Nadiya Hussain on anxiety, parenting and mental health

Dan Kennedy ©

You may know her from one of her many cookery books or TV programmes, but now, beloved baker and national treasure, Nadiya Hussain, has decided to open up by penning her very own memoir, Finding My Voice. Each chapter focuses on a different role the mu-of-three plays (such as daughter, sister, and wife) and contains witty, sad, and sometimes painful anecdotes from her life. Because of this, the book is, at times, hard to read – for example, Nadiya discusses how she considered suicide after a particularly nasty period of bullying while she was at school, how she was sexually assaulted by a family member when she was just five years old, and the depression she suffered with after the birth of her third child. This month, we caught up with the Great British Bake Off winner in a very honest interview…

On parenting

“For such a long time I felt like a fake parent. I didn’t feel real, I wasn’t authentic. I was telling my kids to be happy, strong, brave and proud, and I felt none of those things myself. Now, I’m really honest with my kids, to the extent that sometimes my husband looks at me and asks if they really need to know that. Sometimes I don’t care what he thinks and I’ll just say it anyway, because I think we need to be honest with our children; we need to tell them the truth, and this is my truth – it’s who I am and the experiences I’ve had.”

On anxiety

“This time last year, I was using lots of safety-seeking behaviours to try and avoid having a panic attack. This year, I’ve avoided those kids of behaviours and I’ve learned, through therapy, that I can welcome a panic attack, and I can allow it to come. By doing that, it doesn’t actually manifest itself as a panic attack, it just goes away.”

On staying healthy

“One thing I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that it’s not just about being physically healthy, it’s about looking after my mental health at the same time. I try to walk 5k every day to give myself some physical exercise, but also to give my brain time to think and have some breathing space to be ready for the day.”

To read the full interview, pick up the December issue of Health & Wellbeing with Nadiya Hussain, on sale on the 31st October.