trying to maintain a routine with bad mental health

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

Small disclaimer – this post is about mental health and although speaking from experience, I am not a trained professional and what works for me will not conclusively work for everyone. If you are concerned about your mental wellbeing, please book an appointment with your doctor or if you’re in crisis contact one of these support agencies or call 999.

When someone says they’re going through a low period with their mental health, the stereotypes suggest that person is finding it more difficult to find joy, doesn’t leave their room or house and doesn’t want to socialise. Whilst these can all be true, what people don’t often talk about are the more physical responses that make mental illness incredibly difficult to live with – stress headaches that painkillers don’t help, digestive issues, constant feelings of nausea, not sleeping well or sleeping too much at the wrong time, alongside the lack of motivation to even to basic things to take care of yourself including showering, cleaning and making food.

When someone is in this state of mental illness, one thing they often crave is feeling normal again – wanting to feel more productive, wanting to not feel the need to burst into tears and the thought of the washing up; wanting to feel like themselves again. Creating a normal routine when you’re not in a normal headspace can be incredibly challenging and needs a lot of patience and gentle encouragement that someone feeling that ill often doesn’t give themselves.

But there are little changes you can make that are small enough to not feel overwhelming but big enough to hopefully make you feel a little bit better each day. I’m still figuring out what works best for me, but these are a few things I’m trying to make part of my new routine.

  • make a list

I’m a big list maker and I appreciate that not everyone needs to write down everything to have a sense of what they’re going to achieve each day, but when your brain feels like absolute mush, having a list can help take circling thoughts and make them feel more concrete. Even if that list is brush teeth, eat breakfast, shower, eat lunch, eat dinner, brush teeth then it serves as a visual reminder to do those things and you know that you’ve taken some basic steps to look after yourself even when you really don’t want to. Good job!

If those kinds of things don’t work for you (personally it makes my list feel way too long and overwhelming), try making a three point to do list – one high priority task, one medium priority task and one low priority task. For me at the moment, my high priority task is job hunting (but I only spend an hour doing this otherwise it gets too much), my medium priority task is doing my daily writing for NaNoWriMo and my low priority task is a craft activity, because doing something physical but inevitably inconsequential is really relaxing for me!

Making lists that work for you can be a massive learning curve, but give yourself permission to learn from what doesn’t work and start small and build up – things will get better!

  • turn that list into a schedule

Again, potentially a little niche, but the one reason I find myself continually going back to education is that I like the structure of having a timetable and knowing when something will start and end. When I was working on my dissertation I found it really useful to schedule an hour or two and know that after that time I could stop but I’d still done an hour of work and that actually made me work better in that hour.

If I’d done this the five months before my diss was due I definitely wouldn’t have needed an extension, but we learn from our mistakes or something.

But a schedule works really well for me! I’ve started using an app called Tiimo, as recommended by Paige Layle on tiktok, which is a scheduling app that has cute little icons and is really easy to use, as well as sending notifications to both my phone and my smart watch about what I’ve planned for when.

My favourite thing about tiimo as that I don’t see it as a concrete schedule – I get notifications about what I should be doing things but sometimes I need to laze on the sofa and play Animal Crossing and maybe have an accidental nap. But tiimo just assumes I’m doing what I’ve scheduled and congratulates me when I’ve finished a task! Having a schedule that doesn’t feel concrete and feels more like gentle guidance I’ve found is really great for me mentally and gives me the freedom to choose whilst also giving me the structure of a routine if I feel ready for it.

  • don’t spend all day sitting in the same place

Speaking of spending all day on the sofa – if you feel mentally capable, try and move and do different tasks in different places. Even if you just sit and watch YouTube or Netflix in different places, I guarantee that not sitting on the sofa all day will make you feel less sluggish by the end of the day.

I try and start my day sitting at the table I use as a desk, maybe sitting on the sofa for lunch or in the afternoon and then even going up to bed early with my laptop and sitting up there for a bit I feel much better than if I’ve sat on the sofa in the morning and not moved until I go up to bed.

Obviously if you live somewhere bigger than a one bedroom house, it’ll be easier to find some variety but make the most of what you’ve got – if you feel up to it, rearranging your space can be therapeutic too!

The step up from this is actually going for a walk outside or maybe even doing exercise, but when you feel physically ill with headaches and tummy aches the thought of doing anything too physical can just make it worse. Work up to it.

  • have regular mealtimes (and try and eat at least 3 fruits/vegetables a day)

Having regular anchor points throughout the day can break it up a little bit and making getting up in the morning feel a little less intimidating. I’m a creature of habit and though I don’t always eat breakfast, I usually start making lunch at 12pm and aim dinner for 6pm not because I’m hungry (though I usually am) but because that’s when I expect to do it.

Listening to your body and knowing when you’re actually hungry is a difficult skill to learn, especially when your body can tell you you’re hungry when in fact you’re bored, thirsty or procrastinating.

Eating healthy and preparing food isn’t always easy, but things like peas and sweetcorn can be done in the microwave, many green beans only need to be boiled for a few minutes and most vegetables can be laid on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes and taste amazing with a bit of seasoning. There are lots of ways to eat healthy with little preparation and cheaply and although chucking more chicken nuggets and chips in the oven or a ready meal in the microwave feels easier, if you can, putting in a little effort will do wonders in the long run, even just to prove to yourself that you can do it.

  • give yourself time for a routine before bed but don’t put any pressure on yourself to sleep

Many people have trouble with sleep regardless of their mental state, but when you’re low and you can’t sleep, everything feels worse and it becomes this awful cycle of looking at the clock, wishing you were already asleep, lying with your eyes open and starting the circle again.

Having a routine and giving yourself time to wind down, whether it’s a skincare routine, reading a book, watching YouTube videos or playing mindless phone games, the change of pace will hopefully help.

When you do eventually settle down to sleep, don’t put pressure on yourself to fall asleep by a certain time and if you don’t have to, let yourself compensate in the morning. I know I’m fortunate, in a way, at the moment to not be working or have any reason to get up at a certain time, but sleeping until my body needs me to even if it’s much later than I really want to is more important for my mental and physical health in the long run than forcing myself to pretend to be this super productive morning person I can’t be at the moment.

 

Mental illness is unpredictable and bloody inconvenient at the best of times – but it doesn’t last forever. It is an episode and it will end, however much it feels like it won’t. Learning to deal with your new ‘normal’ in the present, especially in a pandemic – is all anyone can expect from you, including yourself. You are not alone and things will get better.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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my craft projects!

2020, crafting, creativity

Hello!

Since finishing my masters degree, my to do lists have been a lot shorter – I am applying for jobs, but in a pandemic there’s not a whole lot going on, so rather than beating myself up about it, I’ve started making my to do lists in a slightly different way (I’m going to write a post about it next week!) and it helps me keep a sense of structure and purpose in my day without being overwhelming.

A bit part of this has been making time for crafts – in the first lockdown, I fell in love with cross stitching and learning more about knitting and sewing and I’ve found that doing these offline crafts have been really therapeutic for me and have helped me slow down out of that ‘productivity mindset’ in a way I never have before.

So I thought today I’d talk you through some of the projects I’ve got going on at the moment! Obviously there’s a few I’m not going to mention with Christmas coming up but between kits from Hobbycraft, a Disney cross stitch magazine and personal projects, I’m doing something different every few days and I love it.

  • wooden cross stitch

I bought a small wooden cross stitch stand from Hobbycraft with a voucher I got for my birthday. Granted, I did think it was a proper kit that would come with the thread and a needle and it didn’t, but it did have a beautiful pattern for a mountain sunset and I’ve nearly finished it! It’s a little more challenging than I thought to get the needle through all the little holes (I’ve actually broken a needle doing this!) but I think it’s going to look so cute and it’s quite small so it’s a nice little project.

  • face mask kit 

I love a kit that comes with all the materials and equipment – it’s probably why I’m super tempted by Hello Fresh and those other expensive food services! But I bought this mask kit, again from Hobbycraft, a few months ago and I was initially intimidated by the fact the pattern had pleats in it and I thought there was no way I could sew it by hand. It took probably 5x as long because I don’t have a sewing machine but it was actually surprisingly simple! I’ve done one of the three materials that came in the kit so I’ve got two more and I can use the pattern on any other material I have lying around too! I’m going to have to set up an Etsy store or something at this rate!

  • knitting ear savers

This is something I did a lot of at the beginning of lockdown – ear savers are little pieces of fabric with buttons that can hook face masks on to, so it takes the pressure off the back off the ears. A lot of volunteer groups were knitting them for medical staff and key workers that have to wear masks for extended periods of time – my fiancé loves his so much that he’s stretched it out, but he works broadcasting live sport so he’s wearing his mask for 12-13 hours a day and says it’s really helpful. Another item for my potential Etsy store!

  • learning to crochet

I’m yet to actually make anything, because I’m still learning the basics, but I picked up some reasonably priced crochet hooks in Wilko, back in the days when we could go to shops, and I’m trying to teach myself crochet. I’m not very good at learning new things because if I’m not good at it straight away I get cross, but I’m trying to be patient with myself and give myself permission to be bad at something, regardless of how melodramatic that sounds!

  • cardboard crafts

At the beginning of the first lockdown, I started saving every cardboard box that we had because I was sending parcels to my family and they were useful containers. But now I have a pile of cardboard in the corner of my kitchen with no use and I feel like a craft project is calling to me, I just haven’t figured out what yet! I recently picked up a Christmas themed paper pad from Hobbycraft (my new favourite shop, apparently) so I think I’m going to make some festive decorations – things I can stick in our window, maybe some decorations for the tree! I need to have a proper browse on Pinterest and see if I can find any inspiration.

  • 3D cross stitch kit

Really random but my fiancé found it on offer in a Lidl I think while he was away on work – it’s a little beach hut that you cross stitch the design onto and then sew it together and stuff it. I think that might be a project for that weird week between Christmas and New Year where no one knows what day it is and there’s loads of comfort TV on.

  • t-shirt blanket sewing

I feel like I’ve mentioned this approximately three billion times, but when I was a teenager I had an extensive t-shirt collection and because I’m sentimental af but became very aware that I was wasting all of these clothes, I decide to cut out the design feature and sew them all onto a blanket. I finished the first side earlier this year but decided to use fabric glue in the end because the blanket is quite big and my house is quite small so I don’t actually have anywhere I can lay it out flat but my intentions are that one day when I have a sewing machine I’m going to go over all the designs and make sure they’re properly secure before I continue sewing the other side but the remaining t-shirts I have I am sewing to each other so there’s still progress on the project. I don’t know if I’ve described this very well, but it’s a big ongoing project that will make more progress when I live in a space I can lay the blanket out flat!

  • adapting/fixing my own clothes

I did a moderate clear out of my wardrobe in September, being brutal about the clothes I don’t wear, the clothes I don’t like, any that might be adaptable to enjoy wearing again and I have a little pile of clothes I want to try and work on – a high neck jumper I want to try and take the high neck off of, a shirt with massively wide shoulders that I want to try and take up and a denim jacket that is too big for me but I want to experiment with acrylic painting on clothes (as inspired by @lucid.seams.shop on instagram). I’m also going to try and use some of my clothes as material for other projects, so maybe I’ll learn more about sewing!

I know not everyone finds crafting relaxing or fulfilling, but I think having an activity that can pull you away from your screens for a bit is so good for mental health. My fiancé and I had an afternoon building a Lego Hedwig kit recently and we spent two hours on something we really enjoyed! Whether it’s going for a walk in some fresh air, colouring, doing a jigsaw or making something crafty, spending time offline doing something for no reason other than enjoyment is important to prioritise. I’m still learning how to.

My mum also sent me a festive colouring book so I think a movie night and some colouring is on the cards! I’m thinking a Harry Potter or a Marvel movie marathon!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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why I’m obsessed with animal crossing: new horizons…

2020, lifestyle

Hi!

I’m not one of those people that’s been into video games since they were a kid – I played Wii Sports, MarioKart, a bit of Harry Potter on my PC, occasional Sims and I loved Nintendogs, but I’ve never been an avid gamer.

Then I met my boyfriend. After a year and a half I bought my own X-Box to play Overwatch. Now I’ve had a Nintendo Switch for over a year, I’ve played enough Pokemon Sword to justify having numerous Pokemon plush toys in our living room and I’ve played Animal Crossing: New Horizons every day since my birthday weekend (over two months).

But how did we get here?

When my fiancé (still have to force myself to call him that, it feels weird) first got excited about New Horizons, I didn’t get it – it looked like a weird Sims with these animals villagers and doing menial tasks to pay back debts to a raccoon who really does have financial leverage over everyone on the island. I didn’t get it – there was a turnip stock market, the animals have weird catch phrases and some Dodos run the airport.

But it did come out at the perfect time – just as the world started to lockdown, Animal Crossing: New Horizons released and made it almost impossible to buy a Switch anywhere, selling out all over the place. My fiancé bought a digital copy and started to build his island – as I was pretending to do uni work I would watch him play and I felt like we were building the island together; I knew who all his villagers were, we’d decide when was the best time to get a profit on those turnips (I realise if you don’t know animal crossing this sounds insane) and I was really invested in this kids game.

But I decided I wasn’t going to get my own copy until I’d finished my dissertation because I didn’t need that kind of distraction, but then my lovely fiancé bought me a copy for my birthday and I started my island a couple of days later. Since then I have checked in on my little island every day, chatted to all my villagers, decorated my island, planted flowers and crafted my little hearts content to make an island I adore.

Especially in another lockdown, having something to tune in to every day and tasks to achieve is the closest thing to a routine I had for a long time – I’d go and tidy the weeds and talk to my villagers and expand my little community. It’s a bit like Sims but with more direction and definitely for a younger audience, but it’s addicting and just so cute!

Having something to focus on that in the long run really doesn’t matter makes everything feel a bit lighter – it’s nice to have something insignificant to focus on outside of the world of pandemic, politics and adulting. Having a space where I can pick up twigs and collect materials to make furniture for my house and live outside the real world for a bit makes it all a little easier to process.

So I’ve been playing a dumb game every day for two months and it’s got me through two of the most emotionally difficult months of my life. It’s so dumb, but I’ve got to check in with all my animal villager friends, I’ve got to check my turnip prices to try and sell them at the best price, I’ve got to clean up all the weeds and finish decorating my islands; it’s so good for my brain, I feel creative and I feel like I’m accomplishing something, even if it’s in an inconsequential video game.

Where my dissertation is finished and I’m currently applying for jobs, there isn’t a lot that I ‘need’ to be doing every day and I’m trying to give myself the freedom to relax and spend time on things that aren’t ‘productive’ like playing on my Switch, doing a bunch of craft activities and watching films! In the last week I’ve watched the first two Harry Potter films and Avengers: Age of Ultron because I could and it felt great!

Conclusion: Animal Crossing is really great. If the fact that its release meant that Switch’s sold out all over the country didn’t convince you, this blog post will definitely do it.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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giving up on my 2020 goals

2020, goals

Hello!

Today’s blog post was going to be all about setting some goals for the ‘home stretch’ of 2020 and prioritising what’s important for me to work on at this end of 2020 (inspired by Hannah Witton and her yearly series!) but when I sat down to write it, I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to pressure myself into doing by the end of the year.

I looked back at the 2020 goals I set myself in January and I actually made surprisingly good progress on the ones I could – out of 18 total goals in different categories, seven (and a half) of them are making really good progress. But many of them have been impossible with the pandemic – travelling, getting a tattoo, finding a fitness class; all these things were not a financial or a health priority in a pandemic so many of my goals have been written off.

I think I say this regularly in my monthly goals posts but it’s important to remember that setting goals takes practice – I’ve been regularly goal setting for three or four years now and I still find myself making plans that are too broad or too big or too general.

I’ve already started planning my 2021 goals (I had a moment of inspiration a couple of months ago and basically wrote them all, I’ll be honest) and I can see where I’m going to need to be more specific and where I’m setting more realistic and achievable goals. But as we learnt this year – the world can flip upside down and we can be in our second lockdown of the year in the middle of a pandemic! Being adaptable is so important in goal setting otherwise you may keep working towards something you don’t actually want.

So I’m not working on many of my goals now – some things like learning website design, film photography and listening to more new music I’ve realised just aren’t what I want to do anymore, even though at one point I did. Savings goals are put on hold because I realised fairly early on that I couldn’t save when I had no income (sounds dumb, but I’m very stubborn) and I need to prioritise making myself financially secure in the present before I can start thinking of the future. And goals like a fitness routine and a new tattoo were unnecessary trips to public places to spend money I don’t have.

And not achieving these goals are okay – it’s not like I still desperately want them and I didn’t work hard enough to make it work; things change, I’ve recognised that change within myself and I’m responding to it.

If anything, my home stretch goals are to focus on my mental health and allow myself to relax – now I’ve finished my masters, I am back to job hunting (holding back the 2018 flashbacks) but I’m taking it slow, putting more time into the jobs I am applying for and really trying to listen to my body and what it needs.

I’ve been using a scheduling app called ‘tiimo’ that I saw on tiktok (I know, who have I become?) and it’s a way of planning out your day with reminders and cute emoji icons, but it’s not in your face about productivity – I set a schedule, I get reminders, but it congratulates me on doing things even if I haven’t done them! I consider it a gentle guide to try and give my day some structure and it’s helped me with waking up earlier, not feeling overwhelmed by my to do list, actually getting the things I want to do done and feeling satisfied that I can relax at the end of the day! I wanted to do NaNoWriMo this month (a 50,000 word writing challenge in 30 days) and because my extended dissertation deadline was on the 5th, I didn’t pressure myself to write at all, but on the 7th I started. On the 12th as I write this, I’ve written nearly 15,000 words and I’m nearly caught up to the daily word target.

This year has been a bloody rollercoaster and everyone’s got their own hardships as to why it’s been so difficult, but making sure we are flexible and adapt with our goals means we can still achieve what we want to achieve, rather than working towards things that don’t mean anything.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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life after my masters degree (in a pandemic…)

2020, lifestyle, student

Hello!

I think this might be the first time I’ve intentionally taken a month off blogging since I started in 2014! With my masters degree dissertation deadline looming and the dire state of my mental health (that I feel like I’ve mentioned too many times) I decided to take the pressure off just a little bit by not making myself feel I had to upload for a little bit.

I thought it would be a more difficult habit to break but in all honesty, it was nice to have a break! I’ve come back now excited to write again because I love blogging so much and I’m so ready to get back to what ‘normal life’ feels like for me.

So I finished my masters! I took a one week extension on my deadline because my stress levels were making me physically ill (lol) and it ended up that everything fell on November 5th – my dissertation deadline, a second national lockdown in the UK and my fiancé and I celebrated out 5th anniversary! I cannot believe it’s been five years but it also started the countdown of 2 years till we get married which is exciting. Our wedding contract confirmation from our venue came through the letterbox on that day too which felt very significant!

I spent most of the day formatting and double checking my essay and waiting for massive media files to upload so we didn’t get to celebrate too much, but we ordered Chinese just like we did on our first date and the next day we spent two hours together building Lego Hedwig which he’d picked up for 99p in Game a few weeks ago (it retails at £35!) which had mechanical flapping wings!

It may have come with a very simple instruction book that was over 100 pages long but we felt much cleverer than we are to have made something out of Lego that moves!

It was a great way to start life after masters. In the few days it’s been I’ve mostly been playing the new Pokemon Sword DLC The Crown Tundra with my Pokemon obsessed fiancé and doing all the little bits and bobs round the house I’ve been ignoring to give my little mental energy to my degree. The house is tidier than it’s been for months, everything is clean and I feel refreshed despite it being grey and rainy outside (though I’m loving snuggling up with my blankets inside).

Looking ahead, I don’t know what’s next. If the world wasn’t in a pandemic, I’d definitely be looking to get a job as soon as possible but 1) I imagine a lot of companies that would usually hire graduates aren’t hiring because they have to prioritise paying the staff they have and 2) I’m exhausted from this year. Finishing a dissertation in any situation is a huge mental and emotional toll but doing it when the world is upside down, the US election was taking days and my fiancé is still driving all around the country in high risk zones for work, I’m absolutely shattered and need to take this time to be gentle with myself.

Whilst I’m still recovering and trying to figure my body out, I don’t know what the future holds, which probably doesn’t help my mental health but I need to rest – this year has had a toll on everyone and everyone is handling it in their own way, I just need to find mine.

I am still looking for jobs, because I can’t rely on my fiancé’s income to pay for everything, we have a wedding to save for and I want to start my career! Most of the people I finished my undergrad degree with are two years into their careers and I feel like I’m a little late to finding my footing in the professional world (not that I am, there’s no one timeline). But I’m not going to spend all day every day looking for jobs when I know what a negative toll so many rejection emails had on me two years ago.

So right now? Life is very slow, I’m focusing on making myself a routine and taking care of myself because I’ve been ill for nearly three months now and I have to change something, because I never want to feel like this again.

I don’t know when I’ll get my degree results, I don’t even know if I’ll still be able to attend graduation in 2021 with the state of the pandemic, but I’m grateful to have finished my degree, I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and a partner who makes me feel like a million bucks, I’m grateful to have friends and family to turn to when I feel lonely and I’m grateful to have my health, whatever state it’s in, in a world where nothing is certain anymore.

Things are scary and uncertain, but the year is almost up, I’m seeing Christmas joy everywhere I look and there is hope for the future with the new President-Elect of the US – things will get better, just one step at a time, no matter how small.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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October Goals

2020, goals

Hello!

Another month, another fresh start, another new set of goals!

September was potentially the least productive month I’ve ever had in terms of my goals – I achieved maybe 1 of 5 and even then that was half of one and half of another but I’m not going to dwell on it; I’m going to use what went wrong to learn how to be better this month and adjust my goals accordingly!

Last month was incredibly busy and this month I actually have nothing planned, which is probably for the best because my dissertation is due in less than four weeks now (eek!) so I need to figure myself out and finally finish this masters (though I’m reluctant to call it that because I’ve definitely not learnt anything to a masters level).

So this is what I’m going to focus on this month:

  • hand in my dissertation project – the deadline is October 29th and I’m not taking any more extensions, I’m 100% so done with this course and I just need it to be over. Next month I finally won’t be a student any more!
  • exercise twice a week – with the state of my mental health, exercising has been really hard to motivate myself to do so I’m hoping if I can just manage twice a week whether it’s running, doing a home workout on one of the many apps I have, a yoga video or even a dance video on YouTube, just twice a week feels achievable (I hope?).
  • practice self care and get back to a routine – I really haven’t been very good at looking after myself recently; my sleep schedule has gone out the window, my skin is a mess, I haven’t read a book in a month, my motivation is low and my productivity is gone. For the sake of my mental wellness and actually getting my dissertation done, I need to make the time to look after myself and get things done. I’m making more of an effort with skincare and my routines as well as taking more notice of how I make my to do lists and scheduling my time to tackle the feelings of being overwhelmed that I’m struggling with! I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
  • start and finish my new cross stitch project – as well as all kinds of routine, I’ve not made much time for crafting recently which is so sad because it has such a positive impact on my mental health. I have a specific project in mind that I want to do this month so setting that specific goal might help me actually achieve it!
  • finish planning the redraft of my book – November’s NaNoWriMo is going to roll around faster than I expect I’m sure! I’ve got about 11 chapters left to plan so I’m feeling pretty good about having my plan ready to finish the draft of this book by the end of the year!

And my additional monthly goals for the year of date night and read a book are still standing! September was so bad that I didn’t even manage to finish reading one book so I’m hoping to finish what I’m reading and find something I’m really excited about to kick start the habit again!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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Treasured In… September

2020, lifestyle

Hello!

Oh how my favourite month has come and gone and I feel like I missed it! The last six months have gone so ridiculously fast that I feel like I haven’t been able to keep up but another month has passed and it’s time for another instalment of my supposedly ‘original’ take on what is essentially a favourites post.

As we edge ever close to Autumn, cosy knits and hot chocolate season, my birthday has been and gone and the end of the year is drawing to a close. It’s been a busy month with trips to see family, a couple of socially distanced bowling trips and a ring on my finger to match the engagement my fiancé and I decided on in January.

So these are some of the things I treasured in September!


  • purchase

I’ve got two favourites from this month and they’re both clothes! I bought myself a new hoodie from Primark that I’ve been living in because it’s so soft and cosy and I treated myself to some new Snag tights with some birthday money! I definitely need to stop ‘treating myself’ to new things in October but for now, I’ll snuggle down in my new hoodie and comfy tights.

  • recipe

I’ve been making a roasted tomato and bay orzo dish from The Green Roasting Tin book and it’s taken me a few attempts to figure it out (it takes about twice as long to cook than the recipe suggests!) but now that I’ve got it it’s delicious! I’d never heard of orzo before making this dish but it’s like tiny rice shaped pasta and cooked in the vegetable stock makes it so flavourful and delicious. Although it negates the ‘vegan’ nature of the dish, it goes perfectly with garlic bread and a little parmesan!

  • song

The longer the pandemic goes on, the more I crave nostalgic music I already know all the words too! I’ve done a few long drives this month and I’ve listened to the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (if you haven’t seen it, it’s a beautiful film where Matt Damon plays a sassy horse), Starstruck (a Disney Channel Original Movie that I’m worried to rewatch in case it’s not as amazing as I remember) and I’ve curated my own playlist of songs I enjoy singing at the top of my lungs in the car (apologies to any other drivers who may have witnessed this).

  • YouTube video

As ever, I don’t watch YouTube frequently enough to keep up with my subscription feed so I’m still watching videos from months ago but I loved this SFX/beauty make-up video from Mykie (Glam and Gore) making the most wonderfully extra face mask.

This video of Hannah Witton teaching herself a dance routine to a song she loves made me think that I need to find some choreography dance lessons on YouTube because I miss dancing so much.

And this video from kickthePJ about moving house really stuck with me – I can’t say for why, but it’s beautifully sentimental, a lovely montage of memories and a little bit different for PJ but I’m always in awe of how incredibly creative his content is; massive inspiration!

  • books I’ve read

I knew this would happen but I didn’t think it would take this long – 8 months of reading 4-6 books a month and September was the month I didn’t finish anything. As I write this, I’m halfway through ‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne and considering I’ve seen the film and I’m aware of how it ends, it’s surprisingly not as heavy as I thought it would be.

I’m hoping to power through the last 100 pages before the end of the month and get back into it but I’ve definitely fallen off track for my little personal goal of 52 books in a year (my goodreads goal is 12 but when I hit that in March I did wonder if I could maintain one book a week!) but in my defence, these past few weeks I’ve really understood when people say they’ve been ill with their mental health because I’ve never experienced anything like it. My routine (if I ever had one), completely fell out the window and my sacred evening routine (shoutout to my 9pm bedtime crew) was replaced with not sleeping before 2am and wasting most of the morning in bed.

I’m hoping to crack down and get back into it, not just because I love reading but because I need to make the effort for the sake of my own mental health. Any tips are more than welcome!

  • snack

Other than a craving for Malted Milk biscuits, the best snack I’ve had this month is actually something I’ve baked myself! My mum used to bake these amazing cookies with smarties on and I’ve made a couple of batches this month and they’ve been amazing – the recipe makes about 12 (or about 6 big cookies) and when they’re fresh out the oven oh boy I could eat the whole batch. I’m salivating thinking about them.

They’re super easy – I’ve not done a recipe post for a really long time, would you like to see one?

  • something to watch

With my fiancé being away at work and having a friend stay for a couple of weeks until she can move into her new flat (all COVID safe, I promise) I’ve been watching more Netflix and Disney+ than usual! We watched the new Millie Bobby Brown film ‘Enola Holmes’ which I thought was surprisingly heartwarming, a very interesting 4th-wall narrative and a mildly disappointing ending but a pleasant watch all the same.

I finally got round to watching Frozen 2 – I’m not a massive Frozen fan, so I wasn’t obsessed with it (Tangled is a better film, don’t @ me) but it was fine, I guess? ‘Into The Unknown’ is a bop but wow ‘Show Yourself’ is underrated!! Definitely need to give the soundtrack a listen but it was nice to have a bit of context for my sister’s Anna cosplay (follow her tiktok, it’s adorable).

Otherwise, we’re now rewatching a bunch of Disney classics – I’ve been fancying watching Treasure Planet for a while and last night we watched Mulan and Mulan 2 and had a wonderful time!

  • wedding planning update!

Not much to update on the wedding front! We’ve negotiated a quote with the venue and we’re just figuring out our finances to pay the deposit and book the venue! Then it’s booking the registrar and hunting for a photographer/videographer – if you have any recommendations for someone in the Rutland/South Lincolnshire region, please let me know!


I still can’t believe how fast this year is going – I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, my impending dissertation deadline (less than a month now!) or if this is just adult life now but I’m sure I’ll soon be baffled by how quickly October has gone in my ‘Treasured In…’ post next month!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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spending more time offline

2020, mental health

Hello!

With ‘I Am Whole’s Digital Detox Day earlier this month and mental wellness online being a growing conversation in lingering pandemic times, spending time offline can feel necessary and simultaneously overwhelming when we’re all racking up hours and hours of screentime.

Sometimes when we think about wanting to spend more time offline, the biggest question is ‘what would I do instead?’ – in theory you could fill the time you’d usually spend procrastinating and get more work done, clean the house properly or do all the decluttering and organising that always gets put off, but if we’re thinking about mental wellness and wanting to really relax without putting the pressure on productivity, it’s a different kind of spending time offline.

Here are a few of the things I do to help me feel more present and stop reaching for my phone!

  • turn it onto silent mode – it sounds silly, but if I turn off the sounds and the vibrations and turn it upside down and put it out of sight it’s much easier not to think about it because the notifications aren’t intrusive. Whether I want to get some focused work done or spend some dedicated time in the moment with friends or family, getting rid of invasive notifications really helps.
  • tactile hobbies for evening TV viewing – if you find you can’t just watch a TV show and you just can’t concentrate without doing something with your hands, take up an offline hobby! I’m a fan of knitting because at the moment I’m just doing rows and rows of the same thing and I can do it without really thinking, but something like colouring would be great or even a fidget toy can keep your hands busy without scrolling through instagram.
  • go for a tech free walk – the concept of leaving the house without a phone can be daunting, I know that I as a woman don’t feel particularly safe in my area on my own, but even if it’s listening to a podcast and walking or being with someone and leaving your phones in your pockets, being present especially in nature can be so beautiful. Even walking somewhere more industrial or suburban can be wonderful – people watching is always fun!
  • use ‘zen mode’ – my phone has an app or a mode or something where it essentially becomes a brick for an hour; it doesn’t give you any notifications, I don’t think it’ll even let you unlock it (except for emergencies) and having that dedicated tech free time can be useful in a work environment but also when you want to spend time with people and not be checking your phone. There’s plenty of apps that do this too, I remember one people used when I was in Sixth Form was one where you would grow a tree the longer you didn’t touch your phone and it would get chopped down if you closed the app. Whatever the theme or how it works, having time where your phone literally won’t let you in can be helpful.
  • spend time journalling or reading – I’m all about the pen and paper and I’ll always suggesting writing things down or making a list if you feel overwhelmed, but thinking about wanting to spend time offline and being more present, journalling is a great way to physically anchor yourself to a moment (however pretentious that sounds) – there are loads of prompts online or you can even buy premade journals with the prompts written in, but I think it’s a great activity both for mental health and getting offline. And I’ll always suggest reading! Getting lost in a good story, especially if you can sit outside and get some fresh air too is always a lovely way to spend an afternoon!
  • dedicate more time to cooking – whether it’s learning a new recipe or cooking with a new ingredient, I find time in the kitchen is a great way to do something offline, especially if you live with other people – kitchen catch ups are a great way to debrief at the end of the day and have a bit of social interaction! I find cooking really therapeutic and I know it’s different for everyone, but having something that you’ve made from scratch is so rewarding!

Just a few ideas of things that work for me! I definitely need to work on scheduling more phone-free relaxation into my week but it’s all a learning curve I guess!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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mental health in a pandemic – 6 months on

2020, mental health

Hello!

Writing about mental health is always incredibly subjective – there’s such a broad spectrum of symptoms and each person who lives with mental illness handles it in incredibly different ways that often contradict each other, so bear in mind that when I write about mental health I’m writing about my experiences of mental health and cannot speak on behalf of anyone else.

Lockdown has been a ride, hasn’t it? In the UK more and more places are going into local lockdown, thousands of new cases are being diagnosed every day and ‘young people’ are getting the blame for eating out to help out, going back to work and supporting the economy. Amongst so much uncertainty, it’s not surprise that the anxiety that craves control is going haywire.

At the beginning of lockdown, personally I flourished – all of my uni assignments got pushed back and adjusted so I had plenty of time to work on them, my boyfriend was home from work for the longest time since he started and I felt so in control of everything that was going on.

Then the first ‘three weeks’ of lockdown turned into months, I had less assignments to work on and the ones that were left feel big and intimidating and overwhelming, my boyfriend being home meant that he just played video games all day and gazing out the window felt too much like wishing for a life we couldn’t have anymore.

Normal has changed. The uncertainty of not knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore is the worst feeling. And we have no idea how life could ever get back to a ‘normal’ where we don’t wear masks and we don’t sanitise at every opportunity and glare at people who don’t understand the concept of 2m apart or following arrows on the floor in public places, especially in a world where there are people who ‘don’t believe’ in vaccines (which will never cease to baffle me); ‘normal’ feels like a very far away concept.

On the surface, I’m doing okay – my boyfriend (fiancé? He’s put a ring on it now so I should really get used to calling him that) has gone back to work and whilst at first I was nervous to be on my own, I now make the most of being as productive as I can whilst I don’t have the background noise of video game commentary and too many 5 minute crafts videos (he has an obsession). But underneath, I’ve been getting these ‘nausea attacks’ (I don’t know how else to describe them) and there’s this tight feeling in my stomach and I don’t know if it’s anxiety or a bug or a new intolerance and it keeps me up at night and wakes me up at ridiculous times in the morning. I’ve had more panic attacks in these moments in the last few weeks than I’ve ever experienced in such a short time frame before and it’s really hard, to be honest.

But assuming it is subconscious anxiety and not anything physical, I’m doing all I can to keep my mind occupied – I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music to fill in the silence without distracting me from whatever I need to be focusing on, I’ve been making more of an effort to meditate using the Headspace app and trying to make a sense of routine with my daily to do lists and regular meal times.

With no end in sight to this pandemic and a looming second wave in the UK, coping mechanisms are always changing and however much it goes against everything I know, we just have to ride the wave. The waves are going to wash over us anyway, resisting them won’t change the tide.

Well that was potentially a bit deep for a random Tuesday in September, but I’m a bit pretentious like that – I love a water related motivational quote!

Whether or not you suffer with mental illness, living through a pandemic that has touched every single one of our lives was never going to be easy. I hope that you are feeling okay, because okay is enough! It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s okay to just be okay too.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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there’s no songs about turning 24

2020, lifestyle

Hello!

Two years ago, it was 22 by Taylor Swift, one year ago it was What’s My Age Again by Blink-182 as I was reminded that no one likes you when you’re 23 (I beg to differ) – what’s meant to be my anthem this year? Have I officially entered the realm of boring ages because I’m too old to have a song?

(Have I spent too long on tiktok and now I’m writing in a really melodramatic storytelling method with a fancy accent in my head?)

It was my birthday! 24 years ago today the traumatic event that was my birth (emergency C-section crew, always a drama queen) happened to my parents and nothing has been the same ever since.

And my birthday is September 11th… 9/11… Take from that what you will.

In the past I’ve made videos and written posts about things I’ve achieved in my years and what I hope to achieve in my next rotation around the sun but this year, I don’t really have anything to add – 23 has been a weird one, because I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything particularly significant but it’s definitely been a year of change.

My friendships has definitely been the thing that stands out to me – just a week after my birthday in 2019 I met four girls on my masters course that made me feel like I was in an American high school romcom and I had the ride or die friends that I could turn to for literally anything. The worst thing about lockdown was not being able to see them multiple times a week. Then during lockdown I got to meet some of the people my boyfriend works with and now I actually have friends in the town I live in! They’re the sweetest people I’ve ever met, I don’t know if it’s lockdown or if we just get on really really well but I feel like I’ve known them so much longer than just a couple of months and I’m so grateful for them. I actually have people that I love and I know that they love me too and I can rely on them and trust them. And I don’t mean to say I didn’t have friends that I love, rely on and trust before I turned 23, but this was the year of meeting a surprising amount of amazing people – I feel like I have the best support network with everything from my oldest childhood friend from when we were 6, from my undergraduate degree to the family I grew up with – I feel more supported and loved that I ever have before and I’m incredibly grateful.

I have no idea what 24 will bring – I thought 22 would be the beginning of my career and that didn’t happen so I’m trying not to have too many expectations from this year.

When you’re a kid, I think you think that by 24 you’ll know what you’re doing – you’ll have a place, maybe with friends, maybe with a partner, a job, a car, maybe a pet, the freedom of socialising whenever you want, money, travelling! The future seemed so open and freeing, things like school and exams and fake friends and having to spend at least 30 minutes on public transport to get anywhere are the things I longed to get away from.

Going back even 10 years, I don’t know what my 14 year old self would think of me. With mental health problems and generally just being a bit weird, I’ve never been able to picture myself growing older – not in a job, with a person, even things like wanting kids but I just can’t imagine what my life would be like with them – I don’t know if I ever really thought I’d get this far. I still can’t picture the future – turning 30 or 40 or having children or taking them to school or being employed all feel so far from my reach; even getting married and wearing the white dress and walking down the aisle doesn’t feel real, and that’s one I’m actually planning!

Life is weird, the future is weird, time flies and age is just a number. Everyone’s journey is different and we all get there at different times – 14 year old me never would have thought I’d have (nearly) three degrees, a nearly 5-year relationship (with someone who is significantly taller than me!) and be brave enough to shave my head, but she’d also wonder how I let myself put on so much weight, why I haven’t started a career yet and how my mental health could be so much worse.

But I’m working on not being disappointed in where I am – everyone has good days and bad days; some days I’m so proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved and other days I  I’m getting cross because finishing my masters is becoming a daily battle with my own brain and productivity.

Conclusion? I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. But what getting older has taught me so far is that no one does! And accepting what I don’t know and being prepared to learn is always going to be one of the greatest assets I have.

24 is going to be interesting. But for now, I’ve got a whole weekend off with the love of my life and I’m going to let myself relax and be spoiled. I’ll save the existentialism for another day!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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