Actress Angela Bloomfield on looking after her body and mind
FORMER SHORTY STREET STAR ANGELA BLOOMFIELD TALKS TO SARA BUNNY ABOUT FINDING HERSELF AGAIN, THE DAILY HABIT THAT’S CHANGED HER LIFE, AND STAYING MENTALLY STRONG
‘Make sure you’re getting enough sleep but also enough joy’
When you’ve spent the past 25 years playing the role of one of our most recognisable screen characters, leaving it all behind can take some getting used to. More than a year on from filming her last scenes as Shortland
Street’s Rachel McKenna, actress Angela Bloomfield is not only focusing on new projects, she’s taking the time to recalibrate, refocus, and re-establish her sense of self.
“For five days a week I was pretending to be someone else, and you don’t actually realise how much that moulds you until you stop doing it,” she says. “Going from working in that way all the time, to doing what I’m doing now has been really good. I’m spending more time being me, and that’s been the best part about leaving
Shortland Street. It’s like, ‘okay, this is who I am’. It’s really nice to find that again.”
With the days of a rigid filming schedule and carefully structured routines behind her, Angela is relishing the chance to focus on health and wellbeing. Meditation has become a new favourite, and the results have been a game-changer.
“I started meditation after a friend put me on to an app, and I think it’s been really powerful,” she says. “Yoga feels very much like exercise to me, whereas meditation feels like soul food. I try to do it daily, although it can be hard. Then again, it only takes 10-15 minutes, and if you haven’t got just 10 minutes to do something for you, then maybe you’re doing something wrong!”
While practising meditation helps her find calm, Angela hasn’t always been so at ease. A long-time sufferer of panic attacks, she had to learn to identify her triggers, as well as ways to keep her overactive mind in check.
“I’ve suffered panic attacks since my 20s,” she says. “They abated for a wee while but then came back – not full on ones, although I did have a couple of those at work! I can definitely feel now when they are coming on. When you have the sort of brain where it doesn’t take much for it to go ‘woooo’ with whatever your trigger is, you have to be able to talk yourself off the ledge.
“I think sharing is really important, and I have key people who I trust, and who I download to in a major way. It’s also about making sure you look after yourself; make sure you’re getting enough sleep but also enough joy. It’s important to see friends and laugh and have a glass of wine.”
Alongside keeping positive and enjoying time with good friends, Angela credits a healthy diet and regular exercise as the key foundation of her wellbeing toolkit. For the mum of two who did ballet throughout her teens, exercise used to be about pushing herself into the most active pursuits possible. But over the past few years, Pilates classes and heading into the great outdoors have formed the base of her workouts.
“My kind of physical is going for a walk, run, or bike ride,” says the 45-year-old. “Gyms don’t really work for me. I prefer my exercise to be a by-product of something else. I’ve never really pumped big weights or anything like that, but I would much rather feel strong and healthy than be really little. And I like to eat!”
The reformed “picky eater” says eggs, nuts and fruit are part of her daily staples, and she’s learning to give veges more of a starring role. She avoids regimented diets and, most importantly, doesn’t put too much pressure on herself. “I’m not one of those people who are vigilant about things. I’ve worked out if I tell myself I can’t have something, then pretty much straight away
‘I WOULD MUCH RATHER FEEL STRONG AND HEALTHY THAN BE REALLY LITTLE. AND I LIKE TO EAT!’
I want it, so it’s better to just work on a reward basis. If I eat okay for a couple of days, then I let myself pig out for a meal!”
A tough call
Looking back on her past on-screen life as Rachel, there’s no denying it’s been a wild ride. Since landing the role at 19, she guided her character through a raft of crises, adapted her life around the long days and whirlwind speed of filming a nightly soap, and grew more than two decades older on the nation’s TV screens. Despite the stresses of the TV world, it was a hard decision to pull the pin, but Angela knew it was the right time to walk away.
“I’d played her for a considerable amount of time,” she muses. “I don’t want people to say, ‘She didn’t like it, that must be why she left.’ How long do you have to stay at something to prove to people you enjoyed it?! I’m at that point in my life where it’s not too late to establish myself off screen, and I didn’t want to leave it too late. It’s still really hard, as people see me solely as an actor. I’m always saying to people, ‘but I can do these other things!’ But they’ve mentally placed you somewhere else.”
Other irons in the fire include developing web series and film scripts with her close friend, screenwriter Kate McDermott, alongside more directing and perhaps penning a comedy drama show. She’s excited by the possibilities, but she’s also candid about the realities of going from a stable income to the uncertainty of life as a freelancing creative.
“I’m enjoying it, but if I’m honest, things haven’t picked up as much as I’d have liked them to,” says Angela, who is mum to Max, 13, and Maya, 11. “It’s making sure what you are doing still has value in your head, just because it’s not yet bringing in any money. That’s what being a creative is; it’s sitting down and spending hours writing and designing, or doing applications in the hope someone funds you and you can make something.
“It’s tough. It takes big balls to go, ‘I really back this, and I’m going to put it all on the line and convince other people to back this too.’ Knockbacks are a big part of it, and oh my lord, we’ve had so many knockbacks that we just can’t stop!”
Living in the moment
As she sips herbal tea at a bustling central Auckland café, Angela’s relaxed and upbeat. She’s philosophical about the hard days she’s faced while navigating new career territory, but if there’s one thing this phase has taught her, it’s how vital it is to look after her mental and emotional health.
“When you’re in a place that feels so different, you have to gather yourself, have a strong mental game and be centred,” she
says. “I’ve thought about packing it all in and just getting a job that’s not like what I’m doing, but every time I go to do it I’m like ‘hang on, hang on, it’s only been about 12 months.’”
These days, she loves having the chance to enjoy a walk or a session tinkering in the kitchen, but most of all, she has more time to spend with Maya and Max.
“I do have this other thing called motherhood,” she says, “and it’s pretty demanding! I’m in a much better place now to be a mum. They’re both pre-teens so their emotions are quite rife; there’s a lot more talking and discussions after school. It’s almost trickier than caring for a young child as it’s not rudimentary anymore. They have very different needs, but they both need your wisdom and life experience. In a way it’s the right time for me to have a slightly cruisier work life, so I can be home at 3pm.”
And for Angela, who admits words like ‘cruisy’ and ‘flexible’ haven’t always been part of her vocabulary, curbing her tendency to control life with a vicelike grip has been a key part of her new journey. “I’m definitely not steering the ship as hard now as I was 15 years ago,” she says thoughtfully. “In my 20s, I was way too controlling; I wasn’t letting the world turn, I was getting in the way. But looking back, I think the less rules you bind yourself to, the better. That way you’re able to let stuff happen and go with it. While I still need to have a bit of a plan, I’m a lot more open to the world.”
‘IN MY 20S I WAS WAY TOO CONTROLLING. I WASN’T LETTING THE WORLD TURN’