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Cycling in a City: My new found love of cycling in Cardiff

cardiff_cycling_penelope

One of my earliest memories is getting a tricycle for my birthday, it was red, blue and yellow and I loved it. I would take it up Skewen park and ride for hours and my friends would take turns too.

Fast forward a few years to a bike with stabilisers and my Grampa. One day he encouraged me to have a go without the stabilisers, I could feel him holding the back as I wibble wobbled my way down the path, suddenly I looked back and he wasn’t there, he was just shouting encouragement at me to keep going.

I would ride my bike with reckless abandon, take it to country parks, wheel it to town and not have a care about falling off or hurting myself which I did more than once. I’d spend hours with friends pedalling faster to catch them, and go on epic adventures.

Vintage bike adoration

cycling_cardiff

At 24 I realised I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 16 and saw the most gorgeous bike at Cardiff Cycle Workshop, an incredible social enterprise that fixes up old and used bikes to resell. They also help to upskill people from all backgrounds. Help people to ride, do bike maintenance and much more, I adore them.

It was a red Krone fold up bike with a dynamo on the back. Bulky, impractical and beyond pretty. I barely used it. Four years ago I moved back to Cardiff and decided to bring the bike with me and ‘tootle’ down the Bay which I adored, it was a ride of leisure than of fitness.

Where do you put that cream?

My husband is a lycra clad, jelly bottom shorted, hard core road cyclist with terrible tan lines – cycling is not a hobby, it’s a way of life. When I started going out with him I was transported in to a world I had never been aware of – Ajax Cycling Club, shaved legs, bum cream, tall, lanky men, training and competitions. I was in awe, his dedication was impressive as were his thighs and after watching him at a few races I kind of got it.

Ajax members would ask me if I had ‘the bug yet’ and all I could do was shake my head, nope, not in me. I had become a bit afraid of my bicycle, roads are busy in Cardiff, and are rabid taxi drivers who appear to love accelerating towards cyclists.

Penelope

I decided that these tootles would need a better bike and with heavy heart I went back to Cycle Training Wales and gave my little vintage in and came out with a Peugeot ‘Tahiti’ bike that I named Penelope.

PenelopeAlas, Penelope barely tootled, more stagnated in a bike rack outside my then flat… what a let down for all involved.

Just before I became freelance in 2017 something stirred in me, I wanted to cycle with Matt more and really liked the idea of becoming less car reliant and greener.

I almost passed out at the till when I bought a decent D lock and helmet, but felt it would push me in the right direction to get on the road.

Penelope and I didn’t have a bond then, more an appreciation from afar, but I can now confirm we are best of friends.

With Matt’s help I wibble wobbled to the Bay from Roath using roads and being safe, he taught me a bit around road positioning and basically not to be an arsehole on the road.

I am a cyclist?!

I am happy to report that I am now a cyclist, I use my bike at least four times a week to power myself around the city to work, meetings, events and anything in-between. I’m still getting used to the roads, they still scare me; buses coming alongside me are terrifying but manageable.

I have fallen off twice – one scar on my knee and bruises on the other. I’ve bought LED lights and wear my helmet all the time now as I hadn’t been, which was stupid.

I make mistakes and learn constantly but the rush from feeling the breeze in my hair and the happiness I feel when I take each pedal stroke makes me feel more connected to myself and the city I live in. Please try it!

Tips to get yourself started:

Next Bike – unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have seen the Next bike stations around the city, rent one and take a safe tootle in the many green spaces that Cardiff has to offer.

Cardiff City Council – they offer free cycle training for adults and kids, whatever your level of cycling. I’m going to book on!

I want to ride my bike café – a cute cafe on Park Place, maintenance, weekly rides, events, workshops and more run by the lovely Jonathan.

Gweithdy – independent bike workshop, services and maintenance by the highly experienced and lovely Dan based in Printhaus in Canton. He’s my go to for Penelope.

Sundays – try going out on the bike on Sunday evenings, there’s hardly any traffic or people about and I can tell you going across the barrage as the sun sets is amazing!

Emina Red’s Work Experience: Brød

bread model

The beauty of having such varied clients is finding out what they do and how they do it. In my opinion any PR or Comms person worth half a nik nak should properly experience the organisation/company they work for to truly understand how to promote and engage others in their work.

So that’s what I decided to do, get my hands dirty with Brød – The Danish Bakery who I provide digital content management and PR for. More than once I’ve scoffed down their delicious pastries, slathered butter on a rye loaf and not thought twice about the process of it, more the awesome party going on inside my mouth.

I became an apprentice baker for the morning. Think Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience – except I’m not famous, tall, paid as much or televised.

4am

 

My alarm goes off and I feel weirdly excited, very tired (I got to sleep at 12pm, IDIOT) but excited.

4.20am

Betina, Brød founder and lovely Danish person, picks me up. We both laugh. She hasn’t slept well she tells me, probably I think, because she’s dreading having to look after me.

4.35am

uniformWe arrive at the bakery and absolute legend Becky, with over a years experience under her belt, is already setting up, she looks calm, poised and purposeful. I check in the mirror and I look like Mrs Twit. Nevertheless, I get my baker’s outfit on, including fabulous floured slip on shoes and we get to work.

4.40am – god knows when

Bread, bread, bread and a brownie.

Betina sets me to work on bread, there are ingredient cards for each bread and I have to weigh each ingredient ready for the industrial mixers to get going. I don’t tell Betina that I am crap at maths and hate baking because it’s so precise and I end up going off piste and it’s disastrous.

I carry on regardless and I’m not too bad. The starter for the sourdough smells like an armpit that’s been doing 24 hours of extreme sports in the desert, not cool.

For the brownie the margarine needs to be scraped out using a spatula thing but the bag is almost empty, so I put my hand in to get more out – I feel like I’m tending to a cows backside and cannot believe the moisturising effect this has on my hands. WIN.

My apron is covered in a concoction of things, I think it makes me look like I’ve tried which is nice. I notice Becky and Betina are both pretty clean…

When the bread dough is ready I have to chisel bits off to be weighed for each loaf, this gets easier with each go and hitting the correct kg becomes a game I have to win. I line trays with loaves, rolls and pastries put them in the proover as they get ready for their oven sunbed.

Becky is on the sandwich loaves and encourages me to try kneading and shaping – I am absolutely terrible at both. Some of the sandwich loaves that day look like deformed fingers, apologies. The same goes for the buns, they need a little hole on the bottom which I can barely achieve and Becky has to re-do about 40% of mine…. She has patience of a saint.

Betina asks me if I want a cup of tea. I could kiss her, but that would crossing a boundary and it’s likely she may fall in love with me as I’m so magnetic.

coffee break

Pastries, pastries, pastries.

Turns out you need muscles to be a baker and I am not graced in the upper body muscle department. My attempt to lift the 5kg of brown sugar off the floor is pitiful and Betina has to save the day.

Becky sets me to work piping the icing the snegl and spandeur. When she does it looks effortless and her wrist does a cool flick thing. When I do it I can barely hold the bag up (sparrow arms) and have as much wrist grace as a potato. There were pastries with very random icing on that day, again, apologies.

Disaster strikes when the chocolate icing from the piping bag begins to ooze from the top down my hand, I am rendered even more useless because I can’t stop laughing which is I’m sure what all good apprentices do.

I lick a huge chunk off and feel really sick yet rewarded.

The kitchen at this point is baking hot (get it?) and the smells from The ovens are incredible. I get to eat a crispy end off the pastry and I feel like I’m in a Danish utopia.

When everything is cool enough it goes on the shop floor to be bought and consumed by you lovely people but my morning isn’t over, the kitchen needs to be cleaned and tidied ready for the next day and Becky once again soldiers on.

10:18am

breakfast

I sit down and have a mini pizza I helped create (added toppings to) and a cappuccino and reflect on my morning

Reflection

Baking is hard work, you need to be strong mentally and physically to do it but the team effort from Betina and Becky is outstanding, they sort of have a synchronised dance going on that compliments one another and get the job done quickly and efficiently.

The amount of organisation and preparation that goes in to it is mind blowing, so the next time you visit Brod, before you’re about to wrap your chops around a delicacy think about the amazing team behind the product.

Their love, care and attention has crafted your moment of joy.

Would I get hired as an apprentice baker? Unlikely…

flour face

CBT and me

cbt_depression

As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week now seems the time to share a little bit of my experience.

I haven’t spoken openly about my mental health before, so this feels a big deal.  Even though we’re in 2018, sadly I still feel an element of shame, guilt and weirdness about saying that I suffer from depression and anxiety. Well, this is part of me and who I am, so here goes nothing.

I want this blog to focus on CBT as a coping mechanism because it’s worked for me. I’m not saying it will work for everyone or it’s the right treatment method either but more just outline my experience.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. NHS

CBT hasn’t ‘cured’ me and even though I’ve learnt brilliant coping mechanisms, I’m not perfect and sometimes I try and use the techniques and it doesn’t work or I don’t practice enough but I know that it’s ok.

Also, sometimes in the darkest days I don’t want to do these good things and would rather let the wave crash over me because it’s easier to relent than fight and that’s ok too, there’s always tomorrow.

CBT

I first discovered CBT in 2011 after the end of a long-term relationship and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt empty, guilty and unable to deal with day to day life.

The negative thoughts were relentless, kept me up at night, distracted me and made me jittery, paranoid and at a total loss of control. I felt joyless and when I smiled or felt briefly happy, I was ashamed because I felt I didn’t deserve to.

A friend recommended a therapist and I felt like I had to try something. The NHS could only offer me medication and said that the waiting list for counselling was six months and I was fortunate enough to be able to see a therapist privately.

I was apprehensive, but I do like talking and the thought of making myself better was a driving force. We discussed a minimum of six sessions and there would be elements of ‘work’ for me to do. I felt a little overwhelmed to begin with but being a task orientated person, I relished the opportunity to understand myself better.

Thought Diary

I kept an unhelpful thought diary which was based on ‘fact v fiction’ in which you rationalise the thought you’re having. It’s an extremely clever way of being mindful of your thoughts, you dissect it, see it for what it is and writing it down is a cathartic experience. It didn’t always make me feel better but this process was a huge help.

Labelling was also a great way of seeing what kind of thoughts you were having, categories like ‘catastrophising’, ‘black and white’, ‘emotional realising’ and ‘should/must’ helped you track yourself and determine triggers and patterns.

Talk, talk, talk

Talking to someone who didn’t know me and had no preconceptions was liberating and gave me a sense of self. I felt lighter knowing that another session was on the horizon and the space we spoke in was safe, open and honest. I didn’t feel judged and this was important to me because of the paranoia and anxiety I was experiencing at the time.

I won’t lie, there were times I cried and found it exhausting and painful to talk about my feelings, but I persevered and am proud of that.

Breathe

Focusing on breath is a great physiological way of dealing with stress. Breathing in for 7 seconds and breathing out for 11 seconds is a great way of feeling calmer and more relaxed. This is a mechanism that’s stuck with me and use if I feel very stressed or overwhelmed.

Mindfulness/Meditation/Exercise

I learnt about mindfulness and bought a great book Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world that came with a CD including a 10 minute mindful exercise to do each morning and even though I was rubbish at it, after a while I got a bit better and it became my sanctuary.

I did a couch potato to 5k app and this was amazing in channelling my thoughts and making me feel connected to the present. The achievement of being able to run further and further was great too, it gave me purpose and passion – endorphins are your best friend.

Being nice to yourself

Another task was to get friends and family to write three nice words about me. This felt really weird at first but it was so lovely. I felt like a piece of shit but other people saw me differently and it gave me encouragement and strength to believe I was a good person who deserved happiness.

I realised how much I filter out the bad comments from the good too, I easily overlook the good to skip to the ‘bad’ and it’s bad habit that I’m still trying to get better at.

CBT is a process, a period of self reflection, understanding, compassion and hard work which if you’re willing and able to commit to, can be an incredible experience.

If you’re feeling rubbish and ever want to chat to someone I would gladly talk to you, I hate the thought of someone suffering and you’re not alone, ever.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall

A year in the life of a freelancer: Lets bust some freelance myths

emina_pancakes
Me, my phone and pancakes. Pic: Severn Tides

I’ve made it to a year, still no bin eating. I’m delighted.

Occasional crying, working past 10pm, only drinking tap water, huge elation followed by crippling self doubt but no bin eating.

I wrote a post for my six month freelance birthday which seemed like five seconds ago and it looked at what I’d learned so far.

In this post I’ll bust some freelance myths after a years reflection, because it’s a big step and being armed with some facts is a good thing.

You’ll miss the end of the month salary

Technically this is a ‘truth’ because if you’ve been employed you will miss it initially. BUT it will disappear, your focus will be on other things and no longer refreshing your banking app every 20 seconds on pay day to make sure your money has gone in.

Don’t mix business and personal

RUBBISH. I am privileged to work with some amazing people including two old friends who became colleagues when I became freelance. I have formed friendships with some of my employers and know even if our professional relationship ended we could go to the pub, have a cwtch or just be friends.

You can work in pyjamas 24/7

Um, ok, so If I said I don’t don some pjs from time to time it would be an utter lie but you simply can’t everyday– it’s not good for you. It’s likely to have a detrimental effect on your motivational and productivity levels. Dressing appropriately is good for you, fixes and focuses your mind for the day

I am my own boss #girlboss

Yes you are, BUT depending on your situation and much like mine, I have several clients which means several micro bosses whom I’m answerable to. They come with different personalities, ways of working and ideas of how a project should work. Building up relationships with clients is crucial, don’t ‘hulk out’ and ruin it.

Freelance = loneliness

There are SO many people doing what you do, some or longer and others have just started and they’re there to support you. Get out and go to events like Creative Mornings and Creative Cardiff Show and Tell and meet people or just send a friendly email. I’ve met lots of new people doing this and they don’t necessarily do what I do but they’re freelance – mix it up.

Charge less, win more work

No. I feel there are circumstances where you may consider introducing a nominal reduction on rate but that is if a retainer is being offered (regular monthly salary). You’re a professional, you charge the rate you do because you’ve got the experience, skills and knowledge. Know your worth. Some clients may even be put off with a low rate.

It’s so much easier than being employed

Um, hell no. There is no ‘new starter’ form to fill in; you are now your own accountant, communications team, marketer, cheerleader, life coach and everything in between. You have to rely on you to sort your life out – tax, clients, meetings, equipment, website, blogs, savings, research and more. Unless you’re android you’re likely to feel all the feelings too – anxiety, stress, elation, excitement, self-doubt, happiness, fearfulness and isolation. It is hard and scary but so, so, so worth it.

If you ever want a chat then just get in touch. I’m very nice.

Who is your audience?

who is your audiencePhoto by Paul Bergmeir on Unsplash

The eternal question, a hugely important one and it can seem so overwhelming.

So, if I asked you, would you know?*

*Clue: The answer is never ‘everyone’.

Every day we are bombarded with new information, products, services and offers and how do we decide what is relevant? What attracts our attention?

People respond to different things based on their age, location, habits and interests so trying to please ‘everyone’ is never going to work.

Ever noticed that the sponsored ads on a website or social media channels are based on what you like? That’s because marketing budgets have been focused on finding about you and your habits… scary but effective.

Personas

Sounds like a tasty tapas dish but isn’t.

Personas help you create a ‘person’ to reflect a target audience group so you can understand who they are.

Things to consider when creating a persona:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Hobbies/Habits
  • How they consume news/information

For example, if you are trying to reach 18 -25 year olds then spending time on a Facebook sponsored post or a printed flyer is unlikely to yield results… why? They don’t consume information that way, it’s not part of their daily routine.

Once you build a picture of who a group of people are you can focus your brand and channel it in to promotion and marketing, saving you time and money.

I can help

This can seem a huge task but as part of my services I can help you do this.

Together we can look at who you need to target and how to engage them to achieve the best results for your organisation and business.

Just get in touch, we can tackle the world of audience and personas together.

Top Tips for Effective Presentations

toptipseffectivepresentation.jpg

Presentations and talks are bizarre aren’t they? They’re the unfamiliar for the majority and dreaded by most. What is natural about standing in front of a group of people and being the only one to talk? That’s right, nothing.

So when the opportunity arose to speak to arts and design students at Cardiff Metropolitan University in a Media Forum about my career I didn’t exactly jump at it, I hesitantly shuffled towards it whilst hugging myself.

I have always seen my role as supporting others to give presentations and talks. I’ve helped many others prepare PowerPoint by gathering content, giving feedback and an enthusiastic thumbs up at the start and finish.

It felt very odd to focus on myself, but I enjoyed my experience, it was rewarding and a great chance to reflect on my 10 + years in the PR and Communications industry. I got some laughs during my talk and some students came to talk to me and ask for advice, which is awesome.

I’d like to share my top presentation tips with you.

Who is my audience?
This should be the driver for your content and how you present, what do your audience want and need? Gauge how your audience respond and react to that.

Rule of slides
Stick to 10 slides maximum, the slides do not and should not contain everything you are going to say, use headers, bullet points, pictures/diagrams and at least 30 point font size.

Stories
We humans are more likely to engage with a story, it helps us empathise and remember what is being said to us. Try to weave your presentation together like a story.

Say it out loud
As you write your notes up, say what you’re going to say aloud and pretend you’re talking to your friend in the pub. I always think of it like getting your mouth used to the words, so they’re comfier to say.

Time
If you have 10 minutes, stick to 10 minutes. Time your talk and make note of where you think you’re rambling or talking too briefly about something, then tweak it.

Projection
Microphone or no microphone, you want to be somewhere in-between Marilyn Monroe and Brian Blessed, by practising your talk you get a good idea of the pitch, speed and tones you need to be working to.

Dress like you mean it 
What clothes, colours, accessories or even props make you feel confident? Anything that gives you good vibes, use it!

Eye contact
Make sure to look around the room as you talk, it’s all about engaging with the audience. If you notice a friendly or encouraging face, return there if you need a boost.

Body talk
Stand tall, strong shoulders and with a bit of sass and a smile. Droopy shoulders, hunched back and eyes on the floor won’t make you feel at all confident.

Have fun!
You’ve been asked to do this, so it means at least one person thinks you’re cool, you’ll feel totally accomplished when you’ve done it and it’s a feather in your career cap.

Need any help or advice to deliver presentations then get in touch.

Dear Beyoncé: a brand love letter

lemonade

Dear Beyoncé,

I’d like to thank you for having an amazing brand. There are a million things to thank you for – hair, voice, thighs, attitude, dancing, bum – but I am focusing on brand.

Your brand appears to be tightly controlled, and I doubt you ever do anything that hasn’t been extremely thought out, planned and scheduled within an inch of it’s life BUT you make it look like it isn’t, which is extraordinary.

Even when your brand is under threat, the elevator debacle, Jay-Z cheating (idiot) and Ivy Park under scrutiny, you twist it and make it your own. BAM. The Lemonade album tore open the cheating scandal and was the highest selling global album in 2016 and that’s no accident or fluke.

I normally preach about brand consistency but in your case you continually push boundaries, change direction and surprise people – we could learn a lot from that.

Insta-piration

Your Instagram is my inspiration and is insanely good, and inspiring and good. Your use of collages, mixed media and the layout app is outstanding.

beyonce

You also mix personal and business without ever giving too much away but give us 110 million mere mortals a glimpse into your seemingly ‘perfect’ life.

You inspired me to make these Instagram shorts in 2017 featuring my alter ego, ‘The Majorette’, (take that Sasha Fierce).  I wanted to use new techniques and put myself out there because I felt fearless watching what you do.

RED_BATON from Emina Redzepovic on Vimeo.

Thanks to you, I’ve bought rollerskates and want to do a video but I’m accident prone and once dislocated my ankle on a street trampoline in Copenhagen, that was rough I can tell you love.

Please don’t ever stop surprising us with your brand directions, style and revamps.

Bum appreciation

B, you’re a guiding light, shining example of how to boss brand and my god you’ve got a great bum.

Thank you, and I do love you like she loves you.

Emina x

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall.

Happy Freelance Birthday to me!

birthday_freelance

I can’t believe I’ve just written that, it’s been six months

The decision I made to go it alone was not a light one, I deliberated, agonised and catastrophised but given my unhappiness, feeling of being trapped and desire to be more creative, it was worth a go.

Luckily, I can say it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Here are some things I’ve felt and encountered along the way.

Imposter syndrome

There have been times when I have felt like a stranger in my own body, like I’m not who I say am, unable to do any of the things I say I can and out of my depth. This can be truly terrifying but in a strange way it almost keeps you grounded.

Encouragement

Thank you to lovely family and friends who continue to support me, give me the kind words I can’t find for myself sometimes and bought me a coffee or lunch – you’re amazing. I wouldn’t be here without you.

The ‘concerned’ look

Some people just won’t get what you do or why you do it and some of the aghast expressions have made me laugh. It’s hard to rise above concern or judgement sometimes but stick in there, you know yourself better than anyone.

Time reclamation

Setting my own hours has been joyous and I no longer feel bound by the clock. In the summer during the hottest days I went to the beach in the morning and worked in the evening and it was heaven. Being able to manage your own time is an absolute gift.

The fear

It can creep over you when you least expect it, wake you up in the morning and make you hide indoors. I’ve had total fear moments about money, that I will have to eat out of bins and that I’ll fail. Fear can be all encompassing but I’m better at keeping it at bay, sometimes you have to tell it to ‘shove off’.

Nothing you do is wasted

I’ve had many jobs and done lots of volunteering and it has all paid off. I think it makes you a better problem solver, less of a lateral thinker and gives you experience of dealing with all sorts of environments and people.

Taxes are the antichrist, or are they?

I was terrified of receipts, tax returns, invoices and anything to do with money for the first two months and pretended I didn’t have to do it. Luckily, I just decided one day to tackle it and with the help of the brilliant Taxdoctor I am on track, recording my money and being an adult.

Fun

I’m meeting lots of new people and I love it, many are now friends and clients and people I can bounce ideas off, it’s awesome. I attend fun openings, launches, parties and events and being the extrovert I am, it suits me well.

Mantra

“I work 60 hours for myself, so I don’t have to work 37 for someone else”

Amen and thanks to Dan Slee, @comms2point0 for tweeting this.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall.

The sugarless diary.

no_sugar_diet

Sugar sugar? Nuh uh honey. I participated in a seven day sugar free diet for research purposes, this includes no natural occurring sugars or sweeteners – fruit is OUT.

Why you ask? I wanted to see if I could do it, plus it’s excellent blog material.

Pre sugar free diet

I am terror struck at thought of no sugar and panic buy lactose free milk, two Kinder Buenos and a Twix. I take 30 minutes to eat the Bueno and wonder why on earth I have decided to do this?!

Day 1 

Take lactose milk to work and porridge oats, realise I’m having salty porridge for breakfast and die a little inside.

Tell everyone in sight that I’m doing a seven day sugar free diet, many give me sympathy but talk about cakes anyway. One colleague tells me “you’re going to withdraw like a heroin addict” – I imagine myself like an extra from Trainspotting sat in a dirty flat, groaning in agony.

Can’t bother to Google ‘sugar in pasta’ so I panic eat another bowl of salty porridge for lunch and my hope slides further away.

Have tea but go to bed absolutely starving.

Day 2

Wake up absolutely starving, make scrambled egg for breakfast and realise I have nothing to put it with. Burn eggs to bottom of pan and leave it ‘soaking’ so boyfriend will clean it up.

Go to gym and do really hard class, cycle home and feel like I’ve been dragged through a field by a tractor.

Meet friend in town for a drink, the cafe doesn’t stock unsweetened milk and goes to check on loose leaf tea situation. Massive queue forms behind me because I’m clearly ‘that knobhead’. Spend £3.50 on green tea which is vile.

Buy unsweetened peanut butter for £3.60 and feel deeply ashamed and annoyed at Tesco.

On walk home see a little girl with a choc dip and really want to steal it from her – realise this is bad, plus I don’t have energy to run away. Lethargy sets in and I’m almost asleep by 4.30pm, go to bed ravenous.

Day 3

Add unsweetened peanut butter to porridge and conclude it’s worth its weight in gold and could cry at how happy it makes my mouth.

Lethargy is quite bad today and spend a lot of time in bed.

Boyfriend makes me a steak dinner and it is fantastic; the peas are super sweet and are like little balls of joy, is there a vegetable of the year award? He also buys me carnations and I wonder what on earth I have done to deserve him.

Go to a gig in the evening and feel very sad that my only drink choice is water, although being hydrated is excellent, as is not spending ANYTHING. Downside is my tiny bladder which means I have to go to the toilet all the time.

Day 4

Wake up cranky and irritable and go in to a teenage mood mode.

Decide I hate everyone and everything even after delicious avocado and eggs.

Am meant to be doing multiple things today but can’t face people or people drinking beer in front of me so decide not to go out and watch rugby after all and hide in bed. The second half of the rugby is shockingly bad and adds an extra layer of sour to my mood.

Meet a friend in the evening and very sad not to have a cocktail but the cappuccino is oddly delightful, as is her company – decide I like people again and shouldn’t hide away from them.

Go to bed feeling kinder towards the human race and not like I could eat a mound of marzipan.

Day 5

Don’t feel as fatigued which is great and eat my porridge joyfully.

Go to spin class and it’s very hard but enjoyable, feel accomplished, not too tired. Enjoying porridge so much I have a second bowl for lunch and realise that if peanut butter was a person I would marry it.

Day develops and the headache starts, not too bad at first but after watching Thor: Ragnarok not even Chris Hemsworth’s beefy arms can distract me from the thumping pain in my head. Go to bed with huge headache.

Day 6

The huge headache is still there and feel like drilling in to my own head. Force feed porridge to myself but this time I can barely stomach it and would kill for jam on toast.

Tell more colleagues about sugar free diet and they are sympathetic. I am asked if I want a piece of lemon curd Victoria sponge and doughnuts and to overcome this I eat two packets of ready salted crisps, I am health personified – take that Joe Wicks.

My mother made flapjacks and they smell like heaven and I can almost taste them. She gives me a boiled egg and I could kiss her, getting energy from protein is so much more gratifying somehow.

Look in mirror and realise my skin is looking pretty good, clear and less dull. My bloaty ridge below my stomach is flatter and I no longer have that Sideshow Bob paunch.

Day 7

Last day of sugar free life and I feel weirdly sad. Realise I am terrified of eating sugar and not being a slave to it has been liberating.

My mind feels clearer and I feel more alert, able to process things quicker which is refreshing after feeling like I was in a fog. Work is so full on that I barely remember that I can’t have sugar and take solace in another boiled egg and chicken.

End my evening by watching my boyfriend eat the cupcake I brought home from work and realise this is my porn.

Life after sugar

I tentatively eat some flapjack and it’s like an explosion in my mouth – the sugar is overwhelming and delicious. I could cartwheel but would end up in A&E.

I have decided to try and stick with this but introduce fruit back in as life is too short to not eat a pomegranate. I will do my best to keep sugar free as much as possible because even with the initial headaches, mood swings and fatigue I feel better in myself, less bloated and healthier.

Sugar is ridiculously addictive and I hadn’t comprehended how impactful it is, I would seriously recommend trying this but be planned, get in food to give you energy – nuts and seeds are your friend.

 

 

 

 

How to run a great campaign

campaign

My recent role to assist Cowshed with campaign work gave me a great insight in how to run successful campaigns for a broad range of clients from start to finish.

I worked mainly with Wales Co-operative to deliver the Social Saturday campaign, a day to champion social enterprises and it was a great experience. Thanks to Vicki and team for the warm welcome and fondness for afternoon snacks.

In former jobs, running a campaign came alongside a huge amount of other work, often felt a momentous and uphill task, but having enjoyed the freedom to focus gave me some clarity on what it takes to run a great campaign.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Be organised – planning is your friend, it’s the thing you need to come back to over and over again and keeps you on track.
  2. Budget – know what you’ve got from the start then you can look at what each element of the campaign will need, having a little extra without allocation at the start won’t hurt either.
  3. What’s your ask? Do you want people to sign up? Donate? Attend? Give? Whatever it is, that should drive your campaign.
  4. Be realistic – setting unachievable targets and aims is only going to demotivate you, have realistic goals and if you do better than that’s great. You can learn for next time.
  5. Free is your friend – don’t have lots of budget? Remember that a lot of digital media is free to use and can reach a lot of people for not too much work.
  6. Stories – they should be at the heart of the campaign and will ultimately drive your intended audience to act. It’s what the media love too, always have them.
  7. Media contact – Let them know what you’re planning in advance – if they aren’t interested ask them what would make them interested and think if you can accommodate them.
  8. Pick up the phone – emails get lost, piled up, deleted, unread and having an actual conversation is a great way of starting a relationship.
  9. Communicate – it’s so important to communicate with your colleagues so you’re on the same page, updates are good so everyone is clued in.
  10. Have fun – campaigns are great and there’s plenty of opportunity to do things differently, whether that be with graphics, pictures, events or stories.

If you need any support with campaigns then please get in touch.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall