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It was ironically around the publication of her book Eat Happy that Melissa Hemsley faced one of her lowest moments. “I remember it was January 2018 and it was Mental Health Awareness Week so I posted a picture of me and just wrote honestly about how I was feeling,” she says.

“I felt sick with exhaustion. I’d had sleepless nights because my dog Nelly was really sick. Everything had just got on top of me and I felt really unconfident. Loads of things just felt wrong, so I simply wrote that. And I had so many messages from people saying, ‘Thank you for sharing that — I feel rubbish too.’ I felt like I’d opened something up.”

Being so open hasn’t always been easy. Initially, Hemsley found it tough to share thoughts about mental health, especially on social media, where many of her 124,000 Instagram followers know her for her beaming smile and pictures of delicious-looking food.

But the response has encouraged her to talk more, she says — and she hopes it will also encourage other people.

“I hope that when we talk about our mental health it doesn’t feel like such a big deal. I’m not an expert, but if we can share stories about how we feel, then I think it just opens things up. Don’t ever think your mental health problem is too big or too small.

“Sometimes when you see your friends you don’t feel like you want to offload on to them, or you don’t want to worry your mum so you don’t share stuff,” she says.

“I’m very good at just sending a text saying, ‘I’m fine,’ when I’m not fine. So I make sure I call my friends or we leave each other voice notes, just making sure we know we’re there for each other.”

Being there for yourself and trying to be aware of your mental wellbeing is also important. Hemsley recognises that working from home means that she can get lonely. “If I’m not careful with my loneliness it can get out of control,” she notes.

And, like many people, she struggles with managing anxiety. “I’m a recovering perfectionist and I know the things that spike my anxiety — lack of sleep and taking on too much and not paying attention to my needs — so now I have ways to manage it,” she says.

“I try to look after myself so that I don’t just get to a point where all I want to do is get into bed.”

The 34-year-old recognises that she can catastrophise, which has at times left her up all night worrying. To try to break that cycle of worry she practises a struggle she calls “the worry dump”.

“You set yourself a little bit of time in the day to worry and then you try not to let it take over your thoughts the rest of the time,” she explains.

She also focuses on maintaining a good routine — trying to make sure she begins and ends her day well. In the morning, she avoids waking up to her phone by adopting a more traditional approach to alarms. “If I don’t start the day right I can slip quite quickly into negative thought patterns,” she says.

“So I have an old-school alarm clock now which means that my phone isn’t the first thing I reach for in the morning.”

Many of us find ourselves skimming through our social media feeds before we’ve even eaten breakfast. But while Hemsley says she loves many things about social media, she also knows that “scrolling and comparing doesn’t serve me”.

Instead she’ll be sure to make herself a cup of tea and a tasty breakfast and take time to sit down and eat it properly.

Finding calm at the end of the day also matters, she says. In the evening, Hemsley will switch off her phone, have an early dinner and take time to wind down. (“My boyfriend calls it a ‘granny dinner’,” she laughs.)

Unsurprisingly, she’s a big believer in the power of food to influence mental wellbeing: “What I eat and what time I eat has a big effect on my mental health,” she says.

But as many of us facing busy schedules find, it’s not always possible to eat the right things. Lately, busy with a book tour, Hemsley has been travelling the country by train, and making sure she has supplies to hand.

“I’ve been trying to pack a lunch of good things that I can snack on,” she says — inspiration for those of us with excellent intentions but poor execution when it comes to taking lunch to work.

Similarly, Hemsley makes sure she includes exercise when planning her time, and counts Staffordshire bull terrier Nelly as her secret weapon.

“She’s really good at getting me out of the house every day,” she says. “Even if we just go around the block, I come back and feel like something has lifted.”

Those of us without canine friends can look to each other when it comes to getting moving. Hemsley is an ambassador for Mental Health Mates, which runs an initiative called The Mental Health Mates Walk.

“People meet up and just walk and talk if they want to,” she explains. “There’s some research that walking side by side is a great way to open up and I find it a lot easier to share that way.”

Six years ago, after the death of her father to cancer, Hemsley found herself struggling to give herself time to deal with her grief. “I was one of the first in my friendship group to lose a parent and it was my first experience of death, really,” she says.

“I threw myself back into work and thought, ‘Right, I just have to get on with it.’ But I felt very closed up. I think I shut down because I didn’t have time to cry, and once I started it wouldn’t stop.”

It was around this time that she met her boyfriend Henry Relph, whose father died when he was 15.

“It really bonded us,” she says. “The only positive thing about losing someone is that you can be there for other people. So now when friends parents are seriously ill or have died, I know what they’re going through.”

But Hemsley is also careful to look after her relationship, and is a fan of couples’ therapy. “Henry and I both work from home, which can be challenging, as that stressful energy can blend into your relationship. We had times when we were struggling,” she says.

“Therapy has been so good at just helping us find new ways to communicate with each other. I think of it like maintenance.”

Also in her arsenal? Doing volunteer work. “When I was younger my mum really drummed into us, ‘Be of service,’ and every month I’ll do something for other people just because it feeds me,” she says.

Eat Green: Delicious flexitarian recipes for planet-friendly eating is out now (£9.99, Ebury)


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