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I'm trying to remember an adjective that describes something you do to help yourself relax/de-stress, but I can't think of it. It's similar to therapeutic, but when I checked the synonyms I couldn't find it. I wouldn't say it's a common word either.

Ex: After a long day at work, I enjoy cooking because it's _______ to me. To many, exercise is ______.

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Without further information this is a guess.

I first thought of the word "to unwind", but then realised you said it wasn't common. Then, reading your example sentence I found that "cathartic" may fit. But "cathartic" or "carthasis" goes further than to relax or destress; it has an association with purging inner emotions to release tension and is a form of therapy for oneself. The word goes back to Ancient Greece, I think it was used first by Aristotle, but in regard to drama. It is also commonly used in modern psychology and medicine, hence the therapeutic association. It's also used in ordinary pop culture or layman's terms.

Some examples of the use of "catharsis" are given at Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Acting is a means of catharsis for her.
Painting is a catharsis for me.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

It also has this description about its origin and development:

Catharsis and cathartic both trace to the Greek word kathairein, meaning “to cleanse, purge.” Catharsis entered English as a medical term having to do with purging the body—and especially the bowels—of unwanted material. The adjective cathartic entered English with a meaning descriptive of such a physically cleansing purge. It didn’t take long for people to start using these words figuratively in reference to emotional release and spiritual cleansing.

So the word has got to do with "release" of emotions, and many people get that from doing certain activities.

If that's not the word you were thinking of let me know I'll delete the answer.

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    In the usage I'm familiar with, "cathartic" always entails overt expression of strong emotions. While I could see how some forms of exercise might provide this, I'm not really sure how cooking could be cathartic. – Michael Seifert Jul 23 '18 at 20:49
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    @Michael Seifert It probably depends. One of the examples from Merriam-Webster gives: "Painting is a catharsis for me." No need for expression of strong emotions, at least if this usage is acceptable. – Zebrafish Jul 24 '18 at 6:42
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The adjectival form of relax is relaxing

Relaxing

Something that is relaxing is pleasant and helps you to relax.

  • I find cooking very relaxing.

  • We come here once a year expecting a quiet, relaxing holiday.

  • After a long day at work, I enjoy cooking because it's relaxing to me.

  • To many, exercise is relaxing.

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After a long day at work, I enjoy cooking because it soothes me. To many, exercise is therapeutic.

soothe

To calm or placate (a person, for example). To ease or relieve (pain, for example).

Having or exhibiting healing powers

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