Monthly Gratitude: May

It’s been a crazy ol’ year so far and to be honest, sometimes I get to these posts and I feel like I’m repeating myself because, let’s face it, none of our routines have changed for months.

That said, maybe there’s a new angle on it, and it’s still important to identify it. Besides, I could hardly miss the one year anniversary of this series on my blog, could I?!

Sitting by the window at night when the world is slightly more peaceful (although daytime is pretty peaceful these days too).

I never used to sit by the window or appreciate the fresh air but now it’s part of my routine. Sometimes I read, sometimes I daydream, sometimes I sip tea… It’s my peaceful place and I quite like it.

A screenshot from the Thrive mental health app, describing a mindful body scan, with options to choose background music and ambience music, and a Begin Session button.

The Thrive app.

Whether I follow the CBT programme or just take out two minutes for meditation, the Thrive app is my ‘go to’. It’s saved to my home screen so that I can pick it up any time I need.

Homemade baked goods from friends!

I do enjoy baking myself but sometimes the recipe yields far too many for us to consume, so it is lovely to be treated by friends in the same boat, who surprise you with brownies on the doorstep!

Time out.

I’m very grateful to have the ability to work from home but even though my desk is now two minutes from my bed, it’s still nice to have a week where the laptop stays tucked up in its case and I can spend time purely on things I want to. Maybe that’s catching up with household chores; maybe it’s snuggling under a blanket for three days in a row with a book. Working from home during a pandemic is not the same as just working from home!

Time and space to reminisce.

Our routine in the evenings is to pick up where we left off on Netflix, but sometimes at the weekend, we light a candle, play some throwback tunes, have a drink or two, and have a little wander down memory lane! It’s a lovely way to spend quality time and gets us away from screens for a little while.

The Libby app.

We might be shielding and living out the same routine these days, but the online library is still an open door to any world you want to immerse yourself in! I’ve been getting through books quicker than I’ve been changing the bedsheets and it’s all thanks to this little app. Connect your library card and you’re off!

Which apps have you been loving during lockdown?

Breathing

“Just keep breathing and keep calm. The only real control we have is over ourselves.”

The above words are from the song Just Keep Breathing by We Came As Romans and it’s as close to a mantra as I get.

I’m a lover of a motivational or uplifting quote, and when it’s paired with my favourite genre of music, that’s something pretty special.

The inspiration for this post was the #springhashtagchallenge on Instagram back in April, in which the prompt for Day 3 was “Breathe”.

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Wednesday 17th April: Breathe. #springhashtagchallenge with @littlepaperswan and @edinburghwithkids 🌸 I find many things peaceful and helpful to re-centre my mind. I grew up by the sea and I now live by a canal, and there's something about walking alongside the water, maybe briefly sitting, and just taking in deep breaths that really helps return that inner peace for me. Maybe there's no one else there or maybe there are passers by but you don't concern yourself with them. Just your breathing. This is the same reason I took up yoga. You can't always go for a stroll, maybe it's raining (or you can go for a stroll in the rain, but you might need your brolly and that kind of ruins the vibe for me) so I get my yoga mat out, my headphones on and set up YouTube in front of me, and spend 20-30 minutes following a routine that primarily focuses on breathing and stretching. How do you like to relax or de-stress? #selflove #selfcare #relaxationtechniques #yoga #breathing #ohidoliketobebesidetheseaside #happyselves #curateyourownfeed #discoverunder1k #shinyhappybloggers #alifeofintention #bloggerstribe #themisfitbloggers

A post shared by Paris | Travel & Wellbeing 💫 (@thegirlinflat26_) on

It was the process of writing the caption that really inspired me to write this post – I didn’t think anyone would make it to the end of the Instagram caption, nor was I certain whether there’s actually a limit on characters…

This year I started practising Yoga and noticed a recurring theme is focusing on your breathing, and I really took to this practice. When I feel anxious, or overwhelmed, or stressed, I find it really helpful to stop thinking about everything else, go back to basics and focus on one thing: my breathing.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale positive vibes.

Exhale the stress.

Whether this is during the practice of yoga, sitting at my desk, outside work on the steps, sitting on a bench in the park, walking to work… It can be tailored to you.

I find that getting some fresh air also helps because if I stay in the environment that made me initially overwhelmed, I can’t always shake it so easily. Sometimes I feel like I just need to get out.

There are lots of ways that people employ to cope with stress and overwhelming feelings; this is an easy one that I like to practise and have actually found very useful recently.

One example is when I had quite a rough night’s sleep, a horrid dream, and then an anxious morning that dragged out for the whole day and left me feeling very drained. I still went to work, but pausing every once in a while and just focusing on the inhale-exhale a few times really did help me reset my perspective.

Likewise, if I feel like I have too much on my plate, spending 20 minutes outside at lunchtime just taking in the fresh, cool air can help me recentre myself. It can be wandering down the street or sitting on a bench just relaxing and watching passers by, not really focusing on anything apart from my breathing.

Just a final reminder that you are tougher cookie than you think.

The Virtual Care Package

In the current pandemic and lockdown situation, I haven’t ordered anything to be delivered to our home apart from food, and I’m trying to keep deliveries to the essentials as an extra health and safety precaution.

With that in mind, and having a loved one struggling with anxiety, I wanted to do something to help without potentially triggering anything or making it worse.

Cue, the Virtual Care Package. An e-mail with all the things you think might make their day that little bit better with no postage, delivery or waiting times! The items can be personalised, things you’ve made, or simply resources you’ve seen online that you think would be useful.

I’ve come up with some ideas to start you off (most of these are examples from the actual care package I sent):

A Yoga, comedy, or an uplifting YouTuber video.

A personalised Spotify playlist or your favourite playlist.

Resources to directly help with anxiety e.g. Mind charity or NHS resources.

Some photos of you together.

Plans you’d like to make together when this is all over.

Colouring sheets that they can print and relax with (link or PDF attachment).

Instagram accounts to make them laugh/smile.

Uplifting podcasts.

An eBook you think they’ll like.

A Netflix show you enjoyed.

A poem that you’ve written for them, or an already written one that you think will make them smile.

An invitation to a virtual quiz either that someone is holding or that you’re hosting yourself.

Recipes you know they’ll love.

Positive news stories from the week.

Online tours of museums and attractions.

A Skype link for you to have a cup of tea and a catch up.

An image you’ve drawn or a blog post you’ve written.

What would you like to include or receive in a Virtual Care Package?

Travelling Into A Pandemic

It’s amazing, and scary, how quickly things can change: in a year, in a month, even in a day. That last one, we understand now better than we ever did before.

We left for Belgium in very early March, aware of the global news but with no travel restrictions or high alerts in the media particularly for the UK or Belgium, it seemed the coast was clear for the time being.

It was our first time travelling by Eurostar and I have to say, I’m very impressed with their service. The journey there was seamless and the journey back, though earlier than planned, was pretty smooth too.

Day one was fairly standard for a city break of ours. Head out for breakfast, then for a wander, make sure we stop by a few landmarks, grab some lunch, meander back towards our accommodation, get changed and pop out for dinner.

Our second full day in Brussels was almost a 180-degree turn. We spent it indoors in our Airbnb apartment, after an alarming amount of pharmacies were displaying “No Hand Sanitiser or Masks Available” signs and an unsettling feeling in the air. Needless to say, anxiety held us captive other than a trip to a cafe for breakfast, and a trip to the closest Carrefour for supplies for the next 48 hours. We were lucky that the Airbnb was furnished with a small fridge-freezer, oven, hob and kettle, and we had decided that it might be best to limit our exploring. Even if we hadn’t made this decision, it became just about mandatory when the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants was announced, effective from midnight that night. This was none other than Friday 13th March, living up to its name if you’re superstitious.

It became very real, very quickly.

I was refreshing Eurostar’s Twitter feed more often than I was blinking. I would be seemingly in a trance watching Brooklyn Nine Nine on the Amazon Firestick one minute, only to be in floods of tears the next when my thoughts flickered back to the real world.

Not only was this a bit like the first 10 minutes of a sci-fi film, but we were also living it 350 miles away from home.

The Eurostar back the next day would cost no less than 400€ for the two of us. It was steep, and when I say steep, I mean it was over three times the amount we paid for both of our return tickets together. The difference between self-isolating in our Airbnb for one or two more days compared to travelling home earlier really was minimal. We had already stocked up at Carrefour and planned to continue making our way through Brooklyn Nine Nine. We’d wait it out.

The tweet that I’d been hoping for popped up at 4pm the next day:

“If you have already commenced your journey and wish to return earlier this weekend, please make your way to the station and you will be placed on the next available service free of charge.”

This was it. Home time, baby!

I have never been so excited to come home from a city break. We packed our suitcases and set alarms for the morning, to be at the Eurostar departure lounge for the 07:52 to London.

We made it onto the train after showing the Eurostar staff the tweet that I had saved. I took a screenshot with the stubborn view that nothing was getting between me and that ticket home! Thankfully, although staff were seemingly unaware of this new approach, they honoured the tweet and we hopped on.

With plenty of space, armed with hand sanitiser and the Belgian chocolates I’d bought in Duty Free as a last minute souvenir, we were on our way back to home turf.

The train home from London was less straightforward to change, but in the grand scheme of things, we got off lightly with two new tickets for £30. It could have been so much worse.

The train was full and I spent the whole time wishing it would go faster and people would get off at the next stop. Somehow we had landed ourselves on a service that stopped at every tiny station that no-one has even heard of.

Grateful to have made it, we closed the front door behind us and flopped onto the sofa, not before washing our hands of course. We had packed the toilet roll and hand soap we’d bought in Carrefour having heard about the emptying shelves in the UK, and I’m pretty glad we did. We immediately contacted our employers to discuss working from home, who were very understanding and I must say, I am very grateful that we are in a position to work from home and to have been isolating since.

The anxiety hasn’t gone, no definitely not (it never does), but it’s certainly more manageable in the comfort of your own home.

Belgium, we will be back one day when we can and I look forward to seeing the sights and enjoying your beautiful country sometime soon.

Monthly Gratitude: April

It’s been quite a month hasn’t it! It simultaneously feels like it has flown by but life before the pandemic feels like decades ago.

These are very strange times we’re living in and I have no doubt they will be part of the future history lessons. My Monthly Gratitude posts serve, not to ignore global events, but to find peace and gratitude in the small wins and positive events that are happening at the moment. Gratitude can be a way to settle the mind, set some perspective, and to help avoid overwhelm.

This month, whilst I have hardly left the flat, I have still found many things to be grateful for. Perhaps it is the very nature of current events that I’m managing to find more gratitude; perhaps it is part of my coping method that I’ve naturally been drawing on more in the last four weeks.

Social Distancing Made Easy. I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a routine prescription and the pharmacy was one of the places I felt most at ease. There was a lady outside limiting the amount of people in the shop at once (I was one of two people), had hand sanitiser at the door to use on your way in and out, and it was the one place I felt were taking it seriously. I struggle with anxiety and walking around shops where people seem to have somehow missed a global pandemic and its potential ramifications is a very overwhelming experience.

A ‘Best of Both Worlds’ Social Life. I’m not suggesting that social distancing and self-isolation should continue when the government lifts the restrictions, but I’ve seen our friends more often than we did before because our diaries align, it’s super quick to get ready and then plonk yourself on the sofa with a gin in hand, and then be five steps away from your bed at the end of the night. I’ve struggled with social anxiety and whilst I miss their hugs and face-to-face human interaction, maybe we should have video calls on the Saturday nights when we can’t afford to get together or something?

Community Spirit. I’ve seen beautiful stories from our local community on social media but it hits home (quite literally) when your friends who live close by and your neighbours who you haven’t met before team up to take your rubbish to the recycling, pick up food for you on their food shop to put at your door, and friends come round as part of their one walk a day to have a catch up out of the window and bring supplies.

Time to do more (and less!) This one is twofold really. I have more time to read the books on my list, write more blog posts, write quizzes for friends and family, and to do some of the things that were on my list for a long time. On the flipside, I have more time to relax. More time to do yoga, more time to meditate, to have a lie in sometimes, to organise my thoughts. It’s important to remember that we’re living in a pandemic, not a productivity competition (as many have been rightfully advocating online). Sometimes keeping busy helps me get through, other times doing nothing gets me through, and neither is the wrong choice. It’s about what’s right for me.

Mindful Colouring. One of the most relaxing activities, in my opinion. There are lots of free printables going round at the moment and even if you don’t have a printer, there are also apps for your phone or tablet that save you even needing a colouring pencil.

Here’s to hoping May brings us all safety, good health and positivity.

Why Making Lists Was Adding to My Stress

It’s pretty commonplace to write myself a To Do list at the beginning of the week or beginning of the day. It is a way to focus the day, ensure I meet my goals and maintain productivity, right?

I mean, half right.

There’s a time when lists go too far, I’ve had a daily list separated into topics, five items on the Household section, seven items on the Work section, six items on the Personal Development… When did I plan on fitting in my three meals, one wonders.

I would make it impossible to cross off everything on my list because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, yet I’d be wide awake at midnight cursing myself because I’d now have more to do tomorrow. I’d always be on the back foot.

This is how it adds to stress. It’s counter-productive.

Instead of being productive, I’d always have to move items from today’s list to tomorrow’s even though of course there would still be only 24 hours tomorrow too! The daily list became an hourly list and I’d only have to look at the list to lose motivation, get distracted, procrastinate and then (yep, you’ve seen this coming, haven’t you?) I’m even further behind. It’s never-ending!

As well as an unhelpful and overwhelming list, I got into the habit of using multiple tools for multiple lists, inevitably losing track of all of them and then I’d find myself saying hello to square one, once again.

I had five lists, most of them carrying items over into the next day every day and there wasn’t time in the day to action anything because I was busy carrying over items and writing items on the lists.

I’m sure you’re starting to build the chaotic picture in your mind. Either that or you’re confused, I’m not surprised. No-one needs that kind of stress when actually they just want to manage a household, career and a social life (although I’m aware that sometimes one of those has to give a little and usually it’s the housework because in the wise words of my childhood hometown, it’ll be reet).

I keep my lists in the same place now, Google Keep Notes, and I only have a daily To Do list for work because I work with multiple deadlines day. This is the exception. Housework goes on a weekly To Do list, it’s flexible; if I don’t want to vacuum on Monday, then I don’t vacuum on Monday and I sure as hell don’t guilt-trip myself for it. Personal Development is on a monthly list; I might not fancy yoga on Tuesday at 6pm so I’d only have to carry it over to Wednesday and… No, I will not be part of this endless cycle of lists.

I’m learning to give myself a break, a pat on the back even. I don’t schedule time for yoga at exactly 6:30pm anymore, I just leave that time blank on the calendar and I’ll do what I want to do at the time.

It’s so important to recognise when lists are a hindrance rather than a help and I must say, it’s very empowering to escape the tight chains of incessant list-making.

A Day At The Warner Bros Studios

These days, Dean and I favour gift experiences over material gifts, they make for lovely photos but less hoarding of material items (our small flat just breathed a sigh of relief). With that in mind, for my 25th birthday Dean bought tickets to the Warner Bros Studios in London so that we could have a little road trip down south for the day.

First things first (I’m the realest), if you’re driving I can confirm that the Sat Nav worked perfectly with the postcode that the WB Studios website provides. It was also well signposted off the motorway so I’d wager that if you know the general direction and don’t have a Sat Nav, you’re unlikely to have too much trouble getting there.

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I will just note at this point that I do go into some detail about the types of things you’ll see at the Warner Bros Studio Tour so if you want to be surprised on your trip, I’d probably not continue past the next paragraph.

When we arrived, we walked in to short and fast-moving queues and very helpful staff. We didn’t opt into the audio guide and we got by just fine without it. Once through the first set of doors, there’s a café and the food hall if you’re peckish beforehand, though we chose to head straight for the tour entrance and eat afterwards.

We thought the entry times might be quite restrictive but we arrived 30 minutes before our tour and were allowed through the barriers straight away. The entrance keeps you interested with a Timeline of the films and some fun facts on the wall to read whilst leading you through to the introductory monologue. The guide here introduces the tour and any children whose birthday it is can be called up to push open the doors to the Great Hall. The tour was gifted for my birthday but the visit was technically 4 months later so I didn’t take advantage and stand with all the children.

“The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

A wander through the Great Hall talks you through the houses, their history and the life of Harry’s robes throughout the eight films. You then wander through different wonders of special effects including the chocolate buffet and floating candles, before leading through to a large open space which includes dormitories, Dumbledore’s office and the potions classroom.

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The photo opportunities included both free and paid options as long as you were willing to stand in a longer queue to get a free photo. Stands to reason really and the free photo queue moved quicker than expected.

“Ministry of magic?’ bellowed Uncle Vernon. ‘People like you in government? Oh this explains everything, everything, no wonder the country’s going to the dogs…”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

After a short walk around the corner, you’ll find yourself in the Ministry of Magic and at the entrance of Forbidden Forest. I liked the option here to opt out of the walkway with the huge spiders but I braved it (I know, not like me!)

“9 and 3/4? Think you’re being funny, do you?”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Unfortunately no walls can be walked through but you can still hold a trolley and pretend you’re on your way to platform 9 and 3/4 for a photo opp. Then, you do an about-turn and you’re looking at the Hogwarts Express! You can walk through the carriage with each little cabin depicting a scene from each film.

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Afterwards, you have the chance to grab yourself a Butterbeer – which in my opinion, wasn’t that great but each to their own! The cream on top was nice…

“Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. My name is Stan Shunpike and I will be your conductor this evening.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

After the last sip of your butterbeer, you can head outside to see the Knight Bus (it’s not quite the “bumpy ride” that the talking head advertises) and snap a pic with the Privet Drive sign. You can then wander into 4 Privet Drive and have a nosey in the lounge, before walking along the covered bridge and plonking your bum down in the Weasley car for another quick photo opp.

“Gringotts is the safest place in the world fer anything yeh want ter keep safe — ‘cept maybe Hogwarts.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

You then enter the beautiful Gringotts with bright, open space and large chandelier. The goblins stand at their desks as expected though unfortunately there are no carts to transport you to the vaults. To make up for this though, there is a really gripping scene to show the effects of a dragon breathing fire in Gringotts. 

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“The wand chooses the wizard Mr Potter. It’s not always clear why.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

After Gringotts, you can walk past the outside of the bank and down the street as though you are 11-year old Harry Potter walking down the street for the first time next to a big friendly giant named Hagrid. Then, after seeing the outside of Ollivanders, you can see the inside with its thousands of wands stacked up to the ceiling, before ending the tour at the gift shop.

The tour is set up so that there are display cabinets for set prototypes in between the bigger photo opportunities; I wasn’t too bothered about the set prototypes but they were nicely mixed in. I liked that there are options to take your own photos and boomerang pictures, as well as places where you could have professional photos taken that you could purchase. Personally, as a gal on a budget, I prefer to take our own photos but it is nice once in a while to have a keyring or a photo to display on the shelf at home, so it is good to have the option.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll love a good activity booklet (even though they are definitely meant for kids) so you’ll be pleased to know that Warner Bros Studios offer an activity passport with snitches to find and questions to answer throughout the tour.

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At the end of the tour, we stopped at the food hall to rest our feet and get some grub. We had a lovely £10 lunch with plenty of options – I chose the pie, Dean chose the burger and they had a tap to fill up my water bottle which was really useful.

The café just by the entrance/exit doors were very accommodating for hot water to put my Lemsip in too, just in case you have a dry throat on your visit!

Have you ever been to Warner Bros Studios?

 

Self Care Ideas That Never Make The Cut

Self-care has found its voice in the last year or so and whilst I’m very glad it has, I think we need to strip back the definition and simplify it. By the very nature of humanity, we are all different so perhaps bubble baths and journaling are right up your street and in that case, this list might not be so interesting to you; but for anyone looking for a simpler and more straightforward idea of self-care, maybe this list is what you’re looking for…

Look after your teeth/Go to the dentist: I left it longer than I’d like to admit between graduating university and getting a new dentist in my new hometown and honestly, the pain of a scale and polish at the time has encouraged me to brush better, buy floss and keep up with it! It takes a couple of minutes at each end of the day and it can save you pain and money down the line.

Brush your hair (unless you want dreadlocks obviously). I feel way more ready to start the day if I’ve run a brush through my hair and style it. Even if working from home, the fresh smell of shampoo and soft locks is worth it.

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Skincare! There are so many bloggers out there with the expertise and lots of recommendations, there’s really no excuse for not looking after your skin. I like a makeupless weekend as well just to refresh and let my skin breathe, but it’s up to you how you structure a routine.

Exercise. You don’t need a gym membership, you don’t need running kit, you don’t even need to go outside! Fresh air is really good for you but if once in a while you’d rather follow an aerobics video on YouTube, then that’s far better than not doing anything. I like following ‘YogaWithAdriene’ sessions on YouTube because her videos are varying lengths and levels, it’s never difficult to find a suitable one.

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Make time for your mind to completely recharge. Yoga? Read a light novel? Meditate… You don’t even need an activity. Sometimes I find a cosy spot to lie on the floor on my back, stretch out, close my eyes and take some time to just be.

Read a book. As a child, imagination was at the forefront of a lot of the things we did; as an adult, we don’t really use it so much. Reading for as little as 15-20 minutes a day both taps into your imagination as you picture the characters and the setting, and gives you chance to let go of the day, let go of any troubles and just be in a fictitious world for a little while. Sometimes it’s a well-earned rest.

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What’s a simple but effective self-care activity that you enjoy?

 

 

Monthly Gratitude: March

Hello to instalment number 10 of Monthly Gratitude!

This month has not been easy on the world and whilst I won’t talk about it in any detail (or much at all really), this post does allude to it because it’s kind of unavoidable. Gratitude is a beneficial practice regularly anyway, but in times of difficulty, it’s a simple but effective practice to help lift your spirits.

So here goes my list for this month…

1. Free Eurostar. We took advantage of the Eurostar sales months ago and bagged ourselves a trip to Brussels for a few days, not at all expecting to have to cut it short. Whilst the situation didn’t really seem to be an issue on our outbound trip, the shops, restaurants, bars and attractions all closed on our second day. Thankfully, Eurostar amended their ticket policy to allow anyone travelling home to get an earlier train for free which I am so grateful for. Being in a different environment is tricky with so much uncertainty, so being in a different country was definitely affecting my mental health.

2. The ability to work from home. We are in an age where lots of people can fortunately continue their day jobs at home. It might mean taking over the dining table with your laptop and books or having conference calls from your spare room, but mostly I can do my job from home the same as I would in the office. Some aren’t so fortunate and are either unable to work or having to go out to their place of work and my heart goes out to everyone in that situation. I really hope that those able to are doing our bit by staying home if we can, and that this passes as quickly as it seems to have swooped in and changed our daily lives.

3. The NHS. I’ve seen first-hand the life-saving work that the NHS do when Dean fell seriously ill a few years ago. I’ve shared my gratitude for them before and raised money for the department that particularly cared for him (more on that here) but I wanted to share my gratitude for the wider NHS system and the people who are on the front line at the moment.

4. The beautiful weather. We might be limited on outings but the blue sky and sunshine certainly help when you’re looking for positivity and motivation. We’ve been flinging the windows open and working by the window to get as much natural light as possible.

5. Positive social media community. The beauty of social media sometimes is the Mute button and the Unfollow button. You can tailor your feed to the people and the posts that you want to see. Whether you go to Instagram for an escape or to interact with like-minded people, it can be such a beautiful place when everyone comes together and supports each other.

6. Technology. On a wider scale than just social media, technology is the bridge to the outside world right now and I couldn’t be more appreciative. Instagram direct messages, WhatsApp video calls, Xbox Live to play games with friends; it’s amazing how we can socialise from our sofas!

What are you grateful for this month?

Why I’ve Stopped Watching the News

I might have muted words and phrases on Twitter but why can’t I stop myself from searching about it on Google? I keep reassuring myself and when I say it out loud, it does sound irrational, but why can’t I stop thinking about it?

It’s the reason I can’t watch House MD even when I have the slightest cold or any aches and pains, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s something I’m currently struggling with.

Health Anxiety.

I feel like as a Brit, maybe the panic is something I should be used to by now.

“It’s snowing… Quick! Everybody go home from work and school or we might be stuck here forever behind that one inch of snow that might only stick for one day, but everybody paniiiiiic!”

I don’t really watch the news anymore because it embeds a fear in me that my brain already compiles for itself. I’ll scroll the BBC News app if I’m feeling particularly brave but otherwise, I’m quite happy in my Netflix and Instagram bubble. My theory is that if it’s something I really need to know, the news will reach me somehow.

Some news, however, seeps through on more than a need-to-know basis and that’s when it gets tricky. A pandemic illness, a worldwide drama, perhaps affecting multiple regions and countries. I might not fit the criteria or be in the right area but if the internet is panicking, should I be panicking?

No. The answer is no. I think.

Oh the irony of worrying about my physical health having a negative impact on my mental health (and in turn, sometimes, physical health!)

So I shut myself off from it all. I take a break from social media, mute keywords on Twitter and delete all the shortcuts from my home screen. I even write on my Instagram stories that I’m taking a break, only to come back a few days later when I realise that the platform for pretty pictures and uplifting captions (certainly amongst the people I follow) might actually help rather than hinder (because social media isn’t all awful and scary). I decide that the app I’ll leave for a while is Twitter, but then Google notifications start pinging to tell me how terrifying everything is and it feels like even though I’ve closed the door, it’s now lurking at the window, still trying to get in.

I open the door to peer out into the daylight and there it is: “Oh, were you just about reaching rational thoughts? Well, here’s the thing, you should still be worried and here are ten reasons why…”

There’s no escaping it when it has the outside world to roam around in, in the same way you can’t mute keywords on your Google app. A not-so-ideal realisation for anyone in this predicament.

One thing that helps is talking. Hearing other points of view, particularly from Dean who is the honestly the best person to balance out my irrational worries (no, you’re biased). Even saying what I’m thinking out loud helps me hear the sheer irrationality of it, for a while at least.

The trick is not to Google it, not to even dip my toe in the sea of scaremongering, clickbait article titles. It’s okay to open the door, to step outside into the daylight, but a ship cannot sink if it does not let the water in. I try to work on my resilience, remind myself of the reasons why my nearest and dearest are not panicking (even my Mum, who is more of a worrier than me) and therefore why it’s okay to have those thoughts, but not to let them sink my ship.

Bad things happen in the world, scary things happen in the world (I’d be naive to think they don’t), and if I switch on the TV to the news at tea time, I’m going to hear them all and that might just be the wave to try and write off my vessel.

I’ve taken solace in reading not only the Harry Potter series to lose myself in a magical novel, but also in life stories from authors such as Matt Haig and Fiona Thomas, who explore the worlds of anxiety and the effects of technology on an already troubled mind. Taking out a library membership might have been one of the best things I’ve done for my mind. Not only does it force me out into the fresh air to collect a reservation or return a due item; it has also led me to these authors that have opened my mind and helped me feel somewhat at ease that I’m not the only one that experiences these feelings and that all thoughts will pass.

Whilst reducing my screen time has led my Instagram following to drop and my blogging to take a back seat, it has also opened my mind to what I think might be my favourite genre of book to read. In the same way that I have found like-minded, lovely, uplifting people on social media, I’ve found like-minded people and their thoughts on a physical set of pages.

I don’t think it’s realistic to try to live a life without hearing negative news stories or nerve-wracking goings on in the world, but I do think it’s possible to filter out the unhelpful and let in the need-to-know and the uplifting. If I can be selective with the people I choose to associate with and the events I go to, there’s no reason I can’t be selective with the information I consume too.