Mental Health & Physical Health
This August, I fell off the face of the internet.
A five-week flare that saw me in bed most afternoons threw me off course and into a mild depression. All work was abandoned. First, because I couldn’t manage it. Later, because I couldn’t find my way back to the routine that saw me flourishing months before – writing, cooking, exercising, and connecting.
Then, I was drifting. And picking fights. And crying too often with too little cause. Flat, and a bit hopeless.
There is no separating physical health from mental health – especially when you’re managing a chronic condition (for me, that’s Hashimoto’s). For me, maintaining both is a matter of semi-strict routine. Without it, everything – including my mood – runs amuck. Throw in a pandemic (in Melbourne, we are still in lock down) and it becomes a matter of sink or swim. Recognising that I was in a funk (not deep depression, but solidly blue), I set the alarm clock and went to bed early. It was time to get back to basics.
Routine Is Hope
For me, hope is found in early mornings. When I rise early and take care of first-things-first (note to self: you are your first thing), the rest takes care of itself. My ideal morning looks something like this:
- 6 am wake-up
- Two glasses of warm water with apple cider vinegar
- 10-ish minutes breathing
- 15-ish minutes yoga, stretching, or foam rolling
- A walk with my dog
I might do some or all of this by 8 am. I might not get out the foam roller until lunchtime. I often might skip the breath work. It doesn’t seem to matter, as long as the day starts early and that time is spent deliberately – on me. Then, no matter what the day throws at me or how much energy I am afforded (spoonies will get this), at least I’ve prioritised myself. At least I’ve said ‘YES!’ to the day. And once that’s happened, everything looks more hopeful.
Make Food Your Hope
I take a similar approach with my breakfast. Even when I’m laying low, I do my best to get my greens in first. This usually starts a day or two ahead of time. I’ve made it a habit to do my future-self a favor by regularly roasting off whatever vegetable I have on hand, without a specific plan. I try to do the same with nuts, keeping a jar within reach for snacking and adding essential crunch to salads. Five spare minutes is enough to make a dressing or green sauce, so I do that while the vegetables and nuts roast (separately). It sets me up for days of spontaneous, nutrient-dense, paleo salad building – the true breakfast of champions.
I’ve made it a habit to do my future-self a favor by regularly roasting off whatever vegetable I have on hand, without a specific plan.
How do you cultivate hope when the state of your health (and the state of the world) is uncertain? Do you have a routine? If you’re in need of inspiration, check out Extraordinary Routines creator Madeleine Dore’s superb Covid-routine-roundup. Her podcast is also pure gold. If you’re not a routine enthusiast or hour-by-hour planner, the writer Austin Kleon offers a flexible alternative with his daily checklist: if he takes a walk, writes in his journal, writes a blog post, and reads, it’s a good day.
What constitutes a good day for you? What’s your go-to-breakfast? Please share in the comments – I’d love to know!
Plant-Forward Paleo Breakfast Salad
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 4 cups rocket/arugula
- 4 tbs dressing or green sauce of your choice
- 4 tbs roasted almonds, crushed
- 4 fried eggs, sunny side up (or poached, if you prefer)
One Day Before: Prepare Your Components
- Preheat your oven to 400. Line 2-3 baking trays with parchment paper.
- Toss your cauliflower florets with olive oil. Spread them out on the first tray in an even layer – not too crowded – and sprinkle with salt.
- Repeat with the sweet potato and fennel, and place them on one half each of the second tray. Try not to mix them up as the fennel will cook faster and will need to be removed first.
- Place them in the hot oven. After 10 minutes, check the fennel and give it a stir. At the 20 minute mark, remove the fennel. Give the cauliflower and the sweet potato a stir and return them to the oven for another 15 – 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, on a separate, smaller baking sheet or in a small, dry skillet on top of the stove, roast your almonds. Let them cool before storing in an air-tight container.
- Once all the vegetables have finished cooking, allow them to cool on the tray before storing. If you plan to use them all together, you can put them in the same container; otherwise, store them separately.
- Make your favourite dressing or a green sauce
Build Your Breakfast Salad
- Gently reheat your roast vegetables using either a microwave or warm skillet, allowing one cup of vegetables per person.
- Crush a small handful of roasted almonds (approximately 1 tablespoon per person) with the flat side of a large knife or using a mortar and pestle.
- In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, almonds, and one cup of rocket/arugula per person. Add your dressing (approximately one tablespoon per person) and toss to combine.
- Meanwhile, fry your eggs. In a skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high flame. When the oil shimmers, carefully add your eggs without breaking the yolks. Sprinkle with sea salt and baste the eggs with the hot oil to ensure the whites are cooked through and the yolk remains runny.
- Divide the salad among the plates and top each one with an egg.