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What Meshel Laurie has learnt about her own wellbeing in the past 12 months.

A few weeks ago, podcaster and author Meshel Laurie spent three consecutive nights building a shoe cabinet from IKEA. 

When she finished, her shocked 10-year-old daughter Dali turned to her and said, "Wow mum, I've never seen you do something like that without swearing or crying.

"You’re just much more patient now, there’s something different about you."

Speaking to Mamamia, Meshel explained that she thinks "it must be COVID".

She credits the global pandemic with making her a more patient mother, a more resilient human, a more balanced businesswoman, and apparently an expert at flatpack furniture. 

Watch: Meshel Laurie on going through IVF alone. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

To get there however, Meshel says she experienced a bubbling over in almost every capacity in 2020; mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. 

Living in Melbourne with her twins Dali and Louis, and her mother who is in her early 70s and has emphysema, Meshel says she spent much of 2020 "genuinely frightened of COVID".

"I wouldn't let them out of the house. The fear initially was giving COVID to my mum so I was doing all of the outward facing jobs. But my hardest challenge was keeping my patience and temper when I was that fearful and tired. 

"Suddenly I had two 10-year-olds, with their two little desks either side of me Zooming all day into school. That for me that was my mental health challenge, trying to deal with that and keep up with my work as they were constantly like ‘my Zoom link isn't working’. And then there's the pushing them to do their work because 10-year-olds are champions at avoiding work... it was a nightmare. I got really behind on my work and I couldn’t keep up. It was incredibly stressful," she told Mamamia.

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In the midst of Melbourne's 112 day lockdown, Meshel recalls running into a school mum at the supermarket. 

"I was in there at Coles, and all the other shops were shut so it was like a cave in there. She was so hollow behind the eyes, and we were so happy to see eachother but we couldn’t hug, and I said 'how are you going?' Because that’s what we were doing at the time, asking eachother, but really meaning it. And this lady said to me 'I am okay but a while ago I was really bad'. I didn’t ask her for specifics, but I got it. And these were the kinds of conversations we were having. I'd never experienced something like that before."

The exchange left a mark on Meshel, whose new podcast Calm Ya Farm was born as a direct reaction to the pandemic and the 47-year-old's desire to continue having real, honest conversations about mental health. 

Meshel's bite sized daily chats with Australian celebrities promise "human-to-human conversation about staying sane. No wind chimes or whale sounds. Just real people, sharing real ideas you can use".


Speaking to MamamiaMeshel shared that it was connecting with past hobbies that got her through some of her darker moments in 2020.

"I hadn’t really listened to music in such a long time because I had been busy and had the kids around. It was a big part of my life when I was younger and then I stopped having that time and I was working all the time. [So during COVID] I became obsessed with Freddie Mercury again and watching Queen. There was something about his resilience and beautiful attitude in the face of challenges that really inspired me in that moment."

Meshel also started painting again, a hobby she hadn't indulged in for 20 years. 

"And I found that my painting is better than ever. It was so much better than I have ever painted before, because I have so much more patience with it," she said. 

As Australia learns to exist in a 'COVID normal' bubble that somewhat resembles our old lives, Meshel has taken the lessons she learnt while "slowing down" into 2021.

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For example, she stops working at night now at a designated time.

"Which sounds quite normal, probably, for most people. But it was a whole different experience for me to actually relax at nighttime and do something like [painting] for myself. And now it’s a habit that I do every night and I look forward to it every day."

She also credits Buddhism for helping her stay calm, telling Mamamia that her religion is "always the core of everything".

"I always say ‘work the program,’ whatever your program is. You don’t have to convert to Buddhism, just do your religion properly. Whenever I am feeling out of sync or upset or just not happy, it’s because I am not doing Buddhism properly and I am not working the program. So that was definitely a big part of it, going back to that when I wasn’t coping with the pressure and the fear," she said.

Gratitude was Meshel's wake-up call in 2020, with last year really helping her to understand what she valued in life. 

As she wrote on Instagram in September, "We’d started to believe we 'needed' our annual holiday away from Melbourne’s winter. After living through this last winter in stage 4 lockdown, I can tell you we are just focusing all of our energy on the idea that we might be able to enjoy a milkshake at our local beach this summer."

Meshel calls it, "the repositioning of our gratitude threshold" and speaking to Mamamia admits that, on the whole, the pandemic has actually taught her to be a better version of herself.

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"I know we all feel guilty saying that - because a lot of people are still dying, and I can’t help but think of those countries that didn’t have the support we had. But I think I am in a much better position mentally, psychologically, and physically, than I was 18 months ago," she said.

But Meshel says that's not the case for a lot of the guests she's tried to recruit for Calm Ya Farm.

"Something I did notice in making the podcast though is a number of people I approached came back and said 'look I would love to, but I am not doing well. So I don’t think I can offer anybody else advice or whatever.' And I think that’s really important to note," she said. "Again it’s great that people are being honest about that. But it’s just a good reminder that it’s not over, it’s going to have really long-term ramifications for people. And that’s what this podcast is about too, saying that’s normal, and you’re normal if that’s your situation."

For Meshel, travelling out of her "home base" remains her main paranoia.

"I am still paranoid to plan anything - certainly any travel or anything like that. I’m really struggling with that a lot... planning too far ahead. I am more than happy to make podcasts in my little home, but anything broader than that... that’s my trauma. I don’t trust anything at the moment and I think it will take me a long time to feel like it’s over."

So for now, Meshel is remaining bunkered down in her tightknit Melbourne community, painting portraits of Freddie Mercury in her downtime, and picking the brains of fellow Australians for their most calming, restorative wellness tips.

Listen to Calm Ya Farm on Acast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Feature image: Meshel Laurie.