Blue Monday, essentially the grimmest recurring day in the entire calendar, is nearly upon us. It’s a time when we’re supposed to be at our lowest, according to academic and merchant of doom, Cliff Arnall, whose dubious findings were based on calculations of average weather for the time of year, low motivation and high levels of debt.
The science behind it seems sketchy, but Blue Monday is basically an annual excuse for press release mayhem, when companies try to flog us things to cheer us up before our bank statements arrive. It thrives on the notion of low mood being permitted just once a year – if it helps, perhaps imagine it preceded by the word ‘cheeky’ – before normal service is resumed and we all just stop being so ungrateful. Yet the idea of low mood being self-indulgent, temporary or quickly diffused doesn’t gel with the one in four of us who will experience genuine mental health problems in our lifetime, especially the one in five of us who will have a depressive episode.
There’s nothing like a good outdoor market, whether it’s the Christmas season or not, and Bristol has plenty to choose from.
I’ve often blathered on about Bristol in blog posts: firstly, it’s one of the UK’s best and most vibrant cities, particularly for anyone interested in arts and culture; secondly, both sides of my family have history there, so I think of it as a home-from-home. From Bristol’s coffee shops to its street art, there’s always something quirky to see.
My sister and I were lucky enough to visit our Bristol-based cousin last weekend, and she is as much of a culture vulture as we are (when she lived in London, she introduced me to a fabulously-named café, Tina We Salute You, and countless art exhibitions). Going to a market was a no-brainer for us.
What does it mean to belong? Yep, that’s a very philosophical question for a Wednesday afternoon, but it’s worth asking – especially with the General Election looming.
Last night, I border-hopped from West to East Sussex for the second BelongCon event, to find out what belonging is all about: to belong in your community, in your tribe of like-minded people (something that’s big for those of us with mental health issues), in your industry, in your environment. BelongCon began as ‘Belong Conference’, with the first event held in March, but as it took shape, founder Alice Reeves realised ‘Conference’ didn’t really define her aim. It’s now become ‘Belong Conversation’, starting discussions about sharing, empathy, friendship and self-esteem, as captured by photographer Seb Lee-Delisle, above.
As much as holidays and adventures should be about letting go, chilling out and switching off, when you’re a proper adult with a passport, an expensive camera and a smartphone, you have to watch out for your valuables, no matter how dazzling the scenery might be. Cue the search for a secure travel bag that doesn’t make you look like a conspicuous tourist on their ‘Gap Yah’.
Firstly, this backpack isn’t marketed as ‘pickpocket-proof’ or a ‘secure’ travel bag (unlike the super-useful pickpocket-proof tank top I tested from Clever Travel Companion). Yet there are plenty of safety features, making the Harvest Label Urban Rolltop Backpack 2.0 more secure than standard backpacks.
Last night, for the princely sum of £5 (plus free Prosecco, guys!), I joined a room full of other ambitious 20-somethings and 30-somethings to learn about the barriers blocking our creativity. The venue, Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano in Covent Garden, was the ideal backdrop to a Grazia Collective panel of talented women from across the literary board.
“Give yourself permission for the first draft to be rubbish.” Laura Jane Williams
This wasn’t an evening of airy motivation talks about releasing the novel inside us all (bleurgh), or patronising sermons on ‘how to live your best life’ (further bleurgh). It was aimed at any kind of creative woman who struggles to get their project off the ground, whether because of time constraints, work-life balance or the propensity to procrastinate.
Amid last year’s mental health scandals – including spending cuts, insensitive comments from politicians, and crisis care failures – there was a big step forward in tackling the stigma of psychological illness. It came from a newly-opened museum and charity: Bethlem Museum of the Mind, in Beckenham, Kent, recently nominated for the 2016 Museum of the Year award.
Yes, the name might sound familiar. Bethlem is the fourth site of the notorious hospital better known as Bedlam. You won’t find power-crazed doctors leaving patients in chains – a stereotypical mental image associated with the ‘madhouse’ of earlier centuries – but you will find a place where modern mental illness is explained. What’s more, entry is free, and it’s open to everyone.
Lawrence Durrell once said that “Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.” I’m a big advocate of travelling for wellbeing, but I’ve also blogged about what it’s like to be away when you’re depressed, and how you can get through it. One big issue remains: finding travel insurance to cover depression can be a bit of a nightmare because, as the FCO says, it needs to be declared as a pre-existing medical condition. That policy will protect you from any health-related issues that may crop up during your trip, but you’ll pay a lot for the privilege.
I’m sick of reading the flippant phrase ‘post-travel depression’ – something millennials are obsessed with, describing it on forums and websites as ‘so real’ and ‘so intense’.
‘Depression’ is an all too casually misused word, bandied about in frustrating but not earth-shattering moments, like when your football team loses or you find out Zayn is leaving One Direction. Equally, if you feel deflated after a trip to Bali, you’re not depressed and you don’t need this post. I want to draw attention to tangible clinical depression, which is about as much fun as sticking pins in your eyes, and affects one in five adults during their lifetime.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.