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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.

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Tucker Cummings

Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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