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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 Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity? The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It? 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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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