just 10 seconds at a time

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

A lot of what’s taking up my brain space at the moment is actually fitness (I never thought I’d be saying that!) – with starting the Couch to 5k running program in July and aiming for one at home workout a week alongside running in August, I spend more time psyching myself up to do exercise, planning when I’m going to fit it in and mentally preparing myself for the physical challenge than I really need to, in all honesty.

I’m finding Couch to 5k really hard – it took me two weeks to make it through week 1 and I’m now finishing my fourth week of week 2 and I really don’t know if I’m ready for week 3, but with both running and my at home workouts I’ve got two phrases that are really helping me through.

The first time I managed the full week 2 run, I thought it was a fluke – somehow I’d made it through 6 repetitions of 90 seconds running and 2 minutes walking and it almost didn’t feel real. But next time I went for a run, I pushed through each run because I knew I could do it because I’d done it before. Even when I ended up falling through each step more than running it, I didn’t start walking until the lovely Sarah Millican’s voice told me I could (though, sorry Sarah, there’s no such thing as a ‘brisk pace’ when I’m wondering if my shins are going to snap!).

Simply knowing that I’d done it once before was enough to motivate me to do it again.

And the other thing that helps when I’m specifically doing a plank in my home workout, is just 10 seconds. Just 10 more seconds then I can stop. But when I’ve done that 10 seconds I have the option to stop or just do another 10 seconds. At this point I’m only aiming for 30 seconds at a time, but breaking it down into 10 second chunks is surprisingly helpful.

Also doing maths is a helpful way to distract my brain from the throbbing pain in my shoulders, lower back, ankles and abs – 10 seconds, just the same thing twice more, 15 seconds half way through, 20 seconds just need to do 50% of what I’ve already done again, 25 seconds means 5 seconds to go and by that point it’s done.

How often does it actually work? This morning I managed one 30s plank and then two 20s ones so all round, not bad for my second week of ‘at home’ workouts!

But it doesn’t just apply to fitness – we’re living through something completely unprecedented and there was never going to be a way to mentally prepare for a pandemic that no one was ready for. Maybe in ‘real life’ 10 seconds isn’t a huge amount of time, but if you’re in a moment of crisis, just making it through the next 10 seconds can be enough of a reminder that you can do this, you’re in control and you can take things at your own pace.

Whether it’s one day at a time, one hour at a time or a minute at a time, focusing on the here and now can make all the difference when the future feels so scary and uncertain. There’s so many things we can’t be sure of right now from when the heck the graduate job market will recover to when we can have a BBQ with our friends again, let alone the economy or housing market or other things that feel too grown up to me.

Things are weird – when lockdown started all those months ago, everyone said four weeks was such a long time and now it’s been five months. No one knows what ‘putting the world back together again’ will look like but worrying about how the future will look when there is no answer is just going to make handling the present more difficult – one day, one moment, one step.

We can do this.

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

Sophie xx

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backwards progress | unfitness update

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these ‘unfitness’ posts – I wrote a couple at the beginning of quarantine and I’ve talked about why fitness hasn’t been a priority in the last year or so, but I thought now would be a good time to do a little update, as well as looking back on the progress I’ve made.

I have a highlight on my instagram (also called ‘unfitness’) where I’ve been documenting my ‘journey’ with exercise (though I don’t think it really deserves to be called that). It started with lots of boomerangs of my trainers on the treadmill and screenshots from my FitBit app with long rambles about how my mental health is all over the place and it’s hard to find examples of fitness that work for someone of my size and fitness level (which is a solid zero).

Then I started Couch to 5k – I ran consistently three times a week for maybe three months and I was so proud of the progress I made and my commitment to doing something for me. I saw results, I lost weight, I felt better about myself… but then the weather got really hot and I couldn’t cope. Then life stuff happened and I didn’t have access to a treadmill anymore and I was gaining weight and I was disappointed in myself and I kept putting it off.

Now 17 weeks into lockdown (not that I’m counting…) and I’ve put on enough weight that I’m nearly back at my heaviest weight from two years ago and I’m trying really hard not to beat myself up about it but it’s really disappointing.

There are so many external factors – a literal pandemic, living in a small one bedroom house where even pottering all day every day doesn’t get that many steps in (I wanted to hit my step goal once and did maybe 200 laps of the living room… about 15 steps a lap!), feeling sad and comfort eating then feeling worse about comfort eating and feeling like I deserve a treat… And then the toll that takes on my mental health.

So I wanted to start reintroducing exercise in a way that didn’t feel forced or high pressure – the pandemic lockdown is taking a harder toll on my mental health the longer it goes on for so I need to gently find long term sustainable things that can help. In June, I set myself the goal of doing 5000 steps per day – I only managed this for about half the days of the month, but it made me more aware of what 5000 steps looked like and the efforts I had to make to achieve it.

Although it wasn’t particularly successful, I decided that I wanted to start Couch to 5k again in July – my boyfriend was interested in starting it too and together we would brave running in the outside world (something I’d never done before). We’re now two weeks in – I’ve successfully committed to six runs in that time, although I’ve repeated Week 1 of the program twice (I meant it when I said my fitness level was zero) I’m doing it and I’m feeling it get easier and I’m making it part of my routine.

Do I have high hopes that this will become a regular habit and I’ll get to a point where I actually enjoy running? No – I know that in the past any exercise venture I’ve been on has ended after a few weeks of seeing no weight loss and feeling too mentally drained to put the effort in. But I can honestly say at this point, I’m kind of enjoying it – getting outside and getting my steps in and feeling my heart rate go up that high and then getting home and lying on my bed for twenty minutes before I can feel my toes enough to get in the shower. Doing something that pushes me and hurts my body a little bit but I know is going to be good in the long run feels good.

Mentally feels good I should say, physically it feels awful.

So the next step is working on my diet to go with the exercise – I’m never going to be someone who eats a salad because they like it or swaps to whole wheat pasta and brown rice (carbs are important to me). But I can cut down on snacks, eat more vegetables (I do love vegetables), portion my evening desserts so I don’t eat an entire pack of Haribo.

Even changes like going back to wearing make-up every day and having an evening skincare routine and maybe meditating again aren’t necessarily directly related to fitness, but they’re all parts of mental wellness that give me structure and routine and might give me more of a chance of 1) actually losing weight and 2) maintaining an exercise regime.

In the two years I’ve been documenting my ‘unfitness’, I found a pretty good routine where I lost over a stone in a couple of months and then lost nearly another stone over the next six months or so. I gained a little bit back but maintained up until the beginning of lockdown and then it all went downhill again. Although I’m not far off being back where I began two years ago, I’m hoping that knowing what I’ve learnt over those two years will make moving forward and seeing progress easier.

Fitness, weight and body image are such difficult topics to write about as they’re so personal to every individual – no one experiences anything in the same way, there are so many factors that make things different for everyone. But the important thing to remember is whatever your goals are, whatever you want to achieve whether it’s losing weight, getting stronger or just having some time in the day to do something for you – it’s all okay.

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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I HATE working from home

2020, lifestyle, mental health, student

Hello!

One thing I’ve been really struggling with in the latter half of lockdown so far (12 weeks and counting!) is working from home – after the initial boost of getting four assignments handed in on the same day, my motivation hit rock bottom – the two that were due the following week were a struggle and then I took a two week extension on the project that was due the week after (but with the extra time my partner-in-crime and Software Wizard Agata and I made this bomb animation called ‘Life After Lockdown‘).

But now that all my semester 2 deadlines are done and the only thing left is 5 months of looming dissertation deadlines, I feel even less motivated than I did before.

In my time on my undergraduate degree, I worked really hard to make my home a ‘work free environment’ – I would be on campus or in my favourite cafe (oh The Artisan, how I miss you) by 9am most days and would only really come home for dinner, at which point I would cook, play games with my boyfriend or do whatever not-work activities I wanted to do in my home environment.

I carried this over into my masters degree as much as possible – working on campus, making the most of group work whilst we were physically together and using the facilities, equipment and the computers that were better than mine.

Now that I’m facing doing my entire dissertation project at home? Every time I sit down to work on it, I feel this ball in my chest and I just can’t make progress – sitting down to read or write or learn more new software (because god knows the course didn’t actually prepare me for anything) is just so overwhelming. But I can’t afford to give myself a few weeks because I have other dissertation related deadlines before that where I have to document my progress, so I have to have progress to document.

It’s worth mentioning that I’m fortunate that I don’t have to balance a real job type work alongside my dissertation – many part-time students do and most people working from home at this point will be doing ‘proper’ work that they get paid for, not working on assignments, but the work from home struggle is universal regardless of what type of work.

A quote I see floating around a lot is ‘you’re not working from home, you’re at home, trying to work in a global crisis’ and I find that comforting when I’m finding it so difficult… but it doesn’t make the work any easier and the work still needs doing.

Something else I find difficult is working while my boyfriend is home – in our ‘normal life’, he’s either away working on live sports broadcasts around the country or at base 10-5, so if I wasn’t at uni I’d have the house to myself. Now, we’re in the same room all day every day because he spends most of his time playing games and my little office set up is in our open plan ground floor. Somehow over 12 weeks I haven’t got used to him talking on headset to his game friends and I just find it so much more difficult to concentrate when he’s here.

Sometimes it’s not even that he’s doing anything or saying anything – I can see the game on the TV even if he’s muted it, I just can’t work while he’s in the room. This isn’t something I can do anything about, but I’m more nervous about him potentially going back to work and being exposed to the virus so… there’s no winning!

I’m trying to be gentle with myself – beating myself up isn’t going to get the work done any quicker and it’s not going to motivate me at all.

Does confessing how much I’m struggling working from home really help anything? Not particularly, but I’m sure there are lots of people who’ve read everyone’s ‘working from home’ blog posts and watched all the videos and still not become the Working From Home Queens they hoped to be. Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that other people are still struggling, so I hope to provide that.

Starting is always the worst bit – once I’ve started and figured out what I’m doing more I’ll probably get into it but right now, it makes me want to cry a little bit so I’m going to do everything else on my to do list until there’s nothing else left.

Small progress is still progress!

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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how I’m cutting down my screentime

2020, books, creativity, lifestyle, mental health, writing

Hello!

I know that I don’t need to reiterate that quarantine is hard, we all know that, but one thing a lot of us have inadvertently spent a lot more time doing is looking at screens – from scrolling through Instagram, to working from home with a less regimented schedule, to Netflix to video games; so much of our entertainment is on screens.

Something I’m noticing more and more recently is that spending all day going from my phone to my laptop to the TV and back isn’t doing me any good – I don’t think it’s helping my sleep and I know I feel better when I’ve spent some time away.

I thought I’d collate a little list of the off-screen things I’m really enjoying at the moment so I can come back so it when I’m feeling a bit uninspired and maybe it’ll give you some ideas too!


  • cross stitch

I bought one of those little kits from Hobbycraft before everything closed and then ignored it for weeks. So when the weather picked up I sat outside with my cross stitch and it was lovely – I’ve been doing it on and off and I’ve nearly finished it now. It’s lovely to sit down and follow a pattern and make something creative – something that takes just enough brain power to keep you occupied but not enough brain power that it’s too hard. I’ve just bought a new kit from Etsy and I’m really excited about it.

  • knitting

I swear I have other creative hobbies that aren’t related to sewing. In my house I have one set of knitting needles and one ball of wool, but my mum sent me a pattern to make ‘ear savers’ which is essentially a headband to make face masks more comfortable for front line medical staff so I’m learning new stitches and hopefully I’ll actually be able to make something useful. Once you’ve nailed the new stitches it’s very therapeutic too!

  • making lists with coloured pens

Post-quarantine lists, things to do in quarantine, daily to do lists, weekly meal plans – everything is more exciting when you use coloured pens.

  • skincare

Spending even 5 minutes just to look after your skin and moisturise, maybe doing a face mask or a foot mask – it feels like a nice to make that time to treat yourself! Go all out and have a bath if you like, I have to wait for our new bath plug to arrive though and that’s a bit anticlimactic.

  • reading

I know I’ve been banging on about reading a lot this year but considering my goal for 2020 was 12 books and I just finished my 20th and I’m feeling more creatively driven by reading and writing than I’ve felt in an awfully long time, I’m justifiably excited about it. With the weather being typically British (unpredictable), reading is the perfect activity for sitting out in the garden catching some of that vitamin D or snuggled inside while the wind does its best to tear the trees down. So many of us have an ongoing ‘to be read’ pile and we might as well make the most of trying to cut it down a little whilst we’re encouraged to stay indoors.

  • gardening

I don’t necessarily mean landscaping your garden to make raised vegetable beds and only eating your own homegrown produce this summer! I mean making the most of the space you have (a windowsill, a balcony, any outside space) and growing something – there’s so many lovely indoor plants that can flourish at this time of year.

And it doesn’t have to be expensive – I bought a bag of soil, a small set of pots, a selection of flower seeds, some basic tools and gardening gloves in my weekly Asda shop for less than £20 and the joy of watching the seeds I planted turn into little shoots and flourishing is so satisfying and going out and watering them every day is incredibly therapeutic. I have to resist buying more every time I go shopping!

If you’re not sure where to start, I believe you can buy kitchen windowsill herb kits and grow the seasonings you use to cook! Our kitchen doesn’t have a window so I’ve opted for flowers this year but I definitely want to try tomatoes, peppers and courgettes next year!

  • journalling

If the world feels a bit big right now, I can’t express anything more therapeutic than getting all your feelings out on paper. It usually makes me feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest, sometimes it’s just a little bit so I can take a slightly bigger breath and sometimes I feel light as air but getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper is so healthy.

Then if you want you could even destroy the paper – I think I’m going to ceremoniously burn my journal when I’m finished with it. I can pretend it’s symbolic about a ‘chapter of my life ending’ but let’s be real; 1) a fire pit in the summer with friends is the best so might as well provide some kindling, 2) same applies to a BBQ, 3) there’s some parts of my life documented in that journal that I would really enjoy destroying and 4) it probably would be quite symbolic and provide a nice sense of closure.

The destroying isn’t the key part – it doesn’t even have to be on paper; you could make a private social media account that’s just for you, you could do it on the notes app on your phone or have a document on your computer. You can do it however you want in whatever medium you want, but I thoroughly recommend it.


If you’ve got any hobbies or activities that you’ve taken up during quarantine – whether to spend more time offline or to help your mental health – leave them in a comment below! We can make a big master post of ideas!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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finishing my masters in quarantine…

2020, mental health, student

Hello!

Everyone’s been effected in so many different ways by the corona virus pandemic , but as someone who is only a couple of years out of their undergraduate degree and trying to finish a masters degree, I’ve seen a lot of people who’s studies have been negatively effected by the virus.

Graduation ceremonies have been cancelled, deadlines have been shifted, ‘safety nets’ have been brought in so people’s grades can’t be negatively impacted, student loans have been spent on accommodation people aren’t living in and all in all, it’s been a mixed bag.

Post graduate loans are a joke so my last instalment came in at the beginning of April and more than half of it went on course fees for a course that’s been not cancelled but there’s no more teaching just a bunch of online tutorials and self teaching (which isn’t that different to usual… the whole course has been a joke but I could do a whole blog post on that on it’s own but I probably won’t in case they see it and decide to fail me lol). I’m really hoping for a refund otherwise finances are going to get really bloody tight in my house because I can’t get a job when everyone’s working from home and no one’s hiring so a little £2,000 refund would be lush.

Aside from finances, the whole thing has been weird – over my third year at uni in Southampton and the whole course at Oxford Brookes, I’ve worked really hard to develop a routine where I work on campus and I relax at home. It’s not always 100% solid but it meant that when I came home, I could almost leave my stress at the door and know that this is my place to chill.

Then everything closed and I had to completely rewire everything in my brain about working from home.

That was the biggest obstacle, but this was mid-March when it all kicked off. 4 of my 7 semester 2 deadlines had been pushed back to the end of April, with two more on May 1st and the last on May 7th. With about six weeks to work on these four big assignments. Once I overcame the initial ‘omg I don’t know how to work from home’, I flourished having something to focus on – I made myself a schedule, I did a little bit of work every day and I actually finished all four assignments 2 days before hand in and ended up having the big ‘four assignment hand in day’ completely off because I’d submitted everything by, like, 9am.

I thought my student life had been revolutionised – I had become one of those students I always envied and I was feeling very smug, I’ll be honest.

Then I crashed, my anxiety hit me like a truck, the two written assignments I had due for May 1st were a real ball ache and the assignment I had due on the 7th where I had to teach myself more about motion capture, animation, working with a group member who is currently at home in Poland all within less than 10 days? It all fell apart a bit.

I realised early enough in advance that there was no way I was ever going to be able to finish the animation project by the 7th and my uni is doing a ‘two week grace period’ extension with no questions ask, so that one’s still ongoing. But the two written assignments should have taken me a day, maybe a day and a half tops and my brain was in such a poor state that it took me a week, several edible rewards and a lot of coaxing from my boyfriend and my mum.

Because between corona virus, lecturer’s that either never give feedback (or are incredibly nit-picky) and the graduate job market as turbulent as it is, finding the motivation to care or to see a point in all of it is seems impossible. When they’re talking about the world taking possibly years to stabilise after this pandemic and the thought of starting a career and really starting adult life (saving for a wedding, house, kids etc) is just so big. The world feels too big and I feel so small and insignificant.

I wish I had a nice conclusion like “I suddenly realised XYZ and now I’m a-okay again!”. I got my two written assignments in, I’ve now got over two weeks to work on my animation and I’ve just found out that all my dissertation deadlines have been pushed back and there’s an option to delay the unit and pick it back up when uni is open again, so the pressure has eased a bit there.

My masters is ending in a way I never thought it would – this course has introduced me to four girls that I know I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life and we didn’t even know our last day at uni together was our last day. In theory we’re all due to graduate in Summer ’21 so we’ll all get to do that together but right now? It all feels very uncertain.

I have a lot of work still to do and I’m focusing on that as much as possible – giving myself a routine, trying to stay productive and fill my time with new skills and learning as well as working on my masters. I’m going to write a post later this week all about my weeks in isolation but uni wise, this all feels like it’s not real.

I really hope we get to go back to campus to work on our dissertations and I get to spend more time with the girls in the edit suite, gossiping and snacking more than working. I love being a student and whilst I now feel I’m definitely ready to move into a career and start properly making a life for myself, I loved the student experience and I’ll miss my commute to Oxford to see my friends.

It’s not the ending that any of us finishing our courses this year wanted, but we’ve got to make the most of what we’ve got. I’ve got somewhere to quarantine, I’ve got my boyfriend home which doesn’t happen this much ever, we’re financially stable (for now), we’ve got food in the house and we’re healthy. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all that stuff when your laptop charger’s broken and you can’t work on anything normally and you’re anxiety is bad and you’re putting on weight (you=me), but things are okay really and practising the gratitude will make things easier.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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

2020, fitness, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my love in these strange, pandemic times!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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curating social media for your mental health

2020, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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

2020, fashion, mental health

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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