Use Cooking for Stress Relief

Spending time in the kitchen is a great way to relieve stress. Set aside time to get creative in the kitchen each week. While you cook, avoid multitasking and instead focus only on the meal, dessert, or snack you are preparing. Trying a new recipe, cooking with a partner, and cleaning as you cook can all help you reduce stress while creating delicious meals.


Making Cooking a Priority

  1. Set aside time to cook. Cooking can help relieve stress, enhance creativity, and build connection with others. To set yourself up for success, make sure you set aside blocks of time that are only for cooking. This will make cooking more enjoyable and allow you to focus your energy on the task at hand.[1]
    • Schedule time into your calendar for one cooking session each week.[2]
    • Try setting aside a weekend afternoon just for cooking.[3]
  2. Avoid multitasking while cooking. If you want to relieve stress, make sure you do not attempt to do other activities while you’re in the kitchen. Instead, focus only on cooking. Make sure you let other members of the household know you will be unavailable for other tasks while you’re preparing food.[1]
  3. Find a cooking partner. By cooking with someone else, you cultivate communication, connection, and cooperation. Ask a family member or friend to help you create a meal, dessert, or snack. Cooking is also a great opportunity to put differences aside and focus on a common, mutually beneficial task.[4]
    • Try scheduling a cooking session with a family member, and make it a priority on your weekly to-do list.
    • Making a plan to cook with someone else can help you make cooking a priority in your life.

Getting Creative in the Kitchen

  1. Ditch the cookbook. Creativity reduces stress, and the kitchen is the perfect place to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t worry about sticking to a particular recipe or channeling the perfection of Julia Child. Let your taste buds guide you as you work with individual ingredients.[4]
  2. Experiment with flavors and textures. A great way to get creative in the kitchen is to try out new flavor combinations. For example, you might try pairing a roast chicken with a kale salad instead of an everyday spring mix. You can also try new spice profiles, like adding a spice rub to your steak before grilling it.
  3. Cook something new. Trying out a new dish is a great way to relieve stress while learning something new. Ask a friend or family member for their favorite recipe, or give your favorite food blogger’s latest creation a try. Focusing on something new will help relieve tension and can also reduce anxiety and stress.
  4. Find elements of cooking you enjoy. Not everyone is born a chef, but most will find that some element of cooking is relaxing and that stimulates a bit of creativity. Perhaps you enjoy chopping vegetables or coming up with new spice profiles to add to simple dishes. Focus on doing what you enjoy in the kitchen, and allow your creativity to shape the dishes you make.[3]

Cooking to Help Manage Stress

  1. Choose food that takes an hour or longer to cook. One way to increase the stress-relief you get from cooking is to choose dishes that take a while to cook. For example, if you cook a roast that takes several hours, you can use the hands-off time to do something relaxing like reading a book or catching up on your favorite television show.
  2. Cook with herbs and spices that boost your mood. You can help reduce stress by incorporating certain aromatics, spices, and herbs into your cooking routine. Try making a dish with sage or lavender to relieve stress. Mint and basil can help elevate your mood, and a dish with citrus or rosemary can energize and invigorate.[5]
  3. Make a dessert to clear your mind. Baking can help ground you, relieving stress and tension. Try creating a cake, pie, or cookies as a stress-relieving activity. Share the dessert with friends and family. Their appreciation for your creation can also help boost your mood.[6]
  4. Slow roast some meat or poultry. Cooking a whole chicken, beef brisket, or pork shoulder in the oven can help relieve stress. Dress the meat with some aromatic herbs, place it in the oven, and allow the aroma of slow roasting meat or poultry to fill your kitchen. Try cooking extra portions that you can turn into tomorrow’s lunch.
  5. Make a soup or stew. For many people, soup or stew is the ultimate comfort food. Try making a roasted butternut squash soup, and topping it off with some aromatic sage leaves. You can also make a chili or stew on the stovetop and serve it with a simple side salad.[7]
  6. Try batch cooking on the weekend. Preparing meals and ingredients during the weekend is a great way to get in some kitchen-centered stress relief while also preparing for the week ahead. Relieve anxiety and tension by chopping vegetables that can be easily incorporated into a quick weeknight dinner or a grab-and-go lunch. You can also try cooking several different dishes to be reheated during the week.[8]
  7. Clean as you cook. While cooking can help relieve stress, waking up to last night’s dirty dishes can increase tension and anxiety. To keep your cooking sessions stress-free, try cleaning up as you cook. Begin each cooking session with an empty dishwasher and sink, and then clean dishes as you dirty them.[9]

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