working out (or not working out?) in quarantine | unfitness update

2020, fitness, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

Working out at home has never been easier – with all the fitness influencers under the sun doing live workouts on Instagram while gyms and classes and everything is shut, so many apps are doing free trials and everywhere it seems people are posting timelapses of their at-home-yoga routine in their ginormous gardens.

Overall, the pressure to exercise and ‘make the most’ of all these resources and time is very intimidating. Especially if you don’t have a ginormous garden or a yoga mat, let alone motivation, energy and any confidence to post it online for other people to scrutinise and /or feel pressured by.

But there are ways to make exercise feel less intimidating at this time so I think I’d note a few of my ideas to how I’m actually finding the headspace (and the physical space in my little house) to exercise.

Firstly, you don’t have to exercise if you don’t want to – if you’re happy with your health and fitness and have no desire to workout at all, don’t do it. Put your energy into something you’re passionate about! Otherwise you’re just wasting your own time.

Once you have then decided whether you actually want to workout or not, I’d recommend with starting with the goal of exercising just once a week – I feel like everywhere I look someone’s saying 2-3 times a week, 3-4 times a week, every weekday, every day and it all just feels like so much? If you start with once a week and hate it you can stop, if you really enjoy it you can build it up from there. Start gently and do it more regularly if you get into it, try not to put any pressure on yourself.

Personally, I’m someone who works so much better with guidance, so if you can find a live class or a YouTube video, it can feel a lot less intimidating that a list of exercise and number of reps (and it can kind of feel like there’s someone doing it with you?). I started with ‘PE with Joe’ on the Body Coach channel – yes it’s a 9am workout designed for children to still be able to do PE but wow it’s actually a pretty intense hiit workout. The ‘live’ bit makes you feel like you’re being cheered on but the ‘being in your own living room’ bit makes me feel a little bit sneaky when I adapt the exercises for my dodgy joints and bad stamina.

I also use a variety of apps depending on what mood I’m in – some of them are subscription apps but have limited programs available for free and sometimes I just search for things on YouTube but there’s loads of PT style workouts available.

If full on ‘working out’ feels a bit intimidating, or you’re wanting to get fitter but don’t know where to start (or everything feels a bit advanced), going for walks is exercise enough! I moved to an area that has considerably more hills than my hometown and it’s only now that I’m getting to explore it and realising how unfit I am.

I got tagged in this ‘run 5k, donate £5, tag 5 people’ thing on Instagram (thanks Nick) and I went for a 5k walk with my boyfriend. The uphill was hard, we managed to jog for about 2 minutes I reckon, but it was a start. I want to start using couch to 5k again and now we’ve done some exploring I’ve found the place (that’s not quite as hilly!) to do it. It’s all about little steps building up to bigger things!

And lastly, I want to reiterate that if working out feels like a lot of pressure and stress right now, your mental health is more important and making time to centre yourself using apps like headspace is more important than anything else. I don’t want to become the kind of person who preaches about meditating, but taking 10 minutes in the morning to focus on your breath can have a great impact for the rest of the day.

These times are completely unprecedented and the way we all handle isolation, social distancing and lockdown is so personal to each of us. The most important thing is to try and listen to your body and keep yourself happy and healthy.

All my love in these strange, pandemic times!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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curating social media for your mental health

2020, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

With the current quarantine climate, most of us are spending more time on social media than usual (I know, shocker) and while it can provide immediate, short term distraction from the weight of the world right now, some of the things we see can be hurtful and make us feel worse.

I’m no expert, I’ve only very recently started recognising that some of the negative emotions I’m feeling stem from posts I’m reading on Instagram, but at a time where we’re all seeking comfort in social media more than I ever I think it’s important to at least start, or join, these kinds of discussions and help each other as much as we can.

So firstly, make the most of the unfollow button – if it’s a celebrity who’s started saying things that grind your gears or a friend who makes you feel bad about yourself (inadvertently, I’m sure) make the most of the mute button on Twitter! You can unfollow someone’s Instagram stories without unfollowing their profile – I recently unfollowed a small business owner because whilst I love her artwork, all of her stories were her complaining about how little money she made from her business and driving hits to her website at least three times a day and it made me feel deeply guilty that I couldn’t support her. Part of that emotion is on me for feeling so emotionally responsible, but I recognised that these posts complaining about every aspect of her life were just making me feel bad so I unfollowed her stories and I’ve noticed those feelings disappearing without missing the content of the stories!

Real life is a mixed bag of good and bad and I’m not saying that people should shelter the ‘bad’ stuff from social media, because it’s so normal. But how these things effect you personally isn’t a reflection of the creator and if it’s effecting you negatively, the creator would almost certainly prefer you to unfollow than to be negatively impacted by their content.

Block people if you have to – Twitter has started doing this thing where it shows you tweets other people have liked. Whilst sometimes when it’s just viral tweets of sarcastic self-deprivation or a motivating story about a dog, if you unfollow someone but still follow someone who likes all their tweets, it’s likely they’re still going to be on your timeline. If these are people you actually know then they might notice you’ve blocked them but being honest and saying it’s not personal and it’s not about them is going to be okay if they’re mature enough to start a discussion. Personally, I’ve blocked people on twitter because I follow a circle of YouTube creators that are all friends and I still like a couple of them, but a few of them were annoying me with what they posted so I unfollowed, but because I still follow their friends I see their tweets all the time. But they’re never going to know if I block them! They probably won’t care, but it means I’m protecting myself from seeing the content that upsets me.

I think that was a long winded way of saying block people who’s content you really don’t want to see if unfollowing them doesn’t work.

I’ve blocked Donald Trump on twitter for this precise reason.

It’s also important to consider what you’re posting – it’s so easy to write a sulky instagram story and I know I spent 90% of my teenage years posting to snapchat and instagram stories and twitter silently begging someone to ask if I was okay but in hindsight, all it was doing was pushing people away and making me look like I had literally nothing more to offer than telling the internet how depressed I was.

Now I have better coping mechanisms and a better support network and I realised that I was probably upsetting people with what I post. I used to convince myself that it was to get it out my system, that it was like shouting at a brick wall, but I had to make the time and effort to realise that whilst I convinced myself it was making me feel better, I needed to keep these private emotions to myself and find other ways to ‘get it out of my system’. I highly recommend writing a tweet and deleting it or starting a journal!

One thing I don’t really have a solution for is feeling left out online – at the moment there’s so many tags and challenges on Instagram stories and watching everyone from celebrities to influencers to your friends to your family tagging each other in ‘baby photo’ challenges and ‘run 5k challenges’ and ‘drink a pint’ challenges (heads up: no one cares about your 30 day song challenge), it can feel like everyone’s forgotten about you when no one’s tagging you to do things.

I think the thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter and no one really cares? The Run 5k, Donate £5, Tag 5 people thing is nice (and I don’t really want to be tagged int it) but your first picture as a couple, ‘isolation bingo’ and the ‘What I’m Doing Now’ tag? Is anyone really interested? I definitely never read all the bingo sheets (unless they’re Harry Potter themed).

I guess the message from it all is that in the end, social media doesn’t matter – you could delete every app from your phone and find another way to pass the time that will probably be infinitely better for your mental health (for example, I really want to start gardening!). But it’s not that simple and just because sometime’s we’re negatively influenced by social media doesn’t mean it’s all bad.

Sometimes the unfollow button can feel scary and personal but at the end of the day it’s your feed; make it work for you.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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my COVID-19 ‘bucket’ list

2020, creativity, goals, lifestyle, student

Hello!

‘Bucket’ list might not have been the best phrase, because I’m optimistic about not having to fit all these things in before I ‘kick the bucket’ but you get the principle – I made a (very colourful and pretty) list of things to do while we’re in lockdown.

I’ll be honest, this whole coronavirus thing is starting to weigh me down a little bit – at the beginning it was alright, I had extra time to catch up on things and my boyfriend has been home for the longest time since he started work because he’s been furloughed, all my pressing uni deadlines were pushed back and Disney+ had just been released.

Now, it’s all sinking in that this is going to be our new normal for the considerable and not knowing when it will end is the bit that’s really getting to me. There’s so many ‘we’ll just see what happens’ and ‘when this all ends’ especially in communications about my masters, there’s talk of our dissertation being pushed back which would mean my course might not finish in September as it was intended to and I don’t know when I’ll be able to start full time work. And don’t get me started on how terrified I am about re-entering the graduate job market and feeling like I’m just going to spend a year unemployed again.

But all that aside! I was coming up with lots of ideas of things I could do to make the most of having extra time at home and I worried that I’d start forgetting them, so I grabbed a piece of paper from the printer and my coloured pens and I started writing them all down!

I thought I’d share them in a blog post because I’ve seen a few of these kinds of posts floating around and I always love nosying about what everyone’s planning to do and my list isn’t super ‘productive’ per say – it’s mostly creative things that I don’t normally get time to do so if you’re looking for some crafty-ish inspiration, here’s what I’m hoping to work on when (if) my uni work lightens up a bit!

– work on t-shirt blanket – I’m a super sentimental person who used to have a massive t-shirt collection so I’ve been collecting and cutting up t-shirts for a couple of years (though some of the t-shirts are 10+ years old) and this year I finally started sticking it all together. I’m at the point where I’ve finished the first side and I want to embellish it more – using some embroidery thread to secure some of the shirts down, sewing on some patches and some lanyards I don’t use anymore and full ‘finishing’ the first side before I start with the rest of the cutouts on the other side. I’ve already made a good dent in this project but I’ll need some serious patience and free time to start sewing on something so bulky!

– catch up with scrapbook and photo album – I’ve actually done this one! I had a moderate pile of stuff for my scrapbook and a huge pile of photos that took me two days to finish sticking in and captioning, but that’s all caught up so big tick there!

– start elephant cross stitch – I bought one of those cross stitch kits from hobbycraft a couple of months ago but haven’t made time to start it. I’m thinking as it gets a bit warmer and the six squares of patio outside our front door get a bit more sunlight (and uni work dies down a bit…) I can make the most of having some creative, relaxing and relatively simple to do. Though if I really enjoy it I’m going to have to head onto amazon and buy some more…

– try new recipes* (*if they have the ingredients at the shop) – so far the closest I’ve got is playing ‘Ready Steady Cook’ with the contents of the fridge but it’s been fun to have more time to cook but also to just shove something frozen in the oven sometimes too. If you have any yummy recipe suggestions please do let me know!!

the smiley potato stars on top of our beef hot pot was a real highlight

– use film/DSLR cameras – I used up all the film in my film camera pretty quickly and seeing as I can’t go get it developed anywhere, I’m not in a rush to put my next roll in. Though I’m planning to use my DSLR camera a bit more this week around the house and if I can actually get some decent photos maybe I can justify buying a better camera (with what money lol).

– start a new blog or YouTube series – this one I have actually set the wheels in motion! My mum came up with the idea that we should start writing children’s stories and making little videos on YouTube that we can send to my godmother’s kids. I think we’re both kind of hoping we can go viral or something but also we’re just going to have fun writing stories and making videos from 100 miles apart! I also have an idea for a new blog series but I’m going to keep it to myself for now!

– try some new at home workouts – HIIT/yoga/zumba – with so many creators and fitness companies doing live workouts and free months on apps, now is the prime time to get into a new fitness routine. But when you have a living room that can just about fit a yoga mat in if you move the coffee table (I don’t even have a yoga mat) and no garden (we technically have a little patio area but the neighbour’s garden is right next to it and I’m not here for concrete workouts) there’s a limit to what you can do! I’ve done a couple of Joe Wicks live workouts, I’ve tried a few yoga videos and I’d love to do a live dance class but with a boyfriend in a small hour and nowhere he can really go (and not wanting to do the class with him in the room…) I don’t think it’s an option. But I’m going to try a stretch workout from the Nike training app and I might try and get back into Couch to 5k if we’re still allowed to go out and exercise but it’s not a priority for me right now. I’ve managed three weeks of exercising twice a week and I’m pretty proud of myself!

– sort through stuff in alcove – another tick! The alcove is what I call my little cupboard in the bedroom where my dressing table and some of my personal belongings are. I went through all the shelves and sorted them all properly, put some stuff out for the charity shops and it feels so much neater and tidier now.

– keep up with uni work (develop and refine skills) – this one isn’t so much a goal as much as a necessity, but I’m hoping to use this time to really do the best I can on the assignments I have. Most of my assignments have been modified and they’re not the way any of us really wanted to finish this course but I’ve got a big calendar, I’ve planned out tasks to do most days (every day is a lot to ask) and although today I’m not feeling particularly motivated, even just doing a little bit means less to do next time I do some work, so trying to keep that in mind!

This time isn’t easy for anyone – I know I’m in an incredibly fortunate position to still have income, to not have too much to do and to have the luxury of making a ‘time filling’ list at all, but that doesn’t mean it’s not very scary times to be living in.

I hope you and your loved ones are happy and healthy!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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why I’m setting monthly goals on lockdown | April Goals 2020

2020, creativity, goals

Hello!

These past few weeks have been absolutely mad, haven’t they? I’m now in my third week of isolation (though I’ve been out a few times to go to the shops for food because I don’t have any alternatives) and I was quite peppy at first, looking forward to time at home with my boyfriend and catching up on my mammoth to do list.

Now the motivation to do any uni work is drying up and the fact this is life for a few weeks, maybe months is starting to set in and my mental health is taking a knock, but I’m trying my best to stay positive – not putting any pressure to ‘achieve’ anything and trying to listen to my body and be gentle with myself.

But with that in mind, I’m still trying to maintain a routine of some sort and I’ve been setting monthly mini goals for upwards of two years now (just looked it up – I started in March 2018, so definitely two years!). These goals really help me focus and I love seeing myself making progress, it’s incredibly satisfying, so I’m going to try and uphold that while we’re all safe in lockdown!

With the COVID-19 crisis in mind, I’ve tried to keep these goals as relevant and achievable as I can. What everyone determines as ‘achievable’ is so personal – some people are still working, whether it be from home or as key workers, and these people are saints, some people are finding these times really difficult and getting out of bed and feeding themselves is a challenge, so please don’t compare yourself or what you’re doing to my personal goals because they’re just that – personal goals.

1. Workout once a week – it’s been one of my goals forever to lose weight, eat healthier and find a fitness routine I can maintain and thus far it’s not worked very well. However with all this time at home and so many amazing influencers offering so many workouts for free, now is the prime time for me to give them a go. But I’m not aiming to workout three times a week – although it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s those kinds of numbers that always pile up on me so for now I’m starting at one. Depending on how the month goes I can adjust the goal from there but for now just one. I started on April 1st with one of Joe Wicks live ‘PE’ classes and it was tough but I did it!

2. No snacking – with health and fitness in mind, being home so much more these past few weeks has meant that all I want to do is snack. Bored? Snack. Thirsty? Snack. Need motivating? Snack. Dehydrated? Body is misinterpreting that as HUNGRY, therefore; snack. Having more time to tune in to my body, I’m going to try and learn what different feelings mean (it sounds pretentious but stick with me) – logically I want to snack because I’m restricting at lunch time, so I’m experimenting with having a more filling lunch to last me through till dinner. Being home and trying to go out as little as possible means I want to make our food last as long as possible so now’s the time to try and figure out for the sake of food efficiency and being a bit healthier!

3. Maintain routine and keep up with uni work schedule – to no one’s surprise, my masters (that was already incredibly unorganised and is in the process of being complained about) is right up in the air. My assignments are all being rewritten, unit’s are completely different and there’s a lot of ‘if the uni is open by X time’ being thrown about so it’s very uncertain and granted, two of my lecturers are absolute stars and are doing so much to try and make it work. For the sake of my mental health, I need to keep up with to do lists and trying to get something done every single day but I can see a future me where that is more challenging, so I want to adapt as I go along to keep up with the work I need to do so I don’t fall into a slump where I become one with the sofa. Little things like making an effort to sit on a chair at a table rather than the sofa (or my bed) make a surprising difference!

4. Work on COVID-19 bucket list with spare time – maybe ‘bucket list’ is the wrong phrase, more like ‘here’s a list of all the thing’s I said I’d do when I had more time and if I don’t write them down I’ll forget’. I’ve already done a couple of things on the list – I sorted out the stuff in the alcove and my tee blanket is very much in progress – but I’m making a big effort to manage my time to include things like these that are just for me and don’t serve a ‘greater purpose’ other than my personal enjoyment.

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Sometimes in a spur of the moment, you've got to get our the coloured pens and write a list ✍️🖍️🌈 ✨ Generally, I'm handling all this fear mongering and isolation better than I thought I would – especially with a master's degree that's now completely up in the air. But yesterday I felt the urge to write a multicoloured list of the things I want to do whilst I don't have to commute to Oxford and I have more time than I've had in years. Granted, I still have other important things to do and I'm not going to tick this list off quickly, but I wanted to make it so I don't forget. If I carry on at this pace, this list will last me the months that the virus is looking like it'll be around for! I'm trying to find the positives in isolation 😖 ✨ I was going to leave it at 'pretty colours' and post like a normal person but I'm a writer, I've always been a writer and writing is what I do – so I'm going to keep writing.

A post shared by Sophie (@sophiecountsclouds) on

5. Use film camera up, take fun photos around the house – I may have jumped the gun on this one and used up all my film at the beginning of the week and now I’ve realised I can’t get it developed anywhere and I don’t want a second film just sitting in my camera for the sake of it, I’m not rushing to put a second one in. But I might use my DSLR more instead! The one thing that’s taking me a long time to get my head around is manual photography – I’m getting there but I’m still learning so solidifying those skills will help my film photography when I get back to it.

Whenever I write long blog posts like this I remember how therapeutic blogging is for me and why it’s something I’ve kept up for over five years. I’m considering working it into my schedule to write two posts a week again but ideas are what I’m lacking in! I want my blog to be meaningful so it’s finding the balance between the two.

Let me know what you think! I hope you’re happy, safe and healthy in these scary times and please tell about all your tips and tricks for this strange time in lockdown, quarantine, isolation, social distancing (and all the other phrases that are being thrown around).

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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feeling body neutral in a world of ‘# body positivity’

2020, fashion, mental health

Hello!

We all know that loving the body you live in when we see numerous other bodies of all shapes and sizes all over our social media every day isn’t easy – ‘is this what normal looks like?’, ‘should I look more like her?’, or even ‘everything would be easier if I looked like that’.

Whilst it’s easy to say we shouldn’t think that and we should love our body however it looks, it’s never that simple, is it?

Body positivity is fantastic but wow it can be super intimidating if you’re coming from a place of years of self hatred and insecurity!

A YouTuber and influencer I’ve been following for a few years, Lucy Moon, used the phrase ‘body neutral’ on her instagram once (probably a few times) and it made me feel immediately at peace – stay with me, I know it sounds melodramatic – it just made me feel like I wasn’t fighting for this ‘glorious’ positivity that I felt like I had to feel. It gave me a phrase that I could look to that meant I could work towards feeling more comfortable in my own skin without having to love and adore everything I’ve spent so long trying to change.

Feeling body neutral can be a step towards body positivity – maybe one day I’ll love my body for everything it is, but right now I don’t hate living in it and that’s enough. It takes time to break down those mental barriers and feeling body neutral is such an inclusive step towards that. But even being body neutral is enough. As long as you’re not hurting anybody – including yourself – you don’t have to love every part of you.

My relationship with my body has completely changed in the past couple of months – I went from hating every ounce of my body to the extent that in the past I’ve had to cover up mirrors because I just couldn’t bear my own reflection to being comfortable (most days!) in my own skin. Strangely, what changed that was wearing a motion capture suit in front of my masters class.

I’d thought about volunteering to be the motion capture subject ever since I found out we were doing motion capture – the thought of pirouetting and dancing around the studio and making something creative out of it was super fun. But I hadn’t connected that wearing the motion capture suit meant showing every single lump and bump I had to a group of people I’ve realistically only known for a few months.

I volunteered, the realisation hit me, I had a minor internal panic, then I did it anyway because I was having a ‘brave day’ and sometimes you have to push yourself to do things you don’t want to do. I went to put on the suit and I was mildly mortified and then when I walked into the room… no one cared! There were no side glances, no one was violently sick and my best gals even made me feel good.

Then we learnt all about the mocap software and I danced and pranced around the room with a power ranger esqe version of me on the screen and it was a super fun afternoon. Then I pushed myself even more and went on a night out that evening (for my anxiety, that was a big deal) – and I put on a playsuit I’ve had since for five years and it still fit (granted it was a different fit but I felt amazing!) and I wore my new docs and I felt on top of the world with my best mates by my side cheering me on.

Some weirdo jiggled my wobbly arm in a nightclub and I wasn’t phased? Mostly concerned as to why a human would touch another human they don’t know that way but I flipped him off and danced the night away!

And since then, I’ve felt exactly that – body neutral. There’s still the odd day where I’ll touch my belly fat and think I’d quite like to just slice it all away, but then I get over it and my boyfriend tells me he thinks I’m sexy and I’m like you know what? I don’t feel sexy but I am gosh darn adorable.

Body neutrality gave me the space to be okay with my body without loving or hating it and if you’re having a tough time right now – don’t push yourself to feel any particular way about your body. Try not to spend time overanalysing or scrutinising – where clothes that make you feel nice, surround yourself with people that make you feel fabulous and if following ‘body positive’ people online makes you feel pressure to love yourself when you don’t, click unfollow.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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2020 book releases I’m excited for

2020, books

Hello!

I’m back on my reading hype big time this year – last year my goal was to read 12 books and I managed 9, this year I set the same goal and I’m already onto my 11th book of the year (follow me on goodreads for full updates). That means I can justify pre-ordering more books right…?

It’s not like I have probably 100+ more books waiting to be read but that’s fine. I’m on track to read nearly 50 books this year so… take from that what you will.

There’s a few new releases that I’m really looking forward to this year, so I thought for anyone with similar reading tastes to me, I’d collate them all into one place – enjoy!

The Eve Illusion – Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

I’ve been waiting for the announcement of this sequel ever since I read ‘Eve of Man’ last October – it was one of the only books I bought last year because I was in the transition of moving and didn’t have access to any of my other books. I devoured it in about three days – I love the style, I love the characters, I love the concept and I pre-ordered the sequel as soon as it was announced.

If you like YA adventure, dystopian, romance, Eve of Man is the book for you. Even if you don’t like any of those things, I recommend giving it a go because wow it blew me away. I am so excited for the sequel.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

I read Matt Haig’s non-fiction book ‘Notes On A Nervous Planet’ earlier this year and whilst I felt the whole thing was a bit disjointed and I don’t know if I really learnt anything, I liked his style and the way he thinks about life. The Midnight Library is a fiction book about a place between life and death, exploring the ‘what if’s’ and ‘what could have been’s’ and it’s not really like anything I’ve ever read before.

I don’t often ‘take a chance’ on books like this – I usually wait till I’ve seen some hype on instagram or stick with the authors who’s work I know I’m going to enjoy. I’m excited to see what Haig’s fiction style is like! And I pre-ordered this one on my kindle so I’m looking forward to using that again too.

The Magpie Society: One For Sorrow – Zoe Sugg and Amy McCulloch

I’ve been following Zoe’s work for a very long time – I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘loyal fan’, but I have consistently enjoyed her content and products. The original Zoella Beauty moisturiser scent is to die for and I have read the first two Girl Online books (I posted a review on my YouTube channel that has a surprising number of views!) and I bought Cordially Invited the day it came out… that was a coincidence to be honest, but I’m kind of accidentally loyal to whatever she brings out.

However the fact she’s collaborating with another author and the way she’s spoken about writing this novel has really hit me where I love creative writing – the passion for the characters and the plot and the words just tumbling out of your fingers in a way that sometimes surprises you as you’re writing it. I can’t help but get behind a passion project like that.

I’m yet to pre-order it because in these coronavirus times, pre-ordering books is not a priority but I think I’m going to opt for getting this one on my kindle too. I’m not normally into crime but I am a sucker for YA so I’m looking forward to branching out my reading habits this year.

Other honourable mentions go to Carrie Hope Fletcher’s modern retelling of Ballet Shoes (which I believe is coming out this year?), Hank Green’s A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour (though I’m yet to read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing) and I believe Louise Pentland is currently writing too?

Maybe I only read books written by people who make YouTube videos, but that’s why I’m trying to branch out. We’ll get there! I have a lot of backlog in my personal library that I need to catch up on so I’m finding lots of new authors there.

If you’ve got any recommendations please do let me know! I’m seriously considering altering my YouTube/Instagram pages to become exclusively books because I’m so excited about talking about books at the moment. I keep my goodreads and Instagram up to date with what I’m reading if you’re interested and I’m posting a video at the weekend of all the books I’ve read so far this year so subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to see that!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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ACHIEVING your goals for the year ✨

2020, career, goals, organisation

Hello!

love setting goals and one thing I’ve learnt in the three or so years I’ve been consistently goal setting, is finding more ways to make those goals achievable (rather than writing them down and wondering why they’re not happening).

Sometimes I think it sounds stupid – like, if you’re setting goals then just keep tabs on them and actually do stuff then you will achieve them. But sometimes a list of ‘end goals’ on a page can feel a bit intimidating, so having the steps breakdown and working on it bit by bit works really well for me.

These are my top three tips for making any goals you’ve set for the year achievable. If you want to see how I set goals and what I want to achieve in 2020 then you can read my blog post about it here!

1 – put your goals into categories!

Clearly labelling your goals and knowing why you set them can be a huge factor in making them feel more achievable. For example, if a goal is in a ‘career’ category then you know you may be able to take steps in your work environment rather than in your personal time, if a goal is in a ‘fitness’ category then you know you need to set time aside to work on that.

2 – allow yourself the flexibility to adapt your goals

Checking in with why you want to achieve your goals and whether they’re still important to you is so much better than investing your time in things you’re not interested in anymore. In my 2019 goals I initially wanted to build a freelance career because I had some freelance work, but that fell through very quickly and I drew the conclusion that freelancing isn’t suited to what I want for my career so I didn’t spend any more time working on that goal.

Let yourself change and develop your goals as you yourself change and develop.

3 – set monthly mini goals

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I set monthly goals and post about them every single month. I find this makes my goals less big and more achievable! It’s so rewarding seeing progress on something you’ve been ‘working on’ for a really long time. I stick to five goals and they’re not all related to my yearly goals because that would be a lot.

An example of breaking down one of my goals over the year is that by the end of the year I want to be working full time, whether that’s in a ‘career’ job or something more temporary and I know that I’m not going to be able to apply and just start work when I finish my dissertation in September. So I’ve been having meetings with the careers team at my university, looking back over the notes from my Professional Development Planning course I did last year to learn from that and speaking with my lecturers for advice on how to get a step up in a specific industry I might want to work in. Hopefully these steps this month and in the coming months will help me step more easily into full time work in the last quarter of the year.

Setting my mini goals is the most exciting part of the beginning of the month for me – being able to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what I didn’t achieve and what I can celebrate every month really motivates me to carry on developing myself professionally and personally.

I understand that not everyone is a goal orientated person and they way they develop themselves is more organic and less structured but I’m someone who really benefits from seeing progress and planning how I can maintain it. So I hope this helps in one way or another!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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attending my first wedding show!

2020, lifestyle, wedding

Hello!

In my head, I’ve not stopped talking about how my partner and I have decided to get married and we picked a wedding date and we’re kind of engaged but there wasn’t a proposal (yet?) and there’s not ring, but every time I post about it someone new comments saying ‘how did I miss this?!’ so here it is: my boyfriend Lucas and I are engaged. I’m going to make a video talking about ‘how it happened’ and answering any questions about the whole thing this weekend so if you have any questions let me know!

My mum has been super excited about it all ever since I told her and last weekend we went to our first wedding show together – we attended the National Wedding Show in Birmingham and I thought I’d collate a few thoughts on the whole thing because… it was a lot.

The reason we decided to go to a wedding show was because the whole ‘planning a wedding’ thing is very overwhelming – the date we’ve picked isn’t until the end of 2022, but everyone keeps telling me it will fly by but it still feels a very long way away. So going and speaking to lots of exhibitors, seeing what I’d need to be thinking about and getting some inspiration was a really great way to start.

We went into it all with a very open mind – with nothing booked and over two and a half years to go I’m in the very early stages of planning. Most of the venders I spoke to were venues because that’s the first thing that needs to be decided (I think?). Most of the venues we spoke to were surprisingly local for a National wedding event, so they were all based around Birmingham – this isn’t an ‘issue’ per say, as neither of us are dead set on a location, but it did surprise me a little whilst also making a lot of sense. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but after speaking to 10-15 venues and picking up loads of brochures, there are a couple that I really liked the sound of that I would like to consider in the long run.

The most annoying thing about the whole show was that there were loads of music venders that were super loud – they were dotted all around the stalls and it made it really difficult to hear anyone you were trying to talk to. Personally, we thought it would make more sense to have a stage that cycled through all the musical performances as the day went on (like the catwalk show that was going on in the middle of the event) and would have been fairer on the other venders who must have really struggled to get as much business when no one can hear or wants to shout to have a conversation with them.

It might make me sound like a grandma, but it didn’t make me want to work with or hire any of the performers that’s for sure.

On the brighter side, there were so many freebies – from loads of cans of lemon flavoured drinks, make-up and skincare samples, sweets, vouchers and even a bottle of rosé, we definitely made the cost of the ticket back in the free things that were handed out.

Overall, the event was busy, really crammed into an unnecessarily small space (there was another half of the hall that was completely empty at the back?) and I feel like it may have been too early to really make the most of the deal and offers for a 2022 wedding, even though the venders said it wasn’t (though that might have been because they wanted my money).

But we had a lovely day out none the less! Though, in most of this wedding planning process I’ve not decided if ‘we’ is my and my boyfriend (fiancé?) or me and my mum? In this situation is was me and my mum!

I’m actually going to another wedding fair this weekend so hopefully I’ll continue to get more ideas and really figure out all the steps I need to take to plan ‘the big day’.

I don’t plan on going to wedding fairs every weekend between now and 2022, just to clarify, if just happens that these two were consecutive weekends!

I’d love to make lots of wedding planning based content around here, particularly when it gets a bit closer to the day but let me know – do you want to see that kind of content? What planning I’m doing, spreadsheets and lists etc? I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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March Goals 2020

2020, goals, organisation, student

Hello!

I know it’s not just me but wow has March come around fast? How on Earth is it nearly March already? (Well that would be the natural progression of time, but that’s not the point)

With a new month comes new goals and a new chance to work on self improvement! Does that sound super pretentious? Hell yeah, but also not a bad thing to be working on.

This month my goals are a little heavy, but January and February was a mixed bag and it felt a little repetitive so I’m pushing myself. How well will it go? I’m not sure, but even if I make a little progress in each of these goals then it’s still progress! I’m getting better at recognising small steps of progress and celebrating them as part of the bigger picture.

Jumping straight in!

  • start planning my dissertation artefact – my dissertation isn’t due till September but I have to write a 5000 word essay and make a project, which in my case is 10 minutes of playable game and a 10 minute short animation. Neither of which I know how to do yet. But I want to start take small steps – come up with a game and animation concept, perhaps start writing a script for one (or both!) and maybe even start drawing some concept art. The focus is making a start on the project in some sort of capacity.
  • work on a new career plan based on the work I did in my PG Cert last year – my career and what I want to do with my life has been freaking me out since I had the shocking realisation that I don’t want to work in marketing. So I’ve booked an appointment with the careers team at my university and I want to use the professional development plan I made last year and redesign it to try and fit my new goals (or find some goals to fit anyway).
  • try FOUR new veggie recipes – I’ve been trying really hard to be more cautious about how much eating and get more veggies in my diet on both a ‘saving the planet’ and eating healthier point of view. But I’ve hit a bit of a stale mate so I want to try some new things! Maybe I won’t like them, but that’s fine – cooking is my time to chill and relax at the end of the day so I will enjoy the process of cooking regardless of the outcome. I’m starting next week by making a veggie tikki masala so if you want to know how that goes, probably check my instagram!
  • practice digital art – in the black friday sales last year I treated myself to a drawing tablet and I’ve used it precisely once since I got it. In line with the animation I have to create for my dissertation, I just want to practice drawing in a new way! Starting with some concept art would be beneficial on two of my goals and being able to tick two things off at once just makes my heart soar a little bit.
  • writing challenge – 18,000 words (581 words per day) – if you were following along last year you’ll know I set myself little writing challenges in the run up to NaNoWriMo in November (writing 50,000 words in 30 days!) and this year I’m doing the same. Writing has been my thing for as long as I can remember and I don’t want to lose the skill or the habit! I think I’m going to work on something new this month, but if you’d like to hear more about that just let me know!

And my two smaller goals that I’ve set myself for every month this year is to read at least one book (currently I’m above and beyond that and feeling very smug about it) and have a date night with my boyfriend, so they’re at the bottom of my list too.

This months goals are big, but I’m thinking of them as small steps in the building blocks to bigger things and as like the beginning of every month, I’m feeling fired up to achieve them.

Let me know your goals! I’m starting to think that I should find a way to set up some sort of consultancy business where I can make lists and help people with their goals and hold them accountable and stuff because I love making lists and goal setting so much. Is this a ridiculous idea? I don’t think anyone would pay for that!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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unfitness – what’s going wrong?

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

I’ve talked about my personal health and fitness journey for years now – I used to do a ‘Monday update’ post where I essentially made excuses for why I didn’t eat well or exercise and I don’t know why I thought posting this to the internet once a week was a good idea but it happened.

You may be thinking “Surely that’s what this post is doing right now?” but I like to think that the way I write about health/fitness/anything is a bit more generic and less personal, whilst anchoring it in my own ‘journey’. I don’t need to justify myself, but there it is.

So asking myself ‘what’s going wrong’ is a bit like saying ‘I’ve got a gym membership (that I haven’t used), why aren’t I getting fitter?’ – it all comes down to personal discipline, finding what works for you and making time for it. However, in a world of masters degrees, maintaining a house, keeping mental health in check and maybe even having a social life, it’s difficult to find ‘time’ for fitness.

And the reason I say ‘time’ is that as someone who prides herself in being incredibly organised and running to a pretty successful schedule, there’s always time – the motivation is always the tough bit.

I’ve been using the Nike Training app for a long time – it can schedule programmes based on what goals you want to achieve, there are lots of different workouts based on what level you are and what equipment you have and a lot of it is accessible for free which is fantastic. But, and I’m really trying not to think of this as making excuses, I did have minor dental surgery at the beginning of the month and I can honestly say that having an infected wisdom tooth is the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, so ‘pushing past’ that to workout was not something I was prepared to do.

I quite often talk about ‘mental energy’ (which sounds much more mystical and exciting than it is now that I write it down) – usually my phrase is ‘I don’t have the mental energy for that’. What this means is I usually have the time, but I don’t have the mental headspace to think about or do the thing (in this case, exercise) on top of everything else I’ve already got going on in my head. We all have our own energies, some people can make that energy go further but particularly when mental health comes into the mix, that energy source is severely depleted so you have to prioritise where that energy is going to go.

So all of this sounds like one long excuse and to be honest, it kind of is. But I’d like to think it’s putting into words what a lot of people feel.

Whilst looking back and reflecting is incredibly useful, the important bit is to use that to make changes moving forward. What am I going to do now?

Realistically, I’m not going to change much right now – my priorities are my masters and looking after myself when my head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton wool. I’d like to start doing more steps in the day because I’ve been wearing my fitbit everyday for several years and my lifestyle at the moment is more sedentary than ever before, but there’s only so much I can do when everything is driving distance away.

My priority with fitness, regardless of how often I workout or how many steps I do a day, is to not beat myself up about it. Because I don’t have the mental capacity! I’ve got bigger things to be worrying about than the fact I didn’t do the six minute workout because I don’t know where my sports bra is and I’m not doing a workout that involves jumping without one.

I’m giving myself a break – there’s time for exercise and losing weight when I have more money and time, right now I have to put the energy I have into the important things in my life; my masters, my relationship and my house.

So my advice? (That I’m totally not qualified to give)? Give yourself space – focus on self improvement as much as you can, but your career or your studies or other aspects of your life are as important to improve in as your fitness if that’s what you want. In the long term, if I look back on this moment in 50 years I won’t be thinking about how little time I dedicated to exercise, I’ll think about the amazing friends I made studying in Oxford, the time I spent with my god-mother’s daughters and my family, the adventures I went on with my boyfriend/fiancé (it still sounds weird) – I won’t think about the time I only did 2000 steps a day or skipped a workout for an extra hour in bed.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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