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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8 weeks in isolation

2020, lifestyle

Hello,

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

8 weeks.

56 days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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why I’m setting monthly goals on lockdown | April Goals 2020

2020, creativity, goals

Hello!

These past few weeks have been absolutely mad, haven’t they? I’m now in my third week of isolation (though I’ve been out a few times to go to the shops for food because I don’t have any alternatives) and I was quite peppy at first, looking forward to time at home with my boyfriend and catching up on my mammoth to do list.

Now the motivation to do any uni work is drying up and the fact this is life for a few weeks, maybe months is starting to set in and my mental health is taking a knock, but I’m trying my best to stay positive – not putting any pressure to ‘achieve’ anything and trying to listen to my body and be gentle with myself.

But with that in mind, I’m still trying to maintain a routine of some sort and I’ve been setting monthly mini goals for upwards of two years now (just looked it up – I started in March 2018, so definitely two years!). These goals really help me focus and I love seeing myself making progress, it’s incredibly satisfying, so I’m going to try and uphold that while we’re all safe in lockdown!

With the COVID-19 crisis in mind, I’ve tried to keep these goals as relevant and achievable as I can. What everyone determines as ‘achievable’ is so personal – some people are still working, whether it be from home or as key workers, and these people are saints, some people are finding these times really difficult and getting out of bed and feeding themselves is a challenge, so please don’t compare yourself or what you’re doing to my personal goals because they’re just that – personal goals.

1. Workout once a week – it’s been one of my goals forever to lose weight, eat healthier and find a fitness routine I can maintain and thus far it’s not worked very well. However with all this time at home and so many amazing influencers offering so many workouts for free, now is the prime time for me to give them a go. But I’m not aiming to workout three times a week – although it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s those kinds of numbers that always pile up on me so for now I’m starting at one. Depending on how the month goes I can adjust the goal from there but for now just one. I started on April 1st with one of Joe Wicks live ‘PE’ classes and it was tough but I did it!

2. No snacking – with health and fitness in mind, being home so much more these past few weeks has meant that all I want to do is snack. Bored? Snack. Thirsty? Snack. Need motivating? Snack. Dehydrated? Body is misinterpreting that as HUNGRY, therefore; snack. Having more time to tune in to my body, I’m going to try and learn what different feelings mean (it sounds pretentious but stick with me) – logically I want to snack because I’m restricting at lunch time, so I’m experimenting with having a more filling lunch to last me through till dinner. Being home and trying to go out as little as possible means I want to make our food last as long as possible so now’s the time to try and figure out for the sake of food efficiency and being a bit healthier!

3. Maintain routine and keep up with uni work schedule – to no one’s surprise, my masters (that was already incredibly unorganised and is in the process of being complained about) is right up in the air. My assignments are all being rewritten, unit’s are completely different and there’s a lot of ‘if the uni is open by X time’ being thrown about so it’s very uncertain and granted, two of my lecturers are absolute stars and are doing so much to try and make it work. For the sake of my mental health, I need to keep up with to do lists and trying to get something done every single day but I can see a future me where that is more challenging, so I want to adapt as I go along to keep up with the work I need to do so I don’t fall into a slump where I become one with the sofa. Little things like making an effort to sit on a chair at a table rather than the sofa (or my bed) make a surprising difference!

4. Work on COVID-19 bucket list with spare time – maybe ‘bucket list’ is the wrong phrase, more like ‘here’s a list of all the thing’s I said I’d do when I had more time and if I don’t write them down I’ll forget’. I’ve already done a couple of things on the list – I sorted out the stuff in the alcove and my tee blanket is very much in progress – but I’m making a big effort to manage my time to include things like these that are just for me and don’t serve a ‘greater purpose’ other than my personal enjoyment.

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Sometimes in a spur of the moment, you've got to get our the coloured pens and write a list ✍️🖍️🌈 ✨ Generally, I'm handling all this fear mongering and isolation better than I thought I would – especially with a master's degree that's now completely up in the air. But yesterday I felt the urge to write a multicoloured list of the things I want to do whilst I don't have to commute to Oxford and I have more time than I've had in years. Granted, I still have other important things to do and I'm not going to tick this list off quickly, but I wanted to make it so I don't forget. If I carry on at this pace, this list will last me the months that the virus is looking like it'll be around for! I'm trying to find the positives in isolation 😖 ✨ I was going to leave it at 'pretty colours' and post like a normal person but I'm a writer, I've always been a writer and writing is what I do – so I'm going to keep writing.

A post shared by Sophie (@sophiecountsclouds) on

5. Use film camera up, take fun photos around the house – I may have jumped the gun on this one and used up all my film at the beginning of the week and now I’ve realised I can’t get it developed anywhere and I don’t want a second film just sitting in my camera for the sake of it, I’m not rushing to put a second one in. But I might use my DSLR more instead! The one thing that’s taking me a long time to get my head around is manual photography – I’m getting there but I’m still learning so solidifying those skills will help my film photography when I get back to it.

Whenever I write long blog posts like this I remember how therapeutic blogging is for me and why it’s something I’ve kept up for over five years. I’m considering working it into my schedule to write two posts a week again but ideas are what I’m lacking in! I want my blog to be meaningful so it’s finding the balance between the two.

Let me know what you think! I hope you’re happy, safe and healthy in these scary times and please tell about all your tips and tricks for this strange time in lockdown, quarantine, isolation, social distancing (and all the other phrases that are being thrown around).

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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pushing through procrastination

2019, organisation

Hello!

Whether it be due to anxiety, having to do school work you really don’t care about or just being tired, I can guarantee that every single person in the world procrastinates, loses motivation and puts things off.

And I say this as someone who prides herself on her organisation, colour coordinated lists and post it notes, but that doesn’t mean I’m productive and on task 100% of the time. I love to think I give the illusion of having my life together but I really don’t think that’s the case!

So I thought I would put together some of my tips for how I tackle the worst bouts of procrastination, because I’ll be brutally honest – these past couple of weeks I’ve really struggled to motivate myself to do anything and I’m motivating myself to push through it as much as motivating anyone else!

1 – pick one thing that will help you with a routine and force yourself to do it, even if you don’t want to

I know this sounds like the worst tip if you’re struggling to motivate yourself, but I promise just picking one thing and making sure you do that is like rebooting your brain and reminding yourself you are in control and you can push through it! For me, when my anxiety hits and I start to feel low, it’s things like brushing my teeth than I just can’t bring myself to do. I know it sounds gross and there’s a deeper psychological reason for it but if I can push through and make myself do it, it makes other tasks on my to do list feel more achievable.

2 – focus on one task at a time

Sometimes a whole list can be incredibly overwhelming, but picking one task and working on that, and then the next task can be so much more approachable than seeing a whole list of however many things.

It can just be a case of going ‘right! I’m going to work on this task for this amount of time’ – for me, I volunteer on reception at a dance school and if I’m struggle to get on with things, I’ll set myself the task of working on one thing until the next dance class finishes. Then if I get that task done, great! If I don’t, I’ve made a start. Breaking it down works really well for me.

3 – try a change of scenery

It can be so easy to convince yourself that you can work from the sofa, or your bed, or whilst your boyfriend is playing video games in the same room (this one might be a bit niche) but sometimes that doesn’t work – whether it’s moving to a desk, a different room at home or going to a local cafe or something, a change of environment can really make the difference in altering your mindset to be more productive.

If going to a cafe isn’t financially viable and moving around at home isn’t working, I recommend either having a tidy up or switch around at home if you can! See if you can move things around, maybe move your desk closer to the window or Marie Kondo your stuff so it all feels a bit less cluttered. There are lots of ways you can change up your space without having to spend lots of money.

4 – give yourself some breathing space

I’m not saying give up, but give yourself half an hour to breathe – watch a YouTube video (but only one or two, put a deadline on it), play a few rounds of Candy Crush or something or make a new adapted to do list to help refocus your mind.

I remember at school always being told to do 20 minutes work and have a 10 minute break and the same applies outside of doing homework and revising for exams – forcing yourself to work when your mind is tense and frustrated is never going to work so take a step away, recentre, take the pressure off and then step back into it.

5 – make a new to do list!

My personal favourite – even if it means having the same things written out basically three or four times in different places, being able to adapt or switch up your to do list to help your own productivity is always a good idea!

If I’m feeling particularly frustrated, I will start my to do list again and only write out the tasks I think are genuinely achievable and I might even write out some things I’ve already done that day so I can lull myself into a false sense of productivity – because there’s nothing like a half ticked off to do list to motivate you to do the other half!

Obviously, take all of these tips with a pinch of salt – it’s so personal for everyone that it will take a lot of determination and hard work to find what works for you. I tried so many different revision techniques when I was doing exams at school, then I had to adapt that to finish assignments at uni and find other new ways to be productive now that I’m working. It’s constantly changing and evolving, so if there’s anything you do that isn’t on this list please do leave it in the comments so I can try them too!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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making yourself a routine

2019, lifestyle

Hello!

One of the things I consistently find myself yearning for in day to day life is a routine – when I left school I found it weird so at uni I made myself a more structured routine. Then again when I finished uni I struggled taking each day with no plans and no idea of what would happen.

When you’re freelance, self-employed, unemployed, a graduate struggling to find a job, whatever reason for being home a lot, often on your own and an expanse of uncertain future in front of you, the weight of that uncertainty can make it hard to find a reason to get out of bed. The only definite timings you have are breakfast, lunch and dinner and that’s assuming you’re not sad binge eating, snacking all day and have a healthy relationship with food.

So here’s where the routine bit comes in – I’ve always been the person who thrives on structure, will pull a to do list of things I need to do out of the air and keep myself busy so I thought I’d share what works for me. This is a little disclaimer that it’s exactly that – what works for me, everyone is different; some people don’t care about routines, some people really struggle to stick to a plan they’ve made and sometimes other factors come into play, I’m just sharing what I do to structure my days.

There are some tips to how I motivate myself to get out of bed every day and give myself a purpose.

#1 – writing to do lists

Is this a shock to anyone at this point? But seriously – making my monthly goals which feeds to my weekly bullet journal spreads and daily to do post-it notes make it so much easier to make a routine that doesn’t become stale too quickly because each day is different from the tasks I set myself. I then feel more productive and feel mentally prepared to do it all again the next day.

My lists are filled with things like filming videos, writing blog posts, working on my freelance career, but also includes things like doing the laundry, selling that pile of stuff that’s building up in my room etc. Obviously I can’t write a list of things that you could put on a list because it’s so personal, but if you don’t have projects to work on or you struggle to think of things you could put on a list then even things like having a shower, making lunch, making your bed can be a place to start – it’s something to tick off (which is so satisfying) and you can build on it from there.

#2 – have set times for food

It sounds ridiculous, but if you can give yourself time markers throughout the day it just breaks the day up a bit. I aim to eat my breakfast by 9am, I let myself go for lunch at 12pm (I normally count down the minutes) and then depending on what we’re having for dinner I usually start cooking about 5pm for dinner at 6pm. That’s when I stop for the day – I come out of the office, leave my computer and have some off-screen time. Which is ironic because instead of looking at my computer screen I watch TV and scroll through my phone but it’s a work in progress, I’m cutting down my scrolling! An attempt was made!

#3 – plan stuff for the future

This isn’t so much for having a routine but for keeping yourself sane – whether it’s a diary, a bullet journal or a digital calendar on your phone, getting through every day when you have to make stuff up for yourself to do is so much easier when you’ve got days with friends or a weekend away or a job pencilled in, especially if you’re unemployed and don’t have any friends that live nearby, having something to look forward to can make finding a routine in the now much easier.

It’s a bit like #2  – rather than breaking up the day, it breaks up the future so rather than this expanse of ‘no plans’, there’s something coming up. Obviously this is based on the things that I struggle with – some people see a blank calendar as relaxing or exciting but it scares me, to be honest. What I’m saying – take these tips with a pinch of salt!

#4 – have a space to work

This one I struggle a bit to explain, because for me it meant not being in the living room, not being in the kitchen and not being in my bedroom but I know that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of turning a spare bedroom into an office – I definitely didn’t at uni! But if you can find or make a separate space to work on your tasks I find that really helpful. At the moment, I’ve got a little office space at home but when I was at uni I found going into a local cafe or into uni (not the library, it was soul destroying) really helped my productivity.

Sitting somewhere as comfortable as the sofa is probably not going to work in your favour if you’re trying to get out of the slump of binging Netflix and having an afternoon nap. Also then, the sofa is not a work environment and it can be exclusively for binging Netflix and taking an afternoon nap.

#5 – have a strict sleep schedule

I don’t mean strict in the extreme way that you can’t stay up late sometimes and adapt, but having times to wake up and wind down make a routine and structure so much easier.

Personally, I start planning to go to bed at 10pm, by the time I’ve actually got up from the sofa, changed into my PJs, brushed my teeth, read a couple of chapters of my book I’m ready to settle down for sleep between 11pm and 11.30pm. I’ve also recently started not looking at my phone after I’ve plugged into charge before I start reading (except to update my Goodreads progress) and that’s really helped too.

I am to be up between 6.30am-7am but that doesn’t always happen, I’m usually out of bed by 8am at the latest and having that structure is so helpful for my routine.

It’s all a work in progress – I’m still learning, I accidentally spent three hours watching YouTube with breakfast the other day but I mentally reviewed it and planned a way to combat it. It’s about self awareness, noticing the things that aren’t helping your routine and deciding how to work on it.

I hope this has been helpful, it’s turned into a proper long ramble but these are my favourite kinds of posts!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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