A Rescue Recipe for Self-Care (and Healthy Stew)

roller-coaster recovery


Recovery can be wonderful, enlightening and exhausting: a rollercoaster if you like. I have been burned out many times. Fortunately, the period between burnouts becomes greater. In my experience, that ‘space’ grows in direct proportion to the duration of the time you’re in recovery.


I think its really important, as a recovery writer and blogger, to talk openly and honestly about my experience with struggles and burnout, just as much as talking about my experience of greatness. My need for connection and growth feeds off this level of interconnection with others and hearing/reading of their struggles. I need to know that I am not alone; I need to know of others’ struggles. And what I have learned is that we’re not alone. We are so not alone. And we all struggle. Recovery, to me, is the space between those struggles and my response to them and learning to move alongside those struggles fluidly. Being able to do that is a gift, truly.


My Current Struggles…

My current struggles are overcommitting and burning myself out. I am planning to move to America at the end of the year; I am developing a writing business in recovery; I have a full-time job; I am putting myself out there, fearlessly; I maintain a full-time recovery; I go to the gym five times a week and I cycle everywhere; I’ve just undertaken a nutrition coaching course; and I make all of my own food. Oh, and I try and maintain somewhat of a social life. And doing this from the UK is like straddling several time zones. Unsurprisingly, I have burned myself out.


Fortunately for me, I have a reference point – I’ve been here before. I fondly recall the first time. My sponsor sitting me down one day, pouring me a cup of rose petal tea – she was so bloody lovely – as she helped me to write a Liv Rescue Plan. I have found that tool invaluable – being able to rescue myself. If there is one thing I would emphasize in any recovery toolkit, it’s a self-care plan that evolves and shapes to your needs. And that plan is simple. It involves nourishing, loving activities that you can use to comfort you.


a match - burnt out on recovery


My Former Comfort in Food…

I have formerly found comfort in food – I still go there – particularly highly processed carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, cake, and pasta. My brain has a well-trodden pathway of: feel rubbish > seek reward. That reward used to be drugs, and it has been replaced by food. This is really common in recovery. The reason? Well, its the only thing left (other than nicotine and caffeine), but also, processed foods release soothing, feel-good chemicals in the brain and can give the illusion of calm.


That state of mind is short-lived, especially when you are trying to lose weight and be kind to yourself. Eating foods in this way, whilst not as immediately harmful as drugs, can still harm you. It causes a sharp rise in your blood sugar, followed by a sharp crash – remind you of anything?! I hate that come-down feeling. Having had the recovery ‘space’, I’ve been able to identify this and I try and avoid it nowadays by eating foods that encourage a sustained state of feeling energised and calm. Frankly, bread, cake and pasta do not promote those healthy feelings.


The foods that do, are lower in carbohydrate, higher in protein and include little, if any, sugar. I know that can sound dull. But it isn’t. Honestly. All the food I create is not only healthy but, tasty and hugely satisfying. One of my favourites as part of a Rescue Recipe is my comforting Spanish-style sausage and lentil stew. Here are some other activities that I include in Liv’s Rescue Recipe:


Rescue Recipes…

  • Stop. Breathe. Reassess. Bring yourself back to the moment. Stop running. Acknowledge where you are and be still
  • Make a list. In reassessing, make a list of A, B and C actions. A items are things that have to be done soon, B less important and C items can wait until you have more energy. You may find that if you are honest, you can renegotiate deadlines
  • Take time out, have a hot bath with candles, read a book in your PJs, watch your favourite TV with a blanket
  • Be mindful, write about what is going on, sit with yourself and without distraction, meditate
  • Exercise, go for a run, or to a workout class
  • Seek to nourish your mind, body and spirit – go to yoga
  • Stock up on healthy, nourishing foods and cook yourself a lovely healthy meal
  • Talk to a friend or sponsor. Tell people how you feel
  • Have some fun – go to the cinema, go for a walk with friends, go dancing
  • Sleep. Get an early night. Remove your TV from your room, use black out blinds, ear plugs and get at least 8 hours sleep. Clear the weekend to nap and relax.


When I feel burned out, I have neglected my self-care. And I’ll tell you what, I hate admitting that because I tell myself that I should know better by now, four years in. Rubbish. This is a journey, we are all learning, adapting and growing in our space. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need Rescue Recipes! Give it a try, you’re so worth it!


And the Real Deal…



Rescue Recipe for Spanish-style Sausage and Lentil Stew



6 spicy sausages – Italian is perfect, removed from the skin and pinched into small chunks

1/2 carrot, peeled and diced

1 red pepper, seeds removed and sliced

1 cup puy lentils

2 cups of cherry tomatoes or tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

Fresh parsley, washed and roughly chopped


Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups chicken stock

1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 stalk of celery, diced

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

In a pan heat the olive oil and fry the onion, carrots and celery for 3-4 minutes until soft
Add the sausage and brown for a 2 minutes, then add the pepper
Add the lentils and stir throughly for a minute or so, then add the paprika and season;

Add the stock and gently stir. Bring to the boil and simmer for 25-30 minutes until the lentils are cooked and the sauce has reduced.




Located near Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is a writer studying toward her MSW. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to providing the ingredients to live a fulfilling life in recovery. Liv also co-founded the podcast Breaking Free: Your Recovery. Your Way. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. She found recovery in 2012 and her pathway is a fluid patchwork of what works for her. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and publications, including Shondaland, STAT News, The Temper, Workit Health, The Fix, Ravishly, and Grok Nation. You can follow her @livsrecoverykitchen