Cooking has been something I have struggled to do for multiple reasons. It involves multi-tasking, keeping track of the time, spending money on oneself, associating with food, effort, sharing a (possibly failed) creation and can be time consuming – all things I can struggle with in some way. It is a form of self-care and self-care is not something that comes easily to me, especially when feeling underserving, self-hating or just plain lacking motivation.
But recently, I have been purposefully cooking meals for my family or friends as a way to get creative with DBT skills. I have surprised myself by how tasty and successful each of the meals have been, and the feedback from others has been really motivating, especially because I’ve always been mocked for my inability to cook anything beyond pasta in the past! It has been a way of creating structure for myself, of being productive when going out the house might feel too much, of influencing other more positive emotions during times I am feeling flat, or low, or sad.
They say that the feeling doesn’t come first – that the actions do – and I see how that holds true here. Feeling proud of myself is a rare victory, but over the last two weeks my culinary creations have made that a reality a number of times. Every time I’ve cooked, I’ve felt more positive at the end of the process than I did at the start. Something I used to find anxiety-provoking and stressful, I’m starting to find relaxing, rewarding and enjoyable.
And the cooking process involves so many DBT skills, especially when you add booming music to the atmosphere like I have been doing (we recently invested in a new and very exciting sound system), that my DBT diary card has many more ticks than usual!
It involves self-soothing through pretty much all senses, such as smell, sight, taste and touch (and the sound of the accompanying music). It involves being fully present and mindful of the cooking process – no phone, Internet or other distracting gadgets. It involves accumulating positives and building mastery as in ABC. It involves the ACCEPTS skills – activities that are positively distracting, contributing (by sharing meals with loved ones, which is a treat for them too) and sensations (as described above). It involves the E in PLEASE skills, by nourishing oneself by eating healthy and balanced food.
I’ve now successfully made dishes ranging from cauliflower cheese, mushroom pepper and zaatar rissoto, to ratatouille, morrocon spiced fish and tzatziki, and veggie shepherd’s pie.
So for anyone who needs a helpful distraction, mastery-building, sensory and creative skill, I suggest turning on some music, pouring yourself a glass of wine (if it’s effective!), and getting out a new recipe to try your hands at! 😊