My Best Way to De-Stress

young woman thinking with pen while working studying at her desk
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I think it’s pretty safe to say that literally everyone is stressed right now. Most of us are worried about ourselves and our loved ones getting sick or dying. There’s also the not insignificant stress over losing jobs, paying bills, shortages of necessities, keeping kids happy and educated, and being stuck inside for long periods of time (even the introverts are getting stir crazy). Meanwhile, a very special group of people aren’t bothered about any of that because they’re too busy stressing over their stock portfolios. Priorities.

I’ve always been a worrier. I have anxiety and a tendency to get emotionally invested in the world’s problems, even when I can’t do anything about them and they don’t necessarily affect me. Being stressed all the time isn’t fun. In fact, it’s incredibly bad for your health. I’ve tried all the usual suggestions for lowering stress levels: meditation, deep breathing, exercise, yoga, relaxation techniques… Did any of them help? Meh. Some of them actually stress me more (how is being bored supposed to relax anyone?) I’ve also found that things like reading, TV, or hobbies are a good distraction, but aren’t very effective once I stop doing them. I got to the point where I gave up trying to de-stress (which actually helped a little in and of itself).

midsection of man
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Then I found something that actually helps. It wasn’t intentional– I started doing it because I had to, kept doing it because I enjoyed it, and then eventually realized it was making me feel better. I don’t remember ever seeing “make plans for the future” as a suggestion for relieving stress, and maybe it’s not something that works for most people, but it’s exactly what I needed.

Because my life’s been in a holding pattern for a while now, I’d stopped planning anything. I figured there was no point until something definite was in motion. That was a mistake. Even though I don’t know where I’ll end up or when I’ll get there (especially with the way things are now, thanks to a certain pandemic), it’s important to think about what might happen, what I’d like to happen, and what I can do to make it happen. Maybe it’s even more important when everything is up in the air. Although there are no rules on how to make plans, this is what’s been working for me…

Figure out what to plan for

Since my SO and I had been intending to move before real estate shut down in Toronto, I’d spent weeks packing (now regretting being so quick to put away most of the books and all the DVDs). From there I naturally started taking stock of things that needed to be repaired/replaced and what we’d need to buy for a new home. And as we started getting an idea of the kind of place we’ll likely end up in, I also started thinking about decorating, something I love doing. I have no idea what kind of space I’ll have to work with, but I’m enjoying thinking about what I might do with it once we’re there. Thinking about decorating has also led me to think about a future garden and just generally what I’d like my life to be like once we move. Maybe it’ll all work out, maybe it won’t– but it’s so much better than not thinking about it at all.

Pick something you can do right away

Because we’ve been in limbo, I’ve put a lot of things off until “after the move.” That’s a good idea to a point, but planning without doing can get frustrating after a while. One of the things I’d planned to do later was take classes. Once self isolating began I decided to go ahead and start taking them right away. So now I’m enrolled in a free online class at The Open University, with plans to take more. Being able to act on some of my plans right away makes me feel like I’m living my life and not just passing time.

reach for the and blue moon neon signages
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Pick something you’ll probably never do

Being practical all the time kills joy, as well as imagination. But if you’re a fairly practical person like I am (no, seriously), making plans for something that can’t or won’t ever happen is a good outlet. I love thinking about the farm I’ll (probably) never have, future home of rescue animals and a huge garden. But as a city person with allergies to everything from hay to sheep and most of what would be in that garden, I’m pretty sure this is a dream that won’t make the transition to reality. And that’s okay. I still find it relaxing to name the donkeys and plan the flower garden and debate whether I should get guard geese.

Make lists

Lists not only help me organize my thoughts, but I enjoy writing them (and all the people who say lists are bad can mind their business). I add a visual component to my planning by saving pictures and making Pinterest boards. Talking about plans can be fun too, when my SO is feeling cooperative. Anything that keeps my enthusiasm up and helps me refine my ideas becomes part of the process.

The best part about making plans is that a large component of it is daydreaming. You can do it anywhere, even while you’re busy with other things. I think part of the problem with other stress relieving techniques is that they require you to take time out especially for them and focus just on them. Who has time for that? Or more accurately, who wants to spend time on that? I need something I enjoy doing in order to actually de-stress; something that’s easy to do, that I want to do, and is also productive in some way. For me, making plans is all those things.

What helps you de-stress? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Relieve some stress with these FREE books…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day via Aspasia S. Bissas

Stay safe…

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Distract yourself from terrible reality with free books…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Baking Bread

Yeast in the Time of Corona

Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Somewhere among all the COVID-19 updates in your feed you might have noticed that people seem to be baking a lot of bread these days. It makes sense– bread is one of those things that are suddenly in short supply in shops, but is easy to make at home (especially if you have a mixer with a dough hook). As soon as I realized our local store was out, I broke out the flour (and was grateful that there was still one pan I hadn’t packed yet). Although bread is now easier to find and yeast is selling out, baking is still a good distraction– and there is seriously nothing better than fresh bread from the oven.

Have you been baking lately? What else are you making while you’re stuck at home? Share in the comments…

(Pictures and recipe are originally from an old post on my other blog.)

Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas (ingredients)
For those of you not from Ontario– yes, that is bagged milk in the pitcher.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
The dough is still too sticky at this point (it shouldn’t be adhering to the hook like that). Time to add more flour…
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Once the dough sticks to itself but not to the bowl, hook, or you, it’s ready to  rise.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
After rising for about an hour.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Aluminum loaf pans I inherited from my mom. These are the best for baking bread, but you can use any loaf pan or baking dish. You can even just shape the dough and put it on a greased baking sheet.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Loaves shaped and left to rise. Use the next hour to read, message a friend, or contemplate the nature of existence (Netflix is also an option).
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Ready for the oven. At this point you can brush the top of each loaf with a little milk or beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds or whatever else catches your fancy.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
You might not have toilet paper, soap, or faith left in humanity, but you have delicious, sustaining bread, and that will take you pretty far.

Basic White (or Semi-White) Bread

This recipe came with my mixer and has quickly become my favourite bread recipe.

½ cup low-fat milk [I use 2%–you can use whatever you have on hand, including non-dairy milks]
3 Tbs sugar [you can use honey or whatever sweetener you have on hand, but not sugar substitutes]
2 tsp salt
3 Tbs butter [you can also use oil or margarine or any fat that will melt]
2 packages [or 2 Tbs] active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water [105F to 115F, or in other words, warm but not hot enough to burn you]
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour [You can replace 1 ½ to 2 cups of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour if you’d like your bread to be more nutritious but not too heavy.]

Place milk, sugar, salt and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in 1 ½ cups warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture [Tip: if the milk mixture seems like it’s still too hot, you can cool it down by pouring it against the side of the mixer bowl in a thin stream instead of dumping it all at once into the yeast mixture.] Add 4 ½ cups flour. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 1 minute.

Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer or until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in a warm place, free from draft, about an hour or until doubled in bulk [the time it takes depends on your yeast, as well as the temperature in the room].

Punch down dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in greased 8 ½” x 4 ½” x 2 ½” loaf pans. Cover again and let rise again, about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Before placing the loaves in the oven you might want to add something on top. I’m partial to sesame seeds but you might prefer poppy or sunflower seeds or chopped herbs. Just gently brush the tops of the loaves with milk or egg white and sprinkle with your toppings of choice.

Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks. [Tip: the standard test to see whether bread is fully cooked is to tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow you’re good to go. I recommend using a spoon to avoid burned knuckles.] Try to resist the fresh bread long enough to let it cool down a touch before slicing and slathering with decadent amounts of butter.

You can halve the recipe if you want, although extra dough is ideal to use in recipes such as Tiganopsomo (fried bread) and Wrapped Sandwich Loaf. You can experiment with add-ins too: try adding raisins and cinnamon to the dough for raisin bread, or add herbs and grated cheese. It also freezes well.

Makes 2 loaves

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Don’t forget to download your FREE copies…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
–Stephen Colbert

 

A reminder that all my ebooks are currently FREE. Lose touch with reality for a while…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

 

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas