Walking into the SpunOut.ie HQ for the first time was a little overwhelming and I was a bit apprehensive of what would be facing me during the two day ‘Women’s Academy’ – a room full of girls all fighting for their voice to be heard over the rest? Yes, but surprisingly not in the way you would expect! What I met instead was a group of extraordinary, like-minded young women who were all passionate, motivated and determined to speak up and make a difference in this world; for women’s rights, mental health, LGBT and lots more.
One of the main objectives of the Academy was to learn more about activism and how to go about personal and social change so the days were organised to allow us hear from lots of influential people in society today. The first of these talks was with Una Mullally; a journalist and regular columnist for The Irish Times who got the day off to a start by addressing the role young women play in society and some of the challenges she has experienced with this. Within minutes, Una had captured the attention of the room and it wasn’t long until everyone was hanging on her every word.
We were also lucky enough to have Donal Scanlon from St. John of God Hospital teach us basic mental health awareness through the Suicide or Survive: Wellness Programme. During this he explained how we should look after our “mental WEALTH” and some of the tools we can use to do this. We were able to further improve these tools during an innovative drama workshop led by Patricia Kennedy (founder of the anti-bullying programme ‘Sticks and Stones’) which used drama skills to allow us to confidently express our identities and opinions.
Topics like politics and particularly women in politics were also covered through a motivational talk from Aideen Carberry, member of the Labour Party, as well as during a ‘Political Panel’ featuring four successful, female public representatives – Rebecca Moynihan (Labour Party), Regina Doherty (Fine Gael), Christabelle Feeney (Fianna Fáil) and Eilis Ryan (Independent) where questions were raised about the inequality of women in politics, the impact of a ‘Gender Quota’, youth unemployment and the increasing risk (and decreasing services) for people living with mental health difficulties – it was certainly a very interesting discussion, to say the least! Other issues broached over the two days included the importance of feminism, voiced in particular by women from the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the ‘Y-Project’, and also the importance of communications led by Aisling Twomey (information co-ordinator for Pavee Point).
But the Academy wasn’t just about talks and debates! On our first evening we were treated to a trip to the Irish Film Institute where we got to watch ‘Cinematic Voices’; a series of short films promoting branches of Feminism and we were also introduced to ‘Artivism’ by Niamh Heery, which allowed us to create temporary works of art that we later displayed in Dublin City Centre in order to inspire people to take a moment to make a change. For instance, one of our groups passed around balloons filled with positive affirmations to promote positive mental wellbeing, another displayed newspaper articles regarding Women’s Rights and others exhibited artwork to approach the subject of women’s abortion rights. In my opinion, this was one of the most exhilarating and eye-opening parts of the Academy, because we learned first-hand how much of an impact we can actually make through such a small action!
It would be physically impossible to express how much I value and appreciate the time I spent at SpunOut for the Women’s Academy, not only because of how much I learned but because of the people I met through it; I can truly say I was inspired by each and every woman in that room, by their outright honesty about personal experiences and complete determination to ensure changes are brought about before anyone else has to encounter what they did. One thing’s for sure, they’ve already inspired me to become a better person and I’m convinced our generation is in good hands.
I’ll leave you with five key expressions which I feel illustrates the message we learned during our time at the Academy, and you never know, you might feel just as empowered as we did when we heard them:
So a huge thank you to John, Avril and everyone at SpunOut for making the Women’s Academy everything it was, it was definitely an experience we’ll never forget – and we’ll never want to either.
You can follow Aoife’s journey through her lifestyle blog which you can find at aoifebelle.wordpress.com.
Spending a summer at home with your family can be pretty dull - whether you’re on your break from school and you’re suddenly missing your routine, or you’ve returned home from college to find that you’ve outgrown your surroundings. It’s especially tough these days, when so many of us don’t have jobs and lack the extra cash needed to keep our social lives blossoming. Fear not: there are a few things you can do on the cheap to make the most out of the next couple of months.
Now is a great time to get in touch with your artistic side, not only does it keep boredom at bay, but it also has therapeutic effects that can help you to beat the summer blues. There are lots of different ways to unleash your inner creative demons: Ask your parents if you can redecorate your room. Grab some pots of paint and some cheap throws for your bed, and you’re away! You could even make a pinboard collage of photos of you and your friends. Get into arts and crafts. There are plenty of Irish art shops that you can buy materials from online - though all you really need to kick off your doodling is a pencil and a sketchpad. Who cares if you’re not the next Picasso! Write, if that’s your thing. Start that blog you’ve been meaning to set up for ages, or try your hand at poetry, song-writing or even penning your first great novel. The best thing about writing is that the only tool you need is your imagination, so now is the time to try it out. Teach yourself to play an instrument. This can be expensive if you don’t already have an instrument knocking about the house, but you can always buy one second-hand, or borrow one from a friend. Learning an instrument is strangely addictive, so it’s sure to keep you from being bored. Plus, you’ll have something to impress your friends with come September.
Do some volunteer work
Even if it’s not related to what you want to do with your life, it could still be useful. Not only is it a time-filler, but it’ll look great on your CV when you’re applying for paid jobs. Employers will want to see that you’re not just sitting around watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory. Also, you never know when a potential employer could spot you in action: if you’re working in a charity shop, for example, someone might tell you about a paid job opening for a cashier. If nothing else, you’ll feel great knowing that you’re giving something back. Check out www.volunteer.ie for information on how to get involved in volunteering.
Get outdoors and exercise
Whether you like walking, running or cycling, shake off your worries about what the neighbours will think and just do your thing. Ireland has some fantastic natural resources, so make the most of what you’ve got in your area. Not only will it beat the boredom and keep you physically fit, but getting outdoors and exercising releases endorphins in the brain, giving you the good-mood booster you might need.
Get lost in fiction
Visit your local library, however uncool it might sound. It’s got a whole load of free books! For free! Alternatively, you can buy really cheap second-hand books on www.play.com. The good thing about reading is that you can do it outside while the weather is nice, so make the most of summer and soak up the rays while getting lost in a book (just be sure to slap on the sunscreen). You don’t have to read to enjoy fiction, either - while it’s not a good idea to stay in and watch TV all the time, it can be good to lose yourself in an on-screen universe for a while. There are so many good series out at the moment that could keep you entertained for nights on end, or you could discover a whole new genre of film with the help of Netflix. You’ll have loads to talk about with your friends when you see them next.
Help out around the house
It doesn’t sound too exciting, but it’ll help you feel useful and avoid arguments with the folks. Try and tailor your household duties to your interests. If you’re into DIY, for example, ask your parents if they need a hand with a home improvement project. If you like cooking, offer to make dinner for the family a few nights a week. Feeling like you’re making a difference in your home will play a huge part in your overall happiness.
Stay connected with friends
If you miss your friends from school or college, arrange Skype dates with them, or plan something you can all do together during the summer. Having a stepping stone to look forward to helps make the days go much faster. If you’re home from college for the summer, take the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that you haven’t seen in a while. It doesn’t have to be an expensive night out or anything - just meeting up for a coffee or calling over to their house will be enough to keep the lines of friendship open and get those happy vibes that can only come from a good chat.
Some people will call it a doss, others might call it a year to try new things, others might be trying to find themselves. Transition year is a year of learning, exploring and deciding. In this year you will learn new things, such as teamwork. Teamwork is vital in transition year with different projects and groups that you take part in. You will explore new subjects such as YSI, where you will try and make a difference in your community or mini-company where you will set up a small business and try to break into the market. Most importantly deciding, deciding what to do next year, deciding what to do in college, deciding what to do with life. You must decide your subjects for the leaving cert you should have a good idea what you like because you will have tried all the subjects in transition year. You have to decide what college course you might like so that your subject choice will suit the requirements. Transition year can be very fun with plenty of trips, days out and lots to do. You will be kept busy.
Here are some of my favourite things about TY and some of the downsides...
I think transition year is well worth doing if you are a driven person. As everyone says, you get out what you put in. This is true, so do as much as you can and you will come out happy at the end.
Everyone we meet is fighting a battle, or so we have been told since the classicists said so in Ancient Greece. The fluctuating nature of an individual’s self-esteem is one such conflict that will affect each of our lives. Polish your armour and raise your shield; the battlefield awaits.
Self-esteem is the answer to the question “how do I feel about myself”. An individual’s self-esteem represents their self-worth, self-respect and self-value. It encompasses self-belief, self-approval and self-appraisal. The need for good self-esteem is intrinsically linked to our basic human need to be accepted by our social circle and feel a sense of belonging.
Low self-esteem that we read about in magazines or self help books leads to anxiety, depression and loneliness. This low self-esteem erodes confidence, relationships and hinders performances in education or the workplace. People who suffer from this genuine form of low self-esteem can even be upset by positive feedback, as they feel they do not deserve praise or approval.
This type of low self-esteem does not affect all of us. However the tendency for young women to base their self-worth solely on physical appearances is all too apparent in modern society.
Unfortunately, when it comes to looks, we're often our own harshest critics. Research carried out by the personal care brand Dove in 2010 found that only 4% of women across the world considered themselves beautiful. What is more frightening is the statistic that 6 out of 10 girls are so concerned with the way they look that anxiety forces them to exclude themselves from social occasions, daily rituals, even failing to attend school.
We each have a mental picture in our head of what we look like, and it is this image that contributes to our self-esteem. This in turn will reflect whether we feel loved, valued, accepted by others and most importantly, by ourselves. If you have ever heard a faint voice inside your head when you are not happy about the way you look, then you have been acquainted with your inner-critic. The inner-critic relishes in endorsing unattainable expectations to us- mine kindly unleashes a back catalogue of Victoria’s Secret images in my brain when I am laying into my umpteenth chocolate bar of the day. Though it won’t ever go away, it can be silenced by a strong sense of self-esteem.
The good news is that self-image, and in turn self-esteem, is ever evolving. Being confident and happy in ones skin is an admirable trait; beloved author Roald Dahl believed “if a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on the face….but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
This is exactly why it is so import to ensure future generations of women do not aspire to the contrived standards of perfectionism projected by the media. Instead, we should aim to be as happy and healthy as possible. Judy Garland, a woman whose life was fraught with low self-esteem and depression, said “it’s better to be a first rate version of ourselves than a second rate version of someone else.”
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with a global population of over 7 billion, why conform to one ideal? Everyone should value their distinctive qualities and take pride in their individuality. As a child, the remarkable and eccentric Diana Vreeland was criticised by her mother for her lack of perceived beauty. Vreeland, one of fashion’s most innovative minds, instead propelled her energy into improving her vocabulary, her manners and her sense of style. She maintained “the only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”
We should be thankful for what we’ve got. Don’t compare yourself to others, surround yourself with people who make you feel relaxed and comfortable, foster your own unique sense of style; wear bright colours and do not be preoccupied with other people’s opinions. Look after yourself- eat healthy, exercise regularly and invest pride in your appearance.
Likewise have pride in your person; stand up straight, be assertive, and radiate confidence. Laugh routinely and have fun. Be polite, try new things, have goals and aspirations, educate yourself about the world, contribute, engage others, and celebrate your accomplishments. Boasting and arrogance are unattractive, but being proud of yourself, including your weaknesses and flaws, is admirable. Look at yourself like a present- glossy wrapping paper, a flashy bow and ribbons are all well and good, but it’s ultimately it is what’s beneath the exterior that people will cherish in the long run.
The conversation about unemployment in Ireland is usually a bleak one but despite the doom and gloom, there are some sectors in the country that are hiring and there are certain skills in demand.
In this article, we will break down some of the roles that are out there in different areas of the job market.
The IT (information technology) sector:
Software developers (with experience of cloud/database/games/data analysis/analytics/user support/network security/troubleshooting.
Digital media sector – social media manager, user experience developers, web designers, e- commerce, .NET developers, Java developers, testing and quality assurance, business analysts, project managers.
Silicon Republic is an Irish technology news site that has a host of info on the latest job announcements in this sector.
Tool design, process engineers, quality control, mechanical, electrical, cqv, chemical, equipment, controls packaging.
Steps.ie is a dedicated website where you can find out about what engineering is and getting on the right track for a job in the sector.
Quality control analyst/office, microbiologist, organic chemist, lab technician, medical information specialist, process technician, research and development.
Accounts payable/receivable, payroll ops manager, tax specialist, credit analyst, credit control, fraud experts, tax experts, regulatory compliance, actuary.
Chefs, porters, waiting staff, reception staff.
Sales assistant, buyer, merchandiser, trainee manager, duty manager, security.
The Irish Independent recently did a round-up with some industry experts and came up with a list of 50 jobs of the future. These vary from priests and interpreters to 3D printers and cobblers. One piece of advice that seems to be consistent across the board is that languages are always an advantage!
We live in a generation where the internet plays a big part in our lives. Most of us use websites such as Facebook and Tumblr, and the list goes on and on. We all think that the online world can do us no harm, or that we know how to stay safe online. But how much do we really know?
You should change your password regularly. We have all heard this rule, yet many of us never follow it. You should also try and use different passwords for your online accounts because if a hacker were to hack your email account they could easily hack your Facebook if you have the same password. Don't use an easy password like your date of birth, your second name or your dog's name. Try and make it hard for someone to figure out: add capitals, symbols or numbers to your passwords to make them safer. You should also type HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) before web addresses. Most websites automatically do this when you are putting in your password or when you're on websites for online shopping or banking, but you can change your settings on Facebook by going into the security settings.
Have you ever gotten a friend request from someone you have never met and with whom you have no mutual friends? Most of us would just decline the friend request. But this is not always the case; most people will accept someone if they have a couple of mutual friends. However, you should never accept someone on Facebook that you do not know in real life. It's like the old saying: 'Never talk to strangers'. If you wouldn't do it in real life, don't do it online.
As young adults we are a generation who have almost grown up with social websites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. Most of us probably couldn't imagine life without these websites. So for that reason we all think we know our way around these sites or how to protect ourselves, but the truth is we don't. Some things you can do to protect your privacy online are: making your page private (this stops people who you are not friends with going through your account), and avoiding putting personal information like the name of your school, where you live or your age on these sites.
Don't think that just because you're on the internet you can act like a different person. You should just be yourself; don't put up statuses you wouldn't want your parents, teachers or employers to see. Don't put up statuses that someone could find offensive or hurtful. Always think before you speak, or in this case think before you type. Remember everything you do online is traceable even if you delete it.
If someone posts something on your page or messages you something you are uncomfortable with/find offensive, save the comment by printing it out or saving it to your computer. Then unfriend, block or report the person. Do not message them back about how upset you are or how it doesn't bother you, as the bully will feed off this and the abuse might just get worse. You should tell someone like a school counsellor, teacher or parent about it immediately.
The internet is not all doom and gloom of course. There are upsides; you just have to know how to protect yourself.
Picnics and barbecues
You don't have to mourn the end of enjoyable summer barbecues or picnics if you're trying to eat healthy or if you are diabetic. With a little planning, you can dine outside and enjoy all the wonderful flavours summer has to offer, just the same as everyone else. Barbecuing is a great way to cook and can make healthy food even tastier. With some creative thinking you can pack your picnic basket with delicious healthy options too. Revamp your barbecues and picnic for more flavour and nutrition. Break old habits and start new ones with healthy eating. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Tasty meat, fish and poultry
Use oil-vinegar based marinates for meat, fish and poultry. Fruit purees, diluted fruit juice and low sugar preserves can also be used for tasty marinades. For example, marinate slices of beef in orange juice before barbequing. Then, put them in a plastic freezer bag for less mess and quicker clean up. Use a brush to lightly apply the marinade during barbecuing. Herbs can also be added to meat, fish and poultry before placing on the barbecue also (see below).
Experiment with fruit and vegetables
Add colour to your barbecue or picnic with fruit and vegetables. The wide variety available in summer makes it is easy to eat the recommended five portions daily. Perk up traditional dishes by using strawberries, pears, pineapple, and kiwi. Add them to salads and salsa or puree them in smoothies. Jazz up fruit salad by adding seasonal fruits. Buying fruit in season also means you will get them at the best price. Look out for special offers on exotic fruit, like kumquats, mangoes or star fruit in your local supermarket. Try barbecued fruit kebabs or banana parcels.
Vegetables like peppers, corn, aubergine or onions can be seasoned with herbs and placed directly on the barbecue until tender and brown. Vegetables like courgette, tomatoes, mushroom or carrot can be sliced, seasoned and wrapped in foil before placing on the barbecue and cooking until tender.
Salads don’t have to be boring. Use different varieties of lettuce to form the bases of your salad. Spinach leaves, watercress, celery tops, basil, parsley and chicory are also great in salads. Experiment with ingredients i.e. cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, cucumber, onion, different varieties of cheese, olives, chickpeas, etc. Add milk, fruit juice, or low fat yoghurt or low fat mayo for a tasty dressing. Serve with low fat salad dressings (watch out for sugar in these), balsamic vinegar and low fat yoghurt etc on the side.
Rice, couscous and pasta also provides an excellent basis for salad. Spice them up by adding flaked almonds, raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, different varieties of beans (e.g. kidney beans, black eyed beans), peas or lentils etc. Remember fruit and vegetables can be eaten alone, added to salads or used as garnish.
Get physically active
Barbecues and picnics provide great opportunity for some exercise. Throwing around a frisbee or playing football can make you work up an appetite. Walking also helps burn up unwanted calories so take that forest trail or walk along the beach.
This information was provided by the Community Nutrition & Dietetic Service of the Health Promotion Department, HSE Dublin North East.
What is meditation?
By definition, meditation refers to any form of practice where a person trains their mind to focus and to enter a deep sense of relaxation and concentration. When a person meditates, the mind is said to be relaxed, yet focused, at the same time.
Meditation has been around since ancient times and there is even evidence of it in hunter gatherer societies. It has also long been a part of religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Meditation started to gain popularity in the West in the 60s and has been popular in western society ever since. Many people associate meditation with monks and monasteries, and some people do indeed practice it as part of their religion, but in the western world, it is more often used for stress reduction and relaxation in a secular (non-religious) way.
In term of religious meditation, it is practiced as part of various religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and even Catholicism. Apparently, Padre Pio was a big believer in Christian meditation!
There are different types of meditation such as transcendental meditation and mindfulness.
The chief aim of meditation is to focus the mind and to drown out internal chatter, worries and wandering thoughts. Our mind is constantly active and thinking, so meditation aims to quiet it for a bit. This clearing out of the mind seems to help with stress relief.
Why bother with it?
There are tons of benefits to meditation:
How to do it?
How to learn it
If you would like to perfect your technique, there are several courses and classes available nationwide.
The pace of life nowadays can be overwhelming. Sometimes, we need to take a break from all the holla baloo and just chillax.
Ah, summer... This means sunshine, sand, sea and sweets (or ice cream if you prefer). Sadly, it can also mean hay fever. Even in the Irish summer, where the sun often doesn’t shine, hay fever can still rear its ugly head.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is a type of allergy syndrome. People with hay fever are allergic to the pollen that plants and flowers release in order to reproduce. Some hay fever sufferers are also bothered by mould, but generally pollen is the main cause of symptoms.
Unfortunately, hay fever is pretty common. According to the Asthma Society of Ireland, 10% of the Irish population suffer with it. So, at least you know you are not alone!
What are the symptoms?
What causes it?
What can you do to help yourself?
At 24 years of age I have become increasingly self conscious about the fact that I'm not getting any younger. My eyesight is really not what it used to be (Fingers crossed my hearing won't suffer the same fate!) After all, there is something rather comfortable regarding the pressure to conform to societal demands and expectations prior to turning 24. Yet, now I am almost a quarter of a century old, half way to 50. It is as if I'm looking at a glass and it is half way full.
The question I am asking myself is whether the glass was empty when I was born and is filling up gradually millimetre by millimetre each year OR whether the glass was already full when I was born and is now draining out. It may seem paradoxical to use the analogy of an empty glass for a newborn, with one's childhood generally tipping the happiness scale in one's life, but I am wondering if this is the way it is. These are two complete different outlooks on life, so let's hope the former is true.
I am already anticipating turning 40 as if I had already left it too late to plan my 30th birthday. It's probably an incorrect term to use; perhaps it won't seem like such a contrast to 30. In my early twenties, approximately five months ago, I felt that I was in the safety net; I was at the optimum level of health and full of hope. Yet getting older never entered my head until months after hitting 24 when I suddenly grew increasingly aware of this from carrying out surveys requiring you to reveal the age category you fall under. It suddenly dawned on me that I was at the highest ranking of that category. It seems like it was only yesterday where I could tick the teen bracket, the category where time is of the essence and behaving immaturely is socially acceptable.
I am usually of the opinion that there is loads of time to get serious about life, to enter into a serious relationship and to get your full driver's license. Conversely speaking it was only a matter of time until time decided to pounce on time itself as if the circumference of a Jaffa cake's full moon was divided by a half moon. #Craveschocolate. Technically speaking the 24 hour clock has been halved.
Sometimes I pinch myself and wonder if 365 days have really actually passed by since I gained a new digit. Can you sense the pride streaming from my pores? Ironically, I constantly get asked for ID - through fault of my DNA no doubt (#counts ones blessings, leaves modesty out the door) and then get quizzed about my age. My peers react with disbelief to this, yet many of these are 20 years of age but look 24 themselves.
Will my 30th resemble a 21st birthday? Candles crossed (quickly discards nine of them). To my dismay, I have involuntarily been transformed into a fly on the wall. Yesterday I reluctantly heard my mother on the phone to one of my many aunts. "She's 24 now", she said. I always presume that there is a certain level of generic questions to follow, with children being one of the main subjects. And I know my name is initiated into the conversation from the drop in the tone and the content of the conversation. Listening to my-oh so sensitive mum does not exactly bring joy to my ears.
Understandably, I haven't heard the questions from the person on the other end of the phone unless my mum is rubbing it in my ears via loud speaker. A solution to this would be the option of eavesdropping via the neglected telephone that never gets an answer. But that is far far too creepy. I am clearly way too cool for that, best to maintain the fly on the wall approach. It has been a reliable method for eavesdropping for centuries.
I'm stabbed in the ears several times: "She's a lady of leisure at the moment" (Oh thanks mum; at least you sugar coated my recent laidback posture). "She is 24", in a tone that states she's coming on a bit. "She's living at home", (Oh how sensitive of her to eliminate "still" from the sentence). However the mention of my age previous to this says it all. Oh and to end the conversation with a vote of confidence on my part she says "She's never had a boyfriend". I can only guess what questions are being asked by others following mum's delivery of facts about me. How lovely. My ears are virtually burning.