bad mental health in quarantine

2020, mental health

Hello,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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8 weeks in isolation

2020, lifestyle

Hello,

Today marks 8 weeks since I last went to uni and the last time I left the house for anything other than buying food.

8 weeks.

56 days.

In the first few weeks, I actually felt okay – it was nice to have my boyfriend home instead of away with work, I could properly focus on my uni work and I was feeling relaxed and productive.

Then the bulk of my uni work finished and I could feel my reason for getting out of bed slipping away – with no end date in sight, my uni deadlines changing every other week, the projects I do have suddenly feel far too big and my anxiety is heightened in a way it hasn’t been before.

But I’m trying my best not to complain because I’m so fortunate to be safe and healthy and not have to work and so on, but then I feel like if I bottle up everything I’m feeling it just gets worse and it’s an ongoing cycle. I just wanted to make sure I put in writing that I’m incredibly grateful for all the key workers that are putting their lives on the line so that so many of us don’t have to.

Although most days look pretty different there are a few core things that are the same so I thought I’d talk you through what an average ‘day in the life’ in quarantine looks like for me.

  • Whilst I tried to maintain my early morning routine, sleeping hasn’t been particularly easy so I’m letting my body sleep for as long as it needs to. Generally I wake up between half 8 and 9 but when I’m feeling a bit more settled I’m normally up by 7.
  • first stop – breakfast! I like having toast with butter at the moment but I imagine I’ll get bored and look for something new to try in a few weeks, on the other hand I’m a creature of habit and could probably quite happily eat the same three meals a day forever.
  • After breakfast and watching some YouTube, I might do a quick meditation or I will go back upstairs to get dressed.
  • Sometimes if the weather’s nice we’ll go for a walk – we’ve found a lovely 5k circuit through the woods which is nice to walk but whilst the weather can’t decide if it’s raining or brilliant sunshine we’ve not been rushing to go out.
  • From there I generally start on my to do list – I like to do my uni work first because I have more brain power in the morning, but if I’m not feeling it I’ll just take it slow, do what I can and if I don’t get everything done, I don’t and that’s fine.
  • With lunch sometimes I’ll video call my mum and my sister, sometimes I’ll play Pokemon on the Switch with the boyfriend and sometimes I’ll just watch YouTube videos. I’ve got like 250 videos to catch up on so I’m not short of things to watch!
  • In the afternoon I’ll carry on with my list if there’s still stuff to do, otherwise I’ll take things a bit slower – do a couple of smaller tasks, maybe something a bit crafty, we’ve starting having movie afternoon’s which has been lovely, especially as my uni work isn’t as much.
  • Then, as a creature of habit, I always make sure dinner is ready for about 6pm – sometimes I have to start cooking at 5pm, sometimes I don’t have to start till 5.45pm.
  • Generally I try to finish my ‘working’ day by the time I start dinner then in evenings I will either play video games with the boyfriend, play Sims 4, maybe I’ll do some writing, I had my first bath in literal years the other night so I went up to bed early and treated myself to a little pamper (the plug mechanism then stopped working and we had to drain it using measuring jugs… but that’s not the point).
  • Then my ‘evening routine’ starts at 9pm, I’ll get ready for bed, do any skincare I can be bothered to do, write in my journal, then read until I fall asleep.

Fairly boring and monotonous but I’m just taking it slow and not putting too much pressure on myself! I’m going to try today to make a proper morning and evening routine list to make skincare more of a proper habit because it feels like I’m treating myself and taking care of myself every day rather than once a month whenever I get round to it.

I really want to make exercise part of my routine too but it feels like a lot right now and I don’t need any extra pressure right now, I’ll do what I can when I feel up to it.

We’re all handling isolation differently and I’m loving seeing peoples routines and updates on Instagram so I thought I’d share mine too! I’m big on routine and like doing things at the same time every day so even though we’re eight weeks in, everything is still changing and adapting. Maybe I’ll end up with a school like timetable every day and that’s what will make me feel best, but I know that my boyfriend doesn’t feel the need for a routine like that so we’ll figure out a balance between us.

I hope you and your family are all happy and healthy, sending all my love in these trying times.

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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