The Harvest: Transition of the Seasons

Welcome to the first entry of my Elevenses column, Food for Thought. In case you missed the introduction, I’m Natalie and I’m the adopted one of the family unit behind this blog. Feel free to read a little more about me over here or about my adopted family members here, here and here.

What with Christmas approaching (or the Holiday season as you North Americans like to call it) the Elevenses crew couldn’t help but choose “The Harvest” as November’s topic.

What does the Harvest mean to me?

If you’re a traditional foodist then butternut squash, pork roasts and baked apples might spell “The Harvest” right out for you, for me however, it’s not so pumpkin spiced and delicious.

Where there once was eating breakfast out on the deck and wearing your only pair of shorts one too many times, there now comes frozen tear ducts and saving yourself from falling face first into Superstore on the way to picking up the next meal. For me, “The Harvest” means a huge transition to dark mornings, dark afternoons and a tougher time getting from the former to the latter.

How has the Harvest affected my mood?

Along with a fresh palette of burnt oranges, earthy browns and deep reds comes a total rehaul of the palette within. My moods took the change hard right at the beginning of November, to be more specific I noticed a fairly long streak of days spent underneath a low hanging cloud.

Now I am not suggesting that the fall and winter months are the cause of my depression, the roots of my condition are buried deep and are unfortunately more difficult to overcome than this. Instead, I am highlighting that my existing mental condition acts as a solid foundation for what many know as SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder in full) to manifest.

For a quick definition of what SAD syndrome is, please hear the wise words of Chris Kresser, licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicine:

“Researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health are credited for the idea that perhaps more people are apt to become depressed during dark, dreary winter days than on bright, crisp spring days because they are not getting enough light.”

I won’t go any further into the intricacies of this syndrome as this post is more about the changes in season, the harvest and how to support yourself through these changes. If you’d like to read more about this common condition please click here.

What stresses are there due to this change in mood palette?

Being swept up in what looks to be a perfect storm without an umbrella is a hard place to be, hard because the half a dozen things you were totally able to do two days ago suddenly seem like three dozen things in the dark of a fall or winter morning.

Making decisions, motivation levels, mental acuity: these are just a few things that you may see change in with the turn of the season. They are certainly areas which I have experienced a higher degree of difficulty with throughout the harvest time.

If we follow the popular psychological theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Abraham Maslow identifies four fundamental needs or “deficiency needs” which Maslow states must be met before an individual will strive for, or desire, any secondary or higher level needs.

A more digestible and practical example of the function of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be seen when you’re hungry. Think back to the last time you were stuck in a meeting at lunch time, could you focus on the meeting or were you more concerned with chowing down on a tasty bowl of spicy butternut squash soup? Although spicy butternut squash soup is always more interesting than lets say, an annual board meeting, I guarantee your ability to problem solve and be creative within said meeting will be greatly impaired if you’re hungry.

Another example, which the members (and honorary members) of the Cardinal experience a great deal, is communication and hunger. When one (or several) of us are hungry, we are unable to tap into our patient and caring nature within communication until our hunger is overcome.

If we relate these examples back to the diagram included in this post, you’ll notice food is part of the base “Physiological” need, whereas creativity and problem solving (those needs required for a business meeting) are way up in the “Self-actualization” group of needs and communication lies in the “Esteem” group of needs (those needs required to converse with others during periods of hunger).

How do I support myself during these times of low resources?

Although we are all more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder during fall no matter any pre existing conditions, we all have access to external resources that we are able to draw upon for support. The trick is listening to your body to

My personal protocol against SAD (and in my fight against depression overall) includes a number of basic supplements, cognitive exercises and perhaps the most important; dietary support.

For me, 4G of Ester-C and 2 Multivitamin capsules daily, typically taken in the morning, provide a good resource pool to draw from throughout the day. It’s worth noting here that I generally ignore the directions written on the back of supplements packages, I tend to listen to Dr. Gackie instead as she is very well versed in the ways of the body through her own experiences. Learn more from Jacqui over here. As a general guideline, you can take 4G of vitamin C per pound of body weight before you start turning orange, this is good to to keep in mind if you start to feel a cold or flu coming on, just keep chompin’ C until the cows come home.

The cognitive side of things is particularly tricky in that if you’re not supported physiologically, the progress you make cognitively will be severely limited. I have found that knowing these limitations can be used positively however, and said knowledge has helped me to contextualise my ability and any progress made, no matter how small. My current life raft of choice for cognitive support comes in the form of a book, Your Are Not Your Brain written by Jeffrey M. Schwartz M.D. and Rebecca Gladding M.D. Of course I highly recommend this as a starting point, but everybody is unique and thus requires equally unique forms of support, especially when it comes to something as personal as cognitive work. So pick a book, audiobook, podcast or whatever it is that could help support you cognitively, you’ll need this in the fall and winter seasons.

Food Time

Now onto the food! (hurrah I hear you say). Food is not only the tastiest external resource available, but perhaps the most crucial (and underrated) when it comes to a foundational support required to tackle stress, recovery and more. Here’s a catch 22 though: what if you’re too tired, stressed or depressed to make a nutritionally dense, deliciously satisfying meal 3 times a day?

You find it difficult, or simply don’t have the time, to give your body the fuel it needs to be able to have the better outlook and mindset it requires to tackle difficult days. In short; you need the energy to make food but you need the food to get the energy and a packet of crisps (translation: chips) and a ham sandwich just isn’t going to cut it with the stress we experience in our society.

What can I do? I hear you ask. BULK COOKING, I yell in response! and you don’t even have to sacrifice tastiness AND you save money yo’! To quote a fantastic woman, “slow cooking is the way to make cheap cuts of meat taste excellent”. Bulk cooking means that instead of cooking lunch everyday, you cook lunch for 4 days on a quiet Sunday, sounds super eh? This way you dodge the vicious cycle preventing you from being your best, especially during the gong show that is often known as “the week”.

As I am English, it is only natural for my recipe to be some form of mashed potatoes, so here you have it, Nat’s Favourite Speedy Mash.

Nat's Favourite Speedy Mash

Prep Time: 10 Mins Cooking Time: 15 Mins Total Time: 25 Mins
Ingredients:
  • 2 large yams (can be substantially larger and darker than the tubers labeled sweet potatoes, but are often labeled as such! )
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • sea salt and cracked pepper
Directions:
  1. Peel and chop yams into 1 inch dice. Place diced yams in a microwave safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 12 – 15 minutes, or until soft when pieced with a fork.Uncover plastic wrap from bowl and add coconut oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a grind or two of pepper from a mill if you have one laying about. If you don’t, just add a small pinch of the ground stuff! Mash well until only a few chunks are left behind and ingredients are well combined.Taste to adjust seasonings, adding additional lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of salt at a time. Remember, go easy on the pepper.Enjoy! (Leftovers will keep well for several days, refrigerated, in a air-tight container.)

Welcome to the first entry of my Elevenses column, Food for Thought. In case you missed the introduction, I’m Natalie and I’m the adopted one of the family unit behind this blog. Feel free to read a little more about me over here or about my adopted family members here, here and here.

What with Christmas approaching (or the Holiday season as you North Americans like to call it) the Elevenses crew couldn’t help but choose “The Harvest” as November’s topic.

What does the Harvest mean to me?

If you’re a traditional foodist then butternut squash, pork roasts and baked apples might spell “The Harvest” right out for you, for me however, it’s not so pumpkin spiced and delicious.

Where there once was eating breakfast out on the deck and wearing your only pair of shorts one too many times, there now comes frozen tear ducts and saving yourself from falling face first into Superstore on the way to picking up the next meal. For me, “The Harvest” means a huge transition to dark mornings, dark afternoons and a tougher time getting from the former to the latter.

How has the Harvest affected my mood?

Along with a fresh palette of burnt oranges, earthy browns and deep reds comes a total rehaul of the palette within. My moods took the change hard right at the beginning of November, to be more specific I noticed a fairly long streak of days spent underneath a low hanging cloud.

Now I am not suggesting that the fall and winter months are the cause of my depression, the roots of my condition are buried deep and are unfortunately more difficult to overcome than this. Instead, I am highlighting that my existing mental condition acts as a solid foundation for what many know as SAD syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder in full) to manifest.

For a quick definition of what SAD syndrome is, please hear the wise words of Chris Kresser, licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicine:

“Researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health are credited for the idea that perhaps more people are apt to become depressed during dark, dreary winter days than on bright, crisp spring days because they are not getting enough light.”

I won’t go any further into the intricacies of this syndrome as this post is more about the changes in season, the harvest and how to support yourself through these changes. If you’d like to read more about this common condition please click here.

What stresses are there due to this change in mood palette?

Being swept up in what looks to be a perfect storm without an umbrella is a hard place to be, hard because the half a dozen things you were totally able to do two days ago suddenly seem like three dozen things in the dark of a fall or winter morning.

Making decisions, motivation levels, mental acuity: these are just a few things that you may see change in with the turn of the season. They are certainly areas which I have experienced a higher degree of difficulty with throughout the harvest time.

If we follow the popular psychological theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Abraham Maslow identifies four fundamental needs or “deficiency needs” which Maslow states must be met before an individual will strive for, or desire, any secondary or higher level needs.

A more digestible and practical example of the function of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be seen when you’re hungry. Think back to the last time you were stuck in a meeting at lunch time, could you focus on the meeting or were you more concerned with chowing down on a tasty bowl of spicy butternut squash soup? Although spicy butternut squash soup is always more interesting than lets say, an annual board meeting, I guarantee your ability to problem solve and be creative within said meeting will be greatly impaired if you’re hungry.

Another example, which the members (and honorary members) of the Cardinal experience a great deal, is communication and hunger. When one (or several) of us are hungry, we are unable to tap into our patient and caring nature within communication until our hunger is overcome.

If we relate these examples back to the diagram included in this post, you’ll notice food is part of the base “Physiological” need, whereas creativity and problem solving (those needs required for a business meeting) are way up in the “Self-actualization” group of needs and communication lies in the “Esteem” group of needs (those needs required to converse with others during periods of hunger).

How do I support myself during these times of low resources?

Although we are all more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder during fall no matter any pre existing conditions, we all have access to external resources that we are able to draw upon for support. The trick is listening to your body to

My personal protocol against SAD (and in my fight against depression overall) includes a number of basic supplements, cognitive exercises and perhaps the most important; dietary support.

For me, 4G of Ester-C and 2 Multivitamin capsules daily, typically taken in the morning, provide a good resource pool to draw from throughout the day. It’s worth noting here that I generally ignore the directions written on the back of supplements packages, I tend to listen to Dr. Gackie instead as she is very well versed in the ways of the body through her own experiences. Learn more from Jacqui over here. As a general guideline, you can take 4G of vitamin C per pound of body weight before you start turning orange, this is good to to keep in mind if you start to feel a cold or flu coming on, just keep chompin’ C until the cows come home.

The cognitive side of things is particularly tricky in that if you’re not supported physiologically, the progress you make cognitively will be severely limited. I have found that knowing these limitations can be used positively however, and said knowledge has helped me to contextualise my ability and any progress made, no matter how small. My current life raft of choice for cognitive support comes in the form of a book, Your Are Not Your Brain written by Jeffrey M. Schwartz M.D. and Rebecca Gladding M.D. Of course I highly recommend this as a starting point, but everybody is unique and thus requires equally unique forms of support, especially when it comes to something as personal as cognitive work. So pick a book, audiobook, podcast or whatever it is that could help support you cognitively, you’ll need this in the fall and winter seasons.

Food Time

Now onto the food! (hurrah I hear you say). Food is not only the tastiest external resource available, but perhaps the most crucial (and underrated) when it comes to a foundational support required to tackle stress, recovery and more. Here’s a catch 22 though: what if you’re too tired, stressed or depressed to make a nutritionally dense, deliciously satisfying meal 3 times a day?

You find it difficult, or simply don’t have the time, to give your body the fuel it needs to be able to have the better outlook and mindset it requires to tackle difficult days. In short; you need the energy to make food but you need the food to get the energy and a packet of crisps (translation: chips) and a ham sandwich just isn’t going to cut it with the stress we experience in our society.

What can I do? I hear you ask. BULK COOKING, I yell in response! and you don’t even have to sacrifice tastiness AND you save money yo’! To quote a fantastic woman, “slow cooking is the way to make cheap cuts of meat taste excellent”. Bulk cooking means that instead of cooking lunch everyday, you cook lunch for 4 days on a quiet Sunday, sounds super eh? This way you dodge the vicious cycle preventing you from being your best, especially during the gong show that is often known as “the week”.

As I am English, it is only natural for my recipe to be some form of mashed potatoes, so here you have it, Nat’s Favourite Speedy Mash.

Nat's Favourite Speedy Mash

Prep Time: 10 Mins Cooking Time: 15 Mins Total Time: 25 Mins
Ingredients:
  • 2 large yams (can be substantially larger and darker than the tubers labeled sweet potatoes, but are often labeled as such! )
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • sea salt and cracked pepper
Directions:
  1. Peel and chop yams into 1 inch dice. Place diced yams in a microwave safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 12 – 15 minutes, or until soft when pieced with a fork.Uncover plastic wrap from bowl and add coconut oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a grind or two of pepper from a mill if you have one laying about. If you don’t, just add a small pinch of the ground stuff! Mash well until only a few chunks are left behind and ingredients are well combined.Taste to adjust seasonings, adding additional lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of salt at a time. Remember, go easy on the pepper.Enjoy! (Leftovers will keep well for several days, refrigerated, in a air-tight container.)

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About the author

Natalie

Natalie Wright is a blonde, english, 20-something that has the pleasure of blogging with the Cardinal family. Her column is "Food for Thought" and discusses the effects of food and supplementation on cognitive ability. When not blogging on Elevenses, Natalie can often be found ranting about digital marketing on Google+ and twitter.

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