Life coach and broadcaster Anna Williamson shares the life lessons and perspectives on love, friendship, and being a bit silly from time to time, that help keep her on track
Multi-faceted’ is a descriptor that seems to have been created for Anna Williamson; she is a woman of many talents – and many, many jobs. She’s a mind coach, podcaster, TV presenter, radio show host, author, columnist, and the list goes on... Alongside this, she’s an ambassador for Mind, The Prince’s Trust, and Childline, and is incredibly devoted to raising awareness of mental health.
Anna speaks candidly about the mental illness she has faced herself, including crippling anxiety disorder earlier in her TV career. She’s also shared her experiences around the arrival of her son Enzo, explaining how the trauma of his birth, and the post-natal depression that followed, impacted her, and her relationship with her partner.
Her open book approach to life’s events and the working of our minds, without a hint of airbrushing, is a breath of fresh air in the entertainment industry.
Right now, Anna is putting this talent for straight-talking to great use. She’s in the middle of filming a new series of E4’s Celebs Go Dating (her second so far), and continues to produce the twice-weekly frank, funny, and very often naughty, ‘Loose Lips’ podcast with Luisa Zissman – and she’s feeling grateful about both projects for very different reasons.
“Working on Celebs Go Dating really is my dream job,” she says enthusiastically. “I’m working with people who want to make changes; they aspire to love or a relationship, and they want to work on themselves. From a personal and psychological point of view, that’s really interesting.”
Working with her colleague, Paul Brunswick, Anna helps to guide the celebrities through a new approach to dating, and she insists that the process has given her much to think about too.
“It’s taught me that everyone deserves love,” she explains. “And if people are willing to be open and show their vulnerable side, they feel better, and become happier individuals too. And it’s going to be another really eventful series,” she teases.
And as for ‘Loose Lips’, what does that bring her?
“Recording ‘Loose Lips’ is a huge release!” she says laughing.
Anna and co-host Luisa Zissman met when Anna was the ‘psych’ expert on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side, and have been firm friends ever since. Their friendship is one of the factors that makes the podcast such a huge hit; it comes through so clearly in their chat.
“We’re just two girls, having a good natter and a catch up, taking the mick out of each other,” Anna explains when asked about their pod’s appeal. “It’s no-holds-barred, and we speak openly and honestly.”
If people are willing to be open and show their vulnerable side, they feel better, and become happier
It’s not always sweetness and light though – and that’s OK by Anna too. “We’re very different people. What we love about the podcast is that it shows that it’s OK to disagree; you can stay friends, you don’t have to segregate yourself, or shun people because you don’t both think the same way.
“There’s loads of stuff Luisa says that I don’t agree with, and she talks about me ‘banging on about mental health’ – a subject I think she struggles to get her head around. But we respect each other enough to agree to disagree, and at the end of it have a good old laugh – and that’s what its about.”
Embracing this playful side is important to Anna. “I think in this day and age we lose sight of the benefit of being a bit silly; we’re all too consumed with trying to look good on Instagram, and filtering the crap out of ourselves.”
Whatever platform she’s on, Anna commits to being her authentic self – and this is what makes her so successful. She has a brilliant ability to inject a large dollop of reality into every conversation she’s part of, along with a lot of belly laughs.
Being real is a value that Anna holds dear, and one acquired from personal experience. “I’ve been through some hard stuff,’ she says plainly. “I’ve suffered with really bad mental health, and life has thrown some really challenging times at me – as it has with a lot of people.”
“I’ve learned through these experiences – in therapy and then through professional training – that being authentic and true to yourself is actually the key to wellness and happiness.
“So many of us feel we have to fit into a mould, people-please, or be something that we’re not sometimes, and I learned the hard way that I am who I am, and I don’t need to pretend I’m anyone I’m not.”
So, in addition to keeping it real, how does Anna keep it all going? From the outside, she seems to be spinning a lot of plates...
“There is a certain amount of juggling that goes on – but also, becoming a parent gives you so much perspective. You realise that you’re keeping a little person alive, and that their needs are more important than anything else.
“I’ve become really disciplined since becoming a mum,” she adds. “Whereas before I could burn the candle at both ends, say yes to things that perhaps I shouldn’t, and I was teetering on people-pleasing.
“All of that has gone, because I have a little boy who needs to go to bed at 7pm, or be picked up from nursery – so it’s really important for me to have a disciplined routine day-to-day.”
I really feel that everyone should have someone to offload to, therapy is such an important thing to do
However, Anna is aware that to stay well and mentally healthy, she also needs to make time for herself. “I plan ‘days of no obligation’,” she explains. “They are quite few and far between, but they are for me to do whatever I want to; whether that’s watching a box set, seeing a friend, or going for a massage. I treat those days like they are a doctor’s appointment, because they’re essential for my health.”
Anna is also emphatic about the need to keep learning, and she continues to be deeply interested in mental health, psychology, and learning more about human interactions. She reads widely, and tunes into other people’s thinking on these subjects, as part of her own professional and personal development.
Anna has therapy, too – in the form of supervision for her career and for herself, and she continues to be an advocate for the positive impact counselling and coaching can have.
“I really feel that everyone should have someone to offload to, and therapy is such an important and cathartic thing to do,” she shares. “I would say to anyone reading this, please don’t wait until something is wrong.
“To have someone, a counsellor or coach, to sit down and talk to, especially if you’re busy and you wear a lot of hats – parent hat, work hat, relationship hat – having someone that you can work everything through with, and prioritise your own happiness and wellbeing in that time, is extremely beneficial.”
She pauses. “As well as carving out that bit of time for yourself and having a good old gossip with a girlfriend,” she laughs. “The power of that should not be underestimated.”
Anna Willamson is a mind coach, TV presenter, podcast host, author, and a celebrity dating agent on E4’s ‘Celebs Go Dating’. Follow Anna on Instagram @annawilliamsonofficial