Science Reveals How Baking Can Help Reduce Stress Related to Coronavirus

We’re going to use basic science to show you how to relieve your anxiety while making something delicious.

While many of us are trying to navigate our way through this new reality, there are some traditional comforts that seem to be making a rise in popularity. From banana bread and sourdough starters, to grandma’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies, we’re seeing a lot more baked goods on our timelines and news feeds.

Now psychologists are saying that baking—specifically, baking bread—can be good for the soul during times of national crisis. While this may not come as a shock to anyone with a serious sweet tooth, the mental health benefits associated with baking can be profound.

Call it “stress baking,” if you like, or “pandemic calories” if your sense of humor is on the drier side, but there is real science at work here.

“With baking bread, there’s a lot of physicality. Kneading of the dough and getting it into the right shape can help you relieve some tension,” Elizabeth McKay, author of the study and associate professor of occupational therapy at Edinburgh Napier University, told CNN. Plus the process of patiently waiting for the bread to rise over the course of a couple of hours can help home bakers to feel a sense of delayed gratification. While coronavirus plagues the nation, it’s important to remember that there will be an end, even if it seems out of reach at the moment.

“There’s a period of waiting that I think is very symbolic of the waiting we’re collectively doing,” says Michael Kocet, a licensed mental health counselor and professor and department chair of the Counselor Education Department at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Plus, it’s important to maintain a hobby to distract you from work and the constant 24-hour news cycle that can often be negative or depressing. Baking is a way to fill your time, relax, and ultimately feel a sense of accomplishment. Kocet adds that baking can give us something concrete to create, control, and enjoy when we have the finished product. That can help reduce the anxiety stemming from the unfamiliarity of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“I enjoy the fact that bread making is a slow process, which goes against the rapid lives that we live normally,” Jessica Corradini of Verona, Italy, told CNN. “Making bread is slow and engaging. Having time and energy to dedicate to this hobby is a privilege.”

And, you’re left with something you can enjoy, be proud of, and share with those in your household.