Episode #42: May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In honor of this we explore the question “What is Your Soul Food?“ This episode is about self-care and the many ways we can attend to ourselves to support our mental health. But it is also about so much more than that! These “soul food” activities and practices also help us work through both large and small traumas and helps us feel more resilient when facing the challenges of life. When we find ways to feed our own soul, we find ourselves more internally resourced and, therefore, more available to be kind, feel compassion and lend support to others. In this show, we hear from some community members about the soul foods that nourish them. Host psychotherapist Debra Sloss and psychotherapist and grief and trauma specialist Kara Bowman discuss how soul foods support mental and physical health. We received such an array of different approaches from our listeners, that we made this this into a two-part series. Join us again next month for “Building Resilience: What’s Your Soul Food? – Part 2” to hear more! We hope these two episodes help you relish your own soul food buffet!
Special thanks to Jeanne Baldzikowski for audio production, Jennifer Young for research and outreach, Leslie Nielsen for outreach and Izzy Weisz for marketing. And thanks to acoustic guitarist Adrian Legg for composing, performing, and donating the use of our theme music.
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Sound Bites & Resources from Contributors
Cindy – Listen to audio here: This multi–tasker quit her job for a year and leaned on “the basics”: exercise, eating right, good deeds, and dog cuddles. One good habit inspires confidence in creating another good habit.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – Book by James Clear that offers a framework for improving your daily habits.
Pintrist.com – a website to find endless Vegan or any Recipes.
Zach – Listen to audio here: Cycling is a soul food for a healthy body and spirit for this cyclist. Cycling releases depressive or stressful feelings and increases lucidity, patience and tolerance. With a new move to NYC, cycling remains an anchoring constant.
Strava – An application that works to track your fitness progress and a resource to find new routes and trails for cycling, running, hiking etc.
Payson McElveen Podcast – A professional cyclist that also has a podcast in which he interviews pro and ex-pro cyclists on their journeys and experiences.
Support and Explore your Local Bike Shops! – I work at NYC Velo in the East Village and I work to enable people to pursue their cycling and fitness goals. Look to your local bike shop for guidance and help toward achieving your cycling goals. Cycling is all inclusive so don’t shy away from stopping in a shop!
Go – Listen to audio here: The host’s 86–year–old mom has been a pied piper for family and new MeetUp or NextDoor friends with game playing! Her phone and computer keep her connected to others and fun.
NextDoor.com – a social media website that allows you to contact neighbors and make new friends.
MeetUp.com – a social media website that offers opportunities to join groups with shared interests.
Find Your Local Library – Public Libraries have computer stations and lend books, movies, and music in person and digitally. Many offer English classes and other programs.
Little Free Libraries –Use this map to find a little free library near you and get free books shared by your neighbors.
Leslie – Listen to audio here: Using her adult daughter for inspiration, since the passing of her son from suicide she has used a four–course meal of Soul Food: nature walks, social connection, a good night’s sleep, and volunteer teaching with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of Santa Cruz.
National Alliance for Mental Illness – Santa Cruz County Chapter — Provides free information, education classes, and support groups and does advocacy work helping those with loved ones with mental illness.
New Brighton State Beach is Leslie’s favorite walking beach which she also says “is beautiful!”
Suki – Listen to audio here: Coming from a musical family that was serious about music, this writer and online educator now sings all the time for sheer joy or “as a meditation.” She experiences music permeating the home, just for the joy of it, as a wonderful soul food staple.
Suki shares more details about her Soul Foods…
- Listening to live music played by professionals or some random person on a street corner. Live music is Alive! Polished recordings are nice, but they do not offer living experiences.
- Taking up an instrument or singing. Don’t be afraid to make music badly. Music played joyfully is great for the soul, whether the music maker is skillful or not!
- Curating my own social media. You hear a lot about social media’s negative effects. However, social media helped me keep my connection to music alive during the pandemic. Seek out groups in your areas of interest that are run in a healthy way. If the conversation gets unhealthy, leave. Turn off all your negative social media “friends.” Even if you love them as people, you don’t have to let their mental ugliness into all of your waking hours. Use tools like Social Fixer to defeat social media algorithms. Those algorithms do not have your mental health in mind. Use your own social media feed to share with your friends in a healthy way.
Gabriel – Listen to audio here: As a long–time trauma, grief, and loss counselor and father of five, he found mindful meditation helped him and others weather life’s storms. In retirement, singing and playing ukulelewith friends brings a good serving of soul food.
Guided Meditation by Gabriel – a simple short guided mediation.
Emma – Listen to audio here: Recovering from perpetually focusing on others, her soul foods are all about focusing on her: noticing her feelings with curiosity and care throughout the day, only saying yes to invitations if her body says “hell, yes!” and her weekly “me” date.
Greater Good Magazine – Research based stories, tools, tips and classes for building social and emotional well–being.
Trauma and the Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective– a 9–minute video explaining how our nervous systems work, how and why they can become dysregulated and describes ways to settle and regulate your nervous system for improved mental and physical health.
AllTrails – A website where you can find a list of and maps for 68 scenic trails in the Santa Cruz area for hiking, biking, trail running, exploring or other outdoor activities. Or search for trails in any other area.
Debra’s Quick Reads:
Volunteering/Service: What We Get When We Give
Play: Play Doesn’t End with Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too
Music: Music and Brain Health
Nature: Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health
Awe: Eight Reasons Why Awe Makes Your Life Better
Laughter: Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review & How Does Humor Affect Mental Health?
Self–Care Is Important: Why Is It So Hard to Practice?– Article by F. Diane Barth, LCSW
What Is Self–Care & Why Is Caring About Yourself Important?– Article by Katherine Hurst that mentions the five kinds of self–care.
InterPlay – An active, creative way to unlock the wisdom of the body. Classes are online or in person in Aptos.
NVC Santa Cruz – Classes and tools for building deeper, more authentic connection with others as well as with ourselves.
Diet and Depression, Harvard Heath Publishing – Article that discusses why diet is an important component of mental health.
Laughter Yoga – Find Laughter Yoga Santa Cruz on meetup.com
Research Cited – A complete list with references.
Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services –Provides parks, coastal access points, trails, and cultural and recreational programs for all ages throughout the unincorporated county. Come be active, explore, learn, play and connect where our diverse natural and cultural resources are celebrated and protected for generations to come! To find a park or trail to explore or a class or program to enjoy in our biannual activity guide, visit www.scparks.com.
Family Service Agency (FSA) of the Central Coast is a dedicated underwriter of State of Mind. FSA provides resources, support, and counseling services to adults and children. FSA believes in the power and potential of people of all ages and backgrounds to discover their own creative solutions and welcomes people of diverse cultures, genders, sexual orientations, ages, faiths, socio–economic backgrounds. FSA Counseling Offices offer Medi–Cal, Medicare, and low–cost, sliding scale services in both downtown Santa Cruz 831–423–9444 x200 and in Soquel 831–346–6767 x200.