How to Stay Sane When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

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words by Maggie Buchmann

If you’ve been spending as much time on the internet as we have, you’ve probably come across the viral tweets of artists and innovators churning out their most famous work while under quarantine. Apparently Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” during the 17th century plague while Isaac Newton discovered calculus when the Great Plague of London forced him into social distancing in the 1600s. 

We understand that these tidbits of history can be motivating, but they also cast a judgmental eye on those who aren’t “making the most of their time at home.” The idea of #hustleculture and the glamorization of workaholism that’s become widely accepted in society can set one up for unsustainable expectations and contribute to unhealthy lifestyles. So the idea of carrying on as normal (if not better) post-COVID-19 outbreak is unrealistic and toxic to our emotional wellbeing. 

We also know that in times of stress, it’s nice to have options. Whether you’re bored, exhausted, or looking for mental stimulation other than coronavirus coverage, we’ve rounded up a list of suggestions that may offer some relief to help you regain control in a world of chaos.

There’s no judgment here if you just get done what needs to get done today. 

Just remember you don’t have to be uber productive during the COVID-19 outbreak. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health during times of social isolation and we would be more concerned if you weren’t affected by the situation. There’s no judgment here if you just get done what needs to get done today. 

Feed yourself. Sleep. Open a window. Breathe. And if you feel like it, go ahead and write the next great American novel. 



What you want to do:
Scroll Instagram. 
What you should do instead: Learn something new.

Social media platforms have become lifelines for human contact and staying up-to-date on the 24-hour news cycle in the era of #socialdistancing. But you can also find connection through reading, you know, actual books. Take a break from reality and get lost in a character’s story; immerse yourself in a deeply emotional experience and stimulate your brain in other ways that can help you destress, improve your memory, expand your vocabulary, or learn something new. You can check out the Momotaro reading list here

You can also dedicate that hour of scrolling to finally signing up for an online course you’ve been meaning to take and learn something new. Skillshare offers thousands of classes ranging from illustration to programming to freelancing. You’ll even receive two months free when you sign up now!

If you want something a little more collegiate, here’s a list of over 450 Ivy League courses you can take online for free for forever. Most of the classes can be taken at your own pace, so there’s no rush to memorize the ancient Greek philosophers in a week.

What you want to do: Drink an entire bottle of wine (or case of beer, or several shots of liquor). 
What you should do instead: Treat yourself to a spa day.

You might think that pouring yourself one (or four) more drinks than usual will help you relax and forget about the current state of society. And it definitely will...for a few hours. But is the hangover the next day worth it? Beyond the physical symptoms like a throbbing headache and packing away a giant bacon’egg’n’cheese bagel despite the nausea, the psychological effects of a hangover can last much longer. This “hangxiety” is triggered by the release of endorphins from alcohol followed by your eventual—and unavoidable—comedown. So while drinking alcohol might seem like the perfect solution to numb your distress, it won’t make it go away.

If you still want to destress without any adverse effects, why not try an at-home spa day? Hit your skin’s reset button with Youth to the People’s Superfood Facial Mask. Afterwards, lock in the moisture by smoothing on our hydrating Tonic using an at-home circulation boosting facial massage technique from Jen Stoeckert of @minimalbeauty

You can also treat yourself or your partner to a mini body massage when you’re feeling tight. If you can’t muster the energy, brew a calming cup of herbal tea, and take a long soak in an 
Oil For Everywhere infused bath.


What you want to do: Eat all the takeout & sugar.
What you should do instead: Cook a (well-rounded) meal.

It seems everyone’s forgetting that our stoves, refrigerators, and freezers still work. We get that you want to minimize trips to the grocery store and the convenience of food delivery and pre-packaged options is definitely more appealing than the thought of cooking from scratch, but you can’t subsist off of pizza and pasta forever. What you make up for in efficiency, you lose in proper fuel for your body. 

If you’re not someone who usually cooks or you’re dealing with your kids 24/7, order take-out (no judgement) once in a while. But you can still get the convenience of delivery without the hidden sugars with food box subscriptions so you don’t have to worry about keeping your cupboards stocked. There’s no time like the present to teach yourself or your kids the basics of cooking while turning a “chore” into a positive learning experience. Take a look through this Twitter thread on basic food safety and take some free online classes

It’s also a good idea to have snacky foods on hand when hunger strikes, but keep them whole and healthy like a handful of nuts, apples and no-sugar added peanut butter, or carrots and hummus. Just remember to thoroughly wash all your fruits and vegetables before consuming!  


What you want to do: Binge on Netflix (or Hulu, or...)
What you should do instead: Add some art & culture.

Go ahead and catch up on or rewatch your favorite series, but when you’re wanting more mental stimulation, head to Google Arts & Culture, who partnered with 2,500 museums and galleries around the world to offer virtual tours from the comfort of your couch. You can also watch performances of the Met Opera for free or join a live-streamed concert and have a dance party in your living room.  

If you’ve got cabin fever, take the trek through Yellowstone or Yosemite National Park or dive into a virtual tour of the Georgia Aquarium or Monterey Bay Aquarium

 

What you want to do: Stress the f*ck out. 
What you should do instead: Masturbate.

Because why not? Masturbation can be incredibly empowering as you learn about your body and grow more in tune with the mind-body connection. Even better, the rush of endorphins and oxytocin released after an orgasm promotes deeper sleep and can help reduce stress while lowering cortisol levels.

Masturbation is also quite literally the safest way to get off. Just be sure to wash your hands and sanitize any toys before and after use. We especially love the Lewand Deax—a 6-speed waterproof handheld vibrator that gives you 15 vibration options to choose from so you’ll never get bored. 

For more intimate encounters with your partner(s) at home or afar, head over to Bustle where CEO Lindsay Wynn gives some tips to keep your sex life interesting while social distancing. 


What you want to do: Sleep.
What you should do instead: Sleep!

The work hard, play hard lifestyle doesn't embrace the necessity of adequate sleep, even though we’ve heard time and time again how important it is. Poor sleep quality has been linked to depression, lowered concentration and productivity, and poor diet and lifestyle habits.

Sleep helps the body repair, regenerate, and recover, and will help your body fight off or prevent infection. Studies show that even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function, which you should be taking extra care of at the moment. So if you're tired, it’s totally okay to hit snooze or curl up for a nap in the sun.



For more online resources head over to this comprehensive guide (with an outline included!) to help you be more productive if working from home, find things to do while not working, care and homeschool your children, and stay informed. 

If you find that you’re struggling with your mental health and need someone to talk to, 7 Cups will connect you with caring listeners, and if you need trained mental health support, please visit the Crisis Text Line.

  

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