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Anxiety rules

‘Most people suffer from anxiety at some level,’ writes Wendyl Nissen in her excellent book A Natural Year, a guide to a simpler, less complicated life. ‘It’s in our DNA right back to the caveman days when we had to be constantly on alert for danger . . .

A Natural Year follows writer Wendyl Nissen's life in the peaceful New Zealand countryside over one year. It's the story of what happens in her garden, her kitchen and her life over twelve months, and the thoughts inspired by each passing season.

She writes about the freedom that she has found in ageing and the joy that comes along with it. She addresses her depression, anxiety and the mental wellbeing she's gained from her back-to-basics lifestyle and the practical things she does to live in a sustainable, natural way.

With photographs taken at her home in Northland, Wendyl shares 100 new recipes, including how to make yeast from grapes, yoghurt using chilli stalks and many others she has discovered.

In a world which can be full of stress and confusion, A Natural Year is a guide to a simpler, less complicated life.

In a chapter entitled Anxiety Rules, Wendyl writes:

“These days we live relatively calm and safe lives compared to our ancient ancestors, but the anxiety part of our brains has remained, along with wisdom teeth that we no longer need to rip into animal flesh, and our appendix.

“For some people anxiety can cause real problems in their lives, such as never wanting to leave the house for fear something awful will happen. Or in my case just a damned horrible niggling feeling in my gut and chest that means I can't breathe properly and can't stop worrying about a problem over and over on a repeat cycle until it takes over all my thoughts.

“I also have panic attacks some nights. I wake up bathed in sweat, not in a menopausal hot flush way but in a Noah's ark way. My heart beats really, really fast and refuses to slow down and I have an overwhelming sense of doom. I have no idea what sets these off; I can't remember having had a bad dream or anything, I just know that I am sitting there wide awake thinking I am about to have a heart attack.

“It takes a cup of tea, and sometimes waking (husband) Paul to talk to him, and then a few hours later I can finally go back to sleep.

“I'm so glad that these days being anxious is not something to be frowned upon or regarded as weird. That helps. But the reality of anxiety is that you, and only you, can make it better.”

In the pages that follow, Wendyl offers a helpful, practical guide to “living with and doing your best to control anxiety in your life” — including advice on medication, micronutrients, meditation (not mindfulness), talking about your anxieties, the importance of the words ‘I've got you', refusing to be pigeonholed', avoiding people who upset you, and having alone time. Also, treating yourself to a massage, choosing to stay home instead of a night on the town, taking up knitting or something crafty, letting people check in on you and avoiding watching or reading scary stuff — including social media.

Wendyl Nissen in her garden.
A Natural Year: Living Simply Through the Seasons by Wendyl Nissen Photography by Emily Hlavac Green. Published by Allen & Unwin NZ RRP $45