How COVID-19 Affected My Life in the Last 12 Months

Window to landscape

In November 2019, I was packing my things to travel in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. I needed a break from everything: work, life, routine… At first it was only a dream but then it became reality: my fiancé and I had a solid plan! Bearing in mind that even the most robust plan should expect the unexpected at some point, we left confident that we knew exactly what we were doing (for 90% of it). At that time, no one suspected what would happen shortly after we left. A virus spreading all over the world, is that even real? It still sounds like fiction to me.

Now that we’re back in London, it’s weird to realise we couldn’t have timed it better, given the current rules with international travel. By the time the pandemic started to restrict our freedom of movement, we had already managed to visit Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Australia & New Zealand… It’s only when we got to Fiji that reality started to kick in: the world was in crisis and we got stranded there for 3 long weeks.

Everyone has been affected by the pandemic somehow, and even though it’s still far from being over yet, I think now is the perfect time to reflect. Because it’s been 12 months since we were “released” from the island and “allowed” to fly back home. Trapped and vulnerable tourists were easy targets in Fiji, it really felt like we were hostages. Today marks the anniversary of our first day back in the UK.

“Home” is where you want to be when the world is in crisis

If you consider that the number of infections were rising very quickly in Europe, we could have considered ourselves a lot safer in the Pacific. But it was mentally difficult to stay so far away from home for any longer. I remember our flight back home like it was yesterday. The country was in lockdown but passengers were still entering freely through airports. We didn’t interact with anyone. No one to give us any rules to follow, no mandatory quarantine… We were just “released” into the wild, with no clue how to adapt to this new world.

This is when I realised we had overlooked our mental health. Our first few days in our temporary flat were a mix of relief and exhaustion. We had so many unanswered questions, the future seemed so blurry. The main one being: what happens now?

Time is precious - London

Time is precious, and there is always a way to make the most of it

It was difficult enough to have no choice but to interrupt our dream travel plan, the last thing we wanted after spending so much time abroad was to be surrounded by too many people. We had to quickly return to reality, even if it was hard to swallow. Back in London, we isolated for 2 weeks, using a non-compulsory quarantine as an excuse to focus on our wellbeing. This time was very much needed for us to mentally recover from all this nightmare. We needed to get our lives back together and prepare our future the best way we could.

Accomplishments

At least I will remember lockdown(s) for being the catalyst for all the things I’ve done this past 12 months:

  • I learnt how to cut my fiancé’s hair myself. New hairdresser skills for me and lots of savings made for the rest of his life. Not to brag about it but he receives many compliments for his haircuts…
  • I decided to focus on my health, as a result I lost 25kg by revisiting my eating habits.
  • I significantly improved my cooking skills, read a lot about veganism and included many new foods in my diet (mostly vegs I didn’t think I would ever like). Proof that the good kind of unexpected can also happen.
  • I discovered intermittent fasting, which was a revelation for me.
  • We adopted Luna, to give our older cat Miko some company. Raising a kitten requires a lot of time within the first few months and we knew it was the right moment. Now they’re inseparable, mission accomplished.
  • I decided to delete my personal social media accounts. Oddly enough, lockdown made me become more selective about the technology used to communicate with friends and family. Best decision ever!
  • Last but not least, I started this blog to share my journey.

When I look back, I sometimes try and visualise how different the present would look if I chose a different path. For example, if I decided to soothe my anxiety with more food (like many people do) and became obese. Or what if I chose to spend my time learning how to play the guitar, instead of starting a blog. Overall I’m very happy about how it all turned out and I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Also, you can have all the time in the world, there are always going to be some things left sitting at the bottom of the list. We got engaged in December 2019 and I can tell you almost nothing has been done with the wedding planning. Sometimes, we just need to accept we can’t have it all. The world has been moving at a slower pace, let’s embrace it and trust the fact that the best is yet to come!

Post-COVID, the world will never be the same again

Now that I have reflected on this past crazy year, I realise that most things are here to stay. At a personal level of course, but also on a bigger scale. It seems to me like mental health received more attention than it ever has in the past. It’s not invisible or taboo anymore. People value their work-life balance even more and prioritise things differently, maybe in a better way. I’ve noticed a bigger focus on environment too, which is key for me. That’s right, we’re about to enter a new era and I’m excited about it.

That being said, with the lockdown cautiously on its way out in the UK, I can’t help but feeling a bit anxious about the return to “normality”. After so much time spent at home, I got used to my very own comfort zone and it seems daunting to get out there again… Back to a year ago when we were clueless how to behave, once we got off the plane. Even small things like taking public transport make me anxious and I wonder how I did it so “normally” before. What if lockdown enhanced my introversion for good? Will I ever be able to socialise without the help of technology?

Tell me what changed for you since the pandemic started, I’d love to know! What do you think will never come back to the way it was before?

Big Girl x

What If I Told You 2020 Has Been a Great Year?

I know we won’t really look back at 2020 thinking “What a great year!” but if we look at how much we learnt from it, I would say it wasn’t such a bad year in the end. As today is (finally?) the last day of the year, I thought it was time to reflect and try a different outlook on what’s now almost behind us. When I started this blog, I was very frustrated by how much the pandemic impacted my plans. Today, I’m glad I managed to use the second part of the year the best way I could possibly have. Let me go through why I think 2020 has been a great year on reflection.

2020 started with awesome travels

It would be easy to focus on how the pandemic interrupted my travels and dwell on the fact I couldn’t finish my trip like initially planned. Because of it, I didn’t go to Japan this year. I’ve been before though, and I will definitely go back again – this is where my mum was born after all. Instead I’ll focus on what I was able to do: an amazing month spent road tripping along the east coast of Australia, from Sydney to Cairns. I even got the opportunity to finally go back to Brisbane, where I had so many fond memories from 2006. And after that, we were lucky enough to spend another 6 weeks in New Zealand, which is probably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. With happy memories I will carry for the rest of my life, 2020 didn’t start too bad!

It opened my eyes on the urgency to save the planet

What would seem like bad timing may have actually been a great eye-opener for me: I was in Australia during the bushfires that caused a lot of damage on the planet and wildlife. It also reminded me that some sunny countries like Australia don’t get as much rain compared to what we’re used to in Europe, therefore they have no choice but to make constant efforts to save water (which we may take for granted elsewhere in the world…). I was already starting to question our impact on climate change when the pandemic happened. If anything, it confirmed how urgent it has become to take responsibility on our actions and their consequences on the planet. It is quite simple: if we don’t do anything and keep ignoring the facts, there will be nothing left to see for the next generations.

My health & wellbeing became a priority

Focus on mental health

I never got to know myself better than this year. I usually don’t panic easily, I know what I want and (maybe more importantly) what I don’t want in life, I have a strong temper and sometimes strong opinions on things I feel passionate about. I like to be organised and plan everything so I can keep my head on my shoulders. In short, I’m a control freak. That’s probably why the level of uncertainty caused by the pandemic hit me hard. I lost all sense of anticipation, torn between a naïve optimism and a desperate need to stay hopeful, struggling with the feeling of being completely helpless. But I learnt how to deal with this uncertainty, I overcame my new anxiety and faced my fears in a way that developed new strengths in me. I’ve found that my patience, resilience and courage have grown. Thanks 2020 for this life lesson.

… But also physical health

An invisible killer threatening the most vulnerable people was all it took for me to prioritise the right things. I knew I indulged myself too much during our travels, I needed to do something to avoid falling into the category of those who have “existing underlying health conditions”. It freaked me out so much that I gave myself 3 clear objectives:
1 – go back to a healthy weight by the end of the year (below 68 kg according to my BMI)
2 – eventually aim for 60 kg (I’m 165 cm tall so this is roughly what I need to be at)
3 – keep a sustainable and improved lifestyle that will guarantee I will never have to lose so much weight ever again.
But one thing at a time. I’ve been focussing on the first objective this year and these are today’s figures:

I use the app VeSyncFit to track progress
All data is now in “green” (= healthy)

I wouldn’t usually share publicly such information about me, but I’m hoping it would inspire someone else on the same journey. On Sunday 2nd August 2020, my weight was 84.80 kg and today, Thursday 31st December 2020, I’m at 67.55 kg, which means I lost 17.25 kg in only 5 months. My BMI came down from 31.1 (obese category) to 24.8 (healthy category). My body fat went down from 37.9% (way too high) to 28.2% (acceptable). I also lost almost 15 cm around the waist, where you store the most dangerous fat that can significantly increase the risk of chronic diseases. I’m happy to be starting 2021 on a healthy base, because 2020 put me back on track. That’s my first objective smashed! Now I’m ready to tackle the next two.

I identified who I really wanted to keep in my life

It’s either make or break

Being locked down with a special someone, even if you picked that someone to be your partner for the rest of your life, could be a challenging situation for many couples. No wonder why the divorce rate has increased drastically in 2020! It does make me wonder how long people stay married without really knowing each other. You only get to know someone fully when you travel with them, but our recent 6-month trip was never a test for us. We knew what our families and friends still needed to see: we were never meant to break. Being stranded abroad was a stressful experience but it only made our relationship (even) stronger, staying at home together was always going to be a piece of cake in comparison. If we couldn’t tie the knot in 2020, we’re determined to make 2021 our year.

I cut off ties with toxic people

It’s always easy to identify who you really want to keep in your life: some close family members, your partner, some of your best friends, kind people who make a difference, etc. But what about people who don’t deserve you / hurt your feelings / bring you down with their negativity and/or judgmental behaviour / don’t make any efforts to stay in touch? My tolerance level decreased because I realised I didn’t have to accept the unacceptable, I don’t have to forgive easily either. Raising your standards when it comes to relationships is an excellent thing, it’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded people. Of course there are always going to be people you’d rather detach yourself from but can’t: some family members or even colleagues… Just keep in mind kindness is contagious. Oh, and I also deleted my personal social media accounts. Freedom!

My conclusion on 2020

Looking back, I can’t really say it’s been a bad year… I used to blog between 2007 and 2017 but had to stop eventually, because I didn’t have enough time for it anymore. 2020 gave me the extra time I needed to start this new blog and it’s been a powerful form of therapy to help me heal from my wounds. Now I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 2020 has changed me forever, in a very positive way. I’m ready for 2021, bring it on!

Have you turned the negatives into positives too? What learning(s) do you want to apply in 2021 and onwards?

Big Girl x

What Is It Like to Be an Introvert During Lockdown

Several countries in the world have been going through multiple lockdowns this year due to the pandemic, taking away people’s freedom by limiting social gatherings (among other things). When I discuss the situation with people around me, it becomes quite clear not everyone copes the same way. How come? I think we find isolation more or less difficult depending on if we are an introvert or an extrovert by nature, this key aspect of our personality is now standing out more than it ever did.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

What’s the difference between the two and how do you know if you are an introvert or an extrovert? Well, it’s quite simple. Introverts don’t mind spending time alone, they need to retreat to their cave to recharge their batteries. Extroverts are quite the opposite: they love being surrounded by people, that’s what really fills them up. It’s a pretty basic explanation but if you want to dig deeper, the most famous personality test uses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. There are 16 personality types and you can find out which one you are by answering several questions, it’s free and it takes roughly 10 minutes. According to this test, I’m an “Advocate” (INFJ profile) and 76% introverted.

What is it like to be an introvert

I’ve always known I was an introvert, I never found it hard to be on my own and I’m pretty much always among the first ones to leave a party when I’ve had enough. I would then need to reenergize with very little interaction with the world. So when the first lockdown happened in the UK 8 months ago, I found it quite peaceful and relaxing. Especially after being abroad for several months prior to that. Of course I miss not being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want, but I wouldn’t say I miss social events so much. I even dread video calls as I find them exhausting, they drain my energy.

Boundaries are important

Before I quit my job last year to go travelling, I was working in a company full of extroverts. It’s difficult to adapt when the majority of your colleagues, as well as the management team, are outspoken and loud. They don’t always let you speak even if you have (more interesting) things to say. Then it hits your self-confidence and your self-worth, to a point you start doubting yourself on the quality of your contribution. Boundaries are very important because they protect you from being abused. People with poor boundaries confuse the feelings of others with their own feelings and it’s not healthy. So in a way, I sometimes feel like this lockdown has allowed me to take the time to centre myself a bit more, which was much needed. Is it selfish to say that?

Lockdown can be a blessing for some

Today, the British Government has announced the national lockdown in England will end next week and we will be back to a tougher tier system. London will be back in tier 2, which means we’re not allowed to mix with any other household indoors except for only 5 days during Christmas. It seems likely to last until March/April 2021 (with better weather and hopefully a new vaccine). Personally, I see the next 4 months as an opportunity to focus on some things that are easily neglected when too busy: eat healthy, sleep more, go out for a wander, phone or text family & friends who live far away.

What’s your personality type and how do you cope with the current situation?

Big Girl x

12 Things To Do To Avoid Completely Losing It

Once again, everything escalated very quickly over the weekend and a second national lockdown has been announced in England. Other countries in Europe have already made this decision so it was only a matter of time for us to follow. Is there anything more terrifying than announcing it on Halloween day? I doubt it… So if you’re freaking out and don’t see the end of this pandemic, just inhale slow, exhale slower, and have a read through my ideas below to avoid completely losing it.

At least an entire month not being able to do anything but the bare minimum – on top of depressing weather and temperatures going down every day – is not going to be easy. This time we’re facing a lockdown during cold months though, we could use it to our advantage. Think of bears, they hibernate several months during winter, a lockdown would be ‘easy peasy‘ for them!

  1. Take a hot bath and relax
    • Use a nice bath bomb or anything with a lovely smell
    • Why not using some candles for a cosy ambiance?
  2. Apply a face mask
    • It’s getting cold and your skin can get dry very quickly
    • You’ll do yourself a favour and it feels nice
  3. Focus on your hair
    • Split ends? Dull hair? It takes time to properly take care of your hair… So this is the occasion!
  4. Don’t forget about your feet
    • They’re often overlooked and they need attention too
    • Apply a nice pair of moisturising socks and leave them on for as long as needed
    • Buy yourself a comfy pair of slippers
  5. Apply moisturiser on your whole body
    • Exfoliate your body and love yourself when doing it
    • It’s an excellent way to maintain good mental health
  6. Sit down and drink your favourite beverage
    • How about a hot chocolate under a warm blanket?
    • Close your eyes and enjoy, put your phone away, no distraction
  7. Read a good book
    • Even better if it’s a book that empowers you or takes your mind off the real world
  8. Cook your favourite meal and eat it mindfully
    • Take the time to enjoy every mouthful
    • Don’t eat in front of TV (or any screen)
  9. Write about your feelings
    • It doesn’t have to be in a public blog, you can write in your own private journal, just for yourself
    • It’s very soothing to put down your emotions and acknowledge them
  10. Make a list of things you feel grateful for
    • It’s easy to feel low about tough situations but don’t forget to practise gratitude about positive things too
    • I’ve done that exercise already when I was going through a difficult time back in March this year and I regularly come back to my lists as a reminder
  11. Prioritise your sleep
    • Make sure you get enough sleep to guarantee a sane and healthy brain
    • Take the time to dream, feel cosy under your duvet, forget about your potential issues, don’t think about work (or try not to)
  12. Listen to your favourite playlist
    • Finally, if you feel like you need something to spend your energy on rather than relax, you can always dance like nobody’s watching to your favourite tunes (yes, it counts as a workout and it’s more fun)

That’s pretty much how I spent my day yesterday… Today I feel better and ready to kick start another week! We’ll get through this, we’ll fight this shitty virus together and we’ll come out of it stronger than ever before. And don’t forget, you got this! Keep in mind that one day this period of your life will be in the past and you will look back at it when it’s all over. What do you want to remember?

Big Girl x

How the Pandemic Impacted My Social Life & Relationships

How the Pandemic Impacted My Social Life & Relationships

We’ve all been impacted one way or another by the pandemic this year… When it all started, I thought the world would be in crisis for maybe 6 months and then quickly recover from it. When I came back to London in April, I was convinced my fiancé and I would be able to get married in November this year. I remember saying to my close family: “It will be sorted out by then!”, they were a bit hesitant to agree and I thought they were pessimistic. As we’re now entering cold months and this virus is going to keep threatening us for at least another 6 months (or am I being too optimistic again?), I thought it was a good time to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted all types of relationships.

Family

Family reunion

My mum was born and raised in Japan, she moved permanently in France by herself when she was almost 18. A few years later, she married a French man (my dad) and started a family. I guess it made it difficult for her to go back to her native country. That’s the price you pay when you choose to build your life abroad… You might never go back to your roots. I might have subconsciously walked in her footsteps when I decided to come to England 8 years ago.

Even though England is a lot closer to France than Japan, I don’t see my family very often. It doesn’t compare to people who live a few minutes away from their parents for example. On top of that, the current covid rules mean we can’t travel easily at the moment. The positive impact is we talk more regularly over the phone. Keeping in touch to say nothing has never meant so much.

Friends

friends jumping in the air

I have friends all over the world. People usually choose to be friends with like-minded people, so I guess it makes sense that I keep in touch with people who have lived in different places throughout their lives. But one of the consequences is I don’t see them very regularly. Distance has never been an obstacle to our friendship though. A negative impact of this pandemic is to not being able to plan when we’ll see each other again. We can’t make any travelling plans until the situation gets a bit less murky. Basically, my wedding is supposed to be the next time we’ll see each other, in November 2021. But even that is not guaranteed…

Colleagues

colleagues around table

I quit my job before travelling last year and I haven’t found a new job since I got back. Maybe the absence of colleagues is the direct consequence of this pandemic for me! The job market is not exactly what it used to be. If anything, this situation made me question what type of job I should look for.

This blog is my full time job for now, it feels like I’m working from home. I like the tranquillity of my own office room at home, the liberty of listening to music if I want to, the easy access to my own kitchen to cook something healthy for lunch, the presence of my cats and of course the shortest commute I will ever have, from my bedroom to my desk. I don’t know when this situation will change but I learnt to enjoy it while it lasts.

Love

couple at sunset

When we were abroad for so long, friends & family were wondering if our relationship would either make or break. Some couples may split up after spending some time abroad, because travelling changes people’s mindset forever. But we knew we were made for each other before planning such a trip.

We had been on the road for 5 months before coming back. Having no choice but to stick with each other during a national lockdown was never going to be difficult in comparison. We also used to work together before, so we were already used to spending most of our time together. If anything, it confirmed to us we can’t wait to get married.

Pets

cat and dog cuddling

I personally can’t see my life without pets. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by lots of people already, pets are not just for lonely people. They love you in a different way than humans, they don’t judge, they empathise with your emotions, they don’t have to do much to comfort you when you’re sad… And they’re so cute. There’s been a rise in pet adoptions since lockdown, let’s just hope people who adopted were fully aware of the responsibilities involved in owning a pet and that the abandonment rate will not also increase later on.

I already had a cat but always wanted a little sister for him. To me, that was the right moment to do it. Many charities warned against pet adoption during the pandemic but I knew what I was doing. I now have 2 cats who not only love each other but make me even happier than I was before! I would have adopted another kitten at some point anyway… But the extra time lately made it easier to properly take care of our new family member.

Nature

nature sunset

I think it’s fair to say my relationship with nature has also changed. Being able to take some fresh air is underrated. Seeing the positive impact on having less people polluting (thanks to covid19) made me realise how overcrowded our planet is. We’re currently damaging it by replacing the wild with the tame. It made me want to be more careful and considerate about my actions and their consequences on a bigger scale.

“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” – Bruce Feiler

How did the pandemic impact your relationship with the world?

Big Girl x

How to Deal With Uncertainty

If you read about my Fijian experience, you know how I found myself stranded in a foreign country far away from home, not knowing when I’ll be able to leave. I had to take a step back from the situation I was trapped in and learn how to appreciate the good things, I had a lot of time to reflect. The uncertainty was the hardest part but that was also an opportunity to test my ability to chin up and not fall into a black hole.

Besides the panic and anxiety level rising quickly, I felt powerless and vulnerable, caught like a rat in a cage. What can you do to preserve your mental health in this situation? Below are the 3 lists I made for myself at the time.

Things I felt grateful for:

  • A roof over our heads
  • No need for medical assistance or medications
  • Access to food and water
  • Some money in our bank accounts
  • Internet to stay in touch with the rest of the world
  • Friends and family
  • My fiancé

Things I missed / wished we could do (so I can appreciate them better when I’ll be able to do them again):

  • The most obvious one was our liberty of movement – Just being able to book a flight and go wherever we wanted…
  • Open the windows wide and get some fresh air (it was very hot and humid, sometimes stormy, in Fiji during wet season)
  • Go for a long walk
  • Shop online (it’s silly but I missed Amazon Prime)
  • Go to the restaurant (or order a takeaway – Pizza!)
  • Bake a nice cake
  • Go to the cinema
  • Watch movies on Netflix (or just UK TV channels)
  • Take a warm bath
  • Sleep in our own bed
  • Cuddle our cat (I missed my feline friend so much)
  • Feeling at “home”

My learnings from this whole experience:

  • Don’t postpone things too much, we never know what happens in life
  • Don’t wait until it’s too late to do what makes you happy
  • Don’t “save the best for last”
  • Identify who you need in your life and who is toxic to you
  • Prioritise your health, you owe it to yourself
  • Going through challenges together makes your relationship stronger
  • It doesn’t take much to be happy, it’s all about simple things
  • Be thankful for what you have, every day
  • You’ll never get back the time you wasted
  • Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t want to do
  • Don’t think “it’s not going to happen to you”
  • Mental health has a strong impact on your immune system
  • Even when you feel lonely, you’re not alone
  • There is no rainbow without any rain…

It’s important for me to go back to these lists regularly and remember nothing can be taken for granted. Everyone should have the chance to realise how lucky they are because their situation can change anytime, without notice.

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other one is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live.”

Dalai Lama

What have you learnt since the pandemic started?

Big Girl x

Stuck in Paradise? Not Really…

Stuck in paradise

Let me go back to the most traumatic experience of my life. It was something that on paper most people would probably dream of… Which makes it even worse. Let me explain.

Earlier this year my fiancé and I were travelling. We were in New Zealand when the pandemic was officially becoming a worldwide problem. Our next destination was Fiji and they had no case at the time. We thought we would be much safer there, perfect occasion to rest a bit before our last destination (Japan). But things didn’t go as planned and everything escalated so quickly… We didn’t see it coming. Maybe we underestimated the danger at that time. Maybe we didn’t feel anxious enough to make a better decision (the right dose of anxiety can be useful sometimes!). But most importantly, we refused to let go so easily on our once-in-a-lifetime travelling experience. We paid the price for it though, we got stranded for 3 weeks in Fiji.

Our first days in Fiji

For the first few days we were in a rather empty holiday resort. Their first case of coronavirus was diagnosed a day after we arrived. Day after day, everything closed down: the gym, most of the restaurants, even the swimming pool. Of course no activity was available and the number of employees at the resort was decreasing quickly. It was pretty scary and we started to feel like we shouldn’t be here. 3 days later, our flight to Japan was cancelled. We had to accept the fact that we had no choice but to go back home earlier than planned… Although it was not so simple.

How we tried to leave

We booked ourselves a last minute flight to London via Brisbane and Singapore. But once at the airport and ready to leave, we found out Singapore has closed its borders, even for people transiting only. We were also informed we needed an authorisation from Australia to stop there too, which contradicted what the British embassy told us the day before when we called them for reassurance. So we couldn’t board on that plane and there was no other flight available for us. Breathe… The next day, we came back to the airport and talked to the embassy again. They were clearly overwhelmed by the situation. A handful of trapped tourists was doing the same thing but no one had any idea what to do.

stranded in Fiji

How we got stranded

A couple of days later, the Fijian Government made the decision to close the airport completely. No planes were authorised to fly off abroad. That’s how we got trapped in a tiny island far far away from home. It was not pleasant at all, we didn’t know how long the situation was going to last… The uncertainty was difficult to cope with. It wasn’t like we could ignore the situation and enjoy our holiday no matter what, everything was closed and the atmosphere not so good.

So we rented an apartment near the airport and stayed inside all day, only going out for necessary food shops around the corner (our diet was mainly based on rice, tuna and sweetcorn). We were using our free time to reflect on things we were grateful for, things we wished we could do (so we could appreciate them more once back home) and what changed in our mindset. The list is long but the main thing we took out of this experience is that when everything is uncertain, everything that is important becomes clear. I’ll come back more in detail to the entire list in another post.

How we finally escaped

It’s actually a tropical cyclone that saved us. The Fijian Government wanted to protect their brand new planes and agreed to let them fly abroad, using desperate tourists to absorb the costs at the same occasion of course. That day was 6 months ago today, the day we finally escaped that nightmare. I feel like I can relate to people who have been released from a foreign prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

This experience taught me many things. Sometimes you just don’t know what people are really going through. I heard so many times: “Well I would love to be stuck in Fiji, it doesn’t seem so bad!”. Although I can understand why some people would say that, I think it’s also particularly inappropriate and shows a lack of empathy. It made me become less judgemental and more understanding of others. I don’t make the mistake anymore to underestimate the impact that words can have on people. We need kindness now more than ever. Stay safe all!

Big Girl x

How to Deal With Anxiety

I would have never described myself as someone anxious by nature. I always saw anxiety as a form of weakness. A couple of years ago, one of my friends suddenly cancelled all the upcoming plans we had together, including a weekend in Iceland. She said she was going through a lot of anxiety and panic attacks. At the time, I pretended to be understanding but in reality I couldn’t really understand what would cause this behaviour. We haven’t seen her for a couple of months and one day she said she wanted to meet up again. I found her slimmed down a lot (she was already slim) but back to her normal self, almost cried when she said “Girls, you don’t know how happy I am to see you again today”. What was that invisible monster who did that to her?

Now I know better. Anxiety is not a form of weakness. Anyone can experience anxiety at some point in their life. Like I said, I would have never described myself as an anxious person… Until this year. For example, I experienced anxiety twice already in the last 2 weeks:

Situation 1 – Going out with friends for lunch

I had this lunch planned at the restaurant with 2 ex-colleagues I haven’t seen for a year. It required using public transport as we live opposite sides of London. I was really looking forward to seeing them but I was scared of travelling by myself. I already postponed this lunch several times and I wanted to see them before another potential lockdown.

Environment

We were officially entering a second wave of covid19 infections, new rules have been put in place in restaurants and public places. It’s allowed to meet up with people from different households, up to 6 people max.

Thoughts

I have not taken the tube by myself this year… And we’re already in September. Scary stuff. What if I lost my independence and self-confidence since this pandemic started? Would I know how to react if something unexpected happened?

Physical Reactions

My guts were in the front line in the battle with my anxious thoughts. I was constipated all week until the day when I couldn’t stop going to the loo, something that looks like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). My guts are like my second brain.

Situation 2 – Going to the dentist

I lost a filling on one of my teeth when I was stuck in Fiji during lockdown. I was obviously very anxious back then because I didn’t have an easy access to medical facilities, it didn’t cross my mind to try and go anyway. I just thought I would be careful when eating and just wait until I’m back in London to go to the dentist. It took me 6 months to motivate myself to book an appointment… And the day finally arrived last weekend.

Environment

Same period, same regulations. My dentist has reopened for several months now and is reassuring when it comes to safety measures and hygiene.

Thoughts

I really need to get my tooth sorted out even if I don’t feel any pain. Isn’t a dentist the last person I want to see though? What if I get infected there? I’ll be vulnerable with my mouth open and this virus is invisible…

Physical Reactions

IBS symptoms again.

What I learned…

So, can I still say I’m not an anxious person? I guess not, not after that. These 2 situations would have never been a source of stress for me until this year. Perception of danger is very subjective after all. We make judgements about danger and our ability to cope every day. But sometimes when we feel too anxious, we overestimate danger and underestimate our ability to cope. It’s that balance we need to maintain to avoid unnecessary “what if…?” questions.

If I listened to my anxiety and let it dominate me, I would have avoided these situations in a first place: I would have cancelled on my friends and make up an excuse, and I would have convinced myself I didn’t need to go to the dentist. Instead I decided to be brave and it boosted my self-confidence. I feel less anxious about going out, although I still prefer staying home as much as possible because it feels safer. It wouldn’t be a good thing to not experience anxiety at all nowadays, it would lead to stupid behaviours like thinking bad things never happen to you.

Have you experienced anxiety lately because of the pandemic? If yes, how have you overcome it?

Big Girl x

2020: The Year I Decided to Start My Blog

2020: The Year I Decided to Start My Blog

We would all agree 2020 is not the best year we’ve ever had… It didn’t start well for me when I was in Sydney for NYE, with bushfires impacting wildlife in Australia and making the sky look grey and grim. Surrounded burning forests affected the air we were breathing in the city, it was not possible to ignore it. That was nothing compared to what followed though, or maybe it was only the beginning of the consequences of human actions on the planet.

It’s only fair I give you a bit of context so you can get to know me a bit better. I quit my job late 2019 without anything else lined up, I wanted to leave the office for a while and follow my free spirit instead. The plan was to travel for 6 months (to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Japan) and then come back to London to find myself a new job and settle back in. I know that nothing usually happens as planned in life, you always bump into unexpected things… But it’s fair to say I didn’t see a worldwide pandemic coming.

Throwback to how the pandemic impacted my plans

18th March 2020

My last day in New Zealand felt a bit strange… The worldwide pandemic was all over the news with an increasing infection rate and I felt guilty publishing pictures of the beautiful landscapes I had in front of me. Unlike in Europe, Kiwis were not yet panicking and although some pharmacies displayed “masks + antibacterial gel out of stock”, most people didn’t behave differently.

19th March 2020

I thought we would be able to stay a few days in Fiji doing absolutely nothing at all, just staying near the swimming pool under the sun with a good book to read and a nice cocktail in hand (away from social media and depressing news). Travelling can be quite tiring and I was really looking forward to this mini holiday in between. It didn’t turn out as planned, obviously. The island saw its first case the day after we arrived and everything shut down in an attempt to limit the spread. What I hoped would be a nice and short break turned out to be 3 long weeks stranded in a depressing apartment near a closed airport where no plane was allowed to take off. The longest weeks of my life, as far as I can recall…

7th April 2020

Who would have thought Mother Nature could be our saviour?? Yep, the only reason why the Fijian Government finally accepted to let their brand new planes fly was to protect them from a strong cyclone coming up… Who better than trapped tourists to help support the costs? I can safely say I never spent so much time in a plane without watching any movies. I stayed still for the entire trip (roughly 20 hours from Nadi to London with a stopover at Los Angeles), didn’t touch anything, didn’t remove my mask, limited my trips to the loo. Also, I barely slept.

8th April 2020

It never felt so good to be back in London. “Home” is where you want to be when the world is in crisis. But it was not the same London I remembered from when I left 6 months ago… It was like I missed the beginning of the story, I didn’t experience the “panic” over loo rolls in supermarkets, I just arrived in the middle of a national lockdown and no idea how to behave.

Stay home 2020

2020: Not so great so far

Fair to say the beginning of 2020 made me want to skip the rest of the year and jump straight to 2021. Back in April I really thought the virus would be gone by the end of the year… Not sure if it was optimistic or just terribly naïve. We’re almost in October now and it’s sadly very much still here. So how long will it last? Who knows. There is only one thing I know: I can still focus on what I can control.

What I can control

I can control the focus I want to give to my health. Many said they’ve put on weight during lockdown, the consumption of biscuits in the UK has increased drastically over the last few months and clearly it’s easy to turn to comfort food to help you cope with emotions. Being unhealthy is not what you want to be though, now more than ever is the time to prioritise your wellbeing. So I’m thinking, why not using my extra time at home to change my lifestyle for good?

My plans for the rest of the year (and beyond)

I’ve been back from my travels for 6 months now and things are not improving anytime soon, this is why I decided to start this blog today. I want to write about various topics related to self-improvement: health topics in general with a particular focus on mental health and weight loss, but also environmental issues and travel.

2020 will be the year I planned to come back to health. I have a current situation (with a BMI at almost 29, I’m overweight), a goal (I want to be back to a healthy 60kg) and a target date (Valentine’s Day 2021 – I’m a hopeless romantic). Stay tuned for updates! 🙂

Big Girl x