Simple Recipes for the Easily Overwhelmed
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In today’s fast-paced world, it’s unfortunately common to feel constantly overwhelmed and yearning for simplicity in our lives. After rushing to get ready and out of the house, traveling to work, completing responsibilities all day, and coming back home, food preparation can often become the last thing on our minds. The thought of preparing meals for yourself and/or others can be daunting, as not everyone has a natural skill for cooking, and preparing food can be time-consuming and draining. This is particularly true if you are prone to experiencing burnout, or if you identify as a highly sensitive person (HSP). However, we all have to eat to nourish our bodies, and with the right approach, you can find joy in cooking. Keep reading to learn some simple recipes that can cater to the “easily overwhelmed.”
Mental Health and Cooking
Before diving right into the recipes, it is important to acknowledge the unique challenges that burnout, high sensitivity, and other mental health conditions can present in the kitchen. Burnout, which can be described as physical and mental exhaustion due to an increase in responsibilities and tasks, can make even the simplest responsibilities feel overwhelming. You may be so burnt out and hyperfocused on your career, that self-care necessities, like eating and personal hygiene, are neglected. You are also more likely to feel “on edge,” frustrated, and easily flustered when you are burnt out, which is not a great combination for cooking an elaborate meal. Additionally, being a highly sensitive person, or being more attuned and affected by sensory input, can lead to feeling easily overwhelmed in busy environments like the kitchen. Cooking meals can involve many steps and multitasking, which can cause HSPs to become overstimulated.
How to avoid burnout while cooking:
- Prioritize meal planning. Planning your meals ahead of time helps to minimize decision fatigue and stress during cooking sessions. This also ensures that you know what ingredients to buy during your grocery shopping trips ahead of time.
- Choose easy-to-follow recipes. Choosing recipes that have clear instructions and require minimal multitasking or professional skills is always a good idea. This helps prevent burnout by reducing the mental load and allowing you to stay focused on one task at a time.
- Delegate and ask for help. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in the kitchen if you start to feel anxious and overwhelmed. Sharing cooking responsibilities with family and/or friends helps make cooking a more enjoyable experience.
Strategies for HSPs in the kitchen:
- Create a calm cooking space. HSPs are easily affected by their environments. If your kitchen is extremely messy, it may increase your stress levels. To minimize this, try your best to keep your kitchen tidy and organized. You can create a more soothing environment by adding plants or candles, as well!
- Practice mindfulness before cooking. Before even stepping into the kitchen, take a few minutes to ground yourself and practice deep breathing or meditation. This can help center yourself and make you feel more present. Cooking can be an extremely mindful activity when practiced correctly, too!
- Adjust lighting and noise levels. Experiment with different lighting options to find one that makes you feel calm and collected. Typically, HSPs opt for soft, ambient lighting instead of harsh overhead lights. Additionally, the kitchen can get noisy, with all its appliances. To counteract this, you can wear noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, or play soothing music/white noise.
Check out these recipes that will leave you feeling stress-free and healthy!
Breakfast Recipes for a Stress-Free Start:
- Overnight Chia Pudding: Mix 1/4 cup of chia seeds, 1 cup of milk (any milk of your choice), and a sweetener of your choice (e.g., honey, maple syrup, agave) in a jar or bowl. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, top with your favorite fruits and nuts for added flavor. And it’s as simple as that!
- Avocado Toast: Toast a slice of bread. In a bowl, mash up an avocado, and spread it on the toast. Top with salt and pepper. Add any additional toppings of your liking, such as tomatoes, feta cheese, an egg, pickled onions, red pepper flakes, everything bagel seasoning, a fresh squeeze of lemon — you name it!
Lunch Recipes for Busy Days:
- Pasta Salad: Cook your pasta according to package instructions, then drain and rinse with cold water. Dice your favorite vegetables (such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and/or bell peppers) along with other ingredients of your choice (grilled chicken, feta cheese, and/or olives) and add them to your pasta in a large bowl. Drizzle the pasta salad with a dressing of your choice—something tangy, like Italian dressing or vinaigrette, is recommended. Toss everything together, and voila! You have a delicious pasta salad.
- Turkey Wrap with Hummus: Spread a layer of hummus onto a tortilla wrap. Layer sliced turkey and fresh vegetables (such as lettuce, tomato, and/or cucumber) onto the tortilla. Simply roll the tortilla up to form a wrap, and enjoy!
Dinner Recipes for Relaxing Evenings:
- One-Pan Salmon and Vegetables: Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place a salmon fillet on a baking sheet lined with foil. Surround the salmon with your choice of chopped vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, and/or zucchini). Drizzle everything with olive oil, salt, pepper, and your preferred seasonings. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
- Quinoa Stir-Fry: Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Then, in a separate pan, sautee a variety of your favorite vegetables in olive oil. Once the vegetables are almost tender, add the cooked quinoa. Season with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger to add flavor.
Dessert Recipes to Sweeten Your Day:
- Frozen Banana Ice Cream: The night before you decide to make this dessert, peel and slice ripe bananas, place them into a container or plastic bag, and put them in the freezer. Once bananas are frozen, blend them in a food processor until smooth and creamy. You can eat this as is, or add berries, chocolate, or nut butter!
- Chocolate Mug Cake: In a microwave-safe mug, whisk 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of sugar, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Add 3 tablespoons of milk of your choosing, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract into the mug. Stir until there are no lumps. Place the mug into the microwave and cook on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds, or until the cake has risen and set in the center. Carefully remove the mug with protective mits, let it cool for a minute, and enjoy!
There you have it! These recipes are quick to prepare, require minimal cooking skills, and provide a balance of nutrients while still being delicious. Remember to adjust ingredient types and/or quantities based on your preferences and dietary needs. Bon appetit!
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