My Experience Only. YMMV.

Posts tagged ‘comfort food’

Realistic Self-Care

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I hate articles about self-care for mental illness such as the one I saw recently that said:

…[W]ays I practice self-care include swimming and Pilates, getting regular massages, spending time with friends and family, since staying connected is an essential part of emotional health at every age, watching TV, and seeing movies. I also love going for walks, especially near Santa Monica beach, and reading or listening to books.

If I could do all those things, I wouldn’t need self-care! When I’m depressed or anxious, I cannot make myself swim or exercise, or even get out of bed and shower at times, which lets out going to the movies and spending time with friends, too. I can maybe read a book or listen to a podcast if I’m not too twitchy and if my attention span and concentration will cooperate. And I can sit on the sofa and watch TV, but that feels like uselessness, not self-care.

Plus, guess what? A lot of those activities cost money.  Massages, movies, exercise classes (for which you need exercise clothes), and swimming (for which you need a swimsuit) would all require “shopping therapy,” which I loathe IRL and can’t afford online.

I personally would love a massage, but that’s not self-care for everyone. As Emily Roberts points out in “Self-Care for Mental Health: Find Ways That Work for You”:

The myth of a massage as an essential self-care activity – or anything that makes you more anxious – isn’t helpful for your mental health. I didn’t listen to my body the first time I booked a massage and guess what? It was so triggering to my body I couldn’t even finish it….I started to cry and couldn’t compose myself 10 minutes into the appointment. I was embarrassed and confused. I thought, “This stuff works for all the people in the magazines. What is wrong with me?”

I decided that booking an extra appointment with my therapist and having a date with my best friend was more helpful as self-care for my mental health than pushing myself to practice self-care in the way the media was telling me to.

One person’s mani-pedi can be another’s nightmare. I much prefer small ideas for self-care rather than big expeditions or splurges. For me, comfort food is one form of self-care. It has to be something I can make easily, though, like frozen mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, or French bread pizzas. (The microwave is my friend.)

Of course, these comforts require a little planning when I’m not overwhelmed to the point that I need self-care to restore me. I must think ahead, during those times when I’m able to go to the store, to bring home the foods that are easy to make yet soothing.

Another self-care technique I came across is definitely more my speed. Caiti Gearsbeck, in “Make Your Own Mental Health Self Care Kit” offers a simple, DIY alternative. She recommends filling a shoebox or other box with soothing things that appeal to all five senses, plus a few activities. Here are a few of her examples:

Sight: photos, cards, and letters

Smell: essential oils or candles

Taste: chocolate or tea

Sound: meditation CD or an mp3 player with a playlist

Touch: soft cloth or stuffed animal, stress ball or fidget cube

Activities: coloring books and pencils, a journal, a favorite movie

She adds: Whatever works for you!

For me, that box would contain photos, Irish Spring soap, oolong tea, an mp3 player, a stuffed animal (I have lots to choose from), and a CD of The Mikado. I’d need a cat in the box, too. But given the nature of cats, there would probably be one in there anyway, whether I wanted it or not. All of that is stuff I have around the house, unless I’m out of Irish Spring or oolong. Add a quiet room like the bedroom or my study and I’m all set. At least until I can afford a massage.

 

References

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/millennial/2017/10/make-your-own-mental-health-self-care-kit/

https://www.jwi.org/articles/mental-health-and-self-care

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2018/5/self-care-for-mental-health-find-ways-that-work-for-you

The Depression Diet

It seems that Target (and other stores) can now send, well, targeted ads based on previous purchases. The example usually given is that someone who buys a home pregnancy test will start receiving coupons and discount offers on diapers and strollers.

I maintain that one way to spot depressives is through their grocery-buying habits. Just as psychologists say that odds are that the last three people in any long line are likely to be clinically depressed, I say that someone who purchases an entire chocolate chip cheesecake and a bottle of Jose Cuervo is going to be in the back of that check-out line too.

Which brings me to my point. There are certain foods that depressed people tend to eat. These foods don’t cure depression, of course, but they do seem to provide some comfort.

The first category of depression food is, of course, comfort food. We all have our own definitions of comfort food, but a lot of them seem to be high-carb, high-fat, no-nutrition sorts of food. They bring back memories of childhood, maternal nurturing, and a simpler time when calories didn’t count. Some of my comfort foods include club sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese.

My husband knows enough to make me comfort food when I’m stressed out. He does add tuna fish and peas to the mac and cheese to make it somewhat more nutritious. He knows my needs and does well at meeting them, though his grilled cheese will never rival my mother’s. He does pretty well on the tomato soup.

The next category of depression food is weird food. I suppose this category includes the chocolate chip cheesecake and tequila. One of my depressed friends introduced me to her particular specialty: wavy potato chips dipped in cream cheese with an M&M stuck on top. My husband starts to worry about me if I ask him to pick these up for me at the store. But it does contain all four food groups: salty, sticky, sweet, and crunchy.

When I was a kid, my favorite was a block of cream cheese with that odd, unnaturally orange French dressing poured over it, mashed with a fork, and with pickle relish if I we had any. This was my own chip dip creation. It resembled my friend’s in the cream cheese and wavy chips department, but French dressing is no substitute for M&Ms. Let’s just say my tastes have grown. (Not necessarily up.)

Another category of depression food is useless food. These are edibles that one can make with very little effort, as even small efforts can be overwhelming at this point in depression. Frozen dinners are good for this. I recommend Marie Callender pot pies if you go this route, because they have both a top and bottom crust and so feel more like a meal. Foods that come in small cups with pop-open tops are good too: Beefaroni, mac and cheese, soups.

Sometimes, however, the depression is so severe that even these simple efforts are beyond you. For those occasions, there are truly useless foods. It’s a mistake to call them meals at all. Here I’m talking peanut butter straight out of the jar (spoon optional), and dry cereal straight out of the box. During my worst days I used to keep a box of Cocoa Puffs by my bedside, just in case. As I slowly improved, I replaced that with a box of Life cereal. (The name was a coincidence, I assure you.)

I know that eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is one of the most common suggestions for keeping depression at bay (along with exercise, sleep, and all that other good advice). I also remember that when a person is talking about suicide, one of the questions you’re supposed to ask is, “When’s the last time you ate?” Supposedly it’s harder to take your own life if you’ve recently done something as life-affirming as eating. (I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I did try it once and the person is still alive, so maybe.)

I also know that sometimes irrational thinking extends to food choices as well. I worry about my husband when he starts eating peanut butter sandwiches dipped in cold chunky soup (still in the can). I’ve been told that’s a guy thing, not a depressive thing, but still sometimes I wonder. Even at my most depressed, I’ve never been tempted to do that. Ew. Just ew.

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