During the lockdown, we were stuck at home trying to entertain ourselves and get rid of stress. For many of us, baking during quarantine has become a remedy. So why does baking have such a calming effect on us?
Stress-baking in times of crisis
Since the lockdown hit, I’ve seen so many people posting their culinary achievements on social media, adding hashtags like #coronavirusbaking. So many people baked banana bread that I felt the urge to join them, and I did. I’ve noticed how relaxing it is to bake, and even after the lockdown, I bake whenever I feel stressed or anxious.
Stress-baking has not only become popular because of the quarantine. Baking has always helped people in times of crisis, personal or global. Psychologists claim that baking can reduce stress and improve mental health. Cooking is associated with more awareness of mental well-being and fewer symptoms of depression. Along with yoga and music therapy, there exists culinary art therapy, which uses baking or cooking as a means to reduce anxiety.
Baking gives a sense of control because you measure the exact amount of each ingredient and follow the written instructions. It gives us a chance to be creative – would you like muffins with raisins or chocolate drops? Baking helps us to be mindful and stay in the moment. By the way, have you ever noticed that if you read the word “stressed” backwards, you’ll have “desserts”?
Distraction from worries
One of the reasons why baking helped us during quarantine is that it distracted us from the upsetting news. We spent a lot of time on the internet and were overwhelmed by the amount of negative information.
First of all, baking requires you to put your phone away or at least to only have the recipe on your screen. Then you prepare the ingredients, mix them together, sift flour, and so on. These actions are meditative; they’re not too difficult to make you tense, and they’re also not too simple to perform them mechanically.
But why baking and not cooking? Well, cooking can also be a way to release stress, but perhaps it’s more associated with the necessity. You have to cook if you don’t want to stay hungry. Baking is more likely to be something we do because we want to. Or maybe it’s the combination of familiar ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, butter, water, cow milk or plant-based milk.
Choosing your recipe
I consciously choose the easiest recipes when baking because I want to make sure I’ll get the result I want. I’m already stressed, so I don’t want to get even more stressed. I don’t find cooking for ten people on Christmas eve a relaxing experience. If you want to have a therapeutic effect from baking, don’t aim to create a culinary masterpiece; focus on the process and enjoy it!
The good thing about baking is that everyone can find a recipe based on their skills. Take bread, for example; there are so many versions of it. I enjoy baking banana bread because there are not many ingredients. You simply need to mix overripe bananas with flour and a few ingredients to flavour it. It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t require any special skills.
Other people prefer more complicated recipes; again, same bread, but of another kind, such as sourdough bread, which requires several days of fermentation and the baker’s patience. Here are 7 traditional Irish bread recipes for all occasions and 9 Irish dessert recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth in case you’re in search of a new recipe.
The result is real
When it seemed there was no end to the pandemic and lockdown, baking was a relatively short project, which we could complete in a couple of days or hours. There were other ways to battle anxiety, such as doing workouts or watching comedies, but not all of them provided this satisfaction with the result.
Baking makes us happier because we can quickly and clearly see what we’re getting at the end. It’s tangible and, what’s maybe more important, it’s edible. Baking can be better therapy than cooking because it’s more difficult to fail, and you don’t have as much responsibility as with cooking dinner.
Of course, we also bake because of the taste and the craving for comfort food, but it would be too easy to buy a pack of muffins in the supermarket. Doing it yourself gives you that sense of “I made it!”
Sharing is caring
Baking can also be considered as an act of caring because you’ll be able to share the result with your loved ones. This is why we start baking after all – to have positive emotions during the process and at the table with family and friends.
It’s also a good idea to involve everyone in the process, especially if it’s a recipe that requires you to spend hours in the kitchen. If you have children, you can even ask them for help; I’m sure it would be much fun to decorate cupcakes or muffins together!
Besides having a treat in the family circle, people shared photos of what they baked on social media. It was a way to share positive emotions with other people, and it was also a source of inspiration – because banana bread went so viral, I think most of us baked it at least once in quarantine.
Sometimes it was boring and monotonous during the lockdown when we spent 100% of our time together at home. During those times, baking brought warmth, a cosy atmosphere, and an amazing smell of fresh-baked cookies or cinnamon rolls.
What about you – did you bake during quarantine, and has it helped you to battle your anxiety and reduce stress? Share with us!