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Can cooking be a coping skill?

***Trigger Warning***

*For those with a healthy relationship with food. If you struggle with eating disorders please consult your individual counselor or therapist for advice before proceeding with this post.

Now, if you kept reading, I'm assuming you're making the best decision for you. There was a time when cooking caused more anxiety for me than it was worth. I will never forget the time I was at my Grandma's house and my spouse was talking about my horrible cooking. Mind you, I had moved out when I was 15, and was a ripe old 17 year old when this had taken place. How dare I not have spawned into a perfect house wife at birth??

My Grandma, the kind hearted soul she is, gifted me a cook book she had just purchased for herself. I tried not to take it personally. The cookbook actually helped a lot. I experimented because I didn't know what "powdered sugar frosting" was, and that it wasn't a good frosting for cake. I stumbled through grocery stores desperately trying to figure out their systems for stocking the shelves, only to have it change every 6 weeks. Anxiety around cooking and baking was all I knew, and then I had children. I would find myself putting food in front of my children hopeful they wouldn't let me know if they hated it.

I didn't have a good consistent example of a cook in my life, so I stumbled through. Now, my kids revel at every dinner. My main chore is dinner because I am a Boss Mom who is also raising her kids to be self-sufficient. With my youngest being 10, this is a luxury I can now afford. Not everyone can, and I recognize that, but luckily, all my effort and love can be poured into one meal a day.

Dinner has made me famous in my house most days for a whole 15 minutes while they eat. Where I used to feel extreme anxiety and shame, I now feel validation, love, and freedom. My kids don't ask what we are having for dinner anymore. Partly because I never give them a straight answer, partly because most of my creations don't have names, and partly because they trust whatever I make will be good. Don't get me wrong, it's not always good. Sometimes I fail so hard, Death, my partner "cooks". Which in our house just means ordering pizza or running out for some take-out.

A bonus? Cooking is one way to practice "Behavioral Activation" a fancy counselor-way of saying "Just do it." The more you practice getting up and doing the things that scare you when you're depressed or anxious, it helps you cope when you're in it deep.

We didn't get here overnight by any means. This isn't something I achieved easily, or is a road for everyone. I can't even tell you what I did will work for you, because it might not. What I can say, is if you let go of your anxieties surrounding cooking and allow yourself to explore, experiment, and give yourself permission to fail, you might enjoy cooking a little bit sometimes.

Some things that worked for me that you can try out for yourself:


Just keep doing it. If it sucks, have a Plan B, like freezer food, on hand in case you burn the shit out of dinner, or you forgot you unscrewed the salt top last time, and end up dumping the whole shaker into your dish. It happens, let it go and grab your Plan B.

Watch cooking shows

The game show type are ok, but I don't usually learn much from those. I really enjoy Chef's Table, because instead of getting an hour to cook a dish and cutting between several contestants all doing different things, they focus on one Chef and their cuisine. Shows like this have taught me what flavors go together, and different techniques that bolden my flavors (which is something I care about now, take that, Anxiety).

Let off the pressure

It doesn't have to be perfect. Don't push yourself to be amazing right out of the gate. Be ok with doing lazy dinners and cheating sometimes. There is no right or wrong way to do it, so just check in and make sure you're actually enjoying it.

Intentional Stirring

It might be a silly practice, but it has really helped me slow down and enjoy cooking. I think about the ingredients I add when I stir them in. What do they do for the dish? Are they adding something? Or taking something away? Sometimes I add herbs to help with digestion, taking away bloating. Sometimes I add a vegetable for its nutritional content. Sometimes I add flour to thicken the soup, taking away the fluidity. Sometimes I add a veggie simply to add color to the dish for asthetic reasons. I stir counter-clockwise when taking something away, and clockwise when adding something. It's a way to remain grounded and intentional with the ingredients I choose.

Look up new recipes

If something interests you, look up recipes on different sites. I look at at least 3 different recipes before trying one to see what differences there might be, letting me choose the one that fit my cooking style the best.

Smell test

Smell ingredients as you add them to the mix. The more you do this with recipes, the more naturally it will come to you when you veer off on your own creations. This also is called aromatherapy. It helps ground you in the moment and become more aware of your dish.


We plan to update these recipes regularly to keep it fresh and relevant. Please check back over time for new recipes! Everything is always available on the Pinterest Board.

Suggested uses for the salts available in the Mental Health SubBox:

Rosemary Peppermint Salt

Any dish that feels heavy and needs a subtle uplift.

Mac N Cheese Topping (be careful with the salt, it might help to mix first)

  • Pinterest Recipe Here

  • You can also add to boxed Mac N Cheese. Any level of effort you have works.

Chicken Alfredo Recipe:

  • Chicken (strips, breasts, or thighs)

  • Pasta (Shells, spaghetti, angel hair, penne all work)

  • Cooking oil (Olive, vegetable, avocado, or even coconut)

  • Jar of Alfredo Sauce

  • You can buy strips of raw chicken if cutting isn't your thing, yet. If. you're comfortable with a knife in the kitchen, cut chicken breasts or thighs into strips.

  • Bring a stockpot of water and 3 tablespoons of olive (or other cooking oil) to a boil.

  • In a separate saucepan, heat a jar of alfredo sauce. (You can also use the microwave, but cover with a paper towel first).

  • Add the chicken, cook for 3 minutes.

  • Add pasta, cook according to instructions.

  • Strain the chicken and pasta.

  • Pour the heated alfredo sauce, and top with Rosemary, Peppermint Salt to taste.

Red meat dishes

Meatloaf Recipe: Feeds 2-3

  • 1lb ground hamburger or turkey

  • 1 sleeve crackers (think ritz or saltine)

  • 1 egg

  • 1 pkg stuffing (like for thanksgiving)

  • 1 potato for each person

  • Tin wrap (foil)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, 175 degrees C.

  • Crush the crackers and combine all ingredients.

  • Add to bread pan or that of similar size.

  • Pat down top to resemble a loaf of bread.

  • Wash potato(es) and wrap in tin foil. They don't need to be dry.

  • Using a fork, poke the potato(es) repeatedly. This step is hard, so have fun but pay attention to where your other hand is so you don't stab yourself.

  • Put the meatloaf and potato(es) in the oven. The veggies can be directly on the wire rack, it's ok. You can also add to a cookie sheet if you don't feel comfortable reaching into the oven.

  • Bake for 35-45 minutes. You will know it's done when a fork can be pushed into a potato without much force, and there is no pink in the middle of your meatloaf.

  • Plate adding traditional toppings like ketchup, A1 sauce, etc to the meat and traditional toppings like sour cream, bacon bits, chives, and cheese to your potato depending on your dietary needs/restrictions. Sprinkle with Rosemary, Peppermint Salt. Trust me.

  • You can buy shrimp that is already peeled without tails. If you don't have experience peeling shrimp, this is what I would recommend.

  • Shrimp

  • Butter

  • Lemon juice. You can get single serve sizes at most grocery stores.

  • Pasta, rice, or quinoa

  • In a stockpot bring water to a boil.

  • Add pasta, rice, or quinoa and cook according to the instructions.

  • In a skillet, add butter. Usually about 2 tablespoons, but it depends on how many people you're cooking for. Measure with your heart. This isn't a "healthy choice".

  • Add the shrimp. It will curl and turn pink when it is done.

  • Add shrimp to the pasta and top with Rosemary, Peppermint Salt to taste.

Salt Gargle when you're sick

  • Add to Luke warm water and stir until dissolved. Gargle and spit out when you are sick, your throat hurts, or you had a big day of talking you need to recover from.

Savory Herb Salt

Seasoning for Dinner Rolls

  • Easy Homemade Dinner Rolls

  • Rolls in a can, aren't a bad way to go. You can get them at most grocery stores. Gluten free options might even be available.

Salad Seasoning

  • Simply sprinkle on after your dressing.

Marinated Chicken Recipe: Feeds 2

  • 2 chicken breasts, or 4 chicken thighs

  • 6 tablespoons cooking oil (olive, vegetable, avocado or even coconut)

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider is preferred but white is ok, too)

  • 2 tablespoons Savory Herb Salt

  • Gallon baggie

  • Combine all ingredients in the gallon baggie. Leave in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 days to marinate.

  • Cook chicken. Either in an oven safe pan or on the stove in a skillet.

  • The chicken is done when it can be cut with the side of a fork, or is white all the way through.

  • Serve over summer vegetables cooked in the same fashion as the chicken.

*In general, fish is great smothered in butter, garlic, and lemon baked in a tin foil boat.

This one anyone can do.

  • Lunch meats like turkey and ham - Diced (cut up)

  • Eggs

  • Cheese

  • Milk or cream

  • Cooking Oil (Olive, avocado, vegetable, or even coconut)

  • Optional* Root Vegetables. Potatoes, onions, turnips, etc.

  • If using root vegetables add to skillet and sauté in their own cooking oil until tender first.

  • Scramble the eggs in a bowl. I like to use a fork, but some people like a whisk.

  • Add a splash of milk or cream to the mixture

  • Add eggs to a hot skillet with cooking oil in it, and add the diced lunch meats.

  • Stir with a spatula scraping the bottom of the skillet in a circular fashion, making sure to scrape all sides of the skillet frequently to avoid burning.

  • You know it's finished when the eggs have formed curds and are no longer shiny.

  • Take the skillet off the heat and add shredded cheese to the top. Cover with a skillet lid, or a plate will usually do as well. Let cool for 2-3 minutes while the cheese melts.

  • Sprinkle Savory Herb Salt blend to taste. Serve hot.

  • For variety, you can use as a stuffing for a breakfast burrito or breakfast sandwich.

Tangy Herb Salt

Baked Broccoli

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degree F, 175 degrees C

  • Place broccoli in an oven-safe dish that has been greased with cooking oil.

  • Bake for 30-40 minutes

  • Sprinkle Tangy Herb Salt to taste

Peppermint Sugar

Easy Home-made Hot Chocolate

Oatmeal sweetener

Lemonade flavoring

Ice-cream topper

Instead of cinnamon sugar on toast

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1 Comment

Milton Coyne
Milton Coyne
Aug 12, 2021

My mom actually spent most of her time everyday cooking and learning new recipes. It also helped her cope up after my dad died and watching different cooking shows keep herself entertained. Me personally enjoyed watching baking show and i am eager to learn more

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