Now it’s nearing the end of 2020, I thought I’d sign off by sharing some of the things that have helped me keep body and soul together this year.
When both my gym and yoga studio closed in March, I started doing daily HIIT workouts on YouTube. I was exhausted at the end of the 20 minute sessions but once I stopped shielding I felt I should do some exercise outside. So I started Couch to 5K and it was a life saver. I have a tendancy not to go out if I don’t have a purpose and this gave me one. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I had to get out there and make progress on my goal to jog non-stop for 30 minutes.
I find ALL exercise tough and none more so than running. I recently reached my goal (and nearly cried when I did) but I don’t find it any easier than I did at the start. However for the sake of my mental health it has become non-negotiable (unless it pouring with rain!).
A Weighted Blanket
Weighed blankets have been used therapeutically for people with dementia and autism for some time. In the last couple of years however, a whole host of companies have sprung up selling them to the general public for their calming properties and to help with insomnia.
They are essentially, quilted blankets filled with ball bearings or glass beads, providing deep pressure that many people find soothing. They retail for around the £150 mark but I took a chance on one for less than half that on Amazon at the start of lockdown. I wouldn’t say it is magically anxiety reducing but I do find it hugely comforting. I read with it during the day and sleep under it at night. I couldn’t be without it now.
Embracing my Curls
It may seem superficial but as Fleabag quite rightly said ‘Hair is EVERYTHING’. After chemically straightening my hair for the last 10 years it felt good to spend some time healing it during lockdown. It was fun to learn about the Curly Girl Method and a welcome diversion. The online community is also a very uplifting place to hang out.
Curly hair is unpredictable and I don’t always love it but accepting it has been good for me. Transitioning from damaged, straightened hair to healthy, curly hair takes on average about 6 months and by the start of 2021 I should be almost there.
We all have different ways of dealing with difficult emotions and writing has always been most helpful for me. The blog has been a great creative outlet but Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercises have enabled me to get perspective and think more rationally when my thoughts and feelings are running riot. Free-flow writing has also helped me get to the bottom of what exactly has been troubling me and release that emotion.
My sister has bought me a lovely (though cringingly named) ‘wellness journal’ for next year. I have always struggled at the start of a new year and so this will form part of my campaign to Make January Great Again.
Reading is my distraction of choice but at the start of lockdown I was too hypervigilant to concentrate on a book. Thank goodness this passed and they once again became the solace they were before.
By the end of the year I should have read around 45 books, though I wasn’t very diligent in recording them on Goodreads. My favourite book was the historical fiction Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Runners up were the atmospheric fantasy novels The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik and the extremely troubling My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.
Last but by no means least; my friendships were a lifeline. I was fortunate to form a bubble with family but I’ve only got to spend time with a friend once since March. There’s nothing like going through a tough time to bring home just how important those people who choose to be there for you, truly are.
I’ve found my friendships have deepened and been more important than ever. Aside from a couple of wonderful care packages, just being able to message someone or pick up the phone and call when I was feeling isolated made all the difference in the world. I won’t forget it.
What helped you during this annus horribilis? How are your Christmas and New Year looking?
I will be with my parents at Christmas but now won’t be able to have an outdoor meet-up with my sister and her family as we hoped.
I’ll definitely be spending New Year’s Day listening to Baking Bad with (Val) the Cookie Queen on the radio.