The funk. The anxiety. The depression. The afterbirth of 2020 and the uncertainty of 2021. We’ve all felt it in some way or another. If it’s the grief from the pandemic, the monotony of our daily routine, the absolutely terrifying anxiety of the political climate, all all together these are just few of the reason my productivity has been low and my tensions high.  I think it is safe to say the past year has affected us all in some way or another. I don’t know about you but that combined with the dreary weather here in Amsterdam and lack of socialising has led to what I am going to call a funk. Feeling pretty strange, highs and lows but mostly a bit of a lack of excitement for the future. It’s prevented me from writing or really engaging much at all. The days have all kind of rolled into one, and a trip to the supermarket or bakery has become a high point of the day.

Well my funklepusses, I am here to lend some insights into small things that have helped pull me out of the funk, or at least offered me a ladder.

Give yourself some simple achievable tasks –  I learnt this method on the BBC How Do You Cope podcast. The podcast presenter set himself the task of learning all the countries in the world, but you can pick anything you want just make sure it is realistic, small and achievable.

Treat yourself to a magazine subscription. For me there is nothing nicer than leafing through a “real” book or magazine or newspaper, folding the pages back as opposed to scrolling on a screen. A weekly treat arriving through my letterbox with a resounding thump on my doormat each week gives me pure joy. saving the interesting articles, for a drizzly Sunday morning in bed with coffee. Truly wonderful.  If you are financially able, think about getting a subscription to one of your favourite magazines or papers – journalists can certainly do with a bit of extra help in the digital age where we expect all journalism to be free. 

Something calming – my brain is pretty chaotic at the best of times, so I found knitting a really nice way to slow down my thoughts when I am feeling anxious. It also helps me to concentrate a bit better during meetings (I always make sure my camera is turned off), but I suppose it is the similar idea to doodling to help you concentrate when listening to others. I chose knitting because I have a bunch of wool just lying there and my Granny taught me to knit when I was little, but the glory of youtube is you can get a tutorial for pretty much anything, so try out some different things and see what works for you.

Movement – it doesn’t need to be a high intensity class, particularly if like me you have neighbours below you. Yoga, walking, full on sports – whatever works for you. I have recently bought an online subscription to a nice yoga studio I like, and yes pushing myself to actually get on that goddam mat is a struggle but I never regret doing it. You can get nice subscriptions to Psycle, Form, and Boho Beautiful, Yoga with Adriene, PPGym offer free daily classes on youtube.

Take your lunchbreak If you are working from home schedule your lunchbreak and block it in your calendar and spend some time away from your screen or work apparatus during that time. Ideally get some fresh air. Go for a walk. Turn off your notifications.

Learn Look into some free online courses. Sometimes I feel like I am not learning as much as I used to, and I can really recommend FutureLearn for some short free online courses in almost any topic you want, alternatively search Event Brite for free or very cheap online events. I have also started an evening course in Dutch which I am really enjoying.

Talk to people. I am fortunate enough to have a couple of friends and family who have listened to me vent when work has become tough or the four walls are driving me mad. This has really helped me, but I know it can be hard to reach out to people. If you do have a supportive network, reach out to them otherwise I have found podcasts have been my saving grace over the last few months. I try to choose podcasts that make me laugh or speak with empathy; Fi and Jane, Black Frasier, Private Parts ,The Imposter Club, How Do You Cope and of course The Adam Buxton podcast are my go-to listens at the moment.

Spend less time online. Ha! Sure! A screen-free lifestyle is easier said than done right? Especially these days. But seriously no one on their deathbed is going to have wish they spent more time on social media. I have found setting myself allocated time or a maximum amount of time, and turning my phone onto silent mode in the evening. It has made me the worst person at texting back, but not checking my phone has helped with my concentration and my mental health. I have also started opting for calls or voicenotes instead of texts.

So there you have it, a few things that have helped me to feel a leetle bit less funky. I would love to hear if you also have things that have helped you to feeling back to your usual self.

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It has been a tumultuous few months, honestly it has not felt right or respectful to continue writing mundanely with the current social injustice that we are facing. I want to write first that I whole-heartedly stand with people of colour, as a white person, right now my voice is not the voice you should be listening to. I urge you to continue to listen to BIPOC, read more books by and about people of colour, look further than the ones circulating Instagram. Listen to more podcasts by BIPOC
. Continue to vote with your wallet. Don’t buy from businesses that have refused to pay their workers (Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Kylie cosmetics). I will continue to recommend those I have found insightful. As a child of parents that would routinely march against the EDL in our area, the racism throughout the world is not something I have recently awoken to, but it is still horrifying that we have so much work to do.

I still believe that climate change is something that affects us all, but not equally. Here in Northern Europe we experience slightly warmer summers and ask what the problem is, whilst those in the global south are experiencing a montage of freak weather, shortage of fish, plastic filled oceans, homes that are being taken over and cleared for livestock, air and rivers that are so polluted that communities are dying. Climate change will affect us all, but it will disproportionately affect those in the global south. This is also known as Environmental Racism.  Climate change is deeply intertwined with racial inequality. Our actions will have an impact on someone somewhere in the world. The garment we buy from the fast fashion retailer is continuing to unjustly compromise the life of the underpaid garment worker in Bangladesh. The metals used in our 8thsmartphone we simply must have because the camera is slightly better, will have most probably have been mined in dangerous conditions in an industry that has been linked with child labour. This impact can be positive though. We can choose to support B-Corp businesses. We can choose to waste less food, to eat less meat and animal products. After a reflection on this,  I will continue to write my humble blog about the little changes that we can all make that have an impact, about finding treasure in others trash and consuming a bit less. Of course, I will drop in the odd mid-week muse and will forever try to make you laugh. It is nice to have an audience to write for. I hope you stay.

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It feels like the Coronavirus situation has been around for ten years, actually the advice to social distance has only been here for around for a few weeks in the Netherlands. It has infiltrated the news, social feeds and daily conversations, so much so that it feels difficult now to find something unrelated to the current pandemic, and unsurprisingly as it is entirely changing our way of living and socialising.

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We, the people, have been told to socially distance. To keep at least 1.5 metres away from strangers, to work from home if it is possible and to stay inside as much as possible. And most of us have done just that. There is a continuum of uncertainty, all feeling like we are in a visceral vacuum waiting for a miraculous cure, a decrease in new cases, an insight in what’s to come. The days stretch out and become hazy into one long period of time.

I am not sure about you, but the first few days meant I was spending a lot more time on my phone, refreshing the Guardian news page trying to keep up to date with the world’s response to the Corona virus. I have seen every COVID-19 challenge, every meme, every joke and every heart-wrenching story. Every glimmer of hope as well as the draconian measures each country is taking. I am waiting for the Netflix documentary which I am sure is currently being filmed, to be released once we have beaten this pandemic. It will probably be written by Jenji Kohan or Charlie Brooker. I hope it will star Cillian Murphy.

I have been struggling to write this post, everyone’s circumstances are very different right now and there is a strange feeling of the usual points of interest feeling a bit meaningless. I initially wanted to share some tips on working from home, but I’m pivoting the focus of this post to just simply reflect on the positive stuff. I’m the sort of person who tears up when communities come together. When people help each other. It feels a bit like through this horrendous pandemic, kindness has never been more prevalent. Fashion brands are changing their entire business models to create protective clothing gear for healthcare workers, perfume companies are creating hand-sanitizer and ventilators are being created by car and household electronic manufacturers. Celebrities like Carol Vorderman are offering digital maths tutoring, Dan Snow is offering online history lessons. On a more personal level, nation-wide applause for those on the front-line are being held in most countries, food is being delivered to hospital workers, people are trying their best to support their local businesses and neighbors are watching out for each other.  We currently have no choice but to live in the moment. It is starting to feel like everyone is stepping up in their own way, even if that means just staying at home.  There is an overwhelming feeling of kindness. In my lifetime, there has never been a stronger feeling of “togetherness” and it is wonderful to see we’ve got each other’s backs.

 

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I grew up with an older brother who was not really drawn to make-up, and a mother whose beauty regime went about as far as moisturising or using a stick of deodorant. There was a battered tin of “stage makeup” in our bathroom cupboard that had dried up and had started to crack, and she owned one mascara that used to make sporadic, nervous appearances when she was off to a party. My mum’s pure refusal to pick up a razor created its own ethnographic proof that the less you shave, the less you need to.

I want to be very clear that now in reflection, I am so grateful that I had a woman in my life who never made me feel like I needed to alter anything about my appearance. However, as a little girl and long before the age of YouTube tutorials – the world of feminine beauty was a mystery to me. Lipstick was a sophisticated object to marvelled at, I had no idea what foundation was, and nail varnish (most of which ended up over the carpet) was about as far as I ventured. Let’s just say I was a little late to the party in learning the do’s and do-not’s of the beauty world.

So, if you wanted a little chuckle I thought I would round up just some of the horrendous errors tried and tested by me and never to be repeated:

  1. Cutting off my own eyelashes. A girl in my class at school told me if you cut of your eyelashes they grow back twice as thick. That night I took the scissors to my eyelashes in the hope for fuller, longer lashes. Disclaimer: it’s not true, they do not grow back thicker, you just have a few months eyelashes-less until they do grow back with people searching your face to understand what has changed.
  2. Black eyebrows. One of my Dutch friends who looks a bit like Margot Robbie and has equally beautiful dark eyebrows that juxtapose with her blonde hair kindly offered to dye my eyebrows for me. Using a home kit. Let’s just say the look did not look the same on me as it did for her and I looked perpetually surprised but also cross at the same time.
  3. The fake tan. I have a mate called Anna who is a pro in the beauty arena. Everytime I go to hers she tells me to help myself to anything in her beauty cabinet, and I turn into a child, take this literally and put about 12 different things on at once. One summer, without reading the instructions I used her Isle of Paradise face tan. Had I read said instructions I would have realised that you need to only add a few drops to your moisturiser. I used the fake tan as if it was moisturiser. I turned a strange shade of patchy orange that developed throughout the day with people asking what was going on with my face. I have not lived it down.
  4. The Epilator bikini line. My mother kindly bought me an epilator for my birthday when I was around 16/17. I decided to use it on all areas including my bikini line. I remember screaming in agony for my mother to come upstairs. She had to help me to free certain parts that had got caught in said epilator whilst trying not to laugh. I have not epilated again since. Our bond strengthened that day.
  5. Cutting my own fringe: Or better yet, getting someone else to cut my fringe in the queue to Koko’s in Camden. Never cut your own fringe no matter how many tequilas you’ve downed.
  6. The natural suncream. Being a boho hippie I bought myself some natural hemp suncream off the internet and smugly smothered it over my arms and legs on a holiday with friends, studying their tubes of chemical-full creams and tutting. My hemp suncream did not work. I went the same colour as my luminous orange t-shirt and couldn’t sleep on my tummy for a week.
  7. Dyeing my own hair pink. Never dye your hair on the cheap. I wanted a light pink hint and ended up more lobster-meets-beetroot and pinkish pillow cases.
  8. Egg white hair mask. Just do not do this, no matter how many beauty bibles tell you to. The egg cooks in your hair in the shower and you turn into a human breakfast. 

 

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IMG_2099I find this stage just after the Christmas holidays very strange. I seem to get an overriding apathetic feeling, not really wanting to do anything except curl up and read or watch BBC Christmas TV, I mean did you see Mark Gatiss’ Dracula? 

The holidays whirl past, a timeless period of glutton where our wine glasses are never empty, and our tummies are always full. Calorie-watching has no place in our household and we seem to have forgotten the meaning of cholesterol. It is the time of year when my mother finally let’s us get out more than one cheese at a time and the M&S party food keeps flowing.

Every year, before I finish work for Christmas I decide that this obscene amount of vacant time off must warrant a new skill learnt; I will learn Dutch I promise myself, or Russian. I will do yoga every day and start a novel. Whilst I am at it I might as well read War & Peace and take up a tapestry course. In reality, after the first twenty hours of doing nothing, taking baths until I am prune-like (I only have a shower at my flat in Amsterdam), and being offered lifts by my parents (I don’t have a car in the UK), I seem to actually manage to go back in time to being a teenager again, my parents doing my washing and cooking my food. What a magnificent time. I become the laziest I have ever been, I don’t achieve any of my ambitious personal goals and constantly wonder if this would be what my life would be like if I had an infinite supply of money. I meet up with old school friends and sleep in late. Yes, I definitely regress when I go home. I do worry that I would have been a blissfully happy aristocrat.

Getting back to the daily grind is really very difficult. My alarm feels like it is going off in the middle of the night (it doesn’t help that it is still dark outside), and being productive feels like something I am no longer capable of. There was a day when even leaving the house made me feel a bit wobbly.  I have tiptoed back into the gym and have been feeling the effects of my first class on 2020 for three days. Walking is painful. I am thankful my manager is abroad at the moment to not see me in this sorry state. For those out there who are getting back into the “regular” week with some resistance, I hear you.

 

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