mental health in a pandemic – 6 months on

2020, mental health

Hello!

Writing about mental health is always incredibly subjective – there’s such a broad spectrum of symptoms and each person who lives with mental illness handles it in incredibly different ways that often contradict each other, so bear in mind that when I write about mental health I’m writing about my experiences of mental health and cannot speak on behalf of anyone else.

Lockdown has been a ride, hasn’t it? In the UK more and more places are going into local lockdown, thousands of new cases are being diagnosed every day and ‘young people’ are getting the blame for eating out to help out, going back to work and supporting the economy. Amongst so much uncertainty, it’s not surprise that the anxiety that craves control is going haywire.

At the beginning of lockdown, personally I flourished – all of my uni assignments got pushed back and adjusted so I had plenty of time to work on them, my boyfriend was home from work for the longest time since he started and I felt so in control of everything that was going on.

Then the first ‘three weeks’ of lockdown turned into months, I had less assignments to work on and the ones that were left feel big and intimidating and overwhelming, my boyfriend being home meant that he just played video games all day and gazing out the window felt too much like wishing for a life we couldn’t have anymore.

Normal has changed. The uncertainty of not knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore is the worst feeling. And we have no idea how life could ever get back to a ‘normal’ where we don’t wear masks and we don’t sanitise at every opportunity and glare at people who don’t understand the concept of 2m apart or following arrows on the floor in public places, especially in a world where there are people who ‘don’t believe’ in vaccines (which will never cease to baffle me); ‘normal’ feels like a very far away concept.

On the surface, I’m doing okay – my boyfriend (fiancé? He’s put a ring on it now so I should really get used to calling him that) has gone back to work and whilst at first I was nervous to be on my own, I now make the most of being as productive as I can whilst I don’t have the background noise of video game commentary and too many 5 minute crafts videos (he has an obsession). But underneath, I’ve been getting these ‘nausea attacks’ (I don’t know how else to describe them) and there’s this tight feeling in my stomach and I don’t know if it’s anxiety or a bug or a new intolerance and it keeps me up at night and wakes me up at ridiculous times in the morning. I’ve had more panic attacks in these moments in the last few weeks than I’ve ever experienced in such a short time frame before and it’s really hard, to be honest.

But assuming it is subconscious anxiety and not anything physical, I’m doing all I can to keep my mind occupied – I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music to fill in the silence without distracting me from whatever I need to be focusing on, I’ve been making more of an effort to meditate using the Headspace app and trying to make a sense of routine with my daily to do lists and regular meal times.

With no end in sight to this pandemic and a looming second wave in the UK, coping mechanisms are always changing and however much it goes against everything I know, we just have to ride the wave. The waves are going to wash over us anyway, resisting them won’t change the tide.

Well that was potentially a bit deep for a random Tuesday in September, but I’m a bit pretentious like that – I love a water related motivational quote!

Whether or not you suffer with mental illness, living through a pandemic that has touched every single one of our lives was never going to be easy. I hope that you are feeling okay, because okay is enough! It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s okay to just be okay too.

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

Sophie xx

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using my bullet journal to create routine

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

I’ve been writing about my bullet journal for a long time now – flip throughs, monthly set ups, weekly spreads, why everyone should bullet journal etc etc… but you’d think in a pandemic lockdown I wouldn’t put an effort into maintaining it, right? My uni is closed, I have no deadlines to meet for anything (pretend the dissertation isn’t real…), no social plans, so why am I holding my bullet journal closer than ever?

Do I sound like a melodramatic Buzzfeed article or what?

I’m someone who craves routine – the longer lockdown goes on the more lost I feel because it gets more difficult to motivate myself to maintain a consistent routine, but that’s where the bullet journal comes in! Having a to do list every day and a meal plan every week gives each day just a little bit of structure.

I’ve not been waking up consistently at all (this morning I woke up at 7.30am, then fell asleep until 10.20am – I’ve not slept that late since I was a teenager!) but I have lunch at 12, start cooking dinner about 5.30 to eat at 6 and aim to go to bed at 9… sometimes I don’t notice the time but generally I’m in bed by 10 at the latest! (I’m a granny, I need my sleep!)

My to do lists generally have 6-7 things on them every day and include things like washing my hair (because ya gal cannot keep track of the last time I washed my hair), doing my daily Headspace meditation and recording a clip for my 1 Second Everyday video – that’s three things already! Then I have 4 other tasks that generally include a form of exercise (I know! Who even am I anymore), something uni related, something craft related and then whatever else needs doing whether it’s cleaning the house or going to a pub quiz!

The system works pretty well for me most days – sometimes I get everything done by lunch time and I’ll either start the next day’s tasks or have the afternoon off, sometimes when my brain’s not doing so well tasks will start to pile up but after a day or two of feeling low I’m getting better at recognising that I don’t want to do that any more and just tackling one task at a time (then writing them off at the end of the week because no one needs to start the week with a bucket load of tasks from the week before – reassign them to the new week!).

Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated I’ll even set myself a properly timed schedule – this can be super helpful with bigger tasks because then I know I only have to work on them for a set amount of time then I’m done with it for the day. Even setting a timer so you get that proper sense of conclusion is great. I used our Alexa to set a one hour timer to do uni work, then my sister called so I paused it and when it resumed I carried on where I left off and after an hour I’d made really good progress and I felt really good about myself!

Obviously there are some days where the thought of even sitting at my desk is too much, but it’s working with your mindset and your emotions to make this time work best for you. We all have good days and bad days, especially when you’ve got mental health in the mix as well, but it’s listening to your own mindset and pushing yourself where you can. It’s all a balance!

I’ve been using the phrase ‘gentle productivity’ for a couple of weeks now and I really like it – lockdown is a breeding ground for bad mental health and being gentle on yourself (whether it’s giving yourself a break or pushing yourself back to your desk) is the key to having a bit of routine and normalcy and protecting your mental space.

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

Sophie xx

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Treasured In… July

2020, books, fashion, lifestyle, wedding

Hello!

Another month has passed, though I’m not entirely sure how because I’m pretty sure it was May yesterday but time has passed me by! More stuff has happened, I’ve bought things, reads things, watched things and I’m going to share it all!

Let’s jump right in, because otherwise another month will come and go without me noticing!


purchase:

Having had a couple of ‘no spend’ months, this isn’t a category I’ve included so far but I actually let myself by some things this month so I wanted to share. I wrote a whole blog post about the books I bought/acquired this month – I’d run out of physical books I hadn’t read in our house since we moved last year so I definitely made up for it at the beginning of the month. I’ve now had to stop letting myself by books because I’m never going to read them all at this rate!

Then there’s two items of clothing that I adore this month – what I’m calling my Explorer Shorts from Primark, they’re a khaki green stretchy denim short that give me Lara Croft vibes but they’re elasticated; big fan!

And then I picked up a lovely navy cardigan from M&Co in the sale that is super cosy, I’m almost disappointed when it’s really warm because I can’t wear it.

blog post:

Someone I went to school with shared this article about Lockdown Weight Gain and I found it really interesting reading about the emotional impact of weight gain, particularly in a pandemic that is encouraging discussion about the impact of lockdown on mental health (though I’m not sure how much is being done?).

recipe:

I’m not big on trying new things at the moment – eating food that I’m familiar with and recipes I already know how to do has been the only cooking I’ve really done, but last week I made brownies for the first time in years and it was so good.

I definitely undercooked it, but it means I’ve got a super gooey fudgey brownie so I wasn’t gutted about it. Whilst putting a whole pound of brown sugar into a bowl was something that made me consider not making brownie anymore, it’s really good and the recipe I used was the one my mum gave me when I moved to uni so I can’t link it but I could make a blog post about it if there’s interest?

music:

I’m about two months behind on watching my YouTube subscriptions, but I watched Tom Fletcher and Danny Jones from McFly, Olly Murrs, Niall Horan and James Arthur covering Shine a Light, an older McFly song, and I was blown away by how amazing the cover was. I’m a pretty big McFly fan, hence why I’m subscribed to Tom’s YouTube channel, but I’ve never paid too much attention to the other three artists, though I know most of their ‘super popular’ songs. I’m obsessed with Niall’s voice and I need to listen to his most recent album.

Seeing how musicians are adapting to not being able to continue working as usual and making the most of remotely collaborating is very exciting.

YouTube video:

As I mentioned, I’m about two months behind on watching YouTube videos but my favourite video this month was from Mykie / Glam and Gore doing Halloween costume hacks from a 5 minute craft video considering my boyfriend is currently going through a phase of watching 5 minute crafts in secret (to the degree that he was watching them after I’d fallen asleep one night and I woke up at 6am to strange voices in our bedroom because he’d fallen asleep with them on). Either way! The video Mykie made was really fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

books I’ve read:

Where She Went (Gayle Forman) – after re-reading ‘if I stay’, ‘where she went’ was a pleasant enough unnecessary sequel. The first half was a whiney young man who couldn’t communicate his feelings and had an unhealthy relationship with medication and substances, then it actually starts to explore the relationship between the two main characters from the first book and the heart and poetic nature of the narrative returned.

The Memory Cage (Ruth Eatham) – I downloaded this book for free from Amazon with Prime Reading on my Kindle because I ran out of physical books and it was definitely meant for a more middle grade audience, but it was a nice heartfelt story about adoption, family and loss. I actually really enjoyed reading on my kindle so I’m definitely going to buy more books on there in the future.

Masha Regina (Vadim Leventhal) – I picked up this book for 50p and I was really excited about getting such a bargain, but it turned out to be 50p for a reason. There just wasn’t much of a story at all. I wrote a full review on instagram, but I wouldn’t recommend – the review is potentially more entertaining than the book.

Currently reading: Blame (Jeff Abbott) – I don’t often read crime and whilst this book was in the grown up fiction second, it feels very YA to me because it’s about a girl in college and I think that’s part of the reason I’m enjoying it more than I expected. When you’re reading a book you expect to be able to trust everything the protagonist experiences to be true, but the more that I read the more I’m not sure who is trustworthy and it’s really interesting. Keep an eye on my instagram for a full review when I finish it!

snack:

When visiting my boyfriend’s family earlier this month, we went to Tescos for a meal deal and spotted these ‘French style’ Madeleine cakes and whilst we were in Paris last year, we became obsessed with these cakes called ‘Quatre Quart’ (or something) and we think we’ve found it! We think it’s the same cake! So we’ve eaten a disproportionate amount of them (they’re so good).

tv / film / streaming / something to watch:

As with eating food I already know how to cook, I’m not really in the mood for watching anything new and not knowing how it’s going to play with my emoTIoNs but whilst we were on a little holiday at the beginning of the month we watched quite a bit of Escape to the Country and now I’m thinking about property a lot and I want to watch more trashy daytime TV.

wedding planning update:

We viewed a venue! The only placed we’ve viewed and I’m obsessed, it’s beautiful, it’s got everything we want, amazing accommodation and we could really see ourselves getting married there. The quote we received after the viewing was much higher than we thought it would be but for the venue that we love so much, we think we’re going to do some negotiations and work more to pay for it. There’s actually some wedding progress! Over two years in advance maybe a little premature but there’s still actual progress!


July has been mad and August is set to be much quieter, but who knows at this point!

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

Sophie xx

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aspects of ‘normal’

2020, lifestyle

Hello!

Having been on a little family holiday with my Dad last week, visiting local attractions like my favourite indie bookstore (book haul post here), a manmade reservoir which is beautiful on a sunny day (not when it’s raining and half shut down, but the cafe was lovely) and browsing round all the little shops in the town, I let myself get too settled in what could be considered ‘normal life’.

‘Normal’ as we knew it before the pandemic didn’t include using different hand sanitisers in every shop we went into, wearing a mask and mastering breathing without fogging up my glasses (which is not an excuse not to wear a mask!) and having to try and count how many customers were in the shop before we went in. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining about any of this. In fact, I think the town we visited on our holiday was incredibly well prepared and respectful considering all the conditions. What I’m saying is that despite all these additional measures, it didn’t really have any impact on my shopping experience and it wasn’t difficult to adapt to in any way; it still felt normal.

My weekly Asda trip still makes me cross because an announcement comes over the tannoy to ‘stay 2m away from staff and follow the arrows in a one way system’ to then have three members of staff within a foot of each other (and me) having a natter with no PPE walking the wrong way down the pasta aisle! Most of the town I live in appears to be the same which is frustrating. But some of the shops have precautions and screens at checkouts and I feel way more comfortable nipping into town for anything I need (which isn’t much because I’m on a spending ban so if anyone wants to hold me accountable for that please feel free).

Now that we’re allowed to go see friends and family and businesses are doing everything they can to encourage custom and lots of entertainment streams are doing everything they can to stay alive (theatres are planning to open again in 2021 and I’m eyeballing tickets for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella…), it’s easy to forget that we’re still at a Level 3 of 5 on the government’s scale of the UK’s position on the pandemic – it’s still a very real and literal threat!

I think it’s ridiculous that shops are opening, let alone theme parks and zoos, but I somewhat relied on human sensibility in that it doesn’t matter if places open if people aren’t going to use them.

But then people used them. People flocked to Disneyland and pubs and are boarding planes to get their summer tan and I lose all my faith in humanity all over again. This virus isn’t just about our personal safety, it’s about considering the danger we pose as individuals to those who don’t have the immune system to survive an illness like this. It baffles me how anyone can be so ignorant and self-centred to think that wearing a mask is about ‘taking their freedom away’ (what freedom? It’s allowing you to do the things you want to do without being a risk to other people’s lives??). It makes me angry so I have to think about something else because my anger is never going to convince these people that we can’t take the mindset that we’re going to combat this virus as individuals.

This definitely isn’t what I intended to write about today. My favourite blog posts to write are the ones where I just ramble and the words come out of my quickly typing fingers before I can really process it (which is why I also thoroughly proofread all my blog posts).

I keep thinking about what I would be doing now if we weren’t in lockdown; I know I’m craving some sort of change but I don’t know what because in ‘normal’ life I’d probably be doing much the same, staying at home trying to convince myself to work on my dissertation project and struggling, but my partner would still be away at work and I’d still be able to go procrastinate with my friends on campus with an array of snacks. Maybe I’d be a bit further along with my diss project, because I’d have the facilities, the support of my lecturers and the motivation from my friends but I don’t know how much would really be that different.

This week I’ve arranged to view a wedding venue with my partner. It’s the first real step in planning our wedding, which is still over two years away, but I know that when we get there it’ll be masks on, much of the venue may be closed off and that lingering sense of uncertainty that we’ll be able to have 80 guests in one place in 841 days time.

‘Normal’ may be on its way back, but I don’t want to let myself get too comfortable with it whilst we’re still at Level 3. I can only hope that there isn’t a second wave and we’re really on our way out of this pandemic.

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

Sophie xx

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going on a British holiday in lockdown?

2020, lifestyle, travel

Hello!

Four months into lockdown, a lot of people are talking about the summer holidays they’ve had to cancel, optimism about still being able to get abroad and choosing UK based alternative like it’s a second rate option to flying away somewhere.

Granted, you’re not going to get 40 degree sunshine and sandy beaches but as a girl who grew up going to the Peak District and feeling inferior to my friend’s holidays abroad, I’m trying to remind myself that there are so many parts of the UK that I haven’t seen and the weather doesn’t make it any less exciting! Just different.

Next week my boyfriend and I are going away with my dad – he lives alone so it’s all legal within the social bubble thing. We were going to go to the same place we always used to go in the Peak District because I’m so fond of it and I’m desperate to show my favourite person one of my favourite places. But then there was a whole palaver with the website my dad booked it through accepting the booking when the holiday site wasn’t actually open and trying to rearrange around my boyfriend’s work but then we found a little cottage that was available and now the holiday is back on!

I do feel a bit weird about going on holiday in a pandemic – it’s all legal, we’ve double triple checked, but I’ve only just braved going to the unessential shops two weeks after they opened and however important I know wearing a mask is, having to wonder round without my glasses on because they keep fogging up is equal parts annoying and really funny.

Obviously we’re going to be as safe as we can be – making sure we have masks and antibacterial gel and we’ll make sure everywhere we want to go is safe and stay socially distanced… but it just feels weird.

I’m so excited to see my dad and spend some time with him knowing he hasn’t seen anyone properly in months. I’m going to see my mum and sister as well for the first time in four months and it’s going to be so nice but so surreal to know I’ll be driving home again next weekend and I have no idea when I’ll next see them.

Lockdown conditions are easing and hopefully the rest of the country is being more careful than the people in my area (they make me so cross and every time I go for a walk or to Asda it baffles me how people can’t seem to understand arrows?) and things will continue to ease as we control this virus but it will definitely be a very strange experience going on holiday this time.

To anyone feeling like they have to ‘compromise’ on a British holiday instead of an international one this year – keep your mind open, although at times it doesn’t feel like it, we do actually live in a beautiful country and there’s lots of amazing places to see.

Also stop using the phrase ‘Staycation’ – just because you’re not leaving the country doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as a holiday.

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… June

2020, books, film

Hello!

I was so excited about June because it started on a Monday and now it’s… gone? I feel like there’s only so many posts I can count how many full months of lockdown we’ve had but June marks three complete months (plus a couple of weeks) under lockdown restrictions. It just feels so mad to think about – especially having reviewed my yearly goals and thinking about how that version of me had absolutely no idea what was coming… It gets a bit much to think about sometimes!

Regardless, the month is drawing to a close to here are the things I’ve been loving this month.


blog post:

With the rapid changes in the weather, lockdown effecting my mental health and trying to make some progress on my masters dissertation, making the effort to find new blogs to read and engage with wasn’t a priority.

I was super excited to read a post from Hannah Gale announcing her second pregnancy, but it wasn’t long after that she decided to step back from the internet and her Instagram has been closed, her blog deactivated and nothing left behind. I’m genuinely gutted to see such a wonderfully genuine creator feel bullied off their platform and hope that Hannah finds happiness in whatever comes next for her.

recipe:

With the weather getting hotter and inclination to put any effort into cooking getting less and less, my partner and I are doing everything we can to cook good food in as little time as possible.

We intended to make a bruschetta inspired pasta bake with plum tomatoes, red onion, pesto, garlic and cheese but opened our jar of pesto to see… it wasn’t okay. So instead we mixed it all together with half a tub of garlic and herb cream cheese and a generous handful of grated cheddar and mozzarella and accidentally created the most amazing pasta bake? 

The cream cheese mixed with the grated cheese made the most lovely sauce, the cream cheese mixed with the tomatoes to give it an almost passata taste, it had vegetables in it, we didn’t need to ‘bake’ it like a normal pasta bake, we just served it up with some garlic bread and it was glorious. It’s now a weekly staple and I’m hungry just thinking about it!

online course:

With working on an essay for uni, although I really wanted to start learning how to use a software called Unity to make vide games, I just didn’t have the brain space to read academic literature for an essay as well as try to teach myself complicated game mechanics. I managed to watch a few beginner videos on the Unity YouTube page but no major progress here this month.

song:

Not a new song as much as a new playlist – my boyfriend and I are driving up to see my family at the beginning of July and then driving on for a ‘social bubble’ getaway with my dad so we made our perfect road trip playlist.

We’re saving the first full listen for the journey in July but I am pumped about it, not only because it’s all our favourite tunes but because I miss driving so much and cannot wait for a road trip.

youtube video:

My boyfriend and I have very different tastes in YouTube and where in ‘normal’ life he works away about half the week, I normally keep quite on top of my ‘watch later’ playlist. But he’s been home for 15 weeks and my playlist is up to over 350 videos from the best part of two months ago, so I’m not up to date at all.

However this video from RawBeautyKristi announcing her pregnancy after 15 years of trying was absolutely heartwarming and I’m welling up just thinking about it – Kristi’s one of those creators that I’ve known about but haven’t subscribed to but I watched this and couldn’t not. So excited to see her journey through this progress and 100% recommend the video if you need to see some pure happiness or maybe have a little cry.

loved this acoustic version of my favourite song from All Time Low’s newest album Wake Up Sunshine – I suppose this technically counts as music but it’s on YouTube not Spotify so here it is.

And a little bit of self promo – June 23rd marks one year since I shaved my head and I’ve been filming a One Second Everyday video which I’ve now shared! I’ve been planning this video for a while and I’m really pleased with how it came out so if you’ve got 5 minutes and want to give it a watch, I’d really appreciate it!

books:

I genuinely thought June might be the month where I only read one book but now I’m on my fourth book so back on track!

Carry On (Rainbow Rowell) – this book is essentially the fanfiction/fake Harry Potter story described in ‘Fangirl’ (my favourite book of all time) but I was really disappointed in it. The first 200 pages were so slow that I actively avoided reading it, then the plot started to get good and it was really high paced and interested, then a romance plot came out of nowhere and felt really out of character for the characters as they’d been throughout the rest of the book. The ending felt really inconclusive with so many loose ends not tied up and I just felt really dissatisfied finishing it. It’s one for the donate pile unfortunately!

The Man Who Didn’t Call (Rosie Walsh) – I was pleasantly surprised by this book – I picked up 3 for £5 in The Works the week before lockdown hit and I thought it would be a light bit of chick lit to break up the high fantasy and sci-fi books I have. I thought it would be all about some asshole man and girl power or it would be a mystery where he was chronically ill or had a family and kids but wow the twist was one I did not see coming and it was just lovely. It had a very David Nicholls ‘One Day’ feel in it’s English romance style and I genuinely enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would.

Love At First Like (Hannah Orenstein) – book 2 in the 3 for £5 and another one that I thought would be super cringey chick lit about someone who cares about social media and winds herself up in lies and breaking peoples hearts. It wasn’t anywhere near as cringey as I thought it would be, it was so much more heartfelt and the characters felt so real. The ending was the sweetest and it was so interesting to read a book so up to date on social media, interesting to think about re-reading it in a few years and whether it will feel so modern then!

Currently reading: Our Child of the Stars (Stephen Cox) – and the trilogy of 3 for £5 comes to it’s conclusion! Again one that I didn’t expect at all – I thought it would be about a couple who couldn’t have kids adopting a little boy and navigating life as a new family of three, but wow I miss the quotes on the back that described it as a sci-fi book. There’s aliens, there’s secrets, there’s conspiracies, but it has the heart and soul of family too – I’m about 70% through and hope to finish it before the end of the month so keep an eye on my Instagram for a full review!

snack:

I’ve really been trying not to snack as much at the moment to the degree that we don’t really have that much in the house!

I had a craving for microwave smores (two chocolate digestives with a marshmallow in the middle in the microwave for 10 seconds, it’s glorious) but then I needed comfort food and the digestives and marshmallows were finished.

In less ‘comfort’ food and more ‘trying to be healthy’ I bought a melon mix from Asda on one of our weekly shops and that was so nice! I want to try buying a honeydew melon and preparing it myself but so far it’s got as far as buying a melon then ignoring it in the fridge for a week and reluctantly throwing it away because I feel guilty I’ve wasted it. I’ll let you know if I make any melon progress in July!

tv/film/streaming thing:

Other than nearly finishing Kim Possible on Disney+, the only other thing I’ve watched this month is the live action Dora the Explorer movie and much like all the books I read – I was so surprised by it.

I thought it might be trying to make Dora a ‘grown up’ character and take itself to seriously but the film opens with a take on recreating the title sequence from the kids TV show and the whole thing is like a massive meta joke and it was actually really good? I’ve kind of not been able to stop thinking about it – it was super fun, surprisingly funny and Boots the Monkey was the best character.

wedding planning update:

I emailed the venue! The venue got back to me and they’re reopening in July so we’re just trying to arrange a time to go and visit to see it and then potentially booking it, which feels mad to be doing over two years in advance and it makes me feel a bit nervous that suddenly it’s all very real, but also really exciting!


This turned out to be longer than I expected but a post full of things I’ve enjoyed this month is a pretty good one to accidentally ramble about!

July is looking like it’s going to be much busier – my boyfriend is going back to work, restrictions are easing in the UK and personally I’m scared of a second wave, but trying to take each day as it comes and get used to live going back to ‘normal’ a bit more.

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

Sophie xx

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cutting myself a break

2020, creativity, mental health, writing

Hello!

I don’t know why every week in lockdown seems to be more difficult, but this week I’m really struggling and I can’t put a finger on why because nothing has changed.

Blogging is something I find really therapeutic – sitting down at my laptop with a blank page and just typing long, rambly posts that are eloquent and articulate and insightful makes me feel inspired and motivated, reminding me that words are my creative tool and I fall in love with writing all over again.

But on the other hand, when I’m not feeling that inspiration or I don’t have anything important to say, the blank page feels daunting in a way that takes me by surprise. Structure and schedule has always helped me – whether it’s productivity or consistency in content, having ‘upload days’ has always made me a better blogger.

Whenever I reach a point where I think ‘yeah, I don’t need a schedule, I’ll blog when I feel inspired to share something’ I go quiet for months. Without the plan to post a blog post on certain days, the ideas just don’t come to me! Routine and structure works for me but when I don’t feel passionate about what I’m writing then it’s stilted and forced and it just becomes another element for stress (even though I really shouldn’t let it be).

I’m going through a lull right now and I need to respond to that. Earlier this year I went through a period of only uploading once a week and I felt so creatively motivated that I increased it back up to two, but I don’t think I have enough creative or mental energy for that right now.

Did I need to write a whole blog post about why I’m going from two blog posts a week down to one a week? Absolutely not – I doubt anyone would have questioned it or noticed. But getting it out of my system is therapeutic for me and in essence; this post is as much about asking too much of ourselves as it is my personal relationship with my blogging schedule. If I’ve helped reassure one person that they’re not the only one struggling, especially creatively, as lockdown gets longer and longer, then I’ve used my platform for a purpose. If it doesn’t ‘help’ anyone in the way I see influencers talking about all the time, then it’s helped me, and that’s enough.

So I’m going to go back to one blog post a week. Because lockdown is getting to me and my creativity is shaky at best anyway.

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

Sophie xx

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rediscovering my creativity: cross stitch – my new found love

2020, creativity

Hello!

I’ll be honest – my inspiration for blog posts is rock bottom right now so I’m stripping it back to basics; writing about something I’m enjoying in the present moment.

I went on a trip to hobbycraft at the beginning of this year to pick up supplies for my t-shirt blanket and whilst I was there I saw a cute baby elephant cross stitch kit… which promptly sat untouched for a couple of months.

But when lockdown hit and I wanted to force myself to find ways to spend time offline and off-screen, I started doing this cross stitch. A few sessions in I realised I missed the bit where it said to split the threads from six strands into two and had to fill in the rest with whatever I could find (which turned out to be purple) but the process got me hooked.

I wasn’t ready to jump straight in to designing my own patterns so I bought this ‘Positive Pants’ kit on Etsy – it was a bit more expensive, but the quality of the kit was much higher, it came with a hoop and a beautiful pattern on durable card (which I’m definitely keeping) and I enjoyed it even more than the first one. Potentially because I got the thing with separating the strands right this time but we’ll gloss over that bit.

Next step: design my own pattern. I bought some aida cloth and embroidery thread on Amazon, I used the needles I got from the two kits I’d done and I designed a pattern on Stitch Fiddle (which felt a lot like designing a logo on MarioKart DS when I was a kid) and then I was off – I assigned the colour codes from my threads to the colours on my pattern and started! I’m now maybe a couple of days away from finishing and I’m even more obsessed.

The creation process has made me feel creative in a whole new way – normally the way I express my creativity has been through words or digital media but this physical craft that I’m holding in my hands makes me feel so proud.

I’m making an ‘In the Garden’ sign for my dad for father’s day – he’s notoriously hard to get presents for but I’m not the kind to just sit back and get him another Costa voucher, I will forever strive to find the ‘wow I didn’t even know I wanted that!’ present for him. He’s never going to be blown away by any present I give him because that’s just not who he is as a person but I think he’ll really appreciate this one. Even if he doesn’t, I’ve had a whale of a time making it.

Now I’m trying to space out my cross stitching with other projects – I started knitting again in lockdown and I want to try making something new with that, but whilst I’m enjoying knitting it’s just not fired me up creatively in the same way cross stitch has. As I’m writing this I can see my nearly-finished design sitting just next to this and it’s taking all my will not to sack off my whole to do list today and just work on it because I love it so much.

It’s so therapeutic, sometimes I just put YouTube videos on in the background and it’s something to do with my hands and the final product is so rewarding.

If you’re interested in seeing my finished piece, keep an eye on my Instagram stories for progress pics and I’m sure I’ll post a grid picture when I’m done (my dad’s 72 and not the internet type, he won’t see it! Unless he’s made a sneaky instagram behind my back!).

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

Sophie xx

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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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