Christmas Craft Ideas!

2020, crafting

Hello!

I still can’t quite believe it’s December and Christmas is less than two weeks away, but whilst life is as busy as ever for many with work, pandemic-safe-socialising and figuring out present shopping when you’re not seeing everyone at the same time and what to buy when and from where but there’s always time for Christmas crafts, right?

Personally, handmade crafts have been a wonder for my mental health this year and it makes me feel really creative and accomplished! So I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been making (or intend to make) that can be a couple of hours of offline festive fun.

  • cotton wool ball snowman

My beloved Frank who now hangs on my porch door!

6 sheets of A4 paper taped together, 3 bags of cotton wool balls, probably too much PVA glue, a Poundland hat and some pipe cleaners is a recipe for a few hours of wondering why you thought sticking that many cotton wool balls was a good idea, but then you get to the fun decorating bit and he looks amazing!

I’ve made a little Frank (can’t decide whether to call them Franklin or Franklette) that I might put up with him and it brings back that ‘Primary school art project’ feeling of doing something not because it needs to be skilled or perfect or challenging but making something just because it’s fun!

I’m going to get one of those big art folders so I can store him safely for next year and not waste all those cotton wool balls, but I really hope next year I can visit my godmothers children around Christmas and we can all do this together because I think it would be so much fun!

  • paper crafts – like paper chains and paper snowflakes!

Seems simple, sticking strips of paper and cutting out shapes but it can be a really great activity to do with younger children and is a really easy way to make the house feel more festive in a homely, unprofessional way (though no shade to anyone who’s home looks like a homeware catalogue).

Although you can buy paper chains at most shops around Christmas, making your own and having fun drawing Christmas designs with coloured pens can make it a much more involved festive activity.

Paper snowflakes are really simple to make, just folding paper, cutting sections out and opening up again but it’s a really effective window decoration and can even be fun to hang from the paper chains if you’re feeling fancy!

  • cardboard Christmas tree piñata

If I make this, it’s definitely not for piñata purposes, but my friend send me this link for a cardboard, tissue paper tree and whilst I haven’t got round to it yet, I have lots of festive pom-poms and pipe cleaners and I think it would look really cute!

Spending an afternoon not thinking too hard about my responsibilities and getting my hands into something creative, festive and cute always helps calm me down (assuming I’m not ignoring all of my other responsibilities to do it!).

Maybe it’s just some tissue paper on a cardboard box that’ll go in the recycling in the new year, but it’s worth it for the impact it has on my mental health and it’s much cheaper than therapy.

  • baking!

Perhaps should be counted separately to crafts, but snowman shaped cookies, cupcakes with chocolate fingers as reindeer antlers or a full on Yule log (which I am very proud of, biggest of thanks to Mary Berry for her recipe that I followed), it’s the time of year for sweet treats.

Whether you’d making your own buttercream or using a box cake mix, eating something you’ve made yourself is always satisfying at this time of year.

My mum bought a gingerbread house making kit for my fiancé and I and had initiated a little competition within my family, so I need to find some time to make a pretty gingerbread house (and find some ideas on Pinterest, I’m a bit stumped at the moment!)

  • card making!

My Nan used to be really into making cards, always sending personalised cards with pictures and 3D stickers and those fancy inserts on the inside that essentially make it a small book and I always treasured them.

But whether you’re buying Hobbycraft out of stickers and fancy blank card sets or folding a piece of paper in half and drawing with some crayons that you have no recollection of buying, the personal touch will certainly be appreciated by your loved ones!

Plus points if you let your children write a little message on the inside. I asked my fiancé to write some messages for his family in our Christmas cards (which I didn’t make, I must admit) and he wrote the card for his dad entirely with his left hand like an actual child. Pretty sure last year he did a drawing for my godmothers kids and even though they were 3, 7 and 8 I’m pretty sure they all did nicer drawings for us!

It feels like this entire year has been months of saying ‘I can’t believe it’s already X month’ and it’s whizzed by but felt really slow simultaneously. Only 10 days till Christmas!

I can’t wait for this year to be over, but I’m definitely tentative about putting too much hope on 2021, but I have to be optimistic about things getting better and seeing friends and family again soon because I don’t know how I’d cope if I wasn’t.

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

Sophie xx

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the drafts I never published

2020

Hello!

As a creator, there’s always drafts – moments of inspiration where you write a tweet, make a tiktok, take a picture or even note a blog post idea and it just never gets published, whether it’s because it’s something that was therapeutic to write but doesn’t need to be shared, it’s not as good an idea as originally thought or it was just never finished.

So I thought I’d share some of the draft blog posts I’ve not published just to give you a little insight into what random ideas I have and what never comes to fruition!

Up first we have ‘it’s in the loft’ – a 700 word ramble about a project I did in my religious education class when I was 13 where I made a Nazi symbol out of clay and dripped red paint on it to symbolise blood as a memorial of the second world war. I was, and still am, really proud of this project – I got top marks for it, my mum and I had a great time making it and I discovered my love of writing pretentious bullshit about symbolism; the grass symbolised new growth, the little clay Jewish stars symbolised the life that was lost etc etc.

And then I thought maybe publishing online that I made a swastika out of clay when I was 13 probably wasn’t something I should put online forever. I’m now technically still doing that but I stand by that publishing a whole blog post about it probably wasn’t the best idea so in my drafts it remains!

Next, was an outfit post about living out of a suitcase for a month – in 2019 there was a whole debacle about moving 100 miles away (we paid the deposit on a flat that wasn’t going to be ready by our agreed move in date and they messed us around for a month and we moved somewhere else) so I had a very limited wardrobe for a while so I wrote about it.

I wrote about an outfit that I still really love of a black and white spotted midi skirt and a red crop top, both from New Look, with my leather jacket from ASOS and even know with my Dr Martens I feel like a boss when I wear this outfit, but apparently I just didn’t feel the vibes of the post. I think I struggled getting pictures of the outfit on my own, living in a friends flat when so much was going on. But I really love the outfit and I wear it a lot.

(basically this but with a red t-shirt, I’m sure you can picture it)

My next abandoned draft blog post was a ‘Day In the Life of an MSc Student’ – I wrote about half of it and the rest was notes about my schedule for the day, but I remember getting halfway through and wondering if anyone would really care. It was a fairly specific diary of the classes I was attending, but a ‘day in the life of a student’ is go to uni, do classes, go home and I felt a bit silly pretending my day was anything special. Good decision to park this one I think.

Onto ‘How Meal Planning Will Change Your Life’ – I knew from the off that pretending that meal planning would change anyone’s life was a ridiculous claim. I’ve been meal planning for five years now and I kind of don’t understand how anyone gets through a week without knowing what they’re going to eat (I think that I think about food too much). It was another post when I realised that I wasn’t saying anything original or special – my meal planning habit is nothing special so another blog post abandoned!

Not all of my draft blog posts are abandoned posts, some are works in progress that I will write out fully when I have enough substance for it – next in my draft list is ‘self care tips for when getting out of bed is hard’. Like I’ve mentioned regularly (sorry), the last three months my mental health has turned in a way I’ve never experienced before, so this post is as much for me as it is for anyone else, but I’m slowly building up tips and tricks for the worst days when everything is hard. I think this one will be up soonish!

The next post was a ramble when I was a bit cross – ‘you’re on holiday; stop calling it a ‘staycation” – in the height of the pandemic, so many were sacrificing their international holidays for a British holiday and calling it a staycation which I hate. As someone who’s entire childhood was spent on UK holidays, I often felt bad at school when everyone talked about their holidays to Spanish beaches and resorts in Turkey and Greece. So calling it a ‘staycation’ as if it wasn’t enough to be a proper ‘holiday’ made me really cross and feels so elitist. But it was too negative to actually share – it had the same impact in a tweet.

I wrote ‘working with my mental health, not fighting against it’ in full and I don’t know why I didn’t publish it really, I think I may have forgotten to make it live. I might re-read it properly and publish it soonish if it’s still relevant, but I am doing a bit better in terms of my anxiety so I might save it for when I feel a bit better and feel like I know what I’m writing actually works.

And the last post in my drafts is another sad rant – I was feeling bad about myself so I wrote a whole post about how painfully average I am, but it definitely didn’t need to be published; I was just complaining and even though I said I wasn’t doing it for attention, there was no other reason to post it.

It’s funny looking back on what I’ve not deleted and what’s still sitting in drafts, but it’s also an insight for anyone who doesn’t have a blog as to how much writing goes on behind the scenes! I found out today that a fiction short story I wrote three years ago has had over 1000 views just this year so it’s strange what people find!

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

Sophie xx

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a different Christmas

2020

Hello!

With the ongoing pandemic and an astonishing amount of people that seem to find it impossible to remember the face mask goes over your nose (if they wear one at all), this Christmas is going to be looking very different.

In the UK, the government have assigned a window where three households can gather over the Christmas period (as if the virus knows it’s Christmas? And I’m sure many people will question what the difference is between 3 households and 6 but that’s none of my business) but a lot of places are still in surprisingly high risk tiers and personally, I won’t be travelling to see my family.

This year was meant to be one of those big Christmas’s where all the family gather at my mum’s house and there’s 15+ people all crammed around the table extension she made with my granddad a few years ago and although unsaid, I think we all decided that it’s worth waiting till we can all get together safely.

So this year, we’re having friendmas – a couple that my fiancé works with and we’re very close with are staying in the area over the festive period and we’ve decided we’re going to have a grown up friendmas and cook together, play silly games and eat all the festive treats. I don’t know why it feels so ‘grown up’, but I’m surprisingly excited about it considering how much of a family orientated Christmas person I am.

It’s finding the positives – being able to sleep in our own bed on Christmas Eve, only having to drive for 10 minutes up the road and not one to two hours to either of our parents, having food on the table, loved ones to spend Christmas with; we have a lot to be grateful for, even if my fiancé is straight back to work on Boxing Day and over the New Year.

2020 has been a rollercoaster ride; we’re living through history. I grew up doing projects about my grandma in World War 2, so to think that my grandchildren might be asking me what it was like to live in a pandemic and knowing that ‘doing my part’ is significantly less life threatening than living through a war, it reminds me how much I have to be grateful for and how much I still have achieved this year.

We have to be optimistic for 2021, because other than perhaps a world war, it can’t get much more bleak than this. There’s always a silver lining – pinning all our hopes on a New Year being better is a lot of pressure to potentially set up for disappointment, but there’s always things to be grateful for.

I have the love of my life to spend Christmas with, I have a warm house and food in the fridge, I have family at the end of the phone and great friends to pull crackers with on Christmas Day. Sometimes it’s hard to find the positives, but they are always there.

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

Sophie xx

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NaNoWriMo 2020… how’d it go?

2020, creativity, writing

Hello!

I feel like I’ve been talking about NaNoWriMo all year – with doing writing challenges every other month to ‘train’ for the 50,000 word challenge in November. But it didn’t go quite as expected…

My intention was to write the final draft of the novel I started eight years ago in my first (and only ‘winning’) NaNo – but then I ended up using the story of my novel for my masters dissertation project and the thought of having anything to do with it so soon after handing in was too much for my little anxious brain to handle.

I decided very early on that I was going to write some fun fanfiction instead – I’ve been watching a lot of Harry Potter cosplay tiktok and I was super inspired to write something, so I took that inspiration and went with it.

The other barrier I faced was again my dissertation project – I got a one week extension due to my mental health so my deadline wasn’t until November 5th, thus meaning I couldn’t think about anything else until it was done (still SO PROUD that I did it!). I didn’t start writing until the 7th of November and I calculated that I only needed to write just over 2000 words a day to finish on time, as opposed to the usual 1667 words.

I started writing and as my days were significantly emptier without a big uni project, I managed to catch up relatively quickly. At my most productive, I wrote 4000 words in a day but I was feeling really good – I was writing about characters I already knew and loved without the pressure of writing something good, original and ‘final’ in my own novel project.

I enjoyed writing again! With my fiancé still being away with work 3-5 nights a week (despite a national lockdown, because watching a bunch of grown men play rugby is so important…), I could really focus on writing and I got into a good routine. Not a healthy routine, as most of my writing was done between 10pm-1am from the comfort of my bed, but I was writing and that was the important bit.

In the last week or so, momentum tailed off – I don’t think I’d really given myself the time to mentally recover from my dissertation hand in but I’d been preparing for NaNoWriMo all year and I really wanted to do it. Thousands of words a day turned to hundreds of words a day and staring at a screen for hours whilst I felt like my original characters were sticking their tongues out at me.

In the end, I made it so-close-but-not-close-enough at just over 47,000 words between the 7th and 30th of November. If I’d even written a few words in the days I was finishing my dissertation, I’m sure I would have been able to do it, but we can’t change the past, we can only learn! And I still wrote forty seven thousand bloody words!

NaNoWriMo this year was a real experience for everyone participating – it was unusual circumstances, motivation and inspiration are running at an all time low and though in theory people have ‘more time’ because we’re staying home more, it doesn’t mean there was enough mental brain space to really write like life is normal.

I do feel more motivated than ever to really ‘win’ next year – I’ve got my monthly training challenges all planned out, I’ll probably stick with writing fanfiction because it’s fun to experiment and control characters I love (though that makes it sound much more sinister than it is) and NaNoWrimo 2021 is going to be my year – my first win since 2012!

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

Sophie xx

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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

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Treasured In… November 2020

2020, lifestyle

Hello!

I feel like I haven’t done a ‘favourites’ post for a while – I’ve been trying to reevaluate my relationship with feeling the need to buy new things to show and talk about in these posts but I think the format I’ve built for myself works quite well and with ongoing lockdown announcements and all the other stuff going on in a pandemic world, I think we can all use a post about nice things that make us happy! Especially with the festive season right around the corner!

  • purchase

Just talked about not feeling the need to buy new things and first category is my favourite purchase; I see the irony! I haven’t actually really bought anything for myself recently, but I’ve been doing all my Christmas shopping online as everything’s closed at the moment and I’ve made an effort not to use Amazon and to shop small and I’ve bought so many cute bits from Etsy! I’m not going to link anything specific for obvious reasons, but being able to search for literally everything, specify my price range and that I want to shop in the UK has been great. So far delivery has been mixed but I think it’s COVID making everything slower. And the one Amazon order I did make one of the items isn’t going to arrive until December 23rd, so it’s definitely not that much more convenient than shopping from independent creatives!

  • social media

A slightly strange category, but with applying for jobs in marketing and digital media, I’ve been thinking a lot more professionally about social media in preparation for potential interviews – I’ve been looking at view to subscriber averages on YouTube, trying to understand Instagram’s new layout prioritising shopping and forever pretending I’m young enough to use tiktok like I get how the app works. There are so many hashtags that I don’t get! I’d love to start making tiktoks but I’m a little overwhelmed with where to start… I mostly watch Harry Potter cosplayers and I’m loving just spectating too.

  • music

I drew the conclusion earlier this year that I’m not as into music as I thought I was, but as I’ve been needing sounds to distract me from my overthinking brain, I’ve been watching a lot more YouTube and listening to way more music!

I’m really enjoying working to instrumental music (I can’t concentrate when there are lyrics, I get distracted) so I’ve been listening to a pianist called Ludivico Einaudi who I loved when I was 16 but his album Islands is beautiful and you’d recognise some of the songs from TV adverts! I’ve also loved listening to the Avengers: Endgame soundtrack and a playlist called Cinematic Chillout.

And I’ve found a love for acoustic music as well? Hearing the raw instruments and stripped back vocals chills me out at the moment so my favourite playlist is Easy Acoustic, but I also love Calming Instrumental Covers and I’m looking forward to listening to Autumn Acoustic too.

  • YouTube video

I feel like I’ve been a broken record about how I’m behind on watching YouTube videos and have been for about five years now – I’m currently up to just over 200 videos on my watch later playlist and the videos are from about six weeks ago, but I only really watch YouTube when my partner is away with work because when he’s home I want to make the most of him.

So I don’t have specific videos, because they would be from months ago, but I’m really loving The Anna Edit‘s videos even though I’m 100% a different class to her and don’t have the money to and wouldn’t spend as much as she does on high end skin care, fashion or anything, but I just love how chatty and friendly she is. I’ve always said, I subscribe to channels based on the people, not the content.

The other channel I’ve loved for so long now is Fabulous Hannah – the same principle of liking the person not the content, but I also love the content. Hannah and I would get on so well – she has my same sarcastic, self deprecating humour, we’re kind of at similar points in life, and watching her videos just feels like I’m having a one way video call catch up with a friend and that’s the kind of cosy vibes I love on YouTube.

  • books

I finally finished The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas! I had eight months of an amazing reading habit that has now completely gone out the window, but I managed to finish the one book I had started. I liked it – I was apprehensive of the ending because I’ve seen the film, but I thought it really captured the perspective of a 9 year old boy. Apparently it’s a controversial book, but I thought it was interesting to express the naïvity of children in Germany, though I’m not sure how historically accurate it is.

I’m yet to start another book, but I definitely need to get back into the habit because I miss it.

  • snacks

I may have built up an unjustified anxiety about eating, but recently I’ve started getting my appetite back and with Christmas treats and the Great British Bake Off as inspiration for the last few weeks, I’ve enjoyed a few treats.

Cadbury Snow Balls are my favourite seasonal treat (though a special shout out to creme eggs), I’ve been very much enjoying Victoria sponge cupcakes and malted milk biscuits were all my anxious stomach could handle for a while.

I’m definitely a sweet snack kind of girl.

  • TV/film/streaming/stuff to watch

Speaking off The Great British Bake Off… it’s the only thing I’ve been religiously watching every week since it all began. Lottie was my favourite, I very nearly stopped watching when she went out, I think Dave was robbed in that final but the whole series was the light relief we needed amongst a new tier system and a second lockdown.

I’ve not really watched anything else to be honest – with catching up on 200 YouTube videos and Bake Off on a Tuesday night, I’ve not made time for anything else. I did start rewatching Harry Potter and a few Marvel movies of an afternoon though, which has been nice.

  • wedding planning update

We paid the first half of the venue deposit! There’s been a lot of back and forth since we viewed the venue in July, but with the pandemic they agreed to let us pay half the deposit and the other half in January, so the ball really is rolling! My plan before the New Year is to make a detailed list of everything that needs doing and when I need to start thinking about it over the next two years so I keep up with planning and we save enough money for the right times.

I think with all the new lockdown rules, it hasn’t really sunk in yet – part of my mind wonders if the pandemic will effect us by the end of 2022, but I have to stay optimistic and hope for the best!


I wasn’t sure about writing this post, because it all feels incredibly self indulgent, but talking about nice things that make us happy is what we all need at the moment. Do we need to share them all on the internet? Probably not, but I’m part of a generation that has an issue with oversharing online so here we are.

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

Sophie xx

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trying to maintain a routine with bad mental health

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

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

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

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

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

  • make a list

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

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

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

  • turn that list into a schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Sophie xx

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my craft projects!

2020, crafting, creativity

Hello!

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

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

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

  • wooden cross stitch

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

  • face mask kit 

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

  • knitting ear savers

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

  • learning to crochet

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

  • cardboard crafts

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

  • 3D cross stitch kit

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

  • t-shirt blanket sewing

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

  • adapting/fixing my own clothes

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

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

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

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

Sophie xx

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

2020, lifestyle

Hi!

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

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

But how did we get here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie xx

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giving up on my 2020 goals

2020, goals

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie xx

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