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I Find Comfort In Cooking And Baking Because It Helps Me Deal With My Anxiety

I get to slow down, process my feelings, and clear my mind.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ASIA RIVERA
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BRB, Taking A Break is a new Cosmo series that's all about hitting the pause button on whatever's stressing you out and taking the time to rest and reflect—two things we all need to do more of these days. 

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When the lockdown took effect in 2020, I was somehow relieved that we'd all get to spend more time at home. I thought it was only gonna last for about a month, but it turned out to be way longer.

I became restless. Sure, working in different areas of the house and taking quick naps during my lunch break helped for a time. But tbh, I could never escape the creeping anxiety I'd get not just from having to stay in, but from my job as well. I work for a media agency and since it's primarily digital, I'm usually glued to my screens to look out for ads or urgent client emails. Since I have nowhere to go, I found myself stuck in front of these screens for longer periods of time. To take a break from my laptop, ironically, I would turn to my phone which was yet another screen and I didn't like it.

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One day, I woke up a bit earlier than usual so I thought of cooking breakfast, something I hadn't done for a while. I cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, and garlic rice. It just so happened that I made too much for myself and shared it with my brother. He was so surprised and happy to receive the simple meal I didn't think much of, and that definitely sparked something in me.

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From that day on, I made an effort to wake up a bit earlier every day to cook breakfast for me and my brother (sometimes for my mom too when she'd feel like it). Unfortunately, it stopped becoming a daily habit because I would either have to attend early meetings or do some unfinished work from the day before. So, I brainstormed for other things I can try and fit into a routine—and that’s when I thought of baking.

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I wasn't new to baking but nagulat ako sa sarili ko because I really put in the time to research for recipes by Googling, reading cookbooks we had at home, and watching videos online. I started with cookies 'cause I've made some before when I was younger. No joke, I got a bit carried away and probably baked a dozen batches in a span of a month! I tried so many recipes and variations. I experimented with using different chocolates, nuts, and even flours to try and achieve the ~perfect~ recipe.

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I wasn't new to baking but nagulat ako sa sarili ko because I really put in the time to research for recipes by Googling, reading cookbooks we had at home, and watching videos online.

Eventually, I felt confident enough with my baking skills so I decided it was time to branch out to different pastries. Plus, I bet my family was sick of all the cookies I've baked already, LOL. I wanted to try to recreate all those recipes I'd share on Facebook "for future reference." As much as possible, I told myself I'd work with whatever we had available in our kitchen or pantry.

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BRB Taking A Break: Baking, Asia Rivera using an electric mixer
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I tried so many fun recipes such as these cute, tiny s’more cookie cups and no-bake cheesecakes. There was a time when I wanted a break from the oven since the electric bill was getting a little higher than usual. So, back to the pan I went, and I made fluffy pancakes from scratch! (Wow, who is she?) I felt like I was a cooking and baking machine extraodinaire, LOL. My current favorite though is bread pudding! I didn't expect the recipe to be so easy and simple. In fact, I even got to make the vanilla sauce that's usually served with it in restaurants. My family and I felt pretty fancy! 

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I guess everyone else has been baking at home, too. One time, when I went to the grocery, halos lahat ng baking ingredients ubos especially vanilla extract, flour, and chocolate chips. I had to go to different stores to try and get them. Luckily, I was able to buy flour from the market at just P45 and got vanilla extract from Lazada at P40 each.

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How cooking and baking have helped my mental health:

  1. It helped me set a routine and ~slow down~.

    Cooking and baking have become such a normal and frequent hobby for me now. Taking the time to cook and bake helped me manage my anxieties, process my feelings, and also clear my mind. I was able to establish a routine and balance the time I had online and offline. As someone who is working in such a fast-paced and dynamic industry, I didn't really realize that I was rushing all the time to the point where I'd overwork myself. Having something to do in your downtime, like a hobby, is so important now more than ever. 

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  2. It made me realize that it's okay to make mistakes.

    I know it’s such a cliché but it really is true. It's something that an amateur baker or cook needs to hear. Trust me, from my experience, there was a lot of trial and error. I've used salt instead of sugar for my cookies, I've undercooked what was supposed to be a hard-boiled egg, and I've even burnt bacon! Plus, there were those times I wished the dishes I prepared would look more ~*aesthetically pleasing*~. But I realized that all these mishaps and mistakes just helped me even more the next time I was in the kitchen, 'cause at least I learned from them and learning truly is a lifelong process.

  3. It gives me a sense of satisfaction and appreciation.

    Given that everyone's work is done mostly online nowadays, creating something tangible feels so gratifying, too. Plus, witnessing my brother wolf down the meals I've cooked or seeing my sister enjoy the cookies I’ve baked has made me regain the confidence and strength to get back on my feet, especially during the bad days.

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Given that everyone's work is done mostly online nowadays, creating something tangible feels so gratifying, too.

I am nowhere near being a master chef or a professional baker. But to all the smart cookies reading this, I encourage you to find the hobby that works for you. Slow down, make mistakes, and enjoy a slice of pie!

BRB Taking A Break: Baking, Asia Rivera
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