I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beat Holiday Stress by Practicing Mindfulness and Apple Pumpkin Soup

I am in the Christmas Spirit!
 But I haven't always been. Two weeks ago, I was pretty stressed out and anxious, only I didn't know it.  That might seem funny, but anxiety is a funny thing-it often manifests itself as physical illness and so can be hard to identify.  I have struggled with severe anxiety all my life and I still have trouble identifying what is anxiety and what is physical illness.  Sometimes anxiety manifests itself as the symptoms of low blood sugar-faintness, irritability, feeling like one needs to eat, shakiness, etc. That's what had been happening to me over the past several weeks, only not when I had been exercising and I had been eating regularly.  Fortunately, my therapist was able to help me see that these were symptoms of anxiety and once I knew that I was able to do something about it.

 I have many coping skills for anxiety, but one that I have really been trying to work into each and every day is the practice of mindfulness, more specifically the concept of "One-Mindfully."  According to the website DBT Self-Help:

Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It's hard to put these thing away and concentrate on the task at hand.

"One-Mindfully" is when one mindfully concentrates at one task at a time.  It's the opposite of multi-tasking.  And I believe, it is the antidote to much of the holiday stress that is flying around this time of year.  The more things we try to do at a time, the more stressed out we become AND the
efficiency and proficiency goes down quite dramatically too.  It's a myth that multi-tasking is such a good thing.

When I concentrate on one thing at a time, I can feel my body relax and my breath start to deepen.  My thoughts begin to slow down and smiling does not seem like such a foreign concept.  By the end of the task, I feel renewed and re-energized, as if I had sat down for thirty minutes in front of my light box.

You can do any task mindfully and in fact, it has been proven that your productivity will actually go up if you just focus on one task at a time.  I especially like to cook mindfully.  The smells. The sounds. The steam from a good soup or pasta dish-immersing myself fully into the moment takes me far away from the stress of the "real world" and re-energizes and restores my soul.

I'm going to share this recipe from the Brown Eyed Baker of Apple Pumpkin Soup a little differently tha I normally do-interspersed in the directions are two videos I took of the soup bubbling and boiling, see if you can watch them mindfully.  As you are watching the videos, imagine that you are standing at the stove, tending the pot-what does it smell like?  Does the steam hit your face?  Can you hear it bubble?

I wish that I had made the videos longer, but this was my first time really experimenting with the video on my camera.  Tell me what you think in the comments!  (Also, I have now started a Hope Is Real facebook page, which you can follow by clicking on the link on the right.)

Apple-Pumpkin Soup

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups vegetable stock
2/3 cups natural (no sugar added) applesauce
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream Spiced Latte Coffee Mate Creamer!


DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the diced onion, apples and salt. Saute until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, applesauce, white pepper, sage, thyme and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and cook until apples are very tender, about 5 more minutes.



2. Add the pumpkin and brown sugar and cook for 10 – 15 minutes over medium heat. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until it's smooth. (You can also use a blender to blend the soup in batches.) Add the cream to the soup and heat through over very low heat. (You can add more cream or water, if desired, to thin out more.) 
.
 
Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with sliced pumpkin seeds or dried apple slices
I did neither and opted instead for shredded parmesan cheese.   

This soup is killer!!!!  I used spiced latte coffee creamer instead of heavy cream
-you could also egg nog, I'm sure. Aren't I just naughty?  lol I also used loads of fresh thyme.  It's a thick, hearty soup that is sweet and filling, perfect for the holiday season and for practicing mindfulness. 

 Let me know about your own experiences with mindfulness over the holidays!  

Link Love:

Plenty of well-known feminists have been known to use ableist speech—language invoking disability as a metaphor, typically in the pejorative.

By Kasey Edwards
Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ‘‘flaws’’ is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.

I’m always a little bit amused when somebody feels like I should care whether they “approve of my lifestyle.”

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