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

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.


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

The End of an Era: Becoming a Graduate

Tomorrow I graduate from Cardiff University.  Tomorrow, I’ll don the gown and mortarboard and shake hands with important people as a symbolisation and celebration of my few years of university. It’s incredible how quickly three years fly by when you’re plummeting towards inconceivable debt.  And even though I have received my results, and even though I am incredibly happy with my 2:1 in English Literature, I am overcome with nerves.

The Beginning of the End
The celebration that takes place tomorrow really marks the end of an era.  It marks the end of lectures and societies and two-day hangover recoveries in a dark living room with my housemates.  It marks the end of Tesco Express trips in PJ’s at 4pm with little to no shame.  It marks the end of spontaneous nights out and partying excessively without judgement.  And most importantly, it brings to light how much that nineteen year old girl who got dropped off in halls by her parents and cried for an hour solid, has grown up.  And I think it is losing all these things, and not the actual graduation, that I’m nervous about.  Despite my achievements, I don’t want to leave ‘university Rosie’ behind.  I make the joke all time that ‘this is as far as I planned!!!’, but I am being deadly serious.  University was a safe bubble.  A very expensive bubble, with lots of expectation looming over you, but a bubble all the same.  There are few other scenarios in which you will be forced into living environment with people from all over the place with different interests and cultures and backgrounds, and become firm friends within days.  And the realisation that I won’t see those people every morning at breakfast, or share gossip over dinner -squished into the tattiest of sofas – is actually quite devastating.  The truth is, I became who I am now because of all the people I met and because of my own personal experience.  I know I am still this person outside of university and I will be shaped by my time in Cardiff forever,  but nevertheless that reality of moving on is difficult, and it’s only just hitting home.

My mental health isn’t really something I’ve spoken much about but I want to make it clear that I didn’t have an easy time at uni.  My second year was horrible, and I am so, so proud of myself to be able to say that I got through that and came away from the experience with  a degree that I know I deserved.  Depression and anxiety are common among university students due to numerous factors ,whether that includes their studies, social life, family, among many other possibilities.  My worst bout of depression hit in my second year, helpfully coinciding with when my grades began to actually matter.  I can’t say exactly why I got so low, although obviously stress was a factor.  I have a suspicion that my contraception may have also caused me to feel this way, although I had been on it for a year previously without feeling quite this terrible.  I barely ate or left my room and, in turn, I began losing my social life and missing out on crucial lectures.  I became a hermit.  I felt so alone and lost, and I seriously considered throwing in the towel and dropping out all together.  In turn, this thought made me feel useless and a ‘failure’ (which of course wouldn’t have been the case), increasing my stress and anxiety around the issue.  The feeling of loneliness is the thing that stands out the most from this snapshot of my life – overwhelming loneliness while being surrounded by people who I knew deep down did actually care for me, no matter what my head was telling me.  I felt truly alone and couldn’t see a way for any of it to get better.  But then I did the best thing I could have done, entirely by accident.  I broke down one day and told my boyfriend everything.
Finally telling somebody all the things that were making my life feel so grey and devoid of colour was like breaking down a dam.  I remember he hugged me for ages while I explained all the stupid things my head was thinking; things I can now see so clearly that weren’t true.  I rang my mum and told her how I was feeling, and she was so understanding and supportive, offering so much help and so many resources to help me get to grips with the fact that I wasn’t okay, but that that was alright.  And by slowly talking to people and recognising when I was slipping back into a dark place, I began to heal myself.  I’ll be honest, some days still aren’t great.  I do still have panic attacks and feel sick at the thought of eating for all the stress taking over my body, but I can recognise this for what it is now, rather than as something that owns me.   I think that overcoming this to an extent and finding happiness at university again is the other reason that I know I’ll find tomorrow difficult.  I fought so hard for the chance to feel at home there and find a uni family that I fit in to.  I feel like I have only just achieved this, and so saying goodbye will be hard.

Final farewell
Ups and downs shape us as individuals, and I feel like I’ve had my fair share of shaping.   I know I’m not done quite yet, not for a long time, but I am truly thankful for every memory and person from Cardiff University that made my time there so special.  I know it wasn’t a walk in the park but in a way I am glad of that- I’m stronger for it.  I’m nervous for tomorrow because I don’t want to have to accept that this is all over. When people told me this would be the hardest and best time of my life, they couldn’t have summed it up better.  I am proud of everything I achieved – of the friendships I made as well as the hard graft I put in.  The whole experience is something I will cherish for the rest of my days and I cannot express how much it means to me.  And I don’t even regret the bad times, not one bit, because they have made the absolutely brilliant ones shine all the brighter.