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My New Go-To Stress Reliever

We all deal with stress daily. Some of it is even good stress, such as exercise, housework, or working on some type of project where the results allow for the body to relax much more so than just lounging around. Stress is a dirty word and for most of us, stress negatively affects us. It messes with our sleeping and eating habits, and if left to the point it festers, it can have repercussions for both our mental and physical health. I've long believed that stress, or more so how we handle it, is the number one cause of colds and sickness. The mental health part is obvious, but when we are completely stressed out immune systems always seem compromised. It's one reason why we all need something. For me, it has become cooking.

Let's be clear. I am no master chef and my lack of patience does not allow me to enjoy cooking when the process is not active. I like to stand over, mix, stir, taste, season, and every other thing one can do. I like the preparation and the idea that I am creating something new, regardless of whether or not someone else has written a recipe. I don't go by any and just try to combine the flavors in my head, then see what happens. Often it works nicely, other times it does not, but once in a while, it is magnificent. The real relaxation and relief come from cooking when I don't have to eat for sustenance, but simply because I want something. It can be as simple as my go-to morning tofu scramble, which I have not made in almost two weeks, which probably explains why this is being written. It can be more time consuming and involve tinkering like my version of the Ethiopian dish Misir Wot. Sometimes it is as simple as a quick stir fry or a sandwich. It doesn't matter, it gives me, for a few moments a distraction or the good stress I spoke of earlier. I feel a slight euphoria when I slice, chop, or dice veggies. Seeing them in their perfect piles, also known as Mis en place. 
It is this brief order in times of mental chaos I need. It calms me. Even more so than eating what I have created. Maybe it is because I am not OCD and not organized in any other facet of my life, that food, and its preparation, gives me joy. It is joy! From the gathering of the elements to the prep to the smells that are emitted, it gives me a sense of calm. This feeling doesn't last very long and often, even while eating, my mind wanders back to that which haunts me. Financial woes, family discourse, lack of a normal social life, work, home, etc. All these things creep back in, but in those moments when I am standing at the counter, my instrument of choice in hand, is a time I feel surrounded with something (love?), despite being completely alone.


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