It was the morning of an interview and photoshoot for a five page spread in a magazine. I have given many interviews about cycling the world but this would be my first open and honest interview about my life. A great deal of time had been spent in therapy sessions getting to this point, of being able to share my story. Although I wanted to help those who had went through or are going through similar life experiences, I care so much about people, that I never wanted anyone to be judged negatively, as a consequence of me sharing my past. So this interview was a big moment.

My alarm clock went off and I woke up tired, not having slept well the night before. The dark circles under my eyes shone out at me from the bathroom mirror, causing anxiety because I knew I didn’t function well with lack of sleep. But I also knew, if I had waited for a perfect moment to do anything in life, I would have achieved nothing. So I shook the tired thoughts from my mind and felt the self-power rise with thoughts of smashing it regardless; I could do this!

I was in my friends home; dog sitting their two rescue dogs, along with my own dog Maria, whilst they holidayed in Greece for two weeks. Just before taking the three dogs out for their morning walk, I got my period, which made sense, as I normally didn’t sleep well the night before I got them. The interview had been brought forward from two p.m. to ten a.m. to help out the journalist/photographer’s schedule, which was fine by me, but now meant I didn’t have time to go to the shop for products. So, I messaged the journalist, asking if she could she nip into a shop on her way, to buy me a box of Tampax! Problem solved. And no! She had never been asked this before on route to an interview! lol

I knew I was stressed when walking the dogs; my thoughts raced and my breathing was quick, shallow and from the chest. Preparing my appearance for the photoshoot became number two of important things to do and getting rid of my stressed state became the number one priority. I knew stress would have a direct affect on my interview, but I had enough confidence and self worth, for my appearance not to have a negative affect. After all; I’ve given news interviews all over the world in dirty, holey, unwashed cycling clothes!

After walking the dogs, I decided to take twenty minutes out of the hour I had to get ready, to go for a run. I am not a runner. In fact, it’s a sore sight if I ever have to run for a bus … not quite as painful on the eyes as a budgie smuggler … but getting there, and yes … budgie smugglers should be made illegal in the whole entire world.

Using exercise to dispel stress, is like playing the lottery but already knowing the draw numbers – you’re going to win. With such a small window of time, running was a no brainer and to succeed, I made sure I was running fast enough that I’d struggle to hold a conversation. Albeit, my running was most likely a jogging pace compared to regular runners. I finished with a five minute walk at the end, to cool down and arrived back at the house, twenty minutes later, with the stress left on the pavement. Job done.

I knew the forty minutes to shower, style my hair and apply make-up was enough time for stress to build up again, so my next job was to maintain my stress free state. As I blow dried my hair, I concentrated on breathing two seconds in through my nose, holding and breathing four seconds out through my mouth – the trick to this is making sure the belly is rising and falling and not the chest. There are plenty of other breathing techniques but two seconds in, was enough when holding a hairdryer above my head! Rapid breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and is part of the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response. Slow, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic system which calms us down.

At ten a.m. the doorbell rang and I was in a calm and relaxed state, feeling good with all the endorphins released from the run. I opened the door to the journalist and photographer and a chorus of hello’s and pleased to meet you ensued. Simba, the giant bull lurcher I was dog sitting, saw his opportunity and ran past me, the journalist and photographer and out onto the street, pounding away at full force. Without having time to explain, I bolted past the journalist and photographer, running up the street in a dress and bare feet, screaming “Simmmmbbbba!” at the top of my lungs. A neighbour tending his garden called out, “Are they on holiday?”

“Yes!” I shouted, to which he merrily responded, “they are going to kill you”, and he joined the pursuit. I wished I was wearing shoes, as I glanced behind to see the photographer was also giving chase and behind him was the journalist.

We searched for ten minutes and I knew we were not going to find him by walking around as we were. Simba’s family had already shared numerous stories of him doing the same with them – it seemed this was his signature move.

I evaluated the situation, stopped walking and explained to the journalist that there was nothing else I could do in this moment and that we should begin the interview.

“Are you sure?” the journalist asked, “as long as he’s okay?”

I turned to face her. “He may or may not be okay, but there’s nothing more I can do about this situation right now, it’s out-with my control.”

The biggest cause of stress and anxiety in my life, has been trying to control and fix everything going wrong around me. Now, I always ask the question:

In this moment, is this something I have control over, or is it out-with my control?

For things that fall within my control to change, I begin thinking strategically of how best to do this, with as little effort as possible and the things out-with my control disappear into the ‘what-will-be- will-be’ box.

Letting go and not worrying about things I have no control over, has been one of the most liberating and anxiety dispelling practises I’ve learned. Try it – it’s amazing and with practice this way of thinking becomes almost automatic.

We walked back to the house and enjoyed an amazing, relaxed, open and honest interview. Simba arrived back twenty minutes into the interview, tail wagging and brimming with self satisfaction.

You can read the interview in The Herald Magazine on Saturday 28th July.

Huge thanks to journalist, Susan Swarbrick, for being an amazing interviewer and for buying me Tampax! (which I forgot to give money for … oops) and to photographer, Gordon Terris, for doing a great photoshoot of me, Maria and my bicycle, which was so much fun!

One of the most influential decisions I made to my life, was studying an international diploma in Holistic Therapies and Stress Management. It was a two year full time course at college and although I chose not to go into that line of work, it was worth every second. I think that’s why I’m such a great public speaker …. I never let anything get in the way of those few moments of deep breathing beforehand!

My ways of dealing with short term stress:

Exercise reduces level’s of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol and stimulates production of endorphins.

Slow Deep Breathing stimulates the parasympathetic system, calming us down. Rapid breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and is part of the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response.

Thoughts – Recognising and letting go of things I have no control over.

There are many more tools to manage stress which I will share in future posts.

Thanks for reading! Ishbel x


  1. Man alive, you couldn’t make it up!! Big day for you and Simba goes and pulls his party trick. You played it well girl. Cause you were calm for him to come home to….now…..I’M off to do some slow breathing excersises after reading this 🙂

  2. This is brilliant. Thanks for posting. I have been following your facebook posts as a keen cyclist.
    But this is great that you talk so openly and honestly about this. I have been sufferring from stress and panic attacks for a number of years….without even realising it. Have even been into A&E thinking am having a heart attack on two occassions the attacks were that bad. To which one paramedic said that I was probably the fittest looking cardiac arrest he’d ever seen. As a self-employed parent I use to have multi-tasking down to a fine art. I’d be mowing the lawn whilst the tea was coooking, helping with homework and doing my admin all at once. Even though my daughter has now moved away and is doing just fine with life, some habits die hard. In recent years I have been holding down two jobs and looking after elderly parents over 200 miles away. I rarely say no to any requests asked of me. I find it almost impossible to sit still and relax. But I would always have said that although life could be stressful, I dealt with that just fine. Yet I was regularly having palpitations, struggling with sleep, digestion of food and often feeling anxious and exhausted. My default button was to get on my bike, or to go canoeing or get out for a walk as a means of combatting stress. This year those activities stopped working too. Probably for the best as I have had to really turn round and face stuff. There is such a lot of stigma around mental health issues. And no doubt I have been as guilty as other folk in the past. Am really sensitive to certain language now though… such as mad, crazy, neurotic, ocdc, touchy, depressive, over sensitive and so on. Sometimes life just throws at you more than you can manage, and we all have different thresholds. I’ve sought help from the GP and friends and through meditation apps. The latter being really helpful for inducing a sense of calm through the deep breathing you talk about. But I really like the idea of letting go of the things I have no control over. That is one I need to practice. And being brave enough to talk about this stuff. On chatting I have come across so many folk I know well, but did not know that they have experienced mental health issues. This puts things into perspective. I think the GP said one in 4 people at any point in their life, will have experienced serious mental health issues!!! Thats a lot of folk with a lot of experience to share and support to offer.

  3. I must remember your sentence.
    “In this moment, is this something I have control over, or is it out-with my control?” I need to use this thought sometimes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.