Why You Should Be Watching The “The Great British Baking Show”

The world can be a pretty stressful place on any given day, but there’s a chance you’re experiencing a lot more anxiety than normal right now. The combination of self-isolation, health and economic concerns, and general uneasiness that comes with the global coronavirus outbreak can be, well, anxiety-inducing.

People are doing all sorts of things to cope with these changes—cooking, exercising, reaching out to friends and family, just generally taking more time for themselves. I highly encourage you to try any and all of these things if you want to! But I also want to throw out something else that’s been working for me: Bingeing The Great British Baking Show.

If you haven’t yet heard of this show (fyi: its OG title was The Great British Bake-Off)—Hi! Hello! Where ya been? It’s been praised up and down for not only being an incredibly interesting show, but one that is unlike any other cooking or baking competition on TV.

For the uninitiated, the show consists of home bakers who compete in a series of challenges every week to find out who is the best amateur baker. Each week is organized by the type of bake they’ll do. Think: cake week, bread week, etc.

I’ve watched a few episodes of the show while cooking dinner or while at friends’ homes and always found it lovely but forgettable. I even covered the most recent season of The Great American Baking Show for Delish, but that was still work! Which, you know, isn’t something most people find calm in.

But this weekend, when I began to watch a recent season of The GBBS on Netflix, I found myself really paying attention, and my anxiety was briefly soothed for the first time in days.

People have told me for years that this show can do that sort of thing, but as someone with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, any time someone tells me that any form of media soothes their stress, I tend to assume that it won’t even come close to helping me, a person who has to pop a (prescribed!) pill when I get on an airplane and is prone to panic attacks so large they frequently bring me to my knees.

But still there I was, sitting on my couch, so calm I could melt into a puddle of tempered chocolate right there. I think it’s because the show itself just is generally so chill. Everyone on the show speaks so calmly! They truly care about each other, even by the end of the first episode! The baking itself, even, is so methodical, that when something goes wrong, you can see them quickly coming up with tried and true ways to fix them.

I found myself falling in love with all the different contestants, the judges, and the hosts (why must you leave us, Sandi?). I felt like I was in that sunny tent in the British countryside and not on my pale gray sectional eating re-heated take-out from the night before.

I was joined by my boyfriend on the couch, and even he, an extremely calm and level-headed person admitted he hadn’t felt so calm in days as he did watching the bakers layer shortbread biscuits to look like self portraits.

If you live in a place like New York City, where those of us who are lucky enough to be able to self-isolate have done so for the past few days, you’ll know that we don’t have a super great idea of how long we’ll be in our homes—how long we’ll have to try to remain calm. (And that sentence I just wrote probably didn’t help you. I’m sorry!)

That said, this is a time when it’s okay to do things that might otherwise feel too self-indulgent, or earnest, or cheesy. Maybe that’s finally getting back into writing poetry. Maybe that’s listening to your high school iTunes playlist. Maybe it’s joining me on an epic binge of a British reality show in which the biggest problem is running out of bread flour. There are seven seasons on Netflix, not including some other specials like The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass.

I don’t mean to make light of the current landscape we’ve found ourselves in. This is scary and there are challenges at hand far bigger than what Netflix show you’re going to watch. But if you’re in a place where you have a lot of free time and a lot of anxiety to spare like I do, well, give this a shot. And if it doesn’t work for you, at least you can finally check it off your watch list.

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