Author Archives: Heather-Anne Bailey

About Heather-Anne Bailey

Employment Lawyer by Day, Social Butterfly by Night. Loves Blogging as much as she loves Food. Coffee-Snob. Gin Aficionado. Cat Mom to Luna. Terrible Dancer. Hilariously Awkward at Times. Incurable case of Wanderlust. Lives the Good life in Manchester's Media City. Host for Social Circle.

3 ways to beat Social Anxiety

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Rewind to be beginning of the year.  Remember when you told yourself that you would get out and meet new people?  Then the excuses started. You are busy at work, you are short of cash…the list goes on.  Deep down we know you are nervous, if not terrified. Social Anxiety can cripple any thoughts of socialising – and it is important you learn to manage it if you want a fulfilling life. 

You may have liked and shared social anxiety memes.  You know the ones which glorify our excitement about cancelled plans.  Whilst it is great to talk about mental health openly – and acknowledge the fact you have social anxiety – it is a form of anxiety which should be mastered.  Before you hurl abuse at me through the screen. Know this. I used to suffer crippling social anxiety.

Social Anxiety and Shyness are not the same thing.

You would not believe me.  I was quiet and introverted at school, yet I had a small group of friends who shared my imagination and interest in the natural world. I was shy when I first met people.  Yet this was somehow deemed as a fault and I was pushed into a drama group in order try and give me more confidence. Because there is nothing like being stood on stage in front of the whole school to cure shyness and introversion.  What I did learn is how to fake extraversion I suddenly started to care how others saw me. It was the start of my relationship with anxiety.

So, on entering a room, I was the one who talked a million miles an hour, would make others laugh with my self-deprecating humour and dressed to kill.  Yet – if you looked closely – you could recognise how anxious I was. I was often late. I wouldn’t be listening, instead over-analysing what I had just said.  If anything went wrong – it was met with diva-like tendencies.

So trust me in the advice that follows.

You cannot hide behind a screen.

Like many people –  your current friendship group have been with you since university. Back then, making friends  involved drunken declarations of affection in bathroom of a cheap club.  

As we grow older, our life choices means that we grow apart from our friends.

Maybe they are married with children, whilst you moved to another part of the country with your career.  

Maybe you are more content watching a play, than partying to the small hours.

Social media is great for connecting with like-minded individuals. But nothing beats spending quality time with friends and loved ones. Research suggests that forming strong social bonds is essential to good mental health.

So you have to get out there and *gasp* actually meet people.

As you consider the prospect of meeting new people, a million questions run through your mind.

Will anyone talk to me. What if they don’t like me? I really don’t want to walk into a room full of strangers and have everyone stare at me.

Soon all your worst nightmares are dancing through your mind and you find a reason not to attend the event you had been looking forward to.  Maybe next week?

Stop.  I have been there, I have made the excuses but then paid the price.  

I do understand.  Anxiety is an absolute nightmare.  But it can be overcome following these baby steps.

#1 Take a breath

When your body experiences anxiety, many changes can take place. The physical symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, pounding chest, dizziness and muscle tension. Learning to take a minute and slow down your breath can help you take back control of your body. There are several breathing techniques that can help to relax and calm the body.  When going to a social gathering, simply take a seat, get comfortable and take the biggest breath you’ve taken all day and hold it in for four seconds. Then exhale slowly, pushing out as much air as possible. Take another deep breath filling the stomach with air and continue until you feel your breath slowing down to its normal rate. Then, just focus on your next step.  Whether it is putting your coat away or seeking out the host. A word of warning, whilst it is natural to want to reach for a glass of wine to help with your nerves, this is not always helpful and can actually make you feel worse. Always drink responsibly.

#2 Don’t focus on yourself

It’s hard to stop the anxiety demons chattering when you’re in social situations. We often focus on ourselves and how others will perceive us, almost always assuming it will be negative. The thought that everyone will be looking at you when you walk into a room and judging you in one way or another. This isn’t the case. Stop focusing on yourself and what other people are thinking of you. Focus on other people, try to be present and make genuine connections.

Anxiety isn’t as visible as you may think. Chances are that there are others feeling the same way. Even if someone notices you’re a little nervous, they’re not thinking of you negatively. No-one is perfect. We all suffer embarrassment at some point.

In a small study where three job candidates were being evaluated for the same position, they chose the interviewee with great scores who spilt coffee all over himself. Instead of choosing a perfect candidate they chose someone who made a small blunder. Their reasoning was that he seemed far more approachable!!

So remember.  99.9% of the people you meet are nice and would not write you off if you are nervous. Instead focus your attention on the person you are talking to and ask them open questions about themselves.  It takes the pressure off yourself and has the added bonus of making the other person feel great about themselves too!

#3 Seek out social situations.

Yes, you heard me. Making a conscious effort to be more social is how you actually overcome social anxiety. Little by little,  the anxiety starts to fade.  Soon it is replaced by genuine -and enviable – confidence.   Actively look for supportive social environments that can help you overcome your fears.  Perhaps start by looking at groups who offer events that appeal to your interests. You’ll also be engaging with people who have similar interests so you’ll know at least one thing you can talk about and will have in common.  If you are nervous about your ability to hold a conversation, then there are plenty of courses where you can work on your communication skills and build rewarding relationships slowly.

It can help to attend an event  or gathering with a friend, or even just let the host or organiser know how you are feeling.  I remember confessing my nerves to a host in advance of a Social Circle event. She was so kind and offered to meet me outside.   Of course, by that point I already felt I knew someone – which gave me a much-needed boost of confidence.  

Be kind to yourself

Social anxiety can have a massive negative effect on numerous areas of your life. From family life to education as well as work and close relationships. It can be helpful to list different situations from low anxiety to full panic attack.  Choose events that are in your comfort zone, perhaps that have minimal interaction like going to the cinema and then progress gradually from there. 

Overcoming social anxiety is a long journey and it takes time so be kind and patient with yourself.  On days where your anxiety is high, do not be tempted to overlook the progress you have made.  

Is your social anxiety is constantly interfering with your daily life? Then don’t hesitate to seek professional help in whatever form you feel comfortable looking for. There are great ways to help overcome your social anxiety including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Hypnotherapy. 

Although it seems like an impossible obstacle, it’s so worth overcoming so you can live your life to the fullest.

15 Reasons Why Manchester is so Great.

Manchester's nightlife is Buzzing.

Manchester’s nightlife is Buzzing.

Time Out recently announced that Manchester is the 15th best city in the World.  We could not agree more. Manchester is a City that has it all; from fine food to music venues to rock your socks off.  We have put a list together of 15 things that make Manchester Great so you can explore all this City has to offer.

#1 The Bees.

Manchester’s symbol is the Bee.  Originally chosen to represent the industrial heritage of this City, in more recent times it has come to symbolise how everyone seems to swarm together in times of crisis.  Since the terrorist attack in 2017, Mancunians have started to wear their bees with pride. Everywhere you can see tattoos that raised funds charity, to street art, to arts and crafts found in various street markets.  Why not have the honey-infused cocktail ‘Bee-Have’ at Malmaison?

# 2 Revolución de Cuba Manchester

Revolución de Cuba Manchester is a stunning two floor cocktail bar and cantina just off Manchester’s busy Deansgate. Drink, dine, relax and dream that you’re a world away. The exciting cocktail menu will take you straight to the heart of Cuban life. Live music and late night partying await in the downstairs Havana Club Room or sneak off to the exclusive Havana Club Bar and enjoy some of the world’s finest rums with table service all night long

# 3 The O2 Ritz

Anyone who grew up in Manchester will have got their ID at the ready for a night out at the Ritz.  The Social Circle HQ Team remember bubbles, chips and cheese and running around to the Dambusters theme on the bouncy dancefloor.  Now it is a venue for top class gigs and evenings out. Our favourite is the Ultimate Power Nights where classic tunes from the 70’s and 80’s make for an evening of air guitar and great memories.

# 4 Bring & Mix

Where else can you bring your own spirits and still have a great time?   Rated Number 1 on TripAdvisor. Bring & Mix is a unique but popular concept creating Manchester’s Most Unique Cocktails. You Bring your favourite spirits. They Mix them. Let the talented mixologist stimulate your senses by creating cocktails for you and your friends, right at your table. Combining fresh fruit and vegetable juices, home-made syrups, herbs and spices, bitters, sodas, and fruits. You will never find the same cocktails elsewhere.

#5 The Home Grown Booze.

Seven Bro7hers make their beer at the brewery in Salford near Media City and serve it in their Bar in Ancoats. Rumour has it that they throw open the doors of the brewery once a month and let you have a cheap pint whilst listening to live bands. If Gin is your thing then you can have a tour of Three Rivers Distillery (and bring home a bottle).

#6 The Washhouse.

Probably Manchester’s worst kept secret.  To the outsider, the Washhouse looks like an ordinary launderette complete with soap powder and washing machines.  But book a special cycle, phone for entry and head through the dryer and you are soon immersed in the ambient atmosphere with an amazing cocktail in hand.

#7 Frog & Bucket.

Manchester is known for its Comedy Clubs, and one of our favourite places is The Frog & Bucket. Offering a unique blend of the best of new and international stand up comedy. Every week the best comedians on the circuit take to the stage. You can grab a curry and watch rising stars try to beat the frog too.

#8 Cloud 23

Cloud 23 is more than just a bar, it’s a unique venue located at the highest point in Manchester. Find your silver lining at Cloud 23 with the finest champagnes, signature cocktails, decadent afternoon tea, and panoramic city views.

 # 9 The Drama.

Manchester has become a hub for showcasing and creating the best in TV and theatre. Even Jude Law was spotted wandering around Piccadilly when filming Sherlock Holmes. The City Centre boasts several theatres, and Media City is the new home of Coronation Street, The Voice and BBC News.  You can even fulfil that dream of becoming an actor, writer or dancer at one of the many evening classes around the City.

Coronation Street is filmed in Manchester

Coronation Street is filmed in Manchester

#10 The Refuge by Volta

Nineteenth-century architect Alfred Waterhouse designed this grand hotel, bar and restaurant, and what a job he did. The iconic joint on Oxford Street has long been a landmark and made even more so by new owners and a million-pound face-lift. The bar was put into the capable hands of DJs-turned-restaurateurs Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey. Expect similar fare at their award-winning eatery, Volta in Didsbury. Think small plates, cocktails and an inspired wine list. A fairy-light lit courtyard and fabulous DJs in the basement mean there’s no need to go on anywhere else.  We will be visiting the Refuge as part of our Epic Easter Pub Crawl – why not join us?

#11  The Curry Mile

The Curry Mile is the nickname for the part of Wilmslow Road thought to be the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian Subcontinent. Within a length of half a mile there are least seventy curryhouses!  Whether you visit at the start or the end of a friday night, it is always bustling with activity. Why not join us at Indique when we next head that way?

#12 Alberts Schloss

If you haven’t danced on the tables at Schloss, have you even been to Manchester? The bohemian pleasure palace doubles as a bar, bierkeller and entertainment centre – and it gets  rowdy. Throw in Alpine cocktails, homemade Schnapps and hearty bar meals (plus regular showcases from the Haus band) and you’ve got one of the best (and busiest) bars in town.  We love the Sunday Service where a fantastic Sunday lunch is served with a side order of Soul Music.

#13  The Football.

Whether you support Manchester City or United, Manchester is home to two premier league teams so do catch a match during the football season. Both teams support the local communities, giving opportunities to young people in Manchester.  Even in the height of summer, you can visit the football museum. Remember, football is not just for the professionals. You can join us in Didsbury for a game and get fit in the meantime.

#14 The History.

From the first computer to the discovery of Graphene, the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry has a number of fantastic exhibitions where you can learn more about the rise and rise of Manchester’s industrial heritage.  Don’t miss the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in St Peters Square, the People’s history museum, or the gothic architecture of John Rylands Library or the Town Hall. Come join a walking tour and learn more about this amazing City.

#15 The People.

What is the one thing that everyone says about Manchester?  The people are so friendly!  We will treat you like family before we even know your name.  So if you are new to the City, and want to meet like-minded people then why not come to a free event in one of the best Cities in the World .

Is it a bad idea to date someone at work?

Is dating someone at work a bad idea? Oh just where do I begin..

Is dating someone at work a bad idea? Oh just where do I begin..

A friend of mine needed an urgent catch up over coffee. She has just started a new job and one of bosses seems to be giving her a lot of attention.  “There is real chemistry there. Is it a bad idea to date someone at work?” I drew my palm away from my forehead and looked at her. “ I get it. When you are in your forties – and spending your life in the office – then feelings can develop.  But in my experience, dating a colleague is a bad idea.

I saw her smile drip and her heart sink.

I know yours has too.  

You wouldn’t be reading this blog unless you have a crush and were wondering whether to take it further.

I feel it is only right I declare my interests here.

I am very aware that people meet at work and live happily ever after.  My parents met at work and have just celebrated their ruby anniversary despite a considerable age difference.  

But as a HR professional, I have had to help employers deal with the inevitable mess. In many cases it has involved one party moving into a different role, or in some cases, out of the company completely.

I have also dated people at work over the years.  My single status should you something.

So let me break down the risk factor.

Absolute No-Go.  The Boss.

This goes both ways, I will add.

My friend had developed the classic crush on her boss – I will add he is married.  She dreams of her fairy-tale romance. I had to be harsh. As a new member of staff, if things turn sour I can guarantee she will be the one at risk of receiving her P45.   Even if things go well between then, gossip will mean that any well deserved promotion will be tainted by people saying she slept to the top.

She worked hard for her career and this role.  

It is not worth it.

Even if you are both single, a difference in seniority can cause all sorts of problems. If you are a senior member of staff, then avoid dating junior staff.  I have known plenty of people claim sexual harassment against their bosses because they have felt unable to ward off unwanted advances.

The only way it is slightly forgivable is if the ‘boss’ concerned is responsible for a completely different department, and in a different building, or preferably in another part of the country.

Absolute No-Go.  The Married colleague.

When marriages go wrong, it is natural to turn to colleagues for support.  Hell – some of my best friends are former colleagues. Sometimes those friendships, especially fuelled by alcohol at the the office do, turn into something more steamy.

But here is my considered professional opinion.

This is a f*cking terrible idea.

An affair with a married colleague is going to end – badly.  Maybe her husband is neglectful and the spark has gone. Maybe he is sleeping on the sofa whilst he sorts his own place out.

Not your problem.

In both these examples, at best neither of these people are ready for a fulfilling relationship. At worse they are spinning you a yarn.  If you are in it for the long haul you will end up hurt and have to continue working with them.

Maybe you want some casual fun too. Good for you. I am not changing my advice. Get on Tinder.  I have known plenty of people having to fend off angry wives at the gates of the office car park because she found the sexy texts you have been exchanging.

Your colleagues? It depends.

Classic lawyer speak. I know.

Whilst you may have found your prince or princess at work – the truth is many relationships fail even when you both have the best of intentions. Certainly, there is less risk if you are in different departments or even at the other end of the office.

I think we can all be clear on the possible fall out – it is why many companies have a policy against relationships at work.  Plus there is the gossip and comments from others. I will let this article spell it out for you.

The difficulty with romance at work is that your crush may be heavily influenced by something called ‘vicinity attraction’.  As in you start to catch feelings because you are spending hours a day with someone who shares your mutual hatred of the Monday morning meeting.  

Do you really have common values and interests?

All I can say is if you have a crush on someone – get to know them as friends first.

I dated an office hottie once. The kind of guy that caused other women to swoon when he walked into the room and all the men wanted to be his best friend.  Needless to say I was quite taken aback when he declared his interest in me.

So we went for a drink.  A drink lead to a few evenings together to feel out the possibility of something more.  He was a total gentleman.

But we had nothing in common outside of work.   

The truth is the best way to meet someone is to get out and enjoy your life by indulging your own interests.  Look to meet new people and expand your horizons. 39% of people meet their significant others through friends.

It truly is  best way to find your soulmate.

So book a few days off work and throw yourself into your hobbies and interests.

Did you find yourself daydreaming about your colleague now?

I didn’t think so.

The Pros and Cons of Travelling Alone.

Travelling Alone has its perks - but what are the downsides?

Travelling Alone has its perks – but what are the downsides?

What? You are going on holiday alone?”  I recently took myself on a beach holiday to Egypt. As usual I was travelling alone – something that still surprises my friends apparently.  When you are in your thirties – and your friends are married with families – then it can seem like you have little choice. It need not be all bad so here is my advice on the Pros and Cons of travelling alone.

Pro’s.  It is your choice entirely.

One thing I love about solo travel is that everything from where I travel to the activities I do is my choice.  When I have travelled with friends I have often got frustrated when they want to shop or spend hours getting ready for the evening when I would rather be out exploring a ruin.  When you travel alone there is no need to negotiate or consider others wishes and needs as I am an entirely free agent. For me, this means I can truly relax and build an itinerary around my interests.

Cons:  Single Supplements.

Prices are often based on sharing, so be prepared to pay more for travelling alone.  The quality and service you receive can be mixed as well. Iceland Air upgraded me to first class on my trip to Reykjavik, whilst other airlines have put me in the middle seat.   I have been given suites with views, and single beds for twice the price as when I was in a couple. Some services are not even available to solo travellers. The fact is travelling with others means you can often get better deals on accommodation and flights – and splitting the bill at dinner comes in handy too

Pros:  You meet new people.

You won’t be the only person travelling alone. If you are a positive and friendly person you will get talking to people and make new friends. Certainly I have met some amazing people on my travels and am proud to say we are still in contact.  I have even enjoyed the odd holiday romance!. I have found that most people are generous and kind in spirit. Fellow travellers and locals alike will look after a solo traveller. So whether that is inviting you to join them at dinner, or striking up a conversation – be prepared to make new friends.

Cons:  Safety First.

I am blessed that I have never had anything happen to me when I am on my travels.  I have not even fallen ill. But admittedly I have to be hyper aware of my surroundings and not put myself at risk. In Amsterdam I had a hair raising experience when I was separated from a group tour to the Red Light District and a group of drunk tourists started heckling me.  Fortunately a security guard stepped in and no harm was done. These are not just considerations for female travellers. Some of my male friends who have travelled alone have been targeted and subject to robbery and assault. It can happen in any country.

Travelling Alone means you can do what YOU want.

Travelling Alone means you can do what YOU want.

Pros:  Travelling alone is good for the soul.

There is something about travelling solo that is really character building. Potentially because it forces you to step out of your comfort zone.  I am constantly being told that travelling alone is ‘brave’ and I suppose it does take courage – at least initially. You are entirely responsible for yourself.  Going on any trips or even out of the hotel requires a level of confidence. Of course, the pay off is the increased self esteem from actually going it alone and having a great time.  

Cons:  There is no one to share the memories with you.

The best thing about travel is the memories.  Photos are great but do not give you the feeling of actually being there.  I remember in Rhodes, being sat in a roof-top restaurant being given the finest seafood I have ever tasted.  The sun was setting over the deep blue sea and I experienced such a sense of peace. But then my next thought was that it would have been nice to share the experience with someone.  Certainly, memories are kept alive by the people who were with you. In April 2018 I travelled to Africa to horse ride across Botswana with other travellers. We experienced some incredible moments as a group and my heart lights up when one the group shares a photo or memory on Facebook.  

There is another way.

Given the increasing numbers of singles, a whole market has opened up aimed specifically at single travellers.  I think most people have heard of  Flashpack who organises adventure holidays for singles. There is just one problem.

Its f*cking expensive.

I am sure it is worth every penny, but my budget does not stretch that far. Now I know there are Meet Up and Facebook groups that organise cheap weekend breaks. But what worries me is that handing over my hard earn cash to these organisers does not guarantee me a better experience than travelling with friends.  I have heard horror stories of people being told they will be placed in a city centre hotel only to find that they are staying in a 2* hotel 3 miles out of town. Nope and Nope.

Fortunately, Social Circle have organised some great weekend breaks for those with an incurable case of wanderlust.  I can’t decide which to sign up to? Should I sample the wine in Porto or fulfil my dream of seeing the waterfalls in Croatia?  Hell from £195 for a weekend away- I may just do both.

Happy Travelling.

A new year. A new resolution?

A new year. New resolutions. New challenges.

A new year. New resolutions. New challenges.

It seemed 2018 gave many people, including myself, a rough ride at times.  But with the new year comes a blank page and new opportunities to live our dreams.  New year. New Resolutions. Right? Given January is typically the most depressing month of the year, it’s a good idea to set yourself a challenge so you get a sense of  well-being and achievement when you smash your goal.

Life need not be spent working the same 9-5 job then slumping down in front of the TV night after night.

That is a life in dreary monochrome.

It is depressing and not fixed by setting the same old resolutions such as joining the gym or doing Dry January. Life should be a colourful and  glorious tapestry of all senses. To have a great sense of well-being you should aim to feel fulfilled in your career, have a good strong social network, get plenty of exercise and have lots of fun.

The secret to happiness is a life is full of rich experiences and great people. 

You don’t need max out your credit card on material possessions to keep up with the Joneses.  The latest diet, the new dating app and all the self help books in the world will not bring you happiness.

The first step  is to be totally honest with yourself about what you really love.

Now, I do understand that stepping into your dreams can be really scary at times.

I have been there.  

I moved to Manchester with nothing and no-one and then started a business from scratch.  But trust me when I say it can lead to amazing things.

If you have built a career in the office, it can seem too big a risk jacking it all in to chase your dreams. 

However, just taking small steps can reap big rewards.

Maybe a few dance lessons will light up your life.

Maybe a few dance lessons will light up your life.

Why not start that photography course? Take photos of friends, or when you are out walking in nature.  This will light up your life and all the wonderful windows of opportunity waiting for you.

Have you always poured over Strictly Come Dancing, and secretly wished you could dance?  Maybe you have always wanted to paint or learn more about art. Trying to pluck up the courage to get out and meet new people so you can find your soulmate?  

Well then I guess we are going to have to find a way of making sure you can do all those wonderful things and more 🙂

As for me, I focused too much on work and not enough play!  So this year I am combining my love of travel and adventure by taking myself and my fellow social circlers to the West Coast of Scotland to climb the mighty Ben Nevis.  It is definitely on my bucket list of things to do before I hit the big 5-0 in 2020.

Whatever your dream, it is important to take inspired action. That way 2019 can the best year of your life so far. 

So the big question is – what your your new year resolutions?

25 Thoughts you have on a Santa Pub Crawl

Our lovely Social Circle ladies ready for the Santa Pub Crawl.

Our lovely Social Circle ladies ready for the Santa Pub Crawl.

The Santa Pub Crawl is one of the jewels in the Social Circle calendar.  Everyone loves it and we take bookings months in advance. So of course, Steve called me and told me to write a blog so new members knew what to expect . “It will be fun” he said “and you can do a funny blog like you did for the Mingle party. People loved that.”

Despite being a member and host for three years, I have previously shirked the pub crawls. There have been a myriad of excuses; ‘I will be tired after work’, ‘pub crawls are not my thing’ or my personal favourite; ‘ugh it will be really busy and there will be so many people around.’   Yes, the irony of wanting to meet new people and avoiding social interaction is not lost on me. But given I am a professional, I decided to don my Santa outfit and go undercover. Purely for journalistic purposes you realise.

So here the 25 thoughts you have on a Santa Pub Crawl and more.

On donning a Santa outfit.

The night I went undercover as Santa, in the name of journalism right?

The night I went undercover as Santa, in the name of journalism right?

*puts on Christmas music, places a mince pie on a plate and pours a glass of mulled wine to get in the mood*

1. I wonder if Christmas music is used to torture people in the same way Britney spears was?

 *Follows YouTube make up guide and perfects red smokey eyes with glitter.*

2. Wow. I look hot.  I wonder if I will get a kiss under the mistletoe.

*scoffs entire pack of Tesco’s finest mince pies*

 *Wriggles into Santa outfit and tightens belt one (1) hole.*

3. Oh God I can’t breathe.

4, *checks self in mirror*  How have my tits merged into a mono-boob?  

*downs rest of mulled wine.*

5. I don’t need my coat, it will just get in the way.

On using public transport.

 “Hey it’s  Mrs Claus!!  Are you out ho-ho-hoing tonight?”

6. Holy f*ck its cold.  

7.Why won’t anyone sit next to me?   

 Little girl, rather too loudly, Its Santa!  But she is a woman???

8.  Curses self for contributing to this 2018 snowflake debate of the year.

Just some of the Social Circle Santas taking Manchester by storm

Just some of the Social Circle Santas taking Manchester by storm

On getting into the festive spirit

9. Thank god.  I am not the only one.  

I make a beeline for the other Social Circle ladies at the Bar who are fortunately easy to spot.

10. OK just a small wine. Pace yourself.

*orders large glass of merlot*

 11. Why are there willy straws and blow up dolls on the table?

Steve tells us that there was nothing Christmassy in the pound shop.  We are not buying it.

Len arrives, in crisp collar under his santa suit.  Me:  “ Ha Ha you look like you are going to gift someone a pair of broken legs.”

12.  Why am I so awkward?

Richard tells us about his Santa hat which he bought off a dodgy bloke in a pub.  At the touch of a button it moves and plays a tune. It is a fun combination of festive and slightly pervy.

The ladies compliment my velvet red lipstick, which duly gets passed around for people to try.

A random passerby, approximately 30, presses his nose against the window and looks at us in the same way a 5 year old would look at a new puppy.  His girlfriend was not impressed and drags him away.

13. “How do you go to the toilet with Rudolfs head between your legs?”

Gemma decides to put on a blow up doll puppet show for those passing by the window.  

Traumatising those passing by the Portland Bar and Grill

Traumatising those passing by the Portland Bar and Grill

Santa Goes Singing

Steve leads the way to China town. A few of us are nearly  taken out by passing traffic in Manchester’s festive live action version of Grand Theft Auto.

Steve tries to take a picture.  A plastic willy is trying to escape from the Tesco carrier bag. Because every little helps.

We are shuffled past some bouncers up some steep stairs into a dimly lit smokey bar.

14. What is this place? Are we in a karaoke bar?

Sally and Steve in the Karaoke Bar.

Sally and Steve in the Karaoke Bar.

15. I am not drunk enough for this. *downs sourz shot*

A man in a flashing Christmas jumper takes to the stage, brimming with confidence as he winks at the ladies and lifts the mike as the words to ‘we will rock you’ flash onscreen. 

Sally leans into me.  “He looks full of himself but you know it’s going to be sh*t.”

16. His performance is, indeed, rather sh*t.

Steve bounces over. “I have signed us all up for a Christmas song.  They only had Mariah Carey. We will be on in a minute.”

17. I am not drunk enough for this. *downs further shot.*

*looks up lyrics to All I want for Christmas because goddammit I am a pro.*

All 15 of us cram onto the tiny stage and Steve hands someone a camera.

Feed the World comes up on screen.

18. I am not drunk enough for this.

Two verses later.

19. *grabs microphone*  FEED THE WORLD LET THEM KNOW ITS CHRISTMAS TIME

Takes pictures with Dave against the Manchester Bee.  These Santas are getting ready to Slay (Sleigh).

Sleighing it as Santa - despite monoboob concerns.

Sleighing it as Santa – despite monoboob concerns.

Steve lines us all up outside a massage parlour for a headcount.

20. Where’s Nigel?

Festive Fab-ness.

We found Nigel!

We found Nigel!

“Someone make Nigel festive.” Steve yells.  I have somehow been given responsibility for the bag of willies, dolls and Christmas hats.

  I hand Nigel a Santa Hat and promise him we won’t lose him this time.

 

21. O-M-G fab cafe!  Please be taking us to Fab Cafe?!?!

22. He is, he is taking us to Fab cafe. *squeals*

You been here before Heather? Someone asks.  I don’t respond as I am too busy running inside to see if they have made the Darlek festive.  I was not disappointed.

23. Minimum £5 spend on cards. Fek.  Orders a Guinness and a tonne of retro sweets.

24. Perhaps I can give these out to handsome men.

Looks around bar. Average age 20 and already visibility suffering an existentialist crisis brought on by the price of housing and avocados.

Gives haribo to boys in party who give to other santa-ettes.

*scoffs rest of sweets*

Annette tries to persuade everyone that Alice Cooper would be much more festive than the Smiths.  Everyone agrees. Except the DJ.

We love Fab Cafe.  Even if they didnt play Alice Cooper.

We love Fab Cafe. Even if they didnt play Alice Cooper.

25. Lines up for photos. Checks photos.  Ugh mono-boob strikes again.

“Where do you get your dress from?”

Tesco. Hence why I look like a bit Basic.” *laughs at own joke*

Suddenly feel tired. “Steve I got to go.”

“But we are going to ultimate Christmas power Ballads.  You know how you love that.” Steve protests.

“Last time I ended up breaking up a fight and snogging a 25 year old.”

“Exactly! You love it.”

I call it a night and say my goodbyes.  Annette asks why I am leaving.

“I am tired and old.”

“F*ck off I am older than you.”

Off they went into the O2 Ritz to have a grand old time singing their little hearts out and bouncing around on the dancefloor.  

Founder Steve with Resident Host and Blogger, Heather.

Founder Steve with Resident Host and Blogger, Heather.

But this Santa had to be home to wrap her presents and write her list of the naughty things those social circle Santa’s got up to on their night of debauchery.

Merry Christmas from everyone at Social Circle!!

Your First Christmas Alone? Read This.

 

Single this Christmas? Make it your happiest yet.

Single this Christmas? Make it your happiest yet.

My friend reached out to me for advice on spending her first Christmas alone.   “Heather – I am dreading Christmas alone – how do you cope?”  This is her first Christmas following her separation and – as a long term single blogger – she reached out for my advice on best of it. She is not alone, as statistics show that the run up to Christmas is a peak time for break-ups.  

That is cold comfort when you are left out in the cold, whilst your neighbours homes seem to embody the warm and loving spirit of Christmas. I have been there. So when my friend reached out to me I looked back over how I turned what use to be a miserable time of year into an amazing period of fun, love and happiness even though I am single.  I promise you can have a very happy Single-mas.

The first Christmas alone is the hardest. But it does get better.

Breaking up leaves you conflicted.  There is anger, shame, guilt, depression, and confusion to deal with.  All of which are perfectly normal. Christmas brings that home more than any other time of year especially when once close friends seem to distance themselves.  For those of you in long term relationships it can feel like you have lost half your family.

So needless to say.  It is painful.

Firstly, accept that grief is part of the process. But it is temporary.  Do what you need to do to process your emotions in a healthy way.

For me, my first Christmas was spent asleep in my beautiful apartment. I was totally alone.  It was the first time I felt safe for a long time. I wasn’t ready to deal with people – and if you feel that way too – it’s OK.  

As those fluffy millennial memes will tell you. Self-Care is important.

However, note the advice to deal with things healthily.  This does not mean exacting revenge on your ex or asking friends to take sides. It should not mean a war over the kids or pets.  It does not drinking/eating/spending your way into oblivion. If you feel this way then do not be ashamed to seek professional help.

Over time I came to accept  the fundamental truth. There is no changing the past. You cannot see the future.  

But you are here now and you can make choices that enrich your life and for your longer term happiness.  You can decide to have a very merry Christmas – whether single or not.

#1 Define what it means to have a Happy Christmas.

The truth is – we often compromise with our loved ones at Christmas.  Perhaps you always went to ‘hers’, Maybe he always insisted on putting the star on the tree. Perhaps you always had to cook and entertain the same people. Maybe she always mocked the need to spend the entire day in a Christmas jumper.

Well, here is the good news.

You can have exactly the Christmas you want.

I suggest starting by making your own list.  First, write all the things you will miss about Christmas with your ex.  Yes, this is painful but bear with me. Secondly, write all the things that you wanted to do – but never did.

Go through your list and do your best to give yourself everything on that list.

Buy yourself an advent calendar. Decorate the tree how you want. Take yourself to a beach if you want to.  Sing your heart out at a carol concert.

Just indulge that little boy or girl inside who is really in need of a lot of love right now.

Define what makes you happy - then go do it!

Define what makes you happy – then go do it!

#2 Find your own way to give to those you love

Separation does not just impact on your emotions, but your finances too.  Having to find a new place, pay childcare etc, often means you cannot be as generous with gifts as you once were.  

Now is the perfect time to let any creative talents shine.

Maybe you have taken beautiful photos on your phone – in which case give them to your friends as a gift.  Maybe you have green fingers and can give home-grown flowers to your nearest and dearest. Make cakes, or layer cake ingredients in jars for a pretty gift.  Perhaps write a thoughtful letter to those who have supported you. Make decorations for those you love. Perhaps give a second hand book or movie you loved to someone you know you will enjoy it.

True friends will understand this, and unleashing your creative side will give you a happy glow.

#3 Get that Christmas Connection.

It can be easy to get grinch-like if you are feeling lonely – but here is the newsflash.  You are not the only person who is single at Christmas.

Firstly, you may find that a flurry of invites come through your door.  

No one likes the idea of someone spending Christmas alone. Over the last few years my friends have ignored my protests and bundled me into the back of a fiesta.  Thereafter I spend the day being force-fed amazing food whilst my friends children let you play with their toys.  I am eternally grateful for my friends. 

Other single friends may suggest a Christmas dinner together.

Go to a fancy restaurant or take a dish round to your friends.  Get merry and laugh. Distance is not an issue either! I have skyped friends in the USA whilst they are preparing dinner.

Don’t forget that there are charities that work all year round – and are desperate for volunteers.  Helping out at a soup kitchen or visiting lonely pensioners can be rewarding for all involved. It also is extremely humbling so hear how much hope and gratitude  people living in the worse possible circumstances have.

#4 Just remember – It is just one day.

Give yourself the gift of a life well lived.

Give yourself the gift of a life well lived.

I am not going to pretend it’s not tough at times, even years later.  But it is just one day. Wipe your tears-and the slate – clean. Think ahead to what you want your future to look like.  

Do you want to relieve the pain of what may have passed, or do you want to give yourself a gift of a bright and happy life?

Do you want to laugh more?  Have more fun? Try new activities?  Maybe meet new people? There is nothing to stop you.

You can commit now to making each and every day special.

You never know – it may mean you get to kiss that special someone under the Mistletoe.

But in the meantime. Have a Happy Single-Mas!!

P.s You are still loved, and will be fine I promise. You just need to realise that. 

Cuffing Season: The Survival Guide for Singles.

Brace yourselves. Its cuffing season and annoying couples are everywhere.

Brace yourselves. Its cuffing season and annoying couples are everywhere.

I love autumn.  Out come the chunky knits, long boots and I can kick at the fallen leaves whilst drinking my pumpkin spice latte.  But it also brings another horror alongside Halloween; Loved up couples are f*cking everywhere. Its cuffing season and if you are Single AF like me then you need a survival guide to get through it.

To the uninitiated, cuffing season is a phrase used to describe that time of year where our biological hardwiring makes us want to settle down and find a significant other.

It’s really is a thing.

Everywhere, newly ‘cuffed’ couples are changing their relationship status on Facebook and looking at each other with that dewy eyed look of love, and taking cute couple-y pictures.

 Why am I so bitter?  

Because I am uncuffed, and the person I want to be cuffed to, after telling me he did not want anything serious  is  now cuffed to someone else. Facebook status and all.  FML.

I am perfectly prepared to accept the fact that my laments as a singleton are borne out of a deep desire to be with my one true love.  But hey, I deal with my pain with humour m’kay.

The reality is that despite the thousands of apps and dating sites,  it can be difficult to find the right person. Just before Halloween my friend, Natalie, called me in floods of tears having been unceremoniously dumped by a man I was convinced was going to propose to her.

I took my resentment out on cuffed up couples on the dance floor at Ultimate Power. Everytime they got in our way with their kissing and squeezing of each others butts  I walloped them over the head with an inflatable microphone.  Fortunately, they were so into each other no one hit me back.

Cuffing season also brings the desperate and needy to your door.

 I have been online dating for a while and recent weeks saw me hit record numbers of messages and likes from various men.  I chatted to a few but the desperation was evident. It got creepy. From the guy photo-shopping pictures of me to the one talking about meeting his family and going on holiday before we had even met.  I decided that being single is better than cosying up to the insides of a body bag.

So I was left with one option.  I had to choose to be happy and in love with life.

Whether I was cuffed or not.

So I needed a plan.

Be grateful for everything you do have.

Be grateful for everything you do have.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip #1: Take stock of what you DO have.

If you are reluctantly single, it can be easy to focus on the one thing you lack: A relationship.   Law of attraction principles state what you focus on brings more of the same. So if you focus on your lack of a relationship you will forever remain single. It figures.  Even if you don’t buy into The Secret and all that.  Focusing on what you lack rather than what you have makes you miserable.

So I decided I needed to shift my focus from being single to all the areas where things are going extraordinary well.

If you live in Manchester, with its relatively low cost of living and have a good job, you can have a great life.  For example, I live in a stunning apartment in media city, enjoy my work as a lawyer, have a side hustle as a blogger and novelist, travel when I want and enjoy a hosting a variety of activities with Social Circle.  I look better than I have ever done and I am fit and healthy. Any of those things could be taken from me at a moments notice.

So its wise to look at your life with gratitude and not focus on the things you don’t have.

Because really, being single does not prevent me from the privilege of having a good quality life.  

Word from the wise.  If you are not happy with any aspect of your life- apart from being single – then it makes sense to deal with that area.

Work on giving yourself a rich and fulfilling life and indulge your interests.  Start that fitness regime, start writing that book, learn cake decorating, plan your travels. You don’t need to wait to share your interests with your perfect someone. In fact being single is the perfect time to try all those things you always wanted to try.

Spending time with friends & family in nature is good for the soul.

Spending time with friends & family in nature is good for the soul.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip #2: Focus on Friends and Family.

One of the reasons being single can be hard at times is that we are social creatures by nature.  There is a wealth of evidence to suggest those with strong social networks live longer.

But you don’t need a romantic relationship to enjoy the health benefits.  

The great thing about autumn and winter is the opportunity to connect with friends and family. 

Football season has brought with it the opportunity to spend time with my dad and go to my first football match. I am not a football fan, but I love my dad and will relish the time spent with him. Hey I may even enjoy it!    I met up with new friends to go walking in Heaton Park and enjoyed a vegan picnic. Both allowed me to take part in important parts of my friends and families lives and expand my own horizons.

FYI spending time in nature is great for the soul. Why not join me for a jaunt in Styal Woods?

So go out with friends to a film or even join your fellow single social circlers in laughing at how  awful dating can by joining us for True Dating Stories.  If you are watching the pennies ahead of Christmas check out last weeks blog for Socialising on a Shoestring.

But if all that activity is not beating the Singletons blues, then you need the ultimate antidote to loneliness.

Single? You got to Love yourself baby.

Single? You got to Love yourself baby.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip # 3: Love Yourself.

I am perfectly aware that you have just rolled your eyes at this bit.

I do too every time I see this advice.

Why ?

Because what does that actually f*cking mean? 

I wasn’t sure myself. Not really.  

Which is why I was chasing after love externally.  I didn’t know how it felt to love yourself.

I have been breaking through some bad habits with hypnosis and came across a download called ‘How to love Yourself’ .   It is amazing!

In essence, loving yourself involves having a relationship with yourself that you would envisage with another.  One that is fulfilling and playful where you are loyal and kind to yourself.  Be compassionate if you do fall back into bad habits. Apologise if you do criticise yourself too harshly. You are whole and unique regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not.

It’s amazing how such a simple shift in mindset has a profound effect on my mood and the way I go about my life.   I am now starting the day with the thought;

What is the most loving thing I can do for myself today?

Here is what that looks like in practice.

  • I went to the gym, and I have had my hair done,  because those things felt good.
  • De-cluttering my apartment.  Not because anyone may drop around – although they do! – but because I value how good I feel when everything is tidy.
  • Saying ‘No’ to needless expenditure because I am now focused on my long term financial security.
  • Dealing with the pile of paperwork regarding taxes I have been ignoring for months.
  • I gave myself a genuine compliment when I looked in the mirror.
  • Buying books on politics  because I am interested in the subject.

Now previously, I may have forced myself to do those things because it looks good on my relationship CV, but not really immersed myself in them.  My motivation to find a relationship was so strong, I was ignoring how much I enjoyed those activities.  I have started to recognise little acts of self-love – such as buying myself flowers or having a lazy lie in – rather than feel guilty about it. 

In short, I was putting the prospect of a relationship before myself.

Not healthy.  

This was also the real source of my pain and angst at being single.

So trust me on this. Regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity or current relationship status.

Learn to Love yourself.  It is the only way to survive and thrive if you are single.