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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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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what am I doing with my life?

2020, career, lifestyle, student

Hello!

The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 has been confusing – outside of stuff going on in my personal life, I’ve been trying to figure out what comes next after I’ve finished my masters in Oxford. I’ve been working towards the same ‘career goals’ for the best part of four years but with a year of rejection after I graduated from my undergraduate degree and finding out more about the industry through job applications, research for a professional development course and starting research for my dissertation I’ve realised that actually, I don’t want to work in this industry that I convinced myself I want to be part of for so long.

And with that decided… what do I do now? I’m feeling incredibly lost about what I want to do when I finish my degree. I finish my classes in May and my dissertation is due in September, so over the summer I could start working in an industry that I really care about… if I could figure out what industry I want to work in (see ‘is too many passions a bad thing?‘ blog post…).

My goal for the year is to have a full time job by the October/end of the year whether it’s an industry job or an office admin job (which, feels more realistic but that might be because I’ve lost all confidence in all of my ability to do anything). But by then I’d also like to have more of an idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life.

But I know for sure that I am not the only student or person my age who isn’t sure what they want to do and feels intimidated by the future and the whole expanse of a career in front of them.

So here are my completely-non-academic, not-from-experience, might-not-even-work tips from me to you – one unemployed, confused twenty-something to another.

  1. Don’t fixate on your first career job being with a company that you want to stay with forever. People move jobs, people develop through different companies, people even change entire careers after 20 years in an industry so try not to put too much pressure on yourself to find the company that you never want to leave because let’s be real – they’re probably a big company that have a lot of competition and are more likely to take you on a couple of years down the line when you have more experience.
  2. Don’t get overwhelmed by being in a job that you want to stay in forever – people change careers. Someone can spend 20 years of their life being a geography teacher and then decide they want to be a writer. Someone can spend years training to be an actor or performer and end up wanting to be a nurse. Someone could go from being the biggest daredevil, stunt coordinator gymnast to working at your local supermarket. Things change, people change, industries change. You won’t be ‘stuck’ in whatever your first job is and don’t feel tied down by whatever your qualifications are (unless you want to be a vet and you’re a qualified hairdresser… you might need to go back to uni).
  3.  Stop trying to make your hobbies profitable – sure, we all want to do something we’re passionate about. But sometimes, hobbies should just be left to be hobbies; things that we do in our spare time just for the sake of enjoying them. Whilst it’s important to me to work in something that I’m passionate about, I’m only just learning that I don’t need to incorporate everything I love doing into my career.

And four – I should take my own advice.

Saying ‘don’t worry’ or ‘don’t get stressed about this’ is so easy but hopefully it can help to remind yourself that actually, these things aren’t the be all and end all and everything will work out in the end.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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everyday things that help my mental health

2020, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

Mental health is a topic that’s incredibly personal – what works for one person won’t necessarily work for anyone else, what some person doesn’t feel anxiety about can absolutely debilitate someone else and on top of all that there’s still that kind of taboo where people online (and offline, actually) will make comments about whether someone is actually depressed or not (regardless of how little they know about a person or situation).

And to be honest, my mental health isn’t great at the moment – the end of 2019 kicked my ass a little bit, 2020 is already proving challenging (a returned tooth infection and tonsillitis? Fantastic) but there are a few things that make me feel a bit calmer day to day and I thought I’d share because even if these don’t work for everyone, I love reading posts like this just in case I find a new idea or something to try.

  • properly taking my make-up off and washing my face at the end of the day

It’s not a face mask or anything but just cleaning my face and having that time in front of the mirror to look after my skin and feel just a little bit like I’m pampering myself, even when it’s just cleaning my face in the most basic way.

  • tidying and getting rid of clutter

Clutter and too much stuff makes me feel overwhelmed, hence why I got rid of like six bin bags of clothes in my last year at uni. Having a clear floor in the living room, making my bed with my nice Harry Potter pillows from Primark, maybe even emptying some bins around the house but we don’t want to push the boat out and get too productive.

I don’t know why but it just helps calm me down, maybe it’s like a claustrophobia thing like I just don’t feel so cramped in a space when it’s only got what we need and everything is in its place.

  • curling up under a blanket

Is there anything cosier when you’re feeling a bit sad and overwhelmed to tuck yourself into a little blanket burrito and watching YouTube or scrolling through Instagram or putting some cosy Netflix on.

Bonus recommendation that I can’t actually vouch for – I’ve heard that weighted blankets are meant to be really good for helping with anxiety. I looked at a website where they were only like £200 (note: sarcasm) so not going to be rushing to buy one soon, but I really want one.

However, I have tried and tested a slanket (a blanket with sleeves) – I’ve been telling my family I want one for probably the best part of 6 months to a year? My mum regifted me one that she got for Christmas and I love it.

  • ticking something off my to do list

When I’m not feeling it, being ‘productive’ isn’t something that I prioritise but getting just one thing done can feel really good. Whether it’s making a list in the first place of things you can actually, realistically do, maybe it’s adapting a list you already have to prioritise the things you can achieve on that day or maybe it’s looking at a list you have a just starting t the top because making a real decision is a bit much.

Even seeing just one tick on your list app, in a notebook, wherever, is better than a growing list of tasks.

And if your brain isn’t letting you get off the sofa, then taking that list and putting it in the bin (physically, digitally or metaphorically, whatever works!) counts.

  • take time to cook something great

Whether that comfort food is full of cheese and carbs, is full of vegetables or is covered in buttercream, taking time away from screens and ‘real life’ stresses to just cook is so therapeutic. I find this is a great time to spend with my partner – after long days we can catch up, we can listen to music and dance, it’s really nice quality time we spend together and I really hope that I can continue to prioritise it even after I go back to uni in a couple of weeks.

So that’s five things that immediately sprung to mind when I thought about this topic – obviously if you feel your low moods are severely impacting your life then please see a medical professional or talk to friends and family because it’s not something you have to go through alone.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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having a 5 year ‘plan’… ish

2020, career, goals, lifestyle, organisation, student

Hello!

With the amount of goals, organisation and planning posts I’ve written on this little blog, I think it’s relatively clear that I’m one of these ‘productivity’ types (even if being organised is actually procrastinating being productive). One of my goals for 2019 was to start a five year plan and get some notes on paper on what I want to achieve over the next 5 years. As I moved into my new bullet journal this New Year, I’ve started my ‘new’ 5 year plan starting in 2020 and ending in 2024 (where I’ll turn ~28~ and that is scarily close to 30).

But calling it a 5 year ‘plan’ feels a little bit more formal than my plan really is – it’s a double page spread in my bullet journal (though it might actually make more sense to make it digitally if you do everything else online!) with a grid split into five columns and three rows for the five years of the plan and three categories I plan my life in.

So I thought today I’d write about how I make my 5 year plan, what I’m learning in my second year of having a 5 year plan and where I think I’ll learn more in the future.

I started by making a grid in my bullet journal – as I said, 5 years across the top and three categories down the side. Three seems to be my magic number and having three categories works for my New Years Goals and I thought it would be useful to have those three categories match up, so mine are Professional, Personal and Home.

They’re pretty self-explanatory – in ‘Professional’ I put my career goals, at this point I am having somewhat of a career crisis and I have no idea what I want to do so this section is a bit quiet at the moment. But as I do more research into what I actually want to do and actually develop a career I can make more solid career goals but this section is probably the simplest.

The next section is ‘Personal’ – this is where I will detail my travel plans, any ‘life’ stuff like when I want to shave my head again etc. I’m still kind of figuring out what I want to put in this category but it’s for things that aren’t career stuff, kind of hobby related, travel goals and stuff.

And then the last category is ‘Home’ – this is where I put my plans for my life with my boyfriend essentially. Where we’ll live, what we’re saving for (house deposit etc), when we’ll get a pet, maybe a wedding or a baby? It’s another one of those that’ll get more specific when I have more of an idea about what my career will look like over the next few years but the baseline and the ideas for what I want to achieve is already set!

And that’s my 5 year plan! It feels like I haven’t described enough but actually, all it takes to make a ‘5 year plan’ (or ideas, which is how I prefer to think about it) is to write down 5 years and write down what you’d like to achieve in that time.

Now going into my second year looking at my 5 year plan, I can see what was a ridiculous idea and what is actually more achievable. I’ve learnt that setting ‘blind goals’ (such as “I want to have made this career progression” when I’m not actually sure what career I want right now) is not going to help anything and filling up space for the sake of it might make it look like I have my life together but it’s just unachievable words. This year, having an emptier plan is something I’m finding reassuring rather than intimidating – it’s a prospect of endless possibilities and not a terrifying emptiness (well, most of the time anyway).

As I continue to fill in my 5 year plan this year and start again in next year’s bullet journal and so on, I can only see that I’ll get better at goal setting and making them S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, or something like that). It’ll be less ‘get married’ and ‘try for a baby’ and more ‘pay X amount of the mortgage’ and maybe ‘Child A starts school’ – the next 5 years are going to be some of the biggest of my life and that is exciting.

But even talking about 5 year plans sounds daunting – the thought of knowing exactly what I want from the next stage of my life is a lot! But seeing the scope of what I could achieve is really motivating and helps me focus on the steps I need to achieve to be able to get there. 

If you’re wanting to take yearly goals to another level and get some longer term ideas down on paper but don’t know where to start, just start by writing down the years. It’s a lot less daunting than you think when it actually comes to it! Hope that helps.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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2020 Goals + January Goals

2020, career, goals, lifestyle, organisation, student

Hello!

really want to start this post with a joke about ‘I’ve not written a post since last decade’ because really I’m the closet King of Dad Jokes but instead I thought I’d just tell you about it. I think that might be worse.

Either way! If you’re a close followed of this blog, you’ll know that I love goal setting, organisation and planning. If you’re new, hello! Join the party – I love goal setting, organisation and planning. To the extent that I lull myself into this false sense of security thinking I’m getting stuff done but I’m actually just writing lots of to do lists and not doing very much.

This is something I actually got better at in 2019 – I really reevaluated how I was productive with my time and I’m still figuring out what works best for me. This time last year I thought I was embarking on this amazing freelance digital media career (which fell through pretty much immediately) and now I’m working towards a masters degree, I have my own place with my boyfriend, I had a job and now I’m looking for a new one, I’m spinning a lot of plates and somehow they’re just about not falling.

Having looked back on my 2019 goals (I was going to write a blog post but I think personal reflection was more appropriate), I’m actually really excited about my 2020 Goals because I was inspired by videos by Doctor Mike and Hannah Witton to make SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals that are actually going to be relevant to me over the whole year.

So let’s try and keep this succinct – please do let me know your thoughts on goal setting! Do you like setting goals as they become relevant? Are you a fan of New Years, Fresh Starts? Do you make SMART goals or more ‘bucket list’ style goals? I’d love to hear all about it.

My goals are split into two different types – I have three categories (Professional, Personal and Home) each with three goals as well as 9 stand-alone ‘bucket list’ style goals. Here goes!

Professional:

  • Finish my Masters in Digital Media Production at Oxford Brookes University
  • Start my career – have a full time job by the end of October
  • Learn website design

I don’t think there’ll be any barriers stopping me from finishing my masters (and the end of 2019 really gave it a good shot!) but this first semester has been a massive learning curve and I want to really make the most of my time in Oxford so next semester is going to be a bit more level headed.

Finishing what will be my third degree (BA Hons Multimedia Journalism, PG Cert Professional Development Planning and MSc Digital Media Production, thank you) should lead to being able to get a job and starting my career journey! I’m a bit nervous about this one, because this is what I anticipated when I graduated from my undergrad and I’m still struggling with incredibly low self-esteem about my worth in the workplace, but by the end of October I want to be working full time, even if it’s not in the industry I want to stay in forever yet.

And I want to learn website design! 2020 is my fifth year of blogging and I still don’t know anything about code, hosting or designing a pretty blog and that’s a skill I think will really benefit me. So if you know of any good courses or online tutorials please do let me know!

Personal:

  • Work on making a savings plan for my personal bank account when I’m in a position to afford to save
  • Develop my knowledge of film photography
  • Learn more about vegetarian cooking and aim to eat veggie 3 nights a week

I made some amazing progress with saving in 2019 and I was so, so proud of myself but moving, starting a masters and a personal crisis of sorts led to me using most of those savings just to pay bills so once I’ve figured out my financial situation, I want to get back on the savings wagon because it’s so satisfying.

Film photography is something that’s intrigued me for a little while – just before Christmas my dad revealed he had a bunch of film cameras that he was willing to let me have and after spending £10 on one roll of film I’ve been studying the manual and experimenting with lenses as much as I can. It’ll take the film being developed for me to know if I’ve actually learnt anything but I’m really excited to take this little camera on adventures this year.

And eating veggie has been on my radar for a while – last year when I was doing really well with healthy eating I was ‘veggie till dinner’ and when my boyfriend and I moved out of my mum’s house and he started being away a lot with work, I tend to eat veggie when I’m on my own because it’s cheaper and I love vegetables. But I want to learn to cook more veggie meals and experiment with more ingredients this year.

Home:

  • Don’t move house! Stay put for a whole year (please)
  • Travel! A European holiday with my boyfriend, also Centre Parcs with family friends and MCM ComicCon
  • Save £500 in Help To Buy ISA account

Pretty simple – I don’t want to move in 2020. It will be the first year since I moved to uni in 2015 that I haven’t put all my stuff in boxes and had to settle somewhere new. But obviously it depends on income, whether they want to put the rent up after the first year and if the location is still relevant to what we need.

Travelling is always a goal and last year I got way too excited and overambitious about where I thought I could go. For Christmas, my boyfriend has said he’ll take me on holiday and I’m thinking a beach holiday in the first week of October just to CHILL after my dissertation is handed in but I’m a little blown away by the whole thing so advice please.

Lastly, I know I said I want to make a plan for my personal savings account but I actually have three (personal, joint with the boyf and a help to buy ISA). I think this amount might be a tiny bit optimistic but smart goals have to be measurable – I currently have £10 in there so only £490 to go? But for real, I really want to start saving for a house this year and any amount is a good amount to start.

And onto…

9 ‘Bucket List’ Goals:

  • Read 12 books
  • Do 6 writing challenges (January, March, May, July, September, November NaNoWriMo)
  • Keep adding to 5 year plan
  • Register at the doctors and dentist and actually go
  • Figure out a fitness routine and reach weight goal (not confident enough to share this on the internet yet, soz lads)
  • Get another tattoo!
  • Listen to new music and podcasts
  • Have monthly date nights with the boy
  • Actually start making my t-shirt blanket

Also maybe figure out a blogging and YouTube schedule but tbh, I want to keep it chill this year so we’ll see how that goes.

And that’s what I’m aiming for this year! I was going to do my January Goals in a separate post but I figured most of it will stem directly from these goals so I’m going to tag them on the end here.

January Goals:

  1. Write 9000 Words for Writing Challenge (I’ll be real, I didn’t twig that I wanted to do a writing challenge this month until the 3rd when writing this so that was a nice realisation)
  2. Register at the doctors – I’ve been collecting my anti-depressants from my home doctors at my mum’s house since I moved nearly four months ago so I really need to get onto this
  3. Find carb-alternatives for lunch food – a sandwich is so easy and what worked for me last year was not eating carbs or meat until dinner and I want to find a way to make this less boring. I don’t really like salads that much, I love couscous and roast veg but I can’t heat it up at uni. Need to do some research!
  4. Launch new blog…
  5. Spending ban – except food, bills and my boyfriend’s birthday

And so I don’t forget my two monthly ‘bucket list’ goals…

  • Read 1 book
  • Have a date night!

Now that is a long ass, self-indulgent post about what I’m hoping to achieve this year! But I find reading and hearing other peoples goals is so inspirational so let me know all about your goals in the comments!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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feeling festive… or not?

2019, lifestyle, student

Hello!

December has rolled around! You scroll through Instagram to see trees galore, there’s pretty lights everywhere you look and I bet your feeds are choc-a-block with festivities… but do you actually feel festive?

Do you feel that cosy warmth of the twinkly lights and tinsel and dark evenings with warm drinks? Do you feel the excitement building for the one day of the year where you spend time with loved ones and you get to spoil them with special gifts you’ve chosen and amazing comfort food? Do you feel Christmassy?

However much I want to, I’m not really feeling it yet – it might be something to do with the tooth infection I’ve been diagnosed with and the potential six months on an NHS waiting list to get it removed (fingers crossed for me please!) but Christmas is the last thing on my mind.

I’ve been to my local light switch on, I’ve planned Secret Santa with my favourite gals at uni, I’ve got plans to see my boyfriends family and the tree is up (even if I haven’t bought any decorations for it yet).

The reason I’m not feeling Christmassy is probably more personal than ‘I’m just not feeling it’ – the aforementioned tooth pain, the fact this will be my first ever Christmas without seeing my family and financial worries are probably putting a negative influence on my desire to watch festive movies and wear that one Christmas jumper I have with bells on it.

But here’s how I’m trying to put a bit of festive fairy dust in my step (but not really because getting that out of the carpet would be a nightmare).

ONE – PUT THE DECORATIONS UP!

Like all mums, my mum have a spare six foot Christmas tree under her stairs so having that has really helped make my new house feel a bit more homely. I’m all for fake trees because having the same tree come out every year is so sentimental and lovely. I see the appeal of a real tree, but the upkeep and the hassle of having to go pick one isn’t for me – and I’m saving the environment lads! Hashtag Team Fake Tree over here. Don’t @ me.

Either way, I spent a couple of hours on Sunday trying to make myself feel a bit better after calling in sick again by putting up the tree (with no decorations because I only had enough for the little tree that’s gone in our room) and some tinsel on the bannister.

It’s quite exciting because this is where my boyfriend and I can start to build our little Christmas collection – our own decorations, our own bits and bobs that come out every year and our own traditions. That warms my heart just a little bit.

TWO – MAKE PLANS TO SEE FAMILY!

Not only am I missing seeing my own family this Christmas but our ‘family Christmas’ where we do see each other is on a weekend and I now have a retail job so I can’t go which I’m genuinely gutted about. But I’ve got two mid-week trips planned – one before Christmas and one over New Year where I’m hoping to see my family but I’m just waiting on my work schedule to set it in stone.

My boyfriend’s family are lovely, but I’m a very sentimental person and my family means more to me than I can put into words (I may not be a McPherson by name, but I’m a McPherson by heart) so at 23 having my first Christmas away is definitely going to be emotional.

Having that time booked in where I know that I’ll at least see my immediate family will make this new change a lot easier!

THREE – PRESENT PLANNING

I know I’m very fortunate to be able to live in a nice house and pay rent and pay for my car and go to university in a different city, but finances are something I’m struggling with at the moment. Moving is expensive and stretching my wages to cover everything has all but ruined all the good work I put into my savings this year (but at least I did the saving so I had something to fall back on!).

I’m going to write a whole blog post about doing Christmas on a budget but making a list of everyone you want to buy presents for, setting a budget and getting as creative as possible with home crafting  makes it all feel a little more achievable.

The other thing to bear in mind that all these places posting ‘shop local’ and ‘shop small businesses’ – that’s great if you can afford it, but you’ve got to do with what fits best for your budget. I’d love to do all my shopping from Etsy and Not On The High Street and independent sellers on Instagram, but it’s infinitely more convenient for me to do one big Amazon order. Maybe next year, but for now – I’m doing what works for my bank account!

FOUR – MAKE THE MOST OF TIME WITH YOUR FAVOURITE PEOPLE

Another change I’ve had to get used to that is probably another reason I don’t feel too festive is that I’m still getting used to my boyfriend not being home all that much. He works in live broadcast, mostly at sports matches, so it means he’s away all over the country for three/four nights a week and after spending a whole year living in my mum’s house together and not really being apart overnight much at all.

I think at first we were grateful for the time apart to be ourselves for a bit and now I can feel myself waiting for him to get back. This is definitely something I need to work on 1) because I’m an independent woman who thrives with or without her man and 2) because it’s not going to change for however long he decides to work in this industry.

But making the most of the time that he is home by cooking together, planning activities to do together (like buying decorations for the aforementioned naked tree) and playing video games together makes everything feel a bit more like home.

If you want to see more Christmas content this week, I will be uploading a Christmas themed vlog on my YouTube channel at the weekend, so go over there and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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approaching New Year | diary 10

2019, lifestyle, writing

Hello!

Doing these little diary posts once a month really reminds me what blogging is all about and where it all began – a web log, a recount of goings-on and a log of activities. The priority on my little corner of the internet will always be having something that I can look back on and 1) be proud of and 2) serve as a little reminder of who I was when I posted, even if that’s not who I am now.

And writing rambly blog posts that all come out in one go are my favourite and I think they’re the nicest ones to look back on!

So today I wanted to talk about how the end of the year is fast approaching – it feels like my entire Instagram and Twitter feeds are either full of Christmas or ‘it’s the end of the decade, have you achieved anything, get off your ass and do something‘ and personally I feel attacked (note the sarcasm).

But for real, it’s very intense and makes me think I haven’t achieved anything but at the turn of the last decade I was 13 – I’m a completely different person to who I was at 13 and that’s definitely for the better. I’ve finished my GCSEs, finished my A Levels, finished my undergraduate degree, finished a post-graduate certificate and I’m now studying a masters that I’ll finish in September next year – I’m starting the next decade as a masters student and hopefully that’ll be the beginning of a much more exciting decade full of learning but not in an institution that racks up my debt any further than it already is.

Outside of academic achievements, I’ve been on two charity expeditions to Tanzania and Ecuador, each for a month for the most amazing, terrifying and life-changing experiences. I’ve moved across country and met people that are going to be friends for the rest of my life. I lost friends that I thought I’d have for the rest of my life (but that’s just how the world works).

I met the love of my life. I’m a proper renting adult with proper bills and a car to pay for. I learnt to drive! As soon as the list begins you realise that 10 years is a long ass time and so much can happen in that time.

With that in mind I shunned the pressures of the internet and thought about the here and now – how do I feel going into the New Year?

Generally, the signposts of the passing of time scare me – I like routine, I like consistency and whilst I consider myself someone who adapts to change quite well, I’m definitely working on being someone who embraces and enjoys change. There were several New Year’s Eve’s as a teenager where I’d silently cry in my room as Big Ben rung over to the New Year and I couldn’t stop thinking that ‘this year’s going to be worse than last year’ and ‘I won’t be any happier next New Year’ so I’m grateful that I’m no longer trapped feeling that sad and lonely. But the New Year still scares me a little bit.

So I try to focus on the things that I enjoy – as I detailed in my last post, I love organisation, goals and planning so January is going to be almost exclusively resolutions, yearly goals, goals reviews and the likes! I’m actually really excited about that because 2019 started in a very different frame of mind and my goals reflected that so I feel more prepared to make my goals for the next year.

In a typical ‘I’m a student mindset’ I can’t really focus too much on the New Year or Christmas because I have about a million deadlines (five) to hand in before that and they’re big and stressful, but after that I’ve got a few shifts at work, Christmas, New Year with my family, then three weeks of working at much as possible before it all begins again with semester 2.

Generally, the New Year is a good time for me – it’s another chance at a fresh start and new goals and resetting. That’s what I’m trying to focus on.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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