I’ve always loved baking sourdough. But somewhere between Biochemistry and Herbal Medicine 2, when my daughter was just one year old and my son started preschool, my starter died.
If you’re not familiar with sourdough, your starter (or leaven) is the fermented mess that replaces your yeast. Bakers are quite in love with their leaven and a beautifully bubbling, rising and falling, living leaven is a wondrous thing.
But mine died.
In fact, when I remembered I hadn’t fed my starter for a bit and went looking for it, it was so far gone it was a shock. Normally you can take a spoonful and restart your starter with a bit of flour, a bit of warm water and a bit of love, but mine was grey and hard. It had ‘died’ some time ago.
How do we forget about something we enjoy doing so much for that long? Even worse is that I’ve only just started a new starter this week! My daughter is past 2 1/2 and my son is in his last term of kindergarten. How did it slip my mind for 20 or so months that I needed to do something I liked to do?
When I’m consulting I ask a lot of nosy questions. I might ask about the colour of your wee or how often you poo. I often ask about your stress triggers and your diet.
No one ever misses a beat. Answers roll out easily (even when the answer is take away pizza) until I ask, ‘what do you like to do for yourself? What do you do to manage stress?’
Quite often the reply is, ‘well…I, well, I like to walk. I’ll get back into it when…’
A couple of months ago I went to a great seminar on Functional Psychiatry. It was all about managing stress, through to anxiety, depression and addiction. One of the great things they were talking about is what is needed for mental resilience. Two of these these things were biological and two were psychosocial.
The biological aspects were the ones we think of when we think of improving our health: cellular energy and micronutrients.
The psychosocial aspects were the other two aspects needed for mental resilience: social networks and meaning and purpose.
Social networks doesn’t just mean you jumped on social media.
It really means that you interact with people. You have people you can catch up with, either for a chat, in book club, to exercise with, to talk about your kids with, to wash your dogs with and on it goes.
Meaning and purpose can be tricky and it’s personal. What gives you meaning and purpose might be totally different to what gives me meaning and purpose. For you, it might be long hours at work for a great holiday. It might be working on a hobby or project and seeing it finished or it might be playing an instrument. It might be cooking dinner from scratch, listening to your kids accomplish their reader for school or cleaning sugar out of your diet.
It might be keeping your leaven alive.
But whatever it is, make sure it’s something. Make sure that you reach out and interact… Meet your neighbours, call a friend, even message a friend instead or just skimming past their lives on social media.
And find your meaning and purpose. When you find what you love to do… Do it. Give yourself a little bit of time each day to do something that you like to do.
And for me? I’m going to bake sourdough. And if (when) I kill my starter, I’ll start another one straight away.