Whether studying remotely in a different country, attending ‘dual-mode’ classes at St Andrews, or adapting to the ever-changing status of Covid rules, uni during a global pandemic has been an experience that no student ever anticipated. Personally, finding comfort as a generally anxious person has been harder during Covid times, but I have found a few key tricks that have helped to cope.
My saviour has been reading the book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, from the Happiness Institute Series. To sum it up, the book goes over why the Danes are known as the happiest people in the world, and how hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a “cornerstone of their way of life.” Hygge is not a material item or something you can buy – it is a feeling, or sense of feeling comfort, cosiness, gratitude, and contentment. That being said, I think practicing hygge is more important than ever, given that 1) daylight savings just happened and things are about to get a lot darker (weather-wise), and 2) we live in a time where it seems like we are constantly surrounded by fear of the unknown and the unexpected (especially with the backdrop of a global pandemic and a historically frightening election for us Americans). Hopefully I can share some of the things that have brought me comfort and eased my panic during Covid after learning a little bit more about hygge.
I write ‘candles’ in all-caps because to be frank, I have gone candle-crazy. I think I have about 12 to 15 scattered all over my bedroom. One of the most important aspects of hygge is creating a comforting, warm atmosphere where you feel safe, happy, and homey. I have found that lighting a candle (or two, or three) has helped bring a certain warmth and glow to my room, and also helps the space feel smaller but cosier, which I love. Lighting a candle in my favourite scent also does wonders in helping me relax, and especially so while reading for a module or writing an essay. (But remember be safe! Never leave your candles near anything flammable or let them burn for more than three hours.)
2. Comfort Foods
I’ve always been an avid baker, but the amount of cooking and baking that I’ve done since the pandemic started has gone up exponentially. Mostly, I stress-bake as a way to cope with situations in which I don’t know how to cope. I bake about 3-4 times a week for my entire family, so everything I bake disappears in about 48 hours. That being said, I learned in the last few months that making comfort foods has been a way to have a little pleasure in life, and brings together the people in a household. I’ve also learned to make my family’s favourite things (my grandma loves oatmeal cookies, but my dad prefers chocolate chip. My mom loves carrot cake, and my brother will eat just about anything with frosting on it.) Baking for me is also a way to relax and not think about anything except the recipe in front of me. In short – try it! You’ll not only go through a relatively relaxing process, but end up with something you can enjoy by yourself or with others.
Here are a few favourite recipes of mine for the upcoming fall and winter months:
Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 1 can (8 oz) pumpkin
- ½ cup oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
Cheesecake Filling (optional)
- 4 oz of cream cheese + 2 tsp sugar, mixed till smooth
Whisk together oil and sugar till fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, then fold in pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients, and mix till smooth. In a muffin tin, fill halfway with batter and add a tsp or dollop of cheesecake filling. Cover with a spoonful of batter. Bake 15 minutes at 350 F or until golden brown and springy. You can also bake in a loaf tin, but it will take 45 minutes instead. (Optional: garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds)
Chicken Noodle Soup for the Family (or Flatmates)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup carrots, sliced
- 1 cup celery, sliced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 64 ounces (8 cups) chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- 12 ounces wide egg noodles (I also like bowtie noodles)
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (use storebought rotisserie chicken to save time; or roast or cook your own chicken in a skillet)
- In a large pot, add the oil and heat over medium-high heat to warm. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.
- Add the garlic and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, pepper, and bring to a boil. Allow mixture to boil gently for about 5 minutes.
- Add noodles and boil mixture for about 10 minutes, or until noodles are soft and cooked through.
- Add the chicken, parsley, and boil 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, remove the bay leaves, and serve immediately. Soup will keep airtight in the fridge for 5 to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
The BEST Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
- 2 cups sugar (400g)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (240g)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (60g)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water + 1 tbsp instant coffee mixed in until dissolved stir these together right before you need it so it’s still hot
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar + 1 cup soy milk or other vegan milk (mixed)
- 1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons oil (100g + 2 teaspoons)
- 1 stick vegan butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup dutch process cocoa (more if you want a richer, darker flavour)
Whisk together all dry ingredients to remove any lumps. Add wet ingredients and fold till batter is smooth. Scoop into muffin tins until 3/4 full. Bake about 15 minutes and do not overbake. They should be springy to the touch when you take them out. Whisk frosting ingredients together until smooth. Cool completely before frosting.
3. Cosy Clothing
Wool socks, cable-knit sweaters, and puffy jackets have been on rotation in my wardrobe since October, and I don’t think it will stop anytime soon. I even took up knitting to start making my own winter wardrobe. To put it simply, it’s sweater weather, and now especially, we need to bundle up if we plan to go outside (and please for the love of god, don’t forget to WEAR A MASK!) Cosy clothing has really made me appreciate the chilly weather, and just feel like a ball of warmth when I’m at home.
Togetherness is a huge part of hygge. It might seem difficult given the Covid situation and the fact that we have to social distance means we can’t see as many people as we would like to. Personally, I am lucky enough to live at home and surrounded by my family, and even luckier that we all get along (for the most part!) Although this time may seem isolating, try and find time to put down your phone and spend time with those in your household (following Covid measures, of course). Host a dinner with your family, flatmate(s), or pet. Have a movie night and curl up on the sofa with your roomie or significant other, if they live with you. And most importantly, have meaningful conversations with the people living with you and make it a point to learn a little more about them or simply ask how they’re doing.