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Meet Mara Glatzel, this week's Dear Melissa & Friends guest
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May is both Mental Health Awareness Month and Mother's Day. To be honest, as a divorced parent who still deals with bouts of depression, I have struggled with both. That's why this month's Dear Melissa and Friends is so near to my heart, with a guest who has been nourishing me with her words for years.

Today we're bringing in Mara Glatzel, MSW to answer your questions around self-care, worthiness, food, and more. If you've been struggling to show yourself grace, pay yourself first, or recognize your own needs, Mara's beautiful words are for you.

Mara Glatzel, MSW (she/her) is an intuitive coach, writer, and Needy podcast host. She teaches perfectionists and people pleasers to stop abandoning themselves, start reclaiming their humanity, and honor their natural energy rhythms. Her superpower is saying what you need to hear when you need to hear it. Find out more on her website.

XO Melissa

What is the difference between self-care versus escapism? Can you share how to take care of yourself while staying present?

I love this question, because it speaks directly to the heart of why the self-care we are most commonly sold is vastly different from the self-care that allows us to feel deeply nourished. Escapism is defined as the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy. While self-care can provide these things, true self-care is rooted in staying present. It is not a perfect list of things to check off each day that is expected to universally work for everyone. It is the act of being responsive to how you feel and what you need.

This self-care is about checking in with yourself by asking how you feel -- emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally -- at least once a day. This dialogue with yourself is grounded in tending to what poet Mary Oliver called “the soft animal of your body.” Sometimes this will be as simple as drinking more water or taking a few moments to rest over the course of the day. Sometimes what is needed is to finally call your insurance company to figure out that bill or set a boundary with a loved one.

This care is specific and unique to you, each day. It is the act of supporting yourself as you navigate whatever life throws at you, so that you feel capable, resilient, and nourished in the face of whatever is on your plate.

Can you help me manage the mental weight of making food that is healthy while still fitting my budget?

One way to reduce mental weight is to devote ourselves to keeping things as simple as possible. If you have a desire to feed yourself food that makes your body feel good, while also fitting within your budget, a beautiful question to ask is: “What is doable for me this week?”

You could start with making a list of options for different meals over the course of the day that you genuinely enjoy, make your body feel nourished, and align with your budget. Aim for 4 or 5 options for each meal. Having something to work with can help HUGELY in lowering the mental strain of starting from scratch each time you go to feed yourself.

Perhaps it is possible to batch cook any of those foods for the week ahead, tending to your future self by roasting a couple of trays of vegetables, making a big soup, or portioning out salads for your lunches. Some of us enjoy having consistency in one meal of the day to make decision making easier, like having the same meal for breakfast each morning. Some of us feel well cared for by planning out their meals over the week or a couple of days, to reduce the fatigue associated with wondering what to eat next. I prefer having a variety of different foods cooked ahead of time that I can mix and match to my heart’s content depending on my mood.

Ask yourself what might inspire you to tend to your future self and begin with whatever feels most possible for you this week, making shifts towards your own nourishment bit by bit without overwhelming yourself to a place of inaction by trying to do everything at once.

If my mental health is poor, I often revert to junk food. I'd like to make different choices, but it's hard when I'm down. Any tips?

Let’s take a moment to normalize how profoundly human it is to seek comfort when we aren’t feeling well -- physically, mentally, or emotionally. For many of us, comfort food can look like eating things that make us feel good emotionally, even if it doesn’t make us feel good physically. It is important to remember that this is an attempt to care for ourselves in those tender moments and if we want to nourish ourselves differently, we need to find other ways of caring for ourselves instead of judging ourselves harshly for our choices.

Marshall Rosenberg said, “Every action is an attempt to meet a need.” Food can be the most easily available way to meet our needs when we don’t really know what we need, what we are allowed to need, or what other coping mechanisms we have available during times of distress.

Take a moment to ask yourself what you need and get curious about what might present itself. Are you aching for comfort? Reprieve? Rest? Something familiar? If it feels supportive you could begin to compile a short list of other ways that you can comfort yourself, ground your nervous system, or support yourself in feeling well cared for in these moments, so that you have a few more tools in your tool kit.

Ultimately, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You are already struggling enough during moments when you are feeling low. Remind yourself that each moment is a new moment  to make a choice that is more aligned with what you need. Don’t use the energy to beat yourself up. Use it to make a choice that is more aligned with how you want to feel.

How do you give yourself self-care when you don't feel like you deserve it?

You are a human with a body. Your body has needs and deserves care, regardless of what it produces, accomplishes, or achieves. Despite what we are socially conditioned to believe, this care cannot be earned, because it is essential to our ability to sustainably function over the course of our lives. It doesn’t belong at the bottom of our to-do list or held out in front of us as a carrot for a job well done.

The truth is, prioritizing our needs and caring for ourselves IS often the last thing on our lists. Capitalism and other forms of structural oppression seek to keep us striving and believing that there are things we need to accomplish before we slow down to tend to our needs, but it is not so. If we care about our work, parenting, or contributions to the world around us, we MUST care for ourselves, because that is what enables us to keep showing up for what matters to us most.

It can be uncomfortable to unhook from the narrative that there is something you can or should do in order to “earn” your self care and normalize tending to your body whether you think you deserve it or not. Being uncomfortable does not mean you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t mean you should stop and do something else. Instead, it reminds you that this is a new pattern for you and that it is kicking up some of your old belief systems in order for you to lovingly work with them.

What is the most overlooked form of self-care that you see as a therapist?

Water. Rest. Eating regularly so that your blood sugar is stable. Turning your face towards the sun. Saying what you mean and asking for what you need. Taking a hot shower and imagining that everything that no longer serves you is washing down the drain. Knowing how much debt you have and cultivating a doable plan to approach it without sacrificing your daily needs or pleasure. Getting dressed in clothing you love and that fits the body you have now. Holding yourself when you feel uncomfortable. Masturbation. Turning towards yourself before you turn towards your to-do list. Scream-singing your favorite song with the windows down. Changing your sheets. Setting tiny goals and celebrating yourself wildly when you have achieved them.

And water, again. Water is really important and VERY OFTEN OVERLOOKED. Perhaps, now is the perfect moment to get up and pour yourself a glass. Wink.

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