Baking, put quite simply, makes me happy. Like cooking, I hate the cleanup, but ending up with a delicious sweet treat is pretty much enough to make it all worth it. I love to bake any time — for special occasions, to take goodies to work, when I'm with my mom — but maybe the best time for me to bake is when I'm stressed out, because it gives me something else for my mind to focus on.
Years ago, I was living in California and found myself stressed out pretty much 24/7. I had some career issues, relationship issues, financial issues, and friend issues, all at the same time for a span of a couple years. I saw a therapist for awhile, and though she didn't give me a lot of useful information, one thing she did suggest was finding a hobby to channel my stress into. Up until then, I had been a casual baker and an avid follower of baking blogs, but that's when my stress baking went full force and I started to make all manner of baked goods.
Since the coronavirus pandemic started kicking into high gear this month, I've baked cookies approximately eight times.
What I really enjoyed about busting out a cookie sheet after a stressful day was taking a recipe and turning it into something new. I put all my focus into looking at this recipe and figuring out how I could make something out of it. It switched my brain from freakout mode into figure-it-out mode, which was much more tolerable. Baking is an actual science, so I had a lot of messed-up creations, but I also came up with award-winning recipes (at least I think so) that alleviated my stress, especially on really bad days.
Since then, it's been a go-to when things aren't going my way, and I can easily admit that since the coronavirus pandemic started kicking into high gear this month, I've baked cookies approximately eight times. Unfortunately due to self-isolating, that means I've eaten a couple dozen cookies as well, but at least it's been something that brings me joy. With everything else going on in the world, I'm not exactly concerned with a few extra calories and some added sugar. The chocolate chips are so worth it.
The best stress reliever, though, are the days when I need to punch something so I make something with a dough that requires kneading. I've had some absolutely *chef's kiss* delicious bread come out of my worst days. On the flip side of that, intricate decorating also helps me when I'm stressed, which may seem counterintuitive. But just like figuring out how to switch up a recipe to make something new (which could blow up in my face), tedious work (that could also blow up in my face) seems to calm me down.
I've always been a creative person, so I think it's the creative process and a product to show for it that really help me when I'm stressed or on edge about something. Not only does it take my mind off of whatever is upsetting me, but it opens me up to make something new and fun and delicious, and ultimately, that's what makes me happy.