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Fighting fear with fire

Phil Roberts believes the barbecue can be an antidote to depression and anxiety, as he describes his journey with mental health and cooking.

 BBQ magazine   Winter 2021

Join us on        @thebbqmag

 #PhilRoberts #Meater #MentalHealth #Anxiety




Ever since I can remember, I have had issues with my mental health. I suffered from anxiety from a really young age and vividly recall playing on the Xbox as a child and suddenly feeling the cold drag from my head downwards into my chest. My hearing felt like I was under water and the real panic then ensued. I was unable to control the idea that I was having some kind of terminal episode and I was in mortal danger. Almost out of nowhere my life changed and this became a regular theme in my day-to-day life, developing long term into what is now recognized as GAD or Generalised Anxiety Disorder and health anxiety.

You may be asking why is this something to discuss in the pages of BBQ magazine? The truth is that whether you play rugby, paint pictures or enjoy cooking over fire, these feelings are a consistent theme for many and talking about it not only breaks down barriers and encourages others to ask for support, but also makes it easier for us all to share best practice and coping mechanisms that can help people in their own journey with similar issues. 

People often talk about something called mindfulness and I like to think what we do is one of the purest forms of mindfulness available to us in a world that feels more digitised and muted every day.

I want to share with you my own process. I deal with feelings of anxiety and in more recent times depression by building a fire and cooking outside. 

As a reader of this magazine, you may say: ‘But I do that already?’ Maybe so, but to do it mindfully and appreciate the process top to tail is the meditation, the therapy. 

It’s at your fingertips, and sanctuary can be found within the flames. If you are feeling like you need a break from a cycle of feelings of fear and are caught in a low place, take off the smart watch and put away social media. Stay in the present moment without the distractions.

Gather your favourite wood or charcoal and pull out your preferred cooking vessel, be it a fire bowl or a kamado and take time to place the fuel in regimented formations, carefully placing kindling and firelighters ready for ignition. 

Take great care in appreciating the textures, sounds and smells while you build your fire and light it with the intention of watching the process. Take time out to shut out the noise and enjoy the ritual, concentrate on your breathing and stay present.

When the fire is primed and settled, pick your favourite dish and take as long as you like preparing it. Cook it slowly, step by step and appreciate the art and beauty of what we do. We tame an element and bend it to our will and with it feed ourselves and our family. 

From start to finish you are in control and, much like when we deal with anxiety, we can either feed it, or we can shut the vents and control it. 

Take a moment to detach, and whether it is cooking over a wood fire, painting, writing or running, finding your meditation or escape is key to being able to shut the vents and feel like you are in control. 



It is why BBQ is so important to me. It keeps me in a place where I can shut off to the world and love living in the moment and that to me is truly priceless. 

Phil Roberts works for MEATER, the leading wireless meat thermometer brand and also blogs 


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