By Kirsten Serrano
Health is probably at the top of your mind during this pandemic, but have you taken the time to really define what health is? It is not just the absence of illness. You are not healthy simply because you are not sick. Health is resilience. It is having the ability to bend and not break. The stressors are going to come and 2020 brought an avalanche. Working in the health care system, you probably have been stressed in ways you may not have been able to imagine before. True health is having the resilience to deal with the onslaught and not crumble. Think of resilience like keeping air in your life raft. Without it, the next wave, even a small one, may drag you under. Keeping your life raft fully inflated means you can enjoy the ocean as long as possible.
Resilience is something you construct and that is a very good thing. Here’s why: you have opportunities all day every day to add to or deplete your resilience. You have so much control but may not realize it. It is very human of us to draw straight lines between cause and effect. Saying that you have insomnia because your mother had it, is not only an oversimplification, but one that removes you from the equation. It is surrender. Most health challenges are multifactorial, and we are the greatest common denominator. That kind of power is overwhelming but also empowering.
Food is a powerful tool to build (or deplete) resilience. I know what you may be thinking but believe me. Food can be good for your body and brain and still be delicious! Really using food to your advantage is a type of literacy most of us were not taught. Building health is about nutrition knowledge and improving habits. During the pandemic, there has been a huge increase in interest in eating for immune support, but also in gardening and cooking. Food is, rightfully so, front and center right now.
I encourage you to take a bit of time and make a list of ways to improve your resilience. They can be sweeping changes or tiny. It all matters. If you want some help, you can get a PDF that will get you thinking at SmallWonderFood.com/resilience. Really take the time to brainstorm ways you can be more resilient as well as what is draining your resilience (poking holes in your raft.)
Once you have a list, do not give into overwhelm. That is critical. Overwhelm is the roadblock that so often stops us in our tracks. Remember, the whole point is that small changes add up. It is not about perfection; it really is about self-care in the truest sense. Look at your list, choose some easy wins and start there. Be kind to yourself. Over time, you will feel a lot more buoyant. Come back to this column every month for ways to use food to build resilience and be the healthiest you.
Kirsten Serrano is a nutrition consultant, chef, farmer, food literacy educator and the best-selling author of “Eat to Your Advantage.” You can find out more about her work at SmallWonderFood.com.