The COVID diaries

So, we’ve got Covid.

After half of my family tested positive last week, myself and my partner felt it would be best to get ourselves a test, even though we had none of the usual symptoms.

We got our results back very late on Saturday night with the unfortunate news that we were both positive, but we’ve been self-isolating since Friday, the day of our test.

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Some things I’ve learned during this time are:

  1. Isolation is boring.

I don’t want to hear any of this ‘only boring people get bored’, because frankly I don’t think that’s true. 10 days off work with no social obligations might sound like a dream, but when you’re feeling so crappy that you have no attention span or energy to get anything done, it gets dull pretty quickly.

While neither of us have really had much of a cough or a fever, our bodies are very fatigued, presumably from the effort of fighting off the virus, so lots of time so far has been spent watching Supernatural and mindlessly scrolling TikTok.

2. But it does have its benefits.

We’ve been feeling very up and down over the last few days, seemingly with no rhyme or reason. One day we’ll feel almost normal and then the next we’ll barely be able to get out of bed. Even stranger, when one of us is having a good day, the other will feel absolutely horrible, and vice versa.

However, we’ve been trying to make the most of these short periods of feeling normal. I repainted the hallway, as the walls were full of scuffs and were making me sad. My partner gave the grass a really good cut and sorted out the borders of our garden. They’re only small jobs in the grand scheme of things but it’s been good to get them off our seemingly endless list of things to sort around the house!

3. Distraction is a helpful tool.

Today was the first time I attempted to work from home after testing positive. It felt slightly overwhelming at first, as I’d been on annual leave for part of last week so had lots of emails to catch up on. I also had a few awkward exchanges with colleagues who knew that I was ill and remarked, “Ooh it wasn’t Covid was it?!”, to which I had to reply sheepishly that actually, it was.

But having the distraction of work was actually really nice. It took my mind off how I was feeling both mentally and physically, as well as giving me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. In fact, I highly doubt I’d have had the motivation to write this blog post if I hadn’t have been writing all day for my job.

4. But downtime is also a necessity.

While yes, distraction is a great way of dragging yourself out of your pit of self-pity (guilty!), it’s also important not to distract yourself too much. I keep reminding myself to take it easy, work at a pace that I’m comfortable with, and that everything I’ve got going on can almost always wait until tomorrow.

I’m trying to practice self-care more consciously, not just watching Bake Off and taking baths, but meditating, writing and having phone counselling. The ‘softer’ side of self-care is wonderful, but sometimes it can work to distract you from how you’re actually feeling, rather than tackling the root of the problem.

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What I suppose I’m trying to say in this blog post is that self-isolation for me so far has been about taking the rough with the smooth. It’s only by understanding the good and the bad, the necessary and the unnecessary, that I feel we’ll be able to come through the other side with our heads held high.

Learning to cope with grief

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a long time. In fact, I’ve been avoiding my blog entirely because I feel scared to write, in case something comes out that I’m not ready to deal with.

I lost my grandma three months ago which I can safely say that is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.

People tend to react with discomfort when I say that, I think because many people aren’t overly close with their grandparents, or have had chance to confront the fact that they are ill before their time actually comes.

My grandma was not only one of my best friends, she was also one of the strongest women, (both mentally and physically) that I’ve ever come across. Her death shook the fabric of my family, not only because it came as such a shock, but because she was such an integral part of everybody’s lives.

I can’t say that things have necessarily gotten easier: I’m still heartbroken and I think about her every day. However, the grief is no longer so strong that it inhibits me.

I can now get up, go to work, see friends and family, all with the knowledge that she is always there in my heart, even if she’s not physically in my life any more.

Writing this is making me very emotional, but I think that’s a good thing.

I’ve been bottling up my feelings for a long time, trying to be there for others who might not be able to support themselves as easily. I’ve realised that I also need an outlet and that I’m much better getting my feelings out on paper than I am when talking to someone.

There’s not really a “point” of this post, in that I don’t think I’m in a position to share any advice on dealing with the grieving process, because I’m still going through it.

Some things I will say though are: don’t be afraid to be raw, but also don’t feel bad if you’re too numb to feel anything. Talk to people if it helps to you get your feelings out, but don’t worry too much if you can’t quite work out how you feel.

Everyone’s grieving process is different, as I have witnessed first hand, coming from a large family that has been absolutely shaken by the loss of its matriarch. Try not to judge how anybody else reacts to loss, just because it doesn’t match up with your idea of how they should be behaving.

Even in these three months there are so many things I wish my grandma had been here to see: our new sofa, my baby cousin rolling over, my brother’s first-year university accommodation.

These small moments would have been made so much sweeter by her still being here, but it’s the small moments with her that I am committed to remembering.

Cups of tea watching the news, lunch dates, sitting on the balcony in Spain watching the sea, dancing barefoot on the beach, all squishing into one corner of the pub, family barbecues, making potent gin and tonics, dressing up as elves at Christmas.

I am so blessed to have these magical memories with my grandma, and though I wish we had had time to create thousands more, taking time to reflect on these little moments will continue to see me through.

One month on the blog: the journey so far

This post was inspired by one that I read on Love, Geeky Girl, so thank you to Samantha for her candid and inspirational blogging content!

I’ve had my blog for exactly a month today, happy blogiversary to me.

It’s been a really great journey so far, I’m proud of myself for being consistent. I might not post every day, but I’ve also ensured that I’m not posting for the sake of it and that each of my posts reflects my personality and interests.

There’s definitely a way to go, I’m not entirely sure of the direction that I want to go in, but I’m happy with where I am right now.

So far, I’ve covered a range of topics, from mental health, to beauty, to friendships, to smoking, and each post feels authentically me, even if they’re generally a bit all over the place!

I definitely want to keep growing my audience, as well as exploring new themes and topics of conversation. I’d also like to dabble in some web design, as well as featuring my own photography on the site.

I was really hesitant about disclosing my identity at first, which made me reluctant to go into too much detail on a lot of topics.

However, I figure that the chances of me actually being found out (not that blogging is anything illicit or shameful!) are pretty slim, and I’m really enjoying talking to and building up a network of online friends.

I’ve got a couple of pieces of content in the pipeline, including a look at how I’m getting on with my 30 goals to achieve before I’m 30, as well as a guide on asking for a raise at work.

I’d also like to do some restaurant/bar reviews, as I love going out to eat and drink

Please let me know if there’s anything that you guys would like to read. I write a lot in my day job, and studied English Literature as my degree, but I’m wanting to push myself by branching out to topics and forms of writing that I wouldn’t usually cover!

Thank you for keeping up (and occasionally bearing with)…

Much love,
G x

Hello 2020

I’ve been waiting for you.

There’s always something really satisfying about a new year, even more so when it’s a new decade. I spent last night with some lovely friends and my amazing boyfriend, nursing a hangover today even though I was the first one to go to bed!

The house is tidy, the fridge is cleared, I’m almost ready for work tomorrow.

I’m planning on spending the rest of my evening having a long bath, changing my bed sheets and packing my bag for the morning. Start as you mean to go on.

Happy New Year everyone, I’m looking forward to the adventures that the year ahead holds – both on and off this blog!

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Much love, speak soon.

Three quick tips to help you support your friends with anxiety

I’ve suffered with anxiety for a long time, certainly a lot longer than I’d initially realised. When I first got my diagnosis, I started attending Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) where my therapist kindly explained to me that it’s not normal to dissect each thing you said in a conversation, using it to prove to yourself that the person you were speaking to actually hates you.

This was all a bit of a shock to me, I thought that everyone had the same thought patterns as I did, that everyone stayed up every night worrying about hypothetical situations that had approximately a 2% chance of ever happening.

Since receiving my diagnosis five or-so years ago, I’ve occasionally lent on friends for their support. Most have been amazing, a couple have been less-so, but each experience has taught me something about dealing with people who find themselves in my situation, enabling me to become a better friend as a result.

  1. Listen

It might sound simple, but very few people listen as well as they think they do. If your friend is starting to spiral, be that physically exhibiting signs of panic or being clearly distracted and distressed by something, make sure you are paying attention to the cues they give off. Ask them if they’re okay being touched, if it’s something they feel comfortable talking about, or whether they’d like you to simply sit in silence with them until it passes. Every anxiety sufferer is different, so don’t assume that what works for one person is going to work for another.

2. Don’t make it about you

This is probably going to sound harsh, but sadly it happens pretty often. You know how it goes: a friend is struggling with their anxiety in one form or another, and another friend – perhaps with the best intentions in the world – relates the current situation to one that they have experienced in the past. This isn’t to say that your experience isn’t valid, just that more often than not, adding your personal experience into the mix seldom helps matters. There are many times of day in which your anecdotes are important and valued: the time that someone is in the throes of an anxiety episode, is not one of them.

3. Don’t beat yourself up

Sometimes there’s only so much that you can do. You can let someone pour their heart out, stay up with them all night, let them cry until neither of you can cry any more, ultimately, people cannot fix other people. People can only fix themselves. Don’t feel as though you are a terrible friend for not knowing how to support someone. From experience, they may not remember the all things that you said to them, but they will remember that you were there. That’s the important thing.

Thank you for reading my first proper blog post. If you have any further tips to add, please leave a comment below.

Much love

G xx

On cutting off my toxic best friend

I know it’s been a while since I last updated this blog, but recently I’ve had quite a formative experience that I’m hoping other people will be able to relate to.

My best friend of 7 years turned out to be a very toxic individual. The signs had been there for a while, but I’d always felt too scared to say anything. After months of unhappiness and treading on eggshells, she delivered a final blow which wasn’t only extremely disrespectful to me, but also to my family. This was the last straw.

I’ve since blocked her on all forms of communication, which hasn’t stopped her from trying to grab my attention in increasingly petty ways (cutting off my home internet, leaving dog shit on my front lawn, passive-aggressive Instagram stories). It’s been really hard not to retaliate, but I know that by doing so, I’ll be stooping to her level.

I’m sad to have lost our friendship. While it wasn’t perfect, we created some great memories together. Unfortunately though, those memories weren’t enough compensation for feeling trapped and unsupported, or for feeling like I was walking on eggshells every time I wanted to address something which could have been perceived negatively.

For now, I’m trying to focus on the short-term positives. I didn’t respond to her name calling, I didn’t let her see that she’d gotten a rise out of me. I stood up for myself and my family. I have no regrets about my response to her actions, I just regret that she felt she had to take things that far.

I’m frustrated, because I want to help her – she’s shown some very self-destructive behaviour, which is something I have also struggled with in the past. But at the moment, the betrayal is too raw, and I need to dedicate my energy to my personal growth, rather than trying to help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves.

This is a bit of a word vomit, and probably isn’t very constructive! It’s all still quite new, so I’m not sure I’m in a position to offer advice at the moment.

For now, I’m just focusing on the important things, both big and small: morning coffee, family, walks with my boyfriend, kindness, Zoom calls and books.

Cutting my toxic best friend out of my life gave me a huge feeling of relief, which tells me that it was the right decision to make, if not the easiest one.

It’s important to show up for your friends, but it’s equally as important to realise when those friends aren’t showing up for you, and are in fact actively making you feel miserable.

Temporarily shrinking your social circle in order to put your own happiness first doesn’t make you a bad person, because how can you care for others when you’re not able to care for yourself?

 

 

How I’m Surviving Alone in Lockdown

I’ve spent a lot of the lockdown period on my own. My housemate has been self-isolating  at her boyfriend’s house and my partner has been working night shifts, meaning that it doesn’t really make sense for us to be in the same house, as we don’t live together normally.

I tend not to do too well when I spend a lot of time alone, but this time I obviously haven’t had much of a choice!

I also want to acknowledge that I’m in a very privileged position compared to most: I’m still employed, I can pay my rent, I have a garden. Those three factors have been fantastic in calming my anxiety during these scary times, but I’ve also had to take matters into my own hands on occasion. 

  1. Routine

It sounds boring, but it’s truly so important to have a routine. I’m working from home so, while it would be so easy to just roll out of bed at 8:55, throw some trackies on and get to my laptop for 9:00, it also wouldn’t be great for my mental health. I’ve been trying (and mostly succeeding, there have been a couple of 8:55 wake ups!) to get up at a reasonable time so that I can shower, have a cuppa, catch-up with the world a bit, and then start my day.

If you’re not working at the moment, you can still implement routine in a variety of different ways. Loosely structuring your days, including phone calls with friends, exercise, and chilling out time, can be a really good way of making you feel accomplished.

    2. Ritual

What’s the difference between ritual and routine, you ask? Well, there probably isn’t one, broadly speaking! However, I see ritual as regularly scheduled periods of time that allow you to connect, either with yourself or with the outside world. Some rituals I’ve been making time for is calling one of my best friends every Sunday night, and having a virtual Zoom quiz with my co-workers at 4pm on a Friday.

Your rituals could really be anything, from making the time to make yourself a nice breakfast on a Saturday, to taking part in a virtual Yoga class every Wednesday night. It’s all about carving out time to do the things that make you feel good, and making sure that time stays dedicated to you, thus creating a ritual!

3. Rest

As someone who feels very guilty when I’m not at my most productive, it’s easy for me to feel as though I’m a failure because I’ve slept in on a weekend, or spent 3 hours re-watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race instead of taking up cross-stitch. However, I’m slowly learning the importance of proper, solid REST. These are scary and uncertain times for everyone, and that anxiety is going to take a toll on you mentally. So even if you’re doing less with your days than you normally would, you probably have more on your mind.

Because of this, it’s so important that you make sure you’re resting enough. Sleep in for that extra hour on a weekend, take that cat nap on the sofa, or simply chill out and meditate for 10 minutes. You’re probably never going to have this much time on your hands ever again (well, maybe until you retire), so spend it building yourself back up and making yourself strong through self-care!

To wrap up, I’m certainly not perfect and definitely don’t adhere to these rules at all times. Some days I want to eat crap, not talk to anybody and don’t even have time to brush my hair before my 9:00 Zoom meeting. However, on the days that I put a bit of time into following the three Rs (see what I did there?), I’ve noticed a big change in how I feel within myself.

I hope this is helpful, whether you’re isolating alone or with friends and family. If you have any further tips on surviving the self-isolation, please feel free to comment them below.

Stay safe everyone xx

 

 

 

Three things that self-isolation has taught me about myself

Firstly, apologies for my 2-month hiatus. Life got a bit hectic, with working full-time and applying for a PhD, etc etc. However, with the current climate leaving all of us climbing the walls at home, I thought it would be a good idea to channel some of my restless energy into writing for fun again. 

I’ve been self-isolating since the government lockdown and I was social distancing for about a week or so before that. I don’t have any symptoms, touch wood, but as an already anxious person, I was worried not so much about catching the virus, but of risking passing it onto anybody more vulnerable than me.

While self-isolation is tough on my mental health – I’m a big planner, my calendar is usually packed full of events with family, friends and my boyfriend – it has given me a bit of space to be introspective, which is something I normally avoid doing for fear of finding out something I don’t like about myself! 

So without further adieu, here are a couple of things that I’ve learned about myself from my time in self-isolation.

  • I can cook

I’m a notoriously lazy cook. Think frozen onions, garlic salt, premade guacamole, etc. It’s not that I don’t like cooking, it’s that I generally convince myself that I have better things to do with my time. This means that I tend to make the same five or so recipes on rotation throughout the week, with the odd takeaway thrown in there for good measure.

Since the current climate means that some of the foodstuffs that I am usually dependent on (pasta and tinned tomatoes especially) aren’t available, I’ve had to be more inventive with my cooking. In the past couple of days I’ve made sweet potato crisps from scratch, turkish eggs and chicken and chorizo stew. Some worked out better than others, but I’m proud of myself for trying to improve my admittedly lacklustre cooking skills!

  • Gardening is fun

This isn’t something I thought I’d be saying before I hit the age of 60, but with the recent good weather, my housemate and I have started to enjoy our garden more. She’s been turning over our vegetable patch and I’ve been deweeding the borders of our garden so that we can plant some wildflowers.

I’ve also managed to begin the cultivation of a bonsai tree, whereas I’ve previously killed every other plant that my hands have touched. It’s currently flourishing, and should continue to do so, as long as I remember not to overwater (I just show my plants too much love, that’s the problem…).

  • A bit of calm can make a welcome change

The thought of staying home with nothing to do would normally make me feel a bit ill. I like to be kept busy and usually struggle to relax for more than a couple hours at a time. However, the fact that I currently can’t leave the house to do anything has forced me to reconsider this a bit!

I’m now taking pleasure in the little things: making a cup of tea, watching the birds from my window, talking on the phone with friends. I’ve also been trying to do some form of exercise a day, be that a home workout, some yoga, or just a walk around the block. It’s nice to feel like my mind and body are in tune with one another, as it’s so easy for them to feel disconnected during the bustle of everyday life.

Self-isolation hasn’t been the easiest thing. It’s by far the best thing to do for the good of yourself and those around you, but it can take a toll on your mental health. However, it has given me the opportunity to learn a few things about myself, as well as giving me a bit of perspective of how trivial some of life’s daily worries can be.

Has self-isolation taught you guys anything about yourselves? I’d love to know.

Until next time, 

G x

Quitting smoking: my journey so far

One of my new year’s resolutions is to finally quit smoking.

I’ve been smoking since I was about 16, I’m in my twenties now, so it’s been far too long.

I smoke daily, but not heavily (not when I’m sober anyway), but I’m just fed up with it now. Not only am I sick of smelling and permanently having a sore throat, but smoking is so bloody expensive!

My quitting journey started on Monday evening of this week. I smoked the last cigarette in my packet, downloaded the Quit Smoking app (not sponsored, I’m just genuinely a bit obsessed with it) and prepared to leave the fags forever.

I made it almost two full days before I caved.

Two days is probably the longest I’ve gone without smoking since I picked it up, so there’s some progress there, but I’m still really mad at myself for giving in and smoking.

On the bright side, I didn’t even really enjoy my cigarette because I felt so guilty for not sticking with it. I also realised that alcohol is a massive trigger for my cravings, so I need to learn to be more vigilant about this when I’m drinking.

I started trying to quit again yesterday evening. It’s coming up to 24 hours of being smoke free now and I’m still hanging on.

Tomorrow evening will be a struggle, as I’m going for drinks with a friend who is a heavy smoker, but I’m really hoping that I can stay strong.

The Quit Smoking app has been a massive help. Not only does it give you information on the health benefits that you receive, and how these increase the longer you don’t smoke, but it also calculates how much money you’re saving, which is definitely a big motivation for me!

I’ll keep you updated on my journey. I’m hoping that it will become a lot easier once this first week is over.

Wish me luck!

Falling out of love with Birchbox

I’ve been subscribed to Birchbox for about 5 months now.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the novelty of receiving a package at the beginning of every month. It’s been great for introducing me to some new brands (Sand & Sky, Caudalie) and for reminding me how much I love some brands that I was already acquainted with (Rituals, ThisWorks).

However, I definitely still have my gripes with it. From weird themes (Frozen 2, really?!) to a crappy product range (how many body lotions can one girl need), there are definitely some inconsistencies month on month.

Take this month’s box, it delivered a couple of highs, but there were even more lows.

The highs

  1. The box is pretty. This might sound like I’m scrabbling for positives, but Birchboxes can be reused in some really imaginative and aesthetically pleasing ways.
  2. The jade roller – by far the highlight of the month. I’ve wanted to buy myself one of these for a while now, but always held off, feeling that they were too gimmicky to justify the price point. I’ve been sat at my desk using it all day, I love it.
  3. The highlighter. Not only was it packaged adorably, but I’ve never heard of The Beauty Crop before. I’m really excited to try this out, as I much prefer liquid highlighters to powder ones.

The mehs

  1. The exfoliator. I can understand why people would like this. It smelled good, went on smoothly and felt like it did the job, just for me it was far too grainy. I like skincare to be a relaxing experience and this felt like I was rubbing sand all over my face. Because it was so granulated as well, it was an absolute pain to wash off.

The lows

  1. I received ANOTHER body lotion. Not only do Birchbox seem to send one out every month, it’s January. No doubt most people have been inundated with cheap toiletry sets, each one of these containing another body lotion to use up.
  2. The conditioner. It was… fine. My hair’s generally pretty dry, so I like to try out new conditioners. However, it’s also pretty thick, meaning that the tiny tube I was provided with was barely enough for one wash.
  3. The collab… I was baffled by the Frozen 2 collaboration and I’m equally baffled by the Rochelle Humes collaboration. Granted, I don’t follow her very closely, but is she known for her beauty picks? Someone fill me in.

This is the second time in my five-month Birchbox tenure that I’ve been left disappointed, so I’m thinking it might be time to move on. I really like the experience of subscription boxes, especially as I sometimes struggle to be adventurous with new brands and products, but I think our love affair might have burned out.

Have you tried any subscription boxes? What did you think? Let me know!

Much love,

G x

Pic Cred: @_jamespatrickmarch on Instagram.

 

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On fighting with my best friend

I fought with my best friend this morning. We live together, so you know, there is a lot more potential for arguments than there would be otherwise.

A lot of it was my fault, but I’m weirdly glad for that. I am awful with confrontation, but this was a useful one – it showed me some places where I need to work on myself.

Namely, I need to make sure I’m giving back as much as I think I am. Sometimes I feel as though I am doing something for something else, but really it’s mostly for me. I struggle to register this at the time, but I need to make sure I’m being more present about my actions.

When I last lived with people who weren’t my family, it was in a group of six, meaning that there was always someone around, but I could also have my own space whenever I wanted.

This was great, but it also made me complacent. Living with someone is a two-way street, and sometimes this has slipped my notice while we’ve been co-habiting.

It was a really hard conversation, resulting in me almost having a panic attack, but it needed to be done. I’m really glad it happened.

Even though I currently feel guilty and horrible and mixed-up, I also feel empowered to make a change. All relationships require effort, even those that are normally effortless.

I love my best friend to pieces, but I haven’t made her feel like that recently.

We’ve both done things which have made us bad friends recently, but I didn’t realise how much it was hurting both of us until we spoke.

One really difficult phone call has given me a kick up the arse to do better, make more effort, think more closely and speak up more when something is bothering me.

If there was ever a time to have a huge blow-out, it’s at the beginning of a New Year.

Here’s to being better in 2020.

G x