A lot of people relieve stress and mild heartache by exercising, others (as I am sure many of my fellow contributors can attest to) turn to baking or cooking. For me this isn’t merely stress relief, it’s actually a tool I use to manage my depression.
Someone once told me that doing the dishes does the trick for them. For me, it’s the rhythm of and the experience of giving to others that make cooking so helpful.
One of the worst parts of depression (not that there is anything good about it) is that it comes with the weight of feeling worthless and useless. Depression makes you feel like there is nothing good you can do in the world, and life can become a purposeless chore that you drift through aimlessly.
I know I’m having a seriously bad day when I realise that my usual method of baking for my flatmates won’t even help.
It’s not pretty, but depression isn’t.
I’ve also found that cooking for others and providing food gives me a sense of purpose. It’s well-known that people can be selfishly altruistic to make themselves feel better, and I am not ashamed to put my hands up and admit to this one.
Sure, sharing food is almost always absolutely terrifying for me—everyone’s taste buds are different and not everyone is going to love my dish. However, having people over is a huge help because it stops me from isolating myself and I like to think that it brings joy to others as well. Cooking for others doesn’t necessarily mean a three-course meal with loads of friends (I’m not comfortable mass hosting even on my best days); it’s simply one or two friends over for a home-cooked main course and maybe a dessert.
I always look forward to making morning pancakes for the medics who have a full day, dinner before an evening talk, or lunchbox dates to discuss how the weeks been over giant mugs of tea.
Sharing food and feeling as though I have made someone happy can give me a real uplift. I’m not saying it works every time or for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, there are still days where I struggle to face the world, but I would recommend giving it a try if you like cooking, even if it’s just leaving a cookie for your housemates who have learnt when not to press issues.
If I’ve learnt anything over the past four years, its that depression can be a selfish illness that traps you within your own mind. Giving back to those who stand with you through your worst and are always there to distract you from yourself is something truly rewarding.
If this has impacted you in anyway feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email your student services/counselors.