Selective mutism-my story

Ever heard of selective mutism? I hadn’t, until my 13 year old daughter suddenly couldn’t talk to her grandparents, her aunties, our close family friends and some teachers. There’s nothing selective about this awful condition, which is caused by severe social anxiety. My daughter says that the words just get stuck and she literally can’t speak, even to say yes or no.

Thankfully, help is on the way. It took a lot of fighting against the system to reach this point, but getting specialist support is crucial, as selective mutism can persist into adulthood. Untreated, it can lead to a life of lost opportunities, limited career choices and frustration. We are also lucky enough to have wonderfully caring relatives, who are happy to just let my daughter be around without speaking. They know that my daughter wants to communicate and they appreciate her little wave from the car, her brief nods, her suppressed smiles and the twinkle in her eye when a joke is shared.

5 brilliant benefits of blogging as a business

Did you know that adding a blog to your website could increase your website visitors by 55%? So if you’re not creating blog posts on a regular basis, why not make 2020 the year when you take the plunge?

Here are five brilliant benefits of blogging as a business.

1. Share your expertise

Write blog posts that offer advice, inspiration, tips and solutions and customers will begin to see you as their go-to expert, visiting your blog and website repeatedly. Don’t let someone else become the authority on your specialist subject!

2. Power your social media

Your blog posts are a ready-made source of shareable social media posts, so always share your latest posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As you build a social media following, you’ll find that your followers click through to your website in order to read your blog. Once they’ve devoured this, they’re likely to have a peek at your latest products too!

3. Create connections

Engaging with customers who have commented on your blog post or responded to it on social media, gives you the chance to receive valuable insights and feedback. If you reply in a polite, helpful way you’ll build customer loyalty that lasts. And of course, happy customers are perfectly positioned to recommend you to new ones!

As your blog grows, it’s worth creating connections with other influential bloggers relevant to your business. Invite them to write guest posts and ask them to review your best products. Online retailer Rex London do this brilliantly, giving influential bloggers the chance to review their products or share their recipes.

4. Show some personality

Customers love finding out about the people who make their favourite products and what goes on behind the scenes, so don’t be afraid to have a bit of fun with your blog posts. You could tell your story, share successes, offer solutions to common problems and run competitions. Try to keep things light by adding a touch of humour.

It’s also worth spicing things up a little by varying the type of blog post you write. Reviews, listicles, case studies, infographics, videos and practical guides will all keep your customers visiting regularly. Don’t forget to include plenty of high-quality images too.

5. Be search engine friendly

Google loves keyword rich content that’s relevant and regularly updated, so getting into the habit of blogging can only be good for your page ranking.

Before you start work on each blog post, choose a relevant keyword/phrase and include it in your title, your headings (especially H1 and H2), your first and last sentences and your blog post URL. You should also include it in your meta description.

Ready to get going? Then why not kick things off by creating a content plan that will see you through your first couple of months? Write your first few posts before you begin blogging and you’ll have plenty of time to connect with customers and build your following.

Three income boosting ways to make money from your knowledge

Do you need to find an extra source of income? When it comes to side hustles, there are plenty of ways to make money from your existing knowledge. So whether you’re a project manager, a digital marketing guru or a creative copywriter, read on as we explore three income boosting ways to share your specialist subject.

Lightbulb image blog

1.Create online  courses

The first step in the process of creating an online course is to  identify the knowledge you want to focus on . This could either be work related knowledge or knowledge related to a hobby/skill you’ve mastered.. Whatever topic you choose, you’ll need to know that there are plenty of potential customers so we suggest taking a good look a look at the courses that are already out there.

Once you’ve done your research, try to come up with a unique approach that will make your course stand out from the crowd. Alternatively you could focus on a very specific niche within your area of expertise. We recommend testing the water a little by joining a few Facebook and LinkedIn groups related to your area of knowledge. You can then ask people in what they need help with and what they’re keen to learn.

The next step is to come up with a set of learning objectives and a list of subjects that your course will cover. Think about how you could break the content down into manageable modules and include a variety of formats such as videos, checklists, workbooks and quizzes.

Ready to start creating your course? Then you’ll need to decide whether to:

  • Use an online course marketplace
  • Use course creation software
  • Sell the course yourself via a download linked to your website

Online course marketplaces

Online course marketplaces allow you to upload your course to an existing collection of courses. The host then promotes and sells the course on your behalf. While these marketplaces are free to join, there is a downside, as you won’t own any of your student data and the host will take a share of your course sales.

Popular course marketplaces include:


This video based marketplace will promote your course to 30 million students and collect payments on your behalf. However, Udemy tends to price courses cheaply and takes between 50% and 75% of the money you make.


Skillshare’s 7 million users pay a subscription to access at least 28,000 courses, many of which teach creative skills. If you want to make money, your course will need to be part of Skillshare’s premium catalogue. Even then you’ll only receive $10 per premium membership referral plus royalties which depend on how many minutes of your video a student watches.

Course creation software  

This option offers much more in the way of customisation, as well as providing marketing tools which allow you to track your students’ progress. Access to most course creation software involves paying a monthly fixed fee, although some do also charge a fee per transaction.

Popular course creation software includes:


Teachable’s drag and drop method makes it easy to customise the appearance of course pages. If you’re tech savvy and keen to create a highly original look you’ll be glad to know that you can even edit your website’s code. The software also offers marketing tools such as advanced pricing options, coupons, affiliate programs and the ability to integrate email marketing.


Thinkific offers a variety of templates covering everything from mini courses and digital downloads to membership bundles. The software also reminds you to ensure that your course features plenty of interactive content and multimedia elements. If you want to customise your course’s appearance you can, as you’ll gain full access to  HTML and CSS.


While Kajaba costs more than Thinkific there aren’t any transaction fees to pay. There are plenty of opportunities to customise your course and you can add various kinds of multimedia content. Thinkific also features automated marketing software and its own email provider.

Selling a course via your website

If you’re not planning to use a course marketplace you’ll need to work extra hard to promote your course This is where the Facebook groups you’ve already joined come handy, as you’ll be able to build a reputation for providing valuable content by sharing relevant blog posts or videos. You can Include links to your paid course at the end of each post.

Another way to whet people’s appetite is to set up your own Facebook group. Share high value tips with your members and once you’ve proven your expertise you’ll be able to let them know about your course.

Email marketing is also excellent for generating curiosity about your course. If you offer potential students a free mini course or blog post in return for their email address, you’ll be able to send them details of your main course via a newsletter or promotional email.


2.Write an Ebook

Digital book sales are now worth £543 million in the UK alone, so if you have a way with words, how about using your knowledge to write your own Ebook? When it comes to publishing Ebooks there are two main options. You could either sell them via your own website or use a third party site like Amazon or Smashwords.

To sell your book directly via your website is fairly straightforward, as it simply involves creating a PDF version of the text. Once a customer has paid for the book via a basic shopping cart or a link to PayPal, they’ll receive a download link and you keep all of the profits.

The advantage to selling your book via a third party site is that you’ll automatically gain access to a global audience of millions. You will be charged a commission on your sales, but this varies depending on the publishing platform.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

This option allows you to create an Ebook and an on demand print version. Depending on the price you decide to charge you’ll receive up to 70% of the royalties. Your book will then appear in the Kindle store and on Amazon.

Kobo Publishing

If you opt for Kobo’s service you’ll receive 70% of your Ebook’s  suggested retail price. The minimum price you can charge for a a book is £1.99 but you can optimise your pricing for different regions.


Smashwords will distribute your Ebook to major booksellers including Barnes and Noble, WH Smith and Sony. However, If a customer buys your book from one of these retailers you’ll only receive 68% of your book’s list price. Books bought from the Smashwords store will earn you 80% of the list price.

Apples’s iBook Author

Available from the App Store, iBook Author  includes templates to create books for iPhones, iPads and Macs. You then sell your Ebooks or offer them for free on the iBooks store.

Of course it’s perfectly possible to sell your books via your own website and a third party site. Why not publish one or two Ebooks on Amazon but include a bnous offer which can only be claimed by visiting  your website? Readers will then be able to see the other books that are available.

What do I write about?

Written any blog posts related to your specialist subject?  If you sort them into an order that makes sense you may well have the beginnings of an Ebook. If you don’t have enough material and you need to write your book from scratch, we recommend creating an outline based on the questions you’re commonly asked or advice you’re constantly giving.

The next step is to schedule in some regular writing time so that you stay motivated. You book needn’t be long, in fact it’s short Ebooks that are currently selling the most copies on amazon. The emphasis should be on quality rather than quantity.

Polishing your book to perfection

Once you’ve written your Ebook it’s worth getting a proof reader to take a look at it. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders is the best place to find professionals, but you could also look on freelancing websites such as People Per Hour . However, if you take this route always check for  professional qualifications and read the reviews carefully!

Assuming that your Ebook is error free, the final task is to think about a cover design. If you’re using Amazon you’ll have access to their cover creator, but some authors prefer to pay a graphic designer to produce a more original cover.

Whether you publish via a third party site or not, marketing your self-published Ebook is essential if you’re going to make money. A simple way to start building a following is to set up social media accounts and begin interacting with other authors on Twitter. You can then retweet each other’s announcements, and run competitions to win free copies of your book. It’s also worth giving away free sample chapters in return for your followers’ email addresses.


3.Create a membership site

Setting up a membership site involves offering a group of paying subscribers exclusive access to premium content which could consist of :

  • video tutorials
  • webinars
  • industry insights,
  • Templates
  • Checklists
  • cheat sheets
  • workbooks
  • Mini courses
  • Ebooks
  • How to guides
  • Downloads
  • Member only discounts

To decide what the focus of your website will be, its a good idea to join some Facebook and LinkedIn groups that are related your your specialist knowledge. This will enable you to check out what kind of questions people are asking and what types of content they like the most. Don’ be afraid to test the market a little by sharing some of your own content with the groups you’re in.

Most membership websites charge a monthly fee and deliver fresh content on an ongoing basis. To keep your members happy This needs to be more in depth and valuable than any free content you offer to non subscribers. How much you charge depends partly on how hands on you want to be. For example, people are generally willing to invest more in a membership that includes a regular coaching calls.

What kind of website should I use?

There are two main options here:

1.Build a WordPress site with a membership plugin.

WordPress plugins like MemberPress, Paid MembershipsPro and LearnDash will transform your WordPress site into into a membership website. As well as giving you control over the way your website works and looks, these plugins will handle payment and user registrations for you. However you will have to build your own site or ask a web developer to do it for you.

2.Invest in software

If you’re not a fan of WordPress, you could opt to use software that’s specifically designed for membership sites. Software such as Wild Apricot, ClubExpress and White Fuse will help you to build your website and manage all of your member interactions. The only down side is that your payments will increase as your membership grows.

When it comes to creating our membership website You overall aim should be to create a site that is welcoming and easy to use, so why not consider creating an introductory video so that your new subscribers can get to know you a little? You could also add a get started page.

Creating a community

Running a membership site isn’t just about the resources on offer. It’s also about building a community.  This is why many membership site owners set up a private forum where subscribers can interact and ask you questions.  This could be a Facebook group or a WordpPress add-on like BuddyPress that adds a community feature to your site.  Alternatively, you could use advanced forum software like XenForo, if you have the technical skills to link the software to your site

How to launch successfully

Before you launch your site it’s important to create a sense of anticipation and excitement. Tried and tested ways of doing this include:

Making regular announcements on social media

Offering sneak peeks of the content available

Posting videos and podcasts about what’s included

Offering special early bird offers

Offering free trials

Running competitions to win free membership

Publishing blog posts and articles

When it comes to the day before you launch, we recommend running through the entire registration and payment process and checking that every single page and feature is in good working order.

If your membership site takes off it’s likely to provide you with a steady source of income. To keep your community happy and boost their loyalty, we suggest inviting your members to share their wins on a regular basis. You can also encourage discussions by adding posts and questions to your forum or Facebook group.

Whether you decide to create a course, write an Ebook or start your own membership website, I hope my guide has inspired you to make the most of your specialist knowledge. Good luck!



How writing helped me to live with fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia image

It hit me out of nowhere. I was out shopping when I suddenly experienced shooting pains in both legs, then the pain spread to my arms and I began to feel weak. By the end of the day, I could hardly walk to the end of the garden path.

While my fibromyalgia began with chronic fatigue, after a few weeks the pain intensified and it felt like my skull was on fire. I was able to walk more in the house but I couldn’t sleep, so with my doctor’s help, I managed to find a combination of really strong painkillers that made things more bearable.

I couldn’t wear shoes much, as every step on the hard floor hurt my head. This made going out virtually impossible. We even had to change the car, as I felt every bump. And I had to stop teaching English for my local adult education service. This was a real blow, as I was feeling really excited about developing my career, although looking back it was quite stressful.

I was also keen to start a family, but having been told that there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, I assumed that I wouldn’t cope. However, a few months after I left work, my sister bumped into a lovely lady who was mum to a little boy despite having fibromyalgia.  She invited me over to her house and convinced me that I could manage to be a parent despite my illness, so a year later my daughter was born!

Having my little one was incredibly motivating and I began to think about whether I might be able to get back to work once she was at school. I’d always enjoyed writing, so I began to scribble down a few ideas for articles during nap times. To my surprise, three of my articles were quickly accepted by various magazines.

Realising that I had discovered my real passion, I kept an eye out for opportunities and found a regular gig writing remotely for a parenting website. Then I spotted an advert posted by a digital agency that was looking for freelance writers. I wrote a sample piece (which they paid me for!) and they phoned me up to invite me on board. I haven’t stopped writing since!

I love being able to work from home, as it allows me plenty of flexibility. If I’m having a good day I’ll write from nine until five, so that I can afford to rest if I need to. I also feel incredibly relaxed, as there are no office politics to worry about and I don’t have to worry about trying to attend work socials. It’s been 15 years since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and I am feeling much better now, thanks to a combination of medication and a less stressful work life. I try to take every day as it comes.

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are? I’d love to hear your stories!

When Judi Dench sent me a letter

When I was 13 I wrote a letter to Judi Dench, asking for tips on becoming an actress. I addressed the letter to the National Theatre in London and posted it off. About a week later I received a lovely reply that had been written and signed by Judi herself.

Judi’s reply gave me the push I needed to overcome my shyness and join a local youth theatre. My confidence soared and while I was a member of the group, we won a national competition that involved performing at the National Theatre. At the after party, guess who I bumped into?

I didn’t become an actress in the end, but I still have Judi Dench’s letter (pictured below). It’s one of my treasured possessions, as it reminds me of the enormous surge in confidence I experienced when a famous actress took the time to write back to me.


Judi Dench letter

Five ways to kick-start your working day


If your morning routine involves stumbling out of bed and grabbing breakfast on the go, it’s time to make some changes. Fear not! We’ve come up with five simple suggestions to help you adopt a morning routine that’ll leave you feeling fresh faced and full of energy.

1.Sleep well the night before

A recent study by the University of Hertfordshire showed that 91% of 18-24 year olds in Britain are sleep deprived. Why does this matter? Because getting less than 7 hours sleep a night is associated with a higher risk of health problems including weight gain, diabetes and heart attacks.

Even if you are sleeping for the recommended 7-9 hours, you still need to ensure that you’re getting plenty of high quality sleep. The deep stages, known as slow wave or delta sleep, are responsible for repairing the body, generating tissue and building bone and muscle. It’s hardly surprising that a Sleep Council report recently stated: “sleeping well is as crucial to our health and wellbeing as eating a healthy diet or exercising regularly.”

So how do you guarantee a good night’s sleep? To begin with, avoid blue screens for a couple of hours before bedtime. The University of Hertfordshire’s study revealed that 78% of people are exposed to disruptive blue light from computers and smartphones before going to bed. Unfortunately, just 2 hours of using a blue light emitting device causes your melatonin levels to drop significantly, boosting your alertness.

Snacking on a banana is another way to induce sleepiness, as they’re rich in carbohydrates, which can help to relax your body and brain. Alternatively, make yourself a warm milky drink, then retire to bed and allow yourself to doze off while you read.

  1. Become an early bird

Allowing plenty of time to get ready in the morning prevents any last minute stress. You might even have enough time to enjoy an extra cuppa when you arrive at work! However, waking up doesn’t come easily to everyone.

Are you a night owl? Then you can improve the experience of early rising by opening the curtains as soon as you’re awake. Letting the daylight in tells your body it’s time to wake up by reducing melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleepiness. While you’re basking in natural light, drink a glass of water, as this re-hydrates your body, making you feel even more alert.

If you really struggle with getting up early, try laying out your clothes, making lunch and even preparing breakfast the night before.

  1. Boost your energy with breakfast

A balanced breakfast should be nutritious and release energy slowly, to keep you going until lunchtime. Why not start your day with a healthy bowl of porridge, some muesli with yoghurt, or an omelette? If you’re really not a morning person, check out this recipe for overnight oats. Simply mix some oats in apple juice or natural yoghurt, leave the mixture in the fridge overnight and stir in a handful of chopped or dried fruit when you wake. Time saving and delicious!

If you have a little extra time, eating protein packed beans, eggs or even fish for breakfast will give you a great start to the day, as protein contains amino acids. These help your brain to perform at its peak and release energy slowly.

Not hungry first thing? Then opt for a breakfast smoothie. Pop some oats and protein powder into your blender the night before, then in the morning add your fruit and whatever liquid you fancy.

  1. Get your heart rate going

Exercising first thing gets your metabolism going for the day and helps you to feel clear minded. It also means you have plenty of free evenings to enjoy.

Whether it’s running, swimming, dancing or working out at the gym, choose a form of exercise you really enjoy. Laying out your workout clothes the night before makes it easier to stick to your plans.

If you find getting to the gym or pool tricky, there are plenty of good workout videos available on YouTube. Love pop music? Then try Casey Ho’s Pop Pilates sessions. They’re just 10-15 minutes long but intense enough to really get those muscles working. If you’re looking to increase your strength and flexibility, Yoga with Adrienne could be the channel for you. Cardio more your focus? Check out Saskia’s energetic dance workouts.

  1. De-clutter your desk.

Clearing your work space of clutter clears your mind ready for the day ahead. Start by getting rid of any rubbish, paperwork or stationery you no longer need. Then, if your desk has drawers, use them to store essentials like pens, staplers, hole punchers and scissors. If you don’t have access to any drawers, consider adding an organiser tray to your desk instead.

If you need easy access to particular pieces of paperwork, clipboards and cork notice boards are great temporary storage solutions. However, to avoid cork board congestion, make sure you file away that paperwork as soon as it’s no longer needed!

Once everything has its place, it’s time to adjust your chair, move your mobile out of view and log out of social media. You’re good to go.

Take our tips on board and you’ll boost your chances of having an enjoyable and productive day at work. So why not start as you mean to go on?

Do I need a USP?

Odd one out

If you want your business to stand out in a crowded marketplace, knowing its Unique Selling Point can get you off to a great start. But it takes time to come up with a USP that encapsulates your core values and the benefits that are important to your target customer.

Read on to discover how to identify your USP and why it’s worth the effort.

Who is my customer?

Building a basic profile of your target customer is a good way to begin. How old are they? How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on? When you’ve done this, move beyond the basics and look at their values and the benefits that influence their buying habits.

People generally love giving their opinion, so surveys and questionnaires are a great way to gather the information you need. You could even arrange a few face to face focus groups.

By researching your target customers thoroughly, you’ll discover that people don’t always prioritise low cost products and services. They’re just as likely to value ethically sourced quality products, reliability and superb customer support. For example, Domino’s Pizza’s famous USP is based on their delivery promise: “Fresh hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less… or it’s free.”

 Get to know the competition

The next step is to find out whether your competitors already offer any of the benefits your target customers want. Visit their websites, read customer reviews, devour their marketing material and follow them on social media to find out what they offer. You could even indulge in a spot of mystery shopping!

Finding out what’s already on offer should reveal gaps in the market that are waiting to be filled by a business like yours. You’ll need to keep a record of these.

Decide on your USP

It’s time to claim your share of the market. Referring to the list of benefits your competitors don’t provide, decide which of the remaining benefits are at the core of your business. One of these will become your USP.

Before you go any further, get those creative juices flowing and distil each benefit you’ve chosen into a short, memorable tag line. Try to come up with snappy phrases that capture your business’s personality and roll off the tongue.

The final step? Test your potential USP tag lines on family, friends and target customers. Their feedback should help you to choose a worthy winner.

Put it to good use

Once you’ve selected your USP, use it to market your products or services. This means including it in your social media marketing, your website content, your blog posts and any other promotional material.

Identifying your business’s Unique Selling Point will help you to pinpoint the benefits that set your business apart from its competitors. If you’ve done your research, customers should respond with enthusiasm.


Five top tips for effective home working

Notebook Workplace Desk Iphone Library Stu

Whether you’ve spent the day in pyjamas or wasted an afternoon watching trashy TV, temptation is hard to resist when you work from home.

Finding it hard to focus? Don’t despair, as it’s perfectly possible to make home working a success if you follow these five handy tips.

Create a dedicated space

Separating work from family life is the key to effective home working. A desk in a spare room or study is ideal, as you’ll find it easier to switch off if you can close the door at the end of the day. Alternatively, if space is tight, try setting aside a corner of your bedroom or living room.

Having a dedicated work space also tells family members and friends that you are actually working and that they need to leave you in peace. Avoid working on the sofa or at the kitchen table at all costs, as you’ll be constantly interrupted.

Structure your day

It’s very easy to become distracted when you’re working from home, but sticking to a familiar structure will help you to focus. I try to stick with set hours, so that my clients know when to contact me and my family and friends know when I’m free to socialise.

Worried about a tight deadline? While it’s tempting to just keep on working until you’ve finished the task, doing this regularly will have an impact on your physical and mental health. Instead of risking burnout, I recommend punctuating your day with regular breaks, as these will keep you motivated and help you to produce better quality work.

If you find that you’ve finished a project and you’re waiting for feedback, resist the urge to turn on the TV and use the time to catch up with admin, update your portfolio or approach potential customers.

Banish distractions

Checking social media and emails every five minutes isn’t helpful when you’re working at home, so why not restrict yourself to checking them during your breaks? Seeing this as a reward can be motivating.

Turning off the radio and television could also help you to focus on your work, as a recent study found that clerical workers in a noisy room were less motivated to complete tasks and had elevated stress levels compared to those in a quiet room.

If you find that you’re too distracted by jobs that need doing at home, try spending the occasional morning working in a local coffee shop, library or co-working space. We guarantee that you’ll return to your desk feeling motivated and refreshed.

Eat well

While home working means that you don’t have to resist the constant round of staff room treats, you’ll still have easy access to another source of temptation; your fridge. To stay energized, stock up on healthy snacks like dried fruit, nuts, oat cakes and dark chocolate.

Whether you prefer sushi, salad or a sandwich, always make yourself a proper lunch, as this will help you to be more productive. Try to include some protein packed lean meat, eggs, beans or nuts and a serving of salad or veg.  Oily fish is also a great choice, as supplementing your diet with omega-3 fish oil could boost your concentration. If you need some lunchtime inspiration, check out the delicious recipes available at The Freelancer’s Cookbook.

If you’re keen to stave off hunger and prevent an afternoon slump, make sure that you stay hydrated. This means limiting the amount of tea and coffee you drink and opting for plain water, water with a slice of lemon in it or water sweetened with a little sugar free squash.

Get out and about

Working from home can get lonely even if you’re an introvert, so it’s worth getting out of the house for a change of scenery now and again. Joining a monthly networking group, having lunch with a friend or meeting a client for coffee could all help to combat any feelings of isolation.

Getting out is also good for your physical health, as sitting for long periods of time slows down your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. However, recent research states that it’s possible to reduce the effect of sitting still if you exercise. So how about going for a brisk lunchtime walk or trying out an online yoga session?

Take these tips on board and I guarantee that working from home will become an enjoyable and productive experience. You’ll achieve more, feel healthier and be able to relax properly at the end of the working day.

What are your top tips for home working? I’d love to know!





Five habits to keep you healthy at work

If you’ve been glued to your office chair for hours and you’re feeling stressed because you skipped lunch, it’s time to make a few adjustments. By adopting just a handful of healthy habits, you could transform your working day and improve your quality of life. Here’s how.

1.Sit for shorter periods

Black and Gray Photo of Person in Front of Computer Monitor

Obesity, type two diabetes and even cancer are a few of the risks you run if you spend hours sitting at a desk, according to the NHS. Sitting still for long periods slows your metabolism, affecting your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. Breaking down body fat also becomes harder.

To combat this effect, The Start Active, Stay Active report recommends breaking up periods of inactivity with short bursts of activity. These only need to last for a couple of minutes, so why not use your break to go and chat to a colleague instead of just emailing them?


2.Perfect your posture

Free stock photo of city, person, woman, buildings

A certain amount of sitting is unavoidable, particularly if you work in an office. However, when you do need to sit down, make sure you’re doing it properly. If you’re working at a computer screen, adjust your seat so that your eyes line up with the top of the screen. If the screen is too low, you risk causing neck and back ache. Try not to crane your neck forwards while you work.

The next step is to ensure that your wrists and forearms are straight. There needs to be a gap of about 4-6 inches at the front of your desk, so that you can rest your wrists. As you type, keep your arms bent in an L shape and your elbows against your sides. Ensure that your mouse, phone and other equipment is within easy reach to avoid straining.

Finally, check that your thighs are at right angles to your body or sloping downward just a little. Your feet should be planted firmly on the floor or a footrest.

Simple yoga exercises are a great way to improve your posture. Practise regularly at home and you’ll find that you become more aware of how you’re sitting at work. If you start to slouch, you’ll notice immediately. Don’t have the time or money to get to a class? Why not try the free Yoga With Adrienne sessions available on YouTube?


3.Add extra exercise

Free stock photo of city, businessman, fashion, man

Recent research has shown that by doing an hour of exercise a day, it’s possible to combat the effects of sitting still for long periods of time. So whether it’s taking the stairs, cycling to work, getting off the bus early or going for a walk after lunch, try and add as much activity as you can to your working day.

Do you drift off in afternoon meetings? Why not ask your employer if they’d consider setting up a few walking meetings? Public health England’s Duncan Selbie recently advised companies to:

“Move more; get up and about — walking meetings. I don’t just mean in the office, go out for a walk, get some fresh air for a meeting. We are very keen on short bursts of energy.”


4.Eat and drink

Clear Drinking Glass

Whether you prefer sushi, salads or hearty soups, preparing and eating a proper lunch will keep your energy levels up and increase your productivity. Try and include some protein packed lean meat, eggs, beans or nuts and a serving of vegetables or salad. Oily fish is also an excellent choice, as several studies have shown that supplementing your diet with omega-3 fish oil can boost concentration.

If your workplace is prone to providing an endless supply of cakes and sugary snacks, bring a tasty alternative so that you don’t feel deprived.  Seeds, dried fruit, nuts and oat cakes make ideal substitutes. You could even treat yourself to a little dark chocolate.

Staying hydrated is also important. Sipping from a bottle of water on your desk could help to prevent that afternoon slump and stave off hunger. If you’re not keen on plain water, the NHS Live Well website suggests adding a slice of lemon, some sugar free squash or a little fruit juice for flavour. Avoid drinking too much coffee and tea as they can have a diuretic effect and swap sugary powdered sachets for herbal teas.


5.Banish bugs

Brown and White Bear Plush Toy

At this time of year, offices are full of people coughing and sneezing. To reduce your chances of succumbing to the latest virus, get into the habit of giving your keyboard and desk a weekly wipe down with antibacterial wipes.  If you use a headset, clean it regularly and never share it with other people. Finally, wash your hands or apply some antibacterial gel before you tuck into lunch.

Boosting your immune system is another way to battle the bugs. Eat plenty of garlic, onions, oregano and thyme, as these are all naturally antimicrobial, supporting the good bacteria in your gut. If there’s a sore throat doing the rounds, try drinking hot water infused with fresh lemon, ginger and rosemary.

With more than 40% of workers suffering from stress, it’s also important to take care of your mental health. So if you’re constantly feeling irritable, anxious, tearful or unable to focus, make sure you talk to family, friends, colleagues and your employer to get the support you need.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by work, the mental health charity mind  recommends focusing on one task at a time. They also stress the importance of taking short breaks, enjoying outside interests and connecting with friends you trust.  Developing an end of day routine can also help you to switch off properly.

So the next time you find yourself slouching on your chair or drifting off at your desk, don’t reach for a tempting treat. With a few simple tweaks to the way you work, you’ll feel healthier and happier at work and at home

A letter to my only child.

I had you when I was thirty.  Your arrival was a source of great joy,  as I had recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and never thought I’d be well enough to be a mum.

As you grew from baby into toddler, I knew that  it was only a matter of time before  people would start to ask when I was planning to have another baby.  Daddy and I had decided that due to my health and a few other issues, it wouldn’t be wise for us to have a second child.  At times I felt sad about this, but I always reminded myself how  blessed I was to have one healthy child.

One day, I was chatting with another parent, when the conversation turned to how many children we wanted. When he discovered that I wasn’t planning to give you a sibling, he looked horrified and told me that  I was selfish and that he “could never do that to a child.”  I was so shocked that I couldn’t find the words to explain why  I had made such a difficult decision.

For a while, I was haunted by this conversation and started to believe that I was indeed a failure for having just one child.  All of my friends seemed to be having second and third children and I longed to do the same for you. But as you grew older and your personality began to shine, those feelings were dispelled. I realised there are good things about being an only child and that you seemed happy, independent and generally excited about life.

When I was young, I don’t remember ever feeling lonely and holidays are definitely more fun when there are two of you to build sandcastles.  My worst fear was and still is, that you, my only daughter, will experience lifelong loneliness. I  worry that as daddy and I grow older, you won’t have a sibling with whom you can share your concerns and eventually, your grief . We hope and pray that you will build  loyal friendships and that you will meet a warm, supportive partner with whom you can share your life.

I’ve always tried to prevent you from feeling  lonely by giving you plenty of chances to mix with other children; but as a sibling myself,  I will never know what it is really like to be an only child. However, I do know that I am extremely proud of you, my happy, creative, fun-loving daughter and that I will always do my best to give you every chance of happiness.


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