How Starting My Business Freed Me

My story is probably a lot like many other Mums’.

I was married rather young (or at least young for today’s standards) and found myself at the age of 24 with 2 young kids and 20 years of parenting to look forward to.

I’ll happily admit right now that I wasn’t phased at all. At that point in my life I felt like I was grown up, I was completely convinced that I’d found my calling in life as a Mother and a Wife, and that I would be happily occupied for the rest of my life helping these two amazing creatures grow into themselves.

I’m sure there are many young feminists reading this who are finding it difficult to not snort themselves into a feint right now, but it’s important to remember that over three decades ago the world was a rather different place and that the values and expectations that were put on women were rather different. I’d grown up in the 60s and had been the product of a happy marriage, the kind that many young forward thinking women of today might find completely repulsive.

My Father worked in a door factory for the entirety of his life: long days, nights, weekends. He devoted his life to crafting fine walnut doors, working tirelessly for the betterment of our family and, as a result, my Mother worked even harder to make sure that he got all the rest, food and love that he needed. She baked, cleaned and swept us out of the house when he needed to rest – in short, she performed her wifely duties to the tee.

Unfortunately, she was rewarded for this by being widowed at the age of 53. Regardless of this, my childhood was well and truly idyllic, intimating that all I needed to do was find the right man to settle down with and I would be able to live a rich and fulfilling life.

6 years into raising my family I discovered that my husband had been having an affair whilst I was looking after our children. To say that my world was rocked would be an understatement. We divorced a few months later and suddenly my outlook on the world looked slightly different. At the age of 30 I was newly single, unemployed and staring down the barrel of 14 years of childcare with no get out plan.

Luckily, I discovered yoga at this point in my life, as well as a career path that would give me enough money to raise my kids and give me lasting fulfilment for the rest of my life. I’d been dragged to a networking event in Birmingham by one of my ‘best friends’ who had thought that we’d be able to meet some affluent single men (I’m sure those young feminists would have a field day with her) and there I got talking to a woman about starting a business that I could work around my schedule. All I needed, she said, was the right attitude and a commitment to well being.

She was right, but of course I also needed more than just that. In order to successfully set my business up I had to learn how business worked. In addition to gaining a handful of marketing qualifications, I also started working with a graphic design company to create a series of custom vinyl decals that I could use to brand my car, as well as merchandise which I sell to my students.

5 years later I was spearheading a yoga-based revolution that would go on to keep my kids fed and make me find a new purpose in life.

Instagram Nearly Bankrupted Me

Do you ever feel that your life isn’t ‘lux’ enough?

The effect that social media has on our psyches is yet to be fully explored and that’s partially because the experience is so fantastically insular.

I am a recovering social media addict and, although all of the services that I was an active user of were free, I very nearly ended up bankrupting myself in the quest to create a home that matched up to my unrealistic expectations.

To truly claim the title of ‘addict’ it’s important to outline the kind of effect that this technology had on me, which is difficult to do, because as much as it’s tempting to simply blame the networks, and the brands, and the influencers, and the algorithms; if it weren’t for my own weaknesses and insecurities I would never have buried myself in such a terrible hole.

Although my slide from casual scroller to full time phone abuser was gradual, when I reached my peak I was on my phone for over 8 hours a day. It started innocuously enough. I got a Facebook account in 2007 and soon I found that I’d been put in contact with all of my friends from high school. It had been years since I’d seen many of these people and it seemed that a cultural gulf had opened up between us and them.

At this point in my life I was living with my husband and daughter. I’d had to give up my career in order to have her and, as a result, we’d seen a serious drop in our household income. We weren’t surprised by this, but the financial sacrifice meant that we were forced to downsize our home and get used to a more humble way of life.

On Facebook I was constantly confronted by the successes of other people, whether it was a promotion in a new job, moving into a new home or a new car. As I slipped into abusing social media even more, I soon grew jealous of the lives of other people. Instagram offered an even more exaggerated perspective on the world and made me feel even more hopelessly inadequate. How was it possible that so many people could have so much, and I could have so little?

Before I knew it I was making purchases that I couldn’t afford and planning out new posts that would show all the world how I wasn’t as miserably poor and destitute I actually was. It started with just a few humble purchases, some makeup to treat myself, a new toy for my daughter because she had been good, soon though I was making grander plans with even grander price tags. Our little home didn’t feel like the home that I deserved, so I started improving it.

My husband only started noticing my problem when a set of modern internal doors were delivered to the house. They cost around £1200 in total – money that we didn’t have, because I’d spent so much of it on useless status symbols that we simply had no need for. That was the point when I was told that I had a problem, I was just sorry that it had turned into a problem for the whole family…

The Five Albums That Saved My Life

For many people listening to music is a passive activity.

I don’t intend to come across as a snob here, but I’ve been accused of snobbery before so it wouldn’t be the first time!

There’s a marked difference between being a ‘music lover’ and simply ‘someone who listens to music’. If you’re unsure about which faction you belong to then I’ll elucidate this for you. If you’re someone who sticks on Smooth Radio on your drive to work and happily sings along to every tune that comes on, then you are someone who listens to music. If you’re someone who listens to Smooth Radio on your drive to work and spends the rest of their day puzzling over the complex rhythmical context of The Four Season’s ‘December ’63‘ then you can count yourself as a music lover.

Although music is undoubtedly one of the most widely spread art forms in the world, punters are less prone to analysing and deconstructing it than they are film or even video games. This is because the purpose of mainstream music is (and has been for most of modern history) to simply provide a toe-tapping rhythm, or memorable line for the average Joe to sing along to. ‘Pop music’ has long been written for the sole purpose of making money and, as such, much of its content (whether lyrical or musical) tends to lean towards simple analogies and ‘club ready’ beats. I didn’t always have these opinions, in fact most of the philosophical opinions that I hold on music were formed over one fateful year when I was completely bed-ridden and hopelessly bored.

I was 17-years-old when I broke my femur. I was skateboarding with my friends and (rather foolishly) attempted to perform a 360º kickflip from a 30-foot half pipe. The break was a bad one and I found myself in a cast for an entire year, the time estimated by the doctors for my bones to heal. This was a time before on-demand television and also before smart phones. Luckily for me it was not a time before CD Walkmen. I was given an allowance of one new CD a week by my parents and thus began a year of music discovery that would take me further than I’d ever expected.

Although I listened to an excess of 150 records that year (my parents’ and friends’ CD collections were also fair game), I only return to a handful of them each year. These are the five records that saved my life:

Nirvana’s In Utero (1993)

It will comes as little surprise that, as a teenager in the 90s, I was a Nirvana fan, however I’d never truly paid attention to Cobain’s lyrics before I suffered my accident.

With nothing to do but listen to this record on the week of its release and pore over the sleeve notes I felt that I got a much deeper understanding for the man during this time.

Radiohead’s The Bends (1995)

I was never a big fan of Britpop during this time, but Radiohead offered something a little different at the time.

I was certainly prone to bouts of depression at the time and Radiohead’s breakthrough record was undoubtedly an album that spoke to the depressive in me.

Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (1973)

My Dad dropped this one on my bedside table one day and I’ve always been grateful for him doing so. I’d never thought music that was so old could sound so modern, or so captivating.

I spent weeks going back to Tubular Bells, to the point where I now associate the iconic music with a fervent itchiness in my groin.

Richard & Linda Thompson’s I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

Another one from my Dad’s collection and one that I still return to today, this record taught me that ‘folk’ music didn’t have to be all about fiddles and accordions.

The depth and range of this record still surprises me. The duo’s singing is sublime and Thompson’s guitar work remains some of my favourite ever recorded.

Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (1986)

Amongst all of the doom and gloom, this was the album to lift my spirits when I was having a particularly rough day. I might not agree with some of the messages in this music today, but it still brings a smile to face.

Foods To Calm The Senses

We live in a stressful world.

Research by insurance company, AXA, has found that as many as 4 in 5 British people could be suffering serious burnout as a result of workplace stress thanks to the increasing pressures of an always-on culture.

From the 4,000 respondents to the survey, 59% admitted that taking calls outside of office hours and checking their emails at home often led to them feeling more stressed. When Brits weren’t worrying about keeping up with work they were stressing out over their weight (68%) and paying their household bills (60%).

When it comes to dealing with this stress Britons have a variety of go-to methods. Whilst a third of the respondents said that exercise helped them shake off their worries, a worrying 28% admitted to hitting the sauce in order to wind down, whereas 11% smoked cigarettes to relax. It’s hardly surprising that we lean on our worst vices when it comes to relieving stress, but it is possible to shed your work blues whilst keeping healthy.

We’ve done a little survey of our own amongst our healthy friends and colleagues to see what good foods they eat to relieve their stress. Take a look and see if you’d be able to cook up one of these dishes, instead of sinking into the sofa with half a bottle of wine:

Salmon Stir-Fry

Tammy from YogaMates let us in on her favourite relaxing dish: “As I’m pretty much doing yoga all the time, it isn’t often that I get stressed out but, just like everyone else, I have the occasional day when life just gets on top of me and no amount of stretches can get me calmed down.”

“In these cases I reach for one of my comfort foods, which just so happens to be packed full of the kind of nutrients that are brilliant at pulling me out of my funk and back into my happy place.”

Bag of Nuts

“It sounds silly, but sometimes its the simplest things that can free you of your stress”, says Marko, owner of Naturalates. “Whenever work’s getting me down I reach for a large bag of unsalted nuts and chow down.”

“As long as you’re not indulging in the Honey Roasted or Salted varieties there’s is absolutely nothing wrong with blasting through a couple of  handfuls of nuts to relieve stress, especially when you consider that they’re packed full of selenium which has been cited as a great mood lifter.”

Baked Banana with Dark Chocolate

“I know this sounds indulgent, but please bear with me it is almost definitely good for you.”

Rachel is a fashion blogger and free-lance content writer and says: “There’s something to lovely and warming about a baked banana that it simply melts away any stress that I’m holding onto. Now, this is obviously not something that you can be eating every night, but as an occasional treat there’s really nothing better. I drop a few cubes of rich dark chocolate in with the banana to add an extra layer of sweetness, not to mention a good dose of antioxidants too.”