I live on the tiny island of Moloka`i, Hawai`i. We’ve been locked down since mid March. While the island grocery stores haven’t had a run on toilet paper, it’s been nearly impossible to find flour and yeast. I found myself wanting to make scones, pizza dough, cookies. Hard to do without flour.
Apparently, all of us on the island have been coping with stress by baking. After four weeks, I was desperate enough that Karen-Venus sent me a care package from New York City (yes, I said New York City) with a small bag of flour she had in her cupboard and some yeast. I’ve made oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies and cherry-pistachio scones so far. Tomorrow, I am going to tackle a loaf of bread in my never-used-since-I-bought-it-five-years-ago bread machine. Wish me luck.
It seems that baking is a form of mindfulness meditation and can decrease anxiety by requiring us to be fully present. Psychologists have studied the phenomenon and found that blood flow is shunted away from the amygdala (our anxiety and emotion center) to our prefrontal cortex. Our fear is lessened and we are calmer.
Baking also may give us a feeling of control in an out-of-control situation. The repetitive physical activity of kneading dough is soothing. When we finish, we have a tangible result – that hopefully nurtures us as well.
It’s normal to be anxious these days. Covid-19 is a true calamity – and it’s not over yet, not by a long shot. Self-care is vital. I alternate between periods of relative equanimity and moments of “The sky is falling, the sky is falling, no, wait, the sky fell, it actually fell!” Baking helps. So does cleaning. And connecting with all of you. Be safe. Be well.