Finding ways to manage stress in 2020 has been…complicated. The practices we relied on are no longer available or are very different, and while I’ve always turned to my kitchen for a bit of stress relief, I eventually experienced a bit of recipe fatigue. My previously soothing cooking adventures were now adding stress, not taking it away.
Cooking gives me a sense of control, and I’m not ashamed to say in a year like this one, that’s been something I’ve craved. So lately, as I’ve found myself less inclined to read recipe instructions. I’ve been cooking simple dishes from instinct, which often turns into my own takes on one-pot cooking. But through it all, the recipes and the random tossed-together pots, there’s been one midday practice that helps me ground myself and gives me a nice bit of stress relief, on even the most crazy of days.
Enter: chopping vegetables. This has become my go-to stress-relief habit whenever I need a mindful break.
When the feelings of overwhelm start settling in, I grab an onion and start dicing. I don’t (necessarily) cook them, but I stand in my kitchen and chop, mince, and slice until I feel myself coming back to a calmer, more grounded place. I find the repetitive process soothing, and as an added bonus, it makes cooking up something quick after work ever easier.
For me, this has become a form of active meditation—where you actively practice mindfulness while doing a simple task to provide a meditative experience. Other common activities to use for this include knitting, mindful coloring, and even gardening. For me, it’s getting onions, kale, carrots, and more ready for use at a moment’s notice.
At its most simple, the practice of prepping veggies certainly requires a bit of focus, which means I can’t really let my mind wander (there are knives involved, after all). But it’s also super satisfying to me to take a moment to chop, and then feel better while also having a fridge stacked with ready-to-cook veggies. It’s the physical evidence of a job well done that I need, plus a nice break from my laptop.
In addition to offering me productive breaks and a moment of mental focus in a world of multitasking, doing this once or twice a week has replaced my (admittedly, often futile) attempts at meal prepping. For those weeks when you don’t want to eat the same thing every day, having veggies that you can grab and toss together is a shortcut to lunch or dinner—and even to healthy snacks.
It makes tossing together a root veggie soup on a Monday night a way less daunting task—and helps me ground myself during even the most chaotic Monday afternoon. Happy chopping!