There is mounting research showing the massive effect on our health of a well-balanced psychosocial ecosystem. A psychosocial ecosystem includes things like our roles, our social connections, and our daily routines. If we are feeling stress or imbalance in any of these areas, it hampers healing, especially of chronic conditions. Let’s look at these three areas and how they impact our health and bodymind.
Our roles are the “parts” we play in our lives. If you think about the credits at the end of a movie where it says “mother” or “bank teller” and then lists the actors’ names, this is like the roles we play in our lives. We all have multiple roles, like “friend”, “daughter”, “co-worker”, “employee”, “crafter”, “film buff” and many more. Each of these roles brings some sort of meaning to our lives and each of them is fulfilling in a different way (some more than others!) The key is to look at where the stress lies. Which of these roles are stressful? Are there any of these roles that we simply hate? If there are roles that are causing you stress or unhappiness, then it’s important to look at how to modify them or get rid of them all together. For example, if being a “daughter” is stressful because your parents are toxic, how can you lessen the time and energy you spend on being with them? How do you lessen the role of “daughter”? However, if a role brings you calm and joy, then look at how you can increase that role in your life. For example, if your favorite part of your job is being a “co-worker”, how can you increase opportunities to interact with others at work?
Social connections are the people we have in our life. This could be family, friends, co-workers, pickleball buddies, online gaming friends, or our favorite waiter at that restaurant we go to – anyone who you know and have some sort of connection to. It’s been shown many times over that the quantity AND quality of these connections is incredibly important for our health. So, even if you don’t feel like you have a ton of good quality relationships right now, you can start chatting with folks at the dog park or in line at the store and even that will have beneficial effects, as the quantity and quality of social interactions are both health-promoting. When you make that connection with another person, even a short interaction, it starts a cascade of healing chemicals in your body that positively affect your nervous system, immune system, mood, and more.
Our bodyminds love routines because they love familiar things. We love to feel the calm predictability of something that we know is going to work out in the same way it did before. Bonus points if we know it’s something that will make us happy or fulfilled. Routines can range from where we drink our morning coffee or tea to what aisles we go down first in the supermarket to our daily yoga or meditation practice. When our routines get thrown off, we often become stressed because we don’t know exactly how things will unfold. So take a look at your daily routines at home and at work. Which ones bring you joy? What is it about them that makes you happy? Can you bring more of that into your life? And if there’s some part of your day that seems to feel chaotic or unpredictable, can you bring a routine to it so that it feels more predictable (and therefore less stressful)?
Where can you make some changes to your roles, social connectivity and routines in your life? Remember to start small and build from there, even small changes can make a big difference over time and we only start making bigger changes by starting small, getting positive feedback, and then wanting more.
What one thing can you change today?
This is for all the people out there who are having a hard time right now. This is for all the people right now that don’t feel like they are at the inspirational part of their life story, they’re in the fire swamp battling the ROUSes. This is for all the people that are finding it challenging to wake up each day and do the basic things they need to do.
You are not alone. Many of us are right here with you in the swamp.
You are worthy of care and you deserve to have your needs met.
You deserve to be celebrated, no matter where you are in the cycle of your life.
You are worthy of healing, connection, love, and support.
I don’t know you, but I can 100% say I’m proud of you. I see what you’ve been through and it was A LOT. I admire how you’ve made it through, imperfectly perfect.
If you’re not currently receiving these feelings of support from the people and circumstances around you, it’s not your fault. It’s not because you did anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with you. It’s because today’s hyper-individualistic society is designed not to provide those things. It’s a feature, not a bug.
It takes a village to live a life. It takes a village to celebrate wins, help people feel proud of who they are, and feel the deep comfort of intimate friendships and connections. It takes a village to give people the space and time they need when things aren’t going well to rest, reflect, and recover.
We don’t live in that village right now. We live in a system that intentionally and systematically isolates us from that connection that we need, and studies show that connection is a vital ingredient to living a mentally healthy and well-balanced life.
Because we’re all in living a fucked up system, it may feel like you are failing. It may feel like you could be doing a better job than you currently are. Don’t listen to the lies, you are not failing. You are a soul temporarily residing in a body, during a particularly isolating time in history, doing your best. You are resilient, kind, deeply compassionate, and worthy of help when times are tough. I mean, here you are, getting up each day, doing one thing at a time, and getting through. I am proud of you, my friend. You are a miracle, and deserve to be celebrated, just as you are.
A few weeks ago I finally got on the bread baking train. I know, I know — I’m late to the game, most people started in mid-2020 at the height of the pandemic, but I was living in a warm climate at the time and the idea of baking bread just wasn’t that appealing. Now that I’m living in the cool Pacific Northwest of the US, the idea of warm bread out of the oven sounds amazing.
I’ve been a baker for most of my life (My chocolate chip cookies will Change. Your. Life.) but I’d never ventured into breads, until now. I found a beginner bread recipe, gathered the ingredients, and found a dutch oven on the clearance shelf at HomeGoods. I was ready to BAKE.
I filled a bowl with water, measured out the yeast, added the four, plunged my hands into the dough, and started to mix.
And then the magic happened.
One of the weird things about being an empath and an intuitive is that I am finely attuned to life forces. I can sense the life force in people, animals, plants and even bacteria and viruses. Over the years as I’ve practiced this skill, I’ve grown to not only sense it but I can communicate with it as well, sending and receiving information and emotions.
You guys, do you know why you love making bread? Do you know why we all started baking bread during the pandemic and not cookies or casseroles or quiches? It’s the YEAST.
As soon as I started mixing the dough with my hands and gave the yeast some water to drink and carbs to munch on, I could feel it — the life force of the yeast coming back “online” after being in dormant form for so long. I could feel that pure joy, excitement and love that is at the core of all of our life force, bubbling up in my hands as I massaged the dough and gave the yeast life, once again.
I’ve felt this before when I’ve leaned against a big tree, or sat in front of another human being looking deeply into their eyes as we traded Tonglen, or freed the roots of a plant as I repotted it. It’s the feeling of the pure joy of life, the bliss of existence. And it’s healing AF.
During the pandemic, we lost so many opportunities for connection. We spent most of our time indoors, without the opportunities for interaction and interdependence that we normally have. No wonder everyone took to baking bread, that resurgence of the life force of yeast was a way to feel connection in a time of great isolation.
Here’s one thing I know, we’re part of a living system and because of that, we’re wired for connection and care on all three levels: physical, emotional and spiritual. When we are connected to people, animals, plants or any other living thing, we are healthier in mind, body and spirit. Numerous studies show that without connection, our physical and mental health starts to deteriorate very quickly. But the opposite is true as well, when we feel connected, we start to heal. In one study, people who had survived a heart attack and owned a dog were 600% more likely to still be alive one year later than non-dog owners, even when other factors like exercise and nutrition were taken into account.
The experience of connection is healing.
Nurturing, compassion, and care are healing.
Helping the little yeasties come alive again is healing.
As I sat and communed with my ball of flour, yeast and water, I knew one thing. This is what healing feels like. When we break down the walls we’ve put up to protect ourselves from being hurt or ashamed, and can simply feel the life force of another being, what we’re left with is connection and compassion. And that’s at the core of healing — feeling connected, loved, whole and worthy.
My first attempt at baking bread