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  • Writer's pictureAlex Rathbun

An easy self care practice that's already in your home

Since I was young, I've always enjoyed cooking. I have tons of memories as a kid of sitting at the counter, watching and helping my dad mix up marinades and sauces and snagging a bite of the first piece of meat as he carved it (let's be honest I still do that).

As I grew up and moved out of the house, I took this love of cooking to college with me. I remember trying new recipes in my free time in the shared dorm kitchen. I remember labeling all of my spices and utensils because I was the person everyone borrowed these from (specific spices and can openers and measuring cups are like gold in dorm life).

When I got married, I couldn't wait to have a kitchen all to myself (Eric can cook but doesn't prefer it), stocked with all our beautiful new cookware we had registered for. I grew to love the routine of cooking for adult life - figuring out how to plan meals and save money and eat healthy food while still enjoying the process and taste of what I've made.

Since starting my job as a freelancer, I've especially enjoyed cooking. Since I work from home, cooking dinner has become something that mentally separates my work from personal time. I love getting to work with my hands and be fully focused on something that's going to bring joy to whoever is there to enjoy the finished product.

In seasons of struggling, cooking has become especially important. On the days I don't feel like getting off the couch, cooking pulls me into a creative zone and consistently makes me feel like myself again. It is a reminder that I'm human, whether I am feeling emotionally numb or feeling stressed by work. I cannot do it all - humans need to pause and eat to stay alive.

I know not everyone enjoys cooking, but I'd encourage you to give it a try, for the sake of your mental health! Some tips:

- Plan a few recipes before you grocery shop so you have the ingredients you need when you go to cook dinner.

- Try a new recipe when you don't have a time limit. Having to rush can make the process stressful and frustrating.

- Start simple and then continually challenge yourself with the difficulty of recipes or the amount of people you're cooking for,

Dr. Nicole LePera explains the importance of cooking to your mental health:

"There’s a major link between the food you eat and your mental health. We live in a convenience based world. This means much less cooking and more grabbing things on the go. Eating becomes mindless. As a result we have a mental health crisis. Invest the time to cook at home. It’s cheaper and you’ll be amazed at how good you feel. Make cooking the sacred ritual it was for your ancestors. Light candles, play music, have a friend or your love join you. It’s the ultimate act of self care. Don’t loose sight of the power that is your own kitchen."

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