26 Nov 2016

Practicing Self Care

In an age where things are becoming progressively more tumultuous for young people, it’s no surprise mental health issues are on the rise.

55% of children who are bullied suffer from severe depression as adults. Among children and teenagers the number of those suffering from anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years and more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced bullying.

These worrying statistics show how challenging life can be for our younger generation and brings to light how crucial it is that we preach anti-bullying and anti-harassment at the same time as teaching self care. While it may seem self explanatory, those who suffer from mental health issues or are subject to bullying often find the latter immensely difficult. Instilling self care practices from a young age can really help give those who feel they may have hit a wall, something to fall back on. While this is no blueprint for preventing mental health issues from arising, learning to cope with them or even the weight of everyday life can be invaluable.

I think we can overlook very basic acts of self love such as keeping our bedrooms and home spaces clean and tidy, keeping our clothes clean, taking pride in our appearance and doing things we enjoy on a regular basis, and brand them as mundane, ‘everyday’ tasks or even chores. I wholeheartedly disagree with this sentiment and think we should take pleasure in the little things; chasing the big end goal, the grand finale, the show stopping firework is necessary at times but so often unattainable in our daily lives. We must learn to appreciate the little things and show others that, although not every day many be good, there is something good in ever day.

Indeed, warning signs for mental unrest can often be a lack of interest or care taken towards basic hygiene, an inability or lack of clear cognitive function, dramatic mood swings or changes in eating habits. In younger children, issues may manifest in things like frequent temper tantrums, changes in school performance or persistent nightmares.

If you think things have begun to spiral out of control please do not put off asking for help purely because you think it’s ‘taboo’, ‘embarrassing’ or an act of worrying over something silly. Your concerns are valid, you need to be listened to and you will thank yourself in the long run. Of course if you’re fearing for the health of a loved one or friend, this can become a little more tricky. Try broaching the subject in a non confrontational way and try to use reflexive questioning for example ;

“Can you tell me how … makes you feel”, “So what you’re telling me is…can you help me understand how that…”

Remember crisis management is ten times more difficult than prevention or catching and treating issues early. We must accept that taking care of our mental health is just as important and indeed feeds into our physical wellbeing. If we are prepared to encourage those we love to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day and exercise regularly to benefit them physically, we should be prepared to help them manage their mental health. Doing simple things everyday such as making to-do lists, meditating or taking time to focus on a creative outlet, can make a huge difference. As well as this, we must start and maintain an open dialogue surrounding mental health so to give those suffering, or those who believe someone they love is suffering, a place to turn to.

Please find below links to charities which help those suffering from mental health issues for more detailed information and contact details.

youngminds.org.uk

samaritans.org

b-eat.co.uk

24 Nov 2016

London Living- My Experience At A London Based University And Advice For Undergraduates

“London is a roost for every bird”- Benjamin Disraeli

Before moving to London just over three years ago, the longest I’d ever spent in the capital was 48 hours. For me, London was a city brimming with culture, packed with undiscovered worlds such as Camden Lock and Richmond Park and a place full of surprises on every corner. Amongst many others, these were all reasons that I was drawn to the city.

I’d always known I wanted to go to university; from the onset of my GCSE’s I was certain that I wanted to read English Literature and Language at degree level. It was something I set my sights on and proceeded to work towards for the following four years. I know this is the case for a lot of people and tends to act as a huge incentive to get through the arduous examination processes. I was certainly clear on what I wanted to study, the only problem was deciding where. A lot of my friends chose to study at universities fairly close to home; coming from Liverpool meant that York, Leeds and Manchester were all popular choices, but no one seemed particularly sold on The South, especially London. There could have been many contributing factors as to why this was the case, however I believe one of the strongest deterrents was cost.

The first thing that often comes to mind when you say London is ‘expensive!’ I can understand how elevated prices can put you off visiting a place for a long weekend, let along studying there for three years. While I totally understand that this very real concern for a lot of people, including myself initially, I will say you’d be hard put to find a student who’s rolling in cash. My rationale was simple, if I’m going to be broke I may as well be broke in one of the best cities in the world! I would strongly advise anyone, regardless of where you’re planning on studying, to look into the bursaries, grants and loans that are available to you. I understand times are tougher than ever, but be aware universities want you to study with them, more often than not they are willing to go the extra mile to get you in their lecture theatres.

While there are a whole host of amazing universities to choose from spanning the length and breadth of the country, the aspect of studying in London which really gave it an edge for me, were the resources available on my doorstep. As I was an arts student, the array of world class theatres such as The Globe, Old Vic and National, were invaluable. Being able to see text in performance so frequently and to be given such a vast choice, was truly wonderful. In addition, London not only plays host to so many fantastic libraries such as the British Library and Senate House, it also offers world renowned research centres and hospitals. As well as the superb academic resources, London really is a melting pot of cultures, cuisines and hotbed for events, ensuring you’ll always be spoilt for choice on Friday evening. Discovering the hidden gems of the city were just as rewarding as making use of everything else at my disposal, which is something I will forever remember about my time at university.

Attending an open day is the best way to ‘try before you buy’. Doing this will certainly give you a flavour of what’s to come. I knew, almost as soon as I set foot on the campus of my chosen university, that I was in the right place. Much like buying or renting a new home, once you know, you know. My advice here is to go with your gut instinct; remember it’s you who’ll be studying and potentially living, in the city of your chosen university, so what you think takes precedence over all other opinions.

I truly believe that studying in London equipped me with so much more than a degree in English Literature and Language; it heightened my awareness of living and woking with different types of people, broadened my horizons and gave me a real thirst to fulfil my true potential. While this can be true of any university experience, I strongly believe these skills were intensified through living in the capital; the environment is one which nurtures and challenges inquisitive minds and certainly pushes you to discover more about your academic and personal abilities.

29 Oct 2016

Acne 101

With 50% of women and 25% of men suffering from it at some point in their life, you’re not alone if you’ve experienced acne. This is often little consolation however when you’re faced with a fresh batch of pimples every morning. If left unchecked, acne can have a serious impact on self-confidence which can effect everything from academic performance to sleep.

What is acne?

Acne often surfaces during the onset of puberty, around age 14 for girls and 15/16 for boys. Characterised by comedones (blackheads, whiteheads and puss-filled spots) acne can effect the face, neck, back and chest. Sometimes acne can cause raised red bumps or pustules, oily skin and even scarring.
For most people, acne will clear up in the early twenties but can flare up again at any time, especially during pregnancy and stressful periods.

What causes acne?

At a basic level, acne is caused by the overproduction of oil in the sebaceous glands. This is often because those who suffer from acne are particularly sensitive to normal blood levels of testosterone which can cause inflammation in the skin and blocked pores.

Although certain external factors such as shaving, changing environments, certain foods and skincare systems can have an adverse effect on the skin, for the most part acne can be attributed to genes. As frustrating and as this may sound, there are things you can do to help keep your acne under control.

Tips for Acne Management

If you’re currently stabbing in the dark when it comes to acne treatment, here are a few tried and tested tips to get you started. Remember if you decide to go down the medical route, this should be a last resort; do your best to try all possible avenues first and always consult a doctor or registered dermatologist before taking any medication.

Sleep- Getting a good nights rest is key to helping improve the appearance of acne. Your body uses the time you’re sleeping for repair- this goes for your skin too!
Make sure you’re getting a solid six to eight hours of sleep every night as well as changing your pillowcase at least once a week and washing your pillows every couple of months.

Did you know… you could kill dust mites and other bacteria that may have found their way onto your pillow by washing them at 60C or putting them in the freezer for 24hrs!

Water- Although simple, this tip really does make a world of difference. Ensure you are consuming a minimum of 2 litres of water per day to help reduce inflammation and ensure your skin is sufficiently hydrated. If you’re trying to tackle particularly persistent acne, also try avoiding caffeinated and sugary drinks, as these will only dehydrate yourself and your skin further leading to more breakouts.

At home treatments-
This can be tricky and expensive if you’re not careful. Unfortunately there is no blueprint for treating acne and while some things work for some people, they may not for others. If possible, identify what it is about a particular product is creating a negative or positive effect on your skin; pay attention to chemical ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid as well as mineral oil and fragrances; while the former can often over-dry and irritate skin, the latter can clog pores and create greasiness.

Honey I treated my acne!– Honey is a natural antiseptic and can be applied topically to pimples to help reduce swelling.

Consistency- Once you’ve identified a thorough skincare regime that works for you, stick to it! It takes roughly one month for the surface of your skin to renew meaning it’s going to take a while for your skin to acclimatise to new products.

Stress- As an unavoidable part of life, stress can become consuming and detrimental to our physical and mental health. Stress causes an inflamed state in the body that can contribute to the inflammation of the sebaceous glands and in turn create a surplus of oil.
You can try to manage this in a variety of ways such as regular exercise and meditation.

Don’t dry out your skin- Just because you’ve got acne it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got oily skin. In fact, more often that not using extremely drying products can lead your skin to overcompensate, produce more oil and then you run the risk of getting more spots. Go easy with the products which claim to drain your skin of moisture, instead opting for oil free moisturisers and avoid harsh astringents whenever possible.

Food group elimination- Although this topic is often disputed, I believe that for some, particular foods can have a negative effect on the skin. Dairy, coffee and some soy products are often linked to an increase breakouts. Try cutting back on some of these for a period of time and track how your skin reacts.

Whatever you do to try and help your skin remember you’re not on your own. As demoralising as it can be, try to stay positive; it wont last forever, there are things you can do to help yourself and as cheesy as it sounds, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts!

12 Oct 2016

Back To School Lunch Ideas

Finding inspiration for the daily packed lunch ritual or office meal can sometimes be a chore, but with these recipes you’ll have plenty to look forward to at lunch time.

Chickpea Tuna

A take on the classic sandwich filler that leaves no room for wrinkled nosed or unhappy tummies. This recipe transforms the humble chickpea into a jazzy edition to any Monday morning lunchbox.

Fact check: Per 100g, chickpeas contain 19g of protein. They also contain 0g of dietary cholesterol while a single serving of tuna contains up to 49mg!

For the full recipe visit hotforfoodblog.com

Hot pocket lunch pittas

These pittas pack a punch of flavour and are great as a quick after-school snack or lunch. Wrap in tin-foil for on the go, or enjoy with a side of home-made fries or crisps.

Ingredients (for 2 pittas)

2 wholemeal pitta breads

1 ½ tsp butter or sunflower spread

1tsp olive oil

Salad leaves and toppings of your choice

4 chestnut mushrooms

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 cherry tomatoes, sliced

100g smoked tofu- this can be found in the refrigerated section in health stores and some larger supermarkets. Alternatively, you can use pre cooked and seasoned chicken.

1 tbsp hummus

Hot sauce, siracha or similar- optional

Spicy Mushroom Pitta

To prepare the filling

1. Finley slice the mushrooms and add to a pan with 1 ½ tsp of butter. Lightly sauté then add the minced garlic.

2. Cook 5/6 minutes then add in the sliced cherry tomatoes.

3. Cook for a further 2 minutes until warm through.

Assemble

1. Cut open and toast one of the pittas; you can do this in your regular toaster or under the grill.

2. Spread hummus on both sides of the pita.

3. Add your lettuce and the mushroom filling.

4. Top with fixings of your choice; I recommend freshly sliced tomatoes and red onion.

5. Drizzle with hot sauce and enjoy!

Smokey chik’un pitta

This is a great option if you’re vegetarian or if you simply want a lighter alternative to meat. The smoked tofu gives a richer flavour, putting even the most carnivorous of pallets to the test.

Did you know… tofu contains all eight essential amino acids and is thought to provide the same cancer and heart disease fighting properties as whole soy beans.

For the chick’un

1. Using your hands, break the tofu into bite-sized chunks. Don’t worry about being neat with this, the more rugged the pieces look the better!

2. Using the same pan in which you prepared the mushrooms, heat up 1sp of olive oil.

3. Add the tofu chunks and cook until warmed through.

4. Toast pitta and add salad and fixings; with this recipe I recommend cucumbers or pickled gherkins.

5. Add your warm tofu and enjoy!

20 Jun 2016

THE UK IS HOME TO THREE OF EUROPE’S MOST INNOVATIVE UNIVERSITIES

The UK has three of Europe’s most innovative universities with Imperial College London leading the way in the top ten, according to a new ranking.

Belgium’s KU Leuven has taken the top spot, with Cambridge coming third in Reuters’ first-ever top 100 list which aims to identify which institutions throughout the continent contribute the most to science and technology.

The list also aims to highlight which universities have the greatest impact on the global economy.

Top 10 most innovative universities in Europe:

KU Leuven – Belgium

Imperial College London – UK

Cambridge – UK

EPFL – Switzerland

TU Munich – Germany

Erlangen Nuremberg – Germany

Delft University of Technology – Netherlands

Oxford – UK

Munich – Germany

Zurich – Switzerland

Other key findings of the rankings have highlighted the strong performance of universities in Western Europe, with 60 institutions featuring in the top 100. Germany accounts for 24 of 100 – more than any other country – while the UK comes in second with a total of 17 institutions.

Top 10 most innovative universities in the UK:

Imperial College London

Cambridge

Oxford

Manchester

Dundee

London

Cardiff

Birmingham

Leeds

Sheffield

Arlyn Tobias Gajilan, co-editor of the rankings and Reuters deputy editor for professional news, said the biggest thing the results have shown is that “innovation can originate almost anywhere.”What matters most is a school’s technical focus and the practical application of its research into real world products and solutions.

“Innovation means different things to different people, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s been so difficult to measure. By taking an empirical approach that incorporates a broad set of ten metrics, we have provided new insights into how universities are impacting both the European and global economies.”

Click here to see the complete 100 list

20 Jun 2016

Building Up Your Brain

The brain is often described as being “like a muscle”. We judge literacy and numeracy exercises as more beneficial for your brain than running, playing and learning on the move. But the brain-as-muscle analogy doesn’t quite work. To build up your biceps you can’t avoid flexing them. When it comes to your brain, an oblique approach can be surprisingly effective.

Brain training: should you believe the hype?

Picture1

Scientists are showing that the runner’s high can have profound effects on your brain. Moreover, specific physical activities can markedly alter its structure in precise ways.

A wave of studies exploring the unexpected links between mental and bodily fitness is emerging from labs. This research might give you the nudge to get more active. It can also help you choose the best ways to prepare physically for mental challenges such as exams, interviews and creative projects.

Boost your memory

The part of the brain that responds strongly to aerobic exercise is the hippocampus. Well-controlled experiments in children, adults and the elderly show that this brain structure grows as people get fitter. Since the hippocampus is at the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems, this finding partly explains the memory-boosting effects of improved cardiovascular fitness.

As well as slowly improving your memory hardware, exercise can have a more immediate positive impact on your memory. German researchers showed that walking or cycling during, but not before, learning helped new foreign language vocabulary to stick. So exercise while you revise. Don’t push it too hard, though: vigorous workouts can raise your stress levels!

Improve your concentration

Besides making memories stickier, exercise can help you focus and stay on task. The best scientific evidence comes from testing school children, but the same most likely applies to us all. Interspersing lessons with 20-minute bouts of aerobics-style exercise improved the attention spans of Dutch school pupils. Meanwhile, a large randomised controlled trial in the US looked at the effects of daily after-school sports classes over a school year. The children, of course, got fitter. Less predictably, their executive control improved. They became more adept at ignoring distractions, multitasking, and holding and manipulating information in their minds.

And if that all sounds like hard work, you may not have to get out of breath to reap the attention-honing effects of exercise! Just 10 minutes of playful coordination skills, like bouncing two balls at the same time, improved the attention of a large group of German teenagers.

Improve your mental health

Love it or hate it, bouts of physical activity can have potent effects on your mood. The runner’s high – that feeling of elation that follows intense exercise – is good for the brain.

Don’t sit still

The cognitive spillover from exercise reminds us that our brains and bodies and don’t operate in isolation. What you do with your body impinges on your mental faculties. Sitting still all day, every day, is dangerous. So don’t dither about what form of exercise you do. Find something you enjoy, then get up and do it!

08 Jun 2016

Angelina Jolie-Pitt appointed visiting professor at London School of Economics

The US actress, film director and special envoy for the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency has been appointed visiting professor at the London School of Economics (LSE), where she will teach a Masters in gender and human rights.

The Oscar-winning actress will join former foreign secretary William Hague as a lecturer at the university’s Centre for Women, Peace and Security where she will help to teach students studying for a Master’s degree.

Jolie-Pitt, who has been a goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency and is currently one of its special envoys, has been a vocal campaigner on refugee rights and gender based violence. Jolie-Pitt will serve as a guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour later this month to be aired on 17th June, where she will explore the refugee crisis in the lead-up to World Refugee Day the following Monday.

Jolie-Pitt said “I am looking forward to teaching and to learning from the students as well as to sharing my own experiences of working alongside governments and the United Nations”.

Hague said: “This course will help underpin our work in preventing violence in conflict, developing expertise and research to assist us in tackling the culture of impunity. I look forward to working with the LSE students and my fellow visiting professors.”

The one year course will include modules on Women, Peace and Security, Gender and Militarisation and Gender and Human Rights.

 

07 Jun 2016

AFRICA WRITES RETURNS THIS SUMMER

Africa Writes is the Royal African Society’s annual literature festival. Celebrating its 5th year, Africa Writes 2016 brings together over 50 distinguished authors, poets, publishers and experts for a stimulating and inspiring three days. Every year Africa Writes showcases established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing taking place over an exciting summer weekend. The festival features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions, youth and children’s workshop among other thought-provoking happenings and engaging activities.

Click here to find out more about the festival!

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03 Jun 2016

Boys Who Live With Books ‘Earn More as Adults’

“A room without books is like a body without a soul,” words of Roman philosopher, Cicero.

New research has uncovered a strong correlation between the earnings of adults and whether they grew up surrounded by books as children.

Three economists at the University of Padua studied 6,000 men born in nine European countries and concluded that children with access to books could expect to earn materially more than those who grow up with few or no books.

They studied the period from 1920 to 1956, when school reforms saw the minimum school leaving age raised across Europe. They looked at whether, at the age of 10, a child lived in a house with fewer than 10 books, a shelf of books, a bookcase with up to 100 books, two bookcases, or more than two bookcases.

Over the period studied, the research, published in the Economic Journal, found that an additional year of education increased a man’s average lifetime earnings by 9%.

Men brought up in households with less than a shelf of books earned only 5% more as a result of the extra year’s education, compared with 21% more for those who had access to a lot of books. And those that had access to books were more likely to move to the better-earning opportunities in cities than those without books.

The men’s first job was also much more likely to be a white-collar job.

Books matter because they encourage children to read more and reading can have positive effects on school performance. A home filled with books indicates advantageous socio-economic conditions.  This may indicate that a home with books encourages cognitive and socio-emotional skills, which are important for economic success in life.

11 Mar 2016

Honour Page: Diary Entry by Beatrix

Dear Diary,

 

My teacher is absolutely horrid! She embarrassed me by reading my autobiography to the whole class, even though she knows perfectly well it’s private. Then when I was finished she let out this cackle of a laugh, the sort that made you want to hurl yourself off a cliff. When the bell went for lunch break, I marched straight to the girls’ cubicles to have a good cry.

 

Then, I heard the door groaning loudly and in came Stella. That quietened me down a little. For some odd reason, I always felt rather stupid, crying in front of Stella. I miserably pulled the chain and pushed open the door. All of a sudden my face lit up when I spotted her, all pink and pretty, washing her hands in the sink. She must have heard me crying because she immediately came over, so I started to talk things out with her. She helped me wash my tear-stained and then we played ‘hair salon’ and I was a posh lady and she played ‘washing my hair’.

 

It felt so soothing having her sharp, dainty fingernails run through my silky curtain of hair. That lasted pretty much until the end of break and when it was time to go, we bumped straight into Mrs Prye and then she started on this long lecture about ‘safety, responsibility and independence’…

 

 

By Beatrix 8yr old – “Wants to be an author in the future”