Friday, 27 March 2020

Apps & Sites to Check Out During Lockdown

1. To keep in touch with loved ones, make sure you have Skype, Zoom, Discord or Google Hangouts downloaded for video chats. Zoom in particular has grown hugely in popularity during this pandemic, racking up almost 20 million new mobile users in the last week alone. (…I guess you could say that a virus made it go viral?)

2. Another video chat platform that’s soared to the top of the charts is an app called Houseparty. This has the added feature of fun party games that everybody in the chat can compete in on their device, making it perfect for a weekend hangout.

3. If (virtual) movie nights are more your thing, Netflix Party syncs up video play for you and your friends, and provides an added group chat function so you can all watch and chat along together.

4. Over on Twitter, comedian and Taskmaster co-host Alex Horne is running the #HomeTasking challenge. Throughout each week, he’ll be setting three new challenges for anybody on Twitter to take part in from home. The top 5 entries for each task are rewarded points by “the Taskmaster” (comedian Greg Davies), and they then get placed on a leader board.

5. Speaking of celebs, Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski is currently posting daily Instagram episodes of his quarantine cooking series, Quar Eye. If you’re into cooking then his recipes are something fun to try yourself – but even if you’re not, it’s worth watching just to see his beautiful face.

6. On the topic of Instagram, Brian May has started giving guitar tutorials for some of Queen’s biggest classics via IGTV.

7. Budding musicians can also make the most of Fender’s offer for three months of free online guitar, bass or ukulele lessons here.

8. If dancing's more your style, dance troup and Britain's Got Talent winners Diversity are offering their online dance classes for free until the start of May, with classes ranging from beginner to advanced levels.

9. You can also keep fit with TV presenter Davina McCall, who's offering a 30-day free membership to her online gym, which hosts hundreds of workouts; yoga, dance and Pilates tutorials; as well as a number of wellbeing articles and healthy recipes.

10. Bored out of your mind? Then you need the Bored Button! Every time you press the button, you’ll be taken to a random, fun and interesting web page.

11. When you’re being inundated with depressing news, it’s important to balance it out with some feel-good stories. Luckily for us, The Office's Josh Krasinski has launched a YouTube channel, "SomeGoodNews", dedicated solely to  you guessed it  reporting good news

12. For more, you can find daily good news stories over on Positive News, the Good News Network, or the Reddit thread, Uplifting News.

13. If you're feeling overwhelmed, one of my favourite mental health apps, Sanvello, is providing their premium service for free during the COVID-19 crisis. The app has a huge number of brilliant features, including daily health and mood tracking, goal setting, coping techniques, wellbeing assessments, and master classes in meditation and journalling.

14. Another excellent mental health app, Calm, has just released a compilation of free coping resources to help people through the pandemic. The app itself has a variety of free and premium features, such as meditation programmes, relaxing music, and soothing audio sleep stories read by the likes of Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey.

15. Streaming sites are perhaps an obvious choice to mention, but Disney+ dropped on the first day of lockdown and is packed with classic Disney and Pixar content, as well as Disney-owned franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, and even The Simpsons. You may just be surprised to discover how many shows and movies Disney actually owns, so take a look at this list if you’re curious about what’s on offer. The service costs £5.99 per month or £59.99 for the year, or you can sign up here for a free 7-day trial.

16. It’s not just films and TV shows that you can stream online, either. WhatsOnStage have compiled a list of all of the musicals, dance shows and theatre productions that you can now watch for free from your device.

17. And after paying a virtual visit to the theatre, take a virtual tour around a museum, zoo, aquarium or theme park by checking out Good House Keeping’s list of the very best here(Now  if you’ll excuse me  I’m off to Disney World!)

For the kids
If you’re at home with children, there’s also plenty available online to keep them both entertained and educated. 

1. Fitness coach Joe Wicks (AKA The Body Coach) is running free P.E. lessons on his YouTube channel, which go live at 9am each weekday, but can be watched at any time. Although they’re aimed at kids, you’ll probably find that they’re fun for ages!

2. If you need help teaching your child maths, former Countdown host and maths guru Carol Vorderman has come to the rescue! While schools are closed, she’s offering free access to her online maths school, The Maths Factor, aimed at children aged 4 to 11.

3. For music lessons, former Hear’Say singer and classically trained musician Myleene Klass has launched her free online “Music Klass”. Subscribe to her YouTube for two classes at 10am on Monday and Friday, plus a lullaby session on Wednesday evenings.

4. Meanwhile, comedian and beloved children’s author David Walliams is releasing a free audio story daily for the next 30 days. Click to listen here and check back for more every morning at 11am.

5. Until the end of June, Minecraft are offering 12 free interactive digital lessons, which include creative writing tasks, coding puzzles and building challenges, as well as virtual tours of historic sites and the International Space Station. From renewable energy to marine biology to Greek history, you can check out everything their Education Collection offers here. Minecraft: Education Edition is available for download here.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

61 Things to do During Lockdown

1. Do all of the chores that you usually put off!
2. Make a list of films you’ve been wanting to watch and make your way through them
3. Do the same for books! If you’re ordering online, try to get e-Books or audiobooks.
4. TV shows, too! If you’re having trouble deciding which one to pick first, put the titles in a jar and take them out one-by-one.
5. Bake. (Just make sure you get all of the ingredients in your weekly shop!)
6. Cook your favourite recipes
7. Learn new recipes. Missing your favourite restaurant or takeaway? See if you can learn how to make your fave meals of theirs from home!
8. Learn a new language. Give Duolingo a try!
9. Make playlists. A lockdown playlist, a spring/summer playlist, a throwback playlist, a cheer-up playlist… You can find my own cheer-up playlist here, which I’ll definitely be adding more to soon.
10. Invite the other members of your household to a movie marathon with snacks. Or just do it solo! (Just be careful not to eat all of your quarantine snacks in one go!)
11. Got a garden? Eat outside!
12. Better yet, have a barbecue!
13. Have a picnic in your garden or living room
14. Host a D.I.Y afternoon tea
15. Build a fort
16. Make some post-pandemic travel plans! With pubs, clubs and clothes shops shut, now is the perfect time to start saving up!
17. Have virtual get-togethers. Gather your friends on Zoom or Discord for a virtual movie-night or pub quiz, some party games, or just a catch-up!
18. Check in on your friends. Make sure that they're coping okay and try to cheer them up if they're not.
19. Reach out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. They’ll probably be glad you did!
20. Binge-watch your favourite series
21. Start a scrapbook
22. Clean
23. Clear out your wardrobe and/or makeup
24. Reorganise your wardrobe. Spring/summer clothes at the front, winter/autumn clothes at the back.
25. Reorganise a room
26. Make time for a hobby
27. Find a new hobby
28. Experiment with your hair or makeup. Maybe you’ll find a new favourite look? Don’t forget to post a selfie of the finished result!
29. Craft. You can find heaps of crafting inspiration on Pinterest!
30. Colour. If you don’t have a colouring book, find some colouring sheets that you like and print them off.
31. Workout from home! There’s plenty of workout videos on YouTube, and a tonne of fitness Instagram accounts.
32. Same goes for yoga and Pilates!
33. Meditate. You’ll be able to find lots of guided meditations on your app store or on YouTube.
34. Play or cuddle with a pet
35. Play video or computer games. (Animal Crossing is currently my game of choice.)
36. Play a board game
37. Complete a jigsaw puzzle
38. Organise the files on your laptop
39. Clear out your photo gallery on your phone. (If you’re anything like me, it’ll be overflowing with dead memes!)
40. Pamper yourself. Facemasks, baths, painting your nails… Do whatever makes you feel good!
41. Start an online course. I’ve previously completed free courses on FutureLearn, but a quick Google search will show you that there’s so many out there!
42. Set your browser homepage to Wikipedia’s ‘random’ page. Every time you open it, you can learn something new! (Suggested by Lilly.)
43. Write a diary
44. Keep a daily gratitude list. Spend some time focussing on the positives.
45. Make a vision board. Check out Pinterest for inspo.
46. Learn a TikTok dance
47. Start a TikTok. Have you been able to resist so far?
48. Start a YouTube
49. Start a blog! Come join the club.
50. Meal prep
51. Phone a loved one
52. Join or start a virtual book club
53. Pick some flowers and try your hand at flower-pressing
54. Volunteer to help in your local area. You can volunteer to support the NHS here.
55. Find things around the house to donate when charity shops re-open. Charity fundraising is suffering massively due to the pandemic.
56. Not currently travelling to work? Donate the price of your work commute or morning coffee to a charity of your choice each day.
57. Come up with a list of coping strategies to turn to if you’re mentally struggling. (There’s an endless amount of brilliant ideas here.)
58. Google feel-good stories and good news
59. Make a list of things to look forward to when this is over. Hold onto those things any time you’re finding lockdown tough.
60. Plan a Freedom Party
61. And last but not least: Write your own list of things to do on lockdown!

How many things on this list have you already ticked off? Do you have any ideas to add?

Stay safe and stay sane, everyone!

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

How to Work from Home

Not even Vogue’s Anna Wintour could have predicted that the hot trends for Spring 2020 would have been florals, medical masks, and working from home. The coronavirus pandemic has seen a huge chunk of the country making the sudden switch to working from home to slow the disease’s spread – and I know for many, this is a huge change. As someone who’s had her fair share of experience in this area, I thought I’d share a few of my top tips on how to manage yourself and keep productive at home:

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

How to Cope During Lockdown

As I’m writing this, we’re currently on Day 1 of lockdown in the UK. (That’s definitely not a sentence that I ever expected to type in my lifetime!)

While I fully support the lockdown, a lot of people are concerned about the mental impact that staying isolated at home is going to have. And I completely understand.
In fact, I’ve been here before.

After my back operation, I spent a week alone in hospital, followed by a further six weeks stuck at home. Over the next nine months I barely left the house, and I only saw my friends six times in total. It was the loneliest experience of my life – and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t take a huge toll on my mental health.

But there are bright sides this time around. I’m able to do a lot more, so there’s lots of ways that I can keep busy and entertain myself that I just couldn’t do back then. And this time, I’m not doing it alone. None of us are doing this alone.

My heart truly does hurt for anybody mentally struggling right now, but I just want to promise you that you can get through this, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. (I’m proof of that!)

But, while we’re stuck in the tunnel, I wanted to share a few tips on how we can all get through this together:

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Sex Education's Aimee Represents All of Us

Like anybody with good taste in Netflix shows, I spent this month counting down to the release of Sex Education Season 2, and proceeded to binge-watch the entire thing in one day once it dropped. It was funny, it was joyful, it was relatable, and it was heart-warming – but (spoiler warning) there’s one storyline that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since.

Witnessing or Experiencing Sexual Assault: What to Do

In Season 2 of Sex Education, we see Aimee Gibbs trying to recover from the trauma of a sexual assault that she experienced on the bus to school one morning. It’s an issue that’s all too common, and yet it’s not spoken about nearly enough. So, to tie in with my blog post bout Aimee’s story, this post will cover what you can do if you are a victim or witness of either sexual harassment, or sexual assault.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

What Recovery Means to Me

Last month, I wrote a series of blog posts covering some of my experiences with mental illness. They mostly focussed on my experience as a teenager, because that’s when my mental health was at its worst. But that’s not to say that I don’t still struggle every day.

The struggle is different now, though. Now, I’m trying to fight my mental illnesses; whereas before, I was defeated by them. And I know that I’ll never completely beat them, but there are still little victories, small wins, and that's enough. 

A friend of mine who recently blogged about her OCD mentioned how “recovery is a journey, not a destination”. And she’s so right. 

It’s not necessarily about needing a cure; it’s about having the tools you need to be able to cope. It’s about having your illness be a part of you, like your hair or your eye colour – not something that completely defines you. It’s about accepting that there are bad days and bad moments, but recognising that they’re going to pass. 

I have anxiety, but now I know that I’m more than that. It’s a part of my life, but my world is so much more than that.

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