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Cut Stress by Chopping Food: Cooking for Stress Relief

Cut Stress by Chopping Food: Cooking for Stress Relief

I love cooking. I’m the sort of person that will read a whole cookbook from cover to cover in a single afternoon, just for fun. I’m addicted to Top Chef, I have a crush on Anthony Bourdain, and spend more money on cookware than makeup.

All that being said, there are days when I can’t bear the thought of having to plan a meal, let alone cook. Sometimes when I’m really stressed, I just can’t muster up the energy for cooking, even though I love it. I just think, “Oh God. ANOTHER thing I have to deal with today.”

But if I can just push through that initial reluctance, I’m back in my element. The kitchen is my domain, and being in control of one aspect of my life helps me to feel like maybe, just maybe, I can regain control over the rest of my life.

Cooking isn’t something that everyone enjoys, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that I’m not alone in my feelings that time in the kitchen can lead to serious stress relief. Not convinced? Check out the breakdown below.

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1. The “Voodoo” Effect

Sometimes, busting through your stress is as simple as reasserting your dominance at the top of the food chain. Maybe it’s a little dark, but chopping veggies and butchering chickens can really take the edge off of even the most stressful days. Have a big fight with your boss? Pretend that carrot is his car and go to town on it.

By using your ingredients like voodoo dolls, you’ll find that cutting through a couple of pounds of food has really calmed you down.

2. Aromatherapy

Cooking with certain herbs, spices, and aromatics can have beneficial effects on your mood, as I touched on in a recent post.

Here’s a brief breakdown of some common household scents/cooking ingredients, along with how they can change your mood/outlook on life:

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Energizing/Invigorating: Orange, Rosemary, Lemon.
Stress Relief: Lavender, Sage.
Sleep Aids: Lavender, Chamomile.
Mood Elevators: Mint, Basil.

Get a few of these ingredients simmering in a pot with your dinner, and the smell of your meal cooking will help to release the tension from your body.

3. Foods That Reduce Stress and Anxiety

After a stressful day at the office, it might be tempting to order take-out. You’ve already had a long day, and chances are you’d rather have a hot meal now than wait for something to cook up. But actually, cooking your own meals will give you a greater degree of control over what you are putting in your body…and there is a definite link between the foods you put in your body and how well you cope with stress.

For example, trans fats are just as bad for your body as they are for your coping mechanisms. Trans fats block certain chemical receptors in the body, which in turn can limit your ability to deal with stressful situation.

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According to a study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, you can cause significant reduction in the number of stress hormones in your body by eating dark chocolate. The study found that people who identified as highly stressed and ate a few pieces of dark chocolate on a daily basis for two weeks lowered their stress levels.

Other foods linked to stress relief include turkey, walnuts, sweet potatoes, almonds, spinach, and salmon.

4. Gain Control Over One Area of Your Life

One of the reasons I love cooking is because it gives me back some small degree of control over my life. In the words of Julie Powell in the film “Julie and Julia”, “Chocolate cream pie! You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when NOTHING is sure and when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.”

We get stressed out when our lives spin out of control. Taking charge of one small area of your life can help more than you might realize.

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5. The Zen of Cookery

After you start cooking, you can sometimes reach this state of meditation. You’re in the zone of cutting, grinding, and sauteing. All that matters is the food, and it’s nice to throw away the cares of the day and just focus on one small task at a time.

Food Network’s Alton Brown has said that cooking is “a very calming ritual. It’s a different kind of stress relief than I get doing anything else…[we] find kind of a physical solace doing things with our hands, more and more in the kitchen. The sounds, the smells, the feels of that room are comforting to me.”

Conclusion

The next time you have a terrible day the office, pick up a saute pan. Cooking is a hobby that relaxes you, and has the added bonus of being nourishing, too. Skip the spa and get relaxed the old-fashioned way: in front of the stovetop.

More by this author

Tucker Cummings

Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It? The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity? How to Diagnose the “Phantom Cursor” Issue on Your Mac Extreme Minimalism: Andrew Hyde and the 15-Item Lifestyle 6 Easy Tips for Living with 100 Items or Less

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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