After digging out (again) yesterday, I needed something to warm up. Enter Sweet, Spiked, and Spicy Hot Chocolate and Chicken Kai Pa Lo.
My snow angel
As usual, I made a couple modifications to the recipes. For the hot chocolate, I subbed Nutella for peanut butter. Really, who wouldn’t?? I also prefer whipped cream to marshmallows on my hot chocolate, and I didn’t have sea salt. Nonetheless, it was a nice treat.
Key to the chicken kai pa lo is the soft-boiled egg. I didn’t fully appreciate the wonder of a good soft-boiled egg until a vacation to Hawaii and one of the most memorable meals of my life at Lucky Belly. There I had the Beast Bowl, a phenomenal bowl of ramen with brisket, short ribs, oxtail, and of course, a soft-boiled egg. My mouth waters just thinking of it and the pork belly bao I had with it… anyway back to my dinner last night. The broth was delicious and topped with jasmine rice and the egg – yum! I also sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. A tutorial to make the perfect soft-boiled egg can be found here.
This morning, I’m recovering from all that shoveling with some yoga to stretch the muscles I used and hoping for the end of the snow this winter. Namaste.
I haven’t had a good brunch (any brunch, really) in a while, which is just a shame. The thing I like most about brunch is that I get to indulge my sweet and salty cravings in the same meal. To make up for my lack of brunching, I did brinner (breakfast for dinner) last night. The centerpiece of brinner was a veggie quiche, made with sautéed onions, spinach, piquillo peppers, and (my personal favorite ingredient) goat cheese, with some herbs de provence for a little extra flavor. I have obtained neither the patience nor the tools to make homemade pie crusts just yet, so I used a pre-made crust. The quiche still turned out great and would’ve been even better with a flaky, hand-made crust. Served alongside a stack of fluffy, chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes and crispy bacon (because what’s breakfast without bacon), this meal satisfied my brunch needs.
My vintage-looking quiche (pre-made crust notwithstanding)
A Google images search of “resilience” will yield various pictures reflecting the meaning of the word, perhaps most commonly the image below. These images reflect the idea that resilience is about growing despite adversity or the ability to bounce back. As I shoveled snow this morning, something I haven’t done in several years and had dreaded doing upon my move out of the South, I thought that perhaps my personal image of resilience would be something like the red ivy and green berries or glistening blacktop that poked out in patches from under the snow. Or perhaps just me standing triumphantly atop a mound of snow I had shoveled. (I really dislike cold and snowy weather.) What I also noticed is that if I stopped thinking about how much I hate being cold and instead noticed how beautiful the white, powdery snow was, how it looked as though glitter or diamonds had been sprinkled in with it, it actually was kind of nice. If I checked in on my emotions, I really wasn’t terribly upset to be outside. Also, it provided an excellent workout.
Winter weather is not a serious adversity to overcome, but I have learned through other personal and professional experience that mindfulness and a handful of other practices can be helpful in facing stressful conditions and building resilience. The American Psychological Association offers 10 ways to build resilience, including keeping things in perspective (for me this morning, it was the first real snow of the season and much less than people in other parts of the country have had to deal with; also, it was a powdery snow, much easier to shovel than a heavier, wet snow) and maintaining a positive outlook (bonus workout today!). Also important is staying positive about your abilities to deal with the stressor, particularly when based on how you have handled other stressors in the past. When I have experienced professional setbacks, I have taken time to reflect upon the problem-solving skills that I developed through years of school, then used that critical thinking to find solutions to the problem or reframe the stressor (sometimes there is a silver lining to be found). Less focused on reflecting on the past or reframing the present situation, mindfulness also can help cultivate resilience by encouraging acceptance (seeing the situation for what it is, without the emotional baggage), self-compassion, and cognitive flexibility.
People generally are resilient, whether with major life changes or everyday stressors (including snow storms). Keeping our own resilience in mind often is the first step in tapping into our resources to deal with challenges.
Recently, I was talking with someone about running when he asked me if I was a runner. I hesitated, and he quickly replied, “That means no.” For many years, I would have agreed with him. I have never considered myself to be “a runner.” It’s not something I particularly enjoy; I certainly am not setting any records for running. But does that really mean I’m not a runner? What would make me worthy of that label? Because really, in those few minutes on the weekend when I’m running, I am a runner.
Likewise with being an introvert, a characteristic that has been celebrated somewhat more recently. Most psychologists acknowledge that people may fall at different places along the introversion-extraversion continuum in different circumstances, though people tend to be labeled as one or the other. I have always considered myself more of an introvert and fit comfortably into that role. Except that it doesn’t always fit. When I was described once as being outgoing, I was taken aback, but when I paused to reflect on the things that made me outgoing to that person, I realized that my interpersonal style doesn’t always follow the same script.
The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we can do are powerful. In reflecting upon the stories I have about myself or the labels I have given myself (or have been given by others), I see that I have been limited at times in trying something that I wanted to do because it didn’t fit the mold. In saying “you’re (I’m) not a runner,” I am excused or inhibited from engaging in a behavior. When we let go of the script that we follow and instead engage mindfully in an activity that may be interesting or important to us, we don’t have to think about what we’re supposed to do; we can simply do.
For more information on building this type of psychological flexibility, read about ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).
Thanksgiving always has been my favorite holiday – it’s a day centered around delicious food and expressing gratitude for the people and things for which you are thankful. I feel fortunate to have so many things for which to be thankful in my life and try to make a regular practice of noticing and expressing this gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal or maintaining a similar gratitude practice is associated with a host of health benefits, including boosts in immune system functioning, improved response to stress, and enhanced mood and well-being. No wonder then that so many scientists are researching and extolling the effects of gratitude, as evidenced by Ted’s Thanksgiving-themed playlist.
One of the many things for which I am grateful was the overabundance of food at my family’s Thanksgiving table. Many individuals are not so fortunate, with 1 in 6 individuals in the US going hungry, according to Feeding America. Perhaps in this season of giving, you might be inspired to donate to an organization that works to combat hunger in America and throughout the world, such as Feeding America, Heifer International, Meals on Wheels, and others. A simple way to minimize food waste in your home, get creative with using up your Thanksgiving meal leftovers. Below are a few tasty ideas!
Sweet Potato Casserole = Sweet Potato Pancakes
Image by Lydia Degaris at myrecipes.com
Mashed Potatoes = Mashed Potato Latkes or Shepherd’s Pie
Image courtesy of grandmotherskitchen.org
Boil the turkey bones to make stock for Turkey Noodle Soup or Turkey Chowder
Stuffing = Stuffed Mushrooms
Image via rachelraymag.com
Cranberry Sauce = Sweet & Spicy Meatballs
Image via Taste of Home
As a psychologist, I often find myself noticing how the behavior of one person can affect the behavior of another. For example, over the past few weeks while driving to work in the morning, I have noticed that if I leave a space open at an intersection, the car in the lane next to me often will do the same. I tested my theory by sometimes blocking the intersection and sometimes leaving an opening and, without fail, the other driver followed suit. This isn’t ground-breaking science, but it got me thinking about how important is can be for each us to model prosocial behavior. I’m not talking about pay-it-forward, random acts of kindness gestures (though those certainly are nice, too) but rather modeling an awareness that there are other people around us to consider. Huffington Post recently published an article about the habits of considerate people which supposedly include, among other things, anticipating the needs of other people, having good manners, and being empathetic. These are not behaviors that necessarily take a lot of time or other resources; these are things we can be mindful of in daily activities. Perhaps letting someone in in traffic won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it does signal respect and may decrease another person’s frustration by a margin. What could be bad about that?
Apparently Americans are just not that into vacation days. This probably comes as no surprise to many people who have looked forward to a vacation only to be bombarded by work e-mails upon arrival (and/or during their time off). Many of us struggle to take a lunch break, let alone an actual vacation. A hardy work ethic is part of the American tradition, right? But have we gone overboard? In the nation of supersizing everything, why have we minimized self-care, and what does it cost us? The chronic stress of overworking can be associated with burnout, heart disease, and decreased productivity. It’s not a great long-term strategy for professional and personal fulfillment. Compare this with other cultures, in which the norm is to take a break for a healthy lunch and a glass of wine, go for a walk, perhaps have an afternoon nap, go on holiday for a few weeks, regularly engage in meaningful social activities- in short, do things that do not revolve around work, and they actually live longer and healthier lives. That sounds heavenly to me. So how do we carve out time for lunches and vacations in a demanding work environment that values results over personal wellness? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that, at least not today. Likely it will take a major cultural shift. But perhaps we can start that shift by communicating to others through our actions the importance of self-care. Block some time in your schedule for lunch and step away from your desk to enjoy it. Make an appointment with yourself for exercise or socializing. Go away for a weekend, maybe even a long weekend if you’re feeling adventurous! Clearly there is more to the formula for longevity than this, involving a lifestyle change. But as one of my favorite sayings goes, you can only start from where you are, not from where you want to be.
Have you made these changes in your life? What did you notice? What have you found that works?