Life is like…a bowl of beets?

IMG_1929Ok, I know a bowl of beets isn’t as appetizing as a box of chocolates, but bear with me here. The other day I had beets that someone had given me that I wanted to use before they went bad. So I found a recipe and spent a good 30 minutes preparing this beet dish. Now I should mention that I have a long-standing mental-block against beets.I know that I usually wind up liking dishes with beets when they’re prepared by someone else and put in front of me. And yet, as a rule, I don’t seek them out, and really hesitate before eating them. Other than one unfortunate incident involving juicing beets (which really didn’t help my mental-block), I have never prepared them myself. But I don’t like wasting food and I’m trying to eat more vegetables, so I found myself standing in front of a dish of beets that I had just spent half an hour preparing and I did. not. want. to. taste. them. “It’s late,” I reasoned, “Maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow.”

As I stood in my kitchen trying to decide what to do, I noticed that my heart was pounding hard and fast. “Huh, I’m feeling kind of anxious. I wonder why?” I thought. And then I realized…I was afraid of the beets. I know this is not a rational fear. I know that I am usually surprised to find that I do like beet dishes almost every time I eat them. I know that the worst thing that is likely to happen is that I will not like the dish I just prepared, and it will be a waste of food and my time (which is more or less the same outcome as if I do not try it). But knowing these things was not enough to alleviate my anxiety.

The more I considered avoiding the source of my anxiety, the more my fear of eating beets grew. Determined not to be beaten by fear of a vegetable, I prepared myself a large bowl of bright red salad and took a bite. My heart immediately stopped pounding and I felt calm. I felt better and better with each bite. I felt a little silly that I had made eating beets into such a big thing, but also good that I was able to face my fear and confident that I could do it again. And I did…twice more that week. I know that the more often I eat beets, the better I will continue to feel about it. If I go a long time without eating them, I may feel apprehensive again in the future and have to follow these steps again: Recognize my feeling (anxiety), identify the source (the idea of eating beets), use logic and challenge the anxiety producing thoughts (I’ve eaten beets before and liked them. The worst thing that’s likely to happen is an unpleasant bite of food), and face the fear (taste the beets).

This is exactly the type of thing I help clients to do. We look at the things that are causing them anxiety or discomfort and examine whether their response to these situations is helping them feel better or inadvertently making them feel worse. I then help them learn strategies for coping with their emotions and approaching the situations in a new way and evaluate the results. Not all fears or anxieties seem as innocuous as tasting beets, but with the right skills, you can overcome even bigger fears and stop letting anxiety get in your way.

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