Last year, I was an overwhelmed college student living in Manhattan, healing from a major surgery and struggling with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease. These factors left me struggling with weight, anxiety, energy levels, and brain fog. I was working to pay the bills and spent my spare time finding innovative ways to care for myself, manage my stress, and increase my performance in the cubicle and classroom.
Determined to heal myself without medicine, I found the self-care movement in my research. Although not a new idea, self-care has become an all-encompassing word in recent years, covering everything from face masks to turning off your phone. And, in a year with a tense political election, revolutionary social movements, and unprecedented depression and anxiety rates, it made sense that bloggers, business leaders, and healthcare professionals would encourage individuals to unplug and destress.
However, as I began to investigate the self-care advice available in books, medical journals, opinion pieces, and blog posts, I found that many of the recommendations were either superficial or ignorant to the root of the problem. Please do not misunderstand. I do not believe that there is anything inherently wrong with the recommendations presented.
Let me be clear: In an age overloaded with information and constant virtual connection, I believe it is essential to unplug. And yet, school work must get done and bills must be paid. Sometimes the phone will buzz with life-altering news or a friend will need your support. While there are times to unplug, there are also times to fight for what you believe in, support the people you love, and meet the demands of modern day life.
My question became: How can I care for myself in a way that enables me to do more things well, rather than fighting for ways to do less? And, how can I provide others with the same budget-conscious, realistic, and fun suggestions?
I found my answer in New York City’s local food movement. Within the City’s local food industry, I discovered new ways to be intentional, engage the city I love, and nourish my body.
Fast-forward one year. Now, when I’m stressed or overwhelmed for reasons beyond my control, I choose delicious, farm-fresh foods to revitalize me.
In eating kale from the local farmers’ market, I supply my body with iron–more iron, in fact, than beef per calories. That source of iron supplies oxygen to my bloodstream and fights fatigue.
By adding farm-fresh carrots to my meals, I protect my eyesight, support digestion, and boost immunity.
When including apples and pears in my salad at lunch, I fight inflammation, supply vitamin C, and support brain function.
By adding cremini mushrooms to my pasta, I add significant amounts of vitamin D to my diet, a nutrient every New Yorker needs in those dreary winter months.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. In the past year, I’ve found this to be absolutely true.
If I’m honest, there are many days that I’m still an overwhelmed New Yorker. However, I think that is true for all of us. This difference is, I am now aware that if I am unwilling to support my body and address the underlying issues at play in my stress and fatigue, nothing will change. In my opinion, real, organic, local food—often considered one of the most frivolous uses of time and money—is the most practical, cost-effective, and lasting form of self-care. It certainly has been for me.