I like to think of myself as a well-rounded anxious person. I have situational anxiety—like with public speaking and flying—as well as general anxiety about everything else. What if the elevator I’m in breaks down? What if the subway gets stuck underground? What if the giant rock we’re living on decides to suddenly spin out into the depths of space?
Even if you aren’t anxious in normal circumstances, the pandemic we’re living in is not normal. Staying indoors for such a long time, away from family and friends, and only hearing bad news week after week can take a toll on the mind. I’ve curated some suggestions to help you feel some semblance of calm during this difficult time. Note: These are not meant to treat serious anxiety disorders—those should be discussed with your physician or therapist.
If you’re more in need of traditional self-care, we’ve got you covered with our Ultimate Quarantine Self-Care guide and our manuals on how to cut and how to dye your hair at home. We also have a handpicked selection of gadgets under $20 the WIRED Gear team loves, movies and TV shows we’re rebinging, plus YouTube channels we can’t stop watching. Hopefully, they keep you entertained.
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Updated January 2021: We’ve added even more recommendations, like journals, tarot decks and apps, and a weighted robe.
Create a Sanctuary
While it might be especially obvious right now, your surroundings affect your mood. Start with a clean state and then fill your space with things that make you feel good just by looking at them.
Add Fresh Scents
A low-lit room with warm, flickering candles can feel especially calming, and scented candles can help with your overall mood. Here are some of my favorites.
Otherland ($36) has a few WIRED fans.
Oil diffusers are another great way to turn your home into a sanctuary, and you won’t have to worry about an open flame. (Just be careful if you have pets.) WIRED senior associate editor Julian Chokkattu loves Muji’s diffuser ($70). It’s recommended for spaces around 100 to 133 square feet, but the Japanese brand has a larger version ($119) for bigger rooms.
Wrap Up in a Robe
Maybe you’ve taken this opportunity to rewatch (or watch for the first time) some classic TV, like The Sopranos. If so, you may have noticed that Tony Soprano has a robe collection fit for a king—that’s because lounging around the house in a robe just feels good. I put together a list of some of his best, but my top pick is Brooklinen’s Super-Plush Robe ($98). It’s a classic fluffy robe perfect for post-shower drying or even if you haven’t made it out of bed in two days (we’re not judging). It’ll keep you warm but won’t overheat you.
I also tried the Gravity Weighted Robe ($130), with a 3-pound removable collar that’s just heavy enough to feel like a deep pressure massage, yet fluffy enough to keep me warm and toasty. (We talk more about weighted blankets below.)
Let Greenery Grow
Plants can transform any living space, making it feel like your own oasis. I tend to lean toward the artificial kind, due to my penchant for killing even plants that need the least amount of maintenance. Target, West Elm, and TJ Maxx have a lot of great faux plant options.
If you want the real deal, Lula’s Garden has excellent succulents that are easy to take care of, including this Glow Garden ($32) that I am currently succeeding at keeping alive. Everything comes in a pretty gift box that doubles as a planter, so you don’t have to repot them until they grow out of it; they also come with plastic droppers for easy watering.
Be sure to also check out any local plant shops in your area. Local businesses are some of the hardest hit during this pandemic, and it’s important to support them if you can.
Invite Some Birds
A window-mounted bird feeder can connect you to nature. Even if you don’t love them as much as I do, you might find all these little chirping birds arriving at your window quite relaxing during a time of uncertainty.
There are a lot of options to choose from, but a simple rectangle feeder ($50) is all you really need. Or you can go for a hummingbird feeder ($14) if you’re committed to cleaning it every other day (and don’t use red dyes in their nectar).
Find a Relaxing Hobby
Now is a good time to pick up a hobby. But take it slow, you don’t need to be an expert overnight. We have a roundup of WIRED staffers’ favorite hobbies and products getting us through quarantine.
Learn to Knit or Crochet
I’ve found knitting and crocheting to be relaxing, and it takes up a lot of time (perfect for the present moment). So far, the rectangles I’ve created are not turning into anything wearable, but the repetitive motions have kept my mind occupied and my hands off my phone.
Both are easier to learn than it seems. All you need to get started is yarn, knitting needles, or crochet hooks. Plus your phone or TV to watch how-to videos on YouTube. There are a ton of good tutorials on the web. I’ve found Kristen Mangus of GoodKnit Kisses and Bella Coco to be exceptional guides.
The company called Shit That I Knit has Knitting Kits ($65) that make jumping in really simple when you don’t know where to begin. Each kit includes yarn in beautiful colors and all the tools you need, plus access to a private Facebook group and weekly Zoom classes.
Color Outside the Lines
Creating art is soothing and rewarding, but it can be daunting when you don’t feel like an artist, and expensive if you need supplies. Just color instead.
There are adult coloring books that might appeal to how you’re feeling right now. Might I suggest coloring in curse words? Or how about This Annoying Life, which features frustrating scenes we can all surely relate to, like going to get ice only to find the trays empty.
Write It Down
If coloring in a picture of the F-word doesn’t do it for you, try writing it down instead. There are many ways you can go about journaling: Write about what happened in a day, try gratitude journaling to remind yourself about the good things in your life, write poems or short stories, or jot down profanities for five entire pages—whatever it is, journaling can really help you deal with difficult days.
It’s easy enough to start a digital journal, but I recommend pen and paper. Miquelrius notebooks are my favorite for everything, from journaling to to-do lists, because the paper is so delightfully soft.
The Blue Sky Thoughtful Journal ($35) is a good place to start if you’re unsure about what to write. It has weekly and monthly overviews; prompts, including intentions and aspirations; weekly highs and lows; places to describe a perfect day or favorite attribute about yourself; as well as plain pages for free writing.
Gabriela Herstik’s Embody Your Magick: A Guided Journal for the Modern Witch ($15) is a great option for the witches among us, to guide you through your spiritual practice and get to know yourself a little better.
Focus on the Body and Soul
It’s important to focus on your mental health during this time, but you should also give adequate attention to your body too.
Some people work out to relieve stress and feel calm. I am not one of those people, but I do take their word for it. WIRED senior writer Adrienne So put together a guide called How to Work Out From Home that will help even the laziest and most out-of-shape (me) to get moving.
If working out sounds more stress-inducing than stress-relieving, but you still want to stay somewhat active, try yoga. It melts away my stress and helps build muscle.
Whether your muscles get sore from working out or from slouching over your computer for the 100th day in a row, a Theragun might help fix you right up. We tested most of the company’s new lineup to find our favorites, with the Theragun Elite ($400) coming out on top. It’s not cheap, but it has the quietest motor and an ergonomic handle for hitting the hard-to-reach spots yourself. For a more affordable option, we also like Sharper Image’s Powerboost Deep Tissue Massager.
Clear Your Mind
Meditation is an extremely beneficial tool to feel calm. We are constantly plugged-in with what’s going on in the world, and right now it’s weighing on us. Setting aside time to meditate, with your phone on silent, will give you at least a few minutes of peace.
All you need to effectively meditate is yourself and a quiet place. But it can be hard to turn off your thoughts and focus on the task at hand, so there are tools to help you get started. The Headspace app (iOS and Android) has an easy-to-follow beginner’s course and a decent free library of guided meditations. Unplug (iOS and Android) doesn’t have a free version, but there is a seven-day trial. Both have super short courses, which are perfect for when you’re in desperate need of a cooldown.
I love the Core Meditation Trainer ($150), a small device that uses vibrations to help focus your mind and breath as its connected app walks you through practices. Unfortunately, it’s expensive (and unlimited access to the app costs extra), especially for an activity that doesn’t really need accessories.
For a full-body reset, try an acupressure mat like this bundle from Bed of Nails ($180). Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles it uses firm plastic plates—or “nails.” It’s a lot less scary than it sounds. The pressure those nails create purportedly releases endorphins in the body. While I can’t confirm this, it has helped ease my stress.
Whenever I’m feeling stuck, I get my cards read to give myself some clarity. Tarot is what you make it—it can be a calming and spiritual (however you define that) experience, especially if you’ve got something weighing heavily on you. It is not a crystal ball.
Getting your cards read by a professional is a great experience, but you can also learn the ropes yourself. It’s not going to be easy, but if there was ever a more perfect time to dedicate many hours to learning the ins and outs of what a tarot deck holds, it’s when you can’t go out for non-esssential reasons.
If you want to start with a physical deck, I recommend the classic Rider Waite Deck ($20). It’s the easiest to learn, with most resources referencing it. If you’ve already got the basics down and want to explore other, more beautiful decks, these are some of my favorites:
Sip Some Tea
I associate coffee with getting out of bed in the morning. Tea, on the other hand, I associate with relaxing at the end of the day, usually curled up in a robe or soaking in a warm bath. So when I brew myself a cup, I know it’s time to wind down.
But being a more prolific coffee drinker, I never know what tea to get. That’s where a Sips By ($15) subscription comes in. First, you take a quiz to figure out the types of tea you might be interested in—pick your favorite flavor profiles, select caffeinated or caffeine-free, loose leaves or bagged—and then you’ll receive a curated selection of four teas (I chose bagged tea and got four bags of each, equaling about 16 cups altogether). If you choose loose leaves, you’ll get filters as well.
After trying them, you can rate the teas so the next month’s box will be more in line with your preferences. It’s not the best option for experienced tea lovers, but now’s a good time to try out some calming brews if you haven’t before.
Try an Epsom Salt Bath
There is nothing else that makes me feel as good as a warm bath. If everyone took two baths a day, I’m pretty sure we’d achieve world peace.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and have a bathtub, fill it with warm water and Epsom salts (Dr. Teal’s with lavender is my favorite). Light some candles and pour yourself a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Now close your eyes and try to turn your brain off for a few minutes.
Use a Weighted Blanket
When all else fails, crawl into bed and pull 20 or so pounds over your body and breathe. Scream into your pillow if necessary.
We rounded up our favorite weighted blankets at various budgets. For me, the Yaasa ($249) has been a godsend. It feels sufficiently weighty, even compared to blankets I tested that weigh more, and because it has an open-knit design it doesn’t get as hot underneath. For a more drapey and traditional-looking blanket, we also like the Casper Weighted Blanket ($161) and the Luna ($87).
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