Cultivating Resilience

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“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!” This age old piece of wisdom has often been used to guide  financial decisions. But have you ever considered what else it might mean for living your happiest, healthiest life?

Cultivating resilience is something I discuss quite frequently with my clients. Whether we’re healing from chronic illness, managing mental health concerns, or simply creating preventative wellness, resilience is a learned skill that can help us to navigate many of life’s challenges. One feature of resilience is diversity. When we cultivate diversity in our lives, we are better able to respond to changes on our healing journey.

Several years ago, I had a client who came to me for a naturopathic approach to rheumatoid arthritis and depression. As I got to know them, I discovered that their biggest passion was working on classic cars. This activity was highly dependent on being physically able to bend, lift, and maintain uncomfortable postures for long periods. As their body struggled with the effects of illness, they had become less and less able to engage in this passion. Their mental health suffered from the effects of illness, and from being unable to engage in their biggest source of joy. As we worked together to restore their physical health, we also discussed the importance of cultivating a variety of interests that were doable in their current place on their health journey. This client experimented with several activities and developed a passion for landscape photography. They still enjoy tinkering, but now they also enjoy driving their favorite car to beautiful locations and photographing them. No matter what the future holds, they have hobbies that can be enjoyed at differing levels of ability, and better mental health resilience because of it.

Another feature of diversity is flexibility and adaptability. Many people who seek out my services are battling chronic fatigue and brain fog. They know that the most nourishing foods they can eat are home prepared from scratch with fresh, organic ingredients. But it can be very challenging to find the energy and clarity to plan, shop, and prepare healthy nourishing meals when we feel exhausted and are struggling with task initiation and completion. Many people in this situation rely on highly processed foods and take-out for meals because they are easy and quickly accessible. A healthier option is to adjust our expectations and be flexible with the way we plan and prepare our home cooked meals.

Recipes that provide variety and are simple to prepare can go a long way towards increasing resilience in our nourishing food support systems. Soups are great examples for this type of recipe. They have endless variety and are easy to digest, another important feature for people with chronic illnesses. Quick and easy soups can be made with low sodium canned broth, a spice mix, a can of beans, whole grains, and frozen bags of mixed vegetables. Endless variety can be found by switching up the broth, spice mix, bean type, grain type, and mixed vegetables. Similarly, a rotating variety of grain bowls can be made by combining a base of a cooked grain, topped with pre-chopped steamed vegetables and a protein source, and drizzling with a flavorful dressing or sauce. Salads can also be as easy as pre-chopped greens, pre-chopped vegetables, canned beans or meat, and a dressing.

These “from scratch” meals take much less time and energy to plan and prepare because they are made from already prepped ingredients combined in different ways. A grocery list might have items such as canned beans or meats, canned low sodium broth, two different spice mixes, pre-cooked and frozen rice or fast cooking whole grains like millet, bags of frozen mixed vegetables, pre-chopped greens or fresh vegetable trays. A healthy, nourishing meal might be as simple as adding a can of broth, a can of beans, a bag of frozen vegetables, a scoop of rice, and a sprinkle of spices to a pot. This type of meal can be made many times with slight variations to provide a diverse array of flavors and nutrients. It can also be easily doubled and stored in the freezer for future meals.

Cultivating resilience when we are unwell may feel like a transformation of self. We may not be able to do all the things we used to do. Resilience may mean grief and acceptance of a new way of being. But it may also mean discovering new joys and a deepening of love for ourselves. The more we cultivate flexibility, adaptability, and diversity, the more resilient we will be to the changes and challenges that come with life’s journey.

Happy healing,

Alicia Tremblay, ND

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