The Social Pressures of Achieving While Social Distancing: Covid-19

Anxiety is through the roof at the moment. Lots of people are worried about their vulnerable friends and relatives, while being unable to visit or comfort them in person. And just to top it off, I’m seeing so many influencers and social media users telling people all of the things they should get doing while they have ‘time off’ during the pandemic. Of course, if you feel like you’re in the right headspace, learning a new language or getting super fit might be the right thing for you to do to fill your time during lockdown. However this just isn’t the case for so many people. The pressure to achieve all these goals while living in extreme uncertainty can be massively overwhelming and counterproductive.

The most important thing in this situation is to put your health first; physical and mental. Please don’t feel like this time in limbo needs to be used to achieve things, putting yourself under that much pressure is so unnecessary and so bad for your mental health. Some people are suddenly finding themselves under extreme financial pressure. People are having to leave their university residence without closure or any idea of what comes next. Young adults are moving back into their family homes after having only just made it out. Vulnerable people are having to completely distance from all of their loved ones and suffering as their support systems struggle to cope with demand. Parents suddenly find themselves under the pressure of having to educate their children. If the only thing you come out of this lockdown with is your health then you have achieved something huge. If your biggest win of the day is getting out of bed, celebrate it.

The mute button on social media is my favourite thing. I’ve spoken about it before, but muting anyone who is making you feel inadequate is such a positive move for your mental health. Although I’ve seen so many positive corners of the internet recently, a social media detox is never a bad thing. Seeing people not taking the government advice seriously actually boils my blood and so I know it’s really not good for me to spend hours scrolling through Twitter. Give yourself a break. If you’re fed up of influencers telling you to take up a new hobby or start running everyday, get rid. You don’t need them and you won’t miss their input.

If you do feel like you need to do something new and create a routine, set small daily goals. In my house we’ve reorganised kitchen cupboards, planted seeds, baked a cake etc. Take every day one at a time. It’s okay to be stressed out and to find this time overwhelming but make sure you’re looking after your mental health. Don’t drown yourself in news. Look after yourself and your family members. Check up on your friends. Support key workers and keep safe.

R x

Rosemary and Sea-salt Bread

I, like many, am currently grasping for things to do to keep me occupied during this global pandemic. I work in the TV industry and have lost all my work for the foreseeable future and so I’ve turned to what I like to do best when I’m bored or stressed: cooking. I know that many people are in very similar situations and I thought that sharing some simple recipes may help those struggling to make meals out of what’s left in the cupboards, and also those who now find themselves with loads more time on their hands.

Yesterday I went to the supermarket and noticed that all those selfish stockpilers had raided the bread aisle. Today while fishing around in the bread-bin for the last slices of Hovis I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my bread at home. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be altered to add in flavours that you like best! Variations could include olives, sun-dried tomatoes, sesame seeds, jalapeños, cheese and sage, etc. I made my bread in my slow cooker but it’s just as easy to bake in the oven! The only difference is where to leave it to proof, and that you won’t need to brown it off at the end if you use an oven- don’t worry I’ve left directions for both.

Ingredients:

300 ml warm water

2 1/2 teaspoons of dried active yeast or a 15g sachet

1 teaspoon of white granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of Cornish Sea-salt, and make sure you have extra for decorating the top and adding a salty crunch!

3 tablespoons of good olive oil (of course other types of oil will work just as well)

Fresh roughly chopped rosemary to taste, as well as extra for decorating (I’m lucky enough to have rosemary growing in the garden but dried will work too, it just won’t look quite the same as mine on the crust)

475g strong brown flour (remember you will need plenty more for making sure your dough doesn’t stick to surfaces)

Method:

Step One- In a large mixing bowl dissolve your sugar in the warm water, stirring until it is all completely dissolved. Then add the yeast and stir. You will want to leave this mixture for about 15-20 mins and you will have a film of foam covering the water. I use this time to prepare my other ingredients e.g washing the rosemary if fresh.

(Tip! If you have clumps forming after 20 mins, just drag a wooden toothpick through them and they should burst and separate, allowing the yeast to do its thing.)

Step Two- Next add the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the chopped rosemary (or preferred addition!). Stir well until the salt is dissolved.

Step Three- Combine the remaining salt with the flour, I like to do this to have some chunky flakey pieces of salt in the bread. Add the flour to the yeast and oil mixture two tablespoons at a time while mixing with a wooden spoon. This will help to gauge how your dough is developing, so that it doesn’t end up being too dry.

Step Four– When combined, knead the dough until it no longer sticks to the bowl, or you! (don’t forget to wash your hands lads!!) It should take roughly 10-15 mins and make sure you don’t over-knead. Add extra flour if it keeps sticking.

Step Five- Cut a piece of greaseproof paper that will line the slow cooker comfortably. Set the dough onto the paper and use it to lift the dough into the slow cooker. Lay a clean tea towel over the cooker and put the lid on top, this will prevent condensation from running back onto the dough. Set the slow cooker to ‘warm’ or ‘low’ heat and leave the dough to proof for about half an hour. Do keep checking on your dough to make sure the edges aren’t cooking!

(Alternatively, if you are not using a slow cooker, take a bowl big enough to accommodate double the amount of dough you currently have. Grease the bowl with olive oil and place the dough into this. Lay a tea towel over the bowl and leave in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard or a very low temp oven (60 C max) for an hour.)

Step 6- After 30 mins in the slow cooker (or an hour in your airing cupboard) the dough should have doubled in size. The texture should be smooth and elastic. Dust a clean surface with flour. Lift that bad boy bread dough out by the greaseproof paper and place onto the floury surface, being careful of the sides of the slow cooker (I burned myself on mine 😒.) Now you want to knock back the dough. This is done to get rid of those big air bubbles that proofing will have created. To do this you want to start kneading again! You only want to knead for about five minutes this time, and until your dough is back to its original size. Shape it how you envision your bread looking (don’t bet money on it actually turning out like that.)

(If you’re baking with an oven then you need to do a second rise. You will want you shape your dough into an oiled tin – the tin you wish to bake it in, and return it to your proofing place of preference. This will take yet another hour. Once risen you will not need to knead again.)

Step Seven- Hold onto your hats lads, it’s baking time. Pop your dough back on the greaseproof paper and into your slow cooker. Decorate the dough- in my case I added lots of chunky sea-salt and some nice sprigs of fresh rosemary but you can do whatever you fancy. Cover the cooker back up with the tea towel and lid, and turn it up to high heat. Set your timer for 2 hours and go and do your new home exercise routine or paint with Bob Ross, or whatever you plan on doing during isolation. Before your 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to about 250C- yeah we’re using the oven now.

(For oven bakers!! You only need bake your bread for 30-40 mins at 220C. Check your bread by tapping it with your knuckles on the bottom. If it sounds hollow you’re good to go!)

Step Eight- After two hours your bread should’ve developed a dry crust around the edges. If the top is still a little damp but your edges are dry don’t fret! It may just be your tea towel or your decorations that are retaining that moisture. Transfer your bread onto a baking sheet, keeping it nestled in your greaseproof paper- trim off any excess paper. Brown off the top of your loaf in the oven for about 5 minutes. Once baked your loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Enjoy!! I hope this recipe works for you. Definitely eat most of it when it’s still warm, with balsamic and olive oil, or just plain butter. But I hope this also helps some people who are looking for things to do at home, or struggling to find essentials in the shops. Keep safe guys.

R x

Sister Act: Suffering in Silence

For my birthday last year, I did that thing when Facebook helps you raise money for a chosen charity.  I chose Ehlers-Danlos Support UK and was honestly overwhelmed by the support that decision received from friends and family.  I raised £350 for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, just on a little Facebook whim, and it meant so, so much that people who know me recognised how important this charity is.  As well as donations, I received so many messages from people asking for more information on Ehlers-Danlos, as well as people giving me their own experiences with friends or family who live with the condition.  It was touching really, receiving messages of raw honesty expressing the pain they feel watching the people they love live in agony.  My little sister was diagnosed with EDS in Spring 2017.  She’d always been that one in the family who spent more time in A&E than anywhere else.  She was called clumsy for the first 17 years of her life as she’d break bones left, right, and centre.  I remember one summer we were walking in Land’s End and she tripped up a step. The crack of her arm breaking made tourists all around us stop and stare.  It was kind of normal for us for Issey to have some limb in a cast, and nothing was really thought of it; she was just a clutz. Ditsy.  Clumsy.  As it turns out, this is a symptom of EDS.  I was at university when Issey started having more serious health problems.  I think I was kind of kept in the dark so that I didn’t worry too much about her while being far away.  I first realised quite how life changing EDS was when my mum let me know that paramedics had come to our house because something had happened to Issey’s heart.

            The most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever experienced is Issey having a seizure.  You just can’t get used to something like that.  It hurts my heart knowing that she tries so hard to cover them up for as long as possible so that she isn’t an ‘annoyance’ to anyone.  Nothing makes you feel quite as helpless as your younger sibling telling you their body feels like it’s burning up in a fire from the inside out, and there’s nothing you can do to help except hold their hand.  For the majority of the time Issey is just like any other 19 year old.  She goes to uni, goes out with her friends, goes on holiday, and from the outside looks like she leads a perfectly normal life.  Because of this, it is difficult to comprehend that she is pretty much always in pain.  I asked Iss to explain how she feels while I’m writing this and she listed off the things that are in pain right now when she’s having a good day; ‘legs, stomach, fingers, toes, arms, eyes, and basically all my bones’. The ‘fatigue’ she feels isn’t a normal kind of tiredness, she described it as feeling like she’s been filled up with cement. Nothing works – her whole body is in pain and weighs a tonne. I genuinely can’t comprehend how she goes about her life feeling like this every day.

I really wanted Issey to speak about her chronic illness.  It’s so important for newly diagnosed people to have sources of information and also proof that they’re not the only one going through this. Invisible illnesses have been overlooked for far too long.  I have heard one too many stories about people with an invisible disability getting shouted at and abused for parking in disabled parking spots.  It is such an ignorant mindset that needs to be squashed out of society.  I want to hand this blog post over to my sister and allow her to explain her experience with EDS in her own words.  I really hope that this post helps even one person, whether that be someone with EDS, or a family/friend. 


Receiving a diagnosis through the NHS can be a gruelling process. It often takes years, especially for a rare condition such as EDS. Conditions like Ehlers Danlos can go undiagnosed for years as their symptoms are an accumulation of many things. EDS is an umbrella term for many different types of connective tissue disorders. Furthermore, there are thirteen (!!) different types of EDS which are all made up of different symptoms. This makes it hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on, and is part of the reason why EDS can go undiagnosed for so long. I only found out myself that I have EDS after I went through 2 years of physiotherapy for a broken collar bone. When everyone realised that it just wasn’t getting better I was sent to a consultant. After all this time, it was the doctor accidentally dislocating my shoulder on the hospital bed that finally concluded my diagnosis. Following that it took around 2 months for me to be seen by a genetic specialist, who diagnosed me within 2 hours.  I am thankful to each person who helped me towards my diagnosis.  It breaks my heart that since my diagnosis I have had multiple appointments with medical professionals where I have felt like I was not being taken seriously. Just this past Christmas I broke my arm.  The hand surgeon who saw me had to look up EDS on Google and then proceeded to tell me she thought I’d self-diagnosed.  I found this so insulting after the years it took me to finally get a diagnosis in the first place. She only believed me once I’d shown her a diagnosis letter from one of the highest esteemed Clinical Geneticists in the country.

            Opening up to friends and family was difficult for me.  I was so terrified of being judged by people just in case they did not understand. This fear meant that for 6 months after my diagnosis, I pretended it wasn’t happening.  My immediate family is absolutely incredible. For as long as I can remember our dad has suffered from a chronic illness, which meant that we were all well equipped and experienced in coping, and in helping someone come to terms with something like this. They have always supported me no matter what, but the gratitude I feel for them now is on a completely different level. I would not have made it through the past few years without their never-ending love, help, and guidance. I also have some brilliant people in my life who are there by choice. It does take a while to weed out the ones who don’t understand or don’t care to understand, but I now have a small handful of people who I know I can go to no matter what. They are the ones that have never made me feel ashamed for having flare ups and are there to help on the bad days, and make the most of the good.

            Being a young adult with an invisible disability in a work place I feel as though I can’t be honest and open about my illness, and the ways in which it affects my day to day life. I’ve always tried to hide it for fear of being treated differently or given less hours/responsibility.  To be honest, I don’t think it is unreasonable. At one job, I was offered a promotion in a clothing retail store and was advised not to take it due to my health. In addition, I’ve been given random holidays because employers think I ‘look poorly’ (rude but whatever) when I actually feel ok, which has meant I couldn’t take holiday when I needed or wanted it. On a whole, I find employers lessen my hours in order to cover their own backs, which is fair, but frustrating on my part.

            At the time of my diagnosis (April 2017), I was also studying for my A levels. Because my immediate response was to bury it and pretend it wasn’t happening, I failed to make my college aware. This was massively detrimental to my A level results. I would come home from college and go straight to sleep because I was so exhausted. I would tell my parents I was studying to stop them from worrying, and I would pretend I was balancing everything when in college. In reality I was struggling massively, and I never reached out.  I wish I had dealt with things differently and had more faith in the people around me to understand.   Despite this, now I am at University, doing a degree that could not suit me more perfectly, and I am proud of myself for how hard I worked to get here. My advice would be to tackle the diagnosis straight away, before it gets too late. However, from experience I know that this is much easier said than done. 

            I was originally prescribed anti-depressants, which would relax my muscles to help with the chronic pain. However, when my muscles were relaxed my joints dislocated more easily and frequently. So, after some digging around and different combinations of medication, my mum did some research on CBD oil.  I have found this to make such a remarkable difference. It eases sharp pains, it reduces my stress/anxiety (which makes my EDS symptoms much worse), and I can take it in the morning as well as at night.  This means this it works to ease my symptoms throughout the day, unlike my previous medication.  Another way my lifestyle has had to change is diet-wise.  My diet has to be pretty strict, or at least I try my hardest (sorry mum!!). I aim to avoid all sugars, even some natural.  This is because too much sugar can make my heart go into mitral valve prolapse, which wouldn’t be ideal.   I also limit any ‘unhealthy carbohydrates’ such as potatoes, white pasta, and bread, as they are full of sugars and make can make my body go into seizure.  I try to avoid highly acidic foods, such as raw tomatoes, some fish, and processed meats. I need to avoid these because too much acidic food can tear my oesophagus. In addition, I try to cut out dairy products. I do try my best to stick to this, but it is difficult especially when eating out or at a friend’s house.  Having to be this careful with my diet can be embarrassing in social situations, as I hate coming across as fussy when people don’t know it’s so important for my health.  I think listening to my body and changing my diet accordingly has made a big difference to how I feel on a day to day basis.

            Despite everything, I definitely count myself as lucky. I cannot express in words how amazing my family are, I am on a road to doing my dream career, and all in all, my health could be worse.  I go on holidays, I go on nights out, I exercise (which actually helps my joints a lot), and I just have a lot of fun with my friends and family, regardless of living with a debilitating condition.  I have tried my best to make sure my life is the same as any 19 year olds, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job. Worldwide, I think there is a big stigma around invisible disabilities. Those who suffer with them feel so much shame and embarrassment.  We tend to suffer in silence or try and ‘act healthy’ to avoid questions or accusations. Many people just don’t understand. I would like to see a change made, and I think awareness is so important. I would like people to hear my story. And I hope that it sparks something, whether that be an early diagnosis, or a friendly word to a suffering friend.  Knowing this would make it all worth it.


            I’m so proud of my sister for sharing such a difficult part of her life.  It’s taken a lot for her to become as open as she is now.  Even though Issey is learning how to deal with her condition, this will never go away, and I think we’re all aware that she has a battle ahead of her. It’s a good job she’s a tough little thing. I really hope that the stigma that surrounds conditions like EDS begins to fade.  People like Issey live their life in enough constant pain, without that feeling of dread and fear resting on their shoulders too.  I really hope I live to see the world become a kinder place.  Just because somebody looks okay doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. 

Thanks for reading,

R and I x

Some Useful Links:
Ehlers-Danlos Support UK
The Ehlers-Danlos Society
NORD – Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
A Reluctant Contortionist Blog
Spencer and Me (Facebook Page)
Two Being Healthy (Instagram Page)

On Studying: How to be Self Motivated and Crush Procrastination


I really didn’t used to be motivated at all.  There were points through school, sixth-form, and university where I just felt completely uninspired and saw no point in anything I was doing.  I didn’t plan, I didn’t really push myself, and I didn’t see an end goal. I lacked motivation and vision.  I think it got to a point when I knew something had to change if I was going to get anything out of my degree, and my life.   You could also say that I was the absolute QUEEN of procrastination.  Essay due in a few days?  Sounds like it’s time to dye my hair and completely re-organise my bedroom! 😊 Essay writing and revision is tedious, and simply getting started can be a chore in itself.   The following are a few ways that I found help get me motivated and get on with those things that need doing! 
     
Goals
      The first thing I do when I am trying to get myself motivated is to identify my MAIN GOAL.  Now I use this thought process for pretty much everything in my life, but it started out with essay writing.  Once I’ve worked out my goal I split this into bitesize goals that seem much more easily attainable.  This makes the Main Goal feel easier to reach and thus diminishes the likelihood of feeling disheartened, which would only create the feeling of being uninspired again.   Anyway, trying to straight up achieve that ultimate goal can just be really intimidating!   By just telling yourself to ‘get your dream job’ you force yourself to feel stressed and lost, as the goal is just too big to tackle upfront.   This is why it is important to set manageable goals.   In terms of essay writing, my smaller goals looked something like:

19th April:
€ Plan + Start Introduction of American Short Story Essay
€ Email AS Lecturer Checking Ideas
€ Read Reps of Work Play

     This splits up the big tasks into manageable segments which look far less daunting and therefore are far more likely to be started.  I also created checklists for a week at a time which helped me keep track of where I was in the process. 


April 23-29 Essay Checklist
Representations of Work        2nd Gen Romantics       American Short Story
-Send Draft                                          -Send Draft                        -Send Draft
-Half Way Point                                – 700 Words                       – Half Way Point
– Meet Lecturer                               – Meet Lecturer               – Meet Lecturer

I am a visual learner and this is the way I found best worked for my brain.  I love lists, and once something’s in a list it’s stuck right in my head and I want nothing more than to be able to tick it off.   Giving yourself goals produces motivation and in turn reduces the likelihood of procrastination as you have far more personal drive.  I know I bang on about my bullet journal a lot but starting it up last January really propelled me into a more organised and motivated life.  It was a real starting point for me, and I think the fact that I’ve been invested in this organisational method for over a year demonstrates how effective it has been for me.  I found it so useful over essay season as a way of keeping track of my essays and setting goals in order to get them finished in time.   In addition to my essay checklists and daily goals, I had (and continue to have) ‘goals’ and ‘achievements’ sections in my journal for each month.  This forces me to consider my short and long term goals in everything across my life and organise my time accordingly.  Writing the goal down isn’t what makes you motivated, but rather being constantly aware that you’ve given yourself something to achieve.   The satisfaction of achievement is what keeps us motivated to achieve more.  Even things that seem tiny!

Limiting distraction
     Motivation really begins with focus, and I will put my hands up and say that I really struggle to get myself in a motivated mindset.  I get completely distracted by social media.  I dread to think how much better I would have done in life if it weren’t for my phone.  It’s probably not a good sign that I actually feel a sense of relief when my phone dies when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  To help combat this I use the Do-Not-Disturb function A LOT.  I don’t know why but putting yourself in the mindset of not wanting to be distracted, and actually doing something about, it is far more effective for me than simple will power.   In this day and age, it is really difficult to switch off from the world and focus on yourself.   Limiting how easily contactable you are putting some power into your hands.   The mute button is a bloody blessing during exam season, and for life in general actually.   Stick all your irritating group chats on mute and give yourself a distraction free moment of silence!  I also find timers to be the most useful tool ever.  I find it more useful to give myself an hour timer in which to do nothing but write than it is to give myself free reign of the entire day.  This helps me to get far more done, and in doing so I am more motivated to continue.  This step does require a little self-discipline but once you get into the swing of just setting your social media life aside, for what is a very brief moment in the grand scheme of things, it is actually quite refreshing.   Being able to focus on yourself and your work without any distraction ultimately transforms into producing higher quality work that you can be proud of. 


Your Work Space
This links quite closely with the last point in that the wrong work space = distractions.   It is important though and therefore deserves it’s own space.   People are able to work in different environments.  Some people can work in loud environments and need the background noise to help them focus.  Others, like myself, need complete silence, or a decent lyric-less movie soundtrack at most.  It’s important to give yourself the best possible working environment to reduce the likelihood of procrastination and increase drive and motivation.  Working in your bedroom is not a good idea.  You associate your bedroom with relaxation and winding down which is not really something you want to be doing while revising or writing essays. If you know you’re someone who struggles with procrastination and getting in a good working mindset then working in an unsuitable environment is absolute self-sabotage.   I always worked best when I headed to the library.  It was vital to get an early morning start if you were going to the library in order to get those seats with plug sockets in the quietest spots!   This was actually perfect for me as I got an entire day which meant half the stress.  Having more time in the day means that you feel less guilty about giving yourself those necessary designated breaks. Breaks are super important to refresh and relax for half an hour, making procrastination less tempting!  I found that starting work with the knowledge that I’d get to reward myself with a coffee break with a friend two hours down the line completely increased my work production.
      If you do need to work at home then I recommend finding somewhere that you can sit upright at a table, with as little distraction as possible.  Let people know that you are working to reduce interruption, get yourself some snacks and a cuppa, and create a calm working environment.  If this means you need to tidy up a little before you start, then so be it.  But spend ten minutes – not two hours discovering things under you bed that you haven’t seen for months.  Make sure you have your books, notes and essay/revision plan with you before you start so you don’t have to keep getting up and disturbing your own study flow.  When you put yourself into a focused frame of mind, procrastination is far less likely. 

I know everybody works differently, but I think the majority of us suffer with lapses in motivation and bouts of procrastination.  It took me some trial and error to work out how I study best. It wasn’t until I really realised how much was at stake that my ideas bucked right up and I discovered what works best for me. It gets to the point now when I can feel procrastination seeping in and my motivation starts to decline, and by doing these things I can stop it in it’s tracks. I haven’t got it all sussed and everyone has low points, but I hope these tips help and, if nothing else, prove that you’re not on your own in your exam or essay struggle.  Just remember, small goals add up to the biggest of achievements!!
Good luck.

R x

Focus, Forgiveness, and Caring a Lot Less

I know it’s a little late to be talking about New Year’s Resolutions.  The majority probably went straight in the bin by January 3rd.  I also know it’s rather early to be reflecting on resolutions that have held so far. Some people also just don’t like to set goals at the beginning of the year as self improvement is an ongoing process, which I totally get and actually agree with.  However, I feel like I wanted to share my main aim of the year, because if I share it then I am far more likely to stick to it.

Related:
Goodbye 2018: Hello Cliched Blog Post 

I would like to think of this less as a ‘New Year’s’ thing and more of a general life and happiness goal.   The fact of the matter is that I have a real issue with taking things to heart and mulling things over for weeks, months even.  I tend to end up making myself completely miserable over stuff that won’t matter in six months’ time.  This is no good for anybody involved.   This is something I realised I can learn to completely avoid as I bring it very much on myself.  So, I’ve decided to put a stop to this self destructive behaviour.  I can’t carry on stressing about things that happened years ago or feeling angry when certain names pop up on my Twitter feed.  It sounds ridiculous I guess, but I’ve gone cold turkey on caring.   Obviously not about important things like the environment and politics, but about the things that leave you angry with no real lasting meaning.

SOCIAL MEDIA
The first step to this was a social media cleanse.  I went through my Twitter and personal Instagram and unfollowed anyone who made me feel bad about my mind or body, posted negativity, and caused drama.  No one’s got time for that.  I was inspired to do this by Lucy Moon and her YouTube video ‘Organising my Life: Ten Mindful Habits for the New Year’.  She only follows people who inspire her, or who she considers a friend.  If you don’t make the cut, you’re out.  Taking this advice onboard has actually changed my general outlook and happiness.  I don’t see any negativity (the mute button is a blessing), and because I follow fewer people there is less to see, thus I spend far less time on social media.  That’s just generally good for your brain anyway.  There’s far less mindless late-night scrolling meaning far more energy and positive feelings in the morning!  This initial step has made me feel so much freer? It’s weird to think that social media can tie you down so much and bring such a negative energy into your life.

FORGIVENESS
2019 is the year of forgiveness and water under the bridge for me.  Everyone in my life had their slates wiped clean this year.  I’m all for second chances and new beginnings.  It’s tiring holding a grudge and to be quite honest, it makes you completely miserable.  Life is way too short to care about the petty things.  There’s no easy way of just forgiving people, you just have to constantly remind yourself that it doesn’t matter to you anymore and eventually you won’t even think about it.  I think it’s less about the ‘forgivee’ and more about being the bigger person yourself.  I’d say I feel so much happier, and way more confident, having wiped a couple of slates clean.  It’s so good for your head and general well-being.  I understand that there are some things that can never be forgiven for some people.  They were traumatic, manipulative, or now is just way too soon.  And that is perfectly okay.  It won’t be long until it stops ruling your life and you feel a huge weight lifted.

FOCUS
This month I’ve completely channelled my focus into myself.  Not in a self-absorbed way, but in terms of understanding things that I can do better and ways to make my life easier.  For example, having a schedule for this blog keeps me driven and motivated.  It gives me a reason to reflect and understand how I feel and think, in order to put it into words.  In addition, I’ve widened the genres of my intake of all forms of media.  Discovering new writers and documentaries is far more fulfilling than scrolling through Twitter beef.   I think focussing more on myself and the values I hold has stopped me for caring about what other people are up to and becoming absorbed in their drama and gossip.   Concentrating on bettering yourself makes all the small town chatter seem so meaningless and futile.   I have found that it’s important for me to give myself a moment to be mindful.  I’ve found that the time I take for yoga really helps this.  It requires calm and concentration and I don’t think about anything else.  It helps me put everything into perspective and focus my energy into positive things.  I also feel like I’m walking on sunshine afterwards, so I guess that helps.

When I’m having a rough patch, negativity clings to me like cobwebs, and I’m kind of proud to be able to say that I’m working out how to unpick them.  Obviously there are days that are worse than others.  There are days when everything gets to people and there isn’t much that you can do about it.  But by doing these three things this month everything is seeming a little bit brighter, and I am feeling a whole lot lighter.   Here’s to caring less in 2019.

Leave a comment below or on my Instagram and let me know how you resolutions are going if you have any, or if not what is one thing you’ve started doing recently that makes you happier?

R x


Thank you for reading!
I’m Rosie and I post every Wednesday and on the last Sunday of every month.
Please leave a like/comment and give my blog a follow! Or follow my Instagram to know as soon as a new post drops X

A Country Girl in the Big(ish) City

Some of you will be off to university this September for the very first time.  If you are then I expect that you have already submitted your UCAS applications or are in the process of doing so.  It’s such an exciting, nerve-wracking time of your life.   Personally, I think it was worth the stress dreams.

When I applied for university, like many of you I’m sure, I knew I was going to have to move away from home.  Coming from a tiny village in Cornwall, there wasn’t a lot of choice close to home and, to be honest, I was excited about the prospect of a new adventure.  I knew I wanted to move away and experience something away from the countryside, which can be more than slightly suffocating as a teenager who wants nothing more than to see the world.  In my mid-teens I had to have several operations on my feet, which meant that I was unable to learn to drive when everybody else did.  Then I had exams and a lot of the summer between college and starting uni, I was doing work experience and performing for my dance team abroad.  There was just never time, and so I had to get away, I felt so restricted and I couldn’t wait to embrace freedom.

I went to open days at both city and campus universities, and quickly decided that a city university was going to be the one for me.   Campus universities just felt as secluded as being at home in our village to me, and I knew I wanted something different.  I understand that many people find comfort in the idea of a campus university, and everybody has different requirements for their perfect university choice.  But, I knew I didn’t want to go to a university that required a bus or train journey to get to the city.  I initially chose Manchester University as my top choice but wasn’t accepted in the end.  My second choice for some reason was a campus uni?? I think I had a moment of self-doubt when finishing off my application.  As soon as I knew I wasn’t going to Manchester, I also knew that I definitely wasn’t going to Bath Spa either, it just wasn’t for me.   I went through clearing and wound up being accepted into Cardiff University, somewhere that I did get an offer for but ultimately rejected in favour of Manchester.

After I had been accepted into Cardiff University I went and visited the city to get the feel for the place.  I loved Cardiff so much.  It’s a capital city and so has loads going on, but it is still small enough to easily learn to find your way around.  I never felt unsafe in Cardiff, right from the beginning I felt like the city had adopted me, and I was suddenly a part of this huge, bustling, multicultural community.  I’ll be honest, my first day walking around in a city I didn’t know all by myself was a little daunting.  But, oh, the joy of being able to walk to TESCO Express!!  I think I adapted to city life fairly quickly, and always itched to get back during the holidays.  Living in a city gave me so much freedom.  I didn’t depend on anyone else to be able to do anything for the first time in my life.  Cardiff has become a huge part of my identity and some of my absolute best friends and memories were made there.

I love Cornwall so so much, don’t get me wrong.  Growing up here has massively shaped who I am and I am so grateful for my slightly wild childhood.  I can’t wait to bring my own kids up on those vast beaches and surrounded by the culture that my life has been so intertwined with.  But going to university in a city has really shown me where I need to be right now.  I need to be where all the hustle and bustle is and be involved in the bigger side of life.  So thank you Cardiff, and uni, for showing me what’s out there waiting for me.   And I hope all of you sorting out that tedious and sometimes scary university planning are doing well.  Look around and work out what’s going to be best for you.   Don’t settle for something you’re not happy with.  You’ll smash it.

If you’re in uni or are a graduate then leave your own experiences in the comments, whether they’re similar or completely differ!!  I’m interested to see other people’s feelings towards this big life adjustment.

Anyway, watch this space,

R x

7 Small Steps to Reducing Your Impact on the Environment

It isn’t news to anybody that something needs to have changed yesterday in terms of saving the planet. The lifestyle of people in the Western world, including our excessive plastic consumption, has had a detrimental effect on Mother Earth. Thanks to TV shows such as BBC’s Blue Planet II and Drowning in Plastic, people are much more aware of the impact their lifestyles are having on the planet.  While the really important changes to society are very much in the hands of large corporations and governments, there are a number of ways that the small fry (you and I) can easily make small alterations in our lives that have a positive impact.   It may not feel like much, but small changes can add up in a positive way.  Personally I have made some changes to my lifestyle and the decisions I actively make in my day to day life in order to reduce my impact on the environment as much as possible.  The following are simply suggestions of the changes you can make, which have little to no impact on your life, but if considered en masse they would help us to be kinder to the world we live in. If you’re looking for easy ways to change up your lifestyle and think more consciously about the repercussions that your actions have, then keep on reading.

Water bottles
Swapping one use plastic bottles for a reusable metal one is such an easy change to make to our lives. This change has already been made by many people and I’ll be honest, I’m surprised when I see people using one use plastic bottles. I have found that this change has also caused me to be healthier. Because I am so much more conscious of my plastic consumption I tend to restrain from buying bottled soft drinks and thus drink far more water than I used to. Chilly’s is one of the leading reusable water bottle companies, they are very good and extremely popular. TK Maxx also supply metal bottles that look similar to the ones from Chilly’s at a fraction of the cost. I recommend metal bottles over reusable plastic bottles as it has been suggested that plastic releases chemicals that are harmful to humans.

Coffee cups
Disposable coffee cups are lined with polyethylene which means they are not recyclable. The government introduced a ‘latte levy’ of 25p on disposable cups in 2018. This has urged many people to take it upon themselves to make that one-time purchase of a reusable coffee cup to help limit their contribution to plastic waste. Many chains and individual coffee shops also offer discounted prices for those who supply their own reusable cup as an incentive to take matters into our own hands. My personal choice is the KeepCup. KeepCup offer a variety of sizes and designs, as well as an option to design your own! Many chains also offer their own reusable coffee cups, literally at the counter, so there’s really no excuse not to be infiltrating this alteration into your daily life.
Here are some reusable coffee cup options:
Ecoffee Cup
Stojo
Joco
Surfers Against Sewerage Bamboo Coffee Cup

Moon Cup
This one is for those of us who experience that time of the month. Half of us put up with this natural process once a month, and unfortunately the most convenient ways of dealing with it are not sustainable. The average woman uses 11,000 tampons or sanitary pads in her lifetime. That’s an awful lot of landfill. Since switching to a MoonCup I’ve realised that this is an issue that people don’t really talk about and treat as a taboo subject. This is such a shame as it is so important that we educate each other on environmentally friendly alternatives. The Mooncup is a silicon menstrual cup that claims to start paying for itself after 6-8 months. This indicates that it not only positively impacts the environment by saving all that waste, but it is also cost effective. There are many options for people interested in switching up their period habits. Reusable sanitary towels do exist for those of you who prefer a pad, but personally I find the idea of the cup far more appealing as it leaves no mess once rinsed, and can easily be sterilised. Furthermore, I’ve found the MoonCup so simple to use, and it’s infiltrated my daily life with ease. I recently learned that some people use a ‘menstrual sponge’ as an eco-friendly alternative. I myself would appose this as the sponge is a living creature, a sea sponge, which seems morally wrong to me. In addition, this post from Dr Jen Gunter explains the risks that the sponges could pose to our health. I really think that this is such an easy thing to change in your personal life, and you can do so privately and in your own time.

Straws
Remember when everyone got their knickers in a twist over the 5p plastic bag charge. I didn’t know my eyes could roll that far. It felt the same when people got all moany over the reduction of plastic straws. It really isn’t the end of the world, and even so I am still hearing people complain about our paper straws at work. The wonderful Nia and Doug from Cardiff University set up The No Straw Stand, urging businesses to go cold turkey on plastic straws. Their aim is to make their city a greener place to live, and steps like this really matter and make a difference, both environmentally and psychologically. Once we start caring about straws, this can only catalyse into caring more about a multitude of environmental factors. Their website includes a list of businesses who have taken the No Straw Stand, and I really recommend taking a look at their projects and blog. I own a collapsible metal straw, and it goes everywhere with me in my bag. It comes with a cleaning brush and fits snugly into a compact case. So if I ever feel that real need for a straw, it’s always there. I do think this is a nicer option to have than paper straws, as you are still producing waste with paper.

Solid Toiletries
I like to use solid toiletries when travelling, partly out of convenience at airport security. High street brands such as Lush are really paving the way and making plastic free products incredibly easy to source. Their shampoo bars come with a metal case making them easily transportable. I use Brazilliant, which smells incredible and works wonders on my dry curly hair. I also use the Sugar Daddy-O solid conditioner, a purple conditioner which helps keep the yellow tones from my hair. I don’t use these products exclusively, but I aim to fully transition into a plastic free bathroom before too long. I also adore Karma, a solid perfume which kicks a powerful punch. In terms of soap/skin care, I like to use Dudu-Osun black soap which has incredible natural cleansing and nourishing properties, and is massively versatile. I do wish that the packaging that this particular soap came in was more plastic free. Nonetheless, the longevity of the product reduces the need for frequent repurchase, and thus plastic consumption. All of these products are extremely long lasting and much more portable than their plastic bottle counterparts. I am excited to experiment further with solid shampoos and conditioners because I would love to limit my plastic waste as far as possible. Lush offer a huge array of products for a variety of hair and skin types, including massage bars, packaging-free makeup, and an assortment of skincare products. Alternatively, there is a plethora of blogs and websites at your fingertips which give you the means to make your own products! This gives you the opportunity to make custom shampoos and conditioners with ingredients that would suit you.
Below are a list of other brands and companies offering solid toiletries that I’d like to try out, and that might inspire you:
Peace With the Wild
Juliet Rose
Skincare.co
No Plastic Shop
As an aside, I recently switched to using a microfibre face cloth rather cotton pads. I use these with my normal makeup remover/cleanser and they work just as well if not better. The face cloths are readily available all over the place and can generally be picked up fairly cheaply, depending on where you’re looking of course. This is a good alternative to cotton pads as conventional cotton farming has a major pollution problem and wastes vast quantities of water.

Toothbrushes
Billions of disposable plastic toothbrushes are disposed of every year, finding their final resting place in landfill. Just like every single piece of plastic ever made, the toothbrush you learnt to brush your teeth with still exists. Last year I vowed to never buy a plastic disposable toothbrush again, and instead invested in a bamboo alternative. This change has made literally zero difference to my life, the toothbrushes are just as good as a plastic toothbrush, with none of the guilt. Many of these bamboo toothbrushes have plant-based, biodegradable bristles.

Beeswax Food Wrap
Clingfilm, or cellophane, is a common dweller of the kitchen drawer, and I’m going to say nearly everyone reading this has a roll of the stuff in their house. It is a non-recyclable plastic that will sit around for years after it’s initial use, leeching chemicals into the environment. Beeswax wrap is a wonderful, reusable alternative, although it’s not exactly readily available. We do have some in our household but it isn’t enough to completely replace clingfilm. It does, however, cause us to really consider what we use clingfilm for, and whether it’s always necessary. I would love to see the costs of beeswax wrap decrease some time soon, and I hope it isn’t too long before we can completely replace plastic wrap. There are Beeswax wrap DIY’s available online, which don’t seem to take a genius to execute. I would really love to try this out and add to our Beeswax wrap collection. I know people who have made their own plastic free wraps and they have worked out really well for them! A simple, cheap, alternative to both clingfilm and beeswax wrap, is just making more use of glass jars and Tupperware. We all have them in a cupboard somewhere, and we can all utilise them in a way of reducing our plastic waste production.

I think the aim of this post is simply to encourage people to be more actively aware of the impact their day to day decisions have on the planet. Many of the ways that we can reduce our individual plastic waste production are very simple, and can easily be infiltrated into our daily lives with little to no personal impact. People are so much more aware of the way our consumer lifestyle is damaging the planet than we were five years ago. With this in mind, I really hope that this post inspires somebody to change up their habits, and to think more ethically about the repercussions of our choices.

R x

A little list helpful links:
Frank Green
The Eden Project Shop
How to Live a More Ethical Life – The Green Tribe
Nia’s YouTube channel
Jack Harries – Climate Change Projects
Less Plastic
13 Easy Ways to Use Less Plastic in Your Beauty Routine



Thank you for reading! I’m Rosie and I post every Wednesday and on the last Sunday of every month. Please leave a like/comment or follow my Instagram to know as soon as a new post drops X

Saying Yes to More

I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly outgoing individual.  Normally, the idea of going to an event alone, without anyone I know being there, would completely freak me out.  I like the comfort of having a friend there who I can follow about and get introduced to people by.  So, God knows why I signed up for a 10 day volunteering scheme 200 miles away, on my tod.

While procrastinating from my final essays of university, I was scouring my emails for job opportunities and came across a message from my course leader concerning Cheltenham Literary Festival.  I signed up to volunteer, almost as just something else to do for thirty minutes instead of writing my essays.  About two months later I was having a telephone interview in my lunch break, out the back of the pub I work in.  To be honest, I didn’t really expect much to come from applying on a whim.  I was shocked I was actually chosen for an interview.  Several months later I found myself on a train to Cheltenham, just me and my little bag.  I was a bit terrified to say the least.   I realised I was surrounded by people I didn’t know, who all seemed to know each other, and I was completely stuck.

My actual worst nightmare come to life.

I find it amazing that from this, I went on to have one of the best, most fulfilling experiences.  Forcing myself to speak to people and put myself in situations I’d otherwise avoid, made me realise how outgoing I can actually be.   I made amazing friends, some of who I’m still in contact with.  I met incredible people; Richard Curtis, Ruth Jones, and Simon Mayo to name a few.  I was overwhelmed by how rich and motivating the entire festival was for me.  I realised I was good at the things I wanted to do and although you can’t make everyone like you, you meet the loveliest of people in the weirdest scenarios.   I went to parties and helped at book signings and saw Michael Morpurgo in real life.

This year I hope I find more opportunities to say ‘yes’ to.  I want to do more things that are out of my comfort zone.  I don’t want to always feel safe.  It’s good to sometimes feel vulnerable and create a stronger you out of it.  I know this was only a tiny little thing in the grand scheme of things, but I’m quite proud of myself.  I applied for a thing, I was chosen for the thing, and I made the absolute most out of the experience.

Here’s to 2019 being full of fulfilling opportunities and chances to say yes to more.

Goodbye 2018: Hello Cliched Blog Post

This New Year I have fully embraced the cliché of a good old fresh start.  I am so happy to be sweeping out those cobwebs and find a new beginning.  I don’t really want to say that I’m happy that 2018 is over, that brings with it the idea that I had a bad! year.  It wasn’t that bad really, but I am still glad to see it gone.  The reason for this is that 2018 was massively overwhelming.  I felt so much pressure throughout and it is the nicest feeling to start a new year without a deadline looming over my head.  There are plenty of other self-made deadlines, but nothing that’s going to either make or break my actual future career, which is a pleasant change.

2018 left me completely exhausted.  So many things, both good and bad, were condensed into a relatively short period of time, and yet I still felt like nothing moved forward.  The big change of the year was obviously graduating from university.  I am so proud of this achievement, especially as for a while it seemed so unattainable.  Even so, while many of my friends and peers have gone on to begin incredible careers, it was somewhat anti-climatic for me.  I felt like everybody around me was either travelling or kickstarting amazing jobs and I was still stuck at home feeling sorry for myself.  I am excited to escape this rut and fully begin my own journey.  I know that 2019 is going to bring positive change.  I don’t want to tempt fate but I truly believe that this year has big things in store.  It feels so good to start a fresh year knowing I could do whatever I want.

Unfortunately, 2018 also brought with it a series of saddening losses that have affected both my family and friends.  These bereavements have demonstrated to me how strong and resilient the people I love can be, and whilst looking back makes me sad, it also makes me proud. I hope 2019 will be slightly less cruel to us.  Having said this, we did have a whole extra year with our family dog, Sweep.  He wasn’t expected to see it past Christmas 2017, and while he’s the biggest, dopiest, blind, deaf, baby – somehow a Christmas miracle pulled through and he’s still happy and with us today.

I am proud to say that I went through a lot of personal growth last year.  2017 was a terrible year for my mental health and therefore my physical health, grades and personal relationships.  I’d like to think that I had a Sweep-like miracle and have started to pull it back.  I think I owe a lot of this development to bullet journaling, which I know sounds dumb but I really believe it helped me a lot.  I expressed my thoughts about how this method of organisation has helped me mentally in a previous blog post.  I forced myself into this habit and the difference it has made is phenomenal.  I am so happy to be able to say that the dark periods are growing fewer and fewer, and that for the first time in a long time, I can see things clearly and positively.

After realising how good bullet journaling was for me last year, I picked up new interests during the summer as a way to distract myself from everyone around me catapulting themselves into their futures.  I started doing yoga as a way of managing my anxiety.  Straight away I kind of just knew that this was what I’d been missing in my life.  It keeps me grounded but also encourages me to keep on pushing myself and improving on my abilities.  I used to go to the gym in Cardiff and this was great when I’d fully got into it and had a decent session.  But, the stress it caused before I even got there (in terms of how busy it was or if I’d bump into anyone I knew), stopped me from going too many times.  In comparison I get excited to get my yoga mat out in the living room, and my goal this year is to start going to classes, but I’ll do it at my own pace.   I also embroidered a couple of t-shirts and I’m keen to broaden my creative outlet.  I find this so therapeutic and the people who have received my creations seem to love them, so watch this space.

I have given myself so many more realistic goals this year and I am genuinely enthusiastic to get started on them.  ‘Care Less’ is one of the main ones.  Not about people, but about petty things that drag me down.  I don’t need that drama and gossip in my life, and I know it never makes me happy.  I hope January 2020 will find me full of joy and pride for 2019.  I know that this year is going to hold the big turning point in my life and it both thrills and scares me.  I will look back on most of 2018 with fondness, but I am very ready to move onwards and upwards with vast amounts of positivity.   Here’s to new adventures and big beginnings.

X

Self-Love through Skincare

As I have mentioned before, I do struggle a bit with my mental health.  I’ve never really spoken about it before this blog but, like many other modest achievements, simply talking about low times in my life helps clear out a little bit of the fog.  It’s like just by voicing my thoughts I can chase them away.  I know this may seem so trivial, especially to people who suffer more than I do, but the littlest things really do help me keep a clear head and insure my goals stay in focus.  Talking is one.  Organising my time effectively and creatively is another.   I find writing to be a necessary outlet.  And, for me, taking time out for myself and my body is almost the most important thing I could do.

There is a lot of debate over skincare and whether it’s just a complete fad.  For me though, skincare is Step One of pulling myself out of a grey patch, despite whether it has any actual skin-deep benefits.  That morning when I actually drag myself out of my cave and take ten minutes to make myself feel and look more presentable is the open door back into the progression of my life.  It is amazing to me that such a surface-level accomplishment in fact works below the surface in nourishing and clearing my mind.  This simple act literally helps to cleanse my mind of that horrible grey swirling fog.  The heavy negativity and dark cloudy thoughts slowly begin to disappear downthe plughole.

I am very aware that this might not help everybody.  But, for me, this act of selfcare kickstarts my journey back to my good place.  I think this is because this can be the first time in weeks where I’ve thought about doing something positive for myself.  Now of course, it doesn’t happen instantly.  It can take weeks of slowly building myself back up.

And it is a constant battle.

I imagine the whole thing like a video game.  I’m walking along in the sunshine and there’s holes in the ground that I can’t see.  I either happen to jump at the right time and avoid them or, most commonly I fall deeper and deeper down into the under ground caves.  There are huge rickety ladders that lead the long way back up the holes, with little glimmers of sunshine falling through the further up I get.

The ladders don’t lead the whole way up to the surface, they just lead into more caves.  But gradually it does get lighter and brighter and the journey up gets a bit easier.  And eventually I am back on the surface, ready to move onwards again.  For me, one of these ladders would be skincare.  I don’t just moisturise and instantly feel like a different person.  But it is a process that really begins to pull me out of my worst dark times, and that is why I thought it might be worth sharing.


Featured Skincare Products (I have dry skin):

Cleanser: Simple Water Boost Micellar Facial Gel Wash
Chemical Exfoliator no.1: Glossier Solution
Chemical Exfoliator no.2: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% HA 2%
Skin Brightening Treatment: The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F
Moisturiser: Simple Replenishing Rich Moisturiser 
Eye Cream: Simple Soothing Eye Balm