How sourdough, plants, and my cats have helped my anxiety

Photo by Manja Vitolic on Unsplash

Like many of us are, whether we realize it or not, I am a creature of routine. I thrive off of having a busy schedule where I have a place to be at least once a day, and I have always been like that. Looking back to high school, I was student council president, was in the school musical, in an after school theatre program on Mondays, took dance class on Tuesdays, taught dance on Thursdays and took piano lessons on Fridays…all while somehow keeping up with homework and getting good grades. I was extremely priviledged to have all of those experiences as a child, but as I got older and became in charge of my own life a lot more, I realized that this heavy scheduling was what kept me motivated and pushing forward.

Last year I graduated from my Masters degree in Occupational Therapy and moved back home where I was starting fresh. I had two full months to study for my Occupational therapy licensing exam, yet I couldn’t get started, and when I did I couldn’t focus because the thought of studying for a massive exam like that provoked my anxiety.

So I did what I knew and started looking for odd jobs to fill my time. I started a research job, volunteering at a youth shelter, working casually as a supply teacher at a daycare, and magically I was able to start focusing on studying in the time that I was not working. Long story short, having a schedule/routine for me is much better for my anxiety.

And then Covid hit. And like many of my earlier blogs have mentioned, the world changed for many people. I no longer had many of the jobs I held before because I worked with children and other vulnerable populations. I went from at least having somewhat of a schedule to having nothing at all. At the start of the Covid lockdown my consistent schedule was teaching an online yoga class every Sunday at 8pm.

So you better believe that I grasped for anything to give me some sort of routine – I went for lots of walks outside, tried to do some learning for my (eventual) Occupational Therapy career, but the one thing I held on tight to was the routine of waking up in the morning to feed my two cats and water my three plants. As time went on, my plants began to sprout babies and I was attached to this source of routine, so my plant collection grew. Despite never having a green thumb in my life (I’ve killed every “easy” plant to care for), my windows have become full of plants, I have a tree growing in my house, and I have a herb garden on my back deck.

In occupational therapy, we learn about the therapeutic effects of gardening, which include providing a sense of nurturing and responsibility (check out this link for an article with some other ways gardening can be therapeutic). I have definitely found these points to be relevant to myself, and a huge reason as to why it’s helped my mental health. I have beings to care for (in addition to my cats), and I need to wake up every day and show them love, which starts off my day. I also get to see the product of my love which is healthy and beautiful greenery, and delightful herbs for cooking !

As kids started returning to school, the child I babysat returned to school and I had three less days of full time work… which means I have a lot more time to focus on my lack of employment and the increasing Covid cases. And here comes the role of sourdough in my mental health. A couple weeks ago my fiancée’s wonderful aunt gave us a little sourdough starter. I took it home because she was SO EXCITED to share the magic of sourdough with me and I couldn’t say no (even though I literally never bake because I’m a no recipe kind of gal and that doesn’t really translate well to baking).

But she was so excited so I was determined to at least try my hand at this thing. She recommended me go to the website King Arthur baking to find endless sourdough recipes and advice to feed and maintain my starter. Everything looked so intimidating but something told me I needed to do it – so I got myself a food scale and set out to feed my starter for the first time. I haven’t made a loaf of bread yet but I have found my sourdough staple – sourdough crumpets (recipe here). I’ve made them plain, with cinnamon, and my personal favourite: rosemary cheese!

The delightful treats also come with sense of purpose and responsibility, as the sourdough starter needs to be fed and cared for daily or weekly depending on how often you’re going to use it. So again, something as simple as baking bread becomes extremely meaningful in creating routine. As winter comes, and we’re stuck inside more due to the cold weather, I’m going to attempt to cook more recipe based meals, do more art, and have more dance parties to keep myself entertained, motivated, and mentally well.

Whether you’re working, volunteering, doing leisure activities, working out or working on passion projects, finding meaningful activities to fill your schedule and give you a sense of responsibility and purpose can be an incredible tool and contribution to your mental health!

What kind of things do you do in your day to keep you going ? Please share your ideas!

Published by maiiflowerr

Pronouns She/Her. I'm a millennial just trying to make a difference in the world, and create space for people to accept themselves and live their best lives. My fiancee, Sydney, and I are mothers to our two goofy cats, and the queens of creative adventures. I am an Occupational therapist, a dancer and a yoga instructor with a passion for supporting people and creating community.

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