Posted in Life

What it’s like to get the COVID-19 vaccination

Well, here’s a post I could have never predicted that I’d write when I started blogging…

I will start by clarifying that this post is about my personal experience, my own opinions and my own understanding of the COVID vaccination. I welcome any questions but do also be aware that there are much more qualified people to direct any queries to!

I think we all know by now that the world as we knew it prior to 2020, has been flipped upside down… probably more than once. Life just hasn’t been the same since COVID-19 reared it’s ugly head and spread like wildfire, so it’s no surprise that the opinion of many people is that the only way out is with a vaccine.

I’m very much pro getting the jab, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. The vaccine is NOT compulsory, despite what some may seem to think. I can, however, completely understand why many people have reservations in that it came about so quickly… but really, seeing as this is a huge global issue, what else would you expect?! The research has been ongoing and the vaccine certainly wasn’t concocted overnight so personally, I trust the science.

Why I got the vaccine

I want to start by clarifying that I am by no means on the frontline and there are many people working more closely with the public and in a position of higher risk than me. However, I have worked throughout the pandemic in the healthcare sector so luckily for me I was in the second priority group for the vaccine.

In the UK, those currently receiving the vaccine are:

  • people aged 80 and over
  • some people aged 70 and over
  • some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers

I actually feel slightly guilty in a way that I got mine so quickly, because it felt a little like jumping the queue. However, with all that is going on the world, this was not an opportunity to be missed.

What it was like getting the vaccine

On January 13th, 2021, I found myself queuing up outside a health centre, in the rain… buzzing with excitement, but also with slight terror, as I HATE needles. I’m not the kind of gal to get jabbed unless I need it, let me tell you that much!

The system in place was incredible. The queue outside moved quickly and was socially distanced, with everyone respecting the rules and wearing masks. Then at the front door, my temperature was taken and hands sanitised before checking in. I then joined another socially distanced queue, following the markings on the floor of what I assumed would have normally been the waiting room. Again, it moved quickly but there was still enough time to read over the vaccination leaflet and see the ingredients of the vaccine and what side effects I might expect later on. Once I was at the front of the queue, I could see there were a number of rooms in use, with many people gliding in and out, as they received their jab.

A friendly lady called me in, asked me if I was generally healthy and if I may be pregnant. Side note: current advice is to wait until you have given birth to receive your vaccine, and this is purely because they’re not able to trial a vaccine on pregnant women. The NHS website states that “There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can routinely be offered it.” That being said, if you’re in a high risk group you can still get your jab, even if you’re pregnant.

I said that I was healthy, just very nervous… she made small talk to put me at ease and let me know that she was actually a phlebotomist, so very good with needles! Fun fact: many of those that work in medicine are training to deliver the jab so that it can be rolled out at quickly as it is.

The needle went in my arm quickly and painlessly. Just like that, I had my first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. I said my thank yous and made my way out of the back door, greeted by some of my colleagues who also had their jab at the same time, and we all went back to work for the afternoon!

I was amazed at how efficient the whole process was.

Did I have any side effects?

Keep in mind here that everyone will react differently to any kind of vaccine and mild side effects are common. With the Oxford vaccine, the most common side effects include:

  • tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising where the injection is given
  • generally feeling unwell
  • feeling tired (fatigue)
  • chills or feeling feverish
  • headache
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • joint pain or muscle ache

You can read more about the less common side effects, as well as all the other information from the vaccine leaflet, here.

For me personally, I feel that I ticked off most of the above but let me be clear in that I did not feel extremely unwell in the slightest. A couple of colleagues felt a lot worse than me (many of us went the same day) but on the other hand, many didn’t feel anything afterwards at all. Like I said, everyone will react differently.

12 hours post vaccine – during the night

I woke up in a cold sweat, like… really sweaty. Plus, I ached all over. That being said, I didn’t actually think anything of this as I also had a really strange dream, which is not uncommon for me and I often wake up in the night, somewhat clammy and aching.

Day 1 post vaccine

After that fairly disturbed nights sleep, I got ready for work. Group chats on WhatsApp pinged away as we all discussed how we felt and then I realise that perhaps my night sweats were actually due to the vaccine. I still didn’t feel too bad so I didn’t mind. Lots of people were feeling much worse then me but as I said, about the same number of people also felt absolutely fine.

For the rest of the day, getting ever so gradually worse in the afternoon, I personally had a very fuzzy head and felt extremely tired, as well as having hot flushes. By the time I was home, I was utterly exhausted.

Some people had a completely dead arm or painful injection site but I personally had no pain at all in my arm.

Day 2 post vaccine

I had an early night and then felt fine the next day. All of my other colleagues also said they felt fine by now as well. I was still quite tired but seeing as the dog kept us up that second night and it’s not unusual for me not to sleep well, again I didn’t blame the vaccine!

My arm was a bit sore by this point but not bad at all, mainly just a little sting around the injection site.

Day 3 post vaccine

I felt completely normal with just a little sting in my arm every now and then. I didn’t even feel the sting by the fourth day and everything was completely back to how I felt pre-vaccine.

Overall thoughts

The whole experience was incredible and without sounding over the top, I feel honoured to be part of it all – let’s face it, this really is history in the making.

Don’t get me wrong though, I have my own doubts too… I can’t help but feel uneasy about the fact that the time between doses was increased from 3 weeks to up to 12 weeks. I understand why it was done and it’s meant that a much larger number of people were able to receive their first dose, however I do wonder how the gap could have been increased by such a significant amount of time. On the other hand, I’m very much one to trust the process so for now, I eagerly await an appointment for the second dose.

But what happens if you don’t receive the second jab?

My completely honest answer can only be that I don’t really know. My understanding is that the first dose only gives a certain amount of immunity, I believe around 60%, and then the second dose then boosts this up to over 90% and means that it will last longer. This is only what I gather from the information that’s been available to me, and I’m the furthest thing away from an expert on the matter! That being said, I’m keen to update you all once I do get the second dose or if I do get any more information.

I hope this post has been helpful and if you have any questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccination, then please feel free to ask away!

Posted in Blogging, Life

Reflecting on my 2020 goals and setting new ones for 2021

In a weird way, I’m struggling with 2020 coming to an end, as it feels like it was such a waste of time and that nothing was achieved… so I thought reflecting back a bit might help me shift my perspective. Plus, there’s always a new day, a new week, a new month, or a new year to set and achieve your goals!

I don’t exactly go back and read my old posts, so I although of course I remember what my goals were for last year, I haven’t read the post properly since I published it… so this feels a little strange delving back to what I thought 2020 would be like, pre-covid but let’s see what I said!

2020 goals… did I acheive them?

1. Write more.
I said in my 2020 New Years post that “I want 2020 to be the year I develop as a writer and a blogger.” Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stick to writing as often as I would have liked, especially towards the end of the year… but I think in the grand scheme of things, I did pretty well!

2020 was a hectic year for me… I continued to go to work throughout all the lockdowns we had in the UK, and as a big part of my job involves sourcing PPE… you can imagine how the first half of the year was for me! Despite this, I created a blogging schedule and tried to set aside time for writing as much as possible.

So, did I acheive this goal? I’m gonna say yes!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2. Read more.
Back in January 2020 I said that “my collection of books keeps growing and I owe it to them to get them read! I’d like to finally make sure I set aside time in the evening to read, instead of sitting on my phone.”

I will admit here, that many of my physical books have remained untouched since then, save the exception of perhaps 1 or 2. I feel embarrassed but as I said, the year was a crazy one!

It wasn’t a total failure on the reading front though… in 2020 I discovered audiobooks! So whilst I haven’t really read a physical book, I have listened to a fair few. Still not as many as I would have liked but… have I acheived this goal? I’m still going to go with a yes, but with the aim to try a bit harder again in 2021.

3. Worry less.
“I worry far, FAR, too much and frankly, I need to chill out a little. I’ll never not be a worrier I don’t think, but it’d be nice to learn to try and just let things go a bit more.”

Oh wow, I had no idea what was yet to come, did I?!

I didn’t specify in my last post, as a I don’t really talk about my mental health that much online, but it’s a lot more complicated for me that “I just worry too much”. I have stuggled with anxiety and panic attacks for most of my life, so it was never as simple as just “worry less”… Then the world was hit with a pandemic and we all faced a whole new level of stress and anxiety.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

I had wanted to start getting therapy in 2020, which was going to take a lot of guts as it was… but to go to a GP in the midst of Covid early in the year, was another level entirely. I also felt like I wouldn’t be taken seriously, as we were ALL scared. However, by August/September, my MH was really suffering. I could write a whole other post on it all, and I probably will later on in the year, but for the sake of getting to the point for now: I finally started seeing a counsellor in September.

So whilst I can’t actually say that I worried less, counselling is helping me understand and manage my anxiety in a way that to be honest, I didn’t think was possible. So did I acheive this goal? Too right I did.

4. Walk 1000 miles.
“Country Walking Magazine do this every year now, but this is the first year I’m giving it a proper go.”

Well… I did do a lot of walking in 2020 but when things got crazy at work at the height of Covid… I couldn’t be bothered to write my miles down and keep track. So whilst I was walking way more than I would have before, even walking to and from work in the spring and summer… I can’t really say I achieved this one without feeling like a fraud.

I am going to try again in 2021 though, so watch this space!

5. Get a dog.
“Now that we’re in a bigger house, and can actually be home more, this WILL be the year we get a dog. It’s not even an option anymore, I need a pup in my life!”

Ok, if you follow my blog and socials then you know I had this goal in the bag! We contacted a lovely breeder in January and were approved for a boy puppy, ready to come home mid-March. The timing ending up being absolutely perfect and Reggie was waiting at home for me after work, the week that the UK went in to lockdown. He was an absolute blessing at a time of such uncertainty and I’ve written many posts about him since!

Reggie and I heading towards 2021 with hope and positivity!

6. Look after my health. & 7. Drink more water.
“As I’m getting older, I’m realising that I take my health a little for granted perhaps, so I would like to work on that this year and well in to the future.”

Another thing the pandemic made many of us realise, I think, is the importance of our health. As I’d said in my 2020 post, I wanted to take better care of myself anyway but I really only recentlt realised just how lucky I am to be healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means the world’s healthiest person… in fact, I’ve piled on weight in the last few years and spent many nights comforting eating at home. I am, however, a lot more conscience now: I drink more water, I eat more fruit and veg, I try to get plenty of fresh air and of course I’m also now taking care of my mental health too.

So did I acheive this goal? I’m saying yes, although I’ve got plenty of room for improvement.

8. Get organised.
“My biggest challenge of all, and to be honest, probably my resolution every year since I was old enough to need to be organised for myself… I am not organised, plain and simple. I buy a diary every year and never use it, I double book myself constantly, I’m always late and just generally never prepared. It’s time to improve – I won’t say it’s time to change, because to be honest I don’t think I ever will, but I can at least TRY to be more organised!”

I might as well just leave this year for a goal in 2021… I can’t really think of any examples of me being particularly more organised in 2020… then again it’s not like I had any plans to stick to! Did I acheive this? I’ll say no if I’m being honest with myself, seeing as my diaries and planners went near enough untouched yet again.

I signed off my 2020 post saying “I’m already off to a good start, so I feel like this year could really be a good one!” which I think now is a tad amusing… so many of us vowed that 2020 would be our year and really… well it just wasn’t, was it?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Perhaps 2021 will be different! I’m not holding out for any overnight miracles, however the new year does bring some hope with it at least. Here are my goals for this year:

1. Take up more opportunies.

Reflecting on 2020 has made me really miss a lot of things, but also realise how many things I’d passed up on pre-covid, taking time and freedom for granted. Little things, like not being bothered to go out fot a drink, or being too nervous to try new things. This year, and beyond, it’s my goal not too pass up these opportunities… they say you only regret the things you don’t do, and I’m starting to understand that now!

2. Follow a proper skincare routine (and stick to it)

I will openly admit that I really don’t understand skincare, beyond washing my face and using a bit of toner and moisturiser. I keep trying to get in to a decent skincare routine, but becuase I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing I end up not keeping up with it.

My mum recently got me the Caroline Hirons book, so I’m trying to understand it all more and actually look after my skin once and for all.

3. Start a business.

I recently started candle making and having enjoyed it so much that I’d like to eventually pursue selling them and starting a business. I’m in no rush to do it, as I’d like to just enjoy it as a hobby for myself for now, and I also feel like I need to get it perfect before I sell. That all being said, I’d like to start this year – even if it’s December 31st!

4. Continue to work on my mental health

Finally starting to see a counsellor at 28 years old, has been a HUGE turning point for me – I can’t even begin to explain how tough it was to ask for the help I needed after so long. I’m already seeing such a difference, so this year I am going to carry on working on this and looking after my mind. I’d like to write more about my experience too, so watch this space if that’s something that will interest you.

5. Document the year

I often forget to appreciate the little things, or take photos, or write down my feelings. This year, I want to take it all in and remember it. I’ve already started mini daily vlogs and you can expect to see a lot more “journal” style blog posts on here too!

Carrying over from 2020…

Seeing as I didn’t quite acheive everything that I wanted to last year, there’s a few things that I’m going to try again with, or just carry on doing.

  • Walk 1000 miles
  • Read more
  • Look after my health
  • Be more organised

So there we go! 2021…. let’s do this. What are your goals for this year? Let me know in comments.

Posted in Life

28 Life Lessons I Have Learnt in 28 Years

Happy birthday to me!

I’ll be honest, I’ve not exactly been looking forward to this birthday and have been struggling to come to terms with getting closer to 30. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t acctually think I’m “old” by any means, it’s just that time has gone so quick and it’s incredibly unsettling – I haven’t acheived everything that I thought I would have by now.

Life just really isn’t as simple as I though it would be, but I’ve sure learnt a lot on the way, so before I start rambling too much, let’s jump straight in to the 28 life lessons that I’ve learnt in 28 years!

  1. Too much stress is actually physically unhealthy. I’ve always been a stressed out and anxious person, so I’m well aware of the physical side effects this causes, but I never really considered the long term health effects until a few years ago – it’s quite scary what too much stress can do your body over time, so it’s important to keep it in check.
  2. That being said, your health is your number one priority. My mum always used to say to me that as long as I had my health, everything else was secondary and I didn’t really get it until we were hit by the recent pandemic. Since then, I’ve really started to appreciate my health and am more active in trying to look after myself.
  3. That means you need to look after yourself. Drink the water, brush your teeth, eat vegetables and wash your face. Once you get past 25, you’ll only regret all those times you didn’t.
  4. Life really is short. Unfortunately, I think this is something that only really rings true after losing a loved one. It’s one of those things we all sort of know, but until I have to say that until I experienced a family member passing away, it never seemed real.
  5. Time waits for no one. Similarly, time won’t ever stop, no matter what you’re going through. If you want to acheive something, don’t wait!
  6. You can’t plan life. You just can’t! You can plan for the short term of course, and I guess have an idea as to what you wish to get out of life, but you definitely can’t plan it all out perfectly.
  7. It’s ok not to be ok. Just know when to reach out and ask for help when you need it.
  8. It’s also ok if you don’t actually know what to do with life. Just like you can’t plan it all out, it’s ok if you don’t even have a clue where to start.
  9. When you do know what you want to do, do everything you can to work towards it – don’t procrastinate! I spent years putting things off and I often wonder where I could have got to, if I just just got on and done the things I wanted to.
  10. People can be amazing, they’re not always scary. I spent so much of my life being afraid of other people, when there really is no need. Sure, people can be as crap as they are awesome, but those people don’t matter anyway.
  11. Travel, travel, and travel again – and do it solo! Most of these life lessons I learnt while travelling solo to be honest, there’s so much to be said for giving it a go on your own, although I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t find it terrifying.
  12. Money isn’t the be all and end all, but it certainly helps. I used to feel like you had to be super rich to make it but that really isn’t the case. Not everything costs money and you can get a lot done on a shoestring! That being said…
  13. Budget wisely. It took me a long time to figure out how to budget properly to make my monthly pay last, and that’s when money becomes stressful! There’s a difference between not needing to spend much, and not actually having enough to buy food. Now I always make sure I budget properly for the month and can still save some too.
  14. Material things don’t matter in the end.
  15. BUT if it makes you happy at the time, and you can afford it, go for it and buy the things!
  16. It CAN be fun to drink and not everyone is an awful drunk. I had some unfortunate experiences with alcohol growing up and for a long time was convinced that drinking turned everyone in to the absolute Devil. Then I found a cocktail I liked and realised you can just get a little tipsy and have a good time, you don’t need to take it too far.
  17. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Before I discovered a drink that I liked, I didn’t drink at all and got a lot of stick for it. I stuck to my guns though until I was ready and honestly I’m glad I didn’t give in to peer pressure – if there’s one lesson I could pass on it would probably be this one.
  18. In the grand scheme of things, no one else cares about what you do. Of course, people do CARE, and I don’t want this to sound harsh in any way but when you look at the bigger picture, we’re all looking out for number one.
  19. On that note, dress for YOU. Who cares if it’s not “on trend”, or if other people don’t like it. Wear what makes you feel good.
  20. A few, really good friends is way better than lots and lots of acquaintances. I spent many years through school being upset over not having many friends, and my mum also telling me that as long as I had a few good friends then that’s all that matters. Why are mum’s always right?!
  21. Similarly, you can’t make everyone like you. Stop trying!
  22. You can’t regret the choices that you made in the past, as they were right for you at the time. I vividly remember having to go to the Army Careers office a few years ago to collect my rejection letter. I tried SO hard not to cry but was so upset. The reason I was rejected was due to a medical issue that had only developed that year. I SO regretted not applying when I had originally wanted to a few years before that, as then I might have got in – the officer told me that I couldn’t regret it because I made the choice that was right for me at the time. It took me a long time to actually agree with him, but it’s definitely true.
  23. Education is a priviledge. I’m sure I’m not the only one who spent most of my school life despising school and not really appreciating my time there. Unfortunately, you could have never convinced me at the time but years later I realised I should have made the most of it.
  24. You can’t run from your problems. No matter how far away you go, the problems will be right there waiting when you get back.
  25. You can’t control everything, only how you deal with it all. It’s so easy to worry about things we cannot control, but what’s the point in worrying baout it if you can’t actually change it? All we can do is focus on is how to deal with it. That was something else I really realised during the pandemic: I was SO worried about everything going on in the world, but finally I ended up realising that I can’t do anything about it in the grand scheme of things, only how I cope and respond personally.
  26. A postive mental attitude is everything. Although that doesn’t mean you have to happy all the time, no one is happy all of the time!
  27. Everything happens for a reason. I’m not saying it’s all fate or anything, but honestly I do believe everything does happen for a reason, even though it doesn’t always feel like it at the time.
  28. Finally, it really WILL all be ok. I promise.

It’s safe to say, just this year alone I have learnt so much about life in general, and I’m sure I’ve got a lot more to learn in the next 28 years – whatever they may bring! It’s been a bumpy ride, but I’m definitely proud for how far I’ve come.

Let me know in the comments what you’ve learnt about life recently and come back soon for the next post in my Trek America series.

Posted in Anxiety, Life

10 Things I Do To Help My Anxiety

I’m going to come out and say it: I’ve suffered with anxiety for most of my life. When I was a teenager, I had frequent panic attacks, often cancelled plans with friends and made myself physically ill with stress and worry. As I grew up and saw more of the world, my panic attacks eased and, in many ways, I got “better”. Except, I wasn’t better at all, I’ve just learnt how to cope a bit more and function as an adult.

At the start of this year, I realised I finally needed help. The problem is that of course, I let my anxiety get in the way and now, we’re in the middle of a lockdown and the whole world is now in state of panic. The new “C” word understandably puts a knot in my stomach and I’m sure I’m not alone. Due to my work, I knew this was coming a couple of months ago and have therefore been an anxious wreck for some time. I now regret not getting any help before now and although I’m sure there’s still avenue available, it just doesn’t really seem feasible all the time we shouldn’t be leaving our homes – and whilst I’m too scared to do anything or go anywhere. I’ve come to appreciate my health and the need to look after ourselves, so as soon as it is safe to do so I will finally get the help I need.

This post isn’t about the “C” word though, and it’s not a complete story of my anxiety as to be honest, we’d be here quite some time. I thought that just for now, I could share with you some of the small things that make a difference to how I feel day to day:

Fresh air, or a walk if you can. If you feel up for it, go for a walk, it doesn’t have to be far. I find that I instantly feel calmer after a few deep breaths in the fresh air and a quiet walk somewhere to clear my head. Some days, it’s a struggle to get out the door and all I want to do is curl up, but once I’m dressed and outside, it really does help. If you’re really not up for a walk, even just opening all the windows and letting the air in helps.

Play with my puppy. I have dreamed of having my own Corgi for several years and a few weeks ago was incredibly lucky to finally get one. Nothing is more calming than playing with my lovely boy! Of course, playing with a puppy wasn’t always an option but even before we got Reggie, I’d spend a chunk of time scrolling through photos of other corgis… maybe that sounds weird, but it’s always helped.

A hot bath or shower. Nothing is more relaxing than a lovely hot bubble bath, or if you’re in more of a rush then a shower will still help, at least I find that it does anyway. I like to sweat out all my problems without having to go to the gym!

Deep breaths. This sounds like a given really but taking a few deep breaths and just giving myself a moment to focus is a key part of my day, sometimes several times a day! Try to relax your shoulders, really breath in through your nose and gently breath back in again out of your mouth. Doing this for a couple of minutes is so beneficial for relieving anxiety and stress.

A distraction – like colouring or reading. A simple hobby to focus on, like a good book or colouring something in, is a nice distraction from my anxieties. Watching a film, drawing or painting, anything that you enjoy that will also distract you. Set yourself some time to focus on something else.

Tidy up. It’s so true what they say – tidy space, tidy mind. Unfortunately I often struggle to get motivated to get house work done, even though I hate the mess. It really depends on my mood. I think it’s important not to be too hard on yourself and force yourself to do too much when you haven’t got the motivation or energy, but if you can, tidying up just one room or small space does actually help. Once I get started, I often can’t stop and go full nesting mode! If it feels like too much, I declutter something else, like the photos on my phone or a small task like clearing out my purse. A small victory in the day to be celebrated!

Speak to a friend. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about your problems, I know that for a factbut it does help. Even if you don’t talk about what’s bothering you at first, just reach out for some communication and a good laugh. Talking about your concerns can follow later.

Make plans. I’m terrible for making plans and then sticking to them but having something to look forward to always gets me through anxious times. It helps to focus on something that will be happening after you’ve faced your demons, or whatever is worrying you.

Drink water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – you’ll feel so much better! Being dehydrated makes me feel so unwell, which I’m turns makes me panic more. Just drink your water!

Write it all down. This is something I’m still working on. I struggle to communicate my anxieties, because a lot of the time I don’t actually understand it myself. I don’t know why I’m in a blinding panic, I just am. Processing it by writing it all down instead is super helpful, I just seem to forget this and bottle things up instead!

I hope you’ve found these helpful, let me know in the comments what you do to ease your anxiety and get you through the day!