A former celebrity cook who survived five heart attacks has joined the battle to maintain the nation’s mental health amid the current pandemic, sharing her tips to banish fear and negativity surrounding the coronavirus.
Sally Bee, 52, of Stratford-upon-Avon, was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening heart condition 16 years ago – forcing her to fine-tune the art of positive mental thinking.
Last month she launched her Daily Positive videos on her website and social media channels. They are also being shared by ITV’s Lorraine show via its YouTube channel and the programme’s other social platforms.
Sally is currently reaching around half a million people each day, teaching them the tools to look after their mental health.
Sally Bee, 52, of Stratford-upon-Avon, was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening heart condition 16 years ago – forcing her to fine-tune the art of positive mental thinking
Speaking to FEMAIL, Sally admitted she feels everybody else is now experiencing the kind of fear she’s lived with with for almost two decades.
‘I’ve lived like this for a long time – the fear that if I caught an infection it could kill me,’ she said.
‘I kind of feel like everybody else has come into my world now. I’ve lived with the fear of getting any kind of infection and the fear that if something gets me it will grab me much harder than it maybe would other people.
‘I’m used to living in this way, it’s really no surprise to me. But I had to learn to overcome those dark thoughts so I wasn’t overwhelmed by them on a daily basis and I could still enjoy life.
Sally, pictured with Lorraine and Maxine Jones, admitted she feels everybody else is now experiencing the kind of fear she’s lived with with for almost two decades
Sally has survived five heart attacks – three of which happened at the age of 36 – and her family were told to say their goodbyes as she wasn’t expected to survive. Pictured in hospital after her fourth and fifth heart attack
‘When coronavirus reached us in the UK, it didn’t cause me any extra fear or worry, because I’m already in that “vulnerable” group. It just meant lots more people having to adopt the same attitude towards life that I have.
‘I realised that the tools I’ve learned and taught myself could offer support to many others, and I’ve had lots of messages from people saying it’s keeping them going.’
Nobody is better equipped to offer advice towards overcoming deep-seated fear than Sally.
Her own heart-wrenching story started in September 2004 when she suffered a heart attack while taking one of her three children to a friend’s birthday party.
Nobody is better equipped to offer advice towards overcoming deep-seated fear than Sally
She recalled: ‘I handed my baby girl Lela to a friend and ran to the toilet. It was as if a big black cloud was looming over me and I knew something very serious was happening to me.
‘I collapsed on the floor, feeling as if my chest was being crushed and struggling to breathe. I felt sick and hot and sweaty. The pain I was enduring was so much worse than giving birth to any of my three babies.’
Sally was rushed to hospital but doctors ruled out anything serious, as she was only 36, led a healthy lifestyle and had no family history of heart problems.
But two days later at home serving tea it happened again, and Sally was back at the hospital having suffered the same agony. That night a third episode hit.
After her first heart attack, Sally was rushed to hospital but doctors ruled out anything serious, as she was only 36, led a healthy lifestyle and had no family history of heart problems. Pictured in hospital after falling over and breaking her arm – two day later she had her fourth heart attack, with doctors suggesting the fall could have been sparked it due to the adrenaline
An angiogram revealed Sally had suffered three heart attacks, causing massive damage to her heart.
Doctors told her husband Dogan, now 56, and children Tarik, then five, Kazim, two, and baby Lela, nine months, to say their goodbyes, as it was unlikely Sally would survive.
‘They said I’d die before the morning, then they said I would die the next day and then that I wouldn’t last the week, because I’d suffered such catastrophic damage to my heart,’ she said.
‘My lifestyle and positive thinking is definitely what saved me. In that situation it was sink or swim. It would have been easier to sink because I was afraid of everything.
Doctors told her husband Dogan, now 56, and children Tarik, then five, Kazim, two, and baby Lela, nine months, to say their goodbyes, as it was unlikely Sally would survive
‘I spent a year recovering, laying on the sofa watching the children play and struggling with the fear it would happen again. But I realised that I was more afraid of living in fear than I was afraid of dying. I decided I would take control of my life, push the boundaries and move forward.
‘I resolved to never, ever, give up breathing, and threw myself into thinking positively, staying fit and eating healthily, so that I could be there for my children.
‘The healthy lifestyle I’d led before had been down to pure vanity. I was prone to putting on weight and had to be careful to eat well and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Had I not led such a healthy lifestyle I would have died.
‘This time it was about survival. It became apparent that my mindset and eating habits had the ability to heal me or harm me. It’s the same for everyone.’
Pictured with her husband Dogan, Sally overcame her fear of dying by consciously changing her mindset
Her condition was diagnosed as SCAD – Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection – which causes bleeding or tearing of the innermost lining of the artery wall.
Courageous Sally pushed onwards, leading a healthy and mostly happy life for 12 years, before her worst nightmares came true. In November 2016 she suffered two more heart attacks within a week.
She admitted: ‘Those were my darkest moments so far. I woke up every day and my first thought was, “I’m alive” immediately followed by “will this be the day I die?”.’
For months she was plunged back into the fear of dying, but once again overcame it by consciously changing her mindset.
Sally says staying positive is about noticing the tiny bits of joy. ‘It’s not about feeling that the whole world is beautiful and therefore I’m happy, it’s more about getting through the day,’ she adds
Sally said: ‘If you struggle with depression, anxiety or mental health something like the coronavirus can seem too big to deal with, but there are things you can do to empower yourself.
‘I think a lot of people are still in shock. When I was ill there was a period of grief – I was grieving for my health. I think currently people are grieving for the innocence of their lives and their freedom.
‘But I think as the weeks pass people will lose momentum and lose sight of the benefits of staying in, which is when positivity will be more important.
‘It’s about noticing the tiny bits of joy. It’s not about feeling that the whole world is beautiful and therefore I’m happy, it’s more about getting through the day. So many other people didn’t have that approach because they didn’t have to, but now it’s being forced upon us.
Sally, pictured with Lorraine and Maxine Jones, is sharing her free Positive Messages with the nation each day, from her home
‘There’s so many stories and posts about how it’s making people nicer, and it think it does have that effect. You do realise and appreciate the small things in life.’
Before the current health crisis Sally was throwing herself into motivational speaking and her online movement Being the Best You, which also teaches self-care.
That’s currently suspended so she can concentrate on sharing her free Positive Message with the nation each day, from her home.
Sally said: ‘I’m working much harder on mental health than usual for myself and those around me.
‘I’m not superwoman, there are always days when the negativity gets to me, but just because I’m having a bad day doesn’t mean the next day will be the same, I just expect it to be a better day.
‘I’ve got a year’s worth of messages, so I’ll keep going as long as people need.’
Sally’s top tips for staying positive and banishing fear during lockdown
1. Understand that fear, although a natural reaction, is not helpful. Worrying doesn’t change the situation and in fact, it will impact on your health and wellbeing. So cut off the supply of fear by replacing it with positive thoughts.
2. Just making the decision to be more positive isn’t enough. You actually have to action that plan. Positivity needs feeding, both emotionally and physically.
3. Motion changes our emotion. Change the way you sit, stand, walk, smile. Every action you demand on the outside of your body also demands a physiological response inside. So, deciding to tense muscles and stand tall will release more happy hormones to help change your mindset too.
4. Your old routine may be out of the window, so develop a new one. If you are struggling with anxiety, knowing what to expect next is really helpful. Even if your routine consists of reading a chapter of your book, walking for an hour, resting for 30 mins, doing a puzzle for 30 mins… it will help you to know what you have got to do next!
5. Try to flip your thoughts. Every negative has a positive, sometimes you just have to look a little harder for them. There are no flowers without rain, no stars without darkness, and no real understanding of how wonderful life is until it comes under threat.
6. Mind your language – particularly to yourself. Changing the way you speak to yourself can totally transform your state of mind. Kind words rule.
7. Keep moving forwards – mind and body. It’s much easier to change gear when you are already moving, so although you might feel that everything around you has stopped, you still need to plan for the future, and keep going in a forward direction.
8. Don’t be afraid of being alone with yourself. You might discover you are the best company around.
9. Today is still your day, so own it and make it the best that you can.
10. If you are struggling with a low day, simply be gentle on yourself, allow a day to feel a bit sorry, but then don’t expect that feeling to continue to the next day. Always expect tomorrow to be fabulous.
To keep up with Sally’s daily positive videos visit www.sally-bee.com or follow her on Instagram.