THE J.O.B

There’s a lot to be said for the impact a 9-5 can have on your mental health.

In this instance, although not always the case, I’ll be talking about the positives.

Allow me to digress.

Mindfulness burst onto the scene a couple of years ago. Everyone bulk bought mandala colouring books, invested in meditation guides and began to slow down the pace as the world was just starting to speed up. It was a popular movement with busy millennials, struggling to switch off, and rightly so. I still practise it on the daily, so I don’t disagree with the fact we could all do with taking a break, practising our breathing and finding more time to come offline, but I’m also a firm believer that a stimulating job with a steady income can also provide you with peace of mind like no other. Believe it or not, doing more can actually be good for us.

I know this isn’t the same for everyone and it might be an unpopular assertion with many who are hovering around a similar age bracket to me (the 25-34s) but hear me out.

Twice since university, I have found myself unemployed. Twice in my life my mental health has suffered.

You guessed it. The times I’ve felt my most anxious or depressed is when I’ve had no job to turn up to. No work colleagues. No steady income. No direction. No vision of the future. My self-esteem suffered, meaning my confidence took a knock, which meant I didn’t want to go out, which meant I didn’t see my friends, which led to me feeling incredibly low, alone and isolated. Not to mention confused, lost and a little out of focus.

For me (and I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, with some finding work a real struggle and at times impossible) having something to do each day keeps me sane. I might not have loved every job I’ve had, and it’s easy to say now I am head over heels for the one I have, but even when I didn’t love my 9-5, it still forced me up and out each day, provided me with the cash flow to allow me to do the things I love and provided the boost to my self-esteem I so quickly lost when sat in my pyjamas, applying for jobs, hiding from the world. A job takes the attention away from you and your own thoughts and having to get up, get dressed, smile and function can be the difference between a poorly mind and a sound one.

Of course, there are times where the job is the problem. You can have a boss who’s a bit of a shit and you might not click with your coworkers. The tasks themselves might be too much to handle and the pressure can be all consuming, but if you feel as though your mental health is suffering, try not to jump straight to slowing down the pace without closing your ears off from all the mindfulness chat to consider whether it could, in fact, be the opposite. You might find you have too much time on your hands, which can be just as damaging as having too little.

Whether it’s freelance work, a classic 9-5 set up, or something with an entirely different work pattern, spend time finding a job that works for you because I’m fairly certain it can be the key to keeping you and your brain cells on the straight and narrow.

Just some food for thought.

THE CASH FLOW

It seems like only yesterday we were all on a level playing field.

Only really able to afford H&M, Primark and bits from the ASOS sale. We’d drink to get drunk before heading out and we’d have a similar amount of pennies in our purses.

In the last couple of years, however, although we’ve all definitely moved on from bargain bins and can each afford at least one drink in a real life bar on a Friday night, things have changed. We’ve taken different career paths, life has thrown some of us all the luck in the world, and others, a good few curve balls. We’ve travelled, we’ve temped, we’ve climbed ladders. We’ve joined wallets with boys. We’ve changed direction. The result of all the twists and turns of our twenties has meant we now don’t all have the same amount in our pockets as before. It’s all gone a bit sort of ‘The One With Five Steaks And An Eggplant‘ episode in Friends. At times it can be frustrating, at others it can be awkward.

Luckily, my friends and I aren’t stupid. We acknowledge that our salaries range from modest to hefty. We cater for somewhere in the middle and we shop, eat and drink within our means. We lend each other cash if we need to and celebrate when the money comes a flowing. Finances are rarely a big deal, but the divide is there, and I’ve a horrible feeling it’s only going to become more obvious as time goes on. I know nobody’s talking about it, but with destination weddings in abundance, babies popping up left, right and centre, and many buying houses in the city, I can’t be the only 28 year old wondering where all the money came from, can I? And if I am, perhaps I should’ve started to think about my finances a little sooner than now.

In truth, money has never meant a great deal to me. In fact, I’ve never really given it more than thirty seconds of thought, if I’m honest. Probably because I’ve never really had it. I didn’t place any importance on it and have always spent every penny of what I’ve earned, which has been fun, but not a particularly sensible decision.

I won’t go into detail about what I’ve learnt about money in the last few months right now, because I’ve written a little something for The Coven about how I’m feeling about the current cash flow situation, but I thought it might be helpful for those of you who are also feeling this way right now, to know you’re not alone. To know that there are still some of us who can’t afford that popular designer handbag, the fancy car or a house in London. And that’s okay. As long as you’re keeping enough aside for a rainy day.

Turns out, by simply saving a little each month, cutting back on take out coffee and not buying that pair of boots you think you can’t live without can make all the difference when it comes to the big stuff.

People tend to avoid to talking about money, but I’m starting to think we’d be much better off if we did.

So let’s start today.

If you have any money saving tips or advice, get in touch. I’m all ears (and empty pockets), ready to learn.

THE SMEAR

When it comes to talking about lady bits and female health, you don’t have to ask me twice. I’m all for shouting about getting those lumps and bumps checked, which is why I thought I’d share my second smear experience with you. You know, just in case you fancied delving into the inner workings of my gynaecological health.

So for those who are still here and haven’t clicked away in horror, here’s how my second smear was notably different from my first, in case you were worried or wondering about yours.

I now have a Mirena coil.

I know right, I didn’t think it would make a difference, either. Particularly as someone who holds her IUD in such high esteem. But lo and behold, my coil made the whole experience hella more uncomfortable than my first.

Having no qualms about dropping my knickers for doctors and nurses, I naively waltzed into the surgery ready for my close up. She took her swab and I winced. Turns out, when you have a coil, your cervix is more sensitive to prodding and can tend to bleed when a smear is taken, leading to a chance of discomfort – and more frustratingly – inconclusive results.

I thought I’d share this information because, if I’d have known, I’d have popped a couple of paracetamol beforehand to take the edge off. Now you can.

I had an amazing nurse.

She was playing soft whale music on arrival and when it came to the test, she asked me to insert the speculum myself. I do realise it sounds like I went to some hippie retreat for my screening, but I can assure you, it was an NHS surgery with its priorities in the right place, making for a really zen experience.

In stark contrast, the nurse who conducted my first smear test chatted loudly the whole way through, didn’t explain what she was doing and then somehow lost my sample. I had to go back and do it again, so in actual fact, this was my third smear we’re talking about here.

The nurse I had last week, however, said she would rather her patients insert the speculum themselves as they know their own bodies and she explained the whole process to me beforehand, followed by reassurance during the whole Mirena-sore-cervix-debacle. It made me realise your practitioner really can have a huge effect on your smear experience and I shouldn’t be so quick to judge when people tell me they’ve had a bad one.

Either way, though. Great nurse or not, uncomfortable or pain-free, when that letter arrives reminding you to book your smear, just do it. Sometimes cancer creeps up on us like a bad smell. Other times, it bursts in kicking and screaming. But once it’s there, it’s there and you’re much better off catching it when it first arrives, rather than when it’s already set up home and invited its family around for tea.

So, instead of popping the envelope on the ‘to deal with’ pile, along with student loan statements and ASOS returns, to be forgotten about for months on end, deal with it immediately. Unlike jeans that don’t fit and that 8 quid coming out of your account each month, this piece of paper is crucial, and by neglecting to take action on it, you’re actually putting your life at risk.

Any questions, let me know. In the meantime, book that appointment. Thirty seconds of discomfort or awkwardness is nothing in comparison to what might happen if you ignore it.

THE JOB CENTRE 2017

Yep, believe it or not, it’s that time of year again where I sit and ask a bunch of bad ass, fearless females about their careers, because if September isn’t a time for new beginnings and thoughts of a career change, then when is?

Am I right?

This year, I am beyond excited to announce that I have a stellar line up of amazing women who have agreed to share both their journey and some very practical career advice with you. You know, just in case your boss is being a fool or you’ve just graduated and don’t know where to start looking for work.

From freelance girl bosses and full time social media moguls to women in high fashion and those shaping young minds, there will be plenty of interviews to tuck into this month, so watch this space over the next four weeks for pearls of wisdom, droplets of inspiration and nuggets of utter realness.

So let’s get to the point and talk business, shall we?

how to become an account executive | imogen judd

THE JOY OF NOT SHARING

I talk too much.

I’ve been told so since I was a kid.

Talking the ears off mum as we traipsed up and down Oxford Street. Not stopping for breath in Maths. ‘Chatty’ etched into pretty much every school report I ever had (along with ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘sociable’, and we all know what those adjectives really mean when spouted from the mouths of teachers).

And even well into adulthood, not much has changed.

I’ll talk about anything that springs to mind. Form opinions on anything you fancy. And when it comes to life crises, relationship woes and friendship concerns, I voice those too. Heart on sleeve for life, that’s the Aries way.

Now, lots of therapists and elders will tell you that’s great. That talking is healthy. We’re constantly encouraged to ‘speak up’ and ‘get things off our chest’ in order to help improve our mental health, but you know what, I’m not so convinced spilling all of the beans all of the time is such a good idea.

As someone who keeps other people’s secrets entirely to themselves, but airs all their dirty laundry online or over a negroni or two with my best ones, I’ve learnt that vocalising your worries or concerns can actually sometimes be detrimental to one’s decision-making, overall happiness and ability to work out who you are. Being silent, and not giving a trivial problem room to breathe has a lot to answer for.

Sounds unhealthy, right? Probably is, for someone who can keep their trap shut for more than thirty seconds.

But for those of you who can’t, hear me out.

Decisions both large and small, I struggle to make them. I always order last in a restaurant. I rarely paint my nails in anything other than white, navy or nude. In fact, I never do, yet I own around 80 different shades of various polish. Big life decisions? Give me a month. Other people, quieter people, seem to make decisions left, right and center. For me, a talker, I weigh myself down with so many opinions that I rarely know what I want. If I listened to the voice inside my head instead of talking all the time, perhaps I’d stop drowning out my own thoughts and be able to hear myself a little clearer.

The problem with sharing so much is that people will respond to what you’re saying, and rightly so. But as helpful as it may seem, collecting so many opinions can also be quite damaging. The two cents of others can tend to muddle your own thinking and push what you really think or want to the back of your mind, which in turn, is just as unhealthy (and counter-productive) as not talking at all.

Recently, I’ve realised that keeping some things private is a good idea. I’ve been sharing less with friends and I actually feel a heck of a lot better for it. There’s less judgment, less pressure and I think I’m finally working out what I really want. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a very long time.

Although I’m going against what pretty much all psychologists will tell you, I do think that for those of us who like to chat or find decision-making a struggle, we might actually be better off saying nothing and figuring things out in our own mind and time instead of constantly conversing with friends and family. That way, we might get what we really want as opposed to what we think we should be aiming for.

They do say silence is golden, and I think they (in some cases) could be right.

THE BIRTH CONTROL APP

Despite being a little bias towards the Mirena, a birth control method that has changed my life for the better, I would never dream of telling a woman what to do with her body just because it works for me. I would, however, feel as though I were doing the sisterhood a disservice if I didn’t speak up about something that I felt was leaving women in a vulnerable position.

That something is the Natural Cycles app.

It’s at this point, I’d like to point out that I’m no doctor, but I do have a uterus and am therefore entitled to have an opinion on this. I would also like to note that I don’t have a problem with it being used as a form of family planning with an intent to conceive; this post is in response to it being heralded as queen of contraception on social media, because honestly, the momentum it is gaining on Twitter and Instagram is bringing me out in hives.

My main issue is that I do not believe that endorsing bloggers to promote a particular type of birth control is either good or responsible of the brand. I am all for educating women on the options available and I understand that influencers earn their keep from doing sponsored posts and forming partnerships, but I think it’s careless of companies to ask bloggers to promote something to young audiences that, if used incorrectly or with the wrong body, can change lives. I also think that education, particularly sex education, should remain totally unbias, regardless of where it is coming from.

Not only that, the reliability of the app itself as a method of contraception has been put into question. It uses only temperature and calculations based on your last few periods to decipher whether you are ‘safe’ to have unprotected sex or not. Science aside for a second, that seems a little flaky to me. It might be a good way to practise safe sex on top of other methods of birth control, or to plan pregnancy, but if people have fallen pregnant with hormones pumping through their bodies or pieces of metal wedged in their wombs, then it’s surely even more likely to happen when you’re using nothing but heat to gauge your fertility? After all, all bodies are different and temperature and cycles can be affected by anything, from stress or illness to food allergies and even exercising too much.

My audience is mainly women aged between 25 and 35 years old, so you could assume you’ve got your birth control sussed (if you choose to use it, of course) but it terrifies me to think that there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of young girls, who don’t have access to the same information I did, who are going to be clicking and thinking that Natural Cycles is the only option out there for them. If there are any younger women reading this who are venturing into the wonderful world of contraception for the first time, please know that this app is not the only (if at all) reliable form of contraception out there and that there are other amazing hormonal and non-hormonal options available for you on the NHS.

Please do yourself a favour ladies, and don’t rely on the words of influencers who have been paid to talk about Natural Cycles to make a decision about how you would like to prevent pregnancy. As I’ve said, I think it’s pretty irresponsible of brands to ask them to do it in the first place, I’m not sure it’s wise for influencers to have agreed to do it and I sure as hell don’t think you should base any decisions on what they have to say about it. This isn’t some deal with Miss Papp or Missy Empire; this is your life we’re talking about.

If you want some valuable and impartial advice, make an appointment with your local family planning clinic or GP ASAP. Talk to your mum, colleagues, friends or sisters about their experiences. Google it all you can. Head to the NHS website. Soak up as much information as possible and try out as many methods as you like before settling on the one that’s best for you and your body. That’s really the only way to do it. And who knows? Natural Cycles might be it.

I certainly wouldn’t leave anything to do with my body in the hands of an app and I’m not convinced you should, either.

But of course, that’s entirely up to you.

THE GHOSTING

If you’ve reached the end of your twenties without coming into contact with a ghost, then lucky you. You smashed it. Congratulations on not having to have endured that sort of strange silent rejection, because let me tell you, it’s pretty weird when it happens.

I mean, it’s never happened to me in a romantic sense, but I have been ghosted by a friend.

Yep, that’s right, one moment things were (albeit not entirely as rosy as they once were) fine. We had drifted a little but we were both busy and she had just got into a new relationship. The next moment? I wasn’t getting a reply to messages. I kept trying and all I got was either nothing or a, ‘Yep, maybe we’ll see each other soon’. No kiss.

I’ve asked mutual mates and they’ve said they’re none the wiser, although I’m not sure this is entirely true.

For the nine years we knew each other, from that very first toastie we shared on the corridor floor of our first-year halls, to the last drink we shared, we were inseparable. We had the most fun. So many of my favourite memories are of getting drunk and dancing with her. Staying in with her when she had a broken leg. Doing shots in the middle of the afternoon because, hey, we’re young. We would talk for hours about boys. She hated how crude I was and I thought it hilarious how prudish she was. We loved anchovies, soppy love songs and Eastenders. It was the sort of friendship that was hard to find.

It’s been two years now and I still haven’t a clue what I’ve done or what’s happened or changed. I’ve sort of decided on a reason, but can’t be 100% sure it’s correct. I’m probably way off the mark. I’m so baffled by the events of the last couple of years that this Valentine’s Day, I even sent her an ‘I miss you’ text and got nothing in return. I didn’t feel hurt or rejected; I knew it was time to let go.

And that’s the thing with ghosting.

It gets to a point where it just doesn’t hurt as much anymore, a bit like grief. In fact, if anything, I’d say it can be far less painful than being confronted with the reason you aren’t wanted as a friend or lover, anymore. That way, you can pretend it’s not you; it’s them, and live under a blanket of blissful ignorance that you didn’t actually do anything wrong. That is was their issue.

So, to the friend who ghosted me, if you’re reading this, which I doubt you are, and to all the other Caspers out there: you’re not teaching anyone a lesson, in fact, you’re not making any sort of point at all, except for the fact I must’ve mistaken you for a much better human being in the first place.

If you want closure, always have the guts to do it properly, because I’m fairly certain the only person you’re hurting in the long run, is yourself.

THE ICK

If you’re a Love Island hater, look away now, because things are about to get pretty vacuous around here.

The other week, Olivia (one of my favourite contestants on this year’s sex fuelled extravaganza) spoke about catching The Ick and I want to talk about it, because it’s something I’ve experienced many times throughout my dating life and I’m thrilled to learn it’s a shared sentiment and not just me being picky.

There was the journalist who stood up in front of a crowded bar and pretended to be Dermot O’Leary presenting the X Factor during a date in one of London’s coolest spots, The Troubador. There was the barman who ate Nachos far too loudly next to me on a trip to the cinema. There was the banker who was sick in the taxi home. The almost perfect one who wore camo print trousers. The musician who had horrid hands and feet. The teacher who wore rubber soled, platform shoes. The poor chap who was too scared to kiss me. And finally, the gap year fling who insisted on wearing a beanie, even though we were seeing each other throughout the summer.

Whenever I dated anyone, there would be something ridiculous that would put me off. I would then complain to mum about their imperfections, regaling her with yet another tale of yet another dumping, and she would say to me, ‘It wouldn’t matter if you liked him’.

And she was right. Without even knowing it, she had identified The Ick.

Catching it is actually a pretty uncontrollable reality. It creeps up on you when you least expect it. One day, you can be excited about your latest squeeze and the next, he rocks up to a BBQ to meet all your mates in a pair of white Birkenstocks. You didn’t see it coming. The guy you thought was a catch, now falls to the bottom of the pile and even the thought of him sitting opposite you at dinner becomes unbearable.

That’s when you know you’ve caught it. You go cold. You grow distant. You want out.

Of course, The Ick isn’t always brought on by a poor choice of footwear. The sad truth is, they might not even have done anything wrong when it suddenly dawns on you that kissing them would be like kissing your cousin and that you want to get as far away from them as humanly possible.

If you’ve ever experienced it for yourself, you’ll know that The Ick is more stubborn than Herpes when you catch it, and there certainly isn’t a universal trigger which causes that incessant need to get out immediately, but without it, we wouldn’t find someone more suitable. In fact, I like to see it as a nice little gift from Mother Nature to tell us that the person we’re dating isn’t quite right for us. That we need to get out. That this one isn’t the one.

It leads us onto bigger and better Ick-Free relationships with men like my current boyfriend, for example, who has publicly showed himself up more times than Kerry Katona and still can’t make me catch The dreaded Ick, no matter how hard he tries.

On our first date, he waited over an hour for me to arrive. I normally would’ve cringed at the thought of someone sticking around so long. Later that night, he swung a lampshade across the bar at The Shard and pretended it didn’t happen instead of making light of the situation. Whilst we were dating, we were texting a lot, and let’s just say spelling isn’t his strong point, something that would have made me want to die in any other instance. Over the past 3 years, he’s worn boxer shorts in the pool on a group holiday because he forgot his swimwear. He sent me a photograph of his blackened toenail that later fell off (he sent me a photo of this, too). He sits down when he pees, hates Jeremy Corbyn and didn’t know who The Maccabees were when I expressed my sorrow at their departure from music.

He’s done so much more to make me catch The Ick than the others, so why haven’t I?

Because I actually like him. And genuinely liking or loving someone is the only prevention from this one.

So, with this in mind, it’s safe to say that Olivia was right to move on, and Tyla should follow suit – because there ain’t no coming back from this one, even if there is 50k and a deal with Miss Pap at stake. And to all those men (the majority of whom are either married or in long term relationships now) who I turned away due to that feeling: you know what they say, one woman’s Ick is another woman’s perfect date… or something like that.

Listen to that little whisper from Mother Nature, ladies. Like all mums, she knows best.

THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO BRISTOL

The best thing to happen to Bristol (aside from me moving here and a Polpo opening up on Whiteladies Road, of course) has actually arrived in the form of the most affectionate app in the world.

Yep, you heard it right. As if the city wasn’t kind enough already, a man named Paul and a woman called Alice have just brought a whole heap of added goodness to the west country with the gifting app of the future.

It’s called Huggg.

Yes, with three gs. They’re gangster like that.

Huggg is an upgrade on a well written WhatsApp, a thought out iMessage or a line of meticulously thought out emojis. It’s better than the age old poke on Facebook and it’s certainly an improvement on those gift cards you find at the bottom of your bag, months after they’ve expired. It’s everything your long distance relationship has been waiting for. It’s what will save parents waving their children off to university in September from having a breakdown. And, truth be told, it’s the stuff every lazy girl’s dreams are made of.

But what is it and how does it work?

Huggg basically allows you to send coffee, cocktails, burgers or breakfasts to anyone you like. As long as you have a phone and their number, of course.

If you’re away on a work trip and not there to sleep next to that special someone, send them a soup to spoon instead. If your best friend graduates and you can’t be there to congratulate them, send them a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. Or if your colleague is hanging at work, send them a caffeinated pick me up from across the office.

Although there is nothing better than a real life hug, huggg is a pretty great alternative if you are a little too far away to reach.

Currently, only available in Bristol and Bath, download the app and get started today.

P.S. I’d love an iced soya latte from Friska if anyone’s offering.

Happy huggging!