Let's Salsa (Peer -group Icebreaker)

PGPS peer-support groups encourage social interaction and introduce healthy foods in daily routines as a way to support physical and mental health. Whether online or face-to-face, ice breakers are a great way to warm up and start a conversation. You have probably heard the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but sometimes life throws you a little more than lemons and that is when PGPS invites you to Salsa!

The ice breaker activity introduces fruits and vegetables used to prepare various salsas like, mango, pineapple, serrano peppers, cilantro, and a host of other choices. For face-to-face meetings set up a table with ingredients of your choosing and label them with titles such as therapy, stress, self-care, physical activity, and so on. The labels may indicate various tools used to manage life experiences or the labels may indicate actual life experiences like relationships, systems of support, trauma, and etcetera. Be sure to have a blender or two on hand with a few bowls and choice chip selections.

Once the table is set up, participants should choose ingredients based on how much or how little the aspects are currently reflected in their life. For instance, if tomatoes represent support systems and the participant has a small system of support, they would choose a smaller portion of tomatoes. If the participant has not been able to incorporate the aspect, they would not choose it at all. After the ingredients are chosen, the participants blend the ingredients and can choose to share with other participants.

Allow casual interaction and sharing. There may be new attendees or late arrivals and the activity can help relieve the pressure of being singled out. It also gives the facilitator a chance to mingle with participants and gauge the temperature of the group. Don’t forget refreshing beverages to clear palettes before everyone settled down for the meeting! Bring the group together after about 30 mins and ask if anyone would like to share their tasting experience(s) and use them as a springboard for topics such as life balance, importance of self-care, physical activity, or whatever subject you’re discussing during that session. This is a favorite for PGPS because there are so many directions and options. The facilitator also has the opportunity to discuss health benefits of the items used in the salsa preparation. Below is a simple example for a basic salsa made with tomato, garlic, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, and lemon. Enjoy!

Example for Ingredients

Tomatoes are a great source of potassium, which is needed for strong bones and muscle support. We’re going to have tomatoes represent systems of support. Each participant should choose the amount of tomato indicative of their support systems. If it is a large system of support, use more tomatoes, but if it is smaller system, use less.

Garlic is an antioxidant and can help free our body of certain oxygen molecules (free radicals) that cause oxidative damage leading to cancer and pre-mature aging. Garlic represents therapeutic practices in our example and each attendee will use the amount of garlic indicative of the amount of time they spend with therapeutic remedies like meditation, prayer, cognitive behavior therapy, and guided imagery.

Onion lowers LDLs, the bad cholesterol blocking your blood vessels and increasing your risk of heart disease. Onions represent physical activity such as walking, gardening, time spent at the gym, and etcetera.

Jalapeno and other peppers are a great source of fiber, which can help slow the rate that sugar is absorbed in our blood stream. Beans and grains are also a great source of fiber that helps prevent blood glucose levels from rising too fast. The peppers will represent stress because there are good benefits to stress, which will be discussed in a future blog post.

Cilantro protects against bacterial infection which can help reduce gas, bloating, and heartburn. Cilantro represents setting goals or planning. Although life may not go according to plan, it provides a road map with a direction that can be adjusted as needed.

Lemon promotes hydration among a host of other things and represents self-care in this example. It’s important to remember self-care includes physical, mental, and emotional management and large blocks of time are not needed to employ it. Self-care can be as simple as positive affirmation or as complicated as a vacation. Whatever the choice and ability, managing your mental health is a priority and helps you manage the day-to-day aspects in life.

Possible Discussion:

· Did the recipe taste as expected and how does your response compare to real-life experiences.

· Were there other ingredients you wanted to add or remove after the tasting? What experiences or plans would you like to increase or add in your life?

· Were you expecting your peers’ salsa to taste better or worse than your own? How might this represent our perceptions of others in life or on social media?

Of course, don’t let the conversation stop there! Develop discussion questions or share information from reliable sources to keep the exchange diverse and inclusive. Let us know what you think or share twists of your own.