Nadia Sawalha hardly ever stops. She’s been a Loose Women regular for two decades, having joined from its start in 1999, and brightens up our lunchtimes each day with her bubbly persona and no-nonsense attitude. She’s also been keeping busy during lockdown, running a family YouTube channel with her husband, Mark Adderley, where she she’s been entertaining fans with daily videos on everything from film and TV reviews to mouth-watering cookery classes.
The pair have spent lockdown at home in south London with their daughters, Maddy, 17, and Kiki-Bee, 12, and Nadia admits that it’s been a time of both highs and lows them all. We caught up with Nadia, who opened up about overcoming her fears, keeping fit at home and the importance of talking about mental health…
How have you found lockdown?
At the beginning, I felt like I’d been hit by a massive wave and I couldn’t find my way back up. That was exacerbated by the fact my dad had a heart operation the week before it started and he’s 86, diabetic and he’s had a stroke. I’ve had really bad health anxiety since my menopause too, so this sort of knocked me for six. I became a bit obsessed with the idea that I might have an underlying health condition and not know about it. Plus, I was really worried about my job on Loose Women. There aren't exactly loads of telly jobs for 55-year-olds before a pandemic, but after one, I’d say there’s none. So for the first couple of weeks, I was completely and utterly bonkers. I was overreacting to everything, watching the news constantly. I can honestly say it was probably one of the worst weeks of my life!
How did you move forward from that?
I sort of settled into it and put a plan in place of how to stay sane. In the second and third week, I started to think, I’ve got to approach this in a completely different way, I’ve got to listen to the news only once a day, I’ve got to ban people sending me horror stories on WhatsApp and I’m not going to do the scroll of terror, where you’re constantly looking for the next worse story. I decided I just wanted to be informed about what’s going on and that helped me find a bit of a balance.
What other changes have you made?
Fitness has been a big thing for me. Every morning, I’ve been getting up and doing eight minutes of stretching, then a meditation, followed by rebounding (trampoline-based exercise) for 10 minutes and I might finish with a little five or seven-minute workout. I have a very low attention span, as you can probably tell! But I’ve actually lost weight and got fitter because I’ve had that time to exercise each day. It’s also because all the lunches have stopped, all the having a drink because somebody else is having a drink. We’ve had no takeaways and there’s been no popping to Nando’s on a Saturday and saying, "Oh who cares, I’ll have a bag of chips and a chocolate cake." I've also been cooking from scratch three times a day religiously.
What has been keeping you entertained?
We’ve been doing a quiz night every Saturday night called ‘The Big Fat Family Quiz’, which is great fun. We’re completely exhausted by the end of it because there’s always a lot of performing involved! We’ve also been watching a lot of Gogglebox with the kids – it’s our favourite show - and I loved Normal People. I actually watched it with my eldest daughter because I wanted her to see what old-fashioned 70s sex is like - at the moment, it's all just porn otherwise.
Have you all got along well?
Mark and I have definitely got on so much better than I would have thought. Somebody said to Mark and I the other day, what have you discovered about each other? We know each other very well, but lockdown has made us remember and enjoy the things about each other that we’d sort of forgotten about. Most couples don’t look at each other enough, but lockdown sort of forces you to do that.
How have you been looking after your mental wellbeing?
The best thing about mental health and my family is that we talk about it every day. We’ve got this thing where we say: "What number are you at today?" 10 is the worst and 1 is the best. My husband, Mark, suffers with depression and anxiety and we’re very open about it. He can say to me: "It’s just a bit of a dark morning" and then we’ll do separate things or if it’s one where he needs people around him, we’ll do something together. And our children are very vocal about how they feel too. None of us are suppressing huge mental issues, we talk about them.
What do you think lockdown has taught you about yourself?
That I’m not as sociable as I make out I am! As we start to come out of lockdown, I actually fear having to be social again. It’s made me think back to when I was in my late teens and early 20s and how I would be all or nothing. I’d go out and get absolutely blind drunk and then I’d retreat and isolate myself for a couple of weeks - I wouldn't be available. And actually, that is kind of my essence. I’m an introverted extrovert.
What are you most looking forward to doing when things get back to normal?
I sometimes worry whether any of us will ever feel safe to hug our elderly relatives again, but I haven’t hugged my dad since he had his heart operation and that’s the thing I want to do most. That and having a glass of rosé and a bag of chips on the beach!
For more tips and to watch Nadia’s family reality show, visit The Sawalha-Adderleys: Family, Films & Fun. Loose Women is on weekdays from 12:30pm on ITV.
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