New hobbies I’ve started during isolation

Now that the world is currently in lockdown over the COVID-19 crisis, you need to keep yourself entertained at home so that you don’t go completely insane.

Been as I became ill with COVID-19 symptoms, I had to self-isolate a week or so before the UK officially went on lockdown, so I’ve been stuck indoors for a LONG time, and it started to get rather tedious.

Related: Improve your mental well-being whilst working from home

So, when the Netflix binge watching starts to get a little dry and motivation is low, you need to figure out some new activities and hobbies to keep you going.

So here are my new activities and hobbies I started during isolation:

Learning Spanish

I’ve started learning Spanish with the Duolingo app, which I highly recommend, for a few reasons really. One of them is that I work as a Teaching Assistant, and the students there learn Spanish and I have absolutely new clue how to support students when I can’t answer their questions. I just look helplessly at their Spanish teacher like, “erm hola?” So now that I have more time on my hands during isolation, I thought, “why the hell not?”

Another reason I started learning Spanish is that my partner and I decided we wanted to try a new hobby together, so learning Spanish came to mind! Plus, who doesn’t love a holiday in Spain? (When planes actually start leaving the country again, damn you COVID-19!)

Baking

I’m not very good at cooking or baking really. I really should be better since I moved out at 18 to go to university and never looked back, but I’m a sucker for sticking something in the oven and putting a timer on. So, I thought I’d be a little creative and do some baking. Now, I must admit, presentation is probably my weakest area, but I swear they taste awesome! Here are some Salted-Caramel cupcakes I made!

Reading books

Okay don’t judge me, but i’m a sucker for a cheesy, supernatural, bad boy romance! I know, I know, the plot can be predictable and cliche, BUT sometimes you can find a book series that just BLOWS YOUR MIND! Plus, who doesn’t want an easy read every so often?

This isn’t TECHNICALLY a new hobby as such, I’ve always loved to read, but since I’ve been working full time, I’ve lost the time to really sit down and read a lot of books like I used too. So, let’s see how many books I can get through before we all go back to work again, shall we?

Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Oh my good god, I love this game. I’ve played all the games in the Animal Crossing saga, and I have adored them all. I bought a Nintendo Switch Lite just so I can play the new game, and let me tell you it was worth every penny!

Blogging

This is the biggest hobby I’ve taken on. I used to blog years ago but when my 2nd year of university become very tough, I just didn’t have time to write anything. I’ve always wanted to get back into it and the lockdown has given me ample time to start up again!

It’s great fun, and the community of bloggers and writers are so lovely! Everyone is so welcoming and willing to help one another, so I love it!

So there you have it, these are the new hobbies I’ve taken on during isolation. Let me know of any new hobbies you’ve taken on during lockdown, I’d love to try some more things to keep me entertained!

Are you ready to move in with your partner?

So, you’re super excited to move in with your partner, it’s about time you take the next step, right? But wait, there is that tiny, nagging voice in the back of your mind saying ‘Am I really ready for this?’

Don’t worry, this is totally normal, it pays to be practical, as they say.

Last year I moved in with my boyfriend who I’d been with for nearly 4 years at that time and its been awesome, but there are some things you should definitely keep in mind before taking the next step of moving in with your partner.

By no means am I an expert on this, but I can certainly pass on some well needed tips on things you should be prepared for and questions you should ask yourself before moving in with your partner.

Here are 5 things you should think about when moving in with your partner:

How long have you been together?

If you’re only been with your partner for a few months and are thinking of moving in together, I’d think again.

I know, I know, you’re all loved up, they’re the best thing that’s ever happened to you, I get that. That’s awesome! But, you’re still in the ‘honeymoon stage’ and you’ve probably not even had a big argument or hit your first hardship relationships can bring yet, and it will happen.

The question is, do you really know them after a few months?

The answer is, no.

Now, before anyone shouts at me saying “we were together for 3 months when we moved in together and now we’re happily married with two kids.” I’m not saying it won’t work out if you do move in with someone after a couple of loved up months, but a lot of people won’t be so lucky.

So why risk it?

I’d leave it for at least a year before you take the step of moving in together, this way you have time to make sure you know your partners living habits, both good and bad, so that you aren’t suddenly thrown when your partner isn’t putting the toilet seat down or has a habit of leaving the fridge open. You’ll be surprised that some things like these can piss you off or even be a deal breaker for some.

After a year or so, you’ll have probably established all of your partner’s habits and figured out whether they’re actually the one for you, so it will be safer to commit to a long term tenancy deal.

If you have been together for over a year and everything is still going great, then awesome! Moving in with your partner definitely sounds like a good idea.

Can you spend long periods of time together?

This may sound obvious, but when you move in with your partner you’ll be spending EVERY DAY with them; the only regular time apart you’ll have is if either of you leave the house for work of some kind.

Even the most loved up, soppy couples may struggle with spending time with each other every day, so don’t worry, but definitely test the waters before committing to an every day deal.

As long as you’re able to be independent and give each other space every so often, by seeing friends or family, or even just sitting in different rooms and doing your own thing, you’ll be fine with moving in with your partner.

Can you afford it?

One of the pros of living with someone else is that bills are cut in half, but could you afford it alone? If something was to go wrong, and your partner could no longer afford their cut of the bills or they move out, will you be able to cover the cost?

If you’ve never lived alone before, for example, you’ve been living with your parents, you’ll be surprised how much money it really costs to live on your own. Plus, you’ll need money for a rainy day, for example if your car breaks down or your washing machine starts leaking.

It all adds up, so make sure you have the pay cheque or savings to afford it all.

If you do, rent first

There will be some people who’ll say renting a place is just money down the drain, but if you start off renting somewhere first, and it doesn’t work out, you aren’t stuck with a mortgage to pay off, and you can just pay for the few months left of your renting contract.

This way, you can make sure you’re able to ‘test’ if moving in with each other will work before committing to a place you can call your own.

The hard truth, are you actually ready?

If you’re reading this and thinking “check, check, check”, but are still questioning moving in with your partner, maybe you’re just not actually ready to do so, which is absolutely fine.

Moving in with your partner is a big step, and is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly, so you need to be 100% sure before you sign your name on a tenancy agreement which will probably last for at least a year.

Don’t be pressured into making a decision, and remember if you’re not happy, you’re not happy, and thats okay! So good luck, and happy moving! 🙂

How to increase motivation and productivity

Now that the majority of us are working from home due to the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s hard for everyone to stay productive and motivated throughout the day.

Whether you’re a student trying to get their assignments completed, or someone whose currently got a lot of paper work and emails to get through, it can be difficult not to laze around in bed or binge watch a Netflix series instead.

So how can you increase your productivity and stay motivated to get your work done at home?

Here are 6 tips on how to stay motivated and productive:

Set working hours

Setting working hours whilst working from home is crucial when trying to stay motivated and productive. I mentioned this in another blog post about improving your mental well-being whilst working from home.

If you have assignments or a report to complete, set a few hours in the day where you MUST do a certain amount of work in. For example, during 9am – 12pm you should set yourself a target of say, 500 words, to be written on a certain report. This gives you a target to work towards and keeps you motivated to stay productive during that set time.

If you usually work full time and not at home, keep to the working hours you’re used to. Say you work between 9am – 5pm on a normal day, do your work tasks during these times at home too. Set yourself targets as well, for example: reply to all of the emails you received yesterday by 11am. This will increase your motivation and help stay productive as you can keep track of how much work you need to complete by the ‘end of the day’, like you usually would.

Take regular breaks

Setting your working hours is easy, but actually staying motivated to stick with them is the hard part. So every 20 – 30 minutes, take a 5 – 10 minute break away from your work. Go make yourself a drink or a snack, or go chat to a family member; just make sure you move away from your working area. This will let your brain have time to relax for a short while so you don’t burn out and get bored too quickly.

Avoid working in bed

Now this is a tough one, and sometimes unavoidable. However, working in bed allows you to feel tired and unproductive, and you’ll find yourself putting your head on the pillow and closing your eyes for a ‘quick’ nap. So, get up, get dressed, and find yourself a work station. Whether it’s at a desk or on the dining room table, just get moving! This will also give your body the impression that you’re ‘going to work’, so you’re more likely to switch into work mode and keep yourself as motivated and productive as possible.

Avoid scrolling through social media

Stop, yes… that’s it, close down Twitter and Facebook. Do you really need to take a selfie for Instagram right now? Social media will be a HUGE distraction whilst working from home, and being on your phone a lot will stop you being productive and motivated to continue your work. So close down all your social media apps and only open them up during your breaks.

But… when you do open up Twitter, you should go ahead and follow me! Nice segway there, right?

Avoid working in areas where you’re being distracted

This may be difficult if you have children running around or family members asking what you’re up to every 5 minutes, but try to avoid working in areas where you’re likely to be distracted to increase your productivity.

Tell your family members that you’ll come and speak to them during your breaks so that they don’t disturb you. Ask your partner to take it in turns looking after the kids so you both get some work done throughout the day. Also, would you usually have the TV on whilst at work? Probably not. So turn off the TV, close the door, put your phone away, and get to work!

Don’t stay completed isolated

Don’t feel like you have to work ALL of the time. Staying in complete isolation during this lockdown will lead to loneliness and eventually drive you insane. If it’s past your set working hours, do it tomorrow. Oh, someone replied to your email at 9pm? Don’t reply until tomorrow. You need to have time away from your job and have fun. Otherwise, you’ll start to resent your work, so your working hours will slip, leaving your productivity and motivation drained.

Related: How to tackle loneliness during isolation.

If you usually work in an environment with colleagues around, consider setting up a work group chat or have virtual meetings so you aren’t completely socially isolated at home (try not to talk to them too much though as it can be distracting!). This way you can let your colleagues know your working hours and when you’ll get back to them about certain work tasks. Plus, if your colleagues talk about how much work they’ve done over the past couple days, you’ll find this will keep you motivated to stay productive yourself.

Staying productive and motivated whilst working at home can be a tough prospect, especially if you’re not used to it. We are living in strange times during this COVID-19 crisis, so stay indoors and stay safe! Your health and well-being will always be more important than going to work, so use these tips to stay as motivated and productive as possible!

Coping with anxiety – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking type of therapy that helps people manage their problems by using techniques to modify and adapt how they think, feel, and behave. It has shown to be effective for treating people with mental health issues, such as anxiety, panic disorders, phobias, and depression.

It is a relatively ‘short-term’ treatment, which can last between 5 to 20 sessions (or however long you need), and you would go to these sessions usually once a week. Your therapist will help you break down your problem into separate parts, to find out what your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are, and how they are triggered.

How does CBT help with anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be used to help with anxiety because it allows you to dig deep into what the possible triggers for your anxiety are and discover why it is happening. Techniques can then be taught to you about how to manage your thoughts and feelings so that you learn to cope with your anxiety.

I’ve had first-hand experience with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (but that’s another story) so I’m here to pass my wisdom along and help others cope with anxiety.

So, here are 5 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques used to cope with anxiety that you can do at home!

Set goals you want to achieve

At Cognitive Behavioural Therapy your therapist will ask you what your goal of the therapy is and create a plan with you on how to tackle it.

So, think about what you want to accomplish when it comes to your anxiety. Do you have panic attacks and want them to stop? Okay, thats a goal. Does your anxiety stop you from being in large crowds? A goal could be to control an anxiety attack during these situations.

It all depends on your anxiety symptoms and what you wish to overcome. Making goals and writing them down will allow you read back over your goals whenever you need to as a reminder of what you’re trying to achieve and track progress!

Understanding your triggers

In order to manage your anxiety you need to get to the root of the problem and discover what your triggers actually are, and where they have come from. Talking to a close family or friend, or writing your thoughts down (more on that later) can help you realise what causes your anxiety symptoms and why they come about. This way, you can prepare for a situation where you’re likely to experience anxiety and use techniques to prevent the symptoms for occuring.

Breathing exercises

When you begin to feel anxious, concentrating on deep breathing can allow you to calm down, especially if you suffer from panic attacks and hyperventilating.

It takes practice, but try to take a big breath in and then breathe out slowly until it feels like all the air in lungs has escaped. Keep repeating this until you’ve got your panic attack under control.

This can be used when you know you’re going to encounter a trigger of yours. For example, if you struggle with large crowds and you’ve got to go onto a packed train station, you can begin your breathing exercises just before and during the situation occurs to hopefully prevent the anxiety attack from happening.

Writing your thoughts down

I would seriously recommend getting yourself a ‘thoughts journal’ which you can write in whenever you feel yourself getting anxious. If you can’t get your thoughts journal out at that time, later in the day write down what happened, and your thoughts and the feelings you felt.

Writing down your thoughts can allow you to spill your feelings onto the page as if you were talking to someone about your anxiety. It’s almost like you’re your own therapist.

Also, think about how you felt after you’d calmed down, was the situation you were anxious about end as bad as you thought it would or was it a success? Try an establish whether your anxiety is rational or not. All this can be looked back on to discover a pattern in your behaviour and eventually show progress.

Talk to yourself

This may sound ridiculous, but you may find that you can control a panic attack, for example, by talking to yourself. Not necessarily out loud, but in your own head.

For example, you start to feel a panic attack creep in, as well as your breathing exercises, tell yourself everything is okay, that you’re going to be fine, or something along those lines, repeatedly.

What you say to yourself all depends on you, and it doesn’t particularly matter what, but keep it positive and remind yourself of your goals, you can control this!

Practice, practice, practice

Unfortunately, controlling your anxiety doesn’t happen over night, and to be honest, there’s no such thing as a ‘cure’. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy gives you techniques to manage and control your anxiety so that your anxiety doesn’t stop you from living a normal life.

Some of these techniques may work for you and some may not, it all depends on how you feel. But don’t give up, with practice you can use these techniques to get a better hold of your anxiety. It doesn’t happen overnight.

If you are really struggling, I would suggest going to see a professional. They are qualified to give you advice and will know exactly which techniques you can try for your particular symptoms, as my advice is rather broad.

Never suffer alone, there is always someone who is dealing with the same things as you, or are there to help you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy really helped me manage my panic attacks so now I live such a happier life!

You’ve got this! 💪🏻

How to talk to your child about their mental health

Do you have some concerns about your child’s mental health? Have they become more isolated than usual or their grades are slipping at school?

You’re understandably worried and want to help your child. As a parent you feel responsible for your child’s happiness and well-being.

But, how do you get your child to open up to you about their problems?

Here are 7 ways to get your child to talk about their mental health:

1. Just talk to them

This may sound too obvious, but talking to your child about how they feel is really important. If your child feels they can’t talk to you about any potential problems they have, they’ll be unlikely to reach out to you about their own mental health. So instigate the conversation, don’t pressure them into talking to you as that may drive them away, just let them know that if they need to talk about their problems and mental health, you’re there.

2. Encourage them to leave their bedroom

Children have a tendency to sit up in their bedrooms and keep to themselves. Encouraging them to come into the living room and spend time with the family will open up opportunities for them to talk about any problems they may have, or make them feel happier in general.

They may be reluctant to spend all their time with you, so don’t MAKE them, but insist it would be fun and maybe get them to suggest some fun things to do. If they get to choose the activity, they’re more likely to join in.

3. Sit and eat meals together

To ensure you have opportunities to talk to your child, have the family sit with each other at meal times if you can (work commitments may get in the way here, but don’t worry about it). It can be easy for your child to grab the plate and run up the stairs, but that allows them to stay cooped up in their bedroom and not talk to you.

Having structured meal times won’t just help your child’s mental health, but help them physically too. Having a cooked, healthy, and well-balanced meal can make them feel happier overall, and may be the boost they need to improve their mental health.

4. Learn about their interests

Do you really know what your child enjoys these days? What’s their favourite band? What’s their favourite game to play on their xbox? What’s their passion? Don’t know? Well find out!

Children love to talk about their interests, especially if they know you won’t judge them for it, so take interest in your child’s life and they’ll be more likely to get chatting to you about their mental health and what’s going on in their world right now.

5. Ask them about their day, everyday.

Sometimes as people we can forget to ask people how they are and really mean it. When your child get’s home from school, ask how their day went. What subjects did they learn about today? Ask them about their after school club. It will be a great opportunity for your child to talk about how their day really went, instead of just “it was fine”.

6. Help them with their homework

They may be struggling academically and that’s what is bothering them. Is there a subject you were particularly good at school that you know you could help your child with? If not, ask them what they’re learning about right now and do some research so you can help them next time. This will give your child the opportunity to speak up if they are struggling at school.

7. Think about how old they are

If they’re quite young, think about some problems they MAY be facing that could affect their mental health. Are they being pressured into doing a hobby they don’t like? Are they struggling at school academically or falling out with friends?

If they’re a teenager, think about all the issues they COULD be dealing with. Are they struggling with their body image? Have they fallen out with their friends or first crush? Maybe they’re struggling with their sexuality? These are some issues that could be affecting your child’s mental health.

Of course, don’t jump to conclusions and assume there is something seriously wrong with your child’s mental health. But, be mindful of things your child could be dealing with and don’t pressure them into doing something or telling you things REALLY don’t want to. This is counterproductive. They’ll come to you in their own time, it’s about building trust and it won’t happen over night.

The most important thing is to let your child know you will never judge them and that they can talk to you about anything. Remember, there are some issues you simply cannot solve for your child, but you can definitely support them through difficult times, and get talking to them about their mental health.

5 tips to tackle loneliness during isolation

Now that the whole world is currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re understandably being told to stay in isolation and work from home. This means that you may feel very lonely as you’re not partaking in any of your usual social activities.

Not being socialable with work colleagues, friends, and family can allow loneliness to creep in, especially if you live alone.

So, how do you fight loneliness during isolation?

Use these 5 tips to stay social and pass the time to avoid potential loneliness whilst isolating:

1. Keep talking to family and friends who you don’t live with

During isolation you won’t be able to see all of your family and friends in person, which can be hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them a ring or video call them often just to say hi or chat to them for hours.

Even though you’re not seeing people in person, talking on the phone to loved ones can keep you sociable during isolation and tackle potential loneliness.

2. If you live with others, do group activities together

During isolation it can be easy to all sit in different rooms and keep to yourselves. Although it is definitely good to have your own space and chill on your own every so often to avoid arguements, this may increase your chances of feeling lonely.

So set up group activities with your housemates or family members as often as possible. Whether it’s playing board games, baking cakes, playing on the xbox, doing a jigsaw; anything that keeps the whole household entertained for a few hours. This can help tackle loneliness during isolation as it keeps everyone social and having fun! It’s also a great time for some much needed bonding time with your family.

3. Working from home? Have virtual meetings

Now that you’re working from home during isolation, loneiliness can creep in as you’re used to talking face-to-face daily with your colleagues.

So, set up a work group chat or have regular video call meetings to keep everyone up to date and share any potential concerns. This will make sure you’re being as socialable as you would normally be, before isolation.

4. Learn to keep yourself entertained

Just because you’re being sociable, doesn’t mean you can’t still feel lonely. So, find ways to keep your mind busy and pass the time in an entertaining way, especially if you live alone.

Learning how to keep yourself happy and busy can avoid boredom during isolation and stop you thinking about feeling lonely.

So, find a new Netflix series to watch, read a book, play video games, or even clean your home. Need a good sort out of your wardrobe? Do that. Being productive can keep you busy and tackle the feeling of loneliness during isolation.

5. Make new friends or reach out to old ones

There’s a whole world out there and social media can keep everyone connected with the people around you. But what about making new friends or reaching out to some friends you haven’t spoke to for years?

There are multiple social media groups and communities which enjoy the same things you do. So why not join them and chat to people online? Of course, please do this safely, remember you never really know who you’re speaking to online!

It is important to tackle loneliness, especially during isolation, as loneliness can lead to unhappiness, decrease mental well-being, and even depression. Have any family or friends who you know live alone? Make sure to check up on them. Staying connected to each other from afar is crucial in times like these, so follow these steps to ensure you can tackle loneliness and keep entertained during isolation.

5 tips to improve your mental well-being whilst working from home

We are currently living in strange times because of the COVID-19 crisis, and being told to work from home and stay in isolation can be tough, especially where your mental health and well-being is concerned.

So how do you keep a postive mental well-being whilst working from home?

Here are 5 steps that should help you during isolation:

  1. Set working hours

Setting certain working hours can be a challenge when working from home, but it’s important to make sure you have time to relax to improve your mental health and well-being.

If your usual working hours are 9am until 5pm, stick to those hours at home too. This will uphold some structure in your life and allow you to unwind and relax as you would on a normal working day. This will improve your mental well-being as you are making sure your mind has time to relax, stop stressing, and have fun.

I know you’ll be desperate to answer an email or two, but avoid it. If you wouldn’t do it on a normal day’s work, don’t do it whilst working at home.

Related: How to increase motivation and productivity whilst working at home

  1. Exercise

Now that you’ve set your ‘working from home’ hours, use your relaxing periods to do at least 15 to 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day to clear your mind and improve both your mental and physical well-being. Doing exercise improves your mental well-being because exercising releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin in the brain which improve your mood and decreases your stress levels.

I know gyms are currently closed and going outside is frowned upon, but exercise is an important part of improving your mental health and well-being.

There are thousands of home exercise routinues on Youtube you can watch or mobile apps you can download to help with this. So make sure to keep fit and improve mental well-being whilst working from home.

  1. Avoid ALWAYS thinking of work

Working from home can keep you thinking and stressing about your job 24/7. During your relaxing periods, try your best not to think about your work. This applies to everyday life as well. Constantly stressing about your job can decrease your mental health and well-being as your brain doesn’t have time to relax and enjoy itself.

So, do fun things. Watch movies, bake cookies, exercise, call up your friends, play games, read a book; do whatever it is that makes you happy, and this will definitely improve your mental well-being whilst working from home.

  1. Be social

Now that we’re stuck indoors all day and working from home, we are no longer being as socialable as usual which can decrease our mental health and well-being.

Humans are social animals, and we rely on talking to others for basic survival, to avoid loneliness and keep a positive mental well-being.

Being in isolation and working from home means we no longer have our colleagues to talk (or rant) to, which can be hard and increase stress levels. So encourage video call meetings or make a group chat with your colleagues to keep up to date and share concerns with your work friends.

It’s important to make sure to call up your family and friends as often as you can too, even better, video call them, as seeing your loved ones will make you happy and so increase your mental well-being.

It’s easy to feel alone when working from home, especially if you live alone, but remember we’re all in this together, so to improve your mental well-being make sure to socialise as much possible, even if you can’t see your family and friends in person.

  1. Don’t believe everything you read

Now that you’re able to check your phone more often whilst working from home, you’ll find yourself checking the news and scrolling through social media more than usual. This leads to reading all the daily implications of COVID-19, which will set you into a constant state of worry and stress which will decrease your mental health and well-being.

Not everything you read on social media is correct, and fear mongering is a real issue in situations like these. If it hasn’t come from a reliable news source or announcement, it’s probably not true. Worrying about something you can’t control leads to the impossibility of keeping a clear head. So, ignore fake news and avoid constant use of social media, especially during you set working from home hours, to stay focused and improve your mental health and well-being.

We are in worrying times, and it’s hard not to fear about ourselves and our loved ones’ health, but making sure to keep a positive well-being is crucial to live a healthy and happy life even during isolation. Working from home can be tough if you’re not use to it, but keeping to these 5 tips will ensure you keep safe and have a great mental health and well-being.