Positivity in lockdown

The Coronavirus outbreak has brought the world anxious and trying times, bringing unpredictable difficulties. For those of us staying at home, it’s important to find the silver linings and try to stay positive, despite the complete upturning of our previous ‘normal’ life.

I am definitely a glass half-full kinda person, but at the moment it’s easy to fall into a downward spiral of worry, which I definitely did at the start of lockdown. I found not being able to predict what is going to happen, the stress of uni work, not knowing when I can next see people, and if people were going to be okay really stressful and worrying. I now have more certainty about what is happening with uni and as we’ve now been in lockdown for a while, I am doing my best to stay positive and proactive. To combat all the negative effects of stress, it’s really important to find small moments of happiness in our days. I’ve compiled a list of things to help create positive emotions/things that have made me happy over the past months.

1. Remembering to be grateful

  • Being stuck at home has made me very grateful for my family. I live with my younger siblings, parents and three cats, and getting to spend so much time together has made me feel very grateful for the good relationships we have. My siblings and I get on very well, there is laughter everyday and so far we have only argued about what to have for dinner or my brother screaming and jumping at his Xbox so loud it sounds like he’s going to fall through the ceiling.
  • I feel so lucky to have a garden and as we’ve been blessed with sunshine recently, the flowers are in full bloom.
  • My boyfriend and friends!! I miss them all so much! I just had my birthday, which was strange but very lovely. Social media posts and cards really made me smile. Two of my friends came round my house for a distanced chat and it made my day :))

2. Savouring the small things

  • Despite lockdown, we can still find pleasure in the every day things we did prior to the situation. For me this is having a huge mug of tea in the mornings, the smell of coffee, showering, stroking the cats and so on.

3. Technology

  • This would come under gratefulness too, but lockdown had made me grateful for social media, instead of often viewing it as a negative thing. There is a huge physical distance, but this lockdown would be a very different experience without the ease of video call. The online society created via social media is bringing us all together via the challenges we’re taking part in. My university football club had tour cancelled, and instead we are racing the distance to Croatia against UoB netball for NHS Charities Together.

4. Staying active

  • I’m an active person who enjoys keeping fit, but I’ve actually found this quite hit and miss in the past month. I miss having to walk to places and being able to go to the gym. I think there can also be a lot of pressure to see lockdown as a time where you need to get fit and eat healthy. But it’s a stressful time, be kind to yourself.
  • Just doing a little bit here and there is important. I’ve been really enjoying going on cycle rides, but my sister has got really into home workouts, everyone is enjoying different things. But I do know that I rarely regret getting active, so when I am motivated releasing endorphins feels great.

5. Manage your news consumption

  • To be checking the news or to have it on in the background is an easy habit to have and it is good to stay informed, but this might just make you less productive and more worried.
  • I have stopped checking in the morning, opting to only check in on the main headlines in the afternoon. But obviously everyone is different. This article goes into more detail.

6. Hobbies

  • At the moment I am quite buried in dissertation work, but it’s also a good time to find new hobbies.
  • I like cooking, and so I have started a herb garden. Sadly my coriander has most likely died but we are trying to revive it, fingers crossed.
  • If you’re looking for something to do, sorting through my music the other day took me hours and hours. I had so much fun finding old songs I used to love, and I compiled new playlists of my all time favourite songs/albums. Try and make a list of your top 10 songs, I couldn’t.

Take each day as it comes as we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s okay to feel sad or unmotivated sometimes, don’t beat yourself up. Spread the love! xxx

Transitioning back to University

I often find coming home after a busy and eventful term can be quite a jolt to the system, as you suddenly don’t have people around you 24/7 with always someone to chat to or an activity to do. At the moment, I’m in the opposite position as it is just coming to the end of the Christmas holidays, and I’m due back in Brum this weekend. I’m not feeling too overwhelmingly positive about the move back up after a lovely chilled Christmas and for things to all get serious in my third year at uni (ARGH!), so I thought I’d discuss how to adjust going back to uni.

Am I living in an igloo?

My January deadlines are looming over me, and leaving the warmth of my home does not appeal. University houses are notoriously known for their icy temperatures, and so I am about to enter and live in a much colder house. I attempt to do all my work pre-dinner, so I can relax in the evenings (and not be walking home in the rain from the library at 10pm) and snuggle up on the sofa. Adjusting to uni coldness may be ever so slightly dramatic but it’s important to be cosy and it helps me chill. Key items: tea, fluffy pj’s, chocolate and housemates. Get the work done early so you aren’t stressing late.

Food: a chore, or a fun element to be creative?

Going home to full kitchen is dreamy. I enjoy cooking and baking, and so having a kitchen with all kinds of herbs and spices mean that when you want to try a new recipe or experiment it requires pretty much no planning. Having home-cooked meals is also lovely, and not having to plan or do a weekly shop. However, instead of thinking about it negatively, I am going to cook more next term. I like doing it and it’s a great activity to be creative and to de-stress.

Getting back into the routine of lectures

Or for me, who has only 6 hours per week this year, this is about getting myself into the library for solid amounts of time to read and write. No more sleepy so-called dissertation reading in front of the fire with the box of celebrations at home. What works for me is getting into a routine and getting up early, which I was a bit hit and miss with last term so this term I’m changing that. A key thing is also to plan what you need to do and learning to prioritise things. Learning to say no to social events and go get that degree.

Adjusting back to the uni lifestyle can be tricky, especially after a lot of fun at Christmas. Keep busy and motivated, do the things you love and catch up with your pals xxxx

Mastering Motivation

For me, this is still an art I have not mastered. I am a final year student, the year everyone tells you is filled with really hard work. Yet in the past week I’ve been feeling unaccomplished, and when I do something fun it often leads to feelings of guilt. I started last week full of motivation, and I feel disappointed that I’m not where I planned to be. So what happened? I got myself into a circle of feeling bad for not working but then not feeling good enough to want to work. So in turn I got nothing done, which obviously just makes me feel worse. I want to write about motivation in an attempt to find some, lol.

In the 2 weeks running up to deadlines I am motivated to work and busy; I am able to do lot’s more work due to the ever-approaching deadline that is in reach. But what other than deadlines motivates me?

Motivation is the drive that gets us to accomplish things, and it can be internal or external. Internal motivation is when we push ourselves to do things due to our own likes, wants or needs. It’s internalised within us. External motivation is receiving an outside push that drives us to do something, for example a friend or a deadline.

External motivation is good because it makes us do tasks that otherwise don’t happen. For example, running up to my January deadlines earlier this year I was reading and writing in the library for 8-10 hours a day. Without the serious deadlines that would not have happened.

Ideally, I would like to have internal motivation every day for all things. But finding your internal push all the time is unrealistic, so I need to learn that this is okay and I don’t need to self-sabotage the next day or fun activity because of it.

For now, I need to find that internal motivation. At the moment I just have huge projects that are looming over me, however distant. I am going to break them down into achievable goals. This works for me; I love a plan. With these deadlines being so important to my degree, I also think that confidence is just lacking. As I doubt myself to complete the tasks as perfectly as I want, I am making myself anxiously motivated which results in no action taking place. I’m stuck in the period between motivation and the completing of the tasks, which leads to self-sabotage. It is necessary to work out why you’re thinking this and rid self-doubt.

Through writing this I am figuring out what motivates me and what I’m going to do, so here goes: (not including deadlines and the impending thought of failure because it is not working…yet)

  • Getting up early and out of the house – weird, I know. But for me knowing I’m up and have the whole day ahead of me really makes me feel optimistic about the day. I feel lazy sleeping in and I don’t start the day in the right head space.
  • Having a plan – breaking big projects down into achievable targets.
  • Lists – checking things off, however small, makes me feel good.
  • Remembering how shit I feel when I don’t do anything.
  • Remembering feeling proud of the work I’ve done in the past and the drive to achieve that again.
  • Working hard so I can enjoy time off, and deserve it. Reward yourself.
  • Reaching out to people – nearly everyone can sympathise and/or relate with motivational issues – have a chat.
  • It’s the end of term, Christmas will be way more relaxing and enjoyable if the work is put in now.

Obviously having internal motivation all the time is the dream, but I know that for me it is unrealistic. What motivates you the most? Are you naturally internally motivated? (tell me your secret) Do you find motivation hard? What gets you motivated?

If you’re one for an inspirational quote, here’s one of the few I actually like from Dr. Seuss.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Dr Seuss

The Power of Journaling

People keep a journal for many different reasons. For me, journaling is my own personal space to express myself. When I was younger, I found it pretty tricky to articulate my feelings well. Pairing this with a buzzing brain full of teenage angst meant switching off at night a challenge. I remember googling ‘ways to get to sleep quicker’ and writing down how you’re feeling popped up, so I gave it a go.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I turn my light off and decide to go to sleep, my brain still decides to go PING and I overthink, plan, or come up with imaginary scenarios. I just can’t switch my brain off very easily. So before bed I began writing how I was feeling to clear my head before going to sleep. Obviously it is no miracle worker; I’m not about to claim it’s the cure for insomnia. But for me, writing down my negative thoughts on paper makes them real, and it’s the start of you facing the problems head on. The words going down were just for me, so I had no reason to hold back. I wrote with no filter, and I found that it was very beneficial in an attempt to clear my mind.

Journaling helped me to understand my own emotions better. I could process why I was feeling the way I did after writing it down. Looking back on them helped me to rationalise why I was like that. I mean, of course sometimes I have completely irrational thoughts – but scribbling it down at the time helps me to get it out.

Journaling can be a practice of mindfulness

Mindfulness is having an awareness of ourselves and the world around us. Questioning the necessity of this comes to mind, yet it is important to have as we so often lose touch from the matter in hand and our brains can easily spiral out of control. Mindfulness is an innate quality in all humans, so you don’t have to magically conjure it up. Being more mindful reduces stress and anxiety, and as well an increasing awareness of your own mind, it also helps us to notice the well-being of those around us.

How can you be mindful?

It can be obtained through creating short pauses into your everyday life. Meditation may work for some people, but I need an activity – and merging meditation practice with other activities, such as long cycles, drawing, writing and baking, is what I love to do.

How can journaling positively impact your well-being?

When you write in an unedited outpouring, the power can be immense. Sometimes we don’t need a solution or an opinion off a friend or therapist; we just need to get it out and have it accept what we have to say. Writing it down is in a way releasing all the jumbled feelings held up in our brains (think back to Dumbledore). Afterwards my mind feels calmer and more roomy – you create space for more positive feelings to grow, and stay. Try not to write in in the mindset of ‘fixing’ yourself. Simply express yourself naturally; the results will follow.

“Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.”

Mina Murray in her journal in Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Writing is definitely my most direct activity of practicing mindfulness. When you spend time expressing yourself on paper, it makes you more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In turn, you understand and accept them, and this leads to you taking action because of them. For a while, my journal was my go to when I needed a rant, or needed to figure something out. But I didn’t want it to be just a book of angst!! I was realising how much I liked having this personal space just for me, as it is so easy to get lost in technology these days.

Throughout the ages of 18 – 20 I kept a journal, filling it with doodles, poems and my scrawl of emotions. I took a diary away with me when I went travelling to Indonesia in 2017, and I wrote in it every single day, filling it with tickets, receipts and random bits and bobs. I love reading it back. It is filled with amazing memories and very extreme emotions – it’s both hilarious and nostalgic to read back on.

I don’t keep a diary as such currently, but instead I have a journal titled ‘One Line A Day’ – pretty self explanatory stuff. I’ve been keeping it for the whole of this year and the idea is to get 5 years worth all compacted in a lil book. You can get them off Amazon and places like Urban Outfitters. It inspires thoughtful daily reflections and it’s already a keepsake record – it’s pretty cool to see the changes over the months. Imagine when I’m into my fifth year of writing it!

If you want to start a form of journaling and can’t see yourself scribbling out pages of feelings, it’s a great way to get going – it takes no time at all.

Ridding the Scariness Surrounding Job Prospects

Career ideas and life after university is something that is daunting, and it has loomed over my head for many years. I have never been a person to know what job I aspire to have, but through taking the plunge into being more proactive my mind is now racing with ideas and exciting opportunities. This is largely due to where I went yesterday, where I walked out of the building buzzing, filled to the brim with positivity, and a drive to find out more. Yesterday I got up at what felt like the crack of dawn, to venture to London for an event run alongside the School of Marketing at the Saatchi & Saatchi head office. It’s purpose was to inspire young adults into a career in marketing, and a line-up of really exciting speakers and networking opportunities were promised. It did not disappoint!

The deluxe head office of Saatchi & Saatchi oozes class with it’s modern decorum and swanky interior design. When I arrived, I was directed upstairs to a room buzzing with voices where the event was taking place. I ended up chatting to a girl who actually went to my sixth-form college, and a guy who was also from just outside of Cambridge. What a small world! Our first speaker was Richard Huntington, the Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer for the marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi. The passion he has for his job was immediately apparent. His energy filled the room and he had the whole audience engaged. The first take-away point from him was that marketing is ever-evolving, and you cannot act upon orthodoxy. He quoted the great George Orwell through stating that “orthodoxy is not thinking”, and that the best marketing is the pairing of the impossible with the relevant. I learnt how powerful marketing really can be, through his discussion of what Saatchi & Saatchi is really about. The company uses marketing to solve commercial and social problems, through changing people’s behaviour. I also took from him that the underlining factor of the agency is their belief in the unreasonable power of creativity, and it is this that initially drew me in to finding out more about a career in marketing. Richard Huntington reiterated how it is the magic of creativity that runs throughout the agency. I couldn’t possibly write about all of the striking points he discussed, but something that stuck with me was how he elaborated on how marketing was the merging of science and art. In marketing, it’s ideal to be a mix of left-brain and right-brain. Obviously both sides of your brain are actively participating in whatever you’re doing, and no one is truly left-brained or right-brained. But in regard to having a dominant side, mine is largely the right. I have a big imagination, I’m creative and artistic. Yet my left side is also very prevalent. I remember a teacher at school describing me as being too analytical and methodical. I also love organising and weirdly love planning. The other speakers also touched upon this, and it made me feel excited and assured that researching further into what it would be like to work in marketing was the right thing to do. I felt excited about a career instead of scared!

Every speaker had me listening to every word. In lectures at university I can drift off without even realising, but each one had me eagerly listening to everything they had to say throughout the whole morning. Jordan Harry’s talk on memory really stuck with me (which shows he knows what he’s talking about). He discussed the different strategies of long-term memory. An example of this is is how at the start of his talk he got everyone in the audience to shut their eyes, and if he tapped you on the shoulder you have to pitch a business idea to him and the entirety of the room. So there I was, sat second row to the front with a bright pink jumper on, thinking shit he’s going to pick me. Obviously he didn’t actually choose anyone, but through initiating that sense of panic thinking of an idea, I remember his talk pretty damn well. Marketing is a memory game, and so learning about how memory works is very important in the field. However, he also said some significant things on life in general:

  • “You will never be ready” – so if you’re waiting for the ‘right’ moment to set up your website, write a song, or apply for work experience, whatever it is, just do it!
  • Set up a LinkedIn account.
  • If you don’t ask you don’t get, the worst they can say is no. People will nearly always want you if you offer to work for free, so go and get valuable experience.
  • There is no timeline for where you should be in your life.

How to begin the search of finding a happy career…

I was now very excited about the idea of marketing, and it was the final speaker Helen Tupper who really inspired me into wanting to take charge of my career! She spoke with such clarity and presented how to go about making things happen in such a way that it gave us all the belief that we could do it. She opened with the important statement that careers aren’t linear anymore; a career is no longer like a staircase as such. It is squiggly (she has a podcast called ‘Squiggly Careers’ that I am defo going to check out, you should too). She went through the 5 things that we should invest time in:

  1. Values – This is what makes you, you. What are your motives and drives? You should make your career path decisions based on your values. Find out for yourself what these are and what is important to you.
  2. Strengths – Can you list off what you’re good at? We all sadly know our downfalls too well, and talking about what you excel in can be difficult. She suggested the site viacharacter.org to help (the results are not everything obvs) work out what your strengths are. Once you have worked out what they are, use these to start connecting these with what you want to do. Find out what aligns. As well as finding out yourself, ask others what your strengths are to work out what others think your impacts are. Start getting confident talking about what you’re good at.
  3. Confidence – This is having the authentic belief in yourself. Helen Tupper suggested that for 10 days in a row, write down 3 successes of your day before going to sleep. We do not need to write down what we could have done better; our brain automatically does this. Through doing this we will start to appreciate where we are adding value. This also links to finding out what your strengths are. I’ve been journalling for years and really believe in the power of it, but I can imagine how this positive use of reflection would be highly beneficial.
  4. Network – This is about people helping people. If you put your time in, you will always get something back in the end.
  5. Future – Explore the multiple options and be curious. Think of all the possibilities, rather than making a step by step plan.

I am going to explore the various roles in the dynamic trade of marketing, and I’m very much looking forward to my week of work experience with Cofinitive. It’s at the end of July and I’ll get the opportunity to get a real feel of the working environment within the company! It’s never too late or too early to start your research into careers, I hope you can use what I learnt from the event I attended to start finding out what you want to do!

Moulding a Creative Headspace

I feel like I blinked and my second year of uni is over! AH! It is mad how fast time has flown by this year. It’s been a busy one. The contrast of going from living with your mates 24/7 in a thriving city, to all of a sudden you’re home in your sleepy village is big. It’s a weird feeling. Obviously it is amazing to see my family (despite the one that is currently half way across the world gap yearing), and it’s always good when you come home exhausted and crash after the post-exam celebrations. I’m also someone who does appreciate down time, and in the first week I was home, I loved completely losing track of time in painting, baking or writing. I’ve also been on long cycle rides, and generally just living on my bike to get about (who needs a driving license, huh?). It is something I defo do miss when I’m in the city bustle of brum. Getting out in the countryside really does bring me a lot of happiness and it’s a fab way to just enjoy the sunshine.

However, in my second week of being home I found myself scrolling endlessly on Instagram and Facebook, and it does take conscious effort to put it away and solely focus on just the thing I’m doing, like painting for example. Or even writing this! I think it is so important to do so. One of my mates was saying how her Snapchat has broken and she deleted Instagram off her phone, seeing it first as a negative but how it has actually done her a world of good. The downsides of phones in public is always talked about, but for me when I’m out and about I find it easy to not be on my phone. It’s when I’m at home it’s a problem, because it’s just the easy option for what to do. Mobile phones are constant; there’s always someone to talk to or someone posting something. An interruption to whatever you’re doing is inevitable. For me, it completely ruins the flow of what I’m doing. As much as it can distract me from my university work, it is also the easier option and a more favourable thing to choose over reading a book or creating something. I think this affects the generation younger than me the most, as it’s harder for children to see the negative impacts of social media. But it does also affect my generation and those above, we just have to be proactive in handling it and using it for good.

What is actually gained from scrolling through endless newsfeeds? Social media is amazing in keeping in contact with loved ones of course, and also to connect and share with like-minded individuals. I like sharing my photos on Instagram, but sometimes I do question the point in it all. You can see your own activity on the app and the minutes really do add up. It is a questionable use of time. I have recently been particularly bad at this, and a habit I want to break is going on my phone before bed. When I was younger I would always be buried in a book at this point. I am someone who often can’t fall asleep straight away, and so I’ve decided I want to change this habit. I used to power through books and become completely immersed in the story and it’s something I miss. After my initial chilled 2 weeks, I now feel very busy working at a restaurant and meeting up with my mates who are home too. I have loved seeing them all over the past few weeks, and through this I have also felt a lot of appreciation for Cambridge itself. I forget how the idyllic colleges and greens of Cambridge paint picturesque scenes; it is a beautiful city. My summer is busy and a lot of fun, but I want to make the time for activities on my own; I need to find a balance. I haven’t posted on here for ages!

Is multi-tasking a myth?

I want to set aside quality time to write. As much as many of us are capable of multi-tasking, I think it is very important to sometimes solely put all of your energy into one thing. It is hard to do so, but I think it’s good for us to focus in on an activity and to immerse yourself in it. We are nearly always multi-tasking in an attempt to do everything at once. When your attention is spread across an assortment of pursuits, you’re actually less productive and efficient than you think you are being, through doing activities simultaneously. So you aren’t completing the task to the best of your ability. Multi-tasking slows down how productive you are and different activities require different mindsets. Are you actually multi-tasking if everything is slightly worse off than if you had devoted your whole attention span to one sole activity? Everyone is different, but when you’re giving yourself down time or trying something new, give it your whole attention and you’ll benefit so much more. Get in the zone!

Immerse yourself in a creative bubble

Being on your own is easy to see as a negative, but I think solitude breeds creativity. It is important to have alone time. Being alone with your thoughts allows your brain to wander and therefore opportunity for creativity arises. I’m not saying go and sit on your own and try to think deeply, but go and do something with just yourself. Get off your phone and push your creative side. Do something with food (always a good choice as your creation will be edible, hopefully) or draw or write. On a quiet afternoon at work I was chatting to a colleague about art. We were discussing how we always focus on the outcome of the creative process, for example the finished piece of art. However, we should instead just enjoy the process and push ourselves in the creation itself. If we have challenged ourselves or had fun in the process, why do we need evidence or to have a perfect outcome? It made me question my own creative processes. I spend an afternoon losing myself in a painting in a new technique, but then if it doesn’t turn out how I imagined I feel like I’ve disappointed myself, and in the bin it goes. Or I spend a few hours writing a blog post and it ends up going nowhere, I feel like it was pointless. It made me realise that sometimes it would be good for me to loosen my perfectionist instincts surrounding creative things. I need to not keep thinking about the perfect finalised outcome, but just enjoy the activity that I’m doing. It’s not always necessary to have aims, I want to just see where getting creative takes me! Creativity should be about the process; the outcome does not have to be flawless, or even come to a precise finished outcome.

Stepping out of the comfort zone

Leaving our comfort zones requires a push. Our brains are wired to not like change, and this can lead to getting stuck in a continuous repetitive loop of day-to-day activities, not trying new things. Or you may feel like me. I am rarely ever bored and happy with life. Yet I am a creature of habit, and am nearly always drawn to tasks and activities I know I will enjoy or I know I’m good at. There are so many benefits of stepping out of our comfortable bubbles every now and again. Initial stress is likely, but getting out of the zone not only broadens your horizons, but will increase your own focus and creativity. We are programmed to be afraid of failure. However, changing things up and enjoying or succeeding in your endeavor shows your brain there’s nothing to fear. Taking these risks, however small, will help you respond better to when life throws unexpected stress at you.

As a child, we are mostly reliant on a parental figure to push ourselves out of the comfort zone. At age 9, my Dad pushed me (an introverted ballet and gymnastics goer), into football, which at the time I was not a happy bunny about at all. Now, I realise it was probably one of the best things he did for me. The power of team sport, especially football, is immense. As a young adult, it is now up to me to create new chances for myself, as it is all at my fingertips if I make the effort. Self-motivation is hard!! Especially when you’re stuck in a cycle of doing the same things. Opportunities at university are extensive. I am part of a fab football club, yet I’ve always done that and it wasn’t a question if I would continue to play at uni. Being a sporty and social individual is a huge part of me, but I want to push the creative and artistic side of me that I often disregard. Since school, I’ve always wished I was a mathsy person, or good at science, always thinking about how much more useful it would be. I mean, it is arguably is…But I want to embrace and challenge my arty brain more! I draw and paint when I can. I love to write, but I never share it. Since starting uni I’ve pondered on the idea of doing a food blog, or writing articles for a uni society, but I just never motivated myself to go for it. For me, writing this and putting it up for the world to see is a huge step out of my own bubble. I have so many topics I want to learn more about, varying from fitness, veganism, feminism, the environment and mental health, to travelling, sport, music and art. I want to explore these topics further, and write about university life in general, to hopefully push my rambles to create something vaguely interesting to read on this blog! I want to stretch myself and connect with people, and hopefully this will encourage others to take that step to leave their comfort zone, whatever that may be.