Chocolate Chip Cookie - ©

COVID-19: Is Baking The Ultimate Anti-Anxiety Activity?

I keep hearing (and reading) that the best way to beat theCOVID-19 ‘Stay Home’ blues is to do some baking. Anxiety specialists and psychologists say it all has to do with creating a state of mindfullness that leads naturally to creativity, which in turn leads to the production of something delicious and comforting…

Holiday Cookies - Gingerbread - © 2015 maggiejs.caCookies are a sure bet to banish your cabin fever blues. Get
the kids
involved and make it an event! Banana
Bread and Brownies
are also easy to
mix up and quick to bake off.

It’s a major topic of socially-distanced discussion these days: how to overcome the cabin fever that a COVID-19 lockdown can bring on. Just googling ‘COVID-19 stress’ or ‘COVID-19 anxiety’ will get you pages and pages of suggestions from professionals and lay folk alike. But one thing experts agree on is, baking seems to be a top contender for Ultimate Stress Beater in any circumstances.

The clinical view

Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill is a clinical psychologist with a disaster stress management background and a Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA). She says one key to stress reduction is simply to do something creative. I write my cares away when I’m not in the kitchen trying out new techniques or making regular meals. But McNaughton-Cassill says baking is the perfect activity to alleviate stress and boredom.

“The smell of spices and vanilla are comforting, and [they] often remind us of happy times. Olfactory scents are particularly linked to areas of the brain that involve emotions and memory,” she told Deputy Editor Sarah Weinberg. “Mixing inert substances together, and watching them rise can bring out the mystic, or the chemist, in all of us. There is [also] a rhythm or pattern to baking. It feels familiar and can even lead to a mindful state.”

Why is baking such a good mindfulness exercise?

My Baking and Pastry instructor back at culinary school always stressed that cooking may be an art, but baking is a science. If you measure something incorrectly you’ll ruin the batch. There’s also a certain amount of math involved if you are scaling a recipe up or down. And there you have two activities that demand concentration and focus – which results in a mindful state that pushes aside your anxieties at least for a while and helps you decompress.

Tangible results are important

We keep hearing that our economy is becoming more and more information-based, and less involved with making things and doing things that leave us with something to show for our efforts at the end of the day. Psychologists say that may be one of the reasons anxiety and stress are so prevalent today – even without a pandemic to cope with. But when we bake, we end up with a tangible result that we can not only point to, but enjoy eating (another major comforting activity) and sharing with our family. What more could ask for?

So, why are you still sitting there?

Go out to the kitchen and see what you have in the pantry that you can bake with. Get creative. And if you still need inspiration, Google ‘stress baking recipes’.

Hint: I always whip up a batch of chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies when I’m in the dumps. It takes mere minutes to mix up a batch and only a few common ingredients are required. And 8 minutes later, you have one of the most satisfying comfort foods known to man, woman or (especially) child.

Feed your inner kid! And feel better emotionally, too…

~ Maggie J.