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My week in wellness: A 25-year-old Dubliner trying to exercise more to keep her anxiety in check

This week, our diary writer gets out for daily walks with her dog, and balances college work with her 9-5.

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WELCOME TO HOW I Live, a weekly wellness diary series on TheJournal.ie.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of their mental and physical routines every day for one week – what their stress levels are like, how much activity they fit in (or don’t fit in), and how much sleep they get.

Each wellness diary is submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that this is simply an account of a week in someone’s shoes, and their situation may not be relatable for everyone.

If you’re interested in submitting your own How I Live diary, email wellness@thejournal.ie with your name, age, location and a few lines about your current health and wellness goals.

This week, we meet a 25-year-old Dubliner who loves her daily dog-walking routine, but wants to add some more vigorous exercise to her day.

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Occupation: Admin 
Age: 25
Location: Dublin
Who you live with: My boyfriend and our dog

I’ve been working from home since March and, although it can be lonely at times, my introverted self loves it. I struggle with anxiety and depression, although they’re more under control now than they were even a year or two ago. I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that I really need to be doing more strenuous exercise, more so for my mind than for my body.

My dad lives alone so we’re in his social bubble, which I’m hugely thankful for. It breaks my heart to think of people who live alone and who have lost their social circle during the pandemic, and I’m so grateful that I can see my dad and spend time with him.

Daily activity levels: I try to go on a walk with my puppy at least twice a day, but I’ve come to realise that I need to do more strenuous exercise for both my mind and body. I’m determined to go for a run one of these days – but life keeps getting in the way.
Daily stress levels: I tend to get stressed about small things. I try to bring myself back down to earth and not stress out too much, but it’s quite hard when I’m in the middle of it. I started online therapy back in April and I think I would have been lost without it over the past few months. 
Eating/drinking habits: On the whole, I try to eat well as it greatly affects my mood and energy levels, though I depend on coffee to get me through the day sometimes. I’ve a sweet tooth and enjoy having a few drinks and a takeaway at the weekend, but come Monday morning I’m usually ready to start eating well again.
Sleep quality: I need at least eight hours a night. As much as I love to sleep, I have nightmares most nights and often wake up feeling drained.
Self-care: If I don’t take the time to unwind or spend some time to myself every once in a while, I really feel the effects. With working from home I’ve found it hard to switch off in the evenings and relax.

Tuesday

6.50am: I’m woken by the sound of someone knocking on my door and my puppy barking. Turns out it’s the maintenance man for our apartment complex, who’s come an hour early to drop off a dehumidifier.  Currently there’s mould in the hallway and damp in the bathroom, which this dehumidifier is supposed to help with.

It’s not the best way to be woken up, and I try to not let it set the tone for the rest of the day. Before work, I feed my puppy and play with her for a while. She has made the biggest difference to my mental health over the past few months – who else is always happy to see you, even if you’ve only been gone for five minutes?!

I sit down to my desk (which is the dining table, we don’t have room for an actual desk) and start work at 8am. I take my vitamins (iron, vitamin D and a probiotic) and have a coffee at around 8:30am. I have porridge, honey and granola for breakfast – the same every morning.

1pm: I finish my morning’s work (and reading everything I can about the US election) at 1pm and bring the dog on a walk along the seafront. I always get chatting to other dog owners on my afternoon walks and I really enjoy talking to them as it can be lonely working from home. My boyfriend works in an essential service, so he’s up and out early in the mornings. I spend my walk listening to and replying to voice notes from my friends. I usually have a few minutes towards the end of the walk where I walk along in silence and admire the trees and houses I’m passing. I think this is a form of mindfulness, right? I make myself a quick chicken sandwich and it’s back to work for the afternoon.

4pm: I started a master’s a few weeks ago, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve a lecture for two hours until 6pm, so I make myself a quick cup of tea before I sit down. I’ve really enjoyed learning something new and having a new challenge. Everyone in the course is lovely and it feels great to be doing something to improve my skills. My boyfriend leaves a Crunchie and cup of tea of the table during my lecture, so I munch away on that.

6.30pm: After college, my boyfriend has dinner ready and we sit down to eat. He makes dinner most evenings as he finishes work earlier than me, and I must say it’s great to be able to sit down straight after work and have dinner instead of spending an hour on the bus. I really appreciate these moments when we sit down together at dinnertime, even if it’s only for 20 minutes.

After dinner I fly up to Tesco to do a quick food shop. I try to get in and out as soon as I can. On the way back, I drop a few things into my dad and have a cup of tea with him. I’m so grateful that he lives nearby, and try to see him as much as I can.

9.30pm: I get home, hop in the shower and get ready for bed. I watch TV with my boyfriend for a little while before we head to bed. I always try to make time to unwind in the evenings, even if it’s only for half an hour. I’m in bed and asleep by 10:30pm.

Wednesday

7.30am: I’m up a bit early for work again as I start at 8.30am today. My puppy was awake during the night crying with pain, so I booked her into the vet this evening. Otherwise it’s the same routine as usual. I’m always tired on Wednesdays after having college on Monday and Tuesday, so after not sleeping well last night, an extra strong coffee is needed this morning.

1pm: The morning goes by quickly and it’s time to go for a walk. Afterwards, I have lunch (soup and a sambo) and it’s back to work. I’m really trying to drink more water, but I can’t resist the call of another coffee. I’m glued to the election coverage and feel stressed about the vote count. What if Donald Trump catches up with Biden? The results seem hopeful so far, but I worry for my friends in the States – and the damage Trump could cause during the rest of his presidency.

5.30pm: I’m finished work and am rushing out the door to bring the dog to the vet. My boyfriend and I walk there in a hurry, and end up waiting 20 minutes anyway. It turns out that she has an ear infection, so we get her the medication she needs.

My boyfriend prepared dinner before we left, so he puts that on when we come home as I tidy around the apartment. It’s really important to me to keep the apartment looking nice as I spend so much time here. We sit down and have dinner, and catch up on the Great British Bake Off. I have a quick shower before bed, go on my phone for a little while and it’s lights out at around 11pm. I honestly don’t know where the day has gone.

Thursday

8am: You guessed it: feed and play with the dog, and start work at 9. I’ve been trying to keep a gratitude journal but keep forgetting, so I write a few things in that this morning. I’ve my usual coffee at 9.30am, and get stuck into work for the rest of the morning.

1pm: We’re out for our lunchtime walk and I decide to treat myself to a cake and a coffee. It’s a struggle trying to hold the lead, my coffee and my phone, then my puppy decides to go to the toilet and I’ve to figure out how to pick it up while holding everything else. Lovely. It’s a gorgeous day and I love looking at all of the different colours of the leaves on the trees, and take a moment to feel grateful for living so close to the sea. I quickly have a sandwich and soup before starting back work at 2pm.

6pm: I’ve dinner with my boyfriend and head out for a socially distant walk with my friend. We’ve been doing this for months now, pretty much from as soon as we were allowed to meet up with other people outdoors. It’s one of the only constants I have each week, and I love catching up with her. I nearly always feel tired and drained beforehand, but I feel so much better after we have a chat and a laugh. Having this agreement to go on a walk together every week has been great as neither of us ever cancel because we know how much it means to the other person.

8.30pm: After my walk, I sit down to do a couple of hours of college work. I really should have done some of this yesterday, but I didn’t get a chance after going to the vet. Although there’s a lot of reading and work to be done, I’m so happy I decided to do a Master’s this year. It has given me something to focus on and it feels good to know that I’m doing something to benefit my future self.

9pm: I think I’ve memorised all of the states in America at this stage and wish they’d announce the results for Nevada already.

10.30pm: I go straight to bed after finishing my college work, which isn’t a great idea as I can’t get my brain to switch off about the election. I scroll through my phone for a while before I eventually fall asleep.

Friday

8am: It’s Friday again – how did that happen?! I start work at 9am. I’m already dreaming of the takeaway I’m going to have later.

1pm: We head out for our lunchtime walk and I listen to a podcast about gratitude, which I keep zoning in and out of. It’s the thought that counts, right?

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5.30pm: Work flew by today as there was lots to get done before the weekend, so I’m very glad when the end of the day rolls around. My boyfriend has gotten delayed in work so I do a quick clean of the apartment . I’m a bit of a clean freak and do a deep clean of the apartment every weekend, but it makes such a difference to my mood. I love sitting down at the weekend and seeing everything look fresh and tidy. My boyfriend gets home with treats and alcohol in hand (woohoo!) and we order a takeaway. I do some college work while we wait for the takeaway to arrive. I do a bit more work after we eat, then finally settle down to watch Netflix and have a few drinks. We watch more election coverage (it has been 253-214 forever) and I hope that we wake up to a result. I don’t have much to drink as I want to get up early tomorrow and get some college work done in the morning.

11pm: I’m absolutely exhausted and we head to bed, with the puppy snoring her head off at our feet.

Saturday

9am: My boyfriend is working today so he was up and gone at 7am. I’m not a morning person and could sleep in really late without an alarm, but alas, I’ve to do college work. I wonder if there’ll ever be a day in my life where I wake up feeling rested. There’s no result for the election yet, but it looks like we’ll know today. I go on a quick walk and buy a coffee on the way as motivation to get some work done.

12pm: I meet one of my friends for a walk along the seafront. I’m used to seeing her all the time and it’s been hard not seeing her so often during lockdown, but we’ve kept in contact through voice notes. We walk along the coast and get stopped multiple times thanks to the puppy – she’s a great way to get talking to people! The sea looks absolutely beautiful and I take another moment to be grateful for where we live. My friend and I buy a coffee and walk back along the coast before she heads home. It feels so good to catch up and have a laugh – my circle has been so small lately that I really appreciate meeting up with ‘new’ faces.

4pm: After leaving my friend, I get into the car and drive up to see my dad. He’s getting work done on the house so I help him to clear out a few of the rooms, and feel a bit sad that things are changing. I’m quite a sentimental person, but I try to remind myself that memories aren’t only connected to objects or material things.

7pm: I get home from my dad’s and neither my boyfriend nor I have the energy to make dinner, so we order another takeaway. I try not to feel bad and vow to eat better next week. In the end, I really enjoy the food and a few drinks. Drinking too much can hugely affect my mood the next day, so that’s always on the back of my mind.

The result of the election have finally come in by now and Biden is president-elect! I feel hugely emotional thinking about what this means for the future of the United States, and message my friends living there. We stay up to watch Biden’s speech and head to bed dreary-eyed around 2.30am.

Sunday

10am: I’m absolutely exhausted after staying up late last night and immediately make a large coffee. My boyfriend and I make a hearty brunch and catch up on the news while eating before I sit down to do a couple more hours’ college work.

2pm: We bring the dog on a walk and pick up some food for dinner on the way home. We’d planned to go for a long walk today, but we’re both happy to chill out and take it easy after a busy week. I sit down to do yet a few more hours’ college work while dinner is in the oven, and have a FaceTime call with some friends at 6pm. I haven’t caught up with these friends in ages, so I’m delighted to talk to them. I make a mental note to organise more video calls in future. I think it’s quite hard to keep in touch with people at the moment, but it’s more important than ever.

7pm: We sit down and have a delicious roast dinner and I take a moment to feel grateful for this little life we have here. I wasn’t happy for a very long time and grief has been a big part of my life, so I realise the importance of taking time to enjoy the little things.

8.30pm: One of my readings for college took much longer than expected, so it looks like I’ll be working away for the rest of the night. I follow my boyfriend to bed at 11pm.

Monday

8am: I didn’t sleep well at all last night and had quite a few nightmares, so I don’t feel good at all this morning. I’m quite stressed about the week ahead in work and make a large coffee, which definitely doesn’t help.

1pm: I’ve been feeling anxious all morning, but force myself to get out for a walk with the dog. I send a long voice note to a friend and feel a little bit better afterwards. I get stuck into work for the rest of the afternoon.

5:30pm: I’ve a quick dinner with my boyfriend before starting college at 6. I’ve been feeling dreadful all day and can’t really put my finger on why, and am hoping that college will take my mind off things.

8pm: I feel a bit better after college, and have a long shower to wash away the day. I have some more work to do for college tomorrow, so I spend a few hours getting that done. I didn’t get to sit down and watch TV with my boyfriend this evening, which is one of my favourite parts of my day, and I definitely feel the effects. I head to bed with a cup of tea at 11pm.

What I’ve learned this week…

  • I need to manage my schedule better when it comes to college work so I can leave time to unwind and switch off. I’ve also learned that some days I take on more than I have the capacity for, so I could benefit from learning to say ‘no’.
  • I really hate working late, which I did quite a bit this week. I think I’d benefit from getting up earlier and getting college work done in the mornings so I can relax in the evenings.
  • With the shorter days, it’s easy to stay indoors and watch Netflix in the evenings, although I know that going for a walk or run would make me feel better in the long run.

Last week’s diary: A pregnant 33-year-old who’s trying to strike a better work-life balance>

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