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Baking can Help Reduce the Stress of Quarantine

Monday , May 18 , 2020

Baking can Help Reduce the Stress of Quarantine

In the weeks since coronavirus came to the United States, people have been muddling through in a variety of ways. Binge watching television. Taking long walks. Adopting pets. Drinking a bit more wine than usual.

Many people have been baking. Oddly, whipping up a batch of cookie dough seems to be quite an effective coping mechanism.

There’s a reason “stress baking” and “anxiety baking” have been trending on Instagram for months. Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, says, “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.”

Quarantine Baking

According to psychologists, giving your time and attention to a specific task that has a rewarding outcome (like baking!) is good for your mental health.

The process is almost like a mindfulness activity: Baking requires you to follow many steps, from preheating to mixing ingredients, and the immersive experience can make you forget everything else for a little while. For those stuck in quarantine, it can take your mind off what is going on in the world and provide a small break.

Baking is a Great Activity for Seniors

For seniors, especially, baking can be a welcome distraction from the stresses of quarantine and social distancing. Here’s why it’s such a great activity for older adults:

  1. Reduces stress. Stress is a common problem for older adults, especially those with dementia. Baking is a good way to alleviate this. Though following a recipe requires attention, some are quite simple and repetitive actions (like kneading dough) can be meditative. Plus, baking can help increase the release of endorphins (the brain’s “happy” chemical).

  1. Triggers memories. A lot of people have positive memories when it comes to baking. Personally, I like to recall baking butter cookies from scratch with my grandmother. We made the recipe so often that I had it memorized by time I was six. Familiar recipes, smells, tastes, and feels can help remind seniors of activities they once enjoyed.

  1. Encourages creativity. It is known that there is a link between expressing ourselves creatively and our general wellbeing. Though baking does involve a lot of structure, it also allows some creativity – choosing flavors, adding decorations, and adding extras like chocolate chips, for example. 

Choosing the Right Recipe

What should an older adult bake? Anything you feel like! Recipe books can be a great place to start, but you can also try recreating a favorite recipe from childhood. If you’re feeling creative, take a recipe you know by heart and swap out some ingredients to make something new!

You can try choosing a simple recipe so it’s easy to make and you don’t mess it up – but remember, even an ugly cake is delicious. Don’t be afraid to take risks and have fun!

Posted in: Aging