In Fall 2021, the Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI) at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and BaMidbar launched a nine-month Mental Health and Wellness Track of the JTI Peer Leadership Fellowship. The teen fellowship cohort focused on peer engagement through a mental health and wellness lens, culminating in community projects. Throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, stay tuned to BaMidbar and JTI as we share their projects related to mental health awareness and stigma reduction.
By Owen Torstensson
This year has been filled with many changes in my life. For others, the changes during Covid, including quarantine and hybrid school days, presented several challenges. While that was true for me as well, this year has brought on even more differences.
After being homeschooled my whole life, this year I decided to attend Marblehead High School. The changes to my schedule, new pressures with classes and school work, and even meeting new people have all been things that have added to my levels of anxiety.
I am now spending my days in school, while working and a member of two swim teams. On top of that, there is JTI, confirmation classes, homework, and the list continues. Being in school all day does have its good parts, like spending time with my friends, but it is also quite stressful.
When I am feeling overwhelmed and anxious, I have been turning to baking to help relieve my anxiety. Baking during stressful periods has many benefits. In order to measure ingredients and follow the recipe correctly, baking requires one’s full attention. That makes it the perfect way to distract yourself.
During my first semester in high school, I was lucky enough to get into culinary arts. In the very beginning of the school year, there was some additional stress involved. For example, working with others in my group and having patience with myself when I didn’t do the right thing. However, culinary arts have really helped me to deal with some of my anxiety. Baking (and cooking) have given me a sense of calmness and the culinary arts room at school has become a haven on stressful days.
Baking takes my mind off of the things that are going on around me and it also helps me to focus on something else for a while. This gives my mind a break from my anxiety and is beneficial to my mental health.
Baking can trigger all of our senses, smell, touch, taste and then there is the delicious end result! The feeling of true accomplishment comes when I have followed a recipe correctly, it has taken my mind off of my anxiety for a while and I am able to enjoy my handiwork. Maybe it isn’t such a coincidence that “stressed” spelled backwards is desserts!
Owen Torstensson is a sophomore at Marblehead High School, where he is on the swim team. He is also involved with the swim team at the JCCNS and spends his summers at URJ Eisner Camp, where he enjoys ultimate frisbee, playing card games and spending time with his friends at the gaga pit. He is a member of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead.