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

Self-Isolation Shenanigans

Anyone else feel like they’re waiting to wake up from a bad dream? Life feels so surreal right now. The anxiety really started to set in for me today. I know people who’ve lost their jobs. My sister’s A Level exams have been cancelled and she’s gutted. My final year friends won’t be able to close out the university chapter of their lives the way they wanted to. We’re having to try and find a new normal and there’s no telling when life will go back to the way it was before, or even if it ever will! I know that sounds dramatic but this global pandemic is bound to have long-term ramifications for years to come.

However! I wanted to share what I’ve been up to while self-isolating because until today I’d managed to make it feel like a nice relaxing little holiday.

Firstly, I’ve had a couple of lie ins. I’ve been struggling with my sleep pattern lately and having to force myself to get up for things even though I’m exhausted and struggling to open my eyes. So it’s been really nice, while I’ve had nothing to do and no where to go, to just sleep in until my body decides it’s ready to be awake (or until the cat decides she’s bored!). This might not be helpful for everyone though – I know a few people who find getting up at the same time every day a much better coping strategy.

Yesterday, I had a big old clean and tidy of my bedroom. I caught up on laundry – I have a terrible habit of putting it in the washing machine, pressing go and then forgetting about it while it sits in the machine, damp and smelly. I washed all the hand towels too because I bet they’re a breeding ground for bugs! I dusted my bedside table, emptied all the old receipts out of my purse, tidied up the crap on my desk and moved all my clean laundry from the floor-drobe to the wardrobe! If you’re looking for mundane things to occupy your time during this period, I would recommend putting on some music and doing those silly little tasks that you don’t have time for in real life. They’re normally so simple and easy and you’ll feel a sense of achievement afterwards.

My proudest achievement was making a slow cooker bolognese! I got a slow cooker for Christmas last year and I haven’t used it a lot because I’m not good at forward planning. They’re very low effort but they do require deciding what you’re going to cook a few hours ahead of time. I threw in some lightly browned turkey mince (wanted to go for veggie but someone’s been panic buying all the Quorn mince!), chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, onions, herbs and a generous glug of red wine and then… went away and did something else! As you’d expect, it cooks for a long time on a low heat so you don’t have to watch it to keep it from burning, you don’t have to stir it very often, you just let it do its thing. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it last night so I turned it off and just re-warmed it (there’s a setting for that on the slow cooker!) and ate it with spaghetti this evening. And I must say, it was delish. I’ve seen a recipe for making bread in a slow cooker so I might try that next!

Bolognese sauce in a slow cooker

Today, I had a looooong, hot shower. Full disclosure: I think the last time I showered was Monday. I know I know, that’s gross. You definitely don’t wanna know the last time I washed my hair! But today I did the full shebang, hair wash, exfoliate, the lot. And I felt much more human afterwards, naturally.

I’ve also started writing a novel. Kind of. I’ve always loved writing and have written snippets of ideas as they come into my head and then forgotten about them. But there’s an idea I’ve had for about a year that I really love and I’ve decided to start outlining and developing it. Who knows if it’ll go anywhere, but it’s a fun project to work on for a while.

I’ve been doing a lot of watching too. Mostly Merlin, from the beginning, on Netflix. I remember watching it as a child (it started when I was 10!) and I genuinely think I’m enjoying it just as much as an adult. Instagram Live, IGTV and YouTube are also platforms where I’m getting some of my visual content from at the moment. I’m really enjoying rambling chatty videos from some of my favourite female content creators. I mentioned them in yesterday’s post and on Facebook if you want to know who I’ve been enjoying the most.

I feel like I needed a mental break from life a little bit and while the current global crisis is terrible and uncertain, I’m trying to focus on being grateful for being forced to take that break. Working in Pharmacy, I know that as soon as I’m out of self-isolation, I’ll be back at work, doing as much as I possibly can to help my team and my community, so for now I will sit back for three more days, put my feet up and continue binge-watching Merlin!

Take care and stay safe xx

Return to the Blogospehere

Hello there! It’s been a while hasn’t it? 6 months, in fact.

It’s been a funny old time and a lot has changed in those 6 months. Shall we start at the beginning?

In October, I became Cat-Mum to the fluffiest fur baby, Nala. She sort of came into my life by accident at a time when things were about to get really difficult and she’s been a wonderful comfort. My sister was buying a kitten from her friend’s family who’s cat had born a litter. When we went to pick her kitten up, they had one more, a long-haired girl, who was yet to be claimed or ‘bagsied’ so-to-speak. I fell instantly in love with her and took her home the following week. If you want to follow her feline adventures, you can follow @nala_kitten19 on Instagram!

In November, I turned 22. Christmas came and went with a visit from my wonderful friend Beth, all the way from Australia. It was a pleasure to see her a few times and spend New Years’ with her as well!

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In January I returned to Brighton for the second semester of the year. Academically, things went a little downhill from there. I didn’t pass my January exam. I told myself it was fine and that I’d just have to resit in August. The trouble is, the reason I failed is that over the Christmas period, while I was working a lot – as in, going out to my job, not working on uni stuff – I was also mentally drained, going through an episode of pretty deep depression and feeling no motivation whatsoever. That meant little-to-no revision. This didn’t change when I came back for the Spring Term and in the end, three weeks ago, I decided I needed a break to focus on myself for a while. I’ve taken an intermission from uni with a view to going back in either September or January to continue my studies. I need the next few months to take care of myself and my mental health and to reassess some of my options. Little did I know when I made that decision that we were about to face a global pandemic…

So now I’m in self-isolation in my student house in Brighton having started to experience the key symptoms of Covid-19 on Monday, including a cough, high temperature and tight chest. I don’t class myself as vulnerable or high-risk so I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few days, but I am obviously taking all the precautions I can to protect those around me. That includes my elderly Grandad who I believe makes up the final part of my update. He’s been unwell for about a year and a half and almost two weeks ago we had a very scary hospital experience where we thought we were going to lose him. Luckily, he pulled through and is now back home but I am staying well away from him for the time-being until I know that I’m not going to pass anything harmful onto him.

Everything’s a little bit strange right now, in my personal life and in the wider world. As a person with depression, I recognise how tricky and lonely this time will be for some. Luckily I do have some great housemates who are stuck here with me and proving to be great entertainment – last night we had an at-home pub quiz!

I’ve spent weeks not feeling able to get out of bed or do anything productive or useful and it’s unfortunate that this period of self-isolation and social distancing has come at a time where I was just starting to feel a little better. But life goes on and I’m going to link some resources/accounts below which I’ve found helpful so far and hope you will too.

Take care and stay safe

xx

Helpfuls:

@heapsofalice on Instagram – Alice is one of my oldest friends and is taking the opportunity of social distancing to put together a website featuring lists of things to do during this period. So far there’s home-workout videos, educational YouTube channels and the best one so far: Pet-stagrams! She’ll be uploading more content each day. https://heapsofalice.wixsite.com/inisolation

Louise Pentland – very active on the Instagram stories with a good balance of serious Coronavirus talk and happy distracting fluffy stuff! She’s also been doing an Insta live most mornings. Follow @LouisePentland on Instagram.

Carrie Hope Fletcher on YouTube. If you know me you’ll know I adore Carrie anyway, but this afternoon I watched a few of her theatre-related videos (you’ll also know that I adore the theatre and am gutted that they’ve had to close!) and it was lovely to listen to a friendly voice chatting about something completely non-current-affairs related. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhNxkjmpQcTJDrabiyzHUw

Hazel Hayes on YouTube. Hazel is a filmmaker/director who doesn’t often find herself in front of the camera but she’s making unedited rambly videos, to be treated a bit like a podcast – something to have on in the background to make things feel a like less lonely. Plus, she’s Irish so an absolute joy and comfort to listen to!