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Perhaps it shows through your fidgeting, your nail-biting, or your sleepless nights. You feel as if you are under a great deal of stress, and you are searching for relief. While there are many stress reduction strategies you could use, perhaps one of the best is one of the easiest: cooking.

Cooking is an art as well as a science. It takes a great deal of patience and persistence to become an excellent cook, and some of your experiments will inevitably end up in the wastebasket or down the garbage disposal. Yet, there is something incredibly relaxing about sautéing onions, grilling chicken, or barbecuing pork. You can become mesmerized by the scent of your culinary sensations. The process of stirring, chopping, or slicing can be highly therapeutic. You can feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of a good meal which can further reduce your stress level.

If you plan to take up cooking as a serious hobby, it is best if you begin by purchasing a good cookbook. There are even cookbooks that promise you stress-free entertaining. Selecting the cookbook can be a relaxing experience in and of itself. Usually, cookbooks are loaded with interesting, eye-catching pictures. You can also pore over delicious recipes, imagining how to prepare them in your kitchen.

Next, you might want to invest in some sensible cooking supplies. This will help to alleviate your stress when the time to cook arrives. Make sure that you have aprons, a grater, a good set of knives, a colander, an array of sauce pans and skillets, and a collection of interesting plates to set your creations on. The better prepared you are, the less stress you will experience in the kitchen.

Then, it's time to head to the grocery store. It's best if you have prepared a list in advance based upon the recipes you hope to make. This will save you time, stress, and possibly money at the supermarket. Make sure that you schedule enough time to go through the grocery store—you don't want to be rushed. In addition to the items needed for your recipes, it's a good idea to pick up some staples. For instance, you should always have flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and a collection of spices on hand.

In order to minimize your stress level, it's best if you can start by preparing meals for yourself or for close family members. After you become proficient, you might want to graduate to dinner parties, but don't expect to produce a seven-course meal during your first few attempts at gourmet cooking. Select menu items that appeal to you; chances are they will appeal to your family as well.

Another possible stress-reducer is a cooking class. Such classes are often offered at local community centers, YWCAs, or community colleges. Don't take the course for credit—take it for fun. The idea is to have a relaxing time by the stove. You'll enjoy camaraderie with other students and you might even socialize with them after class. Taking a course can expand your horizons, helping you to become a well-rounded person.

It is true that cooking can be stressful. After all, if you have five children to feed, you're low on food, and you have a baby who's crying, meal time can be stress time. However, if you permit yourself plenty of time to cook, you choose recipes that you enjoy, and you look at it as a hobby rather than drudgery, cooking can be quite relaxing and can actually help lower your blood pressure.

One thing you'll want to watch when cooking is portion control. If you make too much pasta, you might be tempted to overeat, causing health problems on down the road. Also, it can be important to cook meals that are heart-healthy and that are not loaded with sugar and calories. Otherwise, you could face the stress of battling a weight problem. However, if you make sure that you cook plenty of vegetable dishes, you limit the number of desserts you prepare, and you keep close track of your carbohydrate intake, cooking can be a pleasant, stress-reducing experience. The more practiced you become at gourmet cooking, the more you will look forward to it, and the less stressed you will feel

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