Reducing Your Screen Time

Hello lovely readers,

How are we all doing? A quick update on me before we start: I’m now back home in Salisbury and I was meant to go back to work on Sunday, but on that morning my Mum’s partner, who lives with us, developed Covid-19 symptoms. Because I never got tested so we can’t be sure I’ve had it, I have to isolate with my family/household for the recommended 14 days. (Nearly wrote years then – it feels like 14 years!). My mood has been up and down – mostly down. But today I’ve had a bath, washed my hair and done some tidying so I feel a bit less useless. By the time this 14 days is over though, I’ll be chomping at the bit to finally be back at work!

It feels like there’s not a lot else to do in these times than be on our phones/tablets/laptops. Whether it’s messaging friends, scrolling social media or watching Netflix, we’re spending most of our time looking at a screen. I’ve become very aware of how much time I’ve spent, mostly on my phone, mindlessly switching from one social media app to the next and back again. I think I was pretty guilty of this anyway but under normal circumstances, I’d have work or uni or be meeting up with friends, and that would be screen free time. So during this time, I’m trying to make an effort to put the social media down and read a book or phone a friend instead.

We’ve developed an unhealthy reluctance to put our phones down, I feel. We live in an age where if your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner etc doesn’t text you back quick enough they must be talking to someone else or not be interested in you. I’m guilty of this pattern of thinking too. Especially now. I keep seeing posts, particularly on Twitter, saying things along the lines of:

‘We’re in lockdown, he’s got nothing else to do, if he ain’t texting you back, he’s not interested in you’. 

Of course, this isn’t remotely true. The person might be cooking a meal, taking a nap, or simply having some time away from their screens. If you’re starting to feel insecure about the reason someone isn’t texting you back, that’s probably a sign that you need to take a break from your phone. And it’s not just our private interactions (or lack thereof) with friends or family that can take a toll on our mental health. The internet can be a toxic place at times. You’ve got internet trolls who can’t find anything better to do than anonymously tear others down, you’ve celebrities and big brands creating adverts that make us feel insecure in order to flog products that will ‘fix’ our flaws, and right now a lot of the news is very upsetting. More than once, I’ve teared up at a news notification or become angry at someone on Facebook posting about how social distancing isn’t necessary if you take Vitamin C (NOT TRUE!).

I had a conversation about this with a friend the other day and when we ended the FaceTime call, I had a well-timed notification from my Headspace app. It said:

“As you pick up your phone to do anything, be clear in your intention. Do the thing and then put it away.”

As with breaking any habit, it can be easier said than done, but try and practice this tonight. I’ve had a think about some of the techniques I use to reduce my screen time and I’m sharing them here in the hopes that they’ll help you too:

  • Set time limits on your apps – if you have an iPhone, there’s a section under Settings, called Screen Time. You can see how much time you’ve spent on your phone in a given time period, but you can also set time limits for specific apps. When you’ve used up your chosen time, the app will be closed and you’ll get a message letting you know. You can override this if you choose to, and often I do if I’m in the middle of reading an article or watching an IGTV, but what’s great is that it makes you aware of how much time you’re spending and that once you’ve finished what you’re doing, it’s probably a good idea to put it down for a while.
  • Leave your phone on charge somewhere out of reach – I’ve been doing this a lot and found it really helpful. If I’m watching TV or reading, I don’t want to be constantly checking my phone or scrolling, but I don’t want to miss any important messages or phone calls either. So I’ll leave my phone on vibrate or on loud and then put it somewhere out of reach. This means I’ll hear it if it rings, and I can get up to answer, but I won’t be able to just absent-mindedly reach for it without a purpose.
  • Plug it into an iPod dock – in the age of Alexa and Bluetooth speakers, this one’s a little old fashioned, but if you still have an iPod dock, it’s worth trying. It’s similar to leaving it out of reach, except with this approach there’s a forfeit for going and checking your phone – if you pick it up from the dock, the music will stop! Are you really going to interrupt your favourite tunes just to scroll Twitter for 20 minutes or are you going to answer that text from your Mum and then put it straight back?
  • Set an alarm before scrolling – sometimes you are just in the mood for a mindless scroll, and that’s okay. You want to catch up with what’s been posted/tweeted/grammed and I can’t fault you for that. But when you pick up your phone for a scroll, trying setting an alarm or timer for what you feel is a reasonable amount of time to spend browsing the web. When the timer goes off, close your apps and move onto a different activity. This allows you to have a moment of mindless scrolling without getting carried away and realising too late that you’ve been at it for hours!

I hope you find some of these tips helpful, not just now but in ‘normal life’ too.

Take care and stay safe everybody. I’ll be back soon!

xx

Reality Check

I wrote this on the 31st July and have thought about whether or not to post it. I’ve decided I shall. I’ve left the post as it is so when it says ‘today’, it refers to the day I wrote it…

“This morning I did an at-home blood glucose test and realised it’s time to make a change. (Trigger warning: depression, weight loss/body image)

During my first year at uni – in fact particularly during the second half of that year – I found myself feeling particularly depressed. I take Citalopram for depression anyway but with medication and my own coping mechanisms I manage usually to remain on an even keel. However, from about February, up until the end of the academic year, I stopped doing things I enjoyed, like exercising and reading; my motivation was at rock bottom and I was missing about 50% of my lectures. I spent most of my time laying in bed, watching Netflix and eating cookies, or just sleeping the day away. I couldn’t be bothered to cook most evenings so I bought reduced microwave meals from the M&S garage down the road.

‘But you ran a 10k!’ – yes, I did, which I signed up for at the end of March, thinking that a big goal like that would help me get back on track. To be perfectly honest, it didn’t. I did the 10k and I loved it and was so proud of myself, but before I arrived in London that day, I was totally unprepared! The only thing more powerful than the voice in my head telling me to give up and call it off was the voice telling me what a loser I’d look, having hyped it up and written about it, only to chicken out. Fake it ’til you make it actually worked on this occasion I guess.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been in a much better place. I’m working full time again and while that’s tiring, I really do love my job and it gets me out of the house five days a week which can only be a good thing. Having found out on the 11th July that I did actually pass my first year at uni, I’m feeling much more confident about going back. (Yes, dropping out did cross my mind back in June). But the effects of those sedentary few months and the comfort eating that came with it have stuck around.

Those who have known me for a few years will know that I’ve always been slim. Since the beginning of this year, I estimate to have gained about 2 stone. (Estimate because I don’t weigh myself very often and don’t know exactly how much I weighed a year ago, but I can make a good guess.)

Now please, please don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with gaining weight or being the weight or size or figure that I am right now. I don’t look at myself in the mirror and hate what I see. Nor should I! My personal issue is that after being a certain way for the first 21 years of my life, and then for that to change in the space of 6 months without me really noticing until now is weird for me. My body now is not what I’m used to. And I’d like to go back to what I’m used to. Basically, I don’t feel like me. I hope that makes sense.

From a health point of view, most of the weight I’ve gained appears to be visceral fat – the kind that manifests around the abdominal cavity and therefore surrounds important internal organs such as the liver and pancreas. This type of fat is also linked to insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes. This is where that blood test comes in. I’d been doing some idle reading and research on this area and knew that it was possible to buy an at-home one-time blood glucose testing kit (which is NOT a diagnostic tool!) and figured I’d have a go. My blood glucose level is sitting somewhere around 110 mg/dl (milligrams per deciletre). Normal levels are considered to be below 100mg/dl and 100-125mg/dl is considered pre-diabetic. While this is all super interesting and possibly a bit concerning, I am obviously not a doctor (or a pharmacist, yet!) and I’m definitely not in the business of self diagnosing. The instructions in the kit suggest that if your blood-glucose is above or below the normal range, that you repeat the test in 10 days time and if the result remains the same then you visit your GP for proper diagnostic testing.

I’ve been telling myself for a few weeks that I should change my diet but because my weight wasn’t bothering me that much, I’ve put it off and procrastinated. Until this morning, when I realised I could really be putting my health at risk by not taking action against my poor diet.

I’m writing this so publicly, partly because writing at all helps me to process and – as with the Vitality 10k earlier this year – I’d like to hold myself accountable, which I struggle with unless I feel like I’m accountable to someone else.

This blog, when I created it, was all about sharing my journey with people I love and people who don’t know me at all. This part of my journey is about self-care, self-love and the desire to be the healthiest version of myself.

In a future post I will write about some of the specific goals I have set myself and the way I’m going to achieve them. Plus, look out for an unrelated but exciting announcement coming soon..!

Much love xx

(Disclaimer: Most of my research has been from Dr Michael Mosley’s literature and from Diabetes UK. Please don’t take my word as fact and if you’re worried about your own health, go and see a pharmacist or your GP.)”

New Plan!

Since the 3rd day of ‘May, Myself and I’, life has thrown a whole bunch of crap my way. And here we are a week later and I haven’t managed to write a single other blog post! *sigh*

I haven’t even actually had time to watch Carrie Hope Fletcher’s M,M&I videos on YouTube. I’m not giving up completely cause I do like the prompts and it’s interesting and challenging to write about something that hasn’t come from within my own head. To let someone else go ‘what’s your take on this?’ rather than going ‘what do I feel like talking about today?’.

I don’t quite know how I’m going to proceed though. I’m thinking maybe I’ll aim for 4 blog posts a week and pick and choose the prompts I want to do. That makes it a bit more manageable than 7 a week while also trying to juggle revision, running, work, family stuff and my own mental health.

Tomorrow’s prompt is Storms and I’m going to give that one a go as soon as I’ve published this. Wish me luck!

You Live and You Learn

That’s the phrase that keeps going through my head as I’m travelling around WA.

Not everything can go exactly according to plan when you’re travelling, and unfortunately for me, anxiety makes it even harder to let go and just let things happen!

Yesterday I left Monkey Mia and travelled South to a town called Geraldton. Due to a bad experience with the shuttle driver who took me to Monkey, I wasn’t going to get the shuttle back, and hitching a lift with two other volunteers who were heading back to Perth was the most cost effective and sensible seeming way to move forward.

When I got here, I checked in to my AirBnB, sat down on the bed and burst into tears. Going from the beautiful beaches, blissful remoteness, and friendly faces of Monkey Mia to the utterly juxtaposing overcast skies and small city that reminds me painfully of Salisbury was too much for my sleep-deprived head to cope with.

Fortunately a quick FaceTime chat with Beth helped me to calm down and rationalise; leaving Monkey was hard, but I’ve done that bit, it was amazing, and now it’s time to keep moving. And I can always go back!

As for my next steps, I have to stop feeling like I’m wasting days. Today I slept almost all day, which sounds like the ultimate waste of a day, but truthfully, after a spate of late nights and early mornings, I needed the catch up.

Tomorrow I’ll go out and see what the town of Geraldton has to offer – I’ve done some research and I know I can fill a day. Tomorrow evening I get back on the bus to Exmouth, where I’ve made the decision to hire a car for the rest of my trip. The logic there is to make things easier, and allow myself the freedom to go where I want, when I want, rather than relying on buses that only run twice a week!

I’ve learned three things:

1) You’re allowed to have a rest day – we’re all human and we all need to sleep!

2) Sometimes you have to take what feels like a step back, before you can keep moving forwards.

3) You can’t control everything. Even the best laid plans don’t always work out, but there’s a solution to every mishap.

It’s all part of the experience, and now I know for the future. I’m living and learning.

And I’ll tell you one more thing – I bet people didn’t expect to read a post like this on my blog about the epic experience of travelling around Oz, but not every second of every day is filled with joy and excitement. That’s part of the travel experience too, and it wouldn’t be an honest account of my travels if I didn’t mention the shit parts.

Tomorrow’s a new day – wish me luck!