A few ideas to explore for when you are feeling lost around your health or simply want to add some nourishment.
1. Choose pleasure
Okay – we are starting here. Any of you who know me in real life or have followed anything I have put into the social media void, know that pleasure is the foundational concept in my life. Any time you are stuck, overwhelmed, devastated, sick, etc. can you come back to what would feel nice right now?
It doesn’t have to be instagramable or even make sense to others. It most definitely doesn’t have to be a face mask or be cute. Maybe it is laying on the floor listening to heart wrenching music. Maybe it is screaming in your car or a field. Maybe it is wrapping yourself in a soft blanket with a hot water bottle. It really doesn’t matter how it looks – what would truly feel nice, comforting, pleasurable?
2. Invite joyful movement
Somewhere along the way we became obsessed with exercise and forgot all about the infinite number of ways we can just move.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, movement has a strong connection with the wood element and the emotion we are experiencing with movement matters. If we move in a way that is intended to punish ourselves, we truly don’t receive all the benefits we could be (and in my not particularly humble opinion it can lead to higher risk of injury).
In contrast, if we move in ways that feel delicious to us, enjoying where we are right now and listening to our bodies the list of benefits is incredible.
3. Rest without guilt
This one is huge for many of us. We have been so taught that our worth is tied to our productivity that most of us stopped asking what we were being productive for.
Rest is essential – for all things in nature it is essential. No part of it makes us less worthy or guilty of something terrible.
If this one is especially hard for you, I really encourage you to move gently and start small. Can you take a 30 minute break to just do what feels restful for you? Can you extend that when you are ready to a couple of hours – and so forth.
I love Arianna Huffington’s succinct way of framing this. If there was a pill that had as many amazing benefits as sleep and rest give us, we would all pay a fortune for it.
4. Take one tiny step
A lot of taking care of ourselves is overwhelming. It can be so important to come back to simply what is possible. What is the next tiny action that is accessible? What could you actually do? Can you trust that if try that one small thing, that the next one would eventually show up?
5. Ask for help
We were actually never intended to live as islands, completely self sufficient. I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of pretending I have it all figured out and that I am so strong I don’t need anyone else. This hasn’t ever brought me peace or happiness. Connecting with others and actually receiving has truly changed my life.
6. Listen to body cravings
I can’t really stress this one enough. When you are lost, can you ask your body what sounds good? Maybe there isn’t an answer, but can you gently ask again the next time – and slowly, quietly can you start to discern the answer?
7. Eat intuitively
I have radical trust in the body and the wisdom it has and I truly believe that there is no one right way to eat – each of us has radically different needs. What happens if you start to dance with your body’s knowledge of how you could eat.
8. Use ritual
Can you invite the sacred into the everyday? Can you infuse your background, spirituality, believes, awe into the everyday activities of drinking coffee, brushing your teeth, going for a walk, going to sleep?
I really invite you to just see these ideas as jumping off points; as ideas to play with and see how they feel for your body. Some may be beautiful and some may feel like they don’t feel right for you. Please adopt and reject as needed.
1. Pause and relax
How could it feel to pause for a moment, breath, do any kind of enjoyable or mindful practice that helps you feel calm and relaxed before starting a meal? I really encourage gentleness here. If you had to eat quickly standing over the kitchen sink or your relationship with food is currently in a place where this is not possible, can you release any shame and just take one tiny step when it is comfortable?
2. Eat according to cravings
The sheer number of ways to eat that are being promoted right now is......well honestly laughable. So many of them are so completely contradictory that often by the time I get to see someone in a session there is so much confusion and shame for not doing it “right.” Even working in this field, I often feel overwhelmed and like there is no way to easefully nourish myself.
Any time you feel lost, can you come back to what am I craving? Does anything sound appealing – even just a little? Is there anything that when you think of eating it, feels good, vitalized, relaxed, etc.
Maybe there is no answer, but just asking the question can be revolutionary. If there is an answer, is it possible to resist categorizing it in terms of “good” or “bad” and trust the body’s knowledge?
3. Chew excessively
You can count, challenge yourself to chew as many times as possible, savour the pleasure/flavour/texture of what you are eating, or simply just allow a little extra time for chewing. The more you break up your food here, the more ready your body will be to digest and the less it will have to work at breaking down the food.
4. Enjoy thoroughly
This one is ignored so often!! When was the last time you saw anything about enjoyment in a nutrition plan or a what I eat in a day video? Traditional Chinese Medicine has knows for hundreds of years that enjoying your food actually supports digestion, and gratefully Western Medicine is starting to see that too.
5. Incorporate warm cooked foods
In the same way as chewing, eating cooked warm foods supports digestion by doing some of the work for it. In TCM the digestion is seen as a fire and so any effort to support that fire will support more thorough digestion.
6. Explore thermal properties
Some of this is very intuitive: think of the foods you would want to eat on a very hot day. Things like mint, watermelon, cucumber, and dairy are all very cooling foods. If you were freezing, foods like stews/soups, meat, warming spices would perhaps be the more appealing.
You can use this to support how you are feeling on any given day. If you are feeling fractious, irritated, overheated, burning heat in the stomach, you can balance that with cooling soothing foods. If you are feeling lethargic, cold, stiff you can support yourself with warming foods.
7.Play with variety and colour
Exploring foods with play and curiosity rather than shame and guilt can be a game changer. Can you bring play to how many colours you can get in a meal? Can you enjoy exploring as much variety as possible – not from a place of should, but from a curiosity about what you enjoy?
As always, if this leaves you with any questions, please feel free to contact me. I am always happy to geek out this stuff.