Food works better than valium, I'm famous for telling my eating-disordered clients. Cookies and milk are comforting. A bowl of ice cream eases stress like nothing else. But as comforting as food can be, if it's the only thing that helps you manage your mood, you're at greater risk for more serious mental health problems, from anxiety and depression to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders.
Instead of relying exclusively on food to manage mood, I encourage clients to practice meditation, self-compassion, yoga and other "non-food" coping strategies. So when stress hits big-time, like, say, in a highly contentious election, they can choose how best to comfort themselves — with or without food.
That said, as the presidential race lurched and swerved toward the bitter end, swimming and my other go-to strategies offered little solace. Super-stressed and at a loss, I was surprised to discover the best cure for election stress was, in fact, the very thing I'd cautioned my clients against — food. Specifically, mindful muffins.
No, I didn't stuff my feelings with muffins. Rather, the antidote to my election anxiety was mindfully making muffins, not eating them. In the last grueling months of the election, I'd retreat from the political chaos to the sanctuary of my kitchen, where I'd bake batch after batch of muffins. Turns out, muffin making as a meditative practice is a reliable source of comfort and hope.
Don't get me wrong, mindful muffins aren't some anti-feminist response to a political crisis. I have no illusions that if women don aprons like '50s housewives, these divided states of America will reunite. I'm not naïve, just relieved to find a stress-reduction strategy that works better than hitting the psychotropic drugs.