A NEW PROJECT – OFF YOUR CHEST

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Hi guys!

Long time no see, I know, but that’s because I’ve been working on something new!

Off Your Chest is a blog that aims to build a community through interesting discussions, reflections, and advice on mental health/managing mental illness. You can read more about it here.

We want you guys to contribute anything and everything that might be useful to others/interesting to the community, so please don’t be shy about that – more info is on the site and anonymous posts are absolutely fine!

I’m really happy with how it’s going so far, and would love for you guys to be involved. Follow the new page to stay updated, and share it with anyone that it could help!

Love to you all!

Fred x

MANAGING ANXIETY – SOME ADVICE

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As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting much in recent weeks, but there’s more to this brief hiatus than a simple explanation of idle laziness. It all started with the news that I would be starting a new job in the second week of January, the details of which I will spare you, but the significance of this opportunity is great; it’s something that I have wanted to achieve for a long, long time, and felt sure that I wasn’t going to let anxiety creep up and ruin anything before I’d even had time to enjoy it. I have, therefore, busied myself with strengthening my mental steel, and have discovered a few tips that may be of use to you. Without further ado, here they are:

FORM A ROUTINE, AND STICK BY IT!

Routines are something that I usually dread, but I’ve grown especially fond of them. The premise of laying out a particular set of activities may seem boring and useless at a superficial glance, but I think this has impacted my mental health in a rather extreme way, and I would seriously urge you to try it before mocking its worth.

A good routine is one that is personal to you, and this is where I messed up at first; trust me, it’s no use finding a template from the internet and deciding that you’ll do that, because you will have different preferences to the person that created it, and all that you’re doing is making it harder for you to stick to. I, for example, don’t feel like whole day routines benefit me in any way, as I do an eclectic mixture of things and to try and schedule them all would be absolute chaos, so I have a ‘Split Routine’, which includes the early morning and the late evening. For the sake of a demonstration, here is mine:

  • 5.30 AM – WAKE UP, SHOWER, GET DRESSED, GLASS OF WATER
  • 5.50 AM – MEDITATE
  • 6.20 AM – BREAKFAST AND PR READING
  • 7.20 AM – WRITE
  • 8.30 AM – HAVE A PRODUCTIVE DAY

Which then leads to my evening routine:

  • 8.00 PM – GLASS OF WATER, MEDITATE
  • 8.30 PM – BATH OR SHOWER
  • 9.00 PM – DIARY ENTRY AND LEISURE READING
  • 10.00 PM – SLEEP

Now, obviously, this is extremely tailored to me: I like early rises, you may not; I read books about PR & Marketing with breakfast, as that’s relevant to my work; I go to bed relatively early as I find that’s what suits me… The whole point is that you make something that ensures you do something that’s valuable, enjoyable, and calming, and hopefully, you will reap the same reward that I have. With my routine there to ground my day, I find myself not worrying about what I have to do or when I have to do it, and it also ensures that I’ve done something productive with my time. It isn’t a particularly strict schedule, as I feel that would make me more anxious rather than alleviate anything, but it anchors my mornings and evenings perfectly. 

GET A LITTLE HEADSPACE!

If I say meditation to you, you’ll probably think of sitting crossed legged on the floor, choking on the thick clouds of incense, and singing some strange chants that are meant to awaken some long forgotten part of you that may or may not even exist. I don’t blame you; having a father that is rather spiritually inclined, and having watched him do the above ritual since I was a small child, I had the same thoughts, but I’m glad I’ve been proven wrong.

Here is where I introduce you all to Headspace, an app that provides guided meditation (based on secular teachings and scientifically proven results), and I now wouldn’t dream of starting my day with anything else. Taking as little as ten minutes out of your day to stop and process your thoughts can dramatically change your relationship to anxiety, and enable you to retain some clarity of thought when you need it most. It has worked wonders, and teaches you an awful lot about how your mind works. If there’s anything from this list that I think you should try, it would have to be this.

DAILY DIARY!

The daily diary is really quite a fun thing to do, and allows you to express your emotions and thoughts about the past 24 hours, thus freeing up a little of your mind to relax. I write every evening in a little notebook, in pencil for some reason, and simply write a chronological entry of my day, including any further thoughts I may have, or an emotion I’ve felt. 

This makes me feel that I have gone some way to processing my thoughts and emotions, and allows a little reflection, thus becoming a preventative measure that stops these things building up and clouding your thoughts/actions. 

READ/WATCH/LEARN!

I know some people don’t enjoy reading, but I suppose this works with anything that you can lose yourself in (film, music, art, etc). Just set a little time out of your day to read or watch something that you can immerse yourself in; this process can be so relieving, and often you’ll find yourself relating to a character, or an experience, and realising that there are other people out there that think in similar ways. That is always comforting.

On another note, watching a TedTalk (or similar thing) or reading an essay on something you find interesting is another thing that I’d recommend. Learning new things/expanding what you know makes you feel like you’ve achieved something with your day, and I don’t know why, or if it will work for anyone else, but it seems to make me less anxious if I have these things as reliable and interesting conversation pieces. If you’re always learning, you’re always going to be in the possession of some interesting anecdotes or facts. 

TRY AND EXPLORE A HOBBY AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK!

This one is simple, but can be easily ignored if you’re stuck in a busy schedule. If you love photography, go out and take some photos. If you like writing, sit down and write. If you like knitting jumpers, cooking excited food, or flying around a racecourse at 200mph, then make sure you bloody well do it. It’s so easy to be caught up in worry or anxious thoughts and forget to please yourself, so try get some time to yourself!

REGULAR EXERCISE, CLEAN DIET

I will hold my hands up right now and say that of late, this hasn’t been me, but that doesn’t change the fact that both of these things are absolutely vital to a stable mental health. Regular exercise not only makes you feel better and more confident in yourself, but it releases endorphins to chemically buzz you up. Eating well is much the same – if you know you’re looking and feeling your best, it perks you up on an every day basis. Writing this, I’ve just woken up on the morning after a poker night with my friends, and really wish I’d taken this point more seriously.

COUNT TO FIVE AND DO IT

This may not be relevant, as it probably depends on how severe your anxiety is and how you approach different situations, but this is becoming a useful thought to have in moments where you feel anxiety coming on. Approaching something that I know I want to do, but feel anxious about, I’ve gotten quite good at powering on through it and having a good time: three deep breaths, count to five, and fucking do it. Whatever it is. Because you know you can.

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I really hope that there’s something here that you might find useful, and if you feel you’ve got something worth sharing please comment it below! I have started to write some poetry again, so that will be uploaded soon. 

Merry Christmas!

Fred xo

DISTRICT LIFESTYLE – AN INTERVIEW

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Last week, I met up with Alexander Dobb and Joe Winstanley, two young creatives that have just launched ‘District’, a clothing company with an unusual focus on the community that it’s born from. They have a passion for quality, a steely determination to spread the word that taking pride in the environment can be as stylish as it is sustainable, and want to help you discover a natural space that you can call your own. We talked about the ethos of the brand, the inspirations behind it, and what lies in store for the future…

Joe Winstanley, 2017

Joe Winstanley, taken above the village of Stoney Middleton, in the Peak District.

Alexander Dobb

Alexander Dobb, taken in Sheffield.

Right, so first off, I think you should introduce yourselves…

J – Well, I’ll start then: I’m Joe Winstanley, and I’m 20 years old, and live in the village of Hathersage.

A – I’m Alexander Dobb, I’m 21 years old, and I live in Matlock.

So how did District come into this world? Tell me a little bit about the process that led up to the unveiling.

 J – So, we both left to attend university, which meant moving to city life for the first time in 20 years, which we settled into but always had this feeling that it wasn’t what we expected. That quickly turned to the realisation that we were both yearning to be back in the Peak District, and at the same time I was messing around trying to make a t-shirt company but had no real niche or direction for it. I came home for a bit, and then it instantly hit me that I could draw inspiration from the landscape, and I put a tweet out, as a joke, asking if anyone wanted to invest in a business. Alex replied, and I sent him a few mock-ups of the topography, and we started to refine it into the business, as that’s something I’d say is Alex’s strength.

That leads nicely into my next question, actually. How is the workload split between you guys? Are designs done by one, and the business by the other, or is it more of a joint effort?

 J – Well, I guess the District designs were halfway to being there in my mind, they just hadn’t gone through that process of refinery.

A – Yeah, you started the whole idea and set the direction, and then I became really interested because I saw it as an opportunity to get involved in something that reflected how I felt about the Peak District. From there, that’s when we started developing things, so we have sort of collaborative conversations where we use inspiration boards, and just bounce ideas off each other and speak about what is actually good and bad about one process or another. So in a way it’s all a joint effort, where we play to each of our strengths.

J – Each component is a 70/30 split really; design leans more into my skillset, and I do a lot of the website, whilst the running of the business, marketing and managing the social aspect is all more Alex, but we always vocalise our opinions and remain extremely honest and open about everything.

Stanage T-Shirt

One of District’s ‘Stanage’ collection t-shirts

What would you say is the defining ethos of the District? What’s the message that you want to put out there.

 J – The defining ethos is simply: Find your own space, and do what you love.

A – It’s all about showing off that what people do and how they act in the Peak District, is relevant anywhere in the world. Appreciate your local area, and demonstrate that pride with your actions.

"Find your own space, and do what you love."

“Find your own space, and do what you love.”

On that note, what are we to expect from the future? Are you particularly excited about anything to come?

 A – Getting a funny looking van so we can reach remote photo opportunities without breaking my car is a dream, but to be honest I’m just excited about making clothes based on what we would like to wear, and seeing other people share that vision.

J – Yeah, I suppose I’d add to that with getting excited about putting the Peak District out there as somewhere that isn’t a stagnating place of natural beauty, but an area that’s brimming with creativity and energy that I think a lot of people don’t know about.

A – The creativity that’s here is actually crazy, and to be a part of that, and pull together some of that ability to actually create is something we’re both eager to strive towards.

District Logo

District want to show the creative side to the Peak District

Have there been any unexpected challenges so far?

 J & A – (laughing)

A – Loads; packaging, design, in fact pretty much everything. You send something away knowing it looks amazing on screen, then get it back and suddenly its awful. So many times we both look at each and just can’t believe we didn’t spot that mistake, or this mistake, but that’s just how it is.

J – To some extent though, it’s a positive process. We learn so much from the things that go wrong, or don’t live up to our expectations.

A – That’s what it’s about! Another huge one is that we both need to get to know exactly how physical designs and ideas will transfer to textiles, and if it will meet our expectations, but we’re getting so, so much better at that every time we look at creating new products. It’s just about removing the guesswork, and relying on intuition.

We learn so much from the things that go wrong, or don’t live up to our expectations.

“We learn so much from the things that go wrong, or don’t live up to our expectations.”

It’s all a learning curve! Have you found the response so far to be surpassing all expectations, or did you predict the people’s positivity toward the brand?

 J – It’s been absolutely amazing; honestly amazing. We’re basing it on local pride, so obviously, we knew that most people, even if they didn’t like everything about us, would respect that message as something they believe in, but it’s just been overwhelming as far as support goes.

A – I just want to take this opportunity to thank those people that have actually taken the time to visit our website, buy a piece from our collection, and help spread the word, because that’s what is driving District forward, and without that we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. The fact that people have invested their time, energy, and money in us is incredible.

J – I think people realise that we’re not just a t-shirt company. We love the community, and that’s our focus, and the clothes and products we sell are really a bi-product of what we stand for.

Who or what have you turned to for inspiration for District?

 A – It has to be, for me anyway, between a company like Patagonia, and a company like Olive. That hybrid of appreciating the landscape, whilst retaining the fashionable aspect; rugged, durable, but still something you’d love to wear. We want motives from the outdoors to create the fashion.

J – We mostly go on what we would wear ourselves. If we don’t wear it, we don’t make it, and that’s an achievement in itself. It’s a company for us that other people recognise that personal aspect in and want to be involved in.

A – As well as that, someone who resonates a lot with me is somebody called David Hiut, who runs Hiut Denim; his company is so tight, community based, and shares the reason behind why I want to get into business. He wants to help people, so do I; if we wanted just a way to get rich quick, we wouldn’t be making a clothing brand.

Stange T-Shirt

“We mostly go on what we would wear ourselves.”

So, do you see District’s future as community based?

 J – Absolutely, I can see us helping out community groups, running events, and trying to return some of that love and passion back to those that have helped us.

A – The processes right now are done in Sheffield and elsewhere in England, but we want to get to a point where we can pull everything back to the Peak District and Sheffield. There’s this tiny chance we have of becoming a big business, and if that happens we want to begin by ensuring that all the jobs we can give people are in this area, and that we can sponsor events; because it’s a lifestyle brand, it doesn’t limit us to who we can and can’t help.

J – It’s the people that are driving production at the moment anyway. We’ll drum up a conversation with someone, and they’ll turn around and go: “When are you doing Curbar?” or “When are you doing Ladybower?” and you quickly realise that everything we do is community based anyway. Without their love of the places we focus on, we wouldn’t be able to exist.

District photograph the famous Winnat's Pass

District photograph the famous Winnat’s Pass

It’s good to see something so based on people and not money, it’s unusual in this day and age. Finally, I just wanted to see how you’re both finding the actual work itself, if it’s harder than you thought it would be, or easier?

 A – It’s definitely not easy. But that challenge is what’s getting us up in the morning, and also because it’s our own ideas and we’re in control, it’s hard work that we actually enjoy doing.

J – It’s pleasantly uncomfortable. Almost some liminal state that inspires our creativity – in between complete comfort and the unknown, so it’s a strange and wonderful position.

Fantastic; it’s been a pleasure to speak to you both, and I’m sure we’ll all be keeping an eye on what District are doing in the coming months. Merry Christmas.

 A – Thanks for having us!

J – Yeah, it’s been awesome. I hope you get one of our t-shirts under the tree.

CNV00016

 Be sure to check out District’s website and their Instagram.

 

 

 

NEARING THE END, A REFLECTION ON 2017

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2017 has been the most tumultuous year of my existence, and has marched forward with such a pace that I’ve had to force myself to reflect upon these rushing days, and how they have fluctuated so wildly between the macabre and the wonderful.

The year began with a slither of hope; having left university due to various circumstances, I was ready to embrace January for its metaphorical clean slate, and set about trying to organise my life. After a rather chance conversation with my best friend, I suddenly found myself booking all of September off to travel around Europe, which, if I’m being honest, flooded my veins with an unshakeable feeling of dread and fear. I was concerned that I would be unable to get through it without the shadow of my anxiety swallowing me whole, and the image of me experiencing that panicky, illogical mindset somewhere in the middle of Prague wasn’t going a long way in regards to calming me down.

With that in the pipeline, I thought it best to revert from my usual reaction to such worries, and fought against the urge to shut myself up in my room, eat unhealthily, and refrain from human interaction as much as possible. I went out for daily walks with my camera, met up with friends as often as I could, and went on a beautiful trip to Pisa with my girlfriend. The latter was actually an event more significant than I originally thought; I had planned and actually enjoyed a trip abroad without any major incident, and besides from one little episode prior to the flight over there, it showed me that my month long trip would be nothing to worry about, and I let positivity control my brain for once. Upon our return, I worked part-time, and found that to be great too – I was interacting with strangers all day, and enjoying it, and I suddenly found myself free from my burdens.

However, I was pulled back down to reality rather quickly when we realised my grandmother was dying. I know a lot of my friends aren’t that close with their grandparents, yet Grandma was, ultimately, my best friend. Throughout my childhood, I had spent 5-6 days a week at her house, talking extensively about pretty much anything we could, and forming my life-long love affairs with cooking, literature, music, and cinema. She was an outrageously funny, incredibly fashionable, independent lady with a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge, and I am blessed to have even known her let alone be related, but that made it all much harder at the end. Watching such an energetic individual slip into their illness, unaware of anything around them, and ultimately become dreadfully frustrated with a life they can no longer enjoy, was possibly the most traumatising thing I have ever witnessed. I think a small portion of myself died with her that day.

The aftermath of the funeral was not great. By my own admission, I am pretty terrible at facing such things, yet I think I was more concerned with my mother to think too much about anything else; in a way, I count myself lucky that I was with Grandma in her final weeks, right up to the very end, as it enabled me to mourn in a gradual wave, rather than experience what others in the family had to. I just felt that everything was becoming a little bit too much, and that I had to get away.

Luckily, Europe was closing in. Before I knew it, Jacob and I were boarding our train for Paris and the journey had begun. I don’t know why, and perhaps I never will, but I did not experience one iota of anxiety throughout the entire trip (which you can see the photos from on my travel page – here). I think it was the relief of being somewhere so excitingly new that left me no time to dwell on anything from home, other than my girlfriend, but she was beginning her own adventure at university. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable month of my life, and I think I’ll be able to dwell on the inspiration for my writing for many years to come. More importantly, by the end of it, I was so glad to see Derbyshire, and be back in familiar territory that no longer felt like it was suffocating me. 

On the day I arrived home, however, my dog passed away. It was weird to leave a trip and return from it surrounded by elements of death, but Truffle was extremely old and frail and had given us so much love throughout the years that it felt strangely right she had gone; dare I say it, I was weirdly relieved. The next few weeks were spent writing and roaming around, visiting my girlfriend in York and reading good books on slow trains, and then I had one fateful weekend that has twisted the road of my future once more.

After attending an interview for what I thought was a two-week volunteering position, I accidentally left the room with an internship and, looking forward, the prospect of a full time job in something that enables me to work with the terminally ill, conduct creative writing groups, and work within PR and marketing. This should all start in January, and because of all that has happened this year, I don’t think my anxiety is going to fuck this one up. I am much stronger, happier, and healthier than I was this time last year, and I can’t thank the people around me enough. 

Let me know in the comments how your year has been – what were the ups and downs, what affect do you think it has had on you?

Anyway, here’s to another metaphorical clean slate, may it forever be chalked with positivity. 

Fred x

 

AN APOLOGY

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I’m writing this to apologise for being so absent in recent days; my life has been rather busy and I haven’t had time to stop, take a breath, and write for too long.

I have been for an interview for a new job, preparing for my driving test (which I failed yesterday) and attempting to wrap my head around various marketing and PR books in preparation; I’ve also been trying to see my girlfriend as much as possible whilst she’s back for reading week before going back to university. I hope you guys have been keeping well; I’ll be writing on here soon!

Happy writing!

Fred x

FINDING MY DNA – 26/10/17

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I am, by most definitions, the epitome of a mongrel. On my paternal side, I stem from Russian and Australian blood, and can trace some of my ancestry back for vast generations, yet my maternal side remains a mystery. My mother was adopted as a baby, and to make matters more confusing, her birth mother was also adopted, and thus to trace such things has proved to be rather difficult. I do, however, know that the people I knew and loved as my grandparents share some of the same blood as my mother’s birth family; both stem from European Jewish communities.

Now, I have no interest in meeting my “real” relatives, as they are not the people that have made vast sacrifices and loved me unconditionally throughout my life, and thus will never rival the connection I have with my family. I do, however, possess an insatiable intrigue to discover more about my identity; I want to know more about the history swirling in my veins, and I have no idea what to discover. All that we are aware of, on my mother’s side, is that her birth father was an upmarket individual who was married, and had an affair with her birth mother. She has met the latter, who I understand has passed away now, yet I never had the opportunity, and remain unsure of what my answer would have been should I have had the choice.

What I do know is that I want some more information regarding my ancestry, and have therefore ordered a DNA kit; the results should be with me in about 8-10 weeks, and I will, of course, divulge my results. I am excited, and weirdly a little nervous (for someone who is extremely proud of various parts of my heritage, it would be a little strange if it was revealed to be false), but for now, all I can do is wait.

Fred x

POETRY COLLECTION – 20/10/17

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I like writing blogs because it means I feel like I’ve written something useful, even though I’m 90% sure that isn’t true. Anyway, today I have started work on a rather exciting project that I’ve wanted to get done for a while; I’m writing my first collection of poetry.

The collection is intended to be a journey through loss, and I have called it, for now at least, “Laying down the bones”. Poetry can be an extremely therapeutic and cathartic release, and a lot of these poems will deal with various elements in my life that I find particularly hard to reflect upon/discuss, yet I am determined to stray away from the purely personal. I am aware that sounds slightly contradictory, so let me clarify; I want them to have a universal relevance, not just for me, so they’re taking a whole lot longer to write than usual. 

As I am intending on hopefully getting these published, in some respect at least, I won’t be putting them on here, but I am determined to keep you guys updated and I will be writing some poems specifically for the blog.

If you guys are working on anything interesting at the moment, tell me about it in the comments section below!

Happy Writing!

Fred x

LINK TO MY WRITING

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS (IN OCTOBER)

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After my return from travelling, I had a long mental list of things I needed to change or do in order to get my life on track and achieve my aim of living beyond the age of 25; like most things, these are simply small adjustments to routines rather than monumental changes, as I find it much easier to adapt to a new way of life if it’s not too obvious how much I’m changing.

Firstly, I need to be healthier. I enjoyed the European lifestyle of wine, abundant food, and cigarettes, but my body didn’t, and thus I have pledged to eat healthier meals, run/exercise daily, and stop smoking. It’s actually quite encouraging writing this all down as it means I have the added pressure of keeping promises to you guys as well as myself, so thank you for being there to judge me. I threw my cigarettes out two days ago and currently don’t feel like throwing myself through a wall, so that’s a positive.

Secondly, I need to write more. After trawling through a few sites, I found out that I could write news articles and get some form of monetary compensation for them, so I now have a profile at Blasting News, which you can go to here. It would mean the world to me if you went and read a few of my pieces; I’ve written one about Saudi Arabia and women’s rights that I’m quite happy with, so check that out.

In addition to that, I have this blog for poetry, short prose, and travel posts, which I hope to continue to update on a daily basis, and my novel, which I’ve started to fully work on in recent days. Planning it has been quite fun and I’ve stumbled upon a way to make the plot so much more amusing than before; I don’t want it to stray too far into humour but I want to keep a balance of comedic action/depressing event; I’ve never particularly tried to be “funny” in serious work before, so I’ll have to see how that goes… I need to conduct a fair bit of research too, so I’ve had to send off a few emails and talk to a few people in order to set up a line of communication; I really hope this goes as well as I want it to, but I can only try my best, wait, and see.

I’d also love to get involved in some small scale poetry/fiction publications, so I have a few magazines I’m planning to try and get into, as well as a couple of online ones that have caught my eye. If you know of any good sites/great places to submit to (physical and digital) I would love for you to leave such information in the comment box below.

Anyway, I’m going to go and write an article about supermarkets wasting food instead of seizing the opportunity to help the homeless. I’m enjoying these little journalistic pieces; it’s a free pass to be as cynical and grumpy as I want (which might help with the lack of smoking). 

I’m working on something cool for here too, but that’s gunna take me a little while. I’ll upload some poetry soon.

Happy Writing;

Fred x

MY OTHER WRITING – HERE