Not every part of life can be a cozy snooze, but being able to find times and places where you can relax is very important (most especially when you’re stressing). I’ve found some of the following areas to be helpful for me to tease out those moments of calm.
Find some music that you like and that helps you to feel calm. This could be your favourite albums or something specifically meant to evoke positive feelings. A few pieces that have been enjoyable for me in the last little while:
- State Azure
- Urban Dreams by Kebu
- In Other Waters by Amos Roddy
- In Time by Stellardrone
- Ambient Relaxation playlist on Spotify
Escapism and distraction aren’t great as long term solutions, but using them in moderation can give you a mental break. Some games (like Factorio or Civ) can gobble up hours and hours – that can be a challenge on its own, but sometimes it’s just what you need. Some games that I have found to be fun for passing some time recently:
- Spelunky 2
- Civilization 6
- Powerwash Simulator
I have done a relatively small amount of “real meditation”, but I have definitely found it to be effective. For me, guided meditation using apps has had the most impact. There are free videos you can find on YouTube or audio/podcast versions as well, but I find those tend to be very clickbait-y and try to cram in as many pseudoscientific buzzwords as possible. For me, the value of the process comes from getting into a state where you can let your mind wander to what it desires, then actively allowing those thoughts to pass you by. This can be especially helpful with reducing the occurrence of those times where you feel like you “can’t stop thinking” before you go to sleep.
A couple of apps that I’ve tried:
- It has a nice design and I think the recordings are well-made. I thought the structure of the app was good in that it helped introduce you to the ideas of meditation and also had areas for daily use once you were experienced.
- The “adaptive” features (you fill out a little survey about how things are going and then the next voice recording will reference those responses) felt a little forced at times, but it did make it feel more like you were interacting with the coach one-on-one.
- The downside to me is the cost. I’m still not ready to pay for their premium service at CAD $93/year (as of June 2023). They do offer fairly frequently to allow people to have a full year of their premium service for free, which is a very generous offer.
- The Medito app is not quite as polished as Balance, but it is offered by a non-profit and doesn’t charge a subscription fee. The audio is very good quality, and I think Medito is a very good option if you don’t want to pay for an app.
Something that stresses me out is loud, obnoxious noise from others like the inconsiderate stomping of an upstairs neighbour. If you can’t remove yourself from the noisy area, I’d suggest trying noise cancelling headphones and/or adding noise recordings (music services have a bunch of these for some reason, or use something like myNoise or Dark Noise) to block or cover up the sound so you aren’t thinking about it as much. I also try not to live in absolute silence and have some fan or air filter running to provide some real-world background noise.
Moving around and moving to a new location can help clear your mind. A nice 15 minute walk around the block can really help to reset your perspective and remind you that there is a whole world out there. This can be difficult to do when the weather is bad, but as someone who lives in the often-frozen Canadian prairies, it can still be done even if it’s cold and snowy outside – you just need to plan ahead and prepare a bit more!
Coupled with going outside, starting an exercise routine of any kind is a huge help. Similarly to going for a walk, it helps give you something else to focus on that also lets you improve yourself over time. That nervous energy will tend to diminish as you tire from the workout as well. I find that it’s much easier to go to sleep on a day where I’ve had a good workout.
Catch Up With Friends
If you’re geographically close enough to do it in person, get a drink or share a meal with one or more friends. Sitting around a table together and catching up is a one of my favourite things to do with friends. The limited size of the table also helps to keep the number of attendees from becoming too overwhelming. Large parties tend to drain me a lot more than chatting with a few friends over dinner and a drink or two.
If you aren’t in the same place, do video calls now and then! I’m bad at remembering to organize them regularly, but once the schedules finally all line up, it can be nearly as good as meeting up in person.
Make a List
Once you’ve found some things that help you relax, make a list (not unlike this one) that you can use when you need it. It’ll leave you with one less thing to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.