Living with anxiety

Anxiety is a funny thing. Lots of people have it, thanks to the frantic world we live in and there are lots of ways to deal with it but it’s still taboo to talk about it. And if you do talk about it, you’ll often get one of two responses: dismissive, where people say things like ‘just don’t worry about it’ or like you’ve just told them you have something contagious like Ebola and they shift away from you in case they catch it.

For me, my anxiety is pretty general. I can become anxious about the tiniest work issue e.g. a run in with a student. Or I can become anxious about massive things e.g. climate change. Both can sit in the pit of my stomach, making me feel nauseous or they can crowd my head, meaning I never really switch off, as I’m constantly thinking about possible scenarios. Both are exhausting.

I am still learning about how to deal with it, as new things trigger it. For example, the state of world politics triggers it, making me go cold and shake a little. As a result, I limit my news intake, avoid Twitter and pretend the world isn’t going to hell in a handbag. (Am currently watching The Walking Dead again, just in case!) I’ve read Matt Haig and Ruby Wax in a bid to try and gain more control over it and there are a few things that I know already help me.

Food. Having anxiety is exhausting. No matter what I feel inside, I hide it from the rest of the world as much as I can and it takes a lot of energy. Eating healthily is essential if I’m to function while I hide what’s going on in my head. Eating a whole food plant based diet definitely helps. I have more energy, I sleep better and I feel better inside. Eating this way also makes me plan my food, gets me organised and helps me feel in control, which is a really important element in managing my anxiety.

Exercise. I’ve been going to spinning classes three times a week for well over a year now. No matter how tired I am, I drag myself to the class as I know it’ll help make me feel better afterwards. It gives me energy for the rest of the evening, provides my week with structure and gives me a break from working and thinking. While I’m on the bike, I have to focus or I’ll lose my way. After reading Matt Haig last year, I also started to incorporate Pilates but I let this go last term, when things got hectic. I definitely notice the difference, both physically and mentally so will be resuming this again. It definitely helps to give my head some space and gives my body some much needed strength work. I’m also going to start using my foam roller again, as my leg muscles are so tight from spinning.

Mindfulness. As I said earlier, I’m going to have a go at Ruby Wax’s mindfulness course from her book, Frazzled, and I’m going to give Headspace another chance. I think I’m going to do it in the morning, as I struggle to find time in the evening and my head is always buzzing from the day. I’ve also started up knitting and learning to crochet again. I might not have time to do this during the week, but Sunday nights are quite tough for me so I’m making Sunday night craft night, where I can do something simple.

Reading. This has been a massive help to me and something that I lean on the worse my anxiety gets. It started with me binge reading How to Stop Time and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine back to back and ended with me beating my Goodreads reading challenge target last year. Reading makes me focus 100% on what I’m doing – no checking my phone, no watching TV and it’s something I can do anywhere – in bed, in school, in a cafe, on the coastpath. I need to schedule time on the weekend, either during a lie in or in the afternoon, where I can just sit by the fire, indulging it some epic adventures.

A rainbow of a hill, Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire. Nature helps with my anxiety.

Nature. Being outside, not matter what the weather is doing, is food for the soul. In fact, if I’m feeling particularly anxious, I will make a point of going outside and touching a tree. I try to take in the sound, sight and smell of nature whenever I can, as it helps me feel calmer. It’s one of the reasons I like to go walking during the holidays, as it helps me re-calibrate. Having said that, I’m really relieved that the days are getting lighter and the sun is about a bit more. Having previously been a fan of winter, I’m much happier when it’s warmer and brighter. I practically lived outside last summer, reading in the garden whenever I could (yes, I’m aware that head was probably caused by climate change, which causes me anxiety!)

I’m also going to be looking into essential oils and how I can use them to help me feel calmer, especially when I’m doing the things above as much as I can. It might not help, but I’m happy to give it a try. I’m also open about my anxiety. I even gave tips during a faculty meeting last year, which got shared with the whole staff and was outed as a result to everyone in one go! But it helped open up a conversation with a few people. I’m also open (professionally) with my students about it and again, this has helped them articulate how they feel with others. One parent even emailed me to thank me about the tips I shared. We must talk about anxiety as much as we can to get rid of the stigma that still surrounds it, as it’ll help more people to handle it better.

The Mill House, Llangwm – Airbnb

Over the Christmas holidays, we spent some time in Pembrokeshire, where my family live. We decided to stay in an Airbnb for a change and came across the beautiful Mill House in Llangwm. We liked the way that it looked, comfy and cosy, as well as it being well kitted out for cooking for the family when they came over. We were not disappointed by our stay in this unique home.

Mill House

We had an awful drive down, with snow, closed motorways and the feeling like we would never get out of the car again. As a result, we arrived in the dark and the house is at the end of a very narrow track. This made arriving at the house even sweeter, as the house was cosy and quiet and easy to relax in. The house has decent wifi, always a bonus, and is decorated beautifully. There’s lots of individual touches, especially with the woodwork, that really makes the house stand out and gives it a really home like feel. Lots of the woodwork has used reclaimed wood and it really makes the Mill House feel special. I loved the little reading nook on the stairs, as well as the mezzanine bed in the second bedroom. Such a cool little hideaway.

Mill House lounge Reading nook

But that’s not even the best bit. The kitchen and bathroom really makes Mill House stand out. They are both completed to a high standard, beautiful finishing, but little touches make it really unique. For example, the rubbish and recycling bins are hidden away within a boxed in seat. The bathroom really took my breath away though. Everything about is beautiful. I would give anything to be able to have that bathroom in my home. (Sadly, only a lottery win and a new house would make that dream a reality!) The slate floors and subway tiles with grey grouting really gave the kitchen and bathroom a luxury feel, but the wooden shelving makes it extra special. There was also an abundance of plants, which has made us realise we need to improve our house plant game, quite considerably!

Mill House kitchen tiles

Mill House kitchen Mill House bath Mill House bathroom Bathroom plants

The house is set in lovely grounds, that contain a ruin of the mill and a gorgeous little boat, which you can sit in, if it’s warm enough. It wasn’t when we stayed. In fact, we had the first frost of the winter, which made the house look pretty magical. There’s a stream flowing at the bottom of the garden, which is lovely and sounds spectacular. I’d love to visit again in the summer, sitting out in the garden with a glass of wine, listening to the stream as the sun sets.

Mill ruins

Boat nook in the garden

The kitchen was really well-equipped and we catered for six people one night, and a visiting Jasper, who loved the place! I think Poppy liked the open plan nature of the house, meaning she could spy on everyone all the time. She also loved, as did we all, the underfloor heating in the kitchen and bathroom. I am currently trying to work out how I can replicate this in my own home!

Mill House dogs

I loved the quirky nature of The Mill House. It’s in a lovely village in Pembrokeshire, which is well placed for exploring lots of the beautiful county. I would happily recommend it to anyone and I can’t wait to go back again.

Dog Walks in Cornwall – Cadgwith to Kennack Sands

On the first proper day of half term, that didn’t involve driving for hours, Poppy and I headed out onto the coast path. Despite the previous day being ruled by Storm Brian, Sunday turned out to be a lovely day. I didn’t want to drive anywhere, so Poppy and I went for a walk from Cadgwith to Kennack Sands. We had previously done the first part of the walk, to the Serpentine Works at Poltesco, but I really wanted to get to the beach. After checking the tide times, we headed out.Cadgwith to Kennack Sands Cornish coast path Poppydog on the Cornish coast path

It’s not an easy walk, especially as the path was incredibly muddy and there were a few places where I needed to lean on rocks to get down. Poppy is really good on these kind of paths. She now waits for me and will stop walking ahead if we’re on a particularly slippy path. The views along the walk were spectacular, which was lucky because the weather the next few days was foggy and we couldn’t see a thing!

We headed down to the old serpentine works and had a look around. The ruins there are amazing and it’s a lovely place to walk around. Then we headed on to Kennack Sands. The rest of the walk included going through a mini golf course by some static caravans and along part of the road leading down to the sands. The beach was packed and both cafes were open. There was a fair bit of surfing going on and there are plenty of rock pools to explore, much to Poppy’s delight!

Serpentine Works Serpentine mill Kennack Sands Poppydog at Kennack Sands

This walk also ticks off another part of the coast path around the Lizard, which is good as I’d like to walk around the whole of the Lizard, bit by bit. After a walk along Kennack Sands, and a sit watching the waves, we headed back to Cadgwith. Poppy and I enjoyed an afternoon of vegging on the sofa, watching Gilmore Girls. Perfection!

The Walk: As its part of the South West Coast Path, it isn’t easy. There are times when the path is muddy and very thin, but then there are parts which are flat and open. If you’re leaning on things to help you get down, be careful not to lean on any gorse. It can draw blood!
Cost: Completely free.
Car Park: As we were staying in Cadgwith, we had a parking spot with the cottage. There is a car park in Cadgwith and there’s a car park at Kennack Sands, which you have to pay to use. There are a number of parking spots on the road down to Kennack Sands too.
Refreshments: There are two cafes at Kennack Sands, one of which selling Ann’s Pasties. I haven’t eaten from either but they were pretty busy when I was there.
Toilets: There are some public loos at Kennack Sands.

Eating a Whole Food Plant Based diet

Back in September, we decided that we were going to start following a whole food plant based diet. We made this decision, knowing that it’s better for our health, our wallets and the planet. I have not regretted our decision one bit and we are committed to this new lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle because it is not just about what we eat.

Going into this, we knew that we would have to spend more time thinking about what we eat, planning our menus to make sure we had something for every mealtime, including sweet treats, and it has to be easy to make. Before we got going, I knew that we would have to make a few meals in advance. We don’t have much time in the evenings, which has led us to eat cheap, processed, junk foods in the past. I noticed lots of people online would premake or prepare meals in advance. So this is what we do. How sustainable it is long term, I don’t know. But for now, every other Saturday, we’re cooking for most of the day. This is what we make.

Dinners

Chickpea stew

Chickpea stew – My sister’s recipe, and I’m not sure I’ve got it right. Chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, red pepper, onion, spinach & lots of spices to make it hot and spicy, especially paprika. I love paprika.

Planet Organic curry

Skin Glowing Curry – Planet Organic. Mine has a thicker sauce than the picture on the Planet Organic website and we don’t put in LoveRaw Immunity Blend, because we’re not near a Planet Organic. This is really nice and goes well with steamed kale.

Three Bean Chilli

Three Bean Chili – Forks Over Knives. This is amazing and we enjoy ours with a jacket potato and any veg we have. It is super hearty and I use any beans I can get my hands on.

Taquitos

Minimalist Baker’s Smashed Black Bean Taquitos. (Link takes you to a video of Easy vegan Life making them, as the recipe is from the Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking cook book, which I can heartily recommend.) While I didn’t have the green chili ingredient that Dana uses, I just chopped up a few green jalapeno chilies and it is super tasty. This meal is really easy, and very tasty, especially if you make your own salsa and guacamole, like I did. It doesn’t take long either and goes well with fresh corn on the cob and sweet potato wedges dusted in paprika.

Weeknight stirfry

Everyday Stir fry – Keep it Vegan by Aine Carlin. We’ve been eating this for a while and it is delicious. It’s turned us into soy sauce addicts. If you’re interested in a vegan or whole food plant based diet, then Aine Carlin’s book is a great place to get started.

Vegan Roast

I saw a similar roast by @agirlvstheworld on Twitter and this worked really well. It took 45 minutes and was cooking away nicely Sunday evening, while I was making some of our lunches for the week ahead.

Lunches

Grated salad

This grated salad is another recipe I pinched from my sister. It consists of grated carrot, grated courgette, sauerkraut, chopped pepper, chopped tomatoes and salad, mixed together with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s delicious and best eaten a while after the dressing has been added.

Warming Pasta

This might sound ridiculous, but I’d never made a tomato sauce before! It’s ridiculous because it’s so easy and this one is especially. Plus it’s delicious and has become a weekly lunch staple. This is Warming Pasta, which I make with cherry tomatoes, and you can find the recipe by Healthy Living James here.

Tuna melt

This chickpea tuna melt has to be eaten to be believed. The consistency is uncannily like tuna and the vegan cheese works really well in this. You can find the recipe here.

carrot soup

Another of Healthy Living James’ recipes, the carrot and coriander soup. This is delicious and easy to make, perfect for a late evening tea. I have soup every Thursday, as I get home late from the gym.

Breakfast

Granola

Most mornings I have chia seed porridge but on the weekends I like to have something different. This is some of Delicious Ella’s granola, with natural Coyo and as much fresh fruit as I can get!

Snacks

Minimalist Baker cookies

I refuse to live a life without treats. Being vegan or wholefood plant based shouldn’t change this, which is why I was really happy when Phil said he wanted to make these Almond Meal Chocolate Chip cookies by Minimalist Baker. They are easy to make and, if they make to the freezer, you can eat them frozen. Trust me, it works!

At the moment, cooking and eating this way is definitely helping me. While weight loss is not my goal, I’ve lost over half a stone. I’ve got more energy and it means I can get myself to my spinning class after a hectic day of work. We also have less waste going in the bin, both recycling and landfill, and our food bill has gone down. Pretty much a win win. Hoping to get some lovely autumn and winter recipes to try soon too. Gotta love the winter veg!