As 2020 has been a difficult time for everyone due to the global pandemic we are currently living through, as we all are probably sick hearing about – Corona Virus, it is extremely important to remember about our mental health and think of others around us as well. This year world mental health day may be more significant than ever due to lockdown restrictions and loss. Mental health is important every year, every day, every minute and every second but this year it is a great reminder that mental health is a top priority and it is okay not to be okay.
You are not alone
Mental health affects everyone differently and during lockdown we know that many people have developed new problems associated with their mental health and existing mental health problems/illness have worsened. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are people to talk to who can help us or even just listen It is important to listen to ones around you, a short conversation with a friend can really have a great impact on their day.
Mental health is for everyone and we all deserve a good, bright positive mindset in these times of uncertainty. Many people have been caused a lot of stress due from lockdown starting, places closing, furlough to even job losses happening. Although is is hard to interact with with others during this pandemic due to many restrictions it is important to stay in touch with one another. A good way to do this is being more active online, interacting with friends and family over social media is a great way to stay in touch from facetime, skype to zoom calls you can have quiz nights and have a laugh, there are countless ways to stay positive but it takes YOU to make this happen. During lockdown
Campaigns running are a great way to get people involved and help businesses and websites get more recognition
Tea & Talk – Virtually share a cup up tea and hang out with your friends, family and colleagues to raise money and awareness for the mental health foundation. Once you sign up you get a free Tea & Talk package sent out, so I would say it’s worth it!
Make a positive change and start TODAY
Checking on your family, friends and work colleagues is more important than ever with a simple ‘How are you?’. Mind have came up with the hashtag #doonethingtoday which was started so that people can start with something small to make a positive change in their lives or someone else’s. The first stages to supporting your own mental health can start with the smallest thing… Take in some fresh air and go for a walk, do something you love whether that be reading a book or painting, challenge yourself with the smallest of things such as getting yourself into a routine that ay make you feel better,
Reach out to someone if you need help or want to talk –
Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call) Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Website:https://www.samaritans.org “Provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face”.
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday) or text 86463 Email:email@example.com Website:www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines “Mind provides confidential mental health information services. With support and understanding, Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental health problems, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind works in partnership with around 140 local Minds providing local mental health services.”
Alisha O’Hagan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter.
It is undeniable that social media has become an obligatory part of our everyday lives. According to wearesocial.com, more than 3.8 billion people use social media in 2020. *MIND-BLOWN*
A major element of modern social media is influencers. Influencers are individuals who build a following on social media, based on their opinions and expertise on a specific topic, most commonly fashion, fitness or beauty related. Influencers post regularly, generating huge exposure from their loyal followers.
Molly-Mae Hague, you either know everything about her, or nothing at all. That is the beauty of influencers; megastars to their interested audience but not quite A-Lister household names. Molly-Mae is a 21-year-old, Social Media Influencer from Hertfordshire, who rose to fame in 2019 as a contestant on the UK hit series, Love Island.
Love Island has been known as a ‘gateway’ for Social Media Influencers to gain a higher following, overpowering the shows initial goal of finding ‘love’. Molly-Mae did not shy away from this and has since openly admitted that initially Love Island was simply a “business venture” to further her career in Influencer Marketing.
Molly-Mae’s career has gone from strength to strength, making her the most successful contestant to leave the show. This however is no accident, it is a result of meticulous planning, content creating and professional endeavours.
Upon leaving the villa, Molly-Mae’s business venture had already proven extremely successful, with all of the UK top clothing brands aiming to secure a deal with her. After considering her options, Molly-Mae signed an incredible £500,000 deal with Manchester based fashion company, Pretty Little Thing. This was the highest brand deal a 2019 Love Island contestant generated.
As Molly-Mae’s Pretty Little Thing collaboration rolled out, the brand found their sales increase dramatically, with the range selling out immediately. This therefore resulted in Molly Mae receiving another six-figure deal to extend the collaboration for an extra six months.
Molly-Mae donated all profits from one of her Pretty Little Thing collections to the mental health charity MIND following the death of friend and Love Island host, Caroline Flack. MIND provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems. The charity campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding surrounding mental health.
The decision to donate all profits to MIND was a personal decision for Molly-Mae, due to the death her close friend. Doing this allowed Molly-Mae to use her huge platform to promote the importance of mental health awareness and understanding. Molly-Mae engages with a lot of young people through her social media following, maintaining a positive reputation and a high level of influence. It is important to target her following with important issues, encouraging them to speak out about their mental health.
On the back of her partnership with Pretty Little Thing, it was clear that Molly-Mae was a big hit. To ensure she captured her success at a high point, Molly-Mae decided to embark on her very own business venture. With a target audience in mind, through commitment and dedication, she successfully launched her very own tanning brand, Filter by Molly-Mae.
Filter is a collection of tanning products. However, some eager eyed fans have noticed the brand is listed on Endole as a ‘wholesale of perfume and cosmetics’, which gives them the rights to expand the range into a cosmetic and beauty brand. This expansion has been successfully carried out by many brands. Local brand bPerfect Cosmetics did exactly this, expanding their tanning brand into a makeup cosmetics line and most recently, opening a Mega Store in Belfast City Centre. *No pressure Molly-Mae*
In September 2020, Molly-Mae hit the significant milestone of one million subscribers on her ever-growing Youtube channel, where she documents her life through daily vlogs, behind the scenes on business ventures as well as hair, makeup and fashion tutorials.
It could be argued that Youtube is an extremely vital part in Molly-Mae’s success. Her loyal followers were introduced to her through Love Island, a TV show that followed her daily life, every day, for over two months. Therefore, people may feel that they know Molly-Mae on a more personal level and her Youtube ensures this relationship is continued.
To celebrate this milestone, Molly-Mae launched a huge giveaway on her Instagram account. This giveaway boasted £8,000 worth of prizes, with Louis Vuitton bags, Apple gadgets, as well as her tanning products from Filter by Molly-Mae.
Giveaways are an immediate way to create engagement on social media, with many influencers participating in brand collaboration giveaways. Collaborations benefit both the brand and the influencer, with brand specific prizes and entry requirements that increase following and engagement for both.
Molly-Mae decided to cut out the ‘middle-man’ and set up the giveaway on her own. This allowed her to include authentic prizes that were directly related to her personality, her brand and her followers’ interests. Doing this also allowed Molly-Mae to stay clear of the typical, robotic perception that comes with giveaways. She ensured her caption was sincere, including a message of gratitude to existing followers.
The entry requirements on the giveaway were as follows:
Like this post & tag a friend
Subscribe to my Youtube channel
Make sure you’re following @mollymaehague and @filterbymollymae
Share this post to your story for a bonus entry
These entry requirements ensured multi-networking which generated a high level of engagement, increasing social media following, as well as building brand awareness for Filter by Molly-Mae.
The giveaway also created headlines for the tabloids, keeping Molly-Mae in the public eye. It is very important that influencers show commitment and dedication to content creation in order to maintain their public image. This is especially important in 2020, with events, launches and media appearances being minimal due to COVID-19.
Molly-Mae’s vision for the future was impeccable and the aim of this giveaway was certainty achieved, with the total entry level reaching almost THREE MILLION, her personal Instagram gaining over 200,000 new followers and 300,000 new Youtube subscribers.
Both her personal Instagram and Youtube account will benefit greatly from this surge in followers through an increase of sponsored posts as well as an increase in earnings through social media insights and engagements.
The biggest success to come out of the giveaway has been the increase in Instagram followers for her tanning brand. Filter by Molly-Mae gained a mind-blowing 500,000 followers and counting. Yes, that is correct – 500,000!
Social media giveaways are an effective way to generate engagement with a loyal, existing audience, as well as a way to reach out to new people. Molly-Mae utilised people’s desire to participate in competitions to increase engagement for her new brand, Filter by Molly-Mae. She done this at a time where her fame and engagement were high, gaining public exposure at a time where this is limited.
To be sure she obtains the benefits of her giveaway and retains the increase in engagement, it is essential that Molly-Mae develops strategic communication tactics to build a relationship with new followers, as they are not required to continue following her once the competition has ended. It is important that she remains consistent, sharing user generated content, as well as asking for feedback and recommendations.
As soon as the winner of the giveaway was announced, Molly-Mae was already forward-planning, building excitement for the next one on social media. This is the perfect way to keep followers, old and new interested. However, if the next prize is anything like the first… who wouldn’t be interested?
I have a good feeling about the next one… if you see me out and about in the near future with a 4-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set or Apple gadget bundle… thanks Molly-Mae!
Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.
2020 is still a year many people are trying to wrap their head around, myself included. Covid-19 has brought on a lot of stress for those who are working and have lost their jobs and also to those who have returned back to university, everything feels so surreal. During lock down it had been announced that university would be done online this year with the possibility of being back on campus by second semester, this isn’t something many students wanted to hear; however, we know that it was needed due to the circumstances so we quickly came to terms with the news.
When I “returned” to university this year, I had been feeling anxious before we’d even gotten past our introduction week as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cope with online learning, so far my fears have become a reality. Lack of concentration, finding it harder to read academic literature online, not being able to see my friends and catch up about the last year we’ve been apart. All minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things but we are halfway through the first semester and nothing has improved. This has caused me a great deal of concern about the future as I’m a final year student, this could affect my degree massively if I don’t try and implement things to boost my concentration levels. Having lectures and seminars on campus makes learning so much more fulfilling, you finish the day feeling like you’ve actually done something with your time and you feel more accomplished. Whereas, doing online lectures at home you find yourself feeling tired, and mentally not at the lecture, most of the time you don’t even realise you’ve zoned out until you zone back in again.
I’ve thought of a list of things that could potentially help me concentrate better and anyone who reads this that’s in the same situation can try them out too. • Leave your phone in another room – Yes, I know this is a hard one, our generation is constantly glued to our phones, which is probably the main culprit for lack of concentration levels, but put it away and only use it on your breaks. • Work from a desk not from a bed- Probably a bit hypocritical of me as I write this from my bed however, I definitely will not be working in bed from this day onwards. Working from your desk will make you feel more productive, especially when listening to a lecture you will be more likely to take notes and remember the information you were taught. • Drink plenty of water- Keeping hydrated will leave you less heavy headed and you’ll feel a lot more refreshed whilst working. • Go for a walk between lectures- Whether it’s to the shop or just to your front door for some fresh air, try and get a walk in especially if you have a long day online, it will prevent you from getting groggy and tired. • Interact in lectures- Ask questions, answer them, speak up if you’re unsure on something, lead discussions. Interaction during lectures will not only give your lectures peace of mind but it will also help make the lecture more enjoyable. These are just a few things you can try and implement to get the best out of your online university experience. This year will definitely be a struggle for the vast majority of us, but if we try and get ourselves into a routine and the right head space, I have no doubt we will all do as well as we hope.
Remember to keep yourself safe and well, your university lecturers are always there to help and guide you if you’re struggling so don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask questions.
Kayla Collins is a final year BSc in Communication Management and PR student at Ulster University. Find her on Twitter, Instagramor Linkedin.
Social media is arguably one of the most powerful tools in our society today and I can’t deny throughout the pandemic it has done a lot of good as we all tried to make the best of a horrible year. It has given us a platform to voice our opinions and concerns and connect with loved ones from all over the world in the form of weekly zoom quizzes. Even just sending each other adorable puppy videos has brightened some of our darker days as we muddle through these unprecedented times. However, it is important to address how Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and the pressures that are associated with the overuse of these platforms can be all-consuming, draining, and impact our mental health negatively, particularly during lockdown when we are alone and forced to deal with our thoughts.
Endless, mind-numbing scrolling and switching from app to app on our smartphones has become an addiction for our generation and as we find ourselves planted in the middle of another lockdown, ask yourself this; could you spend a whole day without visiting either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter? Your answer is probably very much like mine; a no, but we aren’t alone. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2018, 63% of the 743 young adults interviewed said they use social media every day, while 45% say they are on the internet “almost constantly”. Scary. Our smartphones have become an extension of our arms and at the touch of a button we have access to millions of tiny squares filled with pictures and videos of beautiful people in beautiful places, doing beautiful things, looking beautifully happy. Sometimes these tiny squares can make us compare our lives to others, belittle ourselves and even feel like less of a person but it is important to remember that we don’t see these people when they are sick or having a bad day. It is great to see people thriving and living their best lives but it is ok if you aren’t thriving and living YOUR best life right now.
Thanks to social media and in particular Instagram, we have this warped unrealistic image engraved in our brain of what our lives should look like. Through the introduction of influencers and large social media personalities promoting all the latest garments and gadgets, it can be easy to inhabit an unhealthy ‘I want to be like them’ attitude. We think if we have a life like theirs then we’ll be happy – if we buy that overpriced designer item, we’ll be happy, if we go on that holiday, we’ll be happy, if we have a relationship like theirs, we’ll be happy, if we look like that influencer or work ourselves silly in the gym to have a body like theirs, we’ll be happy. There is SO much to think about today and trends are constantly changing so unfortunately there will always be another we may feel pressured to follow. However, it can be helpful to take a step back, put things into perspective and realise that the celebrities who appear to have the ‘perfect life’ are human too and the impact social media has on their mental health can be just as detrimental.
In 2017, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner opened up to Dr. Phil McGraw about how her long-term depression worsened during her fourth year on the show just as the use of social media was on the rise. Describing social media as a ‘catalyst’, she stated that trolls would take to Instagram to make comments about her skin, weight and acting abilities which “impacted how she did her job and how she interacted with the world”. I know right? You may be scratching your head thinking ‘Why is this Queen feeling like this?’ Once again though, Sophie Turner isn’t alone. According to a survey carried out in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health, a lot of young adults who fall within the 14–24-year-old age bracket agree that their wellbeing is being damaged by social media, and platforms including Twitter and Instagram invoke anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation. This may be because the days when we could live and let live are gone. When we post something on social media we almost invite opinions into our lives – everyone has an opinion on everything so it isn’t hard to see how social media has created this culture of anxiety which can often stop us from doing the things we want to do. (Side note: try not to let this be the case. You do you. We have a limited time on this earth so there is literally ZERO point wasting it worrying about the opinions of others – make that instagram page, write that blog post, share your talents with the world! Could you imagine if Sophie Turner had listened to all of those trolls who told her to stop acting? Game of Thrones simply just wouldn’t be the same!)
On the other hand, throughout the years I’ve seen celebrities use social media as a platform to address mental health issues. Little Mix band member Perrie Edwards took to Instagram to share her personal experience with anxiety and debilitating panic attacks and how restricting the time she spent on social media helped combat her mental health issues. For me, Perrie’s brave post only highlights further how from the outside looking in, someone can appear to ‘have it all’ and still struggle behind closed doors. Instagram is a highlight reel and the happiness we see is only a tiny glimpse into these peoples’ lives.
The reality is that life is not how it is portrayed on social media and as most of us have come to realise in 2020, it is not all highs, sunshine and rainbows and we don’t know what lies behind a screen. As my granny always says, “everyone has their own cross to bear” but now more than ever, it is so important to not only be kind to others, but also ourselves.
I could write a lot more on this topic, but for now I want to finish with one piece of advice for lockdown number two; if you begin to feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic by social media, seeing everyone using this time to better themselves and you feel you don’t have that same motivation or if you’re just sick of hearing about COVID-19 – turn it off, go for a walk, talk to someone you trust or do something that will make you feel relaxed.
I have listed a number of resources below if you or someone you know has been struggling recently. We are living through scary times and our thoughts can make them seem even scarier. Be kind to your mind and stay safe during this lockdown.
Anxiety UK Mind Rethink Mental Illness Samaritans YoungMinds
Scroll versus sleep? I recently watched The Social Dilemma and it left me feeling pretty hopeless. I thought I was pretty good at not being on my phone, putting it down at 11pm and trying not to lift it until 8am the next day. But the screen time reminder thinks otherwise. It likes to prod fun at me with jeering messages informing me my screen time is up 15% on the previous week for a grand total of 6 hr 17 mins a day. Six hours a day on my phone… how? Doing what? Achieving what? I claim that I don’t have time to read two books a week but I can do 6 hours A DAY of giving Zuckerberg more data to manipulate and sell. Scandalous. Six hours is the number of hours I sleep. More sleeping than scrolling is the healthier option here. So every week I look at my screen reports and vow that next week I will be better but better never seems to happen. Why?
Even while watching the documentary which informed us of the heinous nature of social media and the power our smartphones have over us, I still found myself reaching for my phone every time it buzzed and sometimes even when it didn’t. Our phones have become an extension of us, an additional limb; tethered to us at all times. You would be shocked if you looked at the amount of times you pick up your phone on a daily basis. Mine exceeds 200 nearly everyday. Can you imagine doing anything else 200 plus times a day that isn’t a natural bodily function like blinking or breathing? Our phones have become so intrinsically linked to our person that we pick them up subconsciously and unwittingly immerse ourselves in the online sphere rather than engaging in the physical world around us.
According to an article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes, whenever you get a social media notification, your brain sends a chemical called dopamine along a reward pathway resulting in a feel good feeling. Therefore it is no wonder our phones are such a distraction; they have become a quick and easy way to get a dopamine hit by simply getting attention from your network in the form of likes, comments, retweets, all with just a few taps of your thumb. The constant chasing of this validation is an addiction and neurologically damaging. The documentary indicated the soaring levels of anxiety and depression amongst young people brought on directly by social media overload.
We are thus left in this social dilemma – we know the constant scrolling and constant use of social media is damaging yet it also has a wide range of positive aspects. We know that it allows us to connect with friends/family on different continents, to engage with educational content, lending a platform to marginalized voices and boosting social justice movements to name a few. This is even more imperative in 2020. Perhaps The Social Dilemma needs to be taken with a pinch of salt? There aren’t three men in a room who are carefully planning and controlling every aspect of our feeds but there is a carefully curated algorithm tailored to us. It manipulates features to make our devices as addictive as possible to keep us tipping those scales towards more scroll and less sleep. Thus with this in mind – it is no negative feat to try reduce our screen time. Is it too late for us to change our habits? I don’t think so. You can take control. You can have your own algorithm in real life. Several small changes can lead to a bigger overall shift in our relationship with our phones. I have been setting screen lock to kick in at 10.30pm-8.30am, turning off notifications for apps, leaving it at home when I go on a walk and charging it in a different room are all small but significant ways I have started trying to reduce my screen time. It’s actually becoming easier as time goes on. Hopefully in a few weeks I will be reading rather than refreshing, talking more than texting and most importantly sleeping more than scrolling.
I think everyone would agree that normality has been thrown out the window and a ‘self-isolating book for dummies’ would be greatly appreciated right now. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon so I have came to the conclusion that we have two options:
We can let the situation take control of us
Or accept that we can’t control the situation but we can control our reaction to it.
The cliche is true: we really are all in this together. I am now 5 weeks into isolation and the version of me that you would have seen 4 weeks ago is extremely different to now.
When isolation began I worked from home for a few weeks. Truth be told if not for work I would have lost my mind! It was the only thing filling these long and empty days (and I know a lot of people will relate). Next thing you know I am off work for 4 weeks and now what? This is the question I asked myself repeatedly. For the first time in so long I had no purpose and that was the most difficult thing. The next few days was a downward spiral of: anxiety, sleepless nights and mind draining bordem.
Looking back now I’m annoyed that I wasted a week moping around feeling sorry for myself. Little by little, day by day I started doing things that I had been putting off because I was so busy. Then it occurred to me that I have been handed a huge opportunity! Think about it under normal circumstances if someone said to you: ‘take 4 weeks off work and do nothing or go try new things or spend time with your family’ YOU’D BE BUZZING! SO that’s exactly what I did!
A New Chapter
First steps: Write a list of things that you always said ‘I’d love to try that’. Now go and do it. It’s that simple. Read the book that you bought 6 months ago, try a 30 day online yoga class, bake a cake, start a blog.
(This actually is my list and I have now done all of the above!)
Doing all of these things was great and it distracted me for an hour everyday. But I knew that if I was to take back control I would have to be in control of my emotions and my mind. After a lot of research and many podcasts later I learnt that journaling may be the answer to all of my problems. I have kept a journal on and off for many years but I’ve never committed to it, so after lots of research I realized that I definitely wasn’t doing it right before nor was I getting the many benefits out of it.
“ What a comfort is this journal I tell myself to myself and throw the burden on my book and feel relieved.” Anne Lister.
After a few weeks I perfected the journaling technique that worked for me. This quotation is the best way that I can explain it. Usually we would open up to other people. But there is so much going on in the world right now that no one wants to hear my first world problems, so I open up to my journal. I wanted something that would: add structure to my day, allow me to aim for goals, let me reflect on how I felt and visualise beyond this time in my life (creating a sense of hope). I can honestly say that the benefits that this process has had on my mental health has been mind blowing and for the first time in a long time I have control and I am happy.
I was always that person that bottled things up and kept myself to myself. I hid behind an insecure smile and I found it difficult to sleep because the conversation between me & my mind was so negative. I can not stress enough the positive impact this has had on my life and especially on the quality of my sleep. I now sleep like a BABY!
Tip: I have gotten into the habit of finishing my journal entry every night by writing down a few things that I am GRATEFUL for. Because no matter how tough the situation is, we all have at least one thing in our lives that we are grateful for.
The new me had so much energy and positivity that I wanted to share my thoughts about journaling with other people. I believed that everyone should have the chance to experience how I feel. So, on 15th April I set up my own blog on Instagram called mindtalkblog. It talks about all things journaling: what it is; how to do it; tips & techniques etc. and to my surprise the response has been amazing!
I have wanted to create a blog for years but something in the back of my mind has always stopped me. Perhaps it was my confidence or perhaps I had to go through this experience first. But finally I ran out of excuses because all we have at the minute is time. Time to take chances, time to grow and time to flourish.
So I will say it one last time: When you can’t control the situation, control your reaction to it.
Brexit, same-sex marriage becoming legal in Ireland and the hilarity of Donald Trump actually being the President of the United States. Those are a few of the historical events of my young adult life that I thought I’d be telling my children and grandchildren about. I never thought I would be telling them about the time a global pandemic shut down the world and changed life as we knew it.
When Coronavirus first came onto the scene I, along with many, didn’t take it too seriously. I just washed my hands with a bit more attention to detail, palm to palm… right palm over left… and don’t forget your thumbs, and waited for the media hype to die down. Up until March, I was attending work and class as usual, living in Belfast, planning the trip of a lifetime with my best friends and rolling my eyes when my Mum would say, “What if the Coronavirus is still around then?”. It was then that COVID-19 got closer and closer to home, cases of the virus and deaths were on the rise and plans to close schools, businesses and social spaces were in the works. I left work on the 13th of March after a day of hearing customers say, “This isn’t good. By next week I think the world will be a lot different.” and I started to think that they were right.
Within a few days, I had to cancel an upcoming St. Patricks day trip to Amsterdam, was temporarily let go from my part-time job, I learnt that I would not be going back to University for the last few weeks of my Final semester and Boris told us that when a friend asks you to meet, say no. For many of us life has been on pause for weeks now, I’m on day 38. And in those 38 days, I have found myself looking at things differently and realising the amazing things I took for granted before COVID-19 changed our lives as we knew it.
“We are not trapped, we are safe at home.”
After a few days of frustration, disappointment and anxiety about the fact that I had to prematurely move out of my student house in Belfast and move back home for the foreseeable future, no longer live with my friends and spend every day minus 1 hour within these walls, I realised how lucky I was to have a safe home to spend quarantine in. Heat without having to stick £5 on the meter every few days, my mothers cooking and the company of my loved ones which I previously would have taken for granted. All of us who are able to spend this time inside with our families are fortunate, and it puts a perspective on the essential workers who are putting themselves at risk every day to protect us. Please protect them by staying at home.
To all my friends who I have ever cancelled plans on or not followed through with that, “omg we need to get coffee sometime!” I’M SORRY, I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I will never hesitate when someone asks me to go out, to watch a movie or to go for a walk. Want company on a trip to Tesco? I’ll be there. I miss cooking dinners with my friends and struggling to have everything ready at the same time. I had to binge watch Too Hot Too Handle by myself without running commentary from my friends, lusting over the boys and wishing we looked like the girls. I miss Limelight Mondays, Hatfield Tuesdays, Funkarama Wednesdays. I miss the supportive chats that we had when one of us had a bad day, was worried about a deadline or our futures and the cup of tea (or bottle of wine) from your best friend that fixes everything. At a time like this that is detrimental to many peoples mental health, it makes you realise how much a little chat and a cuddle from your bestie makes everything okay. But for now, watsapp check inns, a Saturday night on house-party and making plans for the epic reunion when this is all over will have to do.
My University Life
I am thankful that as I began final year, I was in a great place mentally and after completing an amazing placement I was enthusiastic and excited about starting my final year at university. I made a promise to myself that I would enjoy every moment because it was my last year and it would soon be over… and it was over sooner than I thought. I was so fortunate to make a group of friends within my first couple of weeks as a First Year in Jordanstown, a group that has carried through to final year and no doubt the rest of my life. My group of friends and classmates were something I never took for granted, but I took for granted the coffee dates between lectures, university nights out and struggling through a hangover together the next day. The “are you going in?” texts, the “wtf is going on” during lectures texts and the “HAVE YOU STARTED THIS ASSIGNMENT???” texts. Complaining about the car parking prices whilst telling myself “I really need to start getting the bus” but never doing so because the walk to the bus stop is just too much effort in the morning and I’d rather have those 11 extra minutes in bed. Buying an overpriced mexican wrap from Spar and eating lunch on the mall followed by the collective “should we go to the library or should we just go home” discussion.
As I complete my degree online without the thrill of hand submitting my dissertation or looking forward to my friends and I throwing our caps in the air at a Summer graduation, I am disappointed, but can’t help reflect on the past 4 years and realise that your University days really are the best days of your life.
the little things I will never take for granted again
Calling into my Grannies for a cuppa and a natter
Spending time with my extended family
Going to a job I loved with co-workers I loved even more
Barista Bar Coffee (really thankful for the coffee machine my Brother got for Christmas)
Brunch, lunch and dinner dates even though I said I’d save money and cook at home all week
Making plans with my friends without having to say, “If we’re able too by then.”
Contemplating going to the Gym and then not going
Bumping into friends on the street
Awkwardly bumping into people you follow on Instagram and the two of you not knowing whether to say hello or not so you just give each other an awkward nod
Going for a browse in the city and coming home with £60 worth of stuff I didn’t need
Opening an ASOS parcel without my mum disinfecting it first
Last minute nights out that end up being the best nights ever
The world as we knew it will never be the same. I say this without the intent to belittle the severity of the virus, the lives lost, the pressure it has placed on the NHS and the disastrous effect it has and will have on our economy. Putting all of that aside in this instance, and purely looking at the way this has affected our outlook on life. This has put everything into perspective, shown us what is important, what’s not, how we should appreciate the little things in life and hold our loved ones a little closer. I think we will all lead a very different life after this, and maybe, that isn’t a bad thing.
Catherine Maguire is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn:Catherine Maguire
So far, 2020 has been one big slap in the face. We all had big plans for this year, and I don’t think the “c-word” (behave, I mean the other c-word) was in any of them. But I have chosen not to let it break me.
If anyone here has read my last blog post on ‘Mindset’ you will know that I tend to look for the positives in everything and I like to make the best out of a bad situation. In this situation however, I didn’t have to look very far to see the good side. All I had to do was look outside and see that my neighbour who hasn’t gotten off the sofa in 10 years, is now outside doing their daily walk, or go onto Facebook and see my old school friend putting on a live concert in their living room just for the hell of it.
I want to make it clear that I understand how utterly horrible this virus is and I do hope it leaves us as quickly as it arrived. Nonetheless, the virus has put us all in the same situation. It’s here whether we like it or not, so we may as well make the most of it eh?
When our mate Boris announced the lockdown, it was bittersweet. On one hand, we all knew it needed to be done and that it was the only thing that was going to get us closer to defeating the enemy. On the other hand, there was a state of grief that masked the entire country. We had to say ‘see you later’ to a lot of the things that we take for granted every day – our friends, family members, hugs, our freedom.
I know I am extremely lucky in all of this; I live with my wonderful family, I have the countryside on my doorstep, and I am both emotionally and physically healthy. I am fully aware that there are others who don’t have the privileges I have and this lockdown may be mentally exhausting for them. To those people, I salute you. However, if you are in a similarly lucky position to me then I want you to stop moping around and start to see why lockdown is actually a blessing in disguise.
In the short time we have been gifted with lockdown, I have realised a few things about the human race:
1. We do a lot of things just to please other people
I don’t know about you, but I have not worn make up, washed my hair, dressed nicely, put on fake tan, or shaved my legs half as much as I would if we weren’t in lockdown. Boys, call me disgusting, but if a girl is telling you that she has, she’s probably lying.
The only time I have put on make-up or clothes that aren’t sweats, is when I am recording a video for my music pages. But why? Because that’s the only time other people see me.
We all like to pretend that we wear make-up and do all these things for ourselves to feel good – and don’t get me wrong, it does feel good to strut around your bedroom feeling like Rihanna – but can anyone here honestly tell me that they have put in half the effort in the last 4 weeks as they would have in normal times? Of course not! I mean, what’s the point in making an effort just so you can stare at yourself in the mirror?
Maybe it is about time we started doing these things for ourselves. If you want to buy nice underwear, curl your hair and wear red lipstick just to make your morning coffee, then do it. Likewise, if you feel your best in a pair of sweats and a messy bun, that’s okay too! We’ve got to start saying “I am going to do this because it makes me feel good” because right now, you are all you have.
2. We all needed a break
I don’t know what to believe when it comes to the origin of this virus. I do like to entertain the idea of conspiracies and theories, just because they are a lot more exciting than some dude in China scranning a bat and starting a global crisis. Nobody has a definite answer as to where this started or where it will all end but what I do believe is that this needed to happen.
I said it from the start, but maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us to chill the f*#k out. It’s like she has given us this beautiful planet with all its resources, where we can roam freely and do as we please – as long as we don’t take it too far. The same way our parents allowed us to go and play with our friends, as long as we are back before the streetlights go on. But what happens when stay out till after dark? We get grounded. Our parents trusted us to be home by curfew but when we broke that trust, the privilege got taken away from us.
We have been abusing our planet for years, thinking we could continue to do so and we would keep getting more and more chances. But we were on our final straw and we didn’t even know it. We pushed our luck and used our last chance.
I read an article about the fish returning to the rivers in Venice since the residents and tourists have disappeared. This, among other amazing observations, shows how much we as humans have damaged the earth’s natural beauty and maybe the only way to restore the planet is to keep the humans away for a while. An American living in Wuhan said, “I used to think there weren’t really any birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.”
As well as the world needing a break from the humans, I think the humans needed a break from the world.
We wake up, go to work, come home and go to sleep, then we wake up and do it all again the next day. I work in the events industry and someone said to me at the beginning of all this, “what are you going to do if you can’t work?”. I replied “I am going to walk, run, cycle, play guitar, draw, write, sing, read, listen to music… maybe just live my life?”
They were shocked. Imagine your life not revolving around work?
As a society, we live to work, we don’t work to live. All I ever hear are people saying:
‘I need a break…’
‘How is it Monday again already?’
‘I wish I could have some time off to do nothing…’
We have been given the break we’ve been asking for, yet there are people who can’t wait to get back to ‘normal’. We go through the rat race of life, constantly competing with others. Whether it is for a promotion or scrolling through Instagram to see who has the most expensive handbag, we are always pushing other people down in order to raise ourselves up. And we call this normal?
I read a tweet that said “Coronavirus has proved that everything around us is a fake social construct. We are learning to live without things our lives revolved around, like work, school, gym, malls and society. It’s taught us that in the end its your own home and family that keep you safe.”
Now that all the things we thought were important have been taken away from us, it’s like we are being forced to face ourselves. To ask ourselves, when all is said and done, what is really important, what is really ‘normal’. The system has been shut down and we don’t have to keep running anymore; we don’t have to keep pretending anymore.
So before you try and rush back to ‘normal life’, ask yourself which parts of ‘normal’ are really worth rushing back to.
3. When this is over, we gotta seize the day
Carpe Diem. We’ve all heard it, I’m sure some of you even have it hanging on the back of your door. But have you ever thought about what it means?
How many of you have made plans in your life that you just ‘never got round to’? Maybe you were planning to find your dream job, maybe you were planning on going to the gym to get your dream body, or maybe you were planning to travel the world – but you just ‘never got round to it’.
I had plans, we all did. There are things we say we are going to do, but we always put them off.
“The gym will still be open on Monday, I’ll start then.”
“The flights are too expensive this year, I’ll travel next year”
“I’ll go see granny next weekend instead, she will understand.”
The truth is, you have been telling yourself you will start the gym every Monday for the last 10 years and your poor granny boils the kettle for you every Sunday but you are always too busy.
Too often, we take these little privileges for granted and expect them to be available to us forever. But guess what? The gym isn’t open on Monday, you can’t fly anywhere anytime soon and you most definitely cannot go and see your granny next weekend.
We need to start seizing the day. We have been putting our goals off for too long, and now the possibility of achieving them has been taken away from us. None of us expected this to happen but we assume that these things will always just be there when we want them, and now they’re not.
We will reach the other side of this and it is not the end of the world. But one day it will be, so if there is anything you can take away from this lockdown, it’s that life is short. Book that flight, apply for that job, buy that car you’ve always wanted. Start working on your dreams, before it’s too late.
4. Humanity is at its best when we are united
Finally: the most positive thing to arise from our current situation. Never before has the whole world had to come together to fight one common enemy (except in the last season of Game of Thrones).
For the first time in the history of mankind, celebrities, CEOS, politicians, cleaners, receptionists and interns are all in the same boat. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how successful you are or how much money you have – nobody is immune and the only thing that is going to get us through is the common realisation that we are all the same.
Personally, I think I speak to my friends and family more now than I did before lockdown. We are so far apart but, in some ways, we are closer than ever. We are finding new ways to communicate and using our imagination to keep ourselves entertained.
I never thought I’d see the day when all my friends would spend their Saturday night doing a virtual pub quiz and I certainly never thought we’d be in our 20’s still nominating each other to neck pints and do handstands, but hey, we adapt.
The thing is, normally we are all too busy to see each other or hang out. We always have something more important to do or someone else to please, but when everything is stripped back, that’s when we can see the people who will keep us sane during the hard times. The people who are always there in the background. You may not always have time to show them your appreciation, but when life gets too much and you feel like falling down, those are the people who you will catch you. Every. Single. Time.
One of my best friends recently said to me, “I am so grateful I’ve had this time to bond with my little sister. I never had a childhood with her because I moved away when she was younger but we are so much closer now”.
And that’s what this is about. As I said at the start, I know this isn’t an ideal situation and there are definitely some people who aren’t as blessed as you and I, but we are the lucky ones and it’s time we started recognising it.
As I returned home from my Barcelona placement excursion I secured a job in Dublin. My main incentive was to gain some more experience for my CV and to prepare me for the world of work.
Before I knew it, my 2nd big city experience of the year commenced.
Initially, Dublin didn’t seem a city I thought I would gel with, but I was so wrong!
I started my new job in an event management company on Camden Street, smack bang in the centre of the Dublin scene. My new workplace was everything I wanted and more, the happiness you get when having delightful work colleagues has such a detrimental impact on your daily wellbeing. I slowly found myself walking into work in the morning with a spring in my step. An eagerness to learn and excitement to see my works pals. I very quickly became one of the team.
Working on some of the coolest events the country had to offer I became very tired but so appreciative of the opportunities I was getting to experience! Seeing the most extravagant corporate employee parties to the madness behind the festival preparation scene. The backstage hustle was one I definitely loved and it gave me such an insight into my future career, and my excitement for it.
Not losing sight of the beauty that is our capital city… I loved the walk to work in the morning, getting to walk the streets of ‘the big smoke.’ Seeing the Molly Malone statue sit nicely whilst sipping on my Butlers coffee, I had never felt more at home. My lifestyle in Dublin seemed to be one that I fitted into perfectly. From the 9-5 working day to the sociable evenings with friends or a run around UCD campus to clear my head, I couldn’t fault it.
Being a stone’s throw from St Stephens Green made for lovely lunch time strolls and being only quick jaunt to Grafton Street was perfect for the occasional lunchtime shopping trip… ok very frequent shopping trip.
Back to the job, my favourite project had to be the “Tesco Finest* Banquet at Electric Picnic”. The Tesco Banquet was a fine dining experience prepared by chefs Derry Clarke and Mark Moriarty. Creating that finest experience at Electric Picnic, with all proceeds going to Pieta House (a charity helping those with mental health illnesses) and Temple St Children’s Hospital.
The set up began and then, all of a sudden it was festival week and we were in a field. The hard work was about to begin. The Marquee shot up, deliveries were arriving, crew men were assembling sets. Photo opportunities started to look the part, the bar was installed and stocked up, trees and décor began to take over what once was a plain old field. And with a wave of a magic wand we had a Banquet fit for the President himself. (It was not this simple and straightforward at the time, it was extremely stressful, but alas).
Showtime was upon us (EEK!). The Banquet began on the Saturday of Electric Picnic weekend so we had one more day to ensure absolute and utter perfection.
Well, before I knew it I was greeting Greg O’Shea (Ahhh!) and friends alongside other special guests into our Tesco finest* dining experience and showing them to their seats. Playing it very professional and cool, of course. The dining commenced on our first sitting and everything after that was a blur, but, it was amazing. The feedback was great and the general feel of the Banquet was beautiful. The Tiny Quartet’s strings accompanied by Niamh Farrell’s vocals sent goose bumps racing up your arms whilst guests sampled a 5 course meal fit for a king.
Just like that, it was over. We had 4 sittings with hundreds of guests and some very happy clients. With a whopper of a sum raised for the charities selected, how could we not be happy?
Undeniably a stressful, yet incredible, and very fulfilling job to take part in. I very much look forward to see what next year holds!
As Mark Anthony once said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
It was always my intention to volunteer with a local charity during my final year of university, I wanted to give some of my time to help in any way that I could. I got involved with CAUSE – a mental health charity focusing on providing support for the carers of those people with severe mental illnesses. The work they do is extremely important, and they are the only charity of their kind within Northern Ireland. 2020 is their 25th anniversary and so they wanted a Communications/PR volunteer to help raise awareness about their birthday year and so I quickly put my name forward to help.
After a great first meeting with two members of the CAUSE team I was all set for my new role as a Communications volunteer. Fast forward a few months and I have been able to meet various members of the CAUSE team and they have all been so lovely and welcoming. I work mostly with the wonderful Anne Holland who is the fundraising manager for CAUSE. I was instantly drawn in by her bubbly personality and we get on very well, she is a very positive person and there is a never a dull moment when she’s around.
The first day that I met Anne she persuaded me to sign up for CAUSE’s biggest fundraising event – Strictly Come Dancing. This was one of the most memorable and exciting things I have ever done, I encourage any of you that have the chance to participate in a charity run Strictly to do it! I always fancied myself to be a good dancer but that was exclusively reserved for weekend dance floors, however I quickly learned after attending my first training session that I did not have one ounce of rhythm in me…
Everyone else was twirling, kicking and cartwheeling around me whilst I was like yes! I can do a star-jump! We started training in September with the goal of our big Christmas – themed show night at the end of November. I was like a fish out of water during the early training sessions as without any experience and 3 dances to learn my poor wee legs couldn’t keep up. My lovely partner and I got assigned the Cha-Cha to Snoop Dogg’s version of Winter Wonderland (I know lol) and we had one group dance to All I want for Christmas and one to Fairy-tale of New York. So, no pressure eh?
As the weeks of training went on, I started to grow more confident with the aid of everyone involved in my Strictly experience, they were all so kind and encouraging and they helped me every dance – step of the way. By the time it came to show night in November at the glitzy Stormont Hotel I was a bundle of nerves and yet still filled with so much excitement and anticipation for the night ahead. I tanned myself up, got the lowest cut shirt probably ever worn on a man, and wiggled into my skinny fit velvet trousers – time to Cha – Cha! Our dance went great, I made a couple of tiny mistakes but sure the audience didn’t realise what I was supposed to be doing anyway! The judges loved the dance and most importantly my navy lace shirt was a hit. Our two group dances which book ended the night also went fantastically and it’s safe to say I was completely Mariah Carey’d out at the end of it all.
An amazing amount of money was raised for CAUSE which is the main reason we did the show in the first place and without the incomparable Anne Holland at the reigns there would have been no show to perform at.
Apart from my amazing experience with Strictly, I’ve had the best time volunteering for CAUSE. I’ve had the opportunity to see what goes on in the day to day running of a charity and how important promotional materials, communications and PR are for a small local charity.
Most recently I was given the chance to go to a recruitment fair at the Belfast MET Millfield campus and talk to various students looking for volunteering and placement opportunities. I highly recommended CAUSE to all the students I talked to and even promoted CAUSE’s latest Strictly event – Strictly Jigs and Reels. It was a really fun experience and great to see the amount of young people eager to volunteer.
I am currently working on developing some promotional materials for CAUSE’s 25th anniversary, having the opportunity to think creatively outside of an educational setting is really fun and rewarding; especially when it is for such a great charity.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with CAUSE and can’t wait to see what the rest of their Birthday year has in store! I cannot emphasise enough how important volunteering is, especially for small charities. So, I encourage anyone reading this to even consider volunteering, be it for CAUSE or another charity – I know that you won’t regret it!
Gareth Donnelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/gareth-donnelly-1a6161196 , Twitter – @GarethDonnelly4 and Instagram – @garethd__