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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unfitness – what’s going wrong?

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

I’ve talked about my personal health and fitness journey for years now – I used to do a ‘Monday update’ post where I essentially made excuses for why I didn’t eat well or exercise and I don’t know why I thought posting this to the internet once a week was a good idea but it happened.

You may be thinking “Surely that’s what this post is doing right now?” but I like to think that the way I write about health/fitness/anything is a bit more generic and less personal, whilst anchoring it in my own ‘journey’. I don’t need to justify myself, but there it is.

So asking myself ‘what’s going wrong’ is a bit like saying ‘I’ve got a gym membership (that I haven’t used), why aren’t I getting fitter?’ – it all comes down to personal discipline, finding what works for you and making time for it. However, in a world of masters degrees, maintaining a house, keeping mental health in check and maybe even having a social life, it’s difficult to find ‘time’ for fitness.

And the reason I say ‘time’ is that as someone who prides herself in being incredibly organised and running to a pretty successful schedule, there’s always time – the motivation is always the tough bit.

I’ve been using the Nike Training app for a long time – it can schedule programmes based on what goals you want to achieve, there are lots of different workouts based on what level you are and what equipment you have and a lot of it is accessible for free which is fantastic. But, and I’m really trying not to think of this as making excuses, I did have minor dental surgery at the beginning of the month and I can honestly say that having an infected wisdom tooth is the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, so ‘pushing past’ that to workout was not something I was prepared to do.

I quite often talk about ‘mental energy’ (which sounds much more mystical and exciting than it is now that I write it down) – usually my phrase is ‘I don’t have the mental energy for that’. What this means is I usually have the time, but I don’t have the mental headspace to think about or do the thing (in this case, exercise) on top of everything else I’ve already got going on in my head. We all have our own energies, some people can make that energy go further but particularly when mental health comes into the mix, that energy source is severely depleted so you have to prioritise where that energy is going to go.

So all of this sounds like one long excuse and to be honest, it kind of is. But I’d like to think it’s putting into words what a lot of people feel.

Whilst looking back and reflecting is incredibly useful, the important bit is to use that to make changes moving forward. What am I going to do now?

Realistically, I’m not going to change much right now – my priorities are my masters and looking after myself when my head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton wool. I’d like to start doing more steps in the day because I’ve been wearing my fitbit everyday for several years and my lifestyle at the moment is more sedentary than ever before, but there’s only so much I can do when everything is driving distance away.

My priority with fitness, regardless of how often I workout or how many steps I do a day, is to not beat myself up about it. Because I don’t have the mental capacity! I’ve got bigger things to be worrying about than the fact I didn’t do the six minute workout because I don’t know where my sports bra is and I’m not doing a workout that involves jumping without one.

I’m giving myself a break – there’s time for exercise and losing weight when I have more money and time, right now I have to put the energy I have into the important things in my life; my masters, my relationship and my house.

So my advice? (That I’m totally not qualified to give)? Give yourself space – focus on self improvement as much as you can, but your career or your studies or other aspects of your life are as important to improve in as your fitness if that’s what you want. In the long term, if I look back on this moment in 50 years I won’t be thinking about how little time I dedicated to exercise, I’ll think about the amazing friends I made studying in Oxford, the time I spent with my god-mother’s daughters and my family, the adventures I went on with my boyfriend/fiancé (it still sounds weird) – I won’t think about the time I only did 2000 steps a day or skipped a workout for an extra hour in bed.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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everyday things that help my mental health

2020, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

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

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

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

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

  • tidying and getting rid of clutter

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

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

  • curling up under a blanket

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

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

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

  • ticking something off my to do list

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

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

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

  • take time to cook something great

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

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

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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unfitness update – still unfit?

2019, fitness, mental health

Hello!

I used to write updates quite regularly of how I was doing on my ‘unfitness journey’ as I was calling it (basically just trying to lose weight and get into a good exercise routine).

I was doing Couch to 5k, I was eating well, I was tracking my weight and making good progress, then mental health kicked in, it was summer, it was too hot and then there was the whole palava with moving and starting a masters and I’ve only just really settled down to be able to think about it all again and it’s nearly December, so it’s time for advent calendar’s for breakfast and hot chocolates galore just to survive!

(Obviously I’m joking, although a medium hot chocolate with marshmallows and no cream from Costa is my favourite, I can survive without it)

So where am I at with my diet and fitness? Basically? Back to square one.

Not weight wise – I did put on a bit of weight over the whole ‘let’s just get moved I’ll eat what I can phase’ but not as much as I was this time last year when this whole thing started.

My fitness however is non-existent – I can’t afford a gym membership or dance classes, I don’t have the time or energy to figure out where I can go running around my house and now that I can drive I’m not walking anywhere near as much as I used to.

So what am I doing about it?

Well I’m tracking my weight again for one – although it can be scary how quickly something like the numbers on the scales can negatively effect us, at the moment I’m in a space where it gives me something to monitor my progress with and inspires me to make positive changes.

I’m cutting out snacking on focusing on eating three (mostly two) meals a day – a good lunch and a good dinner (with evening dessert) are what I plan for.

And anything else? That’s a bonus.

In the last two months, I’ve been living in a hotel being told we can’t move into a flat and making Nutella sandwiches with a tea spoon because it was cheaper than buying a meal deal every day.

My mental health still isn’t at it’s greatest and a mantra (if you can call it that) that’s really been helping me is “something is better than nothing” – eating a Nutella sandwich isn’t the best thing to eat but it’s better than getting so worked up about it all that I either eat nothing at all or I binge everything we have in the fridge. Drinking sugar-free juice is better than not drinking water or living off coca cola. Going to uni and work every day and getting 2k-4k steps is better than running myself down to the bone trying to make my bank account afford a gym membership and working out with time I could be spending with my boyfriend playing Pokemon Shield.

It’s all about compromise – something is better than nothing, always.

It’s a bit gross and I always feel really self-conscious about talking about it but something I really struggle with when my mental health is bad are daily things like brushing my teeth and having a shower. I know, it’s awful but there’s a part of my brain that doesn’t think I deserve that self care. But with my new little phrase, I know that brushing my teeth for 30 seconds is better than nothing, putting my body under running water for a few minutes rather than a full hair-wash shower is better than nothing. It’s little compromises and in the end the swings and roundabouts will swing and roundabout like they do and it’ll get easier again.

Last year I was in a really bad place – my weight was effecting my life, I couldn’t walk up stairs without getting really exhausted and I was losing motivation to do anything. Taking control of my diet and having a healthier relationship with food did wonders for me and I’m going to take small steps to get there again.

So at the moment I generally have a breakfast bar on the go in the morning, a sandwich, crisps and a chocolate bar for lunch (because who doesn’t love a school lunch box?) and then a bigger cooked meal in the evening. When my boyfriend is away with work I eat almost exclusively veggie and dinners are a bit more of a treat when he’s around.

Exercise is something I really want to integrate back into my life but I’m not confident exercising outside, I don’t have the space inside my house and I can’t afford a gym membership. But I’ve just started a new retail job and on those days I almost always get my 10,000 steps so it’s not much but it’s a start. And it’s something on my mind for the future, when I’m a bit more settled in the uni/work/life balance.

The posts I’ve written before in this ‘category’, if you want to call it that, have inspired me to get back into it – a setback isn’t the end, slow progress is progress and when the going get’s tough, listen to your body. The one thing I’ve learnt from documenting my fitness is that I’m never going to be the girl that works out every day – I’m never going to have a flat tummy or fit into a size 6 dress, and that’s fine. My body carries me and though I’m not my biggest fan, I have to live in this body so making peace with it is just going to make it easier.

So I’m not working out right now – I’m not doing couch to 5k anymore and having Nutella for lunch most days is definitely not a weight-loss recommendation but I’m doing what I can, and that’s all any of us can do really.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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the eve of 23

2019, lifestyle

Hello!

It’s my birthday tomorrow – normally I spend the few weeks leading up to my birthday getting excited and looking forward to it, but this year it’s really snuck up on me. My boyfriend and I are moving to our new flat in Reading this weekend and that is most definitely taking priority but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it.

slight update: between drafting and publishing this blog post, our estate agents (with three days to go) have pushed our move in date until September 28th so, all round very emotional and frustrated tbh

I’m a very reflective person – New Year is my best and worst time of year for that very reason – and my birthday always has me looking back on the year that’s gone passed. And 22 was an… interesting year.

It was the most challenging year of my life so far – having been home for a couple of months after graduating, having no luck in getting a job in any way shape or form, spending the next few months in denial that I couldn’t get a job and feeling particularly inadequate in every way, shape and form. 22 will always be the year that the only thing that mattered to me was being able to get a job and starting my career and, to be honest, that still stands now even though I’m less than a week from starting a masters degree in Digital Media Production.

Whilst this thought that I wasn’t good enough still lingers in my mind today, 2019 picked up a lot after realising that things weren’t going to get better if I didn’t try. I took a more permanent role working at my mum’s business as an office assistant and consequently worked enough hours to be able to consistently add to my savings account, upgrade my car and pay the deposit on our new flat (lol), as well as taking on a post-graduate certificate course in Professional Development Planning and decided to apply for a MSc in Digital Media Production. As well as getting my driving licence, a first aid qualification, doing lots of volunteering and making lots of self-development progress.

So 22 was up and down – I accidentally took a ‘year off’ though my mum doesn’t like me calling it that. My career isn’t where I want it to be, but I can’t change it and I can only make 23 better than 22 was. There’s no point dwelling on a past you can’t change! At least that’s what I’m trying to remind myself.

23 holds a lot of hope – having a place with my boyfriend, starting a new course in a new place, having a list of professional and career related things I want to achieve and knowing what I did wrong in my undergrad that I can amend in my post-grad hopefully will mean I can get this career off the ground (and maybe I’ll fish my self esteem out from the bottom of the ocean too!).

I’m hoping to go on a holiday abroad again, I’m planning to go to a festival with my mum next summer and I want to do everything I can to make 23 better than 22.

Sounds completely unrelated but hang with me – my boyfriend loves singing badly to songs and making up his own lyrics and the other day he came up with ‘dancing queen, young and sweet only twenty three’ and you know what? I’ll take that!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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