We all know her as the spokesperson of the anti-sugar movement and author of the millennial household staple, I Quit Sugar—but Sarah Wilson’s career is now taking on a decidedly different twist. Her latest book, first, we make the beast beautiful, pulls at the thread of accepted definitions of anxiety, and unravels the notion that it is a difficult, dangerous disease that must be medicated into submission.
We sat down with Sarah to get her take on the link between creativity and anxiety.
Q: Are you aware of a direct link between creatives and feelings of anxiety? What is the main reason for this?
Certainly, there is a very strong statistical correlation between creatives—poets, scientists, entrepreneurs and anxiety disorders such as bipolar and OCD. I believe the two things—creativity and anxiety—stem from the same thing. That is a deep desire to know why the hell we are here on this planet. Both are yearning to know, to connect. Creativity is the outward expression of an almost primal pain at our core.
Q: What other personality traits are associated with this?
I find it’s a general hypervigilance and often what you could call a spiritual yearning or curiosity. As I say in my book, anxious people give a shit.
Q: You speak openly about your struggles with anxiety and even wrote an entire book on it. For those who haven’t read it, what are your main messages?
That anxiety doesn’t have to be merely something we endure and manage, at best. We can actually thrive with it. It can be the grist to our mill. I take the reader on a journey through the process of what anxiety does to us, physically and mentally.
Q: As a writer yourself, how do you manage your creative mind and feelings of anxiety?
I have a morning routine which provides “certainty anchors”. The decision making part of the brain and the anxious part of the brain are intertwined. So if you can reduce the decisions you make—with routine—you can reduce the chance of your anxiety flaring. I exercise, meditate and commit to no meetings until 9.30am so I can start my day with a quiet coffee to plan my day. I do many things to keep things stable so that when creative or anxiety spark strikes, I can manage it from a sturdy base.
Q: We’ve read in another interview that having a specific morning and night time routine helps in the management of your anxiety. Can you take us through what both consist of?
Ah—it’s very similar to the above. For my night time routine, I shut off technology after 8.30pm, I have a warm shower, drink camomile tea and also take magnesium. I stretch, read and then switch off lights by 10.30pm.
Q: Are there any specific foods you eat to help ease symptoms of anxiety?
Well, obviously sugar is one of the worst foods for anxiety for a bunch of reasons—for example, it uses up your body’s stores of mood-enhancing vitamin B, and diverts the supply of chromium (an essential nutrient for blood sugar—and therefore, mood—regulation). Food with tryptophan are great—turkey, eggs, other meat. Fermented foods assist big time —the gut/brain connection is very much established now. A lot of studies show turmeric has a very substantial impact and I eat it daily – I ferment it with black pepper. The recipe is in my book Simplicious.
Sarah Wilson, In conversation with Clare Bowditch took a deep dive into mental health and anxiety in the creative industries as Saturday 14 June at Sonos House. There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to the music and creative industries, and Sonos House opened their doors for two weeks to kick start these conversations; from spirited conversations around overcoming ADHD to promoting diversity and mental well being in the music industry