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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using my bullet journal to create routine

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

I’ve been writing about my bullet journal for a long time now – flip throughs, monthly set ups, weekly spreads, why everyone should bullet journal etc etc… but you’d think in a pandemic lockdown I wouldn’t put an effort into maintaining it, right? My uni is closed, I have no deadlines to meet for anything (pretend the dissertation isn’t real…), no social plans, so why am I holding my bullet journal closer than ever?

Do I sound like a melodramatic Buzzfeed article or what?

I’m someone who craves routine – the longer lockdown goes on the more lost I feel because it gets more difficult to motivate myself to maintain a consistent routine, but that’s where the bullet journal comes in! Having a to do list every day and a meal plan every week gives each day just a little bit of structure.

I’ve not been waking up consistently at all (this morning I woke up at 7.30am, then fell asleep until 10.20am – I’ve not slept that late since I was a teenager!) but I have lunch at 12, start cooking dinner about 5.30 to eat at 6 and aim to go to bed at 9… sometimes I don’t notice the time but generally I’m in bed by 10 at the latest! (I’m a granny, I need my sleep!)

My to do lists generally have 6-7 things on them every day and include things like washing my hair (because ya gal cannot keep track of the last time I washed my hair), doing my daily Headspace meditation and recording a clip for my 1 Second Everyday video – that’s three things already! Then I have 4 other tasks that generally include a form of exercise (I know! Who even am I anymore), something uni related, something craft related and then whatever else needs doing whether it’s cleaning the house or going to a pub quiz!

The system works pretty well for me most days – sometimes I get everything done by lunch time and I’ll either start the next day’s tasks or have the afternoon off, sometimes when my brain’s not doing so well tasks will start to pile up but after a day or two of feeling low I’m getting better at recognising that I don’t want to do that any more and just tackling one task at a time (then writing them off at the end of the week because no one needs to start the week with a bucket load of tasks from the week before – reassign them to the new week!).

Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated I’ll even set myself a properly timed schedule – this can be super helpful with bigger tasks because then I know I only have to work on them for a set amount of time then I’m done with it for the day. Even setting a timer so you get that proper sense of conclusion is great. I used our Alexa to set a one hour timer to do uni work, then my sister called so I paused it and when it resumed I carried on where I left off and after an hour I’d made really good progress and I felt really good about myself!

Obviously there are some days where the thought of even sitting at my desk is too much, but it’s working with your mindset and your emotions to make this time work best for you. We all have good days and bad days, especially when you’ve got mental health in the mix as well, but it’s listening to your own mindset and pushing yourself where you can. It’s all a balance!

I’ve been using the phrase ‘gentle productivity’ for a couple of weeks now and I really like it – lockdown is a breeding ground for bad mental health and being gentle on yourself (whether it’s giving yourself a break or pushing yourself back to your desk) is the key to having a bit of routine and normalcy and protecting your mental space.

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

Sophie xx

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my new heaviest | unfitness update

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

I’ve written more about my experiences with weight loss and fitness in the last couple of months than in the last year or so and I’m trying to find the right balance, but this one is more about body positivity and body image if that floats your boat more than rambling about running!

I weigh myself once a week – with past issues with eating and body dysmorphia at school, I often have to stop myself from wanting to weigh myself every morning. But I feel like if I don’t weigh myself regularly then I lose a sense of control and knowing whether what I’m doing for the sake of my body is working or not.

But recently I’ve been watching the number on the scales go up every single week – I don’t want to talk about specific numbers because numbers are so personal to the individual and there are so many other factors that my ‘heaviest’ weight might be a healthy weight for someone else and someone else’s heaviest weight might be my weight goal so mentioning numbers doesn’t help anyone.

So at the beginning of the year, let’s call my weight X – my goal was to lose a stone to be at Y weight and for the first couple of months it went quite well, I nearly hit a big goal I’d been aiming for, I was making good progress and I felt okay. Then lockdown happened and the numbers started going the other way – I got back up to the weight I was at the beginning of the year, then it kept going, and I hit the next ‘stone’ marker and it just kept going. Then all of a sudden I was back at my heaviest weight that I was at in the beginning of 2018 when I was finishing my undergraduate degree.

Hitting that specific weight – let’s call it Z – didn’t make my feel as bad as I thought I would because I’d already been going in the wrong direction and been through disappointment, frustration, comfort eating, rationalising that I’m just trying to survive a pandemic, trying to figure out if lockdown should have been my opportunity to really focus on healthier life choices rather than go the other way. By the time I reached Z I had already been through all of these emotions and I had been mentally preparing for it.

In the month I started couch to 5k, I gained more weight than over the other six months of the year combined. But I know I didn’t eat well and there’s no amount of exercise that can compensate for that.

What I always used to say when I was in the height of my weight loss in 2019 was ‘everything in moderation’ – I’m such a fussy eater that eating healthily is really difficult, but smaller portions, eating food you like even if it’s bad but in controlled portions, making an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables and stop snacking on sweet treats in the afternoon (thought a 4pm ice cream in a heat wave is compulsory!). Moderation is key – doing a moderate amount of exercise and not becoming obsessive, making sure to have sensible portion sizes and not feeling like you can never have chocolate again.

Putting on weight isn’t a failure – your body changes all the time, no one ‘diet’ or regime is going to work for your entire life. Things change, tastes change, fitness changes.

If I want to hit my goal of ‘Y’ weight by the end of the year then I now have to lose much more weight than when I was at my starting weight of ‘X’, but I’m not bothered either way. I’m still running three times a week, I’ve been working on my home workout once a week, now that my boyfriend is back at work I have a bit more control over how frequently we eat vegetables, I’m working on my sleep schedule and looking after my mental health as much as my physical health.

Hitting a new highest weight could have been a new low, but I know why it happened. I know I went on holiday and didn’t eat healthily and lockdown with my boyfriend being home meant compromising on healthy foods. It’ll probably take time before the numbers on the scales start going the other way, but results are not linear – my progress in consistently exercising and looking after myself is more valuable than the number on the scales.

Remembering that is the tough bit though.

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

Sophie xx

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just 10 seconds at a time

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

A lot of what’s taking up my brain space at the moment is actually fitness (I never thought I’d be saying that!) – with starting the Couch to 5k running program in July and aiming for one at home workout a week alongside running in August, I spend more time psyching myself up to do exercise, planning when I’m going to fit it in and mentally preparing myself for the physical challenge than I really need to, in all honesty.

I’m finding Couch to 5k really hard – it took me two weeks to make it through week 1 and I’m now finishing my fourth week of week 2 and I really don’t know if I’m ready for week 3, but with both running and my at home workouts I’ve got two phrases that are really helping me through.

The first time I managed the full week 2 run, I thought it was a fluke – somehow I’d made it through 6 repetitions of 90 seconds running and 2 minutes walking and it almost didn’t feel real. But next time I went for a run, I pushed through each run because I knew I could do it because I’d done it before. Even when I ended up falling through each step more than running it, I didn’t start walking until the lovely Sarah Millican’s voice told me I could (though, sorry Sarah, there’s no such thing as a ‘brisk pace’ when I’m wondering if my shins are going to snap!).

Simply knowing that I’d done it once before was enough to motivate me to do it again.

And the other thing that helps when I’m specifically doing a plank in my home workout, is just 10 seconds. Just 10 more seconds then I can stop. But when I’ve done that 10 seconds I have the option to stop or just do another 10 seconds. At this point I’m only aiming for 30 seconds at a time, but breaking it down into 10 second chunks is surprisingly helpful.

Also doing maths is a helpful way to distract my brain from the throbbing pain in my shoulders, lower back, ankles and abs – 10 seconds, just the same thing twice more, 15 seconds half way through, 20 seconds just need to do 50% of what I’ve already done again, 25 seconds means 5 seconds to go and by that point it’s done.

How often does it actually work? This morning I managed one 30s plank and then two 20s ones so all round, not bad for my second week of ‘at home’ workouts!

But it doesn’t just apply to fitness – we’re living through something completely unprecedented and there was never going to be a way to mentally prepare for a pandemic that no one was ready for. Maybe in ‘real life’ 10 seconds isn’t a huge amount of time, but if you’re in a moment of crisis, just making it through the next 10 seconds can be enough of a reminder that you can do this, you’re in control and you can take things at your own pace.

Whether it’s one day at a time, one hour at a time or a minute at a time, focusing on the here and now can make all the difference when the future feels so scary and uncertain. There’s so many things we can’t be sure of right now from when the heck the graduate job market will recover to when we can have a BBQ with our friends again, let alone the economy or housing market or other things that feel too grown up to me.

Things are weird – when lockdown started all those months ago, everyone said four weeks was such a long time and now it’s been five months. No one knows what ‘putting the world back together again’ will look like but worrying about how the future will look when there is no answer is just going to make handling the present more difficult – one day, one moment, one step.

We can do this.

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

Sophie xx

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backwards progress | unfitness update

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these ‘unfitness’ posts – I wrote a couple at the beginning of quarantine and I’ve talked about why fitness hasn’t been a priority in the last year or so, but I thought now would be a good time to do a little update, as well as looking back on the progress I’ve made.

I have a highlight on my instagram (also called ‘unfitness’) where I’ve been documenting my ‘journey’ with exercise (though I don’t think it really deserves to be called that). It started with lots of boomerangs of my trainers on the treadmill and screenshots from my FitBit app with long rambles about how my mental health is all over the place and it’s hard to find examples of fitness that work for someone of my size and fitness level (which is a solid zero).

Then I started Couch to 5k – I ran consistently three times a week for maybe three months and I was so proud of the progress I made and my commitment to doing something for me. I saw results, I lost weight, I felt better about myself… but then the weather got really hot and I couldn’t cope. Then life stuff happened and I didn’t have access to a treadmill anymore and I was gaining weight and I was disappointed in myself and I kept putting it off.

Now 17 weeks into lockdown (not that I’m counting…) and I’ve put on enough weight that I’m nearly back at my heaviest weight from two years ago and I’m trying really hard not to beat myself up about it but it’s really disappointing.

There are so many external factors – a literal pandemic, living in a small one bedroom house where even pottering all day every day doesn’t get that many steps in (I wanted to hit my step goal once and did maybe 200 laps of the living room… about 15 steps a lap!), feeling sad and comfort eating then feeling worse about comfort eating and feeling like I deserve a treat… And then the toll that takes on my mental health.

So I wanted to start reintroducing exercise in a way that didn’t feel forced or high pressure – the pandemic lockdown is taking a harder toll on my mental health the longer it goes on for so I need to gently find long term sustainable things that can help. In June, I set myself the goal of doing 5000 steps per day – I only managed this for about half the days of the month, but it made me more aware of what 5000 steps looked like and the efforts I had to make to achieve it.

Although it wasn’t particularly successful, I decided that I wanted to start Couch to 5k again in July – my boyfriend was interested in starting it too and together we would brave running in the outside world (something I’d never done before). We’re now two weeks in – I’ve successfully committed to six runs in that time, although I’ve repeated Week 1 of the program twice (I meant it when I said my fitness level was zero) I’m doing it and I’m feeling it get easier and I’m making it part of my routine.

Do I have high hopes that this will become a regular habit and I’ll get to a point where I actually enjoy running? No – I know that in the past any exercise venture I’ve been on has ended after a few weeks of seeing no weight loss and feeling too mentally drained to put the effort in. But I can honestly say at this point, I’m kind of enjoying it – getting outside and getting my steps in and feeling my heart rate go up that high and then getting home and lying on my bed for twenty minutes before I can feel my toes enough to get in the shower. Doing something that pushes me and hurts my body a little bit but I know is going to be good in the long run feels good.

Mentally feels good I should say, physically it feels awful.

So the next step is working on my diet to go with the exercise – I’m never going to be someone who eats a salad because they like it or swaps to whole wheat pasta and brown rice (carbs are important to me). But I can cut down on snacks, eat more vegetables (I do love vegetables), portion my evening desserts so I don’t eat an entire pack of Haribo.

Even changes like going back to wearing make-up every day and having an evening skincare routine and maybe meditating again aren’t necessarily directly related to fitness, but they’re all parts of mental wellness that give me structure and routine and might give me more of a chance of 1) actually losing weight and 2) maintaining an exercise regime.

In the two years I’ve been documenting my ‘unfitness’, I found a pretty good routine where I lost over a stone in a couple of months and then lost nearly another stone over the next six months or so. I gained a little bit back but maintained up until the beginning of lockdown and then it all went downhill again. Although I’m not far off being back where I began two years ago, I’m hoping that knowing what I’ve learnt over those two years will make moving forward and seeing progress easier.

Fitness, weight and body image are such difficult topics to write about as they’re so personal to every individual – no one experiences anything in the same way, there are so many factors that make things different for everyone. But the important thing to remember is whatever your goals are, whatever you want to achieve whether it’s losing weight, getting stronger or just having some time in the day to do something for you – it’s all okay.

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

Sophie xx

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cutting myself a break

2020, creativity, mental health, writing

Hello!

I don’t know why every week in lockdown seems to be more difficult, but this week I’m really struggling and I can’t put a finger on why because nothing has changed.

Blogging is something I find really therapeutic – sitting down at my laptop with a blank page and just typing long, rambly posts that are eloquent and articulate and insightful makes me feel inspired and motivated, reminding me that words are my creative tool and I fall in love with writing all over again.

But on the other hand, when I’m not feeling that inspiration or I don’t have anything important to say, the blank page feels daunting in a way that takes me by surprise. Structure and schedule has always helped me – whether it’s productivity or consistency in content, having ‘upload days’ has always made me a better blogger.

Whenever I reach a point where I think ‘yeah, I don’t need a schedule, I’ll blog when I feel inspired to share something’ I go quiet for months. Without the plan to post a blog post on certain days, the ideas just don’t come to me! Routine and structure works for me but when I don’t feel passionate about what I’m writing then it’s stilted and forced and it just becomes another element for stress (even though I really shouldn’t let it be).

I’m going through a lull right now and I need to respond to that. Earlier this year I went through a period of only uploading once a week and I felt so creatively motivated that I increased it back up to two, but I don’t think I have enough creative or mental energy for that right now.

Did I need to write a whole blog post about why I’m going from two blog posts a week down to one a week? Absolutely not – I doubt anyone would have questioned it or noticed. But getting it out of my system is therapeutic for me and in essence; this post is as much about asking too much of ourselves as it is my personal relationship with my blogging schedule. If I’ve helped reassure one person that they’re not the only one struggling, especially creatively, as lockdown gets longer and longer, then I’ve used my platform for a purpose. If it doesn’t ‘help’ anyone in the way I see influencers talking about all the time, then it’s helped me, and that’s enough.

So I’m going to go back to one blog post a week. Because lockdown is getting to me and my creativity is shaky at best anyway.

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

Sophie xx

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I HATE working from home

2020, lifestyle, mental health, student

Hello!

One thing I’ve been really struggling with in the latter half of lockdown so far (12 weeks and counting!) is working from home – after the initial boost of getting four assignments handed in on the same day, my motivation hit rock bottom – the two that were due the following week were a struggle and then I took a two week extension on the project that was due the week after (but with the extra time my partner-in-crime and Software Wizard Agata and I made this bomb animation called ‘Life After Lockdown‘).

But now that all my semester 2 deadlines are done and the only thing left is 5 months of looming dissertation deadlines, I feel even less motivated than I did before.

In my time on my undergraduate degree, I worked really hard to make my home a ‘work free environment’ – I would be on campus or in my favourite cafe (oh The Artisan, how I miss you) by 9am most days and would only really come home for dinner, at which point I would cook, play games with my boyfriend or do whatever not-work activities I wanted to do in my home environment.

I carried this over into my masters degree as much as possible – working on campus, making the most of group work whilst we were physically together and using the facilities, equipment and the computers that were better than mine.

Now that I’m facing doing my entire dissertation project at home? Every time I sit down to work on it, I feel this ball in my chest and I just can’t make progress – sitting down to read or write or learn more new software (because god knows the course didn’t actually prepare me for anything) is just so overwhelming. But I can’t afford to give myself a few weeks because I have other dissertation related deadlines before that where I have to document my progress, so I have to have progress to document.

It’s worth mentioning that I’m fortunate that I don’t have to balance a real job type work alongside my dissertation – many part-time students do and most people working from home at this point will be doing ‘proper’ work that they get paid for, not working on assignments, but the work from home struggle is universal regardless of what type of work.

A quote I see floating around a lot is ‘you’re not working from home, you’re at home, trying to work in a global crisis’ and I find that comforting when I’m finding it so difficult… but it doesn’t make the work any easier and the work still needs doing.

Something else I find difficult is working while my boyfriend is home – in our ‘normal life’, he’s either away working on live sports broadcasts around the country or at base 10-5, so if I wasn’t at uni I’d have the house to myself. Now, we’re in the same room all day every day because he spends most of his time playing games and my little office set up is in our open plan ground floor. Somehow over 12 weeks I haven’t got used to him talking on headset to his game friends and I just find it so much more difficult to concentrate when he’s here.

Sometimes it’s not even that he’s doing anything or saying anything – I can see the game on the TV even if he’s muted it, I just can’t work while he’s in the room. This isn’t something I can do anything about, but I’m more nervous about him potentially going back to work and being exposed to the virus so… there’s no winning!

I’m trying to be gentle with myself – beating myself up isn’t going to get the work done any quicker and it’s not going to motivate me at all.

Does confessing how much I’m struggling working from home really help anything? Not particularly, but I’m sure there are lots of people who’ve read everyone’s ‘working from home’ blog posts and watched all the videos and still not become the Working From Home Queens they hoped to be. Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that other people are still struggling, so I hope to provide that.

Starting is always the worst bit – once I’ve started and figured out what I’m doing more I’ll probably get into it but right now, it makes me want to cry a little bit so I’m going to do everything else on my to do list until there’s nothing else left.

Small progress is still progress!

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

Sophie xx

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bad mental health in quarantine

2020, mental health

Hello,

I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who’s felt their mental health plummet whilst the world has been consumed by this pandemic.

Even within the realm of mental health, I still appreciate that I’m incredibly fortunate to not have to be working, to live in a (mostly) financially stable household, not being isolated alone and to not know anyone who’s suffered with the virus, but that doesn’t make the feelings in my head any less valid.

My boyfriend pointed out near the beginning of lockdown that any ‘setbacks’ in my mental health aren’t a true reflection of my mental health – of course my anxiety’s going to get worse when the whole world is changing, that doesn’t mean I’ve done something to make my anxiety worse or had a step back in my ‘journey’, it’s just a natural response.

Managing it has been difficult – the longer we’re restricted, the harder I find it to motivate myself to do anything. At the beginning I flourished on actually having time to do all the work I needed to do and now I’m down to my last deadline before my dissertation project, I should be super motivated to get the last one done, right?

But I’ve not been taught anything I need to do to finish this assignment, the longer we’re in quarantine the less point I can see in doing anything and the more my anxiety makes me feel like I’m trying to walk through water just to do anything… And suddenly it’s three days to hand in and I have a mountain to climb to finish and it’s even worse!

Uni work aside, I’m a very self aware person – I can look almost objectively and my ‘symptoms’ (though it feels weird to call them that) and I know I need to do X, Y and Z to feel better. Objectively, that seems simple enough. In practice? It’s really hard to implement.

For example, I know that the easiest way for me to get anything done (from uni work to the washing up) is to take out every element of decision making that I can – making to do lists, deciding what order I’m going to do the things on the list and even scheduling every hour of my day are all things I’ve done before to help me work. However, the ‘ill’ part of my brain (again, feels weird to use that terminology) makes me feel like I don’t have enough processing power in my brain to actually do anything and reminds me that my self-set schedule doesn’t have any consequences… No one’s going to tell me off for not doing a workout first thing in the morning, nothing will happen if I don’t do my self-set writing challenge, the only ‘consequence’ to anything in my life at the moment is my uni work…

But even then the whole course has been a mess and if I don’t hand in I’ll fail one assignment in one unit and do badly on the module and it’ll bring down my overall grade but… what impact will that really have on my life?

Obviously I’m really trying not to have this approach and I want to do as well in my masters as I can… but the point still stands, consequences are minimal! Which obviously really doesn’t help with the whole mental health malarky.

I’ve tried making the most of schedules and lists – I’ve made a morning routine list, I’ve got my daily to do lists, an evening routine list, a list of creative things to do in quarantine if I find myself with nothing to do (slash… procrastinating…). It’s got past the point of helping though.

I wish I could say I’ve found this amazing cure all that’s going to help everyone struggling with their mental health as if everyone experiences mental health issues in the same way… But I haven’t (and that’s obviously not how mental illness works). At this point, I’m just trying to get through this last deadline I’ve got for uni and then trying to take each day as it comes.

On Friday (22nd May), my boyfriend and I will have been in isolation for 10 weeks, leaving the house once a week for food shopping and occasionally going for walks (but the people in our area don’t seem to be familiar with the concept of social distancing and that really helps my anxiety…). We’re finding new areas to walk in and there’s a woods not too far from our house where everyone is really considerate and kind. We’re trying to make the effort to walk every day because it’s good for both of us both from an exercise and mental point of view.

No one knows how much longer lockdown is going to go on for – if people keep disregarding social distancing rules, then it’ll go on for longer, if cases continue to go down then things might be allowed to start reopening soon. There’s no way to put a date on when things might be able to start going back to normal.

But we all have to prioritise what’s best for us – trying to listen to our own needs as much as possible; taking things slow and stepping back or even keeping up a routine and any sense of normalcy. Things are hard but we will get through this – you’ve survived 100% of your bad days and you will make it through this.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I’m cutting down my screentime

2020, books, creativity, lifestyle, mental health, writing

Hello!

I know that I don’t need to reiterate that quarantine is hard, we all know that, but one thing a lot of us have inadvertently spent a lot more time doing is looking at screens – from scrolling through Instagram, to working from home with a less regimented schedule, to Netflix to video games; so much of our entertainment is on screens.

Something I’m noticing more and more recently is that spending all day going from my phone to my laptop to the TV and back isn’t doing me any good – I don’t think it’s helping my sleep and I know I feel better when I’ve spent some time away.

I thought I’d collate a little list of the off-screen things I’m really enjoying at the moment so I can come back so it when I’m feeling a bit uninspired and maybe it’ll give you some ideas too!


  • cross stitch

I bought one of those little kits from Hobbycraft before everything closed and then ignored it for weeks. So when the weather picked up I sat outside with my cross stitch and it was lovely – I’ve been doing it on and off and I’ve nearly finished it now. It’s lovely to sit down and follow a pattern and make something creative – something that takes just enough brain power to keep you occupied but not enough brain power that it’s too hard. I’ve just bought a new kit from Etsy and I’m really excited about it.

  • knitting

I swear I have other creative hobbies that aren’t related to sewing. In my house I have one set of knitting needles and one ball of wool, but my mum sent me a pattern to make ‘ear savers’ which is essentially a headband to make face masks more comfortable for front line medical staff so I’m learning new stitches and hopefully I’ll actually be able to make something useful. Once you’ve nailed the new stitches it’s very therapeutic too!

  • making lists with coloured pens

Post-quarantine lists, things to do in quarantine, daily to do lists, weekly meal plans – everything is more exciting when you use coloured pens.

  • skincare

Spending even 5 minutes just to look after your skin and moisturise, maybe doing a face mask or a foot mask – it feels like a nice to make that time to treat yourself! Go all out and have a bath if you like, I have to wait for our new bath plug to arrive though and that’s a bit anticlimactic.

  • reading

I know I’ve been banging on about reading a lot this year but considering my goal for 2020 was 12 books and I just finished my 20th and I’m feeling more creatively driven by reading and writing than I’ve felt in an awfully long time, I’m justifiably excited about it. With the weather being typically British (unpredictable), reading is the perfect activity for sitting out in the garden catching some of that vitamin D or snuggled inside while the wind does its best to tear the trees down. So many of us have an ongoing ‘to be read’ pile and we might as well make the most of trying to cut it down a little whilst we’re encouraged to stay indoors.

  • gardening

I don’t necessarily mean landscaping your garden to make raised vegetable beds and only eating your own homegrown produce this summer! I mean making the most of the space you have (a windowsill, a balcony, any outside space) and growing something – there’s so many lovely indoor plants that can flourish at this time of year.

And it doesn’t have to be expensive – I bought a bag of soil, a small set of pots, a selection of flower seeds, some basic tools and gardening gloves in my weekly Asda shop for less than £20 and the joy of watching the seeds I planted turn into little shoots and flourishing is so satisfying and going out and watering them every day is incredibly therapeutic. I have to resist buying more every time I go shopping!

If you’re not sure where to start, I believe you can buy kitchen windowsill herb kits and grow the seasonings you use to cook! Our kitchen doesn’t have a window so I’ve opted for flowers this year but I definitely want to try tomatoes, peppers and courgettes next year!

  • journalling

If the world feels a bit big right now, I can’t express anything more therapeutic than getting all your feelings out on paper. It usually makes me feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest, sometimes it’s just a little bit so I can take a slightly bigger breath and sometimes I feel light as air but getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper is so healthy.

Then if you want you could even destroy the paper – I think I’m going to ceremoniously burn my journal when I’m finished with it. I can pretend it’s symbolic about a ‘chapter of my life ending’ but let’s be real; 1) a fire pit in the summer with friends is the best so might as well provide some kindling, 2) same applies to a BBQ, 3) there’s some parts of my life documented in that journal that I would really enjoy destroying and 4) it probably would be quite symbolic and provide a nice sense of closure.

The destroying isn’t the key part – it doesn’t even have to be on paper; you could make a private social media account that’s just for you, you could do it on the notes app on your phone or have a document on your computer. You can do it however you want in whatever medium you want, but I thoroughly recommend it.


If you’ve got any hobbies or activities that you’ve taken up during quarantine – whether to spend more time offline or to help your mental health – leave them in a comment below! We can make a big master post of ideas!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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finishing my masters in quarantine…

2020, mental health, student

Hello!

Everyone’s been effected in so many different ways by the corona virus pandemic , but as someone who is only a couple of years out of their undergraduate degree and trying to finish a masters degree, I’ve seen a lot of people who’s studies have been negatively effected by the virus.

Graduation ceremonies have been cancelled, deadlines have been shifted, ‘safety nets’ have been brought in so people’s grades can’t be negatively impacted, student loans have been spent on accommodation people aren’t living in and all in all, it’s been a mixed bag.

Post graduate loans are a joke so my last instalment came in at the beginning of April and more than half of it went on course fees for a course that’s been not cancelled but there’s no more teaching just a bunch of online tutorials and self teaching (which isn’t that different to usual… the whole course has been a joke but I could do a whole blog post on that on it’s own but I probably won’t in case they see it and decide to fail me lol). I’m really hoping for a refund otherwise finances are going to get really bloody tight in my house because I can’t get a job when everyone’s working from home and no one’s hiring so a little £2,000 refund would be lush.

Aside from finances, the whole thing has been weird – over my third year at uni in Southampton and the whole course at Oxford Brookes, I’ve worked really hard to develop a routine where I work on campus and I relax at home. It’s not always 100% solid but it meant that when I came home, I could almost leave my stress at the door and know that this is my place to chill.

Then everything closed and I had to completely rewire everything in my brain about working from home.

That was the biggest obstacle, but this was mid-March when it all kicked off. 4 of my 7 semester 2 deadlines had been pushed back to the end of April, with two more on May 1st and the last on May 7th. With about six weeks to work on these four big assignments. Once I overcame the initial ‘omg I don’t know how to work from home’, I flourished having something to focus on – I made myself a schedule, I did a little bit of work every day and I actually finished all four assignments 2 days before hand in and ended up having the big ‘four assignment hand in day’ completely off because I’d submitted everything by, like, 9am.

I thought my student life had been revolutionised – I had become one of those students I always envied and I was feeling very smug, I’ll be honest.

Then I crashed, my anxiety hit me like a truck, the two written assignments I had due for May 1st were a real ball ache and the assignment I had due on the 7th where I had to teach myself more about motion capture, animation, working with a group member who is currently at home in Poland all within less than 10 days? It all fell apart a bit.

I realised early enough in advance that there was no way I was ever going to be able to finish the animation project by the 7th and my uni is doing a ‘two week grace period’ extension with no questions ask, so that one’s still ongoing. But the two written assignments should have taken me a day, maybe a day and a half tops and my brain was in such a poor state that it took me a week, several edible rewards and a lot of coaxing from my boyfriend and my mum.

Because between corona virus, lecturer’s that either never give feedback (or are incredibly nit-picky) and the graduate job market as turbulent as it is, finding the motivation to care or to see a point in all of it is seems impossible. When they’re talking about the world taking possibly years to stabilise after this pandemic and the thought of starting a career and really starting adult life (saving for a wedding, house, kids etc) is just so big. The world feels too big and I feel so small and insignificant.

I wish I had a nice conclusion like “I suddenly realised XYZ and now I’m a-okay again!”. I got my two written assignments in, I’ve now got over two weeks to work on my animation and I’ve just found out that all my dissertation deadlines have been pushed back and there’s an option to delay the unit and pick it back up when uni is open again, so the pressure has eased a bit there.

My masters is ending in a way I never thought it would – this course has introduced me to four girls that I know I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life and we didn’t even know our last day at uni together was our last day. In theory we’re all due to graduate in Summer ’21 so we’ll all get to do that together but right now? It all feels very uncertain.

I have a lot of work still to do and I’m focusing on that as much as possible – giving myself a routine, trying to stay productive and fill my time with new skills and learning as well as working on my masters. I’m going to write a post later this week all about my weeks in isolation but uni wise, this all feels like it’s not real.

I really hope we get to go back to campus to work on our dissertations and I get to spend more time with the girls in the edit suite, gossiping and snacking more than working. I love being a student and whilst I now feel I’m definitely ready to move into a career and start properly making a life for myself, I loved the student experience and I’ll miss my commute to Oxford to see my friends.

It’s not the ending that any of us finishing our courses this year wanted, but we’ve got to make the most of what we’ve got. I’ve got somewhere to quarantine, I’ve got my boyfriend home which doesn’t happen this much ever, we’re financially stable (for now), we’ve got food in the house and we’re healthy. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all that stuff when your laptop charger’s broken and you can’t work on anything normally and you’re anxiety is bad and you’re putting on weight (you=me), but things are okay really and practising the gratitude will make things easier.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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