In a uniquely strange and challenging year, Emilia Fox has learned a lot about her physical and mental health. The 46-year-old star of Silent Witness and Delicious, who lives in London with her 10-year-old daughter Rose, initially found refuge in cherished old habits, from outdoor exercise to healthy family cooking.

She has since learned fresh ways to calm her racing thoughts, such as by learning languages and listening to podcasts. And she has discovered interesting new ways to stay fit, through online exercise classes and group activities. Here the actress reveals how she has stayed healthy during a year of lockdowns.

1. Embrace the great outdoors

“I’ve always been an outdoors girl so the idea of being stuck indoors was not appealing at all. I was brought up in Dorset with my parents who are massive outdoors people. My dad [the actor Edward Fox] is 83 and he is still in the garden from dawn until dusk. They go swimming in the sea, whether it’s summer or winter, so they have far more stoicism than I have. But one of my passions is gardening and luckily that’s something I have been able to do during the pandemic. I find it very cathartic. We have also enjoyed going on walks with the dogs.”

2. Try team sports

“When you’ve got a 10-year-old, they want to be playing sports. So I have tried to do that with Rose at weekends. Netball and tennis are her things and, through her, I have rediscovered a love of learning. Her desire to play tennis or basketball… I just never had that in my childhood because I never had any confidence sport-wise. I always thought I’ll never be picked for teams or I’ll never be good enough to play with other people. But after this year I feel like I want to do team sports or sports with other people, when we’re allowed to do them, because there’s something really lovely about having fun and doing something healthy with other people.”

3. Cook with your children

“Before the pandemic I was doing family cooking classes with Rose with a brilliant teacher called Louisa Chapman-Andrews who’s got a company called Cook Folk. We had been learning that together so it has been nice to cook together more this year.

“My mum [the actress Joanna David] was always in charge of the kitchen when I grew up, so I didn’t come to cooking until really late. But I want Rose to grow up feeling like she can cook and not be the student who doesn’t know how to cook. One of my favourite things in life is sitting around the family table and having a meal. This year we have enjoyed shepherd’s pies, risottos and chicken stews. And I love macaroni cheese and things like that.”

4. Experiment a little

“I eat very healthily and normally but occasionally I do like a detox food plan. I recently did the Pure Earth package (a juice cleanse using raw, cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices), which was delicious and great for work because you don’t have to think about your meals as it is all done for you.”

5. Find someone to talk to

“It’s been a difficult year for everybody’s mental health, but I’m a big advocate of therapy. It’s not for every person, at all, but I’ve done it for 15 years. I just find it useful talking to someone who’s unconnected with anything else in my life. Lots of the time we don’t have anything to talk about, apart from what’s going on in the world, but it’s still lovely to have someone to talk things through with, and to give a different perspective about life.”

6. Write down what makes you happy

“I’ve been listening recently to Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights on audio and he talks about writing a diary. Diaries are normally about writing the things that you find difficult in life. But he started writing about the things that were good in his life. And through that you can discover the patterns of when you are feeling good, and what things make you feel good. I thought that was so interesting. If you know the things that make you feel good, it can be particularly helpful in stressful times like these.

“There is the underlying pandemic but it just sort of seeps into other bits of your life. So finding the people or the things that make you feel good are the things to look out for. I have really tried to find things that are positive in my life, and head towards them when I am not feeling in a good place.”

7. Exercise any way you can

“I have done a lot more exercise in the last year and I think you can get quite addicted to it actually. I can’t imagine going back to the times in my life where I was like, oh no, I’m just going to forget about exercise. Recently I have really enjoyed my online classes on Niix (a fitness app for mums and women around 40 and over, run by trainer Nicki Philips). Before the pandemic, I was getting one-to-one sessions with Nicki and we did lots of HIIT and Pilates. But now I do that at home with her Zoom classes. If I can do it in a class, I always will, because it’s lovely being in contact with other people at this time.”

8. Keep your brain active

“I’ve been trying to learn some languages because it really helps me to switch off. I was doing French because Rose was doing French at school. And I was doing Spanish because I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish. But I’ve now got a new job where I have to speak Italian too. So I thought: I’ll just try to learn them all at the same time. But they got totally jumbled. I have had to put Spanish and French to the side and just concentrate on Italian. I’m still at the very beginner level but it is nice to do something healthy for my mind.”

9. Stop worrying about your age

“When I was in my late 30s, I was asked constantly: how do you feel about hitting your 40s? And it sort of looms over you, as if some great change is going to come over you. But I don’t feel like that at all. I feel like I have been through a bit of life now, so I don’t take anything for granted. I feel grateful for my health. I feel lucky to be able to keep fit. And never have I appreciated working, and the joys of being a mum, more than I have this year.”

Emilia Fox is an advocate of Niix Fit, a workout app tailored to women approaching 40 and beyond. Niix offers Pilates and cardio training from £1.90 per week. Visit www.niix.fit

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