The lockdown has proved to be quite an anxious time for many people, but one of the best ways I've found to combat this is by having a relaxing evening of pampering myself. Not only is it really important to invest some time into yourself every now and then, but it'll also help you to feel calm and collected during this current crisis. If a pamper evening sounds up your street but you don't know where to begin, keep reading to see my evening routine for relaxing and feeling less anxious.

Set the scene
The first step to feeling calmer and more relaxed is to create a comfortable and cosy environment. At a time when I'm already prone to getting quite stressed, little things like an unmade bed can have a drastic impact on my mentality, so make sure you take care of things like this straight away. You may want to open a window to let in some fresh air, turn on a lamp to create a dimmer, cosier atmosphere, or light a candle to set the mood for your relaxing evening (which feels like quite a luxury for me now, since I couldn't light candles in my house at university).

Take care of your skin
I find it very calming and restorative to put effort into myself and look after my body, but tasks like painting my nails can be quite time-consuming and applying fake tan leaves me feeling sticky and uncomfortable for hours. Instead, I decided to indulge in my skincare routine, starting by applying a face mask. This is my go-to pamper evening activity as it always leaves my skin feeling nourished and revitalised, and it's an easy way to feel better about yourself. Afterwards, I carried out my usual skincare routine with some of my favourite products from The Ordinary, which I actually wrote a whole blog post about if you'd like to check it out.

Have a relaxing bath
Hand in hand with skincare is looking after your body, and my favourite way of doing this is by getting in a warm bath. Whether you want to go all-out with the bubbles or treat yourself to a luxurious bath bomb, the priority is unwinding and feeling pampered. I decided to use my favourite body products from Sanctuary Spa since they always leave my skin feeling incredibly smooth and smelling gorgeous, and I also relaxed with a glass of Pepsi Max (my drink of choice) and a few Youtube videos to keep me entertained. 

Evening entertainment and chill
It's important to unwind and spend some time in the evening doing something you enjoy. For me, this was watching some Youtube videos and Netflix with a cup of tea and some chocolates by my side, which is my definition of the perfect evening. Especially since I'd spent most of my evenings doing university essays over the past few weeks, it felt incredibly good to enjoy watching something without the looming worry of deadlines.

Meditate or do yoga
One thing which has massively helped my anxiety during the current pandemic has been meditating, which is why I've been making time for it in the evenings. If you feel like your mind is overrun with thoughts then I'd definitely recommend giving it a go, and there are tons of apps and online meditations to guide you and help with specific struggles or worries. I also find that this helps me to feel relaxed and unwind right before going to sleep, rather than staying awake all night with uncontrollable thoughts.

Read before bed
If you're feeling anxious about the current situation then one of the best ways to minimise it is by escaping into a good book where you can put all of your worries and thoughts aside. I always find that reading before bed helps to send me to sleep and it's a much-needed break from scrolling through social media and seeing constant news updates. Now that I've finished university for the summer, I've definitely started making more time to delve into books that I'm eager to read and passionate about, rather than being restricted by a syllabus.

These are all of my pamper evening essentials for relaxing and managing anxiety, but if you have any other tips then I'd love to hear them down in the comments!

There's a huge misconception that classic novels are incredibly difficult, hefty books that seem impossible to start. However, after reading my fair share whilst studying English literature at university, I want to assure you that this isn't the case. Don't get me wrong, there have been some books that have felt absolutely unbeatable and I've had to battle through them (although I won't name and shame), but there have been quite a lot that I've thoroughly enjoyed and that will appeal to people who don't study English. Since we all have a bit too much time on our hands lately, it's the perfect opportunity to delve into a book you might not otherwise commit to, so here are my recommendations for academic books (or books that I've studied in my degree) that are worth picking up. Just note that I've studied a lot of novels over the past 2 years of my degree, so there are definitely many others that I enjoyed, but I've managed to narrow it down to 6 that I think you'll like.

The book - Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The course - Writing, Identity and Nation
I've mentioned this book on my blog before, but it's too good to not include in this post as well! I really enjoy it when my university incorporates some more modern texts onto the syllabus, and this 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction winner definitely earned its place. If you're interested in hearing about the process of radicalisation on the vulnerable and isolated, as well as the conflicts of being a Muslim living in Britain, this book is one that you need to read.

The book - Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The course - World Literatures
This autobiographical graphic novel is completely unique in its moving, retrospective depiction of a child growing up in Iran. I'll be honest, graphic novels have never really appealed to me, but this one had me completely hooked and I couldn't put it down. It gives you a glance into Iranian culture and Marjane's adolescent experiences in a hilarious yet tear-inducing way, and it won't fail to make you question your own privileges and experiences.

The book - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The course - Literature and History
This is an extremely clever and detailed dystopian novel that has strong connections to Fordism and the economic crisis of the 30s, making it an incredibly interesting vision of the future whilst also preserving a moment in our past. I found this novel fascinating from cover to cover, and you'll particularly enjoy it if you're interested in ideas of state control, technological advancements and genetic manipulation.

The book - Disappearance by David Dabydeen
The course - Literature and History
I absolutely adored reading this novel and the lyrical impulses of Dabydeen's work, despite it being one of the more lesser-known books on the course. It centres around a Guyanese engineer working on the coast of England whilst staying with an elderly woman, and offers some fantastic images of Englishness and the legacies of empire, as well as the disappearance of past experiences and memories. It isn't very plot-focused but if you're someone who can appreciate beautifully crafted writing like myself then you need to read this.

The book - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
The course - English Literature Tutorials
Although Virginia Woolf is incredibly famous for her novels, it was this non-fiction text that completely blew me away more than any other piece of her work. After spending a majority of my school life studying male authors and masculinised novels, it was very eye-opening to read Woolf's prose about the erasure of women in history and the social and material conditions required for women to write literature. If you're interested in gender politics then I'd definitely recommend reading this, but I also think it's beneficial for everyone to read as it completely changed my perspective on the intrinsic misogyny within and surrounding literature.

The book - Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
The course - Writing, Identity and Nation
Gifted follows a young maths prodigy who struggles to manage this talent alongside the expectations and restrictions of her family, all whilst trying to grapple with her identity as a British-Indian. Out of all of the novels that I have studied, I have never felt so immersed and embedded in the story, and despite being from a completely different background than Rumi I felt as though I was living through her struggles. It's ultimately a story of endurance and how far someone can or is willing to go, and it's definitely a novel that is worth making time for.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that I've inspired you to pick up a book that you might not have otherwise considered. Like I said, I've studied many more novels in university and could easily compile another post like this one, if that's something you'd like to see!

I don't know about you but I'm absolutely obsessed with finding new makeup hacks. Quite often I'll be lying in bed scrolling through TikTok and I'll see tons of beauty tips and tricks that seem incredibly simple to do yet look gorgeous. I thought it would be a fun idea to try out a few of these and see if they're miracles waiting to be discovered or too good to be true. In particular, I decided to choose 5 hacks that all involve setting spray - it's such a versatile makeup product that can definitely be used beyond fixing your makeup into place. So if you'd like to see the setting spray makeup hacks  that I attempted and whether they were fab or fails, keep on reading!

Makeup Hack #1 - Changing up the order of your base products

There seems to be an unwritten rule that you should apply your base products in a specific order, but what if I told you that this viral TikTok hack encouraged you to mix it up? Rather than following the usual routine of using moisturiser, then primer, followed by foundation and then powdering, you instead powder after using your moisturiser. Afterwards, you spray your face with setting spray, and once it dries you then prime and apply your foundation. When I first heard this, it seemed completely bizarre to me, but I saw countless people trying it online and saying that it revolutionised their skin, so I had to try and achieve the flawless look that everyone else was boasting.

I'm afraid that this one was a no from me! Although it seems to work for a lot of people, I didn't really get along well with this hack. There's something about applying primer after powdering my face that just doesn't sit right with me, and it felt really strange putting it on. I don't think that my base makeup looked that different from usual, except it was perhaps a bit cakier in some areas, which is definitely not what I was trying to achieve. However, this definitely made my makeup stay in place all day, so if that's usually a struggle for you then I'd perhaps give this hack a go.

Makeup Hack #2 - Making a powder blush into a cream

Blush has always been one of my favourite parts of my makeup routine and cream blushers in particular were my go-to for many years, but I don't have any in my collection currently. I found a hack online that made any powder blusher into a cream simply by adding some setting spray, and I knew instantly that this would be right up my street.

As I didn't want to ruin an entire blusher, I decided to get some of the product on my fingers and then squirt some setting spray over the top, before lightly dabbing it onto my cheeks. This hack actually worked really well, as it felt like applying a cream blusher but the setting spray made it stay firmly in place and I didn't have to worry about it budging. It isn't the easiest to blend if you follow this method, so I'd recommend starting with a small amount and building it up. However, I love the look that it created and I'll definitely be doing it again!

Makeup Hack #3 - Intensifying your highlighter

I seem to be a bit late to the game with this one, but a hack that I've seen floating around online for quite some time now is using your highlighter with setting spray to make it appear much more intense. I was definitely excited to try this out, as I have a few gorgeous highlighters that need quite a bit of building up, so this seemed like the answer to these problems.

As expected, this hack worked really well and made my highlighter appear much more intense and glowy. Although the photo doesn't really do it justice, my fairly subtle highlighter became almost blinding after trying this, so I'd highly recommend it if that's what you want. I probably won't be doing this daily as I prefer a more natural glow, but it's perfect for if I'm getting dressed up and going out (although that won't be happening for quite a while!)

Makeup Hack #4 - Getting fluffy eyebrows using soap

I used to do soap brows around a year ago and found that they were very hit and miss - sometimes my eyebrows would look incredibly fluffy and be firmly secured upright, whereas other times they'd drop down almost instantly and look white from using too much soap. I've seen quite a few people do this hack but by using setting spray rather than water and it has been successful for them, so I thought I'd try it out and see how fluffy I could make my eyebrows look.

Honestly, I was quite disappointed by this one and found that it didn't really make a difference to my eyebrows. I know that soap brows can work for me as I've done them before, but for some reason, this hardly made a difference to my eyebrows and they didn't look any fluffier than beforehand. I'd definitely be willing to give this another try as I love the fuller brow look, but I'm disappointed that it didn't work for me. 

Makeup Hack #5 - The fake freckle trick

Fake freckles have become a huge makeup trend and I've been dying to have a go at creating them for quite some time. I love the look of freckles yet I don't have any, so like many other people I have resorted to faking it! Although I've seen a lot of people drawing them on with eyeliner or an eyebrow pencil, this can look a bit fake and over the top if not done correctly. I found a hack on TikTok that is perfect for achieving more natural-looking freckles, where you mix some excess powder from a bronzer or eyeshadow with setting spray and then flick it onto your face using a brush. I knew that I had to give this one a go straight away, as I've been dying to achieve that sunkissed freckled look.

This hack definitely worked, although I'll admit that it probably takes quite a bit of practice and figuring out the proportions (the first time I attempted it I used way too much setting spray and couldn't get any freckles to show up on my face). It isn't the easiest to direct where you're flicking the product, and whilst this means that it can look more random and natural it can very quickly get messy. I found that some of the freckles ended up being tiny and looked more like flecks of dirt, so I'd definitely be wary of this. However, I quite like the look that it created and for a first attempt at creating freckles I don't think it was too bad!

And so that is the finished makeup look! Some of these were definitely successful (particularly the blush and highlighter hacks) whereas others I probably won't be trying again. If you have any makeup hacks that you swear by then make sure you let me know down in the comments!

I don't know about you, but one of my biggest coping mechanisms during the current pandemic has been the various forms of media we have access to. Not only have I filled my spare time by binging TV shows and reading new books, but they've also distracted me and created a sense of escapism. Since I know a lot of people will be in the same position and are perhaps looking for recommendations, I thought I'd share all of the TV shows, books and podcasts that I've currently been obsessing over, and I hope that some of them will be perfect for you!

Currently Watching...
I've just finished watching The Bold Type and I'm feeling a bit lost now that it's over. For those of you who don't know, the series is about three best friends who all work for a Cosmopolitan-esque magazine in New York, following their careers as well as all of the drama in their love life, friendship issues and much more. It's so addictive and I was hooked right from the first episode, and the series further ignited my dreams of working for a magazine one day. I also finished watching Next In Fashion, which is Alexa Chung and Tan France's competition show on Netflix. They are searching for the best new designer through a series of weekly challenges and runway shows, which I found particularly inspiring as I'm currently learning how to sew. It's very interesting to see the behind-the-scenes process of creating each garment, and I guarantee that you'll be able to binge through this series in no time.

Although I much prefer watching a series than a film (my attention span just can't handle anything longer than an hour), I watched The Hustle starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. This crime-meets-comedy film had me laughing the whole way through, and even my boyfriend liked it which is a good sign.

Up next... I'm dying to watch the TV adaptation of Normal People which came out a few days ago, as I fell in love with the book earlier this year and need to see if the series does it justice. I've actually heard a few people say that they prefer it over the Sally Rooney novel, so I definitely have high hopes!

Currently Listening To...

I haven't made many new discoveries on the music front lately, but I've been obsessed with various podcasts instead. A new favourite has been Reply All (particularly the episodes The Case of the Missing Hit and Long Distance) as they are fascinating stories of human experience and technology that will leave you completely floored. I can't say much more without spoiling what happens, but each episode will have you completely engaged for the entire hour.

Another podcast that I've been listening to frequently is Fashion No Filter, which was a recommendation by fellow fashion-obsessed Emilie. This follows two journalists who give a behind-the-scenes glance into the world of fashion, and it's an incredibly eye-opening view into an industry that previously felt quite secretive and exclusive. I've also been listening to According 2 by Megan and Ciera quite a lot since I also watch their Youtube channel, and I've found that their discussions on a variety of different events and aspects of teenage life are perfect to listen to in the background as I'm going about my daily business.

Up next... I've heard nothing but good things about The High Low, which is hosted by Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton, so I think that'll be the next thing I listen to. Also, I really want to get into listening to audiobooks, as I've only used them for university texts but want to expand my horizons, so I'd love to know your recommendations!

Currently Reading...

As I'm still in the middle of my essay season, a lot of my reading has been university texts that I needed to re-read whilst planning my essays. This included Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and A Day Off by Storm Jameson. I enjoyed both of these and found that they compared well with one another, so if you're interested in modernist day-novels set in London then these will be right up your street. I'm also currently reading Gifted by Nikita Lalwani, which was one of the novels I was supposed to study but didn't get the chance to due to the strike action. It follows a young girl who has to balance her strict Indian family with her natural talent as a maths prodigy, and so far it has been incredibly eye-opening.

I've also been reading a lot of magazines lately since I've discovered my passion for journalism and want to explore it as a potential career path. I've been using the Readly app as a place to collect all of these and keep track of my favourite articles, plus it's way less expensive than having physical magazine subscriptions. I'd love to do a blog post in the future sharing some of my favourite articles, so if that's something you'd like to see then make sure you let me know!

Up next... I feel like my TBR list is huge since I've been restricted to reading university books, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to get stuck into some of my own choices once my essays are finished. Although I could write a huge list of books that I want to read, at the top of this is Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky, since I fell in love with The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I was a teenager, and Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (I can't believe I've not read this yet!)

I'd love to know what you've been watching, reading and listening to while stuck in lockdown, so make sure you let me know down in the comments!