Perhaps a slightly odd title given it is technically ‘Freedom Day’ here in the UK? Perhaps not so much…
Despite today being called ‘Freedom Day’, here at The Harmonious Hub we are still retaining much caution. We have all been double jabbed – yes. We will continue to work from home – yes. We take the home tests weekly – yes. However, we still want to maintain caution due to the exponentially increasing number of infections and hospitalisations rising here in the UK.
After all, COVID can cause short-term illness at best, long COVID, and death at worst. None of us want any of those here at The Harmonious Hub, and we want to protect our family, friends, and society at large as best we can.
Luckily we have access to a wide range of facemasks here at The Harmonious Hub that make wearing them less uuuurgh! They come in a range of pretty designs… Personally, I am wearing the pink hearts design this past week. What I notice about these facemasks is that they are really comfortable to wear. They have toggles on the ear hooks that mean you can make it the right size for your face. They also help prevent my glasses from steaming up due to the flexible nose ridge. More importantly, they come with changeable and insertable PM2.5 filters that help keep away airborne contaminants (like COVID). The face masks themselves are washable too for that extra feel-safe feeling.
Yes, we know that no facemask is going to 100% protect anyone from everything. We do however firmly believe that they help reduce the spread of coughs, colds, and COVID. We will therefore happily wear them for as long as we feel necessary.
If you feel like us and are going to keep on wearing face masks and would like to jazz up your collection then please do browse our face mask page.
It is all very well having systems in place to help you be more productive, but what happens when you are not able to follow them? Mental health and productivity are intrinsically linked …
Mental health affects us all. We all have a brain and inside that sits our mind, and it can go wrong occasionally. Whether that is depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder there are many mental health issues that can affect any of us at any time.
“When they occur, our productivity can take a dive!”
So how do we deal with it? First and foremost, self-care is key. If you need to go to a doctor to get medication to help you through the issues, then go. If you need a break from work, then take one. If you need time away, then do it. If you need to spend time with family and friends, then organise it.
Secondly, if you can delegate or delay any work then do so. It helps if you have people around you to do that. For those of us who are self-employed that can be more difficult. However, you can hire virtual assistants, call handlers, and associates to take the workload off you while you take time to recover.
Take time to learn some positive coping mechanisms:
Talking therapy – very useful to help learn key skills and deal with any issues that could be contributing towards the mental health issue
Meditation – helped people for centuries to de-stress, which helps improve mental health
Exercise – great for lifting the mood and making us healthier in general
Socialising – when we have mental health issues it is tempting to hide away. Friends and family can really help or other social groups such as specialist mental health groups
Although mental health can affect your productivity, it doesn’t have to stop it in its tracks. Implementing one or all of the four points above, in little steps, could make a real difference and start you back on the road to what you consider to be normal productivity levels for you.
“Would you like to know more?”
If you’d like to find out more about mental health and productivity then do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 0116 442649 and let’s see how I can help you.
Has anyone else seen Avenue Q? It is the adult version of The Muppets. When I say adult there are quite a few scenes and songs that… well errr put it this way no child should ever see (think muppets doing the karma sutra on stage 😂 ). I went to see the show about 3 years ago and loved it.
The events of the past few days have made me think of it again. Not because I have a thing for muppet porn I hasten to add, but due to one song called “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. The song can be seen at the end of this blog and the words go something like this…
Everyone’s a little bit racist, sometimes.
Doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find,
No one’s really color-blind.
Maybe it’s a fact we all should face.
Everyone makes judgments…based on race.
And I for one think those lyrics are spot on. Race is a sociopolitical phenomenon rather than a biological one. We are all brought up in our own areas of the world with our own form of racism. Doesn’t matter what colour skin we have, where we were raised, where we live now, or who our friends are, as the song goes on to state “Bigotry has never been exclusively white”. Racism exists across the world.
We may think we have friends from loads of countries and backgrounds but it does not mean we are not racist. How many of us have made or laughed in the past at race-based jokes, made judgments based on stereotypes, made assumptions because of someone’s skin colour? If we are honest, we ALL have. It is the way of the world, as sad as that may be.
So as much as I personally accept myself and everyone I know is a little bit racist, does it mean that I or (hopefully) anyone I know:
Call people names because of it?
Beat people up because of it?
Rape people because of it?
Vandalise property because of it?
Not employ people because of it?
Not have certain friends because of it?
Not go to certain areas of the world because of it?
Think people should be persecuted because of it?
Think people should be discriminated against because of it?
Think people should be separated into different areas because of it?
Think people should be displaced because of it?
Think we should go to war because of it?
Think people should join a racist based political party due to it?
Think people should spew hate based social media posts because of it?
No. No. No and NO.
Yes, we all make mistakes when dealing with other people. I know I have mucked up, learnt why and attempted to not do that again.
So yes we are all a little bit racist thanks to the world we live in. But that does not mean we have to act upon that in a negative way that harms others.
EVERYONE is an individual. And whilst race plays a part in our social upbringing as does religion, geography, sex, gender, and so on, it does not define us or anyone else unless we choose to let it. We can choose not to go with views that are discriminatory and cause us to carry out negative actions of body, speech, and mind.
EVERYONE is human and deserves to live a life free from discrimination and all the abuse and harm that comes from that.
Personally, I am glad that there has been such a loud outcry about the racist abuse of the players that has occurred since Sunday’s football match. Abuse like this simply should not be tolerated. The more we come together and speak as one to make it clear that this kind of abuse is no longer acceptable in our society then maybe, just maybe, things will change.
But perhaps, being optimistic, the fact that there has been such a loud and united condemnation of this racist behaviour is a sign that things are already changing for the better.
And for a final bit of humour to end a difficult topic on…here is the Avenue Q song I have been referring to – enjoy and have a harmonious day all.
Owning another sentient being is a weird concept I find. How can I own any other Human or Animal? So as I have recently become the official ‘my name is on the microchip’ owner of two adorable kittens I am still adjusting to the idea!
Our bundles of joy arrived nearly 3 weeks ago in our household. Both myself and my partner have grown to adore these little balls of mischief and mayhem quickly. 😸
They are so tiny and cute. Their individual personalities already forming. Wade is the more adventurous, whilst Bimini is the feisty one. Wade was named after Deadpool by my partner and Bimini was named after a finalist on Drag Race UK by me. Both already responding to their names pleased to say.
As someone who has not been the primary caretaker of pets before it was a daunting prospect. Would I be able to handle them and would they like their new home? 🤷🏼♀️ Turns out the answer is yes to both questions.
They are boisterous being two brothers, yet also very cuddly cats. It is fun attempting to work with them around. My clients and family regularly see them in video calls as they love my Mac for some reason. Cable covers have had to be bought, with fairy lights and other delicate items taken out of reach too.
Yes, it is a long-term commitment and yes it is scary when I find them jumping off insanely high bannister rails, not cheap either with vets bills and food (plus of course all the wonderful toys we have bought for them to ignore!).
I wouldn’t change them for anything though. They bring fun and joy into my life and my heart. Without knowing it, they are helping improve my mental well being too. Having to care, feed, water, and cuddle them on demand is no easy task but one I am loving. Looking after them really does improve my mood and I look forward to cuddle times with them every moment they deem it acceptable 😹
So overall pet ownership has been a positive experience so far. Although after 3 weeks I think they might be the ones owning us after all!
When I started to date as a teenager back in the early ’90s, life was pretty simple. Me and a boy walking hand in hand down the street, maybe making out in the park. Simples. Then when I started to date girls as well, things were not so simple. We could not hold hands or we would get called names or worse, beaten up. Hell no to the idea of making out in the park if we didn’t want an audience who were either overly appreciative of watching girls make out or incredibly hostile – both equally as dangerous.
So when a couple of years ago I was with family for a few days, Pride month was all over the news and they said ‘why can’t you just get on with it – no need for all this pride stuff’ I had to explain the above to them. As a heterosexual straight couple they could go out hand in hand but as a bi-sexual female, I could not with my girlfriend. Unequal at best, dangerous and life-threatening at worst.
That is why we need Pride for all LGBTQIA+ people. Whilst some of the world do not agree with the idea that love equals love, no matter who, no matter what gender, sex, sexuality, colour, race, or religion we will always need Pride.
Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia, the list, unfortunately, goes on. I personally do not get it. Along with racism, sexism, and all other discriminatory points of view. I simply do not get the hate and violence that happens in this world. To me, everyone is human. Everyone, therefore, is equally deserving of love, compassion and to be able to live out their lives in peace.
At the end of the day, we all want to be happy. Happiness does not come from holding negative and discriminatory views of others. Happiness does not come from hurting others physically or emotionally. Happiness for ourselves and others only comes from practicing kindness and holding a mind of compassion for all. When we hold these minds, we just want everyone to be happy and do what we can to help make that happen.
Force them to stay at home….put them in prison….fine them….punch them…..make them work in a COVID ward or funeral home….send them to live in a country where there is no option but to follow the rules and see how they like that….don’t worry, they are all stupid and will kill themselves off by not following the rules….
All ideas I have either heard of or thought over the past year. Not the most positive thoughts to be thinking I’m sure you agree!
I was speaking with a usually positive, bubbly, happy friend last week. She has family who are shielding and at great risk from COVID. She said she was feeling a lot of anger towards all the people who were partying in groups over Xmas and New Year and are still walking around town without masks and not social distancing.
We had a chat about this as anger is an emotion that becomes draining and tiring. It also makes us more likely to be irritable and snappy at others and who wants that?
At the end of the chat she said she actually felt her anger reduce and she felt like she had a way of dealing with issue in a more constructive way. She also encouraged me to write a blog on it, hence why I am writing this now, just in case it helps you deal with it too.
So what did we talk about?
People are afraid. When people are afraid they react in many different ways. Some will have stayed at home as a result of the fear of COVID and the resulting illness and death that can occur due to it. Others will have reacted to the fear by ignoring the lockdown rules. There are also some who will have ignored the situation, and others decided it is all false as a way of dealing with their fear of the uncontrollable. No matter what the behaviour is, I am sure a lot of it is driven by fear at this moment in time. Fear is a horrible emotion and drives us to do things we would not normally do.
Compassion for everyone. When people are suffering, whether that be physically or mentally, the only response is compassion. Having contemplated this deeply over the past few months, I came to conclusion that living in fear is very traumatising for all concerned. When a child is fearful, we want to comfort them, to stop their fear. We often feel the same towards those we love. It is more difficult for those we don’t like or disagree with. Yet they are still experiencing fear, negativity, anger and therefore suffering. It is completely appropriate to feel compassion for everyone, even if we do not agree with their actions.
Everything always changes. Nothing ever stays the same. This applies to everything from the planets climate, a country’s government or an individual person. COVID will not always be around. The vaccines are our light in the tunnel at this moment in time. In a few years, I hope and pray, we will have all moved on. Lockdowns and masks will be a distant memory. The anger we feel right now will also have changed. There will be something new to get angry about. After all, we are not likely to find the world becomes a utopia any time soon. So why not work on the mind of anger and get rid of that, instead of being swayed by whatever external circumstances get thrown at us next? Wouldn’t it be much better to be in control of the only thing we can control, our mind, than try to control what we cannot?
So, what do you think of these 3 ideas to help reduce your anger towards all those not following COVID lockdown rules? Can you see the logic in them? Or maybe not so much?
They do take some contemplation time. I sometimes combine contemplation with a meditation session. Using a breathing meditation to clear my mind I am then able to contemplate these ideas without getting so caught up in the anger or other negative emotions. When I am walking around day to day I can use these ideas to reduce any annoyance or irritation I feel to reduce the likelihood of the anger getting out of control in my mind.
It won’t stop people not wearing masks, travelling to the seaside or having an illegal rave in a nearby field. It will however help make our mind more peaceful and ourselves more pleasant to be around. As we are stuck in lockdown for a few more weeks we might as well make it a less angry one for ourselves and others (or that is what keeps me focused on not letting the anger erupt anyways!)
But where do I start with meditation you might be thinking? Well a good place to start is by using the massive resource called YouTube as thousands of meditations available for free. I do aim to add a couple of my own – it is on the to-do list! Alternatively, there is an online ‘Learn to Meditate’ half-day course happening here in the UK on 23rd January. Click here for more information and to sign up. Let me know how you get on with it and sign up to our newsletter below for blogs like this direct to your inbox:
What is World AIDS Day? On 1st December, as every 1st December since 1988, it’s International World AIDS Day. Here at The Harmonious Hub, we wish to join the fight against the misinformation around HIV and show our support to those living with it, or mourning loved ones they’ve lost because of it. For more information on what HIV is and how it differs from AIDS, please see the NHS website.
The virus was only identified in 1984 and it’s estimated that it’s killed 35 million people since then. There are a further 38 million living with the condition. No wonder World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.
Yes, there have been leaps forward thanks to scientific advancements, but with 4,450 people being diagnosed every single year with HIV in the UK alone, we can’t forget that this remains one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Millions of people are still living with, not only the effects of the condition itself, but also the prejudice it still brings.
We’re joined today by a woman who’s all about fighting discrimination, encouraging education and increasing awareness. And never one to suppress another’s character, please be warned this interview contains words that may offend. Should you wish to be sent a toned-down version to read instead, don’t hesitate to get in contact.
Ellen: With colourful language and always to the point, here’s Gen Orsi, presenter of Channel 5’s ‘Lesbians Guide to Straight Sex’ and queer sexual health advocate. Hello!
Gen: Hello, it’s great to be here.
Ellen: So – being told you’re HIV positive. Will it lead to AIDS? Is it still a death sentence?
Gen: Not at all. If you medicate it correctly you can lead a full, healthy and productive life – the immunosuppressants are so effective. If taken as recommended, you could test negative for HIV and not pass the viral load onto others. Undetectable = untransmittable. Also, with things like the PrEP trial available now, HIV is far from the death sentence it used to be.
Ellen: What’s the situation like now with the medication to prevent HIV?
It’s a relief as there was a lot of sensationalism around the trial. An unethical coverage of the subject by the tabloid press. ‘The children with cancer aren’t getting their medication because the gays are bumming and getting PrEP.’ I think it slowed the uptake of the PrEP trial.
A shame as it’s definitely very effective. It’s a real success story, as far as medication is concerned, but it’s not as widely used as it should be. There should be more knowledge shared about it.
What really blows my mind is that I am a woman that only has sex with women, and yet I can go to my GP and get offered a million types of contraceptive pills. Whereas if I’m a man who has sex with a man and I go to my GP with suspected STDs, even having had group sex with men, I will not necessarily always be offered PrEP.
Ellen: Disgusting really.
Gen: Yep. We are the queer community; therefore, our health outcomes have to be lesser than the heterosexuals’. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re worthless. Still, thank God for the UN’s AIDS 90-90-90 target.
What is the 90-90-90 target?
In 2014, the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced ambitious new global targets which build on its ‘Getting to Zero’ strategy and aim to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.
90 per cent of people living with HIV will know their HIV status
90 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV will receive antiretroviral treatment
90 per cent of people on treatment will have suppressed viral loads
With 59% living with undetectable levels of the virus, they’re not at the 73% hoped by the end of 2020, but that’s no doubt in part due to COVID-19
Ellen: It’s been a rough year. Do you know how COVID has affected people with HIV?
Gen: Frustratingly, there’s not going to be any reliable data available for that until it’s all blown over. Because, right now, we’re in a place where we’re just collecting it. We need to wait for the event to have finished, watch a few more months pass, and then we can compare numbers to see the effect.
There are early modelling indicators showing some countries saw a downturn of the uptake of PrEP by 20%. There were reports that people ran out of, or chose food over, the medication during the 90-day lockdown. But it’s too early for reliable raw data that we can turn into something meaningful.
To my mind, the answer will be quite obvious, though. We’re no longer able to access sexual health clinics. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to do one of those at-home STD testing kits? But to test for HIV, you have a little finger pricker that you have to use to fill up this beaker with blood.
With that finger pricker I found it impossible!
If you can fill up that tube using that kit, I want to meet you. Pick up your technique.
So not only is the testing difficult to access. Even when you do, it’s hard. Just the practicality of it: to fill up the jar and do the test reliably. With less testing, one would assume we’ll discover there will be higher transmissions and therefore a higher prevalence.
Ellen: What would you recommend as the best ways to cutting the transmission risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in heterosexual and homosexual relationships?
Gen: Use condoms, and I don’t just mean for your vagina and your anus; I’m talking about oral sex, as well. Be honest. Have conversations. God, there is nothing sexier than someone asking me before we fuck, ‘When did you last get tested?’
I understand that it can be awkward to have these conversations, but if that’s not in your comfort zone, you don’t have to have the conversation face-to-face. If you feel more comfortable, you could do it via WhatsApp, for example.
Ellen: I’ve heard people who don’t sleep with men say that they can’t get sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) beyond thrush. What do you have to say about this?
Gen: This both frustrates me and scares me because, as you know, I’ve had this before in my sex life. It’s really frustrating that as women, our sexuality is not taken seriously unless there’s a dick involved.
There’s women-to-women transmission of STDs. There’s male-to-male transmission of STDs. There’s male-to-women and women-to-male transmission of STDs. STDs don’t care what gender they’re going between; they just care that there’s bodily fluid and a route for transmission.
Ellen: Would you say HIV is still a risk factor though in women-to-women partnering? I mean, I think there’s been, what, six cases, all with other factors involved – other things that could have been the route of transmission.
Gen: It depends how much fluid-swapping is going on. Squirting. Swallowing. I’d never say never.
Ellen: Do you think regular STD testing is important regardless of whether you’re single or in any sort of relationship? Or is a trusting monogamous relationship the exception?
Gen: I think every time you have a new sexual partner you should be getting tested. I think if you’re in a monogamous relationship and you don’t think you or your partner have had new partners, but you have symptoms, you should be getting tested.
Ellen: Is non-monogamy only for people who love a lot of sex?
Gen: No! God, I’m – well, until a few days ago, actually – but I was in a poly relationship. Jesus fucking Christ! There is much more talking and communication than there is fucking.
There’s no correlation between the amount of people you’re sleeping with and the amount of sex that you’re having. Because it takes so much communication to get to a point in the relationship where you can open it up. There’s not even that much time left for fucking, to be honest.
Ellen: To some, non-monogamy can sound complicated; some may even think a recipe for disaster. Do you think this is true, and what would you say to those people?
And if you want to hear how Gen answers that question, tune in for her next blog post all about non-monogamy and polyamory. Why not sign up below so as to be sure not to miss it?
1) There is a disconnect between what you feel and what you see
There are none of the usual social cues that allow you to relax into the conversation. On video you can feel the presence of another person, but you can’t see them properly. There’s a meeting of your ideas and thoughts to satisfy the mind, but your body knows it’s alone.
With so much of our communication being non-verbal, knowing you can see the person, your brain expects to be able to read those signals. But in fact, it can’t.
The frustrations of technical freezes and delays aside, with video chat, you’re unable to see the subtle hand and face movements that indicate interest – or disinterest! And you’re aware that they can’t read yours either, so you sit there nodding incessantly like some dog sat at the back of a Skoda – just to make sure everyone knows you’re happy and attentive.
When someone looks away it’s impossible to tell if they’re listening, thinking, or reading an email. It’s exhausting trying to concentrate on what you’re saying while pretending you’re not trying to figure them out.
You speak while looking at so many mini screens within a screen, and you can’t catch the expressions on others’ faces, or hear the inhalation of breath that lets you know when someone else has something to say. In fact, collaboration has gone altogether.
There are no brief whispered parallel conversations going on as you might get in a face-to-face meeting. There is no real eye contact. No sparks of energy as two people suddenly come to the same realisation. Basically, it’s a conversation, but not as we know it. So, no wonder our brains are tired.
2) You can’t stop looking at yourself and the way you move
As if trying to read the nuance of another isn’t enough to give you Zoom fatigue, you can see yourself on camera.
‘Can they tell I’m looking at myself?’
‘If I look at them now, will they know I wasn’t before?’
‘Do I really have such a scrawny neck – what if I turn to this side, or stretch my chin forward?’
‘Do I really pull that face when I’m concentrating?’
Your discussion with your inner voice is distracting at best and headache-provoking at worst. But it’s just as tiring to ignore.
3) Technical interruptions often extend the length of the meeting
Back in the real world it was frustrating enough to have key people arrive a few minutes late, or to find yourself over-running. Thanks to video meetings you’re not sure if they’re going to drop out of the conversation mid-sentence.
Will they return?
Suddenly, you find yourself moved to a different platform in the same meeting, trying to surreptitiously write an email postponing your next call while pretending you are in fact merely listening intently. You thought you’d left plenty of time in between.
You never leave enough time.
The meeting is now three times the length it should have been. And you’re not even sure whether you’ve achieved anything.
Do everyone a favour – especially yourself. Ensure your meetings are necessary. Could you achieve as much by email or phone, where your brain can focus on one sensory input?
4) It’s a headache to find the right backdrop to your video call
You don’t need to be a chemist to notice the ever-increasing eyedrops on our high streets. Blepharitis is a thing. A dry eye condition, to be more specific. If you get pain between your eyes or at one or other eye socket, reach for the eye drops. Then book an appointment with an optometrist.
Remember those days when you got a break from screens while commuting, chatting at the coffee machine about your weekend indiscretions, or in face-to-face team meetings? Me neither.
But the more time you have on screens the more you have to care for your own well-being, or you’ll burn out.
6) Available all day? You’ll need to be extra cautious about your work/life balance
As a meditation instructor, I understand the importance of taking time out every day to care for my brain. Meditation exercises the brain the same way that push-ups do the body.
It doesn’t mean I’m always on point with my work/life balance, though. As a business owner, it’s easy to find yourself working every day.
As an employee, it’s just as easy to find your private time being eaten into by a micro-managing boss and their video surveillance. Or by meetings being organised during evenings or weekends…
‘Why not? You have access to your laptop all day.’
Yep – that’s the time to create some boundaries for your own sanity.
In summary: how to avoid Zoom fatigue
Give your brain a break. Of course it’s tired. There is dissonance between what it sees, feels and knows.
If a video call is really necessary, consider turning your mike or camera off at intervals.
If you do have to look at yourself, be kind. You’re not turning into your nanna. And who cares if you are? I’m sure she’s pretty awesome!
Don’t forget to take care of your body and your eyes. It’s hard being at a screen all day. Seek professional advice with regard to posture, exercises and the health of your eyes.
Lastly, it’s hard to separate work from play if you do both things in the same place. So, try to change that. And then block off times, and even days in your diary, for things you need to do for you – then fill in work around that.
A harmonious is mind is where it all begins. Everything arises from our mind. We imagine we want something and we go out to get it or do it. We do this every day. From cooking our dinner to buying clothes and choosing who to spend time with.
Obviously, we do not always get what we imagine. We may imagine we find a million pounds in our bank account, but it does not materialise. No surprise I hear you say! If we want a million pounds in our bank account we have to decide how we are going to do it and put a plan into action. That could be starting a new business, setting up a savings account or robbing a bank! Whichever route we choose, it comes from our mind.
So, why do we want a harmonious mind? Well, a harmonious mind is a happy mind. I’m sure you all know from your own experience that having an angry mind, or one that is jealous or annoyed is not a positive place to be in for you, or whomever you take those minds out on. When we have a happy mind, we feel in harmony with our body, our relations and our world.
I don’t mean over the top excited I’ve won the lottery type of happy mind by the way. I mean happy as in peaceful and content. Over excitement can be just as unharmonious. I’m sure anyone who has been to a kids party can testify. Eventually, the over-excitement turns into tiredness and tears.
Here at the harmonious hub, we want to help you increase the likelihood of you having a harmonious mind. Through informational and motivational blogs, goodies to help calm and soothe you, alongside practical tips from well-being practitioners, we have you covered on your journey towards a harmonious mind.
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