And….Float….

24 Feb
Float like a feather. Photo credit: morgue filer user katmystiry

Float like a feather. Photo credit: morgue filer user katmystiry

Stress is a word that has been on my mind a lot recently. As regular readers will have seen from recent posts, life is pretty incredibly stressful at the moment.

Stress really is a menace. It is the devil. As someone who knows the health implications of stress all too well, I have spent a lot of time recently trying to de-stress. Trying to calm myself. Trying very hard not to stress.

And you know what I’ve realized? The more you fight stress, the worse it gets. The more you struggle against stress, the more stressed you become. The more you engage and identify with the fact you are stressed, the deeper down into the black hole of stress you go. The more you engage with it ‘I’m so stressed, oh I’m so stressed, I can’t do this….’ the more stressed your thoughts become. And the more stressed your mind is, the more stressed your body becomes. And that is never good.

That is not to say that you should sit back and let stress pummel you by doing nothing. No. That’s not what I think is best. But the way you interact with your stress is important.

The anology of quicksand is quite useful. The urban legend goes that if you find yourself caught in quicksand (heaven forbid, thankfully not a lot of it in London, the physical sort at any rate, lots of the stress sort) the very worst thing you can do is to fight it. The more you scrabble and struggle to get out, the more you put weight down on your foot in order to push yourself out, the deeper into the sand your foot goes. The more you struggle, the deeper you go and the more you struggle. It goes against all our natural instincts but the only way to survive quicksand is to lay down and spread your weight out across your full surface area. You have to just stop and be with the quicksand (and wait/pray for someone to come help you get out of course).

This can be applied to dealing with stress. The more you struggle against being stressed the deeper you fall, i.e. the more stressed you become. Then you fight it a bit more, and yep, you fall even deeper down into the stress. Never ending cycle of stress Hell. But if you can summon the strength (and boy is it hard) to just let the stress be and just accept the stressful thoughts and feelings, you will find that you survive. You will get through it and come out the other side.

I’ve been trying to keep this in mind. Trying to let the stress just be. As the Headspace meditation taught me, the calm of a blue sky is ever present, it’s just a matter of letting it come to the surface. By not struggling with the stress, that blue sky can appear much more easily.

Float like a bird. © Jess B 2015

Float like a bird. © Jess B 2015

I have also been thinking a lot about choice. I am not the stress and the stress is not me. It is not an uncontrollable part of me. It does not define me. Stepping back and seeing the stress as separate to me is really helpful. It helps me see that I have a choice about how I think/feel/react to the stress. I don’t have to let it take over. I can choose to step back and breath and let the blue sky bubble up.

Choice plays a central role in the Lightning Process. On recognizing a negative thought or physical symptom, you stop and choose what you want to do instead of just blithely following the negativity or damaging pattern. In prolonged periods of heightened acute stress, especially in bodies that have a history of ME/CFS, the nervous system can all too quickly become permanently switched on. We are wired very primatively and our bodies can not differentiate between actual danger (a hungry tiger ready to pounce on you) and uncomfortable difficult situations (such as idiot buyers holding up your house move). So even though there is no tiger about to eat me, my nervous system thinks there is and goes into overdrive in order to protect me.

The STOP of the Lightning Process is quite strong and can be too abrasive at times when your nervous system is in serious freak out mode (as mine has been over the last few weeks). At these times, you need to really sooth your nervous system. And a strong powerful STOP is unhelpful as it will just ramp up the stress in your system that bit more.

Instead I have been choosing to pause…. To breath….. and ground myself. To coach myself over and over that I am okay….. I am safe….. I am okay…. I am completely safe….. I have been choosing to float through the stress. To just let time pass….. To just float…. Float like a soft white feather on the breeze…… Float like a rubber duck bobbing in a bath of warm water…….. Float like a beautiful bird gliding through blue sky….. .Float on my back in calm turquoise waters…. Just float…. Just let it be…..

Words of the week:

Float

Acceptance

Breath….

Choice

I feel calmer already.

Hope you do too.

A Tactical Retreat

17 Feb

This week I am writing to you from the very comfy armchair in my Mum and Dad’s living room.

Last week I made a tactical retreat, leaving the stress and uncertainty of our on again off again flat sale in London behind and made the 130 mile journey north to my parents’ house in Lincolnshire.

My sleep had been deteriorating over the last few weeks, taking forever to drift off at night due to all the stress and thoughts, about our house move falling through, swirling around in my head. It came to breaking point last Tuesday night when, having gone to bed at 9.30 pm exhausted, I was still wide awake at midnight. I couldn’t stop crying, I was so tight, stressed and wound up. The whole ‘the move is not worth destroying my health over’ had been forgotten, I was so stressed out I couldn’t see that. I couldn’t see anything. After a couple of hours of watching Brothers and Sisters (through tears and swirling thoughts) I think I eventually fell asleep around 3 am. I spent Wednesday curled up on the sofa feeling like I had been hit by a bus / jet lagged / completely undone.

My emotional state and sleep are fairly good indicators of how my body is health wise. They always have been. They’re the first things to disintegrate when my ME/CFS starts to worsen. My myalgia was spiking as well. Little things, like washing up or typing an email, things that don’t usually trigger pain anymore, were/are bringing on that burning, heavy, aching pain in my arms. My elbows hurt and forearms are burning. The vertebrae in my neck hurt and my shoulders feel like that have ten ton weights on them. Although the pain is not anywhere near as acute or persistent as it once was (thank you Lightning Process), the fact that it is there at a level that makes me stop and acknowledge it is cause for concern. Hence the need to remove myself from the scene of stress, so to speak, and vacate our flat for the more tranquil air of Lincolnshire.

It felt a bit pathetic to need to take action. It felt very lame that the stress of the house move had got to me so badly, especially when Mr B seems oblivious to it all. But as my Dad reminded me, selling houses and moving are one of the most stressful things people do and even ‘normal’ people, people without nervous system affecting illnesses, would be affected by this so I am trying to be kind to myself. Hence, being at my parents.

I’m trying to keep myself distracted with wedding prep, yoga and of course meditation. I’m still doing my Headspace practice each morning and trying to take a step back and do the Lightning Process when I find myself caught up in the frenzy of stress. The joy of email and smart phones means the lawyers and estate agents are never far away. It’s hard to step back but it is necessary. Very necessary.

And as my Mum said when I arrived, come in and let everything fall away. How is it that returning to our childhood homes is like sinking into a warm bubble bath? Ahhhh bliss. Perhaps I should drop my smart phone into the bubbles and let the estate agent and lawyer emails float away 😉

Date Night @ Pure Taste Restaurant

13 Feb
Root Vegetable Cobbler  © Jess Bruce 2015

My Main Course: Root Vegetable Cobbler © Jess Bruce 2015

Last week marked 11 years since Mr B and I started dating. To celebrate our anniversary we went out for dinner at Pure Taste Restaurant in West London.

Pure Taste is no ordinary restaurant. It is a Jess friendly restaurant! Everything on their menu is gluten and dairy free as it is a paleo restaurant. They cater for all sorts of different diets from vegan to Whole 30, Specific Carbohydrate and Gaps, low Fodmaps and even one I’d never heard of – the Weston A. Price diet (advocates whole foods and fats from local unprocessed sources  – see this article to learn more – I learn something new everyday!) There is a key on their menu detailing for which diet each dish is suitable.

Pesto Crab Amuse Bouche © Jess Bruce 2015

Pesto Crab Amuse Bouche © Jess Bruce 2015

The restaurant opened late last year and we had been wanting to go ever since. Despite having read a few unfriendly reviews in the mainstream British press, I wanted to see for myself. In the healthy food world, Pure Taste had been celebrated as a new dawn in the London restaurant scene, causing quite the stir with its pictures of amazing light crunchy gluten free breads and creamy dairy free desserts. I am keen to try any restaurant where I can order anything from the menu and eat without the fear of ‘has this got gluten in it’,  ‘does the waiter actually know that the sauce is milk free’ and without having to cross examine the person taking our order with 20 questions about whether or not the menu item is safe for me to eat.

My Starter: Scallops and Apple Caviar © Jess Bruce 2015

My Starter: Scallops and Apple Caviar © Jess Bruce 2015

None of that at Pure Taste! On being seated the waitress asked if we were following any special diets and quickly explained the menu to us. Pure Taste calls itself a fine dining restaurant. The menu is selective with a choice of 6 starters, mains and desserts, spanning meat, fish and vegan options for all courses. As well as having bread and petit fours to perfectly top and tail your meal. See the menu in full here.

Mr B's Starter: Asian Pork © Jess Bruce 2015

Mr B’s Starter: Asian Pork © Jess Bruce 2015

I was in heaven. It was the best feeling knowing that I could safely order anything. I’m not used to going to restaurants and actually having much of a choice. Once you eliminate gluten and dairy you knock out half of most restaurant menu options. Add in trying to eat as little meat as possible, the list of possible options gets even smaller, especially as most veggie options seem to come slathered in cheese.

So what did we eat? The all important question! (Warning, we ate a lot!)

Gluten free focaccia!  © Jess Bruce 2015

Gluten free focaccia! © Jess Bruce 2015

We were first given a small spoonful of crab and pesto as an amuse bouche. This was utterly delicious. Creamy with the tang of basil just cutting through.

Basil Blood Orange Palette Cleanser © Jess Bruce 2015

Basil Blood Orange Palette Cleanser © Jess Bruce 2015

Then we enjoyed the garlic and rosemary focaccia with avocado butter and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was crunchy on the top and bottom and soft and squidgy (technical term..) in the middle. The garlic and rosemary flavour shone through and it was gorgeous dipped in the oil and vinegar. The avocado butter was good too, with a very mild avocado flavour. I haven’t had a ‘normal’ foccacia (or any bread for that matter) for years so it’s hard for me to compare it, but Mr B seemed to think the bread was good, perhaps just a bit more doughy or cake like in texture than a standard gluten full loaf. But it was very tasty.

Rib of Beef, Mr B's meaty main © Jess Bruce 2015

Rib of Beef, Mr B’s Meaty Main © Jess Bruce 2015

I had the scallops as my starter which were delicious, perfectly cooked and paired with a creamy parsnip puree and a refreshing apple caviar, the latter was the highlight. Who knew you could imitate the texture of caviar with apple? It worked really well to cut through the richness of the rest of the dish. Mr B had Asian pork with cabbage and crispy potatoes, must have been good as he polished it off in 30 seconds flat (or possibly the portion was small?!)

My Dessert, Chocolate Orange Ganache © Jess Bruce

Chocolate Orange Ganache © Jess Bruce

We were then treated to a blood orange basil palate cleanser that was really refreshing and flavorful. And then came the mains. Making the most of being able to order a non-cheese laden veggie option, I chose the root vegetable and mushroom cobbler. This was a medley of winter veg and mushrooms cooked in a satisfying (almost meaty in flavour) light broth type of sauce and topped with herbed scones. The veggie stew was really good and the scones soaked up the sauce juices perfectly. The scones were crisp on the outside and dense, yet still soft, in the middle. They were very tasty, if a little sweet. I suspect they were made with coconut flour. Mr B stayed true to his carnivorous roots and had the beef short rib. The meat fell off the bone, it was incredibly tender. He wanted a little more than just the kale, onion and and apple puree it came with. A side of mixed veg for the table might have been nice, though given how much other food we ate I’m not sure we really needed it.

Pure Taste Banoffee Pie © Jess Bruce 2015

Pure Taste Banoffee Pie © Jess Bruce 2015

And finally dessert. We ordered the chocolate orange ganache and the banoffee pie and shared them. The ganache was good, a lovely rich texture with a deep chocolate flavour with little bursts of orange curd on the plate. But the banoffee was the best. It was a deconstructed banoffee pie with a piece of baked banana, banana toffee ice cream, toffee sauce and a rich almond biscotti crumb.

As we clearly hadn’t eaten enough I ordered a peppermint tea which came with a choice of petits fours. We had the mini maple donuts. SOOO GOOD!

Mini Maple Donuts © Jess Bruce 2015

Mini Maple Donuts © Jess Bruce 2015

We washed all our food down with a bottle of Prosecco and marveled at how busy the restaurant was (no table was free), a clear sign of how London is embracing alternative healthy diets.

At £130 for dinner for two, even with the £30 bottle of wine and 4 courses, Pure Taste definitely has a fine dining price tag and is perhaps only for special occasions. But the best part of the whole thing? Not feeling bloated or sick from eating out. That was priceless :-)

Pure Taste, we will be back but in the meantime if you’d care to open a restaurant in East London, we’d be very grateful. At 19 stops on the tube across London, it was worth the travel but we’d love it if it were closer!

Have you been to a paleo / health restaurant that you’ve enjoyed? Please comment and share your experience below.

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