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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Column: Stress baking

Stress. Everyone reacts differently to it, especially around finals. One thing I think most people will admit to having done at least once in their life is “stress eating.” This is the phenomenon where one loses all sense of normalcy in relation to food (not that many college students have that to begin with). Most liquid intake has high amounts of caffeine and meals are replaced by packaged snacks. I call this “stress eating,” but it is more commonly known as “studying effectively.”

Think about it – whether you live in the 24-hour room, your bedroom or at the kitchen table, you are stationary. Your laptop is plugged in, book opened to a random page next to you, maybe some paper and pencils to jot down notes. But these aren’t the only things in your area. There is probably a soda, coffee or energy drink for hydration and a package or two of chips, cookies, crackers or some other snack starting with a “c.” Cup noodles maybe?

Without a doubt, this is not healthy. We’ve all been bombarded with facts and research about what things make for effective studying such as the ever elusive “good night’s rest.” I’m sure you’ve heard the effects of caffeine on your body and what level of intake goes beyond the healthy recommendation and what “superfoods” keep you awake, alert or stimulate memory, but when it comes to what we actually do, how many of us have a bowl of blueberries over a blueberry pop tart?

If you find yourself stressed and holding a pop tart or something similar, put it down. I recently have done my own study and found a completely new way of handling stress. My roommates call it demeaning terms like “procrastination” and “fattening us up” but I call it “stress baking”. Yes, stress baking. It can also be replaced with “stress cooking” if you need to make it sound a bit more masculine.

Think about it. Baking while you’re stressed gives you a nice break without packing on the pounds. You’ll be everyone’s favorite person at your next study group. This is assuming you share, which is always encouraged.

Counseling and Psychological Services on campus recommends scheduling “guilt-free play.”

“Scheduling a reasonable amount of time to relax and have fun can reduce the feelings of guilt and prevent procrastination that could arise naturally out of not allowing enough time to enjoy life,” says CAPS’ website. Baking fits into this because it cannot be entirely spontaneous and you need to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients. It is also a task that is not only productive, which could inspire further productivity but also provides a tangible outcome.

Other recommendations from CAPS to help deal with stress include activities such as exercise, stretching, breathing – things that require focus and a methodological process. The methodology of following directions in the recipe is calming. You know that if you do exactly what the recipe says the outcome will be successful and delicious! Baking also produces a wonderful smell in your kitchen – the best aromatherapy.

While there isn’t a large amount of scientific research, if any, on the effects of baking and their impact on stress, it fits and it works. A simple Google search on “stress baking” will bring up many blogs and testimonies to the healing power of baking. It takes your eyes away from the book or laptop for a few minutes, will get your hands moving in ways other than typing or writing, and your brain focused on a new process.

Everyone deals with stress differently, so maybe baking isn’t for you. Baking could be stressful for some without the means to bake, like if you lack a cookie sheet, mixing bowl or the right ingredients. But it’s worth a shot if you happen to have butter, eggs, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, baking soda and some vanilla lying around without any use in the nearby future.

College is stressful, especially during finals and midterms, but don’t get sucked into the vending machine cycle. Stress baking is the kind of hobby that goes beyond relaxation and can help you in real life. Kitchen skills are highly useful and never underrated.

Proof this works: While writing this article I stopped twice to make double butterscotch cupcakes. The beneficiaries included friends, leasing office of my complex and the guys in my brother’s fraternity. Needless to say, people love it when I’m stressed because they reap all the benefits!

Reach SABRINA VIGIL at svvigil@ucdavis.edu.

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