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Great Ways to Destress & Calm Down Right Now

Has this year been tough for you? Yeah, me too. There are ups and downs that are par for the course in anyone’s life, but the past year has certainly delivered its share of hardships, too. Between a global pandemic, a tumultuous election, headline-making natural disasters, lost jobs and other economic hardships, there’s been plenty to stress over. What’s more, many of us have been keeping apart from our loved ones, and are worried about how and if it’s safe to see them in any capacity. Unsurprisingly, that isolation and worry can take its toll on an already-frazzled mind. 2020 has been a lot, to say the least. And there are a few months left to go.

Whatever your personal stressors, there are ways to cope. Thanks to the internet, lots of them are low-cost or even free, and accessible at any time. Sometimes just knowing where to look when you need help is helpful in its own right.

If you want to quiet your mind down…

  1. Repeat a mantra out loud at least three times. (e.g. repeat “I am safe, I am loved,” to stem my mind’s fear sensors.)
  2. Spend a minute or two practicing the "box breathing” technique: Breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and wait four counts before you breathe in again.
  3. Allow yourself to daydream: Studies show that setting goals can help you feel stronger about your future, so go ahead and add another plan to your bucket list.
  4. Brew a cup of decaffeinated coffee or tea—research suggests that warm drinks may just help our moods.
  5. Go ahead: Scream!
  6. Light a candle that reminds you of a place you love—scent is closely tied to memory, so the scent might just transport you to a less-frazzled time.
  7. Open a journal, Google doc, or word processor and work your feelings out through words.
  8. Need guidance? The five-minute journal will help you get into the journaling habit in mere minutes each day.
  9. Try observing your thoughts, rather than forcing yourself to act on them, Psychology Today suggests.
  10. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Sometimes, that’s all there is to it.
  11. Queue up your favorite movie or TV show. Watching a movie you’ve seen dozens of times is proven to be calming because it’s familiar.

If you’re looking for a free internet resource…

  1. Listen to “Weightless” by Marconi Union—the song was dubbed the “most relaxing” song ever by sound therapists.
  2. Look up a sound bath playlist on YouTube or Spotify (Try the Solfeggio Frequencies recordings).
  3. Watch this endlessly interactive feature by the New York Times.
  4. Stream ASMR videos, like this one starring Cardi B.
  5. Let Harry Styles tell you, “Don’t worry about it, everything’s gonna be fine”—on repeat, if you need it. (Our Lifestyle Director, Taryn, watches this clip every day!)
  6. Download a game app like Sudoku or 1010.
  7. Stream a soothing sound from myNoise.
  8. Download an app like Headspace or Calm, which will walk you through guided meditations and soothing stories.
  9. Bookmark this resource from Tumblr user eponis. Making a plan for a future tough day can help you feel better in the current moment, too.

If you want to focus on your body…

  1. Stand up and stretch. (This video by YouTuber Maddie Lymburner, aka MadFit, has been viewed more than 6.2 million times, and is specifically designed so that inflexible people can master it, too.)
  2. Take a walk around the block—a friend’s therapist told her to walk for “at least two songs” on her playlist, which often amounts to a totally doable seven minutes. If you feel good, keep going!
  3. Head to a park or backyard. Being in nature is a proven way to help combat the blahs.
  4. Follow this routine by the ever-popular Yoga With Adriene, aptly called “Yoga for when you feel dead inside.”
  5. Dance around to a song you love—here’s a playlist of the “happiest songs of all time” to get you started.
  6. Clean your bathroom in preparation of drawing a relaxing bath.
  7. Download a workout app like SweatPeloton, or Nike Training Club (which is free!).
  8. Go for a run with a playlist full of feel-good songs.
  9. Live in an apartment building? Challenge yourself to climb a few flights of stairs.
  10. Curl up with a weighted blanket and take a power nap.
  11. Give yourself a manicure and pedicure. This rainbow-hued tutorial by celebrity manicurist Steph Stone is so easy, and results in some seriously cheery nails.

If you want to do something around your home…

  1. Hey, you knew it was coming: Researchers have linked cleaning to stress relief, so grab your gloves and tackle that project.
  2. Feeling really overwhelmed? Try starting with just one corner of the room or a small space, like your refrigerator.
  3. Once you’ve cleaned out your fridge, treat yourself to a glass of wine—in moderation, it can help relieve stress!
  4. Bake something!
  5. Take your DIY projects one step at a time with this reset plan.
  6. Declutter your closet and put a few pieces aside to donate to your local thrift store.
  7. Make your bed. If you feel up to it, swap out your sheets for a fresh pair.
  8. Listen to your favorite cleaning music while you work. It helps me feel less homesick all the time.
  9. Too stressed to tackle a project, or has yours been put on pause? Make a plan for a future endeavor, bucket-list style.
  10. Organize your closet, a bookshelf, or anywhere else that stresses you out in a particular kind of way.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

If you want to feel less lonely…

  1. If you live with someone, ask them for a hug.
  2. Call someone you love but haven’t talked to in a while to catch up. (Feel free to text them first to see if they’re free if calling makes you nervous!)
  3. Or if a phone call doesn’t quite cut it, try FaceTime or video chatting (it’s therapist-approved!).
  4. Worried about holding (another) Zoom conversation? Play a game instead!
  5. Find a meme that reminds you of a friend, and send it to them.
  6. Donate to a cause you believe in—a 2008 study showed that giving money to a worthwhile organization made participants feel better than they did when they spent the same amount of money on themselves.
  7. Pick up a hobby that results in something tangible you can give to someone you love, like knitting or needlepoint. You’ll think of that person while you work on the project.
  8. If you have a pet, spend some time playing with them.
  9. Book a Zoom workout class—it might not be an in-person experience, but seeing a favorite instructor through the screen can motivate you and help you feel less alone.
  10. Mail someone a card—this holiday season is the perfect time to start.

Credit: apartment therapy


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