“Are You Doing Enough?”

Imagine being told that you weren’t doing enough during the Covid-19 pandemic; staying at home, keeping your friends and family safe, and muddling through university assignments is not enough.

No. Apparently, it’s time to focus on our CVs.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the “Student Futures” department at my university. The email, which started innocently enough, thanked all the key workers for their contributions; as it happens, I’m not a key worker, so I didn’t give it too much attention. That is, until I saw the next part of the email.

Whoever sent the email then went on to say that employers would not be impressed with potential candidates that didn’t have an inspiring answer for the question, “what were you doing during the Covid-19 pandemic?”

Apparently, we need to consider “up-skilling”.

The sender provided all of us “slacker” students with links to available courses. I mean, it’s not like we are trying to finish a degree or anything, is it?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people using this time to learn something new – if that’s what they choose to do – but for a university to criticize students for, apparently, not doing enough during this scary time? A time where near-graduates – like myself – are already anxious about what the future holds.

Let’s just say they received a lot of complaints.

The next day, the same department sent out an “apology” email; it was never their intention to imply that students weren’t doing enough, and they hope everyone stays safe and well during this scary time.

I don’t know how the email got approved in the first place.

Let Me Tell You Something About Me…

Some of you might have noticed – or maybe not, who knows? – that I have very little personal information on this blog. I’ve occasionally mentioned university, that I work on the side, and, the most obvious thing, that I have a history of mental illness, but that’s pretty much it.

If you’ve ever visited my Home Page and read the ‘Welcome’ post there, you’ll know that I started this blog to share my writing and step out of my comfort zone. That being said, posting details about myself on here is a little too far out of my comfort zone. For now, anyway.

But then I thought it might be pretty weird for readers to not know anything about me. How can I expect people to engage with my writing if I don’t engage back? So that’s why I’m going to post some facts about me here. Nothing too crazy or personal, but just enough to give you an idea about who I am.

So here we go!

I study English and Creative Writing at a university in the UK.

I’m hoping to study an MA in Journalism.

I’ve struggled with my mental health on and off since I was 14. I’m now 22.

I have been diagnosed with panic disorder, depression and OCD.

I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan (books and films), and have two Harry Potter related tattoos.

My favourite singer is Taylor Swift.

I’ve always wanted to write and publish a novel.

I love Disney. I can’t decide which film is my favourite: The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.

I’m addicted to caffeine.

I’m a dog person.

The place I want to visit most is New York City.

I like listening to sad music when I’m feeling down.

So there you go – some bits and pieces about me. It’s mostly superficial stuff, I know, but you’ve got to start somewhere! I’m hoping to reveal more as my time with this blog goes on, but this will do for now!

Can anyone relate to anything on my little list?

I’ve Finally Realised Something

I’ve finally realised something.

In an ideal world, I would wake up early, naturally, with a delicate stretch and make my way downstairs for a healthy breakfast. I would spend the entire morning doing something productive – writing, cleaning, exercise, maybe all three – and then have a healthy lunch. The rest of the day would be easy. Maybe I’d continue working; maybe I’d prepare a gourmet meal; or maybe I’d catch up with friends. I’d go to bed, nice and early, knowing my productive day had been worthwhile.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. That much is clear.

If the day I just described is familiar to you, then I am genuinely happy that you are making the most of your time at home.

However, there is a lot of pressure on people right now to be productive. The message appears to be that any time not spent working towards a goal is time wasted.

I’ve finally realised that this is not the case.

I have been feeling extremely guilty for not coping well during the UK’s lockdown. I haven’t been productive. At all. I’ve been sleeping a lot, rarely leaving the house, and I have a pile of work I need to get through. (You can read about it in a bit more detail here). I’ve seen people across social media shaming people for not making the most of this time at home and it got to me. When the UK first went into lockdown, I put a lot of pressure on myself: I have all the time in the world to complete my assignments, so they have to be perfect. I’ll be able to write and publish a blog post every day. I can update my writing portfolio. Maybe I’ll even start running and finally get in shape.

But the reality is much different, and that’s OK.

We are all faced with so much uncertainty right now that it is completely natural to feel anxious or down. These are scary, unprecedented times; no one knows how to cope in this situation. Just getting through each day is something to be proud of.

I’m still going to try, obviously. I’m going to attempt my assignments, hopefully get some exercise in every now and then, and try and look after myself.

But trying is more than enough.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think we need to be productive right now, or is trying enough? Leave a comment and let me know!

Let’s Say Thank You

Thank you to the NHS workers, the doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants, who place themselves on the front line, day after day.

Thank you to the care workers who look after our elderly and our vulnerable.

Thank you to the supermarket workers who make sure our shelves are stocked, our shops aren’t overcrowded, and that we all have food to eat.

Thank you to the delivery drivers for bringing essential supplies to our communities.

Thank you to the teachers who go to school; who continue to teach the children of key workers.

Thank you to the teachers who stay at home; who offer their support to parents trying to teach their children at home.

Thank you to our emergency service workers for keeping us safe.

Thank you to everybody for staying home; for doing your bit to stop the spread.

Thank you.

5 Ways To Beat Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if you write for yourself, for just a few readers, or an audience of thousands, every writer will experience the frustration of feeling completely and utterly stuck.

So how do you get through it? Here are my top five tips for overcoming writer’s block!

‘5 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block’. Made with Canva.

1. Try Free Writing

This is a technique I learned in one of my Creative Writing classes at university. Find yourself a pen and paper, and spend some time just writing literally whatever comes into your head. It helps to give yourself a topic, but try not to be too specific. The point is to write continuously; don’t lift your pen from the page. Even if you run out of things to write, don’t stop! Write about not having anything to write, repeat words, make something up, scribble and draw until you find inspiration. Don’t read it back until the end. Don’t edit. Don’t think too much.

You might be surprised with what you come up with!

2. Listen to Music

I usually listen to music while writing anyway, but it can be particularly helpful if you get stuck. Maybe you’re writing about yourself and have a certain song that conjures a memory? Maybe you’re attempting a break-up scene and need a power ballad to get you in the right mindset? Or maybe you’re stuck on a dramatic fight scene and need to listen to a movie soundtrack?

Find music that matches the tone of your writing and let it inspire you.

3. Read Anything and Everything

If you need to take a break, or maybe you just need some inspiration, it can be incredibly useful to read. Read work on a similar theme, read work by your favourite author, or read a completely different genre altogether.

Hopefully by reading anything and everything you will remember why you started writing in the first place and it will be easier to get back to it.

4. Take a Break

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, the words just won’t come to us. If this is the case then take a break. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you can return to your writing refreshed and, hopefully, without the block!

5. Write, Write, Write!

Now I’ve just suggested that you take a break, so this next one might sound contradictory, but remember that different things work for different people!

If you’re struggling with writer’s block then one of the best things you can do is write! Maybe you can use the free writing technique, or maybe just push yourself to write so many words a day – as long as you write, write, write!

Even if you think it’s rubbish, it’s important to keep going! You can always scrap it later, or maybe it will turn into something good!

How do you overcome writer’s block?

How Are You Coping With Lockdown?

The last few weeks have been tough. Really tough.

Not just because the UK has gone into lockdown (although that hasn’t been easy), but because of how easy it has been for me to slip into old, unhealthy habits.

Before this awful pandemic took over our lives, I had finally got to a place in my life where I could say I was doing OK.

Now, OK might not sound like much. Surely I want to be better than OK?

But for me, being OK meant that I had reached a constant after years of uncertainty; I had good days and I had bad days, but, generally, I was doing OK.

Notice the past tense?

It’s difficult – really, really difficult – to feel OK right now. There is so much uncertainty throughout the UK, and among the rest of the world. Everyday I watch the news and see the numbers rise: how much longer do we have to live like this?

I’ve found myself slipping into old, unhealthy habits. Things I used to do when I was battling the worst of my anxiety and depression.

I sleep. A lot. I sleep at weird times, during ‘sociable’ hours. I sleep the day away, because I have nothing else to do.

I rarely get dressed. I’m not going anywhere, so what’s the point?

I don’t leave the house. Now I know we aren’t supposed to leave the house, but in the UK we are allowed to leave the house for exercise as long as we adhere to the rules of social distancing. But, more than that, I haven’t left the house at all, not even to sit on the front step.

Now, obviously, it is OK to be struggling during times of such uncertainty, but I really don’t want to go back to that place.

So I’m going to try.

I’m going to try and sleep at a regular hour, even though just typing this is making me want a nap. I’m going to get dressed, even though I don’t see the point. I’m going to get some fresh air, even if it’s just from sitting in the front garden.

How are you all coping with the current situation?

5 Ways To Cope With Social Distancing Boredom

Social distancing/self-isolation is leaving many people bored out of their minds. Here are some of my suggestions for how to deal with staying indoors!

1. Try Something New

Why not take the time to learn a new language, learn to cook, learn to sew, learn to…? There are so many possibilities out there! Plus, dedicating your time and effort to learning a new skill might help you stay calm in these scary times.

2. Revisit an Old Love

Make a dent in your reading list, or catch up on a neglected series. Maybe you started writing a novel, or need to update your blog? Things get busy and we don’t always have time for the things we love to do. Why not take this time to revisit an old love?

3. Video Call Loved Ones

Social distancing from friends and family can leave people feeling incredibly lonely, and when going through something like this, we need our loved ones more than ever. It’s important to stay connected with people, so why not spend some time on FaceTime or Skype? If these aren’t options for you, pick up the phone or send a text. It’s important to communicate with your loved ones and look after each other.

4. Exercise

Why not try some light exercise? I’ve seen people on social media taking up yoga as a way to relieve stress and stay calm, or maybe you want to whack out your old fitness DVD and really get to it? Either way, exercise will help you stay happy and healthy while you stay indoors.

5. Clean, Clean, Clean!

Take this time to give your home a deep clean! It’s not something that I thought of at first, but with a lot more time on my hands, I have no reason not to! Plus, self-isolating is a lot more comfortable in a clean and tidy house.

I hope you are all keeping happy and well!

How have you been coping with social distancing/self-isolation? Comment any suggestions down below!

It’s A Scary World Out There

As I’m sure you will all be aware of, the world has been gripped by Coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, 16/03/2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged UK residents to work from home (wherever possible), avoid mass gatherings, and only have social contact if absolutely necessary.

It’s a scary world out there. People are panic buying – there are no toilet rolls in stock; no hand soap; no wipes; no tissues; no nappies; no painkillers. Photos are circulating the internet of vulnerable people unable to buy their necessities because there’s nothing left on the shelves.

While absolutely necessary, these new restrictions will cause uncertainty for so many of us. When can we visit elderly relatives? My sister is pregnant; can I still see her? Are there enough supplies to get us through this? How will people afford the time off work? How will businesses take the hit? What about education? Schools, colleges, universities – how will they cope?

In these scary times, I think it is important that we remember to be kind to one another. I’ve seen some lovely people offering to do shopping for the elderly, people volunteering to walk their dogs, even giving out their phone number for a chat! I’m going to try and do my bit too, wherever and whenever I can.

There isn’t really a point to this post. I just want to remind everyone, in these scary times, not to lose hope. Remember the important things. Be kind to each other.

If anyone is feeling lonely, or scared, or overwhelmed, you are welcome to send me a message or leave a comment. No one should go through this alone.

Much love.

Job Hunting and Anxiety

Job hunting is a daunting process. Do I have the right qualifications? Enough experience? Am I what they’re looking for? Are they what I’m looking for? Financial pressure. Applications. Resumes. References. Interviews.

Now add an anxiety disorder; a little voice that will accompany you through the already daunting process.

Are you what they’re looking for? What if you don’t get this job? If you don’t get this job then you probably won’t get any job. What then? Your degree will have been for nothing. What if you do get an interview? It’s not like you’ll be able to go through with it. You know you can’t talk to people, especially one on one. They’ll never hire you. And don’t get me started on references! Who would want to give you a reference? Your tutor certainly won’t since you spent all of university an anxious mess. I wouldn’t even bother applying. In fact, don’t bother. Actually, no. You need the money. But who would hire you?

It’s a constant cycle of negative thoughts, from the first search of the job site to clicking ‘send’ on the application.

It gets worse. The job market is extremely competitive, and rejection emails are common. Now, I know rejection is part of the process, but the little voice in my head sees rejection as confirmation.

See! I was right. I knew they wouldn’t hire you. I don’t even know why you bothered applying. Don’t even bother checking your emails next time, we know it’ll just be another rejection. Although, it’s probably a good job they rejected you now. At least you won’t embarrass yourself at an interview.

Now that I’m coming to the end of my time at university, and my current job relies on me being a full-time student, I’m in the midst of job hunting. Unfortunately I’ve had a few rejections (lack of experience, I was expecting it) so that little voice has been extremely loud for the past few months.

I’m trying to organize some volunteering/work experience in a relevant field, so fingers crossed I’ll have some luck there – I’m trying to be positive!

Has anyone else experienced this while looking for a job?

They Said I Should Lie

It’s common for someone with a mental illness to feel ashamed. There’s absolutely no need to feel ashamed, and this is something I fight against on a daily basis – in my ‘real life’ or through writing – but sometimes it can’t be helped. I think it’s our job as fellow sufferers (and, you know, fellow human beings) to try and lessen that feeling of shame. We need to show people that having a mental illness is valid, and real, and okay.

It can be difficult, however, when a mental health professional doesn’t feel the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve encountered some amazing people during my mental health journey. I can’t deny, though, that not everyone I’ve met along the way has been all that helpful.

The one that will always stand out for me is a professional I encountered during my mental health struggles in secondary school. Overall, this person was incredibly kind, but there is one situation that always comes to mind where I was left feeling shamed.

Long story short, this person encouraged me to lie about my absence from school. They said I should tell people that I have been having stomach problems, and that’s why I haven’t been able to get to school. Apparently, people wouldn’t react well to me being mentally ill, so I needed to tell everyone I had to be in close proximity to a toilet.

Now I’m pretty sure this person didn’t personally believe that there was anything for me to ashamed of, so why did they encourage me to lie? Maybe they thought it would be easier for me? Maybe they thought the other kids at school wouldn’t accept a mentally ill classmate? I’ll never know. But someone in that role encouraging a teenager to hide their mental illness from the world is just contributing to the stigma that surrounds mental health, and it needs to stop.

I chose not to lie, by the way, and my friends were supportive and loving and I’m incredibly grateful for them. Anyone who wasn’t that way isn’t part of my life anymore, and I’m better for it!