“Lay aside life-harming heaviness…”*

yoga

In the second of my musings on mindfulness, let’s start with the physical. Exercise is really good for combating stress, anxiety and depression as it releases the feel good endorphines, increases neurone production and combats cortisol production. So start the day with some Pilates stretches on the living room floor

Avoid emotional triggers, whether it’s a violent movie or one that makes you blubber. Put any potential confrontational situations at arm’s length if appropriate, or deal with it if you have to, then box it off and move on. You may then need to do some meditation, mindfulness or read to really take your mind off the problem and calm the anxiety reaction.

Take time to learn meditation and breathing exercises, which can be hugely beneficial in calming the mind, or try a Sound Bath, a form of relaxation through music vibrations.

sound bath

Understanding yourself and what you are dealing with is an essential part of healing yourself. For a lighthearted but fascinating read try Sane New World – Taming the mind by Ruby Wax and her second book Frazzled which is equally brilliant.

Cuddling, stroking and talking to a pet is very calming and good for mindfulness. And if you have a dog the exercise is great too. But if it’s needed,  CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can be very beneficial if you have some issues (past or current) or stress triggers that you are struggling to deal with. It may be an incident that happened in the past, which is putting up barriers and stopping you from moving forward in personal or business life. Talk to your GP about this.

And finally, try to avoid being reactionary. If you are stressed or anxious you already have a heightened level of adrenaline, so a relatively minor passing comment can irritate and annoy you. STOP. Do not react straight away. Think about what has been said, then try and look at it from the other person’s perspective and why did they say or do that.. If it’s a text or email, read it several times as you can sometimes miss inferences or even words, that may affect how you react. Go away and think about it. Then if you need to reply or comment, do so in a calm, understanding, non-inflammatory way, saying ‘I do understand, perhaps….”. This quite often can defuse a situation from the outset, and reduce your own adrenaline reaction.

*Lay aside life-harming heaviness: Richard ii

 

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To sleep, perchance to dream

Mindfulness – where the likes of Philippe Starck, Prince Harry and Ruby Wax converge, because mindfulness needs to be about mindful living. And as a designer who has worked with people at all extremes of the stress-level spectrum, it seems right to put some ideas into action.

For the next few weeks I’ll present a series of short blogs which might help….beginning with the most important need in all our lives: good sleep.

townhouse bedroom

Do you wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep? Instead of fighting it, get up and go to  make a warm drink (without caffeine – decaf tea or just hot water) and snuggle up on the sofa with a duvet and watch some quiet and calming TV. No horror movies or anything that will trigger adrenaline. This should take your mind off whatever thoughts keep playing in your head. Eventually you’ll feel sleepy and switch off, back to bed. Or you could read, or listen to a meditation app,  whatever makes you concentrate on the here and now, and switches the chatter off in your brain.

I read before I go to sleep… until I’m falling asleep. Other ideas include burning a few bay leaves on a plate to reduce anxiety; they smell great too. And of course yoga is great for detoxing, meditating and calming the mind as well as the body.

However busy your day, it’s really important to get some ‘me time’ perhaps with a friend so you can chat about stuff (problems or not, preferably fun things to talk about). Too much time alone, even when out for a walk, can lead to ruminating and dwelling on your problems. So better to share your walk and be less introspective.

Do something mindful that you enjoy. Take up a hobby that makes you spend an hour or half hour concentrating solely on that thing. It could be art, playing an instrument, knitting, making something, model making, colouring by numbers, or trying out a new recipe. This helps to rebuild neurones in the brain which counteracts the cortisol produced by the amygdala gland in your brain, which tells the body to send out adrenaline. Cortisol is your stress chemical for inducing ‘flight or fight’ and it can get into a pattern of being easily triggered, so you need to break that cycle. It’s not a quick fix, you need to have faith and just stick at it for many months to really feel the benefits.

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Four poster bed design by Fidget for the award-winning Cedar Manor Hotel at Windermere

Which brings us back to good quality sleep. If your partner, is a noisy snorer or restless, this can wake you and your brain chatter switches on. If you don’t get enough sleep, you feel sluggish and thoughts can become unreasonable, situations can blow out of proportion. On occasions it may be worth sleeping in another bed or another room or even on the sofa if necessary. As long as you are comfy, not too hot or cold and get some quality undisturbed sleep.

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A birthday tribute to the queen of design

You know the bold chevron and geometric patterns that are everywhere now? Well, guess who started that trend? Yes, Mary Quant back in the fifties and swinging sixties, along with block panels of colour and bold stripes. I reckon stripes will be coming back in soon, too.

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Mary Quant was the first ‘designer’ I was ever aware of when I was just eight, introduced to me by my mother. Even though she was highly successful and at the height of her career a couple of decades before I was born, I was captivated and blown away by this bold graphic style, bright colours and of course the iconic stylised daisy logo.

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Me and (above) my style guru…..

Mary, who studied Illustration at Goldsmiths College London, was a self taught designer, a game changer in the fashion world. She opened her first store in 1955, Bazaar, on the Kings Road in London and frequented by the Chelsea Set – a group of young artists, film directors and socialites interested in exploring new ways of living. Her cutting-edge designs were on the covers of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, and she mixed with the new trendsetters in society, the Rolling Stones, Beatles and photographer David Bailey.

With her cottage-industry approach, the rails at Bazaar were continually refreshed with short runs of new designs, satisfying the customers’ hunger for fresh, unique looks at competitive prices.

She also offered a radically different shopping experience with loud music, free drinks, witty window displays and extended opening hours creating a ‘scene’ that often kept going late into the evening. Young women travelled to Bazaar to enjoy shopping for ‘something different’ in a much less formal environment.

Quant’s first collections were strikingly modern in their simplicity, and very wearable. Pairing short tunic dresses with tights in bright, stand-out colours – scarlet, ginger, prune and grape – she created a bold, high-fashion version of the practical outfits she’d worn as a child at school and at dance classes. She’s also said to have invented the mini-skirt.

By 1957 demand for Quant’s clothes had led to the opening of a second Bazaar store on the King’s Road, in a space designed by Terence Conran. 

In 1966 she was awarded an OBE for services to British fashion and in 1990 she was awarded the prestigious Hall of Fame Award by the British Fashion Council, recognising her outstanding contribution to British fashion, and became a Dame in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list.

 In 2006 Quant’s iconic mini-skirt was included in a range of stamps by Royal Mail celebrating a decade of iconic British design alongside images of Concorde, the Mini car, the anglepoise lamp, the red telephone box, the Routemaster bus and the London Underground Map.

Mary also invented hot pants and was the first to use plastic coated fabrics and PVC with her ‘wet look’ fashions, and the fabulous Mondrian boots which, as shoe addict, I simply adore and would love to get my hands on a pair.

Go Go Girls arrived with their Go Go Boots and the Daddy Long-leg boots with their zip off leg section turning them into ankle boots. Her fashionable rain boots made of the new high gloss plastic fabrics were described as ‘waterproof, durable and indestructible’.

From the late 70s onwards, the business moved into mass-production high quality womenswear, alongside coordinated interior designs for British manufacturing company ICI, including bedlinen, carpets, paint and wallpaper, diffusion ranges such as swimwear, hosiery, jewellery, the Daisy fashion doll, and popular ‘Paintbox’ make up brand and skincare products.

When I was a teenager I wore baggy orange T-shirt dresses, black and white striped tights and monkey boots. I hadn’t realised the ‘modern day’ link with Mary Quant until I look back now, but it was to go on and influence me all through my life as my own design career unfolded.

As a professional designer, the eye catching stripes have never left my side, both in interiors and graphically in branded design. I love the simple shapes, beautiful proportions and clean lines which portray a confident image.

Mary’s style is still influencing today with over 300 Quant cosmetic stores in Japan, and the likes of Boden clothing, Alessi design products… and my own Fidget Design.

Mary Quant… Eighty four years young and still going strong. I salute you!

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