Sitting In Others Sadness- Depression and Connection

If you want to know how strong a person is, see how they handle feeling weak.

Last week was a long and miserable one, not least because when I woke up on Monday morning it felt like the color had drained from the world. Nothing tasted good, I had no energy or will to do anything, but all the guilt of doing nothing. As I dragged myself around the house in the early morning, half-coasted my bike to the shop and turned on the ovens, I knew that I was in a depressive episode.

I reached out to others- not for help, or even for pity, but connection. Lots of people responded, and I was grateful for that- but not everyone knows why or how to be helpful in those situations.

How do you help someone manage depression? You just be there.

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What Restores You?

If anyone was to ask me what I’ve noticed about my professional life in the last year, I would says “I’m working harder than I ever have in my life, but I’m minding it less.” There’s something to be said for getting yourself into a job that provides more eustress (the good kind of stress that comes from challenging yourself or doing something exciting) and distress (which is… well, distressing.)

Stress is still stress, though, and one of my issues is finding ways to “turn it off” and letting myself relax without the feeling of “Yes, I’m relaxing, but surely I could be relaxing more productively…” Sitting down with my therapist, he suggested a good mix of self-love and self-care. “Give yourself permission to not be firing on all cylinders,” “make time for rest,” etcetera. All good advice I need to keep in mind more often. Critical for today, though, was his last suggestion- What activities inspire and restore you?”

Well… that’s what writing used to be. Baking too. Both still work now and again, but the cathartic aspect just doesn’t hit like it used to. THIS is what restores me now.

The author sits on a dimly lit patio, smiling. He is wrapped in a brown shawl.
Chilly night at Bellwether Bar on Stark
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The Pursuit of Coziness

Do other people get prescribed time in a rocking chair with a blanket and a cup of tea, or is it just me?

Not too long ago, as the holiday season was winding down and we were getting ready to shut down the bakery for a week, my therapist asked what I intended to do with my time off. I rattled off several writing projects, new daily exercise goals, travel to see my family… and my therapist asked “Ok, but are you going to rest?
“Um… yeah? I mean, I intend to but there’s plenty I’ve been putting off because of the holidays and…”
“Matt, are you familiar with hygge?”
“Yeah, that’s something like ‘coziness’ right?”
“Yes, but intentionally. Find time to deliberately make yourself as comfortable as possible and be okay with doing nothing.”

Well… doctor’s orders.

Animated Gif of a bottle and glass of Jack Daniels whiskey with some one playing guitar in shadow in the background
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Winding Down

The rain is dripping off my coat as I fumble finding the right key in the dim early-morning light outside the bakery. House key, house key, bike lock key, multi-tool, office key… got it. A little finagling and I’m in out of the rain. At least there’s that. Autumn in Portland heralds the rainy season.
Isn’t every month in Portland the ‘rainy season’ though?”
Yes. Haha, you’re very funny.

Quickly locking the door behind me and switching off the alarm, I put the water kettle on to boil then turn on the lights in the kitchen. There’s some slight detritus from the last shift, but overall my team keeps things clean and tidy. I see the small pile of recipes at my station that apparently don’t scale correctly or need to be re-written, along with the daily production checklist I made for my team. I’ll deal with those later- there’s a bigger fish to dry waiting in the office.

Opening the office door, I drop my bag on the desk and switch on the light. Sitting in front of me in my boss’s spreadsheet outlining our Thanksgiving orders and their due dates. We have over 2000 pies due between now and Christmas, and private orders are still coming in. This was always going to be the biggest challenge of the year, and of this job. I knew it. I figured I’d be prepared. I’d done some banquet organizing and logistics work before, after all. How much more different could this be?

Staring down at the spreadsheet, I can already feel the television static fuzzing my vision. I’ve got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it.

Tea first, though.

Close-up picture of blooming tea in a glass mug on a wooden table. Chinese tea paraphernalia is in the background.
Photo by NIKOLAY OSMACHKO on Pexels.com
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Creating An Eye in the Storm- Meditation for the Culinary Professional

The more busy and chaotic daily life is, the more we crave moments of stillness and quiet. However brief they are, in whatever way they come, and no matter how adrenaline-addicted you think you are, everyone needs space to breathe. In the last few posts, I’ve often explained how I craved those moments. With the combination of a toxic workplace and my own anxiety, not feeling like I ever had space to stop and get my bearings took a serious toll on my mental health and made a bad situation worse.

Fortunately, it’s possible to create those moments for ourselves and it’s worth the effort to try. After all, the more stillness and composure you can create for yourself, the more you exude it for other people. Even with my anxiety, learning to meditate has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. If other people I work with ever told me they appreciate my competence, patience, and ability to keep my cool in a crisis, it’s because I learned to slow myself down. You can too.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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