choosing relaxing over ‘productivity’

2021, mental health, organisation

Hello!

I am someone who very much values herself over how much I get done – a ‘good’ day is one when I’ve ticked off everything on my to do list, a ‘great’ day is when I’ve started on the next days to do list and a ‘bad’ day is when I have too much to comprehend.

Over lockdowns and general pandemic times of 2020, I learned that crafting is something I really enjoy and find really relaxing – it started with cross stitch, then knitting and sewing, then some paper crafts and scrapbooking, now a combination of them all are integrated into my yearly goals.

So adapting my mentality about ‘to do lists’ and how I equate my mood and the value of my time has been a major priority for 2021 – I’ve been slowly cutting down the number of tasks on my to do list over the last year or so; from 8 tasks, to 6 and now 5.

The main thing I’ve had to adapt is recognising that my ‘free’ time doesn’t have to be ‘filled’ – it doesn’t need to be ‘productive’. Last weekend, I finished my list for the day and my immediate thought was ‘well I could make a start on tomorrow’s list’, rather than letting myself have the rest of the day to properly relax – to let myself knit while watching the last episode of Bridgerton, to practice using my sewing machine; to just sit and scroll mindlessly on the sofa with a packet of biscuits!

Readjusting my relationship with productivity and choosing to stop putting pressure on myself and learn how to relax can only be good for my mental health in the long run, surely? Slowly learning how to get through the day without feeling constantly stressed is probably going to be better for my sleep, my heart rate and even my productivity because I’m putting a new focus on what I’m labelling as a priority.

That doesn’t make it easy – we live in a society where we always want to be busy so we can feel productive and not be bored and have to sit with my own thoughts for too long, I’m always looking to tick off a task or do something ‘helpful’, but I am learning to allow myself to spend time watching YouTube and colouring, knitting and practicing sewing.

I’m really enjoying sewing, can you tell?

You see all these people on instagram that work 24/7 and they’re ‘hustling’ and they’re posting about what a #girlboss they are and that’s great for them, but that wouldn’t work for me – I’d burn out, I wouldn’t be happy and I wouldn’t get the results I wanted from it. But learning to relax, working on my mental (and consequently my physical) health and giving myself proper time to rest, means I can perform better in my job, and be my own #girlboss in my own way.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

losing my sense of style + my body positivity

2021, fashion, mental health

Hello!

I’ve never been a person who’s confident in their body – as someone who spent their childhood and teenage years prancing round a dance studio in leotards surrounded by stick thin ballerinas feeling inadequate because I had a lil belly and my arms jiggled (I was a size 12, I was bigger but not big) I’ve always felt insecure. As I went to uni and put on even more weight and went from ‘a little bit podgy’ to ‘properly plus sized’ my already minimal self-confidence plummeted further.

And in the last year, I feel all sense of ‘self’ in my outward appearance has completely evaporated. Most of us have spent the majority of the last year not getting dressed ‘properly’ at all – loungewear sets became all the rage, the ‘lockdown pounds’ became a (horrible) thing and many of our clothes have done nothing but gather dust with no reason to wear them.

Don’t get me wrong – I love fashion (in my own way); I like experimenting with clothes and figuring out how to take looks I like from girls who don’t look like me and make them my own. I like giving girly outfits a grungy twist with a leather jacket and Dr Marten’s and pretending I’m more edgy than someone who listens to tiktok songs on Spotify and turns up to video meetings earlier than necessary because I’m scared of being late. I love wearing trousers that aren’t jeans and patterns and colours; cosy oversized jumpers and thinking about curating a wardrobe that lasts rather than buying new clothes on a whim for the short-term endorphin hit.

But every day I turn to a pair of leggings and a variation of a t-shirt and hoodie or a sweatshirt. Now I feel like all of my clothes are too tight and I want to feel like I’m being drowned – like a child wearing their dad’s clothes.

I regret giving my mustard hoodie that was (literally) 12 sizes too big for me to my sister.

I mean, she loves it and wears it all the time so it went to a good home but still.

I feel like I need to ‘reinvent’ my style – put more effort into getting dressed and enjoying the outfits I wear, but those outfits aren’t meant for sitting in my living room on my own working from home 8 hours a day. So how do I get out of this funk? Do I buy myself some massively oversized clothes and see if hiding my body makes me feel better? Do I start chanting some mantras about loving myself as I am (even though I really don’t)? Do I start making myself get dressed and do make up even when I don’t have the energy for it?

I wish I had answers.

One of the options should probably be to do a wardrobe clear out and get rid of the clothes that don’t make me happy. But right now, I don’t think it’s the clothes that are the problem. I think my desire to want to hide in my clothes is a reflection of me and not my wardrobe.

For now, my response is to wear what makes me feel comfortable for the day – if I want to wear a shirt, if I want to wear a t-shirt dress, if I want to pull my hood up over my face and pull the strings tight, it’ll make each day easier. Everyone is struggling right now – no one’s hardships can be compared to another because the universe it throwing us the biggest curveball it can in turning the world as we know it upside down and we handle that how we can. Predominantly with loungewear.

log Forcing myself to feel something I don’t about my body is never going to help me on the journey to loving it – making the effort to eat good food, exercise more than 0 times a week and find clothes that don’t make me feel like a clown are enough to get through one day at a time.

That’ll do for now.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

handling anxiety when working from home

2021, mental health

Hello!

There are so many stereotypes about anxiety but like any other mental illness, everyone experiences symptoms differently. Not everyone’s anxiety is a racing heart and shaking hands. Not everybody’s anxiety is feeling stuck in bed and not getting dressed. It can be completely zoning out in a conversation, looking at a document on a screen and feeling like you can’t see the words or even looking at your calendar and feeling like you have absolutely no time do to anything you need to, thinking you’re a complete failure and wondering why you were ever hired in the first place…

But that’s not true, despite what your brain tells you.

I’ve only been working from home for a month, but starting a new job in lockdown is daunting and scary in completely different ways and even on my team I know I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s going on. So I thought I’d collate a few of the things I’ve tried out in the last few weeks to help ease my anxiety when I’m working from home and need to get stuff done.

  • take a 5 minute break

I have a mode on my phone called ‘Focus Mode’ which disables select apps and notifications during work hours. So if I want to go on Instagram, it asks me if I want to take a 5 minute break and I think this is a great way to have a moment to step back. I let myself switch off for a little bit, I know that I won’t get distracted for hours and the app will automatically close and lock itself again unless you tell it otherwise.

Even just 5 minutes of scrolling mindlessly I find calms me down enough to feel ready to tackle whatever it was that was overwhelming me. It’s not a lot, but just that moment to step away can be enough to re-centre and feel more in control.

  • organised your workload

Whether it’s writing everything out on post-it notes, using highlighters or just making a new to do list, sometimes re-organising your workload can make things seem more achievable and less anxiety inducing.

If you’ve got a really big task or project, write down a step by step guide to define what you need to do to get it done. Put a deadline on each task if you know that will help you feel more comfortable with doing it or if your department needs things by certain times. Put them all on separate post it notes and pile them on top of each other so you only see one task at a time if you think that would work for you.

There are so many organisation tips and ideas online, even spending 5 minutes looking for new ways to organise your workload can make it feel less intimidating.

Maybe organisation doesn’t help everyone’s anxiety, but it definitely helps me to feel more in control when I know exactly what I need to do and when.

  • don’t work out of work hours

This isn’t particularly helpful when you’re in the midst of feeling anxious, but I’ve found being very rigid about not looking at my emails after 5pm and not working on anything over the weekend has made it easier to relax in my off time.

This is much easier in some professions than others – I work in marketing so it’s relatively easy to keep work time as work time and my personal time as time for me, but in other industries or other companies that might be much harder; whether you’re working with people that continue to exist outside of work hours or whether your boss is much more demanding and less respectful of your personal time.

For my anxiety, I know not letting myself work on anything whilst I’m not being paid for it makes it easier to look after myself in my personal time. The fact I spend most of my personal time pushing myself to ‘achieve more’ with blogging and my bookstagram account and constant to do lists is beyond the point…

  • treat yourself to a nice drink or snack

Now we’ve all been subjected to the ‘new year, healthy eating’, ‘the diet starts on Monday’ mentality and whilst we’ve been at home, not snacking all the time is a real challenge.

But enforcing this self-set ‘rules’ on yourself when you’re already mentally struggling isn’t going to make anything easier. And if you’re anything like me it just means you think about it more.

Whether it’s a nice homemade hot chocolate, a packet of biscuits or a late afternoon packet of crisps, just letting yourself snack on what you want when you’re anxious can sometimes make the craving go away and make it easier to concentrate.

  • have an anxiety combatting activity to hand

When I had a really bad day a few weeks ago, I ended up sitting with a work conference on in the background and colouring. I was still paying attention to the conference and what was being said, but I was borderline anxiety-attack and I had to prioritise myself for a moment.

I keep feeling guilty about not working 100% in my working hours but 1) 100% is exhausting and 2) if I weren’t working from home, there’d be natural breaks in the day – chats after meetings, tea breaks, day to day desk chatter – this is what I don’t get working from home, so taking a few minutes for myself to sit back and not work for a second is fine.

If I felt anxious in the office, I’m sure my manager would be okay with me taking 10 minutes to calm myself down and feel okay again.

So sometimes, when I feel really on edge, I’ll take a few minutes to do some colouring. It helps clear my mind and focus on one, inconsequential thing for a little while and it can make all the difference.

Anxiety is hard enough to navigate in the ‘normal’ world, but during a pandemic? That’s been going on for nearly a year? Everyone’s feeling the strain but your feelings don’t need to be valued against someone else’s – you are allowed to feel however you feel and handle that however you want to. Give yourself a break – you’re doing okay!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

self care tips for when getting out of bed is hard

2021, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

I’m not qualified to give advice on mental health, but I have been living with a mental health condition that has been somewhat deteriorating as the pandemic goes on, so I thought I’d collate a list of tips and tricks I’ve been putting into practice over the past few months that can make day to day life a little bit easier, when life is already hard enough.

  • if you need to shower, have a 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner so you only really need to use one product and it feels less intimidating. It’ll only take a few minutes (depending on how efficient your shower is) and hopefully you’ll feel better for being all fresh and clean (clean, new pyjamas are always wonderful after a shower too).
  • sticking with the theme of washing, doing dishes is one of the things I find so hard when I’m feeling low but the longer you leave it, the more it piles up and the worse it feels. If you do feel up to do anything (no judgement from me if you don’t), fill one washing up bowl, fill it with hot water and some bubbles and make your way through that one bowl. Put on some boppy music, get the washing up gloves on and just get through the one bowl. I find having a definitive end makes something much easier. If you’d rather, set a ten minute timer and do whatever you can in ten minutes – even doing a little bit is better than nothing.
  • You’ve got to eat even if you don’t feel like it, but this one is worth a bit of preparation on a good day in advance – either, batch cook and freeze a portion of something easy that you can defrost and microwave or have some microwave meals or easy frozen food like chicken nuggets in the freezer, that way you know you can feed yourself without it becoming a big hurdle to climb over. If it’s got vegetables in, that’s a bonus, if you just need some oven chip potato-y goodness, you do you.
  • Download a habit app for the basic things – not only will it serve as a physical reminder to do them every day, but ticking it off can be a great hit of endorphins when you really need them! I have reminders every day for brushing my teeth, moisturising and taking my medication and it’s useful not only to remind me to do those things, but it lets me know when I’ve stayed up too late as well.
  • Little tasks like watering any house plants, painting your nails or writing a new to do list are smaller things (at least for me) that feel more achievable and avoid doing the ‘big scary tasks’ for a little bit. If you’re feeling a bit more motivated (or want to do another one of those productive procrastination tasks like making lists) maybe you can take the ‘big scary’ task and break it down into smaller ones to make it feel more manageable. Then if you want, set a timer for an hour or so to work on whatever it is you need to do, but know that end he end of that hour you’ve achieved something and that’s enough!
  • Change your clothes – even if it’s from pyjamas you’ve slept in to clean pyjamas and taking your hair down, brushing it and putting it back up again can make you feel so much fresher.

These are only little things, but on days where you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed till the late afternoon, little things like this can make all the difference. The psychological impact of feeling like we need to be on it 16 hours a day is so damaging and so hard to get out of.

When I drafted this post I wasn’t working a 9 to 5 job from home and now that I am, this kind of self care on bad days is much more difficult to implement. But I think taking it slow, communicating with your managers or whoever when you need to, and just doing what you can is enough to get through it.

Being gentle with yourself is the only way anyone can get through a pandemic – take it one day at a time, do what you can and advocate for yourself when you need to. You can to this – this will end.

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

Sophie xx

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

New Year, No Plan

2020, goals, mental health

Hello,

Like many of us at this time of year, December often gets my thinking about setting goals for the next year – call them New Years Resolutions, 2021 goals or anything else, a lot of people really like the turn of a new year to be able to adopt a fresh new mindset and try and make lifestyle changes.

If you’ve read any of my goal blog posts, you’ll know I’m a massive goals person and won’t be surprised that I’ve been thinking about and making notes about what I want to achieve in 2021 for a few months now. When inspiration hits I have to write it down, or I will not remember!

And whilst setting goals and the New Year can be a great new start and a chance to refresh, it can also be really intimidating if you don’t know what the year is going to hold. When I planned this post I’d been applying for jobs with no reply (though I’m now in discussion about potential work starting next year… but I don’t want to speak too soon) and not knowing what could fill each day can be daunting, lonely and hopeless.

And after the year we’ve all lived through, lonely and hopeless have a whole new meaning.

People throw around phrases like ‘it has to be better next year!’ but if we’ve learnt anything is that we don’t know what’s coming and we can’t expect it to be better. 2021 can’t be this beacon of hope where we expect everything to return to ‘normal’ – this week, the British Government have announced a lot more places moving into Tier 3 (very high risk) measures and despite a vaccine being given, there’s a whole lot of talk about things getting worse before they ever get better. So putting too much hope on 2021 is the kind of optimism my realism can’t get behind.

So 2021 is a mystery, like every New Year is, but with the experience of 2020 behind us it feels a bit different this year. Thus, going into the New Year with no plan feels impossible.

Granted, there’s always things to be grateful for – having our health, a roof over our head and food in the fridge has meant so much more this year, being with someone who’s not lost their job and is still working is a privilege and even just living with someone and having company feels like a luxury. But that doesn’t make not knowing what could come in 2021 any less scary.

Not knowing is the worst kind of not having control and for the control freaks among us, that’s where a lot of feelings of intimidation come from. But there are ways to make it easier – I’m a huge advocate for to do lists, setting yearly and monthly goals to help with consistent progress, adapting how daily to do lists are made to suit what makes you feel productive and learning to check in with yourself to learn what makes you feel calmer and happier and working on it.

Looking ahead is always scary, whether it’s a year, a decade or a lifetime, but being able to reign it in, take it a week, a day or even an hour at a time feels more achievable. Working on mindfulness to tune into our psychological and physical needs and intuitively get to know our bodies can be hugely beneficial to our wellbeing. Even things like a skincare routine and a healthier diet are short term things that are worth focusing on.

I’m not saying this from a position of someone who’s ‘perfected’ any of this – my to do list today is about 14 tasks long because I’ve been feeling a bit low this week and not sleeping well, I’ve not opened my meditation app in months and I 100% do not regularly use any of my skincare products, but I know that when I feel ready, spending time on these things will be good for me. And I will be okay.

New Year’s is a strange time of year – it can be incredibly sad to end, excited for a new beginning, grief for those we may have lost, anticipation of plans for the coming year; a whole host of emotions, good and bad. When I was younger, I hated New Years because I was so depressed I couldn’t see my life getting better, then when I was at uni I worried that things would get worse and the evidence of the passing of time scared me. But now? The New Year is going to come and go anyway, so I’m learning to accept that the year will bring whatever it brings and I can only control what is in my power.

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

Sophie xx

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

December Goals

2020, crafting, goals, mental health

Hello!

Somehow we’re on the last month of the year, even though many of us are still mentally stuck in March! This year really has been a whirlwind hasn’t it? If you’d told anyone last year we’d spend half the year cancelling plans, wearing face masks to the shops and constantly being told to ‘think of the NHS’ while the government chronically under funds them and doesn’t value the true key workers in this pandemic, they’d laugh in your face! No way would we believe anything that drastic.

But here we are! The last month of the year; the home stretch!

Personally, I’m still taking things slow – this year has put a massive strain on everyone’s mental health and I need to take things slow for my own sake right now. I’m applying for jobs since finishing my masters and having had the worst luck after my undergrad in 2018 (hundreds of jobs, rejection emails basically every day for months, not a good time) I’m taking a much more gentle approach this time around. Rather than going all out putting lots of pressure on myself to ‘achieve’ by the end of the year, I’m going to try and achieve a better relationship with myself instead!

But as always, I’m setting five mini goals to focus on in December!

  1. Vlogmas! – I started my YouTube channel on December 1st 2013 doing Vlogmas – the challenge of making a video every single day of advent. Many YouTubers make daily vlogs, some do 24 days of content but either way I decided to give it another go this year – this is where it all began for me and I’ve not been making a lot of YouTube videos recently, so I thought a challenge like this will help me figure out what I want the content on my channel to be and can try to redirect some of my creativity into video making. I just published the first video – a little life update – if you’d like to have a look!
  2. Plan New Year’s Resolutions – I love goals and I’ve learnt a lot this year about being flexible with my goals (looking at 1. travel, 2. putting pressure on myself to save money with no income and 3. developing skills I wanted to make myself have, rather than what I’m actually interested in) and I’ve been trying to make much more realistic goals. An acronym I heard a lot from careers departments is setting SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound – to help set goals that are actually a step in the right direction, and not a mountain that seems impossible to climb.
  3. Read gardening books and prepare for next year’s garden – I really enjoyed growing my own flowers this year and my dad bought me some gardening books in the summer that I said I would learn from in the winter ahead of next year’s gardening season! I want to figure out the best vegetables to grow when you can’t plant anything in the ground and go into it with more of a sense of what I’m doing. I might even start a brand new gardening notebook! I’m actually unironically really enthusiastic about gardening!
  4. Christmas crafts! – and from one granny activity to the next, I’ve loved my chilled afternoons cross stitching, knitting and crafting in the last few weeks – from making Christmas presents to fixing some clothes, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making crafting part of my daily routine to make more of an effort to switch off and relax. I want to get some paper chains, I want to sew some festive things and I’ve got a stack of cardboard boxes I saved with intent to craft so I better use them!
  5. Read one book – in the first 8 months of the year I couldn’t stop reading, when my mental health declined I didn’t have the energy and I got out of the habit. Sleeping and my bedtime routine has been something I struggle with recently, so I don’t want to put any pressure on myself to get back to reading every night straight away again, but if I can finish one book this month that would be amazing.

And my other monthly goal is to have a date night with my fiancé at some point! He’s really busy with work at the moment, but hopefully we’ll find some time to get take out and watch a movie or something!

I was really excited about Christmas in November and now December’s here I think I’m more intimidated by the end of the year than I thought I would be. But I’m making the most of not working right now to try and look after myself, any tips are more than welcome!

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

Sophie xx

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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

YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram