Living Under Lockdown

This is week five of lockdown in the UK and I’m still adjusting. The first three weeks were spent quarantining with my boyfriend, Conor, in my London flat. Since then, we have moved to Conor’s mom’s home in a small village in Oxfordshire where there is more room, a back garden, and a dog.

Golden hour, Snapchat filters, and painted nails.

The last four weeks have been full of Zoom calls, work calls, late nights, late mornings, fewer workouts, more drinks, vivid dreams, sad days, long walks. I’m sure my experience of lockdown isn’t anything special compared to those on the frontlines of the NHS, those classed as ‘vulnerable’, or those who have lost a family member. While not particularly special in that sense, all of our experiences are still valid.

I miss my family the most. They were all quarantined together at our home in California before one of my sisters returned to her university housing for the remainder of the school year. But, still the rest of the family is together in our childhood home with our puppy, trying not to kill each other while learning Tik Toks. My oldest sibling is the first to spend her birthday in quarantine, as San Francisco has been on lockdown just as long as London. But, my brother, mom, and youngest sister are all going to be celebrating their birthdays in lockdown. A small, seemingly insignificant thing, but a day when usually the extended family comes around along with friends and neighbours to celebrate. It will be different. Many things will be different, already are.

I’m living for the Snapchats of my puppy, Bailey. Pictured here enjoying the California sun with not one, but two of her favourite balls (look closer).

During this time, I am lucky to still have my job. I work for a small events company and my boss has made it clear to all of us that we will be fine and our salaries will be protected. I am one of the lucky ones. But, I’m also learning new skills as we venture into the world of digital events. There are way more things that can go wrong than I thought and we are learning most of them the hard way. I’ve spent countless hours on Webinar Jam with my boss testing all the different settings and trying to figure out everything that can go wrong and sometimes discovering cool features that are surprisingly helpful. So my weekdays are actually quite full with full-time work, frustrating phone calls and many a ‘can you hear me?’.

My wonderful boss thanked the team for our hard work at setting up the digital events with a cute Fortnum & Mason basket! I’ve always wanted one!

Additionally, I have been finding time for other hobbies. While there really is no need to being doing this, I have always been a planner/organizer/reader anyway. With my friends from Ohio State, I have started a book club to accompany our weekly Skype calls – first up is The Alice Network (if my copy is delivered in time, stay tuned). Conor’s family does weekly Zoom chats as well and each week we are tasked with some creative project so I’ve been painting more as well. And obviously, I am writing this blog. I took a bit of time off from writing when all this stuff first started happening – it was too overwhelming to be doing anything other than living a bare minimum daily life. Now that I’ve found more structure and time in my days, I find myself returning to my hobbies, picking up new ones, and wanting to be more mindful of how I spend my free time.

Just a couple of paintings I did while at my flat in London – playing around with ideas for multiple canvases to decorate my sad walls.
The task for week 2: Put yourself into a famous masterpiece.
Conor and I have been experimenting with our meals because we have the time to put towards cooking more delicious and complex recipes.

Life under lockdown has been very easy in some ways and very difficult in others. I recently produced a livestream with Elizabeth Gilbert who had this advice for us during these trying and uncertain times –

“If there’s anything I could want for you all, it is to give yourself mercy.”

Find something that brings you the kind of joy that produces a Liz Gilbert Smile.

Three things I am grateful for this week:

  1. My morning cup of tea.
  2. A sunny afternoon in the garden.
  3. Conor’s cooking abilities.
I ordered cupcakes on one of my really low days because they are my comfort food and they were delivered like this – all I could do was laugh at this and grab a spoon.

Tips to Destress for the Stressed

It’s that time of the year again, when exams are starting soon, I’m busy job hunting and writing essays and trying to socialize, and for some reason, I am having a terrible time sleeping, waking up in the middle of the night, having vivid dreams, and unable to get a good night’s sleep. And by “that time of the year”, I mean the time when I realize the full extent of how stressed out I am.

Personally, I carry stress in my sleep. During the day, I handle it quite well, so well that sometimes I don’t even realized I am stressed…until I can’t sleep properly. People carry stress in different ways, sometimes I get headaches, other times my eyes feel tired. During my day to day activities, my body has gotten used to feeling stress and dealing with it in ways that I don’t notice. Which works for awhile. But if I don’t handle my stress properly, that’s when I start having terrible sleep and I realize it’s time to get a handle on my stress.

Relaxing at a cafe with a new book and a delicious snack!

So here are my tips for ways to handle stress in a healthy way:

  1. Evaluate. Why are you stressed? What’s going on in your life that seems overwhelming? I like to list out or think about all the things that I have going on. Usually there’s that one straw that broke the camel’s back, but it’s important to recognize everything that is contributing to my stress to truly get a handle on it.
  2. Reschedule. As a university student, I live a pretty busy lifestyle, jumping from library to class to meetings, etc. If I don’t slow down every once in awhile, it can really hurt me. When I do start feeling overly stressed, I reschedule some things. I reprioritize what I have going on so I can take time for myself, take a load off.
  3. Me Time. Me time comes in all different shapes and sizes for me and for everyone else. Somedays, it means doing a face mask and thinking about nothing for those twenty minutes, just breathing. Other days it means going to my favorite cafe to drink tea and eat my favorite treat. Recently, I have started getting into yoga and using that as a relaxation technique. I also picked up a few new books recently, as reading allows me to escape this reality. Or I relax with some buttered popcorn and Netflix. However you do Me Time, make sure its really about relaxing and unwinding, recognizing that its necessary for you to live a healthy and productive lifestyle.
  4. Reevaluate. The final step, after relaxing and getting your head clear, is to reevaluate your priorities, lifestyle, etc. Now that you know what is stressing you out, how will you change? It could mean doings less in general, dropping some things here and there to allow breathing room into your schedule. It could mean better prioritizing your time and productivity. There is always a change that can be made, and should be made to get you back to living a healthy lifestyle.
My favorite breakfast- tea, raspberries, Eggo waffles, and yogurt with granola!

Stress is a natural part of life, you will never have a stress-free life. But, it should be minimal and manageable. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your stress either – usually I call my parents and they help me with the reevaluating process. Stress can make life seem daunting, exhausting, sad, and all other sorts of things. But knowing that is the key to managing it. I am no professional, but I hope some of my tips can be helpful for some of you in managing your stress and getting back to being and doing your best!