This whole business of self-compassion is most definitely a practice, which (for me, anyway) means days that come easily and days that don’t. Yesterday was a difficult day. I forgot something relatively important, which I should have remembered (and had set numerous reminders to myself about), which set off a spiral of anxiety about feeling unproductive, disorganized, etc.
This is a typical cycle for me: giving myself a break, often because I’ve gotten sick, and then undoing a lot of the gentleness with a subsequent panic about what hasn’t gotten done. The inconsistency in my productivity and motivation, the cycles of procrastination and doing, is something I’m still working on—and I know that burnout has plenty to do with it. But enhanced insight has yet to lessen the worry that I feel when it seems as though I’ve fallen behind. And the DI creates more deadlines, paperwork, and logistics than usual.
I do think I’m becoming more adept at breaking the familiar cycle once it starts. At the heart of this is the fact that I don’t want to waste any more time than I already have with the exhausting business of self-blame. In the past, I suspect that negative self-talk and self-censure was so much a part of my way of being that I was attached to it, whether I knew it or not. I feel very differently these days—aware that we’re all our worst critics sometimes, conscious of the fact that all behaviors take a while to change, but very ready to change this one.
Yesterday I spent my afternoon feeling especially rotten about myself. It didn’t take me long to realize how much I didn’t want the remainder of my Saturday to follow suit. I downloaded Kristen Neff’s book, which had been on my wish list for a while. I spent some time with it, and with Sharon Salzberg’s introduction. Then I met up with a friend for dinner before attending a kirtan at my yoga studio.
In spite of the fact that I’ve never been much of a singer—not for karaoke, not even in the shower—I love kirtan. I can’t think of too many life experiences that give me more joy than mantra and song with my spiritual community, and last night was no exception.
My friend and I were running late (as always), so the music had already began when we arrived. I found a blanket and joined in the song with something that felt a lot like glee—I haven’t been able to practice yoga with regularity this fall, and I’ve missed my home studio more than I realized. I didn’t know how much I was craving the company of my fellow yogis until last night, nor did I understand how starved I’ve felt of a sense of devotion to something bigger than me.
I spent the next two hours singing, clapping, snapping, and occasionally jiggling a tambourine in celebration. Celebration of what? I don’t know—the kirtan had a new year’s theme, but I wasn’t really thinking about the transition from last year to this one. If anything, I was celebrating the practice of new beginnings, which is personal and unattached to the calendar. I was celebrating the fact that my day could have felt a certain way, and a mere four hours later feel so differently. I’ve been ruminating lately on the power of starting fresh with each breath, each new moment, and last night felt like an embodiment of that possibility.
Most of all, though, it was a celebration of shared voice and song. And it reminded me that, while my practice of self-care often looks like taking it easy, resting, giving myself the gift of solitude, cancelling plans to take it easy, etc., that isn’t always what’s needed. Sometimes the best medicine is for me to step outside and choose to be with my community. I sometimes forget what a gift it is that it’s there. We’re all stumbling and celebrating, on our own and sometimes, if we’re really lucky, together.
I’m starting this new week with a sense of lightness and gratitude—and lots of video clips of last night’s music on my phone, which I’ll watch whenever I need to be transported back to the feelings I felt at the kirtan in the days ahead.
I wish you some inner or outer music of your own. Here are some recipes and reads.
I think I’ve met my next vegan breakfast taco!
A very cozy, very easy, wintery potato goulash.
I love the looks of Steven’s protein-rich Southwestern vegan posole.
Another simple meal: Aysegul’s one-pan Mexican quinoa.
Finally, Sarah has created one of the most beautiful whole roasted cauliflowers I’ve ever seen!
1. On the topic of burnout, a few readers have sent me the link to this Buzzfeed article now. I’ve found it to be, just as they did, incredibly relatable.
The article identifies a constellation of struggles, but especially a difficulty in managing everyday tasks and errands, that I’ve had a hard time owning up to. Why? Because the whole issue feels incredibly embarrassing (why should so-called adulting be so hard for me?), and because until now I understood it solely as a symptom of my depression, when I could admit to it at all. I may be much less alone than I think I am.
I don’t want to say too much, as the article’s worth reading in its entirety, but I did especially love this quotation (underscored to me by a reader and friend who was compelled by it as I was):
But for the first time, I’m seeing myself, the parameters of my labor, and the causes of my burnout clearly. And it doesn’t feel like the abyss. It doesn’t feel hopeless. It’s not a problem I can solve, but it’s a reality I can acknowledge, a paradigm through which I can understand my actions.
2. A fascinating look at alpha-gal allergy—which makes people allergic to animal meat and anything derived from an animal or its excretions—and its link to tick bites.
3. This interesting article reports on biomusic, an interface that allows for detection of anxiety or other emotions via physiological signals. It holds special promise for researchers and caregivers working with patients who can’t communicate through motion or words.
4. This New York Times article describes early research on the power of expectation or belief to impact satiety and the capacity to exercise. It’s one intriguing experiment only, and the results—which point to belief/expectation as vying with genetics in mediating the food/exercise-related measures—don’t mean that genetics are unimportant.
Still, I paid attention when I read this, as it’s long been my observation that strong beliefs and outcome expectations (for example, the idea that one’s relationship with food is incurably damaged) can reinforce struggle with eating and fitness.
5. It’s taken me years—and a lot of failed baking experiments—to figure out this critical distinction.
Speaking of Taste, the magazine has helped to make possible an awesome ebook promotion of Power Plates! For the next week, the Kindle version of the book is only $2.99, which makes it a great deal. If you’ve thought about getting the book but have been deterred by the price point, if you’d like to explore the recipes before or without investing in the hard copy, or if you’re a fan of cooking from your Kindle in general, you can check the promotion out here 🙂
Happy Sunday, friends. I’ve got an awesome, healthful cookie recipe coming your way in just a day or two!
Weekend Reading | The Full Helping
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I probably should have thought to post something festive before today, but instead it’s coming to you in a day or two. It’s a very tasty cabbage and pasta recipe, which I hope you’ll like.
I wrapped up another community rotation of my internship this past week. This rotation included a lot of group education and a little bit of counseling. In both contexts, I was touched, as I always am, to be reminded of how deeply people care about nutrition and what they eat.
It’s funny: in my nutrition grad program, we received so much guidance on motivating people and helping them to overcome their ambivalence. Motivational interviewing is virtually the only counseling technique we were taught, which I thought was a disservice. I understand why this was the way it was: our program was geared toward group education, rather than individual counseling, and one of the assumptions made was that we’d be working with groups of people who weren’t entirely sold on getting nutrition guidance in the first place–for example, those who have been referred to a dietitian by a primary care provider.
The relentless focus on motivation and “rolling with resistance” always struck me as limited, because my overwhelming experience has been that people are interested in food and strongly motivated to eat better. For a while I wondered if my experience was intrinsically limited by the population of folks I’ve crossed paths with as a nutritionist, but now that I’m more than halfway into my internship, I’ve only seen more proof of how much people care and how motivated they are.
From what I can tell, what stands in the way of meaningful change isn’t resistance or ambivalence so much as circumstance. It’s hard—really hard—to change one’s eating habits even when circumstances are working in one’s favor. It’s even harder in the face of life’s many difficulties, including financial hardship, stress, mental illness, family obligations, time constraints, and so on. Even with strong motivation in place, life can and does get in the way.
This isn’t to say that incredible dietary transformations aren’t possible even when circumstance is stacked up against it, nor to suggest that all nutrition patients and clients are strongly motivated. I guess I’m just struck by often people’s desire for change shines through to me.
I’ve seen so many examples in the last week alone, from the patient who broke into tears as she told me about a recent osteoporosis diagnosis (and her confusion about what to eat for bone health) to the patient in her early 90s who explained to me with pride his efforts to cook more vegetarian meals. None of my patients this year have lacked barriers to healthful eating. In spite of that, they care, and they’re doing their best.
This all makes me think about an article I read a few weeks ago, which makes important points about the way we construct and label laziness. I’m linking to it in my reads today. It also reminds me to be compassionate to myself when things stand in the way of what I’d like to do. My mind’s refrain is always “I could have done more,” but it’s often the case that I actually couldn’t have, because circumstances (fatigue, scarcity of time, being distracted by something more urgent) stood in the way. I wanted to do more, which is fine to acknowledge, but it’s different.
Wishing you a peaceful Sunday, with full recognition that you’re doing your best. We all are. Here are some recipes and reads.
Lauren’s split pea soup with cheesy sage dumplings is the definition of comfort food!
I can’t get over how authentic Anastasia’s vegan tofu benedict looks.
I love the texture and color contrast of Stephanie’s smashed chimichurri potatoes.
A perfect weeknight supper recipe for creamy, peanutty noodles and mushrooms.
Finally, how adorable are these bunny-shaped vegan Easter rolls?!
1. Recent research has called into question the idea that eggs raise blood cholesterol, but a new study affirms the case for dietary moderation.
2. I love variety, but I also know the pleasures of a tried-and-true meal. I smiled to read this article on people who eat the same thing every day.
3. Edith Zimmerman grapples with the awareness that happiness is fleeting.
4. This article about California’s wild flower superbloom brought a smile to my face.
5. Finally, Devon Price on why laziness doesn’t exist.
Much love to you this evening, friends. A veggie-packed pasta recipe is coming your way in a day or two.
Late Weekend Reading 3.11.19 | The Full Helping
My pattern for the last few weeks has been to feel extremely optimistic about my productivity level on Friday night, when the weekend begins, and completely overwhelmed by midday Sunday. I was so behind on so many things yesterday that I decided to save this blog post for my lunch break today, and I’m glad I did. It feels good to write with a little peace and clarity, even if it’s later than I hoped.
It’s no secret that Melody Beattie is one of my favorite authors. I’ve mentioned various books and quotations of hers so many times on this blog that I fear I’m starting to sound like a fangirl (but maybe I am?). I follow Melody on Instagram, too, and she recently posted a quotation that stuck with me:
Work at learning to have fun. Apply yourself with dedication to learning enjoyment. Work as hard at learning to have fun as you did at feeling miserable.
My first reaction to this quote was resistance. It felt a little harsh to me, the idea that people work at being unhappy. But in the few weeks since I first read it, the quote keeps coming back to me. And my inner experience has actually pointed to ways in which it’s truthful and relevant.
I don’t think I work at being miserable, but I do think that I tend to give painful or frightening experiences disproportionate power in my own narrative. I often assume that the “bad” things that have happened are more likely to happen again than good ones. I dwell a little too much on hurts, not enough on joys. And I’ve noticed that, when I’m in a new situation in which many outcomes are yet possible, I often tell myself that the one I’d least like to happen is the one that’s coming.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to challenge this kind of thinking, but it’s not easy. A lot of it is learned, picked up long before I could be conscious of the fact that other attitudes are possible. As my therapist pointed out to me a while ago, there’s no easy road map for changing a lens we’ve been seeing through for as long as we can remember.
Time and patience, though, can work their magic in small, gradual ways. In the last few months, I’ve invited myself to give equal weight to everything I feel and experience. This doesn’t mean denying or disavowing the tough stuff, but rather resisting the urge to dwell on it–or to gloss over what’s hopeful.
One example of this is my spell of body dysmorphia in September. In the past, I might have been easily thrown off kilter by it, or spent a lot of time obsessing over what it meant. Instead, I told myself that it was like bad weather passing through and encouraged myself to ride it out. When I wrote about it during NEDA week two weeks ago I was struck by how much it already felt like a distant memory. I was conscious of the fact that it happened and curious about why it happened, but I didn’t allow the recollection of it to eclipse the many moments of feelings strong and solid in recovery that I’ve had this year, too.
The other example is a recent visit from loneliness and longing for partnership. My desire to share my life with someone is a constant, but a month or so ago I went through a few weeks of feeling that desire with particular poignancy. In the past, this too might have been something I dwelt on or used as a starting point for all sorts of projections.
Instead, I wrote about it here, which felt like a release. I let myself feel all of the things—frustrated, lonely, mad—and then I invited myself to let the feelings go, so that I could feel other things as well. A month or so later, I feel more at peace in my space and with my life as it is. I’m not minimizing how real my feelings were when I sat down to blog about them, only acknowledging that a change in feelings is real and possible, too. And it can happen quickly–from week to week, even.
I’m not sure if this is what Beattie means when she talks about working at having fun, but I think it’s connected. I tend to assume that happiness gets sprinkled onto life experience like pixie dust from time to time. And I’ve had moments like that: moments so unexpectedly sweet that they feel like an act of grace. But the older I get, the more I see that happiness can be consciously cultivated, too. This involves a willingness to let go of suffering when the time is right, to not regard pain as being any more sticky or powerful than pleasure. It’s all part of life, all worthy of attention and acknowledgment. And it all demands a little “work” sometimes.
I’m wishing you a week that makes space for everything: gifts and the struggles, laughter and sadness, pain and pleasure. Each of them just passing through. Here are some recipes and reads.
First up, a delightfully simple broccolini side with lemon caper sauce.
A mouthwatering vegan BBQ tempeh burrito. I plan to make all of it, but the tempeh crumbles alone would be a great meal prep staple.
This wintery curried potato, cauliflower and lentil salad has my name on it.
I love the looks of these easy chickpea fritters (and the bowl they’re served in).
It’s been ages since I made my own seitan, but the universe keeps sending me hints that it’s time to start doing that again. This vegan corned beef recipe, which can be made in the slow cooker, is my latest reminder.
1. A really interesting new review study links low-carb diets to greater risk of atrial fibrillation. Some of the suspected mechanisms for this pattern are reduced electrolyte intake, dehydration, and increased inflammatory response.
2. Jason Saltzman, the successful CEO of Alley, opens up in Entrepreneur about his experience with anxiety. I always love it when this conversation gets attention, and I was particularly struck by Jason’s contribution because I don’t often read about mental health in the business/entrepreneurship space.
3. On a similar note, CNN published a powerful profile of tennis pioneer Julie Heldman and her experience with bipolar depression. Heldman is able to reflect on her childhood and her experience with mental illness with incredible clarity and peace.
4. It’s standard advice not to share too much personal information at work, but does opening up ever bring colleagues closer together? Quartz reports on situations when personal disclosure, especially when it comes to stigmatized identities, may have an overall positive impact on professional culture.
5. Finally, and so sadly: there’s only one wild, free-roaming elephant left in the Knysna forest in South Africa.
Alright, friends. Happy Monday, and I’ll be back later this week with an easy baked bulgur and chickpea recipe.
Weekend Pause, 3.3.19 | The Full Helping
Hi friends! I’m a little short on words after NEDA week and pretty tired besides (I started a new rotation for my dietetic internship this week), so I’m taking a Sunday afternoon pause today.
I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your responses to the last few posts, here on the blog, on Instagram, and over email. It takes courage to share, and this conversation is enriched by every new voice.
Back to business as usual, I’ll be posting bright and early tomorrow a simple recipe for ginger baked apples that have been making my winter oatmeal bowls extra special. Till then, have a restful evening.
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