I recently started therapy for my anxiety and it has helped me in unimaginable ways. Anxiety in food is something I feel the need to share more of in regards to my own personal experience with it. In the last month anxiety for me was at an all time high and I had to learn how to manage in some different ways. One of those ways is through writing and if we are going to go against stigmas against mental health then I want to be a part of it. As I explore my own struggle with anxiety and have done work to help alleviate it I feel the responsibility to just share some of the process in hopes of minimizing the stigma we all face when in food. The stigma of not sharing how you feel, powering through your negative thoughts, sacrificing your time and life moments and having to be a "Tough Chef" in order to be respected in the industry. I have shared a podcast on this as well. The episode is #135 of the Line Cook Thoughts Podcast, please feel free to listen as you read:
A large part of my own struggle with anxiety was having the ability to even accept that I have anxiety and that is not just normal worry. My way of thinking is in a way of negative thought loops. I will find that I will be anxious about one certain outcome and then will continue to play that outcome over and over in my head, which then turns to worry, fear and feeling really worried for the future after some time thinking this way. These type of thought loops can lead to cognitive distortion for me. This is when my way of thinking makes me feel like my reality is in a much more negative state than it really is. Types of thinking can include ignoring possible positive outcomes, thinking situations should be a certain way, thinking in black and white and also creating a framework of reality in my mind that is not based in fact.
When working in restaurants my anxiety definitely grew due to the consistently long schedules, stress of the daily requirements, constant growth and learning as a manager. But I do not fully blame restaurants as I believe this would be something I would be dealing with in life regardless. The need to work myself to the bone when in restaurants and to not care for my own well being showed me a side of myself that was left just sad and hopeless. For me the workload plus the anxiety became to much and was ultimately why I opened up to seeing what other opportunities there were for my career in food.
Via Annie Splatt/Unsplash
It has taken therapy to be able to understand just how I can start to take control of these thoughts again. It has been a blessing to have the space to sort through just how my mind works. It is so important I share this. In my experience it was as if the curtain was thrown back on my mind, only to find that the world I knew had to be true was being affected by my fear of the future and lack of control. And that the world I actually lived in was honestly good and I have become more grateful in the positives I have in my life.
The worst act I can do with anxiety is to internalize it. To let my thoughts consume me to the point of no productivity and no mental space to do work that is meaningful. I am grateful to friends and family who have listened to my thoughts. Without them I am sure this would be such a more difficult and lonely journey. But going to seek a professional who is able to help you start to understand the process your mind takes, in my opinion, cannot be overstated. I know the stigmas we can have in food and society as a whole. For a while, I wanted to get help in therapy but saw it as a weakness. I now believe it will be one of the best investments of time I have ever made.
We all deal with our thoughts and negative emotion differently. I know that there are ways others are suffering mentally that I cannot imagine. No two people are the same. I need you to know that if you are dealing with anxiety like me or anything else that affects your mental health that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. We rely on our teams in food everyday. It is what brings the best end product to our guests, The same should go for your own mental health. Seek the help you need and know you are not alone.
I still struggle with anxiety, but now I at least know what it is. I can recognize the thought patterns when they come and I am able to challenge to start to challenge them. I am starting to see life in new ways. Perspectives not laced with fear and dread but hope and optimism. I am grateful I sought therapy and I am excited to figure out the way I think. While I have a long way to go to mastering my thoughts it does feel like the start of something great. If you feel like I have felt I hope you get to be on the same journey. Your mental health is priority over everything else. Be sure to take the time you need to get your mind back where it needs to be. And recognize it is a journey, not a quick fix. Good luck and be well.