Isolation day 95: heatwave, ‘independence’ day and insomnia

Just thought I would write a quick update, I’ve been incredibly quiet on here this week, only publishing one blog post. We are experiencing a heat wave here in the UK and while I like the sun, it also makes me feel very lethargic.

The heat and accumulating tiredness from nights of lost sleep has sucked away my motivation to write. The previous few weeks I was writing several things in one day and I felt full of motivation. In reality I did see the ‘crash’ coming, I thought I would reach a point where I couldn’t bring myself to punch the keys or pick up a book. It’s strange how some weeks go.

My sleeping habits are all over the place from experiencing bouts of insomnia. One night I will oversleep, getting between 9-10 hours, and the next I will under-sleep and get 4-5. I can’t seem to strike the balance. I guess the key thing is to keep to the same wake up time, but that’s not always easy. This morning I had to force my eyes open to prevent myself drifting off and over sleeping again. Strangely, the heat doesn’t seem to influence my sleep, it all seems to be in my mind.

The lockdown announcement last week has been playing on my mind. Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, has effectively called July 4th our ‘independence day’ despite the rate of infection still at a level rate, not actually declining fully and still higher than our European counterparts. The news has been showing us scenes of overcrowding on beaches and endless queues for Primark. The vast majority of the public seem to believe the pandemic is over. Partly, I don’t blame them as the government is reinforcing this message. It doesn’t help that our PM has told people he wants to see the return of ‘bustle’ in our cities and towns and denies the possibility of a second wave. It’s all very worrying.

I couldn’t bring myself to do a PMQ’s review this week as I’ve found the political situation too draining – I will try again next week. I don’t want to pressure myself to do it religiously, but I do want to get better at writing short, snappy political analysis.

Although I keep telling myself that it is pointless for me to worry about everything – as these political decisions are out of my control, I can’t help but sometimes loose sleep over it.

I have woken up a bit more motivated and with more energy today so I am hoping that over the weekend I will get some more blog posts out. I have a review of The Sacrifice that should be going up tomorrow and a few other things in the pipeline.

Also, I have now made a Medium account if anyone would like to follow. I might be publishing original content on there or just re-publishing posts, I haven’t quite decided what to do with it yet!

I hope you are all doing well and continuing to stay safe.

Violet x

Notes from an insomniac

I stare blankly at the ceiling in the dark room for the fourth time that week. I thought this night would be different, I felt so calm and relaxed when I went to bed and wasn’t expecting to have a difficult night. After hours staring at the same four walls I hesitantly look at my watch, seeing it’s 3:30am. The light is already beginning to pour through the cracks in the curtains, and the world is slowly rising, already.

It seems quite apt that I am writing about my long night not being able to sleep, on the longest day of the year. For me, it will feel like the longest day, in more ways than one.

I have struggled with bouts of insomnia for most of my adult life. At 18, I first experienced the frustration that comes with not being able to sleep. Something that seems so instinctive, so natural, started then to become difficult. It was the summer of my final A-Level exams, I hadn’t slept a wink before stepping into the exam hall. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the exam, let alone perform to the capacity I needed to, to get into university. Somehow I did. To this day I don’t know whether that lack of sleep influenced my grades, but it still feels remarkable to me, what the brain and body could cope with on such a severe lack of sleep.

I’ve always been a “difficult sleeper,” one of those people that wake up in the night from even the softest noises. My mum always remembers the inconvenience on Christmas eve when I was younger, me always stirring in my sleep as she came to deliver my stocking. Since my first experience of insomnia it has come in waves. Throughout lockdown (over twelve weeks now) I have been reading with curiosity about peoples’ struggle with sleep during isolation. However, until now, I’ve never recently had a problem. In fact, my sleep was probably the best it has been in a long time, I was regularly clocking between 8-9 hours a night, usually falling asleep instantly. A few nights ago, I began to experience the racing mind, throwing my months of beautiful sleep out of whack.

I have effectively been awake since 3:30am (it’s 7:30am when I’m writing this) but I don’t feel tired. My eyes feel sore and itchy and my body slightly heavier but my mind is working as it usually does. In the hours before now, I managed to finish a book, write in my journal and now I’m writing this. In my experience, the crash will come soon enough during the day. However, I have never been someone that finds napping easy, nor beneficial. I hope to wait it out, to try and tire myself out as much as I can.

Me at 18 would get incredibly panicky at the prospect of not sleeping. You can’t blame me really, as this was happening against the backdrop of my final exams. It had never happened to me before and I didn’t know how my body and mind would react. Ever since, throughout my experiences of bouts of insomnia, I tend to look to this moment when the same creeping concern arises. I managed to do my A-Levels off the back of no sleep, I can get through today…

The funny thing is – last night my mind was completely at ease. I felt clam from an evening of unwinding, and when I closed my eyes for the night, nothing was on my mind. It was dark and quiet. The perfect conditions for a good nights sleep. But sleep just never came. I was simply laying there, my mind empty, with nothing happening. How can you explain that? I don’t let myself ponder on it too much. I find if I occupy myself with it, I will worry all the more when the time comes to go to bed. Nowadays, after several years, I have come to accept the situation and try and get on with the day as best I can.

Image: Pixabay

I haven’t ever spoken to anyone who has experienced insomnia or sleeping difficulties. Explaining it to someone who has never experienced it is hard. Going to sleep should feel like the easiest thing in the world. A treat, even, in this modern world of overload. I feel like it’s one of those problems that you can only understand fully when you’ve been through it yourself.

Even after days of not getting enough sleep, it seems crazy that my body still won’t naturally succumb to rest. Even when my mind feels at ease.

I’m writing this in the hope that it may enlighten some people and shed light on the struggle. But also, because I need to do something to fill the spare hours! I hope that it may be insightful or comforting to people in some way.

Have you ever experienced insomnia? If so, what are your tips for a good nights sleep? I’d love to know. Although I think I’ve tried most things at this point...

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Isolation day 87: retail, furlough, brain fog, and podcasts

England is taking its first tentative steps forward, nearly three months on from an unprecedented, national lockdown. Tomorrow will see the opening of “non-essential” shops, as the great British people prepare to flood the high streets during a pandemic which is yet to disappear.

As I sit here writing this, I do wonder what will be going through those peoples’ minds as they make trips into local towns and cities across the country, acting as if the pandemic has magically gone away. It’s safe to say I will not be in a rush to visit shops any time soon.

Many major high street retailers will be adopting the “quarantine items” approach and storing things for 72 hours to kill off the virus. Many shops will not be allowing customers to try items on, and instead encouraging them to take them back to their own homes and bring back if need be. This all seems so comical to me. If the queues for McDonald’s reopening are anything to go by I think the turn out for retail will be just as crazy…

Meanwhile, my furlough has been extended for the time being, I have no definitive date for going back to work but expect it may be between July-August. It feels so strange to realise I have not been to work since the end of March. The world feels so different to the last time I got on that commuter train and made my last latte. I’m pretty sure I won’t even know how to operate the coffee machine when I return… (sorry to my boss if you happen to see this!)

These past few weeks have been pretty rough. I almost feel as if I’ve had this cloud of fog over my brain. Any time I have go to do something, I have found a million excuses why I shouldn’t or just put it off for as long as possible. I feel like my attention span is now worse than ever and I find it hard to concentrate on anything that makes me think. I still feel like there’s a thousand things I could be doing that I’m not. I actually plucked up the courage to send pitches in for national news outlets but have heard nothing back which is disheartening. However, I know that I can’t give up and I need to keep trying. It’s annoying though because the piece was quite “time-sensitive” and I can’t re pitch it as it just wouldn’t be relevant now. I find that half the battle is getting the article idea in the first place.

Sitting in the park

I’ve been lax with exercise too. At the beginning of lockdown I was taking the daily exercise allowance quite seriously and would go for walks most days, however, since it has gotten busier outside with the loosening of the lockdown, I now feel more worried about going outside. I do generally feel like most people are acting like the pandemic is over and the virus has just disappeared. It worries me because you can never predict how anyone is going to behave, I actually wrote a piece for empoword journalism about this. But I am managing to at least get in one run a week – this week I actually managed two so I guess that’s pretty good going.

Day by day, the political response gets worse. What worries me more than anything is the sheer lack of integrity and accountability that Boris Johnson shows. When he even bothers to turn up for the daily conferences (which now seems to be like a weekly thing) he doesn’t answer the questions, he silences the scientists and offers no valid information for the public. His treatment of the Black Lives Matter movement has been diabolical, it took a prompting from the leader of the opposition at PMQ’s for him to even address it, and even when he did it was shoddy and half hearted. I can never agree with Conservatives politically, but at least some in the past haven’t been so full of hypocrisy. It really worries me.

I’ve recently re-discovered the value of podcasts and how great they are to listen to whilst you are doing other things. I love cooking but sometimes I just get a bit bored chopping and waiting for things, but now I tend to pop something on to keep me entertained. I also listen to them in the bath a lot – which I am still having loads of. They make me happy and content which is what I really need right now.

For some unforeseen miracle, we managed to get our hands on some flour – the first time in about three months. I have since made two batches of Irish soda bread – as we’ve got the flour but still no yeast – and have been enjoying the taste of fresh bread. Although maybe a little too much, because on the second bake I basically ate the whole loaf to myself which resulted in a carb induced coma for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t recommend.

My bread, not perfect but something

I am actually really proud of my blog at the moment and how far it has come since the start of the year. In January when I properly started I could count the amount of followers I had on two hands, and now I am fast approaching one hundred. I know that isn’t much in the grand scheme of things but I think it’s mad that so people want to hear what I have to say. And I am so pleased that I managed to save up enough to get myself a new laptop – my old one was so clunky, heavy and slow and now I have a really fast laptop which feels lovely to type on. Getting it at this time was definitely a good idea.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. That was my isolation update. I thought I would be doing more of these but I guess I didn’t realise how “samey” the days would be.

Hope you are all keeping safe and well 🙂

Podcasts getting me through lockdown

Since lockdown started nearly three months ago, I’ve been really into podcasts. I’ve been having more baths so that means more podcasts and I have now gotten into the habit of listening to them whilst running – which has changed my life! But I’ll leave discussing that for another day…

I actually find it quite hard to find podcasts I like and want to stick to. What I listen to largely depends on my mood. Sometimes I like to listen to historical/political podcasts which are more educational and then other times (like this week) I just want to chill out and listen to something lighthearted and entertaining.

I’ve compiled a list of the ones I’ve been listening to and thought I would share them with you. If you have any you’ve been enjoying please comment them down below! I’m always in the mood for listening to more podcasts.

1619

In an attempt to educate myself and understand the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing, systemic racial inequality in America and all over the world, I have been listening to 1619. It is a podcast by the New York Times, hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones. Each episode takes a thematic approach, for example, looking at democracy, the economy or music, but places these within the historical framework, starting from 1619. 1619 was the year in which the first African slaves were brought to North America on an English ship into Virginia.

I have listened to two episodes so far and have found them to be so informative – but not too heavy. Each includes individual experiences and voices alongside the history, in an attempt to place the origins of racial injustice in its modern day context. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the host, also has a very nice voice to listen to, so that’s a plus!

Each episode looks primarily at the history of slavery, the black struggle and tries to answer how this has shaped modern America. It is eye opening and incredibly informative. I would highly recommend this!

Football, Feminism & Everything in Between

This re-ignited my podcast obsession and I have not been able to stop listening! Hosted by Grace Campbell, comedian and feminist activist and her Dad, Alastair Campbell, journalist and former advisor to Tony Blair, each episode (bar the lockdown ones) features a special guest and an informal, comedic chat.

Each interviews combine, you guessed it, a bit of football, feminism and everything in between. The ‘everything in between’ part usually centers on politics but it is usually influenced by the type of guest they have on the show or the events going on in the world at the time. Guests range from Julia Gillard, Kay Burley, Sean Dyche to Ed Miliband. There’s been a few people they had on that I didn’t even know but still enjoyed, which just shows you what a good repertoire the two have to keep me engaged!

The duo have also done a series of lockdown podcasts where they both reflect on the political goings on in number 10 and what they’ve each been doing to fill the days. Every podcast has me at least laughing and rolling my eyes and all most all of them get me thinking. I think the fact these two are Father and Daughter really makes the podcast. They have a very natural relationship which shows in each podcast.

It combines a bit of everything that I like – politics, dislike for the Tories, feminism, mental health, books and journalism so in my opinion, it could never go wrong!

About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge

Image: Spotify

I have really enjoyed this one too. Hosted by the bestselling author and journalist, Reni Eddo-Lodge (Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race), this podcast looks at the history of race in Britain and ties it into contemporary politics. Unlike 1619, each episode is shorter, and hence why I have gotten through them a bit more.

Episodes often feature outspoken political activists, like Owen Jones and Billy Bragg, and center around a specific issue. Like the rise of far right politics in the UK and the lead up to the EU referendum. Reni Eddo-Lodge methodically picks apart each issue and places them in context to fully explain the ongoing racial inequalities in British society today. The BLM movement has evidently been huge in America, but it is important to be aware that it has so much significance in Britain, as we are still far from perfect.

The episodes also have great music with them – which makes the listening experience even better. I have found the analysis of the history of racial inequality, alongside the explanation of the rise of far right politics in he UK incredibly insightful and interesting. These feel very light and easy to listen to, despite dealing with heavy topics.

I have been learning a lot from this podcast and think it is very well put together.

My Favourite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Image: Exactly Right

I recently discovered this one when having a bad week and I just wanted to listen to something lighthearted, without having to think too much about what I was listening to. At first (I admit) I did have to get over the overwhelming American ascents, but after that I was fine.

Each episode (and there are so many!) looks at a variety of different things; from historical crimes, more recent crimes, to weird stories and personal experiences sent in by listeners. Each episode is introduced by a long, informal and funny chat by the two women, which almost always has me grinning. They are two very down to earth and funny people which are great to listen to when you are feeling a bit down. I’ve also learnt a lot about some horrific crimes in America. Like the Kent state massacre in 1970, and the Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771, which crashed along the West coast in 1987, as a result of an airliner pilot being shot by a passenger.

I just love these podcasts because I can just have them on in the background whilst I’m cooking or washing up, as I’m getting ready in the morning or just chilling in the evening before I get into bed. They are funny, chatty, and entertaining – with a dash of education. Love them!

If you have any recommendations, don’t forget to pop them down below.

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Isolation: day 62

Image: Pixabay via StockSnap

It’s hard to believe the last time I wrote one of these, we were only a couple of weeks into lockdown. We are now two months in and things are very different, but also the same.

On that routine I always wanted to get into – well guess what, I never did. And I stopped beating myself up over it because the allure of productivity and the pressures to be busy all the time is so mentally draining, that whilst being swept up by it you can lose the reason why you wanted to be productive in the first place. I’m done with the concept and discourse surrounding it, especially during these times, when to just get through it should be seen as productive enough.

So what have I been doing? I’ve still been reading and writing, albeit not doing the kind of writing I want to do as I’m struggling to find the motivation to write about anything more ‘serious’ than book reviews – but that’s okay. I have been able to use this time to focus on my blog and regularly posting – I hit 60 followers yesterday which is somewhat of a milestone for me, as I started off with about twelve at the start of the year! Thank you to everyone who has followed me and given me kind words of advice and encouragement 🙂

I’ve lost the will to exercise. I seem to go through weeks where I am really motivated – for example, one week I went running twice and did other workouts too, but the past couple of weeks I haven’t been doing much apart from long walks. We are going through a hot spell in the UK and it really doesn’t make me want to go out and exercise, and it gets so stuffy in the flat that I don’t feel like doing it inside either. These may sounds like excuses (lets face it they probably are) but hopefully I’ll be able to get back into it soon.

Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

I’ve been trying to be more mindful of what I am eating – I was previously just eating the amount I would usually eat, but then I realised I wasn’t nearly doing the amount of daily exercise I used to. As a Barista I tend to spend eight hours of the day on my feet but now I tend to spend them on the sofa… I’ve been doing intermittent fasting a couple of times a week just to become more conscious about what I’m eating and I think it has helped. I don’t weigh myself or anything because I find that mentally exhausting. But I’ve come to be more accepting that gaining weight over this period is completely normal and I’m not going to beat myself up over it (and neither should you!)

The government guidelines have gotten even more confusing. We have now been advised to, “stay alert” rather than, “stay at home” however, I am finding myself staying at home more than ever because there are so many people out that still don’t take social distancing seriously. I get anxious even at the thought of going to my local park so that’s a write off. As we are now allowed to drive out of where we live to exercise, we have been going on long walks in the countryside – which I have loved as there’s very little people and when we do bump into them, they are kind and move out of the way.

There’s still no real clarity about when retail and hospitality will go back to “normal” – the government have proposed June or July as a guideline but that’s subject to changes in the data. As I use public transport for work I’m pretty sure I’ll be one of the last people to go back but who knows what will happen.

I still find it crazy how we are seeing 300-500 deaths a day, nearly two months on and people are still not taking the virus seriously. I get that we have to learn to live with the virus but at the same time, it’s so easy to just be respectful of others and simply step out of the way when you’re out and about – it seems to have become a thing of the past where I live.

I’ve been thinking more about what I want to do with my life, I haven’t had any “revelations” as such but I think more than ever I do want to pursue my MA in Journalism. I’ve been listening to podcasts about freelancing and writing in general and it has made me realise just how many aspects of journalism there are out there. I’ve deferred my place for a year, partly because I don’t know what’s going to happen with the course this year – as so many UK university’s have decided to teach online until 2021 already. I’ve decided to use this year to try and get as much writing experience as I can and read about the industry more generally.

I guess that’s my little update on still being in isolation in the UK. Expect some more reviews soon, I now have a speedy new laptop so it doesn’t take half the time to do something on my blog now!

Anyway, if you’re reading this I hope this chatty post finds you safe and well, wherever you are, Violet xxx

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