Stress baking: What is it & why should you stop?

It’s 3pm. I just had lunch, and I’m weighing up whether I can go for a walk and still be back in time for a cup of tea and a biscuit before I start making dinner, or if - instead - I should make a start on “all the work I should have done this morning". 


(“All the work I should have done this morning” is code for all the work I should just do at any point, frankly, because it’s been sitting on my to-do list for anything from 2 minutes to 2 years.)


I make myself a cup of tea while I decide what to do, and then I start to wonder if I actually have any biscuits. But of course, I don’t have any biscuits because I ate them alongside every cup of tea I had yesterday. 


I shout out to Espen to ask if he wants a cup of tea.


He does. 


That’s it, settled - I need to make more biscuits. 


And so the cycle begins again.


I have so much to do, every passing 24 hours it only seems to mount up more, and as my anxiety starts to heighten, my urge to bake increases. I think it used to be a safety valve, something I did to relax, but as my list of things I needed to do increased exponentially, it became a bit of a challenge - and the urge to bake was inversely related to the amount of time I had available to do it. It was Like Challenge Anneka, but for self employed, working from home hungry people. 


If I had 45 minutes before a team call and I knew I needed to prep for it -  I would decide to make scones first. That would leave me running for my laptop, frantically closing down recipe browsers while I hurried to set up and join the call, still caked in flour, and the timer still running.


I’d decide an hour before my family arrived for a visit to ditch the simple meal I had planned, and attempt a 3 course meal, with side dishes, and a choice of desserts.


Every time I had a to-do list as long as my arm, spilling over week after week after week, I’d decide to go on a bigger baking bender. 


I also noticed that the more stressed I was about any given situation, somewhere I had to be, or something I had to do, the more I liked to add on to my (hot) plate. 


I made cookies, and brownies and cakes on rotation, like how they paint the Forth Rail Bridge - a job that famously never ends. 

 

I experimented with substitutions so that I could just bake with what I had. 


I obsessed about fermented foods. 


In a bid to be more efficient, to batch my time, I then started to make 3 things at once. 


At 11pm one night last week, I was trying to finish off a sourdough loaf, 6 jars of chutney and a sauerkraut I really wanted to get on the go. 


This doesn’t sound all that pleasurable, does it? 


This is what sends my stress levels through the roof. It’s also not doing amazingly for my waistline, but I think it perhaps stems from a compulsion to comfort eat, balanced by the standards I try and observe on food provenance. So I have to make my own comfort food. 


So, recently, mulling this over, I began to call it out in myself - I needed to admit to being a stress baker, and I needed to change my habits. I decided it might be more productive, and a bit better for my health, to confess to this habit, rather than indulge in it further. And it might even tip me over the edge and put an end to this cycle of procrastibaking.


When I sat down to research this however, I learned stress baking was already a thing. It was on the internet. There are other people out there stress baking. I couldn’t believe it. God help us.


The Independent reckons 1 in 3 Brits use baking to alleviate stress. 


It’s said to be akin to mindfulness, and helps people find focus and flow.


I know that if you entered my kitchen while I was in a mid stress-baking maelstrom, those would be the last words that spring to mind.


I wonder if you dug a bit deeper though, if you’d find any portion of these people actually find solace in their baking so as to temporarily escape or put off their outwardly obligations, and to give themselves a semblance of meaning to their chosen mode of procrastination. It’s like the journey and the destination at the same time - a nice chocolate brownie certainly helps when I’m feeling a bit anxious about how little I’ve got done that day. 


And that’s why it’s important to not bake for stress when there’s other things you need to do. Let baking be a reward, not a rush. A pleasure and not a punishment. Its time to knuckle down to a bit of old fashioned grit, and for this girl to get out of the kitchen and on with her life.