Feeling more anxious than you used to? You’re not alone – and stirring up a bowl of batter just might help.
Many of us have noticed an awful lot of anxiety floating around in American society over the past couple of years – more so than in previous years – and it turns out that we’re not imagining it. The American Psychiatric Association’s recent annual poll showed 40 percent of Americans reporting feeling more anxious in 2018 than in 2017; going back a year, the 2017 poll reflected a 37 percent increase in anxiety over 2016. I’ll leave it to you to deduce possible reasons for this stressful trend, but we’re still left with a question: How to cope with the increase in anxiety?
Some people have found an effective coping mechanism in baking. Although anxiety baking crosses generations (a friend of mine who, like me, is in her mid-60s, baked no fewer than three gorgeously whimsical gingerbread houses this past Christmastime), an article in the December, 2018 Atlantic focused specifically on anxiety baking in millennials, as younger people discover cooking, particularly baking, as a self-care strategy (link below). It makes sense: baking requires mindfulness and focus (as anyone who has ever spaced out and accidentally substituted salt for sugar can attest), and it involves stepping away from phones and computers and working with the hands, which can be a lovely change for people who work at desks all day long. And, as a bonus, baking leaves you with something yummy to eat, too, along with the satisfaction of looking at that cake or loaf or plate of cookies and thinking, “Yes; I made that.”
It makes me smile to think that baking has some things in common with time-honored mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Chi Gong. My Chi Gong students report feeling much more relaxed after class than when they walked into the classroom. If the scents of vanilla and cinnamon were wafting through the room during class, would my students and I feel even more relaxed? Or would we simply feel a craving for sweets? Hmmmm – perhaps an experiment is in order….
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