As soon as I woke up the other day I knew something wasn’t right. Usually I am enthusiastic to begin the day but my limbs had turned to concrete and It was hard to peel myself off the mattress. I felt incredibly emotional, close to tears over breakfast and the familiar feeling of dread was growing like a rock in my stomach. Doubt and fear were making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I found myself sneaking upstairs to find the dog for a cuddle and a cry.
After the longest period anxiety free in years I was really alarmed, why was this happening? I always knew in the back of my mind I would have to face it again but nothing quite prepares you for the overwhelming feelings that anxiety brings. In the past, before learning how to manage my anxiety at this point things would take a dramatic turn for the worst. My brain would frantically search for problems in my life which would explain why I was feeling this way. I’d become convinced everything was going to go wrong, usually finding a fault in my relationship to ‘explain’ the anxiety.
The ‘something must be wrong or I wouldn’t be feeling this way’ mentality kicks in. The emotional brain comes up with all those niggling doubts and worries and projects them on to the future. I would cause arguments and subsequently sink into a period of depression. Having to rebuild life after these outbursts was much harder to recover from than the actual anxiety. Often I would drink too much or find it difficult to rest or sleep. Both these only served to escalate the anxiety.
This time I took control. Instead of searching for problems to explain the anxiety I knew why it was happening. Too many late nights, far too little sleep, not enough healthy eating or exercise and a little too much drinking and having fun.
I allowed myself to have a little cry, it’s ok to have a bad day I told myself, and it is. I made myself camomile tea and a really healthy dinner and I told people how I was feeling instead of causing arguments and trying to make other people hurt because I was hurting too. I had an early night and the next day, ok I wasn’t 100% but I felt better and I knew another good nights sleep would help even more. I felt proud that I was able to feel the anxiety but recognise it for what it was, only a feeling that would pass. I learnt that I could handle the anxiety, what I couldn’t handle was the negativity that I usually created during an attack, and as long as I could keep this in mind I knew I would be ok.
All of that emotion left me craving my over the knee socks, favourite jumper and a bowl of something warm, comforting and filling on my lap. Sometimes simplicity is best; as much as I love trying out new, interesting flavours and recipes I will always come back to the classics, such as my recipe for chicken noodle soup. Exciting and innovative it may not be but the classic flavour combinations work so well together that it really does taste like happiness in a bowl. It’s full of so much goodness too that you know it’s getting your body ready to help lift your mind back up to a positive place.
This is one of my favourite soups to make, I make a massive batch and freeze whatever I can’t eat throughout the week. It means I’ve always got a portion or too on standby for a speedy supper or lunch when I’m feeling down. If you get bored of this soup halfway through the batch or just fancy a change of flavour then add a couple of tbsp each of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sweet chilli sauce to this along with the juice of a lime and a chopped fresh chilli too, if you like it hot. Finish with a handful of fresh coriander leaves and you have an Asian inspired bowl of goodness.
Feel Good Old Fashioned Chicken Soup
Makes about 6-10 portions, depending how hungry you are
FOR THE BROTH
1 large chicken
1 carrot, cut into 3 chunks
1 leek, cut into 3 or 4 chunks
1 onion, quartered, leave the skin on
2 celery stick, cut into 3 or 4 chunky slices
about 10 peppercorns
1 star anise
3 bay leaves
1 head garlic, halved through the middle, skin left on
few sprigs thyme, rosemary and parsley leaves
1 chicken stock cube (I use the knorr chicken stock pots)
Good splash white wine, if you have some open
FOR THE SOUP
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large leek, finely sliced any dirty bits discarded but use the whole leek, not just the white parts
2 heads corn, kernals removed or a large handful frozen sweetcorn, about 250g
3 bundles thin egg noodles or about 125g small pasta shapes
fresh parsley or chives, chopped
Put all the broth ingredients, along with a good pinch of salt, in a large pan. Cover with cold water, about 2-3 litres. If you have a pressure cooker, use this, it will take 20 mins on high pressure, then release slowly. If you don’t have one, get one. No, just joking, bring up to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently for about 1hr 45 mins, until cooked through, adjusting the time if your chicken is slightly smaller or larger.
Remove the chicken and allow to cool slightly. Strain the stock using a gravy strainer that separates the fat into a couple of jugs or a big bowl, throw away the fat. if you don’t have a strainer it’s easiest if you let it cool to room temp then get it into the fridge so the fat can solidify and you can remove it all. I do this the day before and leave it overnight. It means you can literally just spoon of the layer of solidified white fat, leaving you with a crystal clear, jelly like chicken broth that’s virtually fat free and full of chicken flavour. If you try and get the fat off before, you’ll lose loads of the broth, and that isn’t a good thing. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred the meat. Set aside in the fridge until ready to make the soup.
Put your veg apart from the corn and a little splash of stock into a large pan and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft about 10-15 mins. Tip in the stock and bring up to a gentle boil. Add the chicken, corn, noodles and most of the parsley, season, It will need a good amount of salt and pepper here, so keep tasting and adjusting till the flavour is good. Simmer until the noodles or pasta are cooked to you liking. Turn off the heat but leave on the hob with the lid on for 10 mins. The noodles will soak & soften and the soup will cool from mouth burningly boiling to edible.
Divide any leftovers into individual portions and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
NB If freezing the soup don’t add the pasta and noodles until you come to reheat or they make overcook and turn a little mushy. Instead ladle portions into tuppawear then add the noodles or pasta to the pot that you’re ready to eat.