Feeling like Chaos is All Around You? Here is Something You Can Control.
The last few years have proven to be tumultuous, to say the least. Many people have found their entire lives unraveled in a very short time, the future looking bleak and hopeless. Uncertainty seems to be the only constant as we fumble through our daily routine, trying to establish a feeling of grounding again.
If you are anything like me, you thrive and function best on a routine and a structured life. Even those who are self-proclaimed mess-heads and seem to go about their daily business in such a disorganized manner, one would assume they are really toddlers hidden in an adult suit, secretly benefit from some level of organization. I have a teenager who insists on existing in a space where clothes are basically rugs, and makeup brushes and tweezers appear to sprout from the furniture. However, each morning she sleepily stumbles into the kitchen and makes herself a plate of hash browns or a piece of toast with strawberry jam, and takes it up to her room to start her work day. Unbeknownst to her, she just established a nice little morning routine. Shhhhh….don’t tell her.
What is one of the most consistent, constant, necessary things that we do in our lives? What do we need to do to survive? What brings us joy, yet simultaneously drives us nuts? If you guessed exercise, surprise! That’s not the requirement I was referring to, though applicable and arguably equally as important. The basic human necessity that I am referring to is… eating. Everyone’s favorite thing to do! Unless you are like my dear husband, who most times views eating as a redundant chore that he must complete three times a day. We love to hate it, but like my teen demonstrates every morning, eating is one small (yet also monumental) task that we can utilize to harness a sense of control and stability in our daily lives.
Three times a day (or more, or less, whatever — just do your thing, so long as you are getting enough nutrition) we get to choose what we ingest. Some do this mindlessly, some on a schedule, some on the go. Something so inherent and conditioned as eating, can be a very powerful tool used to harness some of the power we feel stripped of, in a world that seems dead-set on rendering us powerless.
Here are some reasons why the simple act of planning a meal and eating can set the foundation for our daily mood, diminish feelings of loss of control, and help us establish a routine:
- Eating breaks up our day into segments, giving us a flexible timeline to complete other tasks. I am someone who gets incredibly overwhelmed when I know I have a large (or even small) list of tasks I need to complete in the day. Where do I start? How will I get it all done? Seventy-five new emails in my inbox! Why is life like this? If I structure my day around things that comfort me, I am far more likely to accomplish more and feel less anxious about it. Food and the routine around it comforts me. First thing of the day: a nice, warm, tasty cup of Bones flavored coffee (this month it’s red velvet) and a piece of peanut butter toast. Now not only am I fueled (and caffeined up), but I am ready to complete my first task of the day, and feel more capable of tackling my other duties. I make a mental note that my next natural break will be a mid morning cup of tea (and possibly a snack?). This simple structure makes the day seem less daunting.
- Meal prep, even very simple meals, keeps our hands and minds busy. Anyone who is an artist, or a laborer, or someone who works with their hands, knows the value of creation. Monetary value aside, using our hands to make something allows our brain to focus on the action we are doing which means less opportunity for our brain to hone in on other stressors. So make a quinoa bowl, or brew that ginger peach tea. It has a calming affect.
- Prepping food and eating is an easy way to establish a routine. Whether you set hard times, or you loosely base your day around meals, you are inherently creating a routine for yourself. Look at you, sneaking that in there! I am not talking anything crazy — you don’t have to be prepping your grandma’s spanikopita with homemade phyllo dough. It can be as simple as cutting up an apple and plating it with some pretzels and hummus. Or heating up a hot pocket (just put it on a plate and grab a fork, k?).
Here’s the thing: life can feel daunting. Responsibility can be brutal. Sometimes we need to step back a bit, and look at the simple things we can do on the daily to improve our lives. Simplify, and think small things that are big-picture. Taking a given and making it a gift — that is the goal you are shooting for. Eating can be something that serves more purpose than we realized, we just have to appreciate it for the role it plays. I know it’s easy to grab that bag of doritos and plop down at our desk — but instead, grab a bowl and pour some in, snag a dollop of hummus, pour a glass of ginger ale, grab a nice cloth napkin, and enjoy the process.