Are you feeling like an autumn leaf caught in a tornado right now? You are far from alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as people know it, and many folks are battling unprecedented levels of anxiety at the moment.
One ritual that never fails to soothe me is getting in the kitchen and donning my baking apron. The room itself is my happy place, and the act of making something to delight my family helps me feel productive and useful when I’m not sure what else to do. Here’s what I get from my routine and how you can benefit, too.
Baking Gives You a Sense of Control
You can’t control much right now, and neither can I. Our employers may choose to cut hours or shutter their doors entirely. The federal government may or may not provide all the help we need to make it through the current pandemic. This disease may blow over by next month, or we could be staring at a new, more solo reality for an extended period.
Psychologists describe both an internal and external locus of control, and which one you embrace during challenging times influences your mental health. People with an internal locus of control look inward. They feel that they exert more control over their world, while those with an external locus look at factors outside of themselves as determining their destiny. Neither one is best for all situations.
For example, let’s say you recently experienced a layoff because the government instructed your employer to close temporarily. If you rely purely on an internal locus of control, you produce self-talk like, ‘If only I had taken a different position, I’d have more security now.” However, you had no way of knowing this pandemic would occur. Even world leaders didn’t grasp the magnitude of the impact. It’s healthy to realize that sometimes, circumstances remain beyond your control.
However, blaming everything on factors that you can’t control can increase anxiety because you feel like, no matter what you do, your life might dissolve into chaos, anyway. This pressure to fight an unending battle can lead to feelings of despair and overwhelm. You think, “What’s the point?”
That’s where baking comes into play for me. While I can’t control the fact that I’m getting a touch more family time than I might like right now, I can control my reaction to my circumstances. Baking a cake with my eldest generates feelings of love between us and banishes resentment. Seeing the smiles on my family’s face when I delight them with one of my creations reminds me not only of how much I love them, but also that I possess the power to create good in this world.
Baking Engages My Creativity
Exercising your creativity is a critical component of overall wellness. I love to experiment with non-traditional flavor combinations. For example, one of my hubby’s favorites are smoked maple bacon cupcakes — who would have thought of blending breakfast with dessert?
Like most kids, my girls love sweets. Vegetables? Not so much. Baking provides a way that I can get them their recommended servings of greens without them having a meltdown. Who has the patience to deal with tantrums in these uncertain times? However, both of my darling little ones will gleefully eat zucchini and chocolate cranberry muffins as long as I remain mum about phytonutrients.
Baking Is a Soothing, Mindful Activity
Mindfulness is a fabulous practice. It can halt the racing thoughts that accompany anxiety in their tracks because it takes you out of rumination mode and focuses you on the present moment. It also helps you revel in the joy of everyday activities.
Before I set out my ingredients, I prime my mind and body and set an intention. I sit down and take a minute or two to reflect on what I want to make and why. I take deep, cleansing breaths and express mental gratitude that I have a kitchen in which to cook and nourishing food to prepare. As I proceed through the steps in the recipe, I take time to savor little moments, like the flavor of the batter on my tongue. As I arrange the cupcakes on a tray, I decorate each one with the care — if not entirely the skill — of a French chef.
Baking Helps Me Nurture Those I Love
Finally, in tumultuous times, it’s critical to remember who genuinely matters to you. Without the family that we love, what is the purpose of life, anyway? Baking provides me with a concrete way to say, “I love you” to those I care for the most.
Baking also serves as a way for me to love myself. When people think about self-care, they tend to visualize a luxurious spa. However, self-care merely entails any activity we deliberately do to benefit our physical, mental or emotional health. Taking a walk qualifies if you do so to lower your blood pressure or calm down from a tense situation. So does baking a cake.
Baking Helps Me Cope With Anxiety — Could It Help You, Too?
If you are feeling capsized by a wave of anxiety right now, you are far from alone. Baking helps me to navigate times of uncertainty, and it might help you, too. The next time you feel overwhelmed by a fight-or-flight response, take a deep breath, tie on your apron and get out your flour.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.