Published on November 6, 2013 | by Lauren Bridgeman

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Baking ‘therapeutic’ stress relief for students

Baking can be helpful for students as it’s a great stress reliever [Alice Russell]

Increasing numbers of students who suffer from mental illness are finding that baking can be a key way to fight back.

In the last year, UAL has seen a 56 per cent increase in students using their counselling services, while students all over the UK have been encouraged to get baking.

This year’s The Great British Bake Off saw University College London (UCL) student Ruby Tandoh baking her way to the runner up spot.

Talking to ALN, she said: “I think the joy of baking is that it is, of necessity, a slow process. Being forced to sit and wait for bread to rise, or pastry to chill, is a cathartic exercise in itself. Not to mention the tactile pleasures of kneading, whisking and so on. And then, of course, there’s the sense at the end that you’ve made something quite special, whether for yourself or someone else.’

This was supported by last year’s winner of Bake Off  John Whaite who recommended in The Independent that students should “to try their hand at baking real bread to see how it could help them”.

Concentration

Holly Moore, an art and design foundation student at LCC, also sees a connection: “Over the past few years I have started baking more frequently and have found baking to be a great stress reliever.

“I find following a recipe and concentrating on something other than my work is relaxing and takes my mind off any problems I might be having.”

Martha Swift, founder of London’s Primrose Bakery, encouraged baking to fight the blues: “When suffering from depression or anxiety it is always good to focus your mind on something else, or at least try to.

“Baking requires concentration and patience and will hopefully have a beneficial outcome either if the baker eats themselves or gives them away as a gift. Depression can be very isolating and frightening but if possible it is a good idea to try and push yourself to keep doing things.”

Grey cakes

“I find following a recipe and concentrating on something other than my work is relaxing and takes my mind off any problems I might be having.” – Holly Moore

Sarah King, a CSM graduate said: “Just giving people a totally unrelated but creative activity to do with no pressure to ‘achieve’ is brilliant. I worked as a commercial interior designer for many years after graduating but since having kids I now make cake!”

As part of the campaign ‘Eat Your Heart Out’, King hosts a collective of UK based food artists who lead the way with creative food presentations, innovative edible projects and art techniques.

Another baking business is The Depressed Cake Shop, which started as a small London pop-up project selling only grey cakes.

It has since gained global coverage as a mental health fundraising campaign with similar stores being set up all over the world, including Argentina and the US.

‘Gooey’

“The concept of The Depressed Cake Shop was purposefully straight forward,” said founder Emma Thomas, “allowing the widest audience possible to engage with mental health issues in a very ‘light’ way and I feel this is the key to its success.

“By having grey cakes we are challenging the expected and getting people to challenge the labels they put on those who suffer with a mental illness”.

Cai Zhang is a sculpture student at Wimbledon, food columnist for UAL’s Commonplace blog and head of the UAL food society.

He said: “Baking is the most therapeutic thing you can do after a long day at college, spinning the bottle between rigid lectures and stiff ventilated air. Perhaps the fuss of baking symbolises to us the effort and love you deserve for yourself.

“Even the most tentative lovers might come and go, but the satisfaction of a gooey brownie oozing the melted lacquer of the last half an hour of your sweet labour is guaranteed to hit the spot every time.”

 

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