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Baking it Better – can baking help tackle anxiety?

Liz suddenly experienced a series of anxiety attacks, which forced her to stop working for a long period of time. Baking became her outlet, as it was the only activity that would prevent further attacks. The following video is a key part of the Approaches to Mental Health module that can be studied on a variety of courses at The Open University, including Nursing & Healthcare and Psychology & Counselling.

Therapy in the flour

The therapeutic process of baking is a great way to let your mind escape, with the satisfaction of making something that both tastes and looks good. The rolling, kneading and the smells associated with baking can result in a reduction in stress levels. Surprising others by gifting freshly baked goods can also be a great way of lifting your mood.

Festive thought

Although Christmas is often described as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, for many the festive season sparks stress and can be a lonely experience for some. There are many reasons why Christmas may be difficult – gift buying can highlight money woes, and when family and friends gather, it reminds us of those who are absent.

Man comforting womanThere is no better time than Christmas to bake, and with its potential happiness-inducing benefits, it may just help those that need something enjoyable to do during the holidays.

Dr Mathijs Lucassen, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health at The Open University said: “Not everyone has positive associations with Christmas, whether it be because of family tensions, bereavement or difficulties at home. There are lots of mood-lifting activities that can be done during the festive break, and for some people that may be baking. However, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, and it’s important to find your own best ways to relieve stress.”

“The festive season is full of traditions that can be just as effective as baking – why not try a brisk walk after your roast dinner, a detox from the online world, or perhaps some team board games to bring everyone together – do what’s right for you.”

Dr Jonathan Leach, Lecturer in Health & Social Care at The Open University commented: “Having previously worked in a mental health organisation which helped people to recover  through doing creative activities, I think that the act of producing something, whether it is a cake, a painting, a toy or a potted plant, can often be very therapeutic. The close attention paid to the process itself and, hopefully, the satisfaction with the end product can both distract the individual from their worries and lift their mood.”

Find out more

Discover Liz’ delicious cakes at BuBakes 

Listen to BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, Dr Mathijs Lucassen and Dr Jonathan Leach from The OU are academic consultants on this series

About the Depressed Cake Shop mentioned in Liz’s video – was an All in the Mind finalist, hear their interview with BBC Radio 4 

Nursing & Healthcare and Psychology & Counselling courses available at The Open University

About Hamlett Films – the production company that made the Baking it Better video

About Author

Hannah is part of the Media Relations Team at The Open University, working with the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. With experience both agency and in-house, Hannah has worked on campaigns for a number of large corporate companies and brands, including RBS, NatWest, Travelodge, Audible, AA and the Royal Academy of Dance. She has completed a Masters in Publishing Studies from Oxford Brookes, and enjoys photography, reading and going to the theatre.

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