The New Normal

When this all began, there was so much talk about the strain on all of us. Everyone was talking about how we had to accept that our mental health might take a dip and a dive and that it was okay to feel anxious or down. No-one expected too much and we all filled our lives in any way we could. We took each day as it came.

Some people took to arts and crafts, baking or exercise. Others took up online courses and extra projects. Some just caught up on much needed sleep.

Now, life’s gradually returning to a new kind of normal and if you’re anything like me, you’re suddenly convinced you should somehow feel normal again yourself. Like it’s a switch we can flick on when life gets challenging and off again when things get better.

Here’s the thing – I still feel sad and tired, all the time. I’m missing my life before Covid-19, but I’m struggling to accept how far off a return to that exact way of life really is. I feel like stubborn teenager, sticking my heels in and adamantly waiting until things go precisely my way. I don’t want to settle for half-normal.

I’m looking at pictures of friends filling their diaries up with plans and getting out and about. I’m watching people at work throw themselves into planning for the next few months at home (because this working from home thing seems like it’s here to stay). I’m seeing people embrace the gradual relaxing of the rules and head back to beaches and shops. And I’m doing the most unhealthy thing I could do:

I’m directly comparing how I’m doing to how everyone else seems to be doing. I’m convincing myself that everyone else is fine and that I should be too. I feel like I should be full steam ahead back into work and socialising and my old routine and everything else that comes with it. It’s like I’ve decided Covid-19 isn’t a justifiable reason to feel ‘not quite right’ anymore.

Soon, I’ll probably find I do start making plans and accepting the new normal. I’ll ease into it over the next few weeks and before long, I’m sure I’ll start to feel myself embrace the way things have to be. But there’s no pressure or rush to do so – It’s only me putting that pressure on me. Which is no-doubt just making me more tired than I already am.

So, for anyone else who needs to hear it: It’s okay, to still not be okay. We’re still living through a global pandemic. And if anything, this strange return to a new kind of normal is likely to be the most mentally challenging part of the whole thing. Don’t put any additional pressure on yourself!

Breathe, cut yourself some slack and still feel free to take each day as it comes. You’ve got this.

Is it just me?

Or have things just got that little bit harder?

Honestly? I caught myself thinking really negatively when looking at myself in the mirror this morning and it was that which turned my thoughts to the idea of blogging again. I have seen a few social media posts dedicated to positive body image, but the majority of stuff I’m seeing online suggests that I should be running and doing yoga and that my tummy should look better than ever right now.

In fact, my tummy is growing, because of all the time spent indoors. I don’t think I’m eating particularly unhealthily, but I’m definitely not getting as much exercise as I usually would.  My skin is clearer, because I’m not wearing makeup and I’ve caught a bit of a tan from time spent out in the sunshine, but all I can see when I look in the mirror is my chunkier waist line and the rolls under my, now tighter, jeans.

I refuse to feel sucky about it anymore and I hope if you’re reading this and empathising then you can start being a little less hard on yourself from here on in too. Yes, I really do want to try doing some yoga with Adrienne and some virtual workouts, but the truth of the matter is that, right now just getting to the supermarket feels like a challenge.

(I told myself that I’d get our essential grocery shop done today, but not only do I feel terrified at the thought of facing the outside world, but my car won’t start either.)

As well as working out, there are lots of things I need to do that I know for a fact would make me feel better: The bathroom needs a clean again, we have piles of clean clothes to put away, the whole house needs a good hoover. But I simply can’t seem to kick myself into action.

On top of feeling bad about that, I wake up every morning in a panic about who I need to check in with. I realised this morning that I haven’t spoken to my brother or sister in ages now and that it is one of my best friend’s birthdays today, but that I haven’t spoken to him since this all started. I am so ridiculously grateful for all of my wonderful family and friends, but I’m finding it hard, because I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve checked in with everyone enough.

And then on top of all of that, I feel super guilty for feeling so down and being so lazy when I think of all of the brave key workers out there facing this whole situation head on, many of them separated from family and friends, without time to even consider yoga or hoovering.

Writing ‘I just don’t feel right’ was so rewarding and I’m glad I decided to write again. This post has helped in a different kind of way. Here’s hoping someone in the same boat feels better for reading it too. Somehow writing it all out like that has left me finally feeling like today is doable.

I’ll ask Dave to take me to the shop, but I still want to do it myself because conquering that fear can only be a good thing. And I’ll stop with the negativity. Hey! Maybe I’ll even put some clean clothes away.

I just don’t feel right

This will be my third try at a blog post. I’ve been trying and failing to write over the last few weeks: I had this grand idea that I’d start writing daily throughout this global pandemic. I was going to call the chapter ‘A blog a day to keep the blues at bay‘. But every time I put pen to paper (or started typing, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as romantic does it?) I was unhappy with what came out.

I guess I wanted to try and write truthfully about how this time is making me feel, to get it off my own chest, but also in the hope that it might help someone somewhere to read that this time’s got us all feeling a bit out of sorts. If you’re feeling odd and mentally vulnerable, you’re not alone, I promise.

But whenever I tried writing I found myself trying too hard to cover all bases: To reiterate that I know there are people who this pandemic is affecting in worse ways than I can even imagine and that I know how lucky I am. And I am lucky. I’m so grateful for this beautiful, safe house and garden and the fact I can work from home and that my work is so fulfilling and that I have amazing family and friends…

I just don’t feel quite myself. My shoulders are constantly tense and my jaw too. I find myself sighing all the time and every day just feels like a bit of an uphill struggle. I’m trying so hard to be positive, but I just feel a bit down in the dumps.

I miss myself. All this time indoors is giving me heaps of thinking time and that’s what I’ve realised. I’m missing old me. I keep thinking that a younger, ‘funner’ Bronwen would have done better in this situation.

But I’m always looking back and always wanting to go back to being the person I was and today the penny has finally dropped: Looking backwards isn’t doing me any good…

When I was at university, I missed the care-free girl I left behind in Chelmsford, who loved her high school boyfriend to pieces and spent all her time singing. Nowadays, I miss University me, who wrote fun blogs and could stay up late and was more up for a good time. I bet some day, I’ll miss this me. Whoever this me is. And I’ll kick myself for all the time I spent dwelling on how a previous version of myself would have handled things. 

Yes, I’m more tired nowadays and a bit more careful, but I don’t worry any less that’s for sure. I can try and tell myself that I used to be care-free all I want, but really I’ve always been a worrier.

And so I guess it’s no wonder Covid-19 has got me feeling a bit iffy. If anything, I’d expect to be less calm than I am. I’m still getting up every day, showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed. I’m still eating plenty and getting out for walks and staying in touch with family and friends.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack during this time. It’s so hard when we’re constantly exposed to perfect images of how everyone else is handing things, but I for one need to remember that I’m doing okay doing what I’m doing. There is no right way to deal with a worldwide pandemic, we’re all figuring this out one day at a time. AND I’m just Bronwen. Not past Bronwen, not present Bronwen, not future Bronwen, just me. Still me… Just a little older and maybe actually a little wiser too?

Brighton, England

brighton-uk-16

I spent last weekend in Brighton with four girl friends, celebrating my friend’s birthday and I fell in love.

I arrived in Brighton tired, hungry, sweaty, clueless and with heavy bags in tow after a very long day at work.

The lively atmosphere gave me an immediate boost. Between the squeals of girls on hen nights, the excitable chatter of everyone around, the yells from lads on tour and the booming voices of train conductors, came the occasional squawk of a seagull, welcoming you to the seaside.

I needed to buy Aperol for the birthday girl. I couldn’t find it anywhere, which was a shame, but I did find that every single person I spoke to was jolly and helpful. Every off-licence owner tried to help me out, the people in Tesco and Sainsbury’s were eager to do what they could and even when they were telling me they didn’t sell what I wanted, they kept on smiling.  The people I passed on the street all seemed super carefree and happy. The driver of the taxi I eventually got was lovely too. I felt like I could have spoken to absolutely anyone and they would have tried to help me out.

The home we stayed in was booked through air b&b and it was absolutely stunning. The perfect seaside escape. It was a little way from the coast, but the seagulls could still be heard, never fear.

In my dreams I live in a house like this one when I grow up. It’s so tastefully decorated, so light and airy and everything has it’s place, but it looks lived in too. It’s just the right mix of old and new and it’s not too big or too small. It’s perfect. Aside from the fact it’s on a really really steep hill. Not only was the walk a challenge, but can you imagine trying to parallel park outside!?

I could have spent days exploring the centre of Brighton and I’ve still no idea how we got from one place to another. All I know is that on your way down to the coast you wonder through ‘the lanes’. There’s bunting everywhere, it’s a maze of madness that transports you to another time and there are shops and stools selling all sorts of bits and bobs. There’s something for everyone. There are so many cute independent shops. There’s so much street food and so many cute, eccentric cafes to be explored. Including Choccywoccydoodah which just has to be the craziest dessert cafe on Earth!

There are loads of cool independent bars and clubs on the seafront too, individual to Brighton. Not forgetting the cute arty shops down there and the fish and chip stands! Fish and chips is obligatory of course.

Brighton has the best of both though. There’s a big shopping centre with all your big name stores, there are chain restaurants and big bars and clubs with names you’d probably recognize.

The pier itself is the epitome of British Sea Front fun. There are arcades and fayre ground rides. I wasn’t crazy enough to brave the waltzers but those of us who did said they were sure they were the spinniest and fastest they’d ever been on. There’s donuts and ice cream and candy floss galore and there’s even a sit down restaurant and bar.

There are many other must-sees we missed simply because we didn’t have enough time. From the stunning Royal Pavillion to the Museum and Art Gallery, Brighton has culture and history too.

Wherever you wonder along the seafront the views are lovely. There’s even a massive 360 degrees moving observation tower you can go up, if that takes your fancy and you have the time. I imagine the views must be wonderful. Brighton’s beach isn’t sandy, it’s a pebble beach, but this doesn’t take away from the fact it’s really very pretty. I couldn’t take enough pictures. Particularly on a sunny day, the sea is so beautifully blue and everything looks so colourful and alive.

Colourful and alive. That’s Brighton for you. I can’t recommend it enough and I’ll definitely be back! I imagine there’s even more to discover than I know.

10 interview tips

I’m no expert, but I spent a lot of time surfing the internet in search of interview help before I went along to my first one yesterday. I was a nervous wreck of course and it would have really helped to have some comforting advice all in one place. Some of these things I found out and knew before I went, some I wish I knew, either way, I’m glad to know them now and to be able to share the knowledge.

One – Remember that the person doing the interview wants nothing more than for you to succeed. If you’re perfect for the job and they can hire you, their job is done. Bear in mind they may already have a heavy work load and interviews could be keeping them away from it. They’ve advertised a role because they want to fill it and they’re probably pretty keen to fill it quickly. They need you as much as you need them. So do them a favour and be perfect.

Two – Confidence is everything. Make sure you feel confident in what you’re wearing and think the outfit through in advance. Black and white is safe, but a colour can be nice. A blazer is good. As a couple of my trusty friends told me, you can never be too smart.

Saying that, don’t try too hard and make sure you’re comfortable more than anything else. I’ve never been a make-up kind of girl, but before my interview yesterday I was so worried about looking my best, I caked it on. Then I got so ridiculously stressed over whether it looked alright, I took it all off and started all over again. In the end I went with what I’m comfortable with. A light splattering of mascara and some lip balm and I felt so much better for it. Simply stick to what you know and you’ll be fine.

Three – Reserach the company. Practice answers to all the predictable questions. Particularly: Why do you think we should hire you for this job? What do you think we are looking for? Tell us a little about yourself? Whether you have a friend or loved one who has the patience to listen or not. Sit in front of a mirror if you have to. Practice until talking about yourself feels completely natural.

Four – Be Prepared. Take a bottle of water. Plan your journey, work out your travel time and leave extra early. Take tissues. Take a pad and pen. Have contact details for the person interviewing you in case you get delayed. Know who you’re calling when the interview is over to debrief.

Five – Expect the worst. If your ideal interviewer is a man, imagine it’s going to be a woman. If you hope the interview doesn’t involve any practical aspects, presume it will. Make sure when you get there, you’re ready for anything and you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.

You probably will be. My interview yesterday was really enjoyable. No-one ever tells you that if you’re interviewing for a position that you actually really want, you’re actually very likely to enjoy meeting the people, seeing the office and getting a glimpse into what could be your future. So get excited, not just nervous.

Six- Remember to ask questions. This isn’t just an opportunity for them to figure out if they want you. It’s a chance for you to decide if you really want the job too. Be sure to get a feel for the surroundings, the people and the working environment.

Seven – Reread the application you submitted before you go. Remind yourself who you are on paper. Remind yourself of everything you’ve learned from every job you’ve ever had. Remind yourself what you did and didn’t include. Pick holes in your history as if you are the interviewer. Try to figure out where the holes are and come up with excuses for things they might question… Low A Level Grades, 3 months out of work etc.

Eight – Be ready to show them that you are the person specified. Save a copy of the Job Description before the closing date because there is a high risk of them taking the online vacancy down afterwards and removing any trace of the job description with it. This is bad because you want to be able to reread the person specification before interview and ensure that you fit. Have examples of times when you have done exactly what they say they want you to of done. If they say they want you to be organised, make sure you can think of an example of a time when your organisation really paid off. Also, use the job description for interview clues. They’re likely to base their questions around it.

Nine – Remember you’re only human and they know that. Don’t freak out if you can’t do everything they said they want you to be able to do and if you aren’t everything they said they want you to be. Be aware of the things that might hold you back at interview, but don’t be discouraged by them. Be ready to recognize your faults at interview and show a keenness to improve, challenge yourself and learn new things.

Ten – Believe in yourself. You’re going to have to talk a lot about what you’re good at and how amazing you are. If you don’t believe it, they never will. Hold your head up, smile and be proud.

Fried Egg in a Bacon Sandwich

In 2010 I was just finding my feet. I’d turned 16 but I was a little behind really. I was still very shy and I was scared of absolutely everything. Everything except singing, which I actually did more then, than I do now. Of course, I had no idea that my fear of life would actually be labelled as an anxiety disorder years later.

I had 11 New Year’s resolutions at the start of 2011. Number 1 was predictable and embarrassing: To find love. *rolls eyes* Moving onwards, I resolved to get better at maths and did. I said I’d get organised and didn’t. I vowed to smile more and worry less. I pledged to Be More Daring.

I went to a house party on New Year’s Eve. I had to write a pros and cons list just to decide whether to go or not.

I remember some of the cons so clearly even now. I was staying the night and I was worried my pyjamas were an embarrassment. I didn’t know whether I wanted to drink alcohol and I didn’t know if it would be a big deal if I didn’t. I felt insecure in the outfit I had to wear, but didn’t have anything else. I was worried I’d get too tired before midnight and wouldn’t be able to get home. I was worried I hadn’t eaten enough, because of the nerves.

Last in the pros column, after ‘it will be fun’ and all other obvious reasons to party on New Year’s  Eve, was ‘you said you’d be daring this year’.

I’m still very good friends with the girl who hosted. Her mum offered me a bacon sandwich when I got up New Years Day and offered me a fried egg to go in it too. I’d never tried having egg in a bacon sandwich before and silly as it sounds, going to her party and adding egg to my bacon sandwich were the first daring things I did that year.

Being daring that year was the best thing I ever decided to do. Unknowingly I put a middle finger up to my anxiety. I grew in confidence, I tried new things (including my first shot of vodka), I made new friends, I did in fact find love and from what I remember I smiled, a lot. When I would normally have said no, I said yes. It was perhaps the best year of my life so far, but with only 22 down I guess that’s not saying much.

Two days until it’s 2017.

I think perhaps this year’s a year for being daring again. This year I’m going to take a leaf out of my younger self’s book. I’m going to dare to be myself at all times. I’m going to dare to sing on stage again. I’m going to dare to do exactly what makes me happy. I’m going to dare to live.

I had egg in my bacon sandwich this morning. Loved it.

8 Life Lessons I’ve learned from working two jobs

Okay, I know I’m not an expert and I haven’t been doing this two job thing very long at all BUT I’m feeling philosophical so humour me and let me put my life guru hat on just for this evening?

One – Live in the moment. I’m sure you’ve heard it said before and believe me I know it’s easier said than done. Seeing as over-thinking is in my anxious nature and planning ahead is all that normally keeps me sane, I always brushed living day by day off as impossible. HOWEVER, my rota changes every week now and life’s so much simpler. I have to live life week to week, I simply can’t plan ahead and I’m actually happier because of it. Believe me, it’s the best way to live. If you’ve gotta pencil stuff in your diary, do so, but don’t think on it anymore than that. Taking life as it comes, I’m making better use of my free time too because I don’t know when my next day off will be or when I’ll next have time to get stuff done.

That brings me to number two…

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10 reasons to read more

One – Reading is for everyone. Okay, so you read one book by Dan Brown and you can’t handle the suspense, or decipher the intellectual gobbeldy-goop. I’d disagree with you when you said you didn’t enjoy it, but I wouldn’t judge you for it. Maybe you’ll say that means reading isn’t for you. Except there are millions of other books out there, all different. There’s one out there somewhere that’ll get you hooked. I know it.

Two – It’s fun and easy. You can claim that reading’s too much like hard work, but when you start reading you’ll realise it’s not. In fact, I feel more brain dead after a netflix binge than I do at the end of a book. Stick with it, the more you read the better your brain gets at it. Eventually, with perseverance and a little patience, you’ll forget to try. The story will come alive before your eyes.

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10 reasons to love the fact it’s October

“This year’s going way too fast”

“I’m cold. It’s raining. Where’s the summer gone?”

“Christmas stuff in the shops already !? What is the world coming to?”

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Romantic Comedies – The Pros and Cons

PRO – They never fail to make you laugh.

Even if you’re not the laughing type, you’ll find yourself chuckling when that character, who you can’t help relating to in some small way, does the same stupid thing you also did once upon a time. Laughing literally releases happy hormones, definite plus.

CON – The cringe factor.

We’ve all sat in front of the big screen squealing and blushing on behalf of a character who has embarrassed themselves. When Bridget Jones embarrasses herself we giggle and sigh lovingly, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it is just simply painful to watch as a character takes things to a whole new level. It’s a thin line, easily crossed.

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