You are safe and you are loved


“What I know is that it’s going to be better. If it’s bad, it might get worse, but I know that it’s going to be better. And you have to know that. There’s a country song out now, which I wish I’d written, that says, ‘Every storm runs out of rain.’ I’d make a sign of that if I were you. Put that on your writing pad. No matter how dull and seemingly unpromising life is right now, it’s going to change. It’s going to be better. But you have to keep working.” MAYA ANGELOU


Hello loves

When I write to you about personal insights I’ve usually let some time pass before I share my thoughts, so it’s very odd to be writing to you right in the centre of the storm, but here we are — all of us! As I swirl up and down through frustration and anxiety, I also feel tiny hits of wonderment. It’s surreal that this is happening but also extraordinary that something is going down that unites the entire planet. Not perfectly united, mind. We’re still believing there are borders that separate us, but here we are, a planet filled with humans, all affected by something we can’t even see.

Each of us is dealing with this in our own way and we all have different concerns. For me I’m having to trust that my family is safe — which is hard when your first urge is to go be with them and help — and I’m focussing on keeping myself well and avoiding contact with others. Which you’d think would be easy when you’re an introvert but I’m realising that what keeps me sane — and I mean that quite literally as someone who has a history of depression — are the times I spend with friends and the time I spend OUTSIDE of the house. I can easily do five days straight on my own at home, but by day six I need to go out and be in the world. So the prospect of several months without that is daunting, I’m not going to lie. I live alone and I enjoy it very much, but right now I’d be happier if I had someone here to give me a bloody hug!

So, knowing that life is gonna be upside for a while, I’ve instigated Operation Mental Health Self-Care. Last night I compiled a list of my absolute must-dos while this is going on and I’m sharing it here in case you need some inspiration or a gentle nudge to consider what YOUR absolute must-dos will be.

This is especially important for those of you who are at home alone like me.

The non-negotiables:

1. Daily walks outside

2. Daily journaling

3. Daily juice and lots of water

4. Daily meditation

5. Daily shower

6. Daily calls/messages with family and friends

7. Only check Guardian website once per day, no more

Also very needed:

8. Daily yoga/weights/kettlebells

9. Switch up where I work in the house

10. Daily garden sit!

11. Off phone by 8pm

12. Plan future trips

A lot of this I already do but never has it been more important for me to look after my body and my mind. Some days I will do all of this and some days I won’t, and that’s okay, but my goal is to do as much as I can Every. Single. Day. I’m not tripping on too many thoughts of the future but I am looking ahead at what I’ll need to stay in a good place internally. Just as I’ve bought a few extras for my pantry, I’m also considering what’s going to support me as I square up to a few months of solitude. Having a loose plan helps me feel safe and calm.

There are lots more thoughts I could share but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Like me you’ve probably been getting loads of emails from well-meaning peeps sharing their tools and strategies for getting through this time. There is SO MUCH out there right now! It’s like the online world is truly having its moment, as if all of us content creators and teachers have been in training for exactly this moment. And I absolutely do have a couple of things to share that I hope will help! But I also just want to say it’s okay if this is overwhelming you and you just need to be still. I feel that too. It’s okay to get some sofa time. It’s okay to eat chocolate for dinner. It’s okay to feel lost and not want to do an at-home fitness video! And it’s also okay to do lots of work because it helps you feel safe. It’s okay to want to throw yourself into making things to help you feel productive. It’s okay to want to serve. Just as it’s okay to simply receive right now.

Basically it’s okay to feel however you feel. To do whatever you need or want to do. There’s no map for this journey so we have to trust ourselves, listen inwards and act accordingly. To gently and lovingly parent ourselves just as we parent and look after the kids and animals and loved ones in our lives.

Look after yourselves and your loved ones and know that this will pass and we will soon be looking back at the time we stayed inside to look after each other. What a loving thing we are doing for the human race.

I love you

Susannah xo

* This is an excerpt from my most recent Love Letter – sign up over here to get on this love list <3

How to enjoy working from home


I’ve been self-employed for the last 16 years and have worked solely from home for the last 11. I was lucky to transition into home-working really quite smoothly — as an introvert I found I became so much more productive (and calm) working in the quiet of my home. Working in an office always drained me and it never felt like a fit.

For those of you who are now figuring how to best work from home while we wade through this highly unusual and unexpected time, I hope this feels like an opportunity to try something new. In my years of working in this online world I’ve noticed that some people work best with lots of structure, while others need a more free-flowing day. I’m the latter — as soon as I try to schedule my day I feel suffocated. I work from home because I like having the freedom to UNstructure my day.

BUT! As you first transition into working from home it’s going to feel weird not having a boss holding you accountable and no colleagues to chat to. So here are my tips for making working from home as joyful and productive as possible.

— Get ready for work in the morning. Working in your PJs is great until day 4 when you feel a mess and can’t motivate yourself. So shower, get dressed in something comfortable that makes you feel put together and eat a good breakfast.

— Find your space and set it up. Commandeer the end of the dining table or clear space on the kitchen table. Even better if this is a permanent space. Gather your favourite pens, notebooks, a scented candle or incense. Make a cosy creative cave. Make a space you want to hang out in.

— Keep to “office hours”, but decide what those hours should be. You don’t have to sit at your desk/table for 15 hours. Enjoy the flexibility of setting up your days to flow with your energy levels. You could start at 7am and finish at 2pm. You could do four focussed hours then rest the rest of the day. Or work every other day. Obviously if you have a remote team or are expected to keep traditional hours while we’re in this transitional time that’s another story, but if you’re entering into full self-employment make it work FOR you.

— Keep your day spacious within those office hours. The whole point of working from home is space, so take a whole hour for lunch and don’t eat at your desk. Pause to dance it out in the kitchen. Linger in the garden if you have one. Take lots of coffee breaks, with or without coffee. It helps to lessen the intensity of the day (which is so needed right now).



— Make a to-do list. Sounds obvious but easy to forget when faced with the freedom to do what you want. I make mine in a notebook. Pro tip: it’s possible to spend an entire day “organising” so watch out for that. Keep it simple. And don’t try to complete your to-do list every day. The top three items are enough.

— Schedule your day if that works for you. Knowing exactly what you’re doing hour-by-hour might free your brain up to switch from task to task but don’t be annoyed with yourself if it doesn’t. Some people love it, others don’t. See what works best for your temperament.

— Make time for lunch. Now you’re home you could make it from scratch every day – and if you enjoy that, do it – but my fave thing to do is make a big batch of something (stew, soup, quinoa) that will last several days. Love not having to think about what I’m going to eat every day!

— Give yourself permission to take a nap if you need it.

— Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to do the laundry. You’ll feel guilty when you see the dishes in the sink but ignore them! When you’re in your work hours, BE in your work hours. The dishes can wait.

— If you’re a procrastinator like me, use a timer to get things done in an allotted time (20 min chunks work best for me). Switch off the internet to work offline. Use app-blockers so you can’t access certain sites. Switch your mobile to silent (mine’s always on silent – it’s a sanity saver).

— Drink lots of water!

— Weave in self-care treats. My new fave thing is to read a chapter of my current novel when I need to recharge my brain. This could be while I’m eating lunch, but it could also be at 3pm when my energy dips and I have no more inspiration. I’m also a big fan of the decadent lunchtime bath. What would feel like a treat for you?

— Learn new skills online. This is the perfect time to invest in your learning while you have time to actually do the courses.

— Organise Skype dates with colleagues and cohorts. Normally I’d suggest lunch dates and co-working days out of the house, but for now, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Voxer and WhatsApp voice messages will keep us connected. This is especially helpful for extroverted peeps who like to brainstorm out loud with other people. Organise daily check-ins.

— Finally, at the end of the day do something to switch your brain from WORK mode to HOME mode. Not being able to leave work at work can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to mark the transition in a way that’s meaningful to you. Ideas: put your laptop in a drawer, take a shower, walk round the block (if you’re allowed out), change up your music playlist, change your clothes. Having your work space away from your living space will help – try not to work in your bedroom!

I hope some of these tips help. I don’t have kids so obviously my days are differently shaped to those of you who do, but if you can create the space for work it’s amazing how much you can get in done in a lot less time.

Now if only I could stop procrastinating on Reddit :-)

How I’m staying safe and calm


I shared the following in last week’s Love Letter and I wanted to share it here too because it’s on everyone’s minds and yes, it’s on mine too. The Coronavirus. Here’s what I’m doing while this is going on.

I’m NOT watching any news on television but I AM going to my most trusted news source online — The Guardian’s website — to check in once a day. No more than that. I want to be informed and responsible for my own health and the safety of my loved ones, but I don’t need a running news feed stoking the flames of anxiety. I think it’s important to be concerned and informed AND not get ourselves into such a panic that the anxiety is greater than the perceived threat. I work from home, which obviously is very convenient when you want to avoid big crowds of people, and I’m probably gonna avoid going into the centre of London on public transport for a bit.

I haven’t gone nuts buying out the supermarket but I have bought an extra bag of gluten-free porridge and coconut milk just like I would if I have a cold and don’t want to go out or cook. I’m already ridiculously stocked up on cat food — if the apocalypse arrives my cat will not starve (that’s a joke — the apocalypse is not coming! We’re all going to be fine, you guys!)

I’m already very into washing my hands so I’ve no problem with doing that fastidiously. I’m also taking my vitamins and generally trying to look after my health. I’m doing my best to get enough sleep and drinking lots of water (this helps my sinus issues). All things I’d do when it’s regular flu season.

Honestly I’m not too worried about catching the virus. If I do I do and I trust my body to recover. What does concern me is passing it on to the more vulnerable members of my family, so if I get so much as a sniffle I will remain here in Conway Towers, with my cat, waiting it out.

I don’t know if that helps anyone feel a little less anxious, but I hope it does a bit. Do consider only reading the news online* — silently — or in paper format rather than having your nervous system assaulted by the sensationalised TV news. You want information and straightforward facts without the music, drama and rolling updates. It’s helping me keep my head and stay grounded in the here and now.

* And if you allow notifications on your phone now is the time to switch them off from any news apps. Seek out the news when you feel calm and ready for it. Do it with intention.

How to get back into fiction


I bloody love books. I’m the kind of person who keeps a stack of books teetering on the bedside table and arranges bookshelves by colour. I’ve got copies of my favourites on my Kindle so they’re always on my phone and while I grew up on a steady diet of Enid Blyton, and remember parts of The Magic Faraway Tree like they’re childhood memories, it was Stephen King that got me through my teens. I dutifully read the classics for school but at home I wanted thrilling, spine-tingling stories to devour. Books were my escape and while other kids were out riding their bikes, I was getting lost in another world.

As I’ve gotten older the book love hasn’t diminished but the type of books has noticeably shifted. Truthfully I don’t remember reading much fiction in my twenties because college and career-building took up most of my time, but into my thirties things changed. I was 32 when my partner died and one of the most important things I did in the first month was type “grief” into the Amazon search bar. I bought a huge stack of books that day. Most of the authors wrote in a clinical way that felt far away from what I was feeling, but there were others with stories that helped me feel less alone. As the months passed I found solace in fiction that took me out of myself, reading Jane Eyre and Rebecca for the first time and crying my eyes out at the end of The Time Traveller’s Wife.

As I began to heal in earnest my creativity blossomed again, spurred on by guidance from The Artist’s Way and the soul-nourishing poetry of Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon and Mary Oliver. Within a few years I was building my own business and my bookshelves now bulged with non-fiction titles. Spare time was dedicated to reading for work and soon life became a fiction-less desert. I thought I didn’t miss it — social media and Netflix do a very good job of plugging the gaps — but something was definitely missing.

At the start of 2019 I made a conscious effort to get back into reading fiction and I’ve read 10 novels from start to finish this year. There’s been about 10 others I didn’t finish, several short story anthologies I’ve devoured and easily 20 or more non-fiction titles I’ve purchased for work. My Kindle is littered with book samples and my Audible account’s been getting a workout too. And while 10 finished books might not sound a lot, it’s 10 more fiction titles than the last ten years put together.

The truth is, if you want to read more fiction you have to aggressively make time for it. You have to steal time away from other activities and purposefully use those gaps in your day. Train rides, bus journeys and lunch hours are made for rehabilitating bookworms. Choosing to watch one less episode on Netflix and read a chapter instead is a game-changer. It can feel strange to read in silence when you’re out of practice so playing music quietly in the background or leaving the TV on but turned down low can help. I can confirm that reading in the bath is heavenly!

Figuring out the sort of fiction I enjoy has helped enormously. I started with a book everyone was talking about — Normal People by Sally Rooney — then stumbled upon a brilliant book of short stories in Foyles bookshop (Her Body and Other Parties). After that I started playing book detective, tracking down similar titles and reading interviews with authors to discover their inspirations. Subscribing to booksellers’ newsletters has alerted me to a few great books, and I’m currently obsessed with recommendations on

The best books I’ve read lately were ones I lost myself in. I’d eagerly hit the sofa after dinner so I could read just a bit more, staying up late to finish a book in bed, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. I wholeheartedly believe reading should be a pleasure and if you’re not enjoying a book you should simply stop reading it. Skip to the last chapter if you must know what happens but don’t stick it out otherwise. Life is too short to finish books that bore you, so donate your half-finished books to charity, and while you’re there pick up a few new ones to explore. Keep the book energy moving!


Start small — With most novels clocking in at 90,000 words it feels intimidating committing to a book when you’re out of practice, so start with short stories. Finishing a couple of stories in an evening is wonderfully satisfying and will spur you on to longer texts.

Change the format — Audio books are perfect for long car rides and dog walks so set up an Audible account and start listening to stories. If physical books feel clunky invest in a Kindle and sync it with your phone so you always have a book with you.

Go on reading dates — Treat yourself to an hour in a coffee shop, a bookshop or a library. Put reading dates in your day planner and make them happen. Join (or start!) a book club so you have a sociable reason to read.

Let it be fun — Don’t feel you have to slog through Uylsses if you’d rather be reading Harry Potter. Read whatever makes you excited to curl up with a book again.


Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

The Loss of All Lost Things by Amina Gautier

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Things We Say in The Dark by Kirsty Logan

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi


The Power by Naomi Alderman

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Stories for my Sister by Elizabeth Duvivier

I Who Have Never Know Men by Jacqueline Harpman

Normal People by Sally Rooney

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak


The original version of this post first appeared in Project Calm magazine