Catriona McFeely: You can't control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to it

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Derry actress Catriona McFeely

Gail Bell

Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

Being an actor, your schedule changes all the time, but, if on a rehearsal schedule - which usually starts around 9.30 am to 10 o'clock - I'll be up at 6.30am or 7am and take myself off to the gym for an hour or so. I'll be home for 8.30 when I'll have breakfast and get ready for work.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Either porridge with blueberries, peanut butter, chia seeds and honey, or else a green smoothie with whatever's in the fridge - usually spinach, kale, cucumber, apple and ginger.


I'll make a wrap at home to take with me to work and, invariably, it will be filled with chicken or tuna and lettuce, peppers, tomato and cheese or something like that. Or leftover dinner - whatever's handiest.

Evening meal?

My fiancé is a great cook and usually cooks every night. He makes a really nice spicy chicken pasta dish and I always like to have some greens on the side, usually broccoli.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

I try to eat as much fruit and veg as I can and I'll drink about three litres of water a day. I take protein and creatine which helps with recovery after exercise.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

Nah, I just try to eat everything in moderation, but I do have a terrible sweet tooth and I'm always looking for a wee bit of chocolate or something sweet after dinner.


Weekend treat?

Me and my partner like to do ‘pizza and Prosecco' Fridays - takeaway pizza and a bottle of fizz.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

My job is quite active which helps and I live close to the city centre, so I usually walk everywhere, if I can. My gym is also just round the corner, so I try and go most days and do something – either weights, cardio, yoga or stretching. Keeping mentally fit is a bit trickier, I think, as life is so busy and it's difficult to take a minute to slow down. If I'm feeling overwhelmed mentally, I'll make sure to do some meditation or a wee 20-minute yoga session.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Move your body in some way every day, whether it's a short walk or some stretching... I always feel better, mentally and physically, when I do that.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I really enjoyed PE and sports - I'm a competitive person, so I channelled this into sport. I played Gaelic football when I was younger, but when I went to drama school, I struggled to find the time. I really miss it, actually.


Teetotal or tipple?

Oh, tipple, definitely. I'm a big fan of ‘bubbly' - Prosecco or Champagne and I love a pint of Guinness in the pub on a Sunday afternoon.


Stairs or lift?

I'd love to say stairs, but definitely, the lift.


What book are you currently reading?

I'm reading Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid who wrote The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which I sat down one morning to start reading and honestly didn't leave the sofa until I was finished - it was fantastic. So, my partner got me her new one for Christmas. It's been great, so far.


Best Netflix?

I love a good drama – Safe was brilliant, as was Maid and Stranger Things. Also, I loves dramas like Happy Valley and Broadchurch - they always have me hooked.


Most surprising thing you learned about yourself over the pandemic?

That I could survive in a sixth floor one-bed flat with my partner in one of the biggest April heatwaves Belfast has ever seen. And how much, as an actor, your life is totally intertwined with your job. When that was instantly taken away, it was awful.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I'm a creature of habit, so the gym is my hobby. I keep trying to pick up guitar, but it doesn't seem to be happening for me at the moment.


How do you relax?

Sitting on the sofa with a coffee and a book. I love a wee day out with my partner, moseying about town, popping into the pub for a pint and maybe finishing the day off with a nice cheese board and some wine.


What are your goals for 2023?

To be content. Career wise, I'd love to do more TV and film, as that scene here in Northern Ireland seems to be buzzing at the moment.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I try to make sure I'm in bed no later than 11pm, but I'll read or scroll, watch funny videos or cooking videos that I'll never actually use. Being an actor and finishing a show at night means it's tricky to get to sleep, sometimes. I get about six hours a night, but I make up for it at the weekend with big lie-ins - on my day off, wild horses couldn't get me out of bed...


Biggest gripe or regret?

Not spending more time with loved ones that I've lost. You never know what you have until it's gone.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

They're always changing. You can't control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to it. That's my mantra for life.


Has coronavirus – or anything else - changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

When you lose someone close to you that you love, it definitely creeps into your consciousness a lot more and I'm sure many people dealt with that during the pandemic. All you can do is take each day as it comes and try to make it count.

:: Catriona McFeely is currently working on Prism with Replay Theatre Company which opens at Belfast Children's Festival in March