Friday 22 May 2020

Mental Health Awareness Week & Covid-19 | 6 Things to Remember

I am starting to talk about far more frequently on here is self-care. It’s something that has, and will always be important, but it’s taking a primary focus for many of us at the moment, given that we are all in the midst of a global pandemic and with it being Mental Health Awareness Week. We are all in a highly stressful situation, one that is totally new to and unknown to all of us, which makes it so much more important to make sure we take care of ourselves.

Now it’s important to remember that self-care is not all about bath bombs and face masks. Yes, they are great, and yes, they do form a part of a good self-care routine, but only a fraction. There are many other ways to practice good self-care, and I’ll be covering some of those in today’s post.

Avoid the news

The news is designed to trigger a spike of emotion, usually excitement or fear. News outlets want you to watch or read their content, and they are quite happy to use click bait titles, shock or inject some drama to make you do so. All this serves to do at the moment is cause anxiety and panic for many people, which quite frankly none of us need at the moment.


If it isn’t practical for you to avoid the news entirely or you want to still be somewhat informed, perhaps think about limiting how much you read or watch it. Don’t be tempted to check infection or mortality figures in your area every half an hour, as this will do nothing good for you. I personally limit myself to every other day or whenever the UK government makes an announcement, and stick to the more credible news outlets for information.



Did you know that we need more sleep when we are feeling stressed? Since lockdown, I’ve seen and heard many people mention that they are feeling a lot more tired than usual, and its highly likely that feeling stressed or anxious is a large contributor. A lot of recovery to the mind and body takes place during sleep, so it’s important that we get enough of it. A good before bed routine also known as sleep hygiene is beneficial to helping us achieve good quality sleep. I actually have a post that I put together a little while about all about practising good sleep hygiene so if you’d like to learn a little more you can find it here.

In addition to good habits getting to sleep in the first place, it’s important that you listen to your body and what it needs. If you wake up exhausted on your day off, listen to what your body is telling you and allow yourself a little more rest.

My final point surrounding sleep is to try and maintain your normal sleeping pattern as best you can. There will be a point where we are back to our usual routines, or close to them, and if you start making habits of staying up until the early hours when you wouldn’t normally, you are setting yourself up for a harder time later down the line.


I know that not everyone is in a position to be doing high intensity exercise, but a simple walk out in day light is all you need. When we exercise, our body starts to use up cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Time outside in natural daylight can also help with our sleep cycle, which feeds back to my previous point.

If you can run 10k, great, good for you but if all you can manage is a 15 minute walk, then that’s fine too. If you can get yourself out in nature or green space, then even better. Perhaps walk to the shop rather than drive there? Obviously stick the what is practical for you, if you need a full shop and live 20 miles from your closest shop, walking there and back is perhaps not your best option. If however it’s a manageable walk and you won’t have too much to carry, maybe opt to get there on foot instead.

Distance physically, not socially

I don’t actually like the term ‘social distancing’, as I think it’s a little misleading to what we actually need to be doing. Our social interaction isn’t the problem, it’s our physical interaction and proximity that needs to be managed. With today’s technology, it’s very easy to keep connected and remain social in a safe and appropriate way. From facetime, to phone calls, social media or even sending a letter or gift to a friend in the post, there are so many ways we can remain connected and social with each other without being physically in the same place. So, yes, you should maintain physical distance as per the guidelines wherever you are, but it’s important to try and stay in contact with people and maintain friendships and relationships.

Control what you can

There are a lot of things out of our control at the moment, which for many is a very uncomfortable feeling. However, there are still many things that we can control, and the focus should be on them. A good starting point is time. Your time, structure, schedule, is all under your control. Work space and environment is within your control too.

Maybe next time you are out food shopping grab some pretty flowers to display near your work space? Or if you are not going out to shop, utilise a flower delivery service. Perhaps use your favourite stationary for the day? Or if you are hiding away in bed watching Netflix, change your bedding to freshly washed sheets and treat yourself to your favourite PJs. By focusing on all of the things we can control, especially if they are positive, we’ll feel a little better about the things that we can’t.

Turn off social media

If you feel bad that such and such has gone on their 3rd run this week, baked a cake, and seems to be doing just fine, but you haven’t even managed to get dressed that week; stop. That could simply be their way of coping or keeping themselves busy and you are under no obligation to do the same. If you want to hide away from the world and watch Netflix, you should do just that. If you want to train as if you are running a marathon, go for it.

Now is not the time to be pressuring ourselves, or comparing ourselves to what other people are or aren’t doing, it’s the time to be looking after ourselves. If it’s having a negative impact on you, keep away from social media for a day or so.

Stress can have a huge impact both physically and mentally. Don’t beat yourself up or feel less about yourself for feeling more stressed than usual; we’re all feeling it in some shape or form, even if some people are doing a good job of hiding it. Our situation is stressful, so it’s only natural to be feeling it.


Do you have any tips to keep yourself stress free?


Monday 18 May 2020

Body shop vitamin C Glow-Protect

Ever since we were given the all clear for daily exercise outside I've been making sure to get out and about for walks as much as possible. Partly to maintain some level of fitness, but also to get out of the house in general. I’m working from home at the moment, so think it’s essential to spend some time outside, which I’ve talked about in a little more depth over in a previous post. Unfortunately something I haven't been doing is wearing any kind of protection against the sun, which we've had a fair amount of in the past few weeks.

To be honest, sun protection is something I've never really got on well with. I know it’s necessary and important to protect our skin against harm from the sun’s rays and therefore really should be used, but any I've tried in the past has always felt heavy and greasy on my skin. Aside from not feeling very pleasant, being of an oily skin type this of course means breakouts which I'd obviously quite like to avoid as much as possible!

I’m pretty lucky in that I have fairly resilient skin when it comes to the sun, and it’s very rare that I burn. That being said, just because I can’t see the damage doesn’t mean it isn’t there and my lack of sun protection has recently become apparent in the form of two very faint sun spots. One under each eye, which serves to make me look twice as tired than I actually am, great. At least they are symmetrical I suppose…


At this point I knew I had to find something that could both alleviate the damage already present as well as prevent any further sun damage occurring, so I decided to give The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow-protect lotion a try.


Packed with Vitamin C and rich camu camu from the Amazonian rainforest, and formulated to revive tired and grumpy skin I knew this would be a good start when it came to healing my skin as well as acting as a moisturiser. In fact, Vitamin C is highly recommended when it comes to the reduction and healing of sun spots. On top of that this lotion boasts SPF30, so gives a good level of protection when it comes to protecting my skin from further damage. The retail price for this multi-use lotion is £15 for 50ml (1.69 fluid ounces) however if you order via a consultant they usually have all sorts of deals and discounts to save you some pennies.


The lotion has a pleasant but mild scent to it that doesn’t linger around on your face once applied. Much like any other product from the Vitamin C range I’ve tried this lotion feels very soft on the skin, sinks in almost immediately and in some ways feels quite similar in texture to a primer. As I mentioned before, I’ve typically avoided products with sun protection because they leave a greasy residue on my skin, but I didn’t find any such problem with this at all.  I also found that a little goes a long way and that only a tiny amount is needed to cover my face and neck.


On days I wear makeup which admittedly isn’t all that often at the moment, I’m usually pretty mindful about my skin routine prior to application. In fact, I have a separate skin care routine for makeup days compared to my no makeup days to ensure I have a suitable base for makeup that isn’t disturbed by my skin care products. Having trialled this lotion under makeup, both with and without a primer I can confirm that it doesn’t interfere or impact longevity in the slightest. In fact, I feel that it creates a slightly smoother base to work with, so things like foundation actually apply easier and look more flawless.


In terms of sun protection, my skin feels less tight and ‘warm’ after being out in the sun which can only be a good sign in terms of preventing further harm to my skin. Teamed up with a skin peel and a few weeks of using this product every morning has fades my sun spots significantly already. One is almost gone, and the other has improved drastically as well, hopefully a few more weeks use will clear them up completely.


Having done everything I wanted it to and more, this lotion has fast become a staple product in my morning routine. As someone who has historically hated using typical sun creams, it’s wonderful to find one that works well for me and doesn’t clog up my skin. The fact that its helped repair damage already caused by the sun is of course a massive bonus too.


Do you use SPF in your skincare routine?



Tuesday 12 May 2020

Maintaining Friendships During Covid-19

In the midst of this strange new ‘normal’ we are all constantly juggling and processing a whole host of emotions that can change at any given moment. I know for me personally, especially in the first few weeks of lockdown, my mood could change dramatically from one day to another, sometimes even within the same day. It’s a situation that is new and uncomfortable for us all, which makes it more important now more than ever to check in on those we love.


There will be some friends who are ticking along quite happily, perhaps even enjoying the extended time they get to spend at home, while others will be silently struggling daily. The problem is it can be almost impossible to tell which is which, especially if you aren’t in regular contact with them.


With mental wellness being at the forefront of everyone’s mind, there are a lot of posts floating around social media to not stay silent, to reach out, to talk to someone if you need help or support, but ultimately those that need to are unlikely to reach out. Those that are struggling won’t come to you and tell you that they are having a hard time, they’ll just carry on silently as if nothing is wrong.


When people are suffering, they’ll do their best to pretend they aren’t and hide it from the world. They’ll see themselves and their problems as a burden that they don’t want to inflict on other people, even though no one else would think of them as a burden at all, quite the opposite in fact.


This makes it all the more important to check in with people. It can be as simple as taking the time to drop them a message, or perhaps a phone call, or send them something small in the post. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, extravagant or expensive. A hand written letter, a few photos in the post, maybe even some seeds for them to grow and care for. Just little things to show you are thinking of someone and care for them can make a huge difference. Even if they are doing fine, the gesture will be gratefully received and you’ll make them smile.


A group chat is fine for keeping in touch with multiple people at once, but it’s easy to hide in a group, to be non-responsive and quiet, or even to feel less important or valued. Those friends who have suddenly started leaving those group messages on read may just be busy, or they need that little more love and support right now. Reach out to them, and let them know you care for them.


On that same note it’s important to remember that now is not the time for friendship testing. In fact, I would go so far as to say there is no time where friendship testing is really okay. I’m sure we’ve all seen the posts floating around social media, sadly some of which have been posted by a few people I know, to “remember those who made contact with us in lockdown and those who didn’t”. Here’s the thing; contact, friendship and looking after each other goes both ways.


You haven’t spoken in weeks because they didn’t reach out to you? Well, perhaps it is you who should reach out to them. For all you know they are struggling immensely, but if all you can focus on is how they may not have contacted you, that’s rather selfish of you. There could be any number of reasons someone hasn’t been in touch, but most of them are probably not because they don’t care about you. As the saying goes ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and there’s every chance that theirs is running low and in need of a top up.

As I said before, it goes both ways. Friendship, in fact any relationship for that matter works best when both parties contribute to it and work for it. It doesn't have to be identical contribution from each side at all times, after all we're all in different places, but it is something that still requires some degree of effort and understanding from both sides.  


I guess the best advice I can give is to utilise what we have at our disposal to remain in contact with each other. It doesn’t have to be a huge and extravagant gesture every time. We are lucky technology gives us a massive range of ways to stay in touch with one another. More than ever, now is the time to show each other patience, understanding and kindness. One text message or letter in the post takes next to no time to do, but could make all the difference to someone.


Thursday 7 May 2020

May Goals | 2020

Ok, I’ll be honest.. until I remembered that I was supposed to be writing a post catching up on my goals for last month, I kind of forgot I had any. I’ve been so wrapped up in my own little bubble it completely slipped my mind. That’s ok though, if ever there is a time to be a little distracted its now. Plus, I think I actually did pretty well at doing some of my goals regardless. 

First things first, let’s have a look at what I managed last month; 

Drink more water
I’ve done a really good job at increasing my water intake and it’s made a massive difference. My skin feels clearer and less tight, I’m no longer getting headaches towards the end of the day and I feel a lot better now that my hydration is better. 

Exercise at home
So my initial aim was to follow 5 workouts on YouTube each week. I didn’t really stick to that and it fizzled out pretty quickly. I have still been doing exercise though, and have been getting out for walks in the woods and countryside around where I live more or less daily. I’ve been covering fairly reasonable distance and have got to get out to see and explore some new places, which has been nice.   

Bath bombs
I’m rather glad I cut most of these in half, or I’d have run out by now. I’ve managed to get in some lovely pamper evenings using my bombs and still have plenty in stock.  

Group calls and face time
Before lockdown, myself and a lot of my friends enjoyed playing video games together which always involved being on an audio chat of some kind depending on what we are doing, so it has always been the ‘norm’ for us to keep in touch in this way. We’ve kept up with this so been in quite regular contact, but for my other friends who may not be into gaming or are in different circles I’ve been making regular phone calls. Each day when I go off on my walk, I call a different person to check in, see how they are and catch up. It’s been a lovely way of keeping in touch, especially when its people I would usually see infrequently.  

Keep a routine
This has been somewhat mixed. For the most part, I’ve got a little routine going, that I usually stick to, but there is the odd day where I don’t roll out of bed until 5 minutes before I’m supposed to be logged on and working. Admittedly this isn’t all that regular, so I’m not overly bothered about it. This tends to happen when I feel tired or drained, and I’d rather listen to my body and allow it a little more rest than drag myself up and be tired for the rest of the day.  

Find some screen-less hobbies
As I’m working from my dining table, I’m in front of two computer screens all day I wanted some pass times that didn’t involve yet another screen. I’ve pulled my colour therapy books out from under the stairs, been doing a few bits in the garden and of course I’m off walking for an hour or so each evening. I am then switching back to a screen, but the reprieve and time away from screens has been nice.   

Stay positive
I’ve had ups and downs in April, but overall I’ve managed to stay reasonably positive most of the time. There were certainly times when I was anything but, if you read my lookback you’ll know our wedding has had to be postponed a year which did result in a few days of feeling down as you would expect. Fortunately, the process of rearranging was so painless and easy we’ve managed to get everything sorted already. With everything moved on a year I feel far more at ease, which has in turn has helped with my overall mood and mind-set.

 Now that we’ve been through my goals for April, let’s get stuck into my goals for May;

Keep up the water
It’s great that I’ve managed to increase my water intake but now I need to keep it up, so this is a goal I’ll be carrying over.  

Do some online training
Working from home really works for me and I’ve managed to get ahead in a lot of my work. As I’m in good stead, I want to use the opportunity to sign myself up to some webinars and training that my work offers but that I would normally struggle to find time for.  

Cover more miles
I’ve been going further and further with my walks and feel great for getting out in the fresh air and doing some exercise. I don’t want to set a numerical goal, but I will set the goal that each week I would like to cover more distance than the previous week.  

Flexible working
Technically, at the time of posting I’ve already started the ball rolling with this a little earlier in May, but it was always going to be a goal for May. I’ve adjusted to working from home well, to the point that I actually prefer it. I want it to become a regular thing and not just go back to 5 days in the office when things eventually go back to normal. My goal is to get things moving with my formal request to work from home a few days a week.

 Plan some date nights
Going ‘out’ for date night isn’t as feasible at the moment as it usually would be, but we don’t want to just not do them. We’ve converted our garage into a bar, so a few weeks ago we set it up for a dinner out there. As strange as it was, it was really nice to have dinner together in a slightly different setting. I want to think of some more ideals for lockdown date nights. 

Send some letters
I’m keeping in regular contact with most of my friends and family, but there are a few that don’t really want to spend much time on a group face time or call. Whilst this may just be a preference of theirs, I want to make sure that they know they are in the loop, loved and that their friends are thinking of them. I’ve purchased myself a writing set and have some photos coming, and intend to write a letter to send together with some photos. Hopefully they’ll enjoy receiving these through their doors out of the blue and it’ll make them smile.

That sums up my goals for May. Much like April, I’m avoiding anything too taxing or having too many things to focus on (especially since I forgot I even had goals last month). My main focus is much like last month, take each day as it comes and try to make the best of things as they are now.

Do you have any goals for May?

Monday 4 May 2020

April Look Back | 2020

Considering that April was an entire month of lockdown, I had half considered not bothering with a look back at all, as I obviously haven’t really gone anywhere or done anything particularly interesting. I decided to do one in the end, as I like to think of my look backs almost like a kind of virtual diary, that I just so happen to also share with you guys. As much as Covid-19 and lockdown is pretty rubbish for everyone, we are living in history here, and so I feel like it’s important to document it and the changes and challenges that have come with it.

I did have some very good news in April as well which I feel is worth celebrating, and was that I hit the end of my first six months in my new job and have passed my probation! There were no worries in terms of my performance, but when a few staff were put on furlough the month prior I did get a little concerned that things like probations would be put on hold as well. Fortunately they weren’t and I’ve become a fully-fledged member of the full time staff which has eased a little pressure.

 Speaking of work, I’ve spent all of April working from my dining table, and as much as I do miss the office atmosphere sometimes I’m actually quite enjoying it. Working in insurance, all we need is access to a computer with our various systems on it and a phone, we can do our job from pretty much anywhere. Despite this our industry has typically been quite anti-working from home when it comes to doing so on a permanent basis. There’s never really been a reason for them to dislike it, whenever I’ve known of such requests in the past it’s been shrugged off as ‘doesn’t work’ with no real reason as to why – although I should mention that I’m referring here to companies I’ve previously worked for, not my current one.

Given that almost 100% of our workforce is currently working from home, very successfully I might add, I’m hoping this paves the way for a more flexible approach to home working in the future. In fact, it’s clearly made some changes already as when I formally submitted a request to work from home a few days a week, I was informed that this was something already being looked at across the group. Hopefully this will raise the chances of my request being successful.

Thanks to the glorious weather we had, I also got to spend a lot more time outside in April. We back onto a beautiful woodland, and with me being conscious to get outside for my daily exercise I’ve been able to explore it far more than I have before. Now that I know the layout fairly well now I’m starting to venture off the trails to find new routes, and I’m covering much more distance than I was a few weeks ago. This is certainly something I’d like to keep up as and when we return to normal, especially when I can freely go to new places.

On sunny days I also spent time in the garden working on my tan, and even brought Boots the housecat out with me to enjoy the sunshine. As you can tell, he enjoyed a spot of sunbathing too and was a very happy kitty!

We’ve also been very busy with wedding logistics, having decided that a wedding in the USA in June isn’t going to be safe or practical. Luckily, everyone involved has been absolutely fantastic. The venue waived all charges and admin fees and have literally moved everything as it is on a year. The photographer and our accommodation for the period we are there have done exactly the same as well. The only other large cost was the flights, the bulk of which has been refunded with just the odd payment for seat preference still to come back. The whole thing has just been picked up and moved to 2021, with absolutely no stress or fuss, which was exactly what we needed.

Planning a wedding can be pretty stressful, so the notion of having to start all that planning all over again, after losing a load of money wasn’t something I could bear the thought of, so I’m so thankful that it’s been so seamless and easy.

Other than that I’ve been just taking each day as it comes, which is all we can really do at the moment. How was your April?

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