Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Audiobook pro's and con's

A tanned woman with dark hair wearing a white top she is holding a white mug and is wearing white headphones

Some people prefer the tangible feel of a book but now audiobooks are becoming more popular and now with greater availability of audiobooks more people are preferring to listen to books instead.

For some people audiobooks are a preference but for some it's more a matter of accessibility and with more audiobooks being available this is a positive.

Personally audiobooks for me are more a case of accessibility though I am trying to get back into reading. I have dyslexia and Scotopic Sensitivity (aka Irlens Syndrome) so I find text on a white page hard to read. I also find it hard to concentrate and find written text hard to process so for me I do find audiobooks much easier compared to reading though I do miss reading.


Audiobook pro's and cons

Pro's

As I mentioned audiobooks are more accessible especially to those with visual impairments or have difficulty with written text.

Audiobooks are more portable as you can download them onto places like your phone. I know for me I find this helpful for when I'm travelling or in hospital.

I find just like with books you can get lost in listening to an audiobook and with audiobooks when you're listing to them through headphones you can shut out more from what's going on around you.

Audiobooks can be very relaxing and I find them a great low-key activity.

You don't have to find storage space for all your books (though I do love the look of  rainbow stacked book shelves).


Con's

Not all books come in an audio format.

Sometimes the narration or the voice of the person reading of the book isn't that good and sometimes I find that can spoil the imagination of the book or it can be off-putting.

Cost, when I first started to access audiobooks to buy the CD's they where quite expensive and now cost wise it's the cost of audiobook subscription services


For those who are blind, partially sighted or have a print disability*

RNIB and Calibre do have a free audiobook library - RNIB link here, Calibre link here).

*Print disability may include conditions such as dyslexia, Irlens Syndrome/Scotopic Sensitivity or other conditions which makes reading text difficult such as M.E/CFS, MS, or a brain injury as a few examples.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Reducing your screen time & online wellbeing

Blurred image of a woman who is olive skinned and has blonde hair and is wearing pink lipstick and a striped top the photographed is focussed on the mobile phone in her hands
Your phone can be a great thing and these days you can do so much with your phone and tablet and for some people they spend most of their day looking at their phone or tablet but is this healthy? I also recently watch a Channel 4 Dispatches on the environmental impact of our online lives (link here).

Personally I can say for sure that I'm not addicted to my phone or social media. I can go for days without checking in on Instagram and I can put my phone down and leave it (and then forget where I put it!). So I would say that I'm quite good with controlling my use of my phone and iPad and even my Apple Watch despite it being there on my wrist most of the time.

I'm not an expert but these are just some of my tips to reducing your screen time and having a better relationship with technology.


Be mindful when scrolling

This can occur with any app but mainly when using social media apps. Notice when you're spending too long on a particular app or if you're just mindless scrolling out of habit rather than with purpose. Try to set an intention when you go on an app especially social media; this may be to share a post, message a friend or check out a couple of friends profiles and leave it at that. Also be mindful of what you post and think before you click for example "do I really need to share this photo or share this comment?" Also remember that what we see online is just the tip of an iceberg and we don't fully see what is going on i other people's lives; it's a bit like the news where we only see or read what is being reported.


Set up your screen time settings

Photograph of a phone screen with a graph displaying screen time usage
One of the things I've found really helpful for me is setting limits on certain apps and setting up my screen time and down time settings (this may vary depending on what type of smart phone you have.

First of on certain apps I've set a limit on how long I can spend on that app each day, so for example with Instagram and Twitter I limit myself to 1 hour a day. Usually I don't spend as much time as that on Instagram but when I do it helps to reduce how long I'm on my phone for.

Also on my phone I have screen down time setting so between 8.30pm and 8.30am the vast majority of my apps I can't access and I've just limited myself to essential apps only during this time. I've also done a similar thing with my contacts so during my down time I can only contact or receive texts and phone calls from certain people.

Doing this especially helps with my sleep as I'm not getting disturbed when I'm trying to sleep or I'm not tempted to scroll through Pinterest when I should be settling down for bed.


Take a break from social media

Another thing you could do is take a break from social media by temporarily turning your account off and/or deleting the app from your phone or tablet. Sometimes taking a break can be quite liberating, even if it's just for a week and it will give you more time to engage in other things. This might also be good for your mental health as so often we are wrapped in in reading and seeing photo's of other people's lives that we forget about our own lives or we spend ages trying to take that "perfect photo" to share online that it becomes mentally unhealthy.

If you do take a break from social media try to set some goals for your own wellbeing like taking up a new hobby or start engaging in mindfulness meditation or meet up with a friend for coffee rather than virtually socialising online.


Revise who you follow and what groups you're in

Look at what groups you are in online and think about whether you still want or need to be part of that group or look at who you follow and think more about what you want to get out of social media. Think "is being part of this group or following this person good for me?" and often quality is better than quantity. Personally I think it's better to be part of fewer groups and follower fewer people is better and then you can get more out of the groups you are part of and the people you follow.

For me revising what groups I was in and every-so-often revising who I follow has been really helpful. When I first became unwell I joined a lot of chronic illness groups and followed others with chronic illnesses and for a while it was good to be surrounded by others who understood what I was going through. Over time however I started to find these groups a little toxic; some members would be in competition to be 'the most ill', or have the most diagnosis' or be on the most medications or people would unhelpfully compare medications and symptoms and illnesses. I began to realise that these "support groups" weren't supportive at all and leaving them and Facebook was the best online thing I've done. I now just stick personally to Instagram mainly and even there I've revised who follow. Yes I do follow others who are chronically ill, some of whom I've become friends with but I try to follow accounts where there is a healthy balance. For me I choose not to follow people who solely post health related content; for me I'm not interested in photos of pulse oximeters or a bag of saline on a drip stand etc. Again I find with these types of accounts I find some people want to be 'the most ill' - like I one had a friend request (which I declined) and I remember on their bio in bold capital letters they'd put 'seriously chronically ill'. For some they may wish to follow these accounts and that's fine and for some they may want to share about their illness but being chronically ill or disabled isn't a competition and it can be quite unhealthy. There's a documentary about the chronic illness community and I know it's had a lot of controversy but I found it insightful to watch and I did find it relatable in some ways (link here). 


Photograph of an iPhone with the phone's switch off option on the screen
Switch your phone off or leave it in another room

If you're able to, maybe for an hour a day switch off your phone or put it away and engage in something else, maybe read a book, do some crafting, write s letter to a friend or enjoy being outdoors - anything that doesn't involve screens and technology.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

How I blog as a chronically ill blogger

patterned border around a photograph of a bullet journal page headed with the title blog post ideas with below a list of hand written notes
Blogging when you have chronic health problems and disabilities can be a little tricky at times but it can be possible to do and I love blogging (hence why I'm still going with this blog three years on!) - the main thing is to be organised and plan!

My secret to posting weekly is that I have a whole bunch of pre-typed blog posts that I auto schedule to post and often I'm months ahead of myself which is so helpful as if I didn't do this with the unpredictable nature of my health I could and have gone through periods where I haven't been able to type any blog posts for a few weeks, so knowing that I have everything lined up is very reassuring.

I like to blog on a variety of topics; not just disability content as after all my health is only one portion of who I am and there's lots of other things about me that I like to share with you. To ensure I get variety in my blog posts and to try and get some balance between health and non-health posts when I have my pre-typed finished posts I mix around the topic areas on the auto-scheduling. (My blog may look neat and tidy but behind the scenes it's much more chaotic with finished and draft posts; thankfully I can tidy it up and view draft posts or scheduled posts etc).

navy patterned border around a photograph of a bullet journal page the title on the page is hand lettered and colourful and reads post it not planning and there is a pale yellow post it note with some hand written notes on

To help me write posts I've started a bullet journal where I keep blog post topic ideas (and those for my YouTube channel). I've found since doing this it's really helpful as I (a) don't have the draft loads of post ideas with just a title as the title is in my bullet journal and (b) I can plan in my bullet journal with key points I want to include in my blog post as well as research as where possible I like to include quotes, research, organisations or helplines for readers to go to if they wish to find out more or want to contact a helpline.

Then as well as the posts themselves is having an easily designed blog. The Blogger theme layout on my blog I feel works really well for me. It has changed over time though since I got and illustrator to design my header I've kept the main design of my blog the same. Then there is the side bar, again this has seen a few changes, mostly as I work out what items work best where and also as I discover how to do new things. You may also notice that I have an accessibility widget with features to change the accessibility of my blog such as changing the font and it's size or adding a reading ruler. I like to be as accessible as I can and I'm the same with my YouTube videos where I always include subtitles and CC.

So, my main points for people with a chronic illness/disability who would love to start blogging are:

 Have a notebook or bullet journal or something similar to note down ideas for blog post titles, points on what you want to include your blog post - this could be a list or spider diagram, whatever works best for you. (I also find colour coding helpful.) Also include research in your notes such as links to articles or organisations for example that link to your blog post. I also find planning helpful with my dyslexia.

 Post in advance - rather than writing week-by-week write your post here and there is you're not able to write a whole post in one go and then once the post is finished schedule it to auto post. This is how I create blog posts and I bank up posts to the point where I'm more-or-less able to share posts on a weekly basis.

 If you want to post for a particular event do the same above, sometimes I've written awareness event posts months in advance.
Work out what you want your blog to be about - a disability blog, a fashion and beauty blog, a journal blog , a recipe blog or a blog about all aspects of who you are and what interests you.

 Find a blogging platform that is best for you, I have no affiliation with Blogger but I've just found that it's the best one for me. A while back I did switch over to WordPress but I struggled to navigate it so I came back to Blogger, but for you WordPress or other platforms may work for you.

 Don't buy a domain straight away - wait and see how much you get on with blogging before you purchase your own website domain and maybe even longer to attach an email to your blog.

 Have a design layout of your blog that works for you. I find that keeping is simple is best and let your posts do all that talking.

 Also be aware of accessibility, this could be the colour scheme or font you're using. Places like UserWay offer a free accessibility widget (this is what I have on my blog). Also ad alt text or image descriptions to images.

 A lot of putting together my blog from post ideas to how to set-up certain things like social media links or 'how to do ...' comes from searching on Google and YouTube.

Don't put pressure on yourself. Blogging has to be something that you enjoy doing; you don't have to blog regularly or always write long detailed posts.