Television presenter, radio broadcaster, life coach, counsellor, Master NLP practitioner and author Anna Williamson’s number one best-selling book Breaking Mad: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety is out now in paperback, the book is a helpful, often humorous, and always honest guide, offering advice to help all new mums and dads cope with and conquer anxiety, stress and low mood in those overwhelming fledgling parent days. It follows on from Anna’s first book Breaking Mad, a friendly guide to getting one over on anxiety, stress and other conditions that are holding you back, written by someone who has been there and got through to the other side! In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week which kicks off today, Lynne Parker talked to Anna about her books, discipline and how to relax!
Lynne Parker: What are the trigger points for you to turn your practice into a book, or two books?
Anna Williamson: I felt so rubbish when I was suffering from my mental health and anxiety issues that when I started to get better, seek help and treatment, and learn about myself to counteract the anxiety, I wanted to share it with everyone else. Other sufferers can have a tendency to hold it all in as opposed to talking about it – trust me, that’s never a good idea! Always let the feelings out, it really does help.
LP: How do you find time in your busy life to write? Are you disciplined with set times or do you sit down and ‘binge write’?!
AW: Oh my goodness, why did I choose to become an author exactly at the same time I became a mum – doh!? Haha, actually it’s made me be more productive with my time and more disciplined. I schedule writing time into my diary like I would a meeting or doctor’s appointment, I have to or I would procrastinate away the day. I actually find it works for me and I’m a sucker for a deadline to make sure I actually hit it bang on. I have been known to panic write at 2 am though when the ideas suddenly come flowing out…
LP: What is the most important thing you have learnt about yourself from all of your life choices?
AW: Ooh, good question, I guess I’ve learnt that with age comes more self-acceptance and a work/life balance is the key to my health and happiness. I’ve learnt that I can work like the clappers but I also need to give myself as much time to chill and just ‘be’ with my family. I love working, but I’ve also learnt that if I don’t have myself and my families health and happiness, then it’s all irrelevant. The simplest things in life are often the most important.
LP: Everything in your life looks pretty peachy right now, but we all have down days, don’t we? Do you get anxious or have you completely cracked it? (Please tell us you’re human!)
AW: I’m a complete mess pretty much every other week or so. I’m an emotional wreck since having Enzo, I cry at everything. He said ‘please’ the other day which I’d been trying to teach him for ages – with lots of tantrums in between – and that made me blub with pride! I’m very fortunate in life, but that’s because I genuinely live my life pretty simply. I’m not particularly materialistic, and I find that works for me. The simpler I make things, the less anxious and stressed I feel. But, I am human and if things do get on top of me I have to work hard to de-stress and ward off any panic attacks brewing, and if I have PMT then god help everyone!
LP: How do you relax? Do you ever relax?!
AW: I actually relax a lot more than people think… every day in fact. A walk in the woods (near my house), a bath every night with a meditation playlist, a good book before I go to bed – social media is banned in the bedroom – relaxing is super important. I learned the hard way years ago when I had a complete nervous breakdown, so now I make sure it’s part of my life. And it works.
LP: With ‘Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week’ and ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ this week please can you share your favourite bit of advice to give to A) anxious new parents, B) anybody suffering from anxiety?
AW: A) New parents: don’t ever measure yourself against anyone else. What works for another parent might not for you, and that’s ok. Embrace your way and be confident in your skills.
B) The main thing for anyone suffering from anxiety is not to wear it alone. It needs to ‘come out’ and the effective way of starting to release any pent up anxiety is to talk to a trusted confidante. Mind charity is a great start if you’re unsure of who to talk to and what help you might need.
Breaking Mum and Dad: The Insider’s Guide to Parenting Anxiety by Anna Williamson is published by Green Tree and £12.99 at www.amazon.co.uk