Weekend Reading, 6.23.19
June 23, 2019

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Lately I feel as if most of my Sunday reflections are inspired by, or a paraphrase of something that someone else has told me. I’m short on words lately, so I’m more than happy to take inspiration from others.

Last Sunday, I wrote about a case of the Sunday Scaries and the good advice that I got in response to it. I’m not quite in the throes of the Scaries right now, but my anxiety has been pretty bad this week. It’s been heightened for the last month, but I can safely call this a crest.

I don’t always have much luck understanding the timing of my anxiety, why it comes and goes when it does. I think there’s probably a trigger most of the time, but whether it’s subconscious or something I’m aware of varies a lot. And sometimes it really does seem to descend like stormy weather, unannounced and random.

I know the trigger right now, or at least one of them: it’s overwhelm. Specifically, it’s feeling as though these last four weeks of my internship are some of the most demanding I’ve had, and also feeling as though I don’t have anything left to give them. I’m so tired and turned inward lately. I know better than to isolate completely when I’m having a hard time, but right now isolation feels less like a conscious choice than a necessary means of coping. I don’t have any energy to turn outward. The energy I have needs to go to my internship, my DI class, my work, and to my mom (she’s got another knee replacement coming up in a week).

On Wednesday of this week, I felt the way I do when anxiety is at its worst: crippled. So overwhelmed that small, inconsequential things like commuting or finishing up a school assignment felt insurmountable. Even my memory and attention span were affected; I made a lot of stupid mistakes that day, misplaced some things and forgot about others. And the rest of the week hasn’t been much better. I know I’m not doing my best work right now, and while nothing life-or-death hangs in the balance, it’s not a great time to for me to peter out.

I hate this cycle. No matter how many times I tell myself that it’s just anxiety and it’s all temporary, the experience leaves me feeling incapable and ashamed. If any friend of mine reported the same thoughts and feelings to me, I’d fling my arms around her and say that we all feel like this sometimes; that it’s OK and she’s OK. But I don’t know how to do this for myself, least of all when there are so many little deadlines that I’m terrified of missing, or tasks that I’m afraid of messing up.

Instead of a failed attempt at comforting self-talk, I’m going to do something wiser, which is to turn to the understanding and insight of people around me. Last Sunday, a reader emailed me with her advice for coping with the Sunday Scaries. She said,

At one point in my life when the Sunday Scaries hit me I found that if I looked at each step of the day and asked myself, “Does this feel scary?”  it helped.  And I would look at EACH little step: Stepping outside of the house – “Does this feel scary?” No.  Walking to the bus stop – “Does this feel scary?” No. Riding the bus – “Does this feel scary?” No. Walking to work – “Does this feel scary?” No. Seeing my new co-workers – “Does this feel scary?” No.  And on like this through the whole day.  This helped me tremendously, and showed me that I wasn’t fearing each little component and the big picture was only made up of all the little components.

These words rang so true. I’ve attempted versions of this kind of piecemeal, slowed-down approach in the past, but nothing quite so deliberate. I can’t imagine a better way to ride the anxiety wave out.

I had a lot on my plate today, including a lengthy event. When I woke up and tried to think about the day as a whole, I could feel the familiar, low-grade panic setting in. I did exactly what my reader invited me to do: I took each step of my day—sometimes literally—one-by-one. It carried me through. It reminded me that things are very rarely as scary as I imagine them to be, that overwhelm can be combatted by separating the whole into pieces.

I’m feeling especially complain-y lately here on the blog, but I’m trying not to let that become another, needless source of shame. Instead, I’ll just say thank you—all of you—for so often giving me the tools I need to live with more gentleness and grace. Happy Sunday.

Recipes

Jackie does vegan comfort food better than anyone, and I wish I had a plate of her vegan chicken + biscuits right about now!

A beautiful plant-based spin on Greek salad.

Such a lovely vegan udon noodle soup (that perfectly halved bok choy!).

At my last rotation, the cafeteria had a buffalo tofu that I fell in love with (I actually brought some home on my last day and froze it). Allie’s buffalo chickpea burgers are now calling my name!

Finally, for dessert, feeling all the feels for Abby’s deep dish peanut butter cookie.

Reads

1. So glad that more attention is being called to the potential of “food as medicine” programs.

2. I’ll savor pasta at any time of year, but somehow it’s connected in my mind to summertime. Food52 rounds up 38 favorite vegetarian pastas, a great many of which are super easy to veganize.

3. Found this quotation via Cup of Jo, but I’d seen it before. I loved it then, and I love it now.

4. A fascinating essay on interoception (the study of the body from within), which I’ll need to re-read before I can say anything insightful about it. But I’m one of many people who is hearing that term more frequently lately, and I’m curious to understand it and its implications better.

5. Today was a good day for me to read about interconnectedness and the power of wishing each other well.

I wish you all well. And in spite of a rocky couple weeks, I’ve managed to come up with a sweet new make-ahead breakfast that I’m dying to share with you tomorrow 🙂

xo

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    10 Comments
  1. Hello Gena, I’m writing to wish you a better week this week, and — like the other readers who’ve commented above — to throw my (virtual) arms around in you in a (virtual) hug.
    BTW, your posts never come across as ‘complain-y’: they come across as thoughtful, insightful, realistic and, yes, hopeful. I am always grateful for what you write in your posts, no matter whether your overall vibe for the weekend’s post is upbeat or otherwise.
    I found the ‘three things that matter’ quote that you provided a link to very helpful this week. I hadn’t heard it before. What particularly resonated with me was the third thing, ‘how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you’. This year, since losing my job at the end of last year, when the publisher I worked for closed its doors, I’ve been struggling to find the grace to let go of many things — a stable income, my perception of myself and where I fit in the workforce, my idea of what the future holds for me (financially, career-wise, even where I live). So a reminder to let go, gracefully, of the things not meant for me resonates hugely with me. I will carry it with me into this week and beyond, so thank you.
    Rebecca xo

  2. I used to take some capsule pills to reduce my anxiety.
    But recently I found focusing on one thing, such as cooking, can also reduce it.
    Looking your photos is a joyful things!
    And thanks for sharing your experience for us!

  3. You are so sweet! And I SO appreciate you sharing the advice from your reader. Because I don’t have a set schedule “Sunday scaries” happen on Sunday as well as other days. And like you, my anxiety has been off the charts the last couple of weeks, even though I can safely say that your life is probably a bit more demanding than mine. I’ll try and use that method to check in with myself often, and show my brain that most of the time I’m not in harm’s way.

  4. Dear Gena, throwing my arms around you and saying it’s okay and you’re okay–because you ARE. Nothing wrong at all with isolation as a coping mechanism–in fact it sounds more like prioritizing the times you must interact with others and then recharging by limiting it to those priorities so you can recharge in solitude whenever there’s an opportunity. That’s essential for me as well at times. in fact I think it might be a cosmic theme right now. Wishing you one of those big giant peanut butter cookies, too!! much love xoxo

  5. I feel like you were describing me this past week- so anxious and overwhelmed! Sending hugs x

  6. As another reader wrote, I so admire you and what you do – (as hard as it may seem to hear, because you probably don’t think of yourself in this way, as an inspiration). I don’t know you personally, but only through your blog here and I often wish I could be as brave as you. (You’re making a difference) You’re ‘doing’ despite the fear and that is probably the most important thing. What you write is so relatable. I can feel the overwhelm with you. I hear your pain. You’re not alone. That anxious feeling can seem so unbearable but minutes will pass and you’ll find yourself breathing again. You can do it… because you have already, many times before. A quote I remember from way back in high school still resonates with me “Come what come may, time and hour runs through the roughest day.” (Shakespeare) Time can feel cruel but can be a comfort when thought of in this way. I’m embarrassed writing all this to you but my heart called on me to. Words from a favorite song – “When two or three are walking together, it will be a much lighter load.” Do know others are thinking of you and pulling for you.

  7. Gena,

    If you can’t throw your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug, let those around you do it for you. Your readers care and would hug you from afar if they could and tell you things will be OK.

    A couple of months ago I took a hike that involved crossing several train trestles where I could see the ground below. I am afraid of heights and falling so I panicked. There was nothing to do but cross them. People held my hand while I crossed and at one point I simply walked without help. I reassured myself that it was unreasonable to believe that I would fall; absolutely unreasonable. There was nothing to do but keep walking. If I stopped or faltered that would have been the end. I would have let the panic get me. Even when we think we can’t, most of the time we really can.

    Have a good week and dream about Allie’s chickpea burgers:)

    Thanks,
    Libby

  8. I love what that reader wrote about coping with the Sunday Scaries, as well as the quote: “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
    Those were two things that I needed to read tonight! I hope that this week brings you less anxiety and more opportunity for enjoyment and relaxation. I am in awe at your determination and discipline during the DI- you’ve been so adept at staying committed to your blog while also maintaining a very packed academic and work schedule. You’re an inspiration to myself and countless others who are considering careers in the health and nutrition fields! Thank you for your beautiful writing. I always look forward to these posts. And of course, thank you for sharing my recipe! <3

  9. As a naturally anxious person who has found the past few years especially fraught, I love the “does this piece feel scary?” tactic. Somewhat similarly, I have a recurring daily “task” in my Wunderlist: “Just worry about today.” Not surprisingly, I love todo lists, and I consult and update mine frequently. So having this particular task is a constant reminder to not “frenzy” (used as a verb here) over all the stuff I have no control over all at once. Rather, if I’m feeling anxious about things (global or local), I stop and ask myself, “Is there anything I can actually do about it today?” And if the answer is no (which it usually is because I’ve already voted/donated/called my elected representatives/made food choices/reached out in a kind way to friends, etc. in a way that reflects my values), then I give myself permission to not worry about it anymore today. I can revisit things tomorrow. Somehow this really helps me break my mind’s desire to confuse “worrying” with “control/doing something”. Of course, the fact that it needs to be a daily recurring task tells you this is a daily recurring struggle for me. 🙂 But breaking it into bite-sized pieces (like the “is this part scary?” suggestion) has really helped me, and I’ll also use your reader’s suggestion in the future.

You might also like

On Tuesday morning, I graduated from Teacher’s College with a master’s of science in nutrition and education. It’s one of the final steps in my road to becoming an RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist). Regular readers know that this has been a long, long road for me. I took my first pre-requisite science classes while I was still working full time, in 2010. I wasn’t yet sure what route I’d take into healthcare; six months later, I had quit my job and become a…

I wrapped up my summer coursework this week, including my Program Planning class, which was not exactly what I thought it would be. I was expecting us to spend a lot of time writing guides, studying policy, and reading briefs and papers, as we have in other classes that are geared toward public health initiatives. Instead, we spent nearly the entire class discussing Ann Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It’s a book I read a long time ago, because…

The process of clicking around in search of links for these weekend reading posts is always full of surprise and discovery. It’s often filled with emotion, too—grief, sadness, or excitement, depending on what I find and how it strikes me. This week, my heart ached and then celebrated along with Lily, who bravely shared her story of returning to the kitchen space after her mother’s death on Food52. “My mother was my portal into the world of the senses,” Lily writes. “She taught…

A week ago, I wrote about bullet journaling and starting new tasks without expectations of permanence. I stuck with a very basic form of the journal through the week, and as I did I started to feel not only a sense of pleasure at having a new way to stay organized, but also the pleasurable experience of feeling as though I was reinhabiting an old self. It was the self who could accomplish ten tasks before noon, who rose with the sun and…