, what’s more unexpected than a global pandemic?), you need to lean on your inner strength more than ever. 

Ditch the Imposter Syndrome

Your book might be alllllllmost finished, but you’re paralysed with the feeling that everyone will think you’re a big fat imposter. So instead of finishing it, you’re scrolling Twitter and scaring yourself even more. 

Now is not the time to give in to the fraud feeling – people need you! They need your book, they need your course, they need your leadership. 

Do me a favor: Google ‘famous people with impostor syndrome.’ You’ll see that virtually everyone has it, including incredibly accomplished people, like Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, and Sheryl Sandberg. 

Isn’t it reassuring to know that accomplished and famous women feel the same way you do? 

The way I’ve overcome this particular fear is to forgive myself for not knowing everything, while at the same time, realising that what I do know can help people. 

Being in business is simply sharing your gifts (knowledge and expertise) with others who don’t have them. Your experiences are valuable; your opinions are useful, and someone out there needs what you have. 

By the way – with the toilet paper panic and nappy shortage, if you have a foolproof toddler toilet training system – share it already, would you?! 

Permission to Pivot 

Times of uncertainty might feel like a scary time to try something new, but this could be the perfect opportunity.  

Demand for your services might have dried up with the new social distancing norms – pivot to a new method of serving those clients. 

Professional stylist? Try wardrobe audits with your clients over Skype. Get them to try on all their outfits for you. 

Tarot reader? Now is a perfect time to do your sessions online via phone or Skype. I even had an astrology session over Skype chat – no talking required. 

You can teach, coach, or consult people via ebooks, e-courses, or live calls online. 

What about physical products? If you make specialty bread, cakes, or candles, consider teaching people how to make their own. 

Why would someone teach a DIY version of their products? Give away all their secrets? 

People are often worried about cannibalizing their own clients if they teach what they know, but it usually doesn’t work out that way. They are two different target markets! Some people like to do it themselves, and others (like me) prefer to hire it out. 

Either way, you’re helping people with your expertise, and they’ll remember that when things go back to “normal.” 

Plus, adding a DIY course or book can serve two purposes: it sets up some passive income for you, and it gets you more customers because some wannabe DIYers realise it would be much easier to hire you! 

Think of Your Grandmother 

Not to downplay current events, but our ancestors probably faced some pretty dire circumstances —all without food home delivery, washing machines, and wifi. 

Our grandmothers would be astounded by the world we live in today. 

We can take an idea and, with nothing more than our phones and this magical thing called the internet, be selling something to the whole world by the weekend! 

We can help/coach/teach/counsel someone for an hour online and get paid for it! With a few clicks of a button, we can design something, have it made, and ship it without needing our own factory. 

What if you could go back in time and ask all the women whose lives and sacrifices led you here, ‘What do you want for me?’ I’m sure they’d want you to have independence, the freedom to live your dreams and to be happy. 

Let’s be brave enough to create financial independence, grow a vehicle for your freedom, and give yourself permission to prosper. We’re the ones who can realise the dreams of our mothers and grandmothers. 

You do have the skills, ambition, and ideas to create a successful business – start preparing now and believe in yourself. 

Keep safe out there – and keep your business dreams alive. 

Denise Duffield-Thomas is the author of ChillpreneurThe New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom and Abundance on Your Terms, available on Amazon here: Chillpreneur published by Hay House Publishers

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Your mental health!

Your mental health!

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It’s World Mental Health Day and Dr Tina Peers talks to you both you on how to look after your mental health and what to look out for.

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This woman launched a business in her 40s – and hasn’t looked back

This woman launched a business in her 40s – and hasn’t looked back

They say that those who can, teach. But as far as Deborah Salsbury is concerned, it seems there’s very little she can’t do. Yet if you’d told the former primary school teacher a few years back that she’d be a successful entrepreneur, recognised in three Kent Women In Business Award categories, she would probably have sent you to the back of the class for telling tall tales. 

Yet here she is, taking on the UK education system with her innovative and revolutionary teaching methods. Deborah is now celebrating several franchisees and schools adopting her programme to unlock the potential of struggling readers. So, how did she do it?

“Through my own experience and that of my youngest daughter, I saw the magic in unlocking the dyslexic brain,” says Deborah. “This, combined with 19 years of teaching and general life experience left me feeling empowered to work for myself, where I could make the decisions that would maximise the potential of my pupils – while also dipping my toe into the world of business – which I’d always felt I missed out on a little.

One sunny weekend in Brighton in 2012, Deborah decided to bite the bullet. Over coffee and cake with her husband Richard, she devised a plan to launch a private tuition service using the methods she explored during her time as a primary school teacher, and then a reading recovery teacher. The Reading Doctor was born.

The odds are in your favour

You’re probably thinking it’s a little late to invest in a new business in your 40s when your nest egg is potentially sitting there ready for retirement. You’d be wrong. According to a study by two MIT professors and the US Census Bureau, the average founder of the world’s most successful tech companies is 45 years old. Add to the fact that a 50-year-old entrepreneur is almost twice as likely to start a successful company than a 30 year old, and you’ve a valid reason to kick-start a new career later in life.

“I’d realised that going on to be a headteacher wasn’t the end goal I wanted,” adds Deborah. “In fact, keeping my foot in the door with teaching, so to speak, and not becoming a manager of people has given me such a wealth of experience and confidence, that I now feel I can be the kind of leader who ‘does the doing’ and leads by example. Teaching is my passion and I feel fortunate to use this passion to reignite a love of teaching in others.”

Tips for jumping in

Deborah is now flooded with enquiries on a daily basis from disengaged teachers looking for a lifeline to start their own business and leave a profession that is dangerously underfunded.

They applaud her business model, one that sees a franchisee set up a fully-branded home classroom (pre-lockdown, of course) and welcome in the region’s struggling readers.  

Here, Deborah shares her tips on starting out on your own:

1. Find your passion

I don’t put up with anything that I don’t truly believe in and that helps with authenticity. I do what I do with 100% conviction. I’ve seen too many success stories as a result of The Reading Doctor methods not to wholly believe in it.

2. Surround yourself with the best people

I don’t compromise on quality and surround myself with good people, many of whom are women with their own businesses, in fact.

It has been a fantastic bonding experience for my sister and I as she has been invaluable with her creative input and so much more. My husband has also been a fantastic resource in terms of advice around marketing. It’s been a real family affair.

3. If you don’t know how to do it, find someone who does!


One more thing I’ve learned is to know who to go to when I don’t know how to do something. Having experts around you is an invaluable resource.

I now have six franchisees working with me and we’ve launched The Reading Doctor Hub in four schools. And it doesn’t stop there. I want to reach as many struggling readers as I can. It’s not a bad result for the 1970s dyslexic child hiding behind an orange hessian curtain!

Adapting to lockdown life

 Managing any business during the global pandemic has been tough, but the important thing is always to adapt with the times and deliver what your audience needs.

With schools closing and parents struggling to navigate home schooling with their own new working from home routine, The Reading Doctor identified a way to help.

Deborah and her team worked night and day to build reading packs, then hand-delivered these to the doorsteps of all their pupils. They now conduct all their assessments and lessons via video call and have an army of mini Reading Doctors in their own classrooms at home.

“It’s been a learning curve for us all,” adds Deborah. “I’m so pleased that we have been able to continue and deliver what we set out to do, to help those children in need of support.”

Visit the readingdoctors.com for more on Deborah’s private tuition service, and if you work in education – how to become a franchisee.

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Jo Malone: The female entrepreneurs who inspire us

Jo Malone: The female entrepreneurs who inspire us

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The women who made it in mid-life

The women who made it in mid-life

Forget the top 30s under 30, we take a look at those women who didn’t reach their peak until they hit middle age!

Vera Wang

Getting engaged at 39 made Vera realise that there wasn’t much out there for the older bride, so she set up her very own fashion and bridal label. Prior to this, she’d been a competitive ice skater and a journalist at Vogue, proving that your first job might not be what you succeed at!

What you can learn from Vera: If at first you don’t succeed… try, try again. Vera proves that it’s never too late to start from scratch, even if an industry that you know nothing about!

Susan Boyle

Who can forget ‘that’ audition on Britain’s Got Talent? Susan may have been an overnight success – the You Tube video of her performance reached 2.5 million views in the first 72 hours – but it was a long-time coming. She was 47 when she appeared on the show. She’s gone on to break Guinness World Records and sell 19 million albums worldwide!

What you can learn from Susan: She nearly didn’t appear on Britain’s Got Talent because she thought she was too old, proving you should never let age stand in your way!

Cath Kidston

Prior to founding her self-title company at age 45, Cath Kidston had owned a shop that sold second-hand furniture. Spotting a place in the market for vintage-inspired finds, she opened shops across the UK, as well as Ireland and Japan. In 2010, age 52, she sold Cath Kidston Ltd to investors, making a very nice £25 million, while still serving on the board of directors.

What you can learn from Cath: Use your passions. If you’re passionate about something, you’re more likely to succeed in life.

Olivia Colman

While she had been a fairly recognisable face on British TV, staring in shows such as Green Wing and Broadchurch, she was 44 when she won an Oscar and launched into worldwide fame.

What you can learn from Olivia: In her Oscar winner speech, Olivia thanked her agent “who made me do things I said no to – but she was right” proving that sometimes saying yes is the best answer in life.

Anna Wintour

No fashion show would be complete without the sight of Anna, and her sunglasses, on the front row! However, the Brit who, has been editor of American Vogue for 32 years, didn’t land the esteemed role until she was 39. Prior to that she’d been working on various magazines, including erotic women’s mag, Viva.

What you can learn from Anna: Every job, however small, can be a step to your success. You can learn something from any job – use it and apply it to help secure your success in the future.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

If you’re of a certain age (ahem!) you’ll remember reading the Little House books and settling down to watch those lovely, gentle episodes of Little House On The Prairie. The semi-autobiographical books, which have sold 60 million worldwide, weren’t published by Laura until she was 65!

What you can learn from Laura: You are literally never too old to try something new!

Patricia Field

While she’d had a fairly successful career as a fashion stylist, it wasn’t until Patricia met Sarah Jessica Parker, at age 54, that her career went into the stratosphere. The duo worked together on those iconic outfits for Sex And The City. Since then she’s been nominated for five Emmys, one of which she won.

What you can learn from Patricia: Network, network and network. If Patricia hadn’t met SJP, her career may have been very different!

Kim Cattrall

Kim is another Sex And The City success story! Acting since the ‘70s, the Liverpool-born actress had starred in big films such as Police Academy and Mannequin. Her biggest role though didn’t come until she starred as sex-mad Samantha in Sex And The City, when she was 42, for which she won various accolades include SAG awards and Emmys.

What you can learn from Kim: Don’t stop believing! Kim proves that even in your forties, you’ve got a whole career and life-time ahead of you!


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