The stairway to self-love in a pandemic

Millennial Empowerment Coach, Bethany Wright explains how best to overcome the anxiety and worry in these uncertain times with her tips on daily rituals, reduced screen time and realistic expectations.

As the uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic continues to unravel, it would be fair to say that the fabric of our everyday lives has been completely disrupted. There’s no overnight remedy or expiry date that can be applied to cure the situation, leaving us with little control over life as we once knew it. Understandably, this is causing agitation in households across the world. A global crisis with global anxieties to match.

We’re all used to asserting control over our daily agenda, travelling through the day with activity after activity, wondering where the time has gone. Fast forward to the now, where we feel we’ve lost control altogether and are often left staring at the clock wishing the time away. But, there’s plenty of discovery to be had. And there’s powerful strategies you can implement in order to create your calm. 

Audit, detox, reboot 

There is so much that is out of your control, but focus on what is in your control.

Although it may not feel like it right now, we do have control over what we are available for. We get to choose what we show up for (predominantly in a virtual setting) and what gets our attention; it’s how we invest our time. By working out what your triggers are, you can then establish your own set of boundaries that are unique to your situation. 

If you’re finding that the news is impacting your mood, think about what forms of control you can exercise here. It may be that you need to switch off the notifications popping up on your phone screen, or perhaps avoiding primetime TV where you know the updates are going to be relentlessly paraded. 

It’s important, now more than ever, to be aware of your surroundings and how they make you feel – how is your environment serving you? This also applies to the virtual space. With so much more time at our disposal, it’s likely that you’re spending greater time scrolling through your Instagram feed. And what does that do? Well, it is a surefire way to kickstart comparison. Allow yourself to do a virtual declutter and remove any toxicity that is impacting your headspace. If you find yourself feeling rubbish when you stumble upon certain accounts, temporarily mute their notifications, or unfollow together. You want your space to inspire you, not tire you. 

Be mindful about the words you’re telling yourself too. It’s not just about what you’re externally consuming. Your own self-talk is often more powerful than the words of anyone else, because often you’re the first and only audience to be subject to them. So, be gentle and kind with yourself. This is unchartered territory, trust that you’re doing the best you can. 

Lean inwards: the power of right now

Lead your day with love. We often look to external resources, forgetting our most powerful resource: ourselves. By tapping into your core, you’ll be able to keep yourself grounded in the midst of the madness. We’re all going to have wobbly weeks, wobbly days even. But if you do, take note and listen to your body. There’s just as much power in a pause as there is a pivot, so give yourself a breather and allow yourself to shut off and unplug. Because to relieve it, you’ve got to feel it. 

If you find your mind is running away with itself, worrying about the what ifs, zone in on what you have in that moment. Replace the “what if” with “in this moment, I am” and follow the sentence with 3-5 things that you are. For example, it may sound something like this: “In this moment, I am safe, loved and sheltered.” This surthrival exercise helps you to home in on the present moment, enabling you to shut off from the anxieties of future possibilities. 

Another great technique to practice is gratitude. By writing down a list of things you’re grateful for each morning or night, it can help to raise your vibe and transform your mood. Especially when you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed. Think about your blessings; what good happened in the day, what made you smile. Ultimately, it comes down to looking at how you be, do and have. So, block out some time in your day and start journaling away. 

Breathing is also a powerful self regulating system that brings you back to the present moment. A simple reminder to yourself that you can get through it. So if anxiety is showing up for you, remember to take a deep breath. Focus on the breaths you take, and visualise a calming view. 

Do what feels good 

It’s time to create your own aesthetic and trendset your way through the quarantine. If you fancy a day Netflix and chillin’ with ice-cream and pyjamas, then go for it. If you feel empowered to maintain productivity and commit to your online business, all power to you. 

We’re all going to have different priorities. Some days we’ll feel on top of the world, whereas others we may feel burnt out and lack energy. It’s a rollercoaster, and we’re all trying to ride the highs and lows. 

In this time, tensions are high and we find ourselves dipping into the panic zone a bit more frequently without the usual comfort blankets we’d normally turn to. So, it’s important that you take a step back and re-evaluate. What do you really need today? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So remember to drop the pressures you may be putting on yourself and do what feels good for you. 

Choose yourself and take ownership over your happiness. Make it your primary intention and allow yourself to let go of your expectations. Embrace the happening, be compassionate and travel through the hours with acceptance. Because when you feed into yourself, you can feed into others. 


Bethany Wright, Empowerment Coach at Her Empowerment Room

Bethany is a Millennial Empowerment Coach who works with young women from all walks of life. She combines a mindset and performance coaching approach to help clients create their narrative by design, not default, and embody an empowered self that’s free of inner shame and guilt. 

Book your free discovery call via https://herempowermentroom.as.me/ 

Find her on Instagram at @herempowermentroom

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Community Matters: In Conversation with Rachel Cook, Graphic Designer

Originally hailing from Manchester, Graphic Designer and Lettering Artist Rachel Cook was raised not far from London, but moved back up north for university and has made the region her home ever since.

Proud of her Northern roots, Cook has firmly established herself in Manchester’s burgeoning creative community, joining forces with likeminded designers to create platforms such as Design Recovery to raise awareness around mental health through creative outlets and conversation.

Last year she bravely put her own mental health experience front and centre during her time as Design Lead at Yolk to create Two Minds, a collaborative print exhibition, which raised funds for Mind Charity. Here she talks to us about finding her passion, the role that design has played in her own recovery journey and why Manchester’s creative community is so special.


Rachel Cook speaking at the inaugural Design Recovery event

Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a Graphic Designer living in Manchester. I was born here but when I was two years old we moved down south. However, six years ago I headed back to Manchester to study Graphic Design at Manchester Metropolitan University and have stayed here ever since. I now work for a design agency called Persona Tile, co-run an event called Design Recovery and am also on the PechaKucha Manchester event team. 

How did you get into Graphic Design?

I first fell in love with Graphic Design back in secondary school, at my school we all had to do one of the Design Tech options at GCSE level and I chose to do Graphics. That course covered a lot more than just the design of a product, such as manufacturing methods and materials, but the part that interested me and piqued my interest was the design element. 

Despite being creative growing up, I wasn’t really that into art, I just messed around in lessons and was politely told I probably shouldn’t take it at GCSE, but with Graphics there was something about the whole process of identifying the target audience, creating moodboards, and solving a problem creatively that got me hooked, and it was rare that something had me that engaged in a lesson at school (I was a chatterbox and didn’t care much for authority) so I knew it was something that I had to follow, and it all just developed from there!

Rachel Cook and Charlie Brown at the Two Minds event – © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019

Tell us a bit about your involvement in Design Wellness and the sister event series Design Recovery?

Myself, my partner Jordan and our close friends who run a company called Design Wellness go to lots of design events in Manchester and we started to realise that there wasn’t much of a focus on mental health. With the creative industry having such a high level of mental health issues, we knew there was an opportunity to create a safe, welcoming space for people to open up (if they wish) and to ultimately try and help broaden the conversation surrounding mental health. We’ve done two Design Recovery events in Manchester and they’ve gone even better than we imagined,  which is encouraging.

I have a personal interest  in helping support mental health awareness as I have experienced my own own problems with mental health in the past. My recovery from Anorexia taught me so much and since then I had been wanting to do something positive with my experience but I had struggled to figure out a way to do so that felt right. Art and Design can be such a positive way of expressing ourselves and I did a lot of that, but I wanted to do something that could reach more people. So starting the Design Recovery event series  just felt like the perfect fit!  The creative community in Manchester is already so close and supportive, so we hoped this would be a great addition and hopefully encourage the community to be more open when it comes to mental health.

The Two Minds Exhibition – Foundation Coffee Shop – © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019

In your experience, how do design and mental health relate to one another?

They both require patience and perseverance. The former is not my strongest quality as a person, that’s for sure, but you can’t get better overnight. You have to give yourself the time and space to grow and heal. Since working on my mental health I can see how impatient I used to be with design. I’d get so down if I wasn’t nailing every new skill straight away or producing ground-breaking work whilst I was still in university. But the simple fact is, all that pressure was having such a bad impact on my confidence so no matter how much I tried, I was never going to be happy with what I created. 

Now, I really enjoy seeing my progress and developing my skills in my own time. All of that really just came with time and experience so if I could go back I’d tell myself to slow down and focus on where I’m at now rather than speeding ahead, just like I had to do with my mental health. 

As a designer, how have you sought to illustrate your own experiences?

I do a lot of hand-drawn typography that allows me to visually represent a quote or phrase that means something personal or encouraging to me. I think it helps me to reflect on the experiences I’ve had with mental health, and reflecting means I can see how far I’ve come, view the experiences in a less negative light, and therefore continue to grow from them. 

It also has an impact on the type of work I enjoy creating the most. I love working with positive companies and individuals doing good things for wellbeing, I recently I designed the brand identity for a therapist, and I regularly create typography social posts for Design Wellness so I get a lot out of those kinds of projects.

Poster for the second Design Recovery event series on resilience

How does Design Recovery help others channel their passion for design into something beneficial for themselves and those who come to listen to their talks?

Design Recovery gives people a space to share whatever they are comfortable sharing, in whichever way they want to do so with absolutely no judgement. Going forward, we hope that the more we speak about mental health, the more normal it will seem to talk about the struggles we are facing and we will see more and more people speaking up and getting help sooner. 

It can also be a really reflective experience much like a personal creative project can be. For me, sharing what I went through has helped me avoid falling back into negative behaviours because it helped me see how far I’ve come and encouraged me to continue on the path I’m on now rather than going backwards. So whether it’s through an event, or creating a piece of artwork like I do with my typography, that ability to reflect on what you’ve been through and physically confront it through something positive you’re doing can be really beneficial.

How has moving to Manchester shaped and influenced you as a designer?

Developing my confidence is one of the key things that has helped me develop as a designer and I’d say Manchester played a pretty big role in that. I started attending a number of design events, which were available across the city and started to get to know the community in Manchester properly when I was in my third year of university and in that year my confidence skyrocketed from more or less nothing, to making me the designer I am today. But I think within the creative industry, wherever you live can influence the work you produce because you draw inspiration, sometimes without even knowing it, from your surroundings and what you take in everyday. Manchester as a whole is an incredibly creative city though.

Design by Rachel Cook

What do you love about Manchester’s creative community and how does being a part of it help your mental wellbeing?

It goes without saying that the creative community in Manchester is incredible. It constantly makes me feel like I belong which has done wonders to my mental wellbeing. It’s also just really helpful to have people to speak to about the highs and lows of being a designer because there are so many people around that completely understand. We can all relate to one another based on our career, which is really nice and everyone is so willing to share their advice and help each other out which has been so valuable to me, especially when just I was  starting out. 

What challenges have you faced personally and in your career to date?

As a Graphic Designer it can be a pretty tough industry. It’s so saturated with incredibly talented artists and designers so to stand out is pretty difficult and can be a lot of pressure, especially with platforms like Instagram where there is so much design work online, making it a pretty competitive market. 

However, that can also be motivating because it builds a drive inside you to keep developing your skills and create better work, despite the fact that it can still be quite challenging at times. I guess the important part is how you manage that pressure and let it encourage you rather than letting it get on top of you, but defining that balance can be pretty challenging. 

Design by Rachel Cook

What do you love about the North of England?

I absolutely love how proud everyone is to be Northern, it’s definitely one of my favourite things. There’s just such a sense of solidarity between everyone that I haven’t seen anywhere else and it brings people together. Even though I didn’t grow up here for the most part, I still find that I’m proud to say I’m originally from the north. (Plus I was two years old so technically I was moved down south against my will, I’m just saying.) 

Looking forward, how do you think design can help others work through their own mental health battles?

I think we are already starting to see how fantastic design can be for wellbeing during the current lockdown situation. I have seen tons of creative solutions that people are coming up with to help others in a time of need. From colouring in sheets created by illustrators, to big projects like Play Playhouse that Playground Design Studio, Ben Clark and Barney Ibbotson have been working on. These are all to help support the wellbeing of each other and keep people entertained when stuck inside all day which is brilliant to see!

But I think in general, we should all do what we can to share our experiences through our own skill sets and passions. If the conversation is more open around mental health we will start to see more art and design that stems from people expressing themselves and their experiences with mental health.

Rachel Cook and her partner Jordan Yates at the Two Minds event – © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019

To see more of Rachel’s work visit her Instagram page here.

For updates on Design Wellness and its sister events programme Design Recovery visit here.

Feature image courtesy of: © ON LOVE AND PHOTOGRAPHY 2019

Instagram isn’t all that bad, is it?

Shahed Ezaydi discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Instagram and how curating your own media streams could ensure that in the future we look to use social media platfroms as a tool for good.

Words: Shahed Ezaydi

It’s a funny old thing, Instagram. It is not honestly something I thought I would still be using in my mid-20s, or any form of social media for that matter. I first logged on to Instagram in 2013 and I genuinely thought it might just be another trend, like Bebo, that would be all the rage for a couple of years, and meet the same demise as its failed predecessors. But, here we are. We are approaching a brand-new decade and we are STILL obsessed with Instagram. I mean, I can count on one hand the people I know who are not on Instagram. They are a rarity and I wholeheartedly commend them for resisting the overwhelming tide of snaps and stories. 

Of course, Instagram (and social media in general) has garnered quite the bad reputation in recent years. And rightly so. We spend more and more of our time looking at screens and scrolling through various social media apps. We are being overloaded with content all the time, and this over-consumption has led to us as a society having to face some nasty truths. 

Instagram was highlighted a couple of years ago by the charity, Ditch the Label, as being the social media platform where cyber-bullying was most rife. As Instagram is an image-based platform, it makes sense that cyber-bullying and harassment would be more common on there – it has created a space where people can visually compare themselves with others. It could be centred in appearance or body image or maybe in showcasing the perfect social life.

By Make Room Zine

The endless scroll through Instagram feeds can also have a negative impact on our mental health. I know it certainly has for me in the past. I think we sometimes forget that Instagram is something a person carefully curates and only shows others what they choose for them to see. 

But, it’s not all bad. There are some positives to be gained from the world of Instagram. Although it has made me anxious and I do still sometimes find myself comparing my life to others, it has also had a positive impact on my state of mind. It has pushed me through some low points through just knowing that there are others who are feeling the same things that I’m feeling. The simple act of knowing that you are not alone is sometimes enough.

By Melody Hansen

The huge positive with Instagram is that it is such a necessary and needed tool for education and awareness. There are countless people, organisations, and platforms using Instagram for the good. To share knowledge and resources on topics and issues that I for one was never taught at school. From intersectionality, to the reality of fast fashion, to colonialism and our whitewashed history. Stories and narratives are shared and given a platform – one that the mainstream media might not have given them and consequently, I might not have heard or read these stories. It has educated me a great deal. I once read somewhere that our Instagram feed should be built up as though we are reading a magazine or a newspaper. So that when you are scrolling through, you pick up information about a wide range of topics and interests, and you gain something from your time on there. And this is definitely something I have tried to incorporate into my own digital feed.

They say with knowledge comes power. In this case it is not so much power, but I found that there was a need within myself to want to do something to help in some way. You learn about all the injustices and inequalities in the world, and for me, this education formed into a process of action. I have been able to use Instagram to talk and engage with different people and groups that I might not have had the chance to meet offline. For example, this is how I ended up joining SheFest – by coming across their Instagram account and seeing all the wonderful work they were doing locally in my own backyard.

By Rachel Cook

Like anything, Instagram comes packaged up with both good features and bad. Obviously, it shouldn’t be the one and only place we get our information and knowledge from. But it was such a useful entry point for me. You can uncover art and articles and organisations and campaigns, things you might not have seen or heard of otherwise, that can then lead you elsewhere (probably off Instagram) where you can learn more about the world. And really, isn’t that what all any of us want to do?

And so, here are some of my recommended Instagram accounts to follow that showcase perfectly how women in the North are taking action:

SheFest: A Sheffield based not-for-profit organisation that champions self-defining women’s rights and gender equality, through a whole host of inclusive events. They also run an annual fringe festival, in line with International Women’s Day, providing a female fronted addition to the North’s cultural calendar.

Aurelia Magazine: An online magazine based in Manchester/Liverpool that is dedicated to showcasing the personal feelings, thoughts, and experiences of women and non-binary people. 

Salvaged Project: Lauren, based in Sheffield, has created a community that both promotes second hand fashion (sells some really cool clothes!) and raises vital funds for projects working with those affected by war. 

Every Month: A Manchester based charity that provides free menstrual products to those living in poverty. Their period packs contain tampons, pads and a chocolate bar. Plus, their Instagram provides really useful and educational content around periods and period poverty.

Girl Gang: Spanning across the North, – in Sheffield, Manchester, and Leeds – Girl Gang has built up quite the community and hosts an array of events and workshops. They focus on inclusivity, creativity, and breaking down social barriers.

Love for the Streets: Based in Manchester and co-founded by Lily Fothergill, LFTS is a driving force for social change in young people. They aim “to empower 5.2 million young people to make an impact in their local community.” Their Instagram gives you a chance to see and learn from the work that they, and the young people they help, are doing.

Getting to Know: Kimberley Robinson Founder of Keep Real

Keep Real is a Yorkshire-based social enterprise devoted to promoting better mental health amongst young people. Founded in 2017, the brand has collaborated with a number of local organisations, run its first mental health workshop in Sheffield and now they are just weeks way from celebrating the first birthday on the 27th of July at Headrow House in Leeds, which is sure to be a fantastic night all in aid of a great cause. We asked founder of Keep Real, Kimberley Robinson, if she could write us a little something about herself and her enterprise to find out why raising awareness around mental health is so important to her and many others.

Continue reading “Getting to Know: Kimberley Robinson Founder of Keep Real”

Keep kind and Fettle on: a blog series by Fi Mason – Northern Fettle – Part 1: lending a hand to the local independents

This week marks the beginning of a new blog series by Fi Mason, one half of Northern Fettle – a small business support service that offers a holistic and modern approach to helping independent businesses. Fi will be exploring some of the inspirational minds behind the best independent businesses, sharing her own experiences, while also urging us to remember that running your own business requires not only grit, but support from those around you. In her first post, Fi asks the question, is being an independent business just a little too independent?

Continue reading “Keep kind and Fettle on: a blog series by Fi Mason – Northern Fettle – Part 1: lending a hand to the local independents”