It’s been a really stressful few years. We’ve all been living through pandemics (plural!), political upheaval, economic awfulness — you name it. And this isn’t even mentioning the normal pressure of work and family. So how do you deal?
We asked the staff of The Verge to let us know how they cope with the anxiety and pressures of living in today’s world (including having to write about these problems on a day-to-day basis). We got a variety of answers, ranging from running and meditation to pulling weeds and creating chain mail.
In other words, here’s how some of us here at The Verge relieve our stress. Perhaps one of these will work for you — or you can let us know any strategies that have worked for you.
In the garden
There is absolutely nothing better than eating the first tomato you have ever grown. Not only will it be the sweetest, freshest tomato you have ever eaten but also it will be the product of months of watching something grow and grow and grow.
I love gardening (à la Oprah “I love bread”), and for the fourth year in a row, I have planted eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, and a whole host of herbs in my tiny Brooklyn backyard. In fact, my garden is the main reason I cannot work from home. I will spend all day out there obsessing over my magical green fortress. And while I think that most people look at plants and see a green thing destined for a dry death, my experience has taught me that all it takes to grow a thriving garden is watching YouTube videos and watering. I’m not kidding — Plant Tube has you covered, and I have found that weeding my garden often allows me to weed my mind as well. — Becca Farsace, senior producer
We rent a small attached house that has a very small garden just in front of it. (When I say small, I mean two patches of dirt, each about the size of a typical NYC bathroom.) Because I’ve never had the patience to deal with planting, watering, and mowing grass, I recently uprooted all the grass and other weeds that had been growing there and tried planting some sprigs of ivy with the hope that they would grow, thrive, and provide easy to maintain but nice to look at cover.
Well, it’s the middle of the summer, and the ground is indeed covered — not with the ivy (which is doing its best) but with weeds. Lots and lots of weeds, all of which appear like magic about five minutes after it starts to rain. A pain in the neck, right? But funnily enough, I’ve discovered that the process of going out and pulling weeds in order to clear the way for the ivy to grow is, well, very satisfying. I’m doing something that (a) needs to be done, (b) doesn’t demand any real brainpower (short of what it takes to distinguish a weed from an ivy plant), and (c ) helps me let off a little steam by pulling those damn weeds out of the ground. Great therapy, all told. — Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor
There is no normal way for me to introduce my stress-relieving hobby, so I won’t even try. I recently took up making chain mail jewelry and clothing. Yes, chain mail, as in what knights and other warriors used as protection in Ye Olden Days. I can earnestly say I haven’t been this relaxed in years.
This hobby falls into the larger category of Making Things, be that jewelry or clothing in general, but there’s something about the patience that chain mail designs require that soothes my worries. I enter an almost meditative state as I work on the patterns, and it feels good to see the progress I’m making as I go. I started with a kit from Chainmail Joe before just winging my designs entirely. I’ve only been at this for a few weeks, and I’ve already made so much jewelry. But now, I’m closing in on my first chain mail top — just in time for the Renaissance fair, too. It takes an absurd amount of hours to make metal clothing, I’ve learned, but that time passes quickly because it’s so relaxing. — Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager
Move and meditate
In times of great stress, the only thing that really helps me is exercising. For me, that mostly means running, but any kind of bodily movement works. Yoga, strength training, rowing, a nice long walk, a hike on the weekend, swimming in a pool — just anything that forces me outside of my overactive brain and into my body. I’ve never vibed with meditation apps or guided breathing, but exercise itself is meditative. Your only real focus is the next mile, the next rep, or the next flow. It’s gratifying to see yourself get stronger, and, sure, closing your rings does give you a dopamine boost.
The past three years have been the most stressful of my life, but all this exercise means I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. The 2020 elections? I was running 20 miles a week, lifting weights every other day, doing a 30-minute yoga flow in the mornings, and taking walks after dinner. After my mom died late last year, the main thing that kept me going was training for a half marathon. Anytime I felt sad or overwhelmed, I could just go out and run 10 miles. It didn’t end my grieving, but it did give me a much-needed break from it.
I know lots of people look at exercise as a huge chore, but Elle Woods was right. Exercise does give you endorphins, endorphins do make you happy, and I have no desire to murder my spouse. — Victoria Song, reviewer
My favorite way to relax, perhaps counterintuitively, is by going on a really long run. Saturday mornings are sacrosanct, when I often run for more than eight miles. My favorite route is a 10-mile trek that takes me on a local trail with an elevation gain of more than 1,300 feet, according to my iPhone’s Fitness app.
Whatever the distance, a long run gives me time and space to process whatever might be churning in my brain, and having to focus on every single step keeps me in the present. When I get home, I might be exhausted, but usually, I’ll be a lot less stressed than when I first stepped out the door. — Jay Peters, news writer
My go-to method of dealing with stress is to go completely offline. When I can, this means taking a hike. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m just walking on the dirt path by my house or doing a seven-mile trek through my favorite trail system. Forcing myself to just concentrate on walking and not a screen or the internet does wonders for how overwhelmed I feel. And while I may still be fretting about whatever it is that I’m stressed about, there’s no Slack messages, tweets about awful things, or anything else adding to it (either because I’m in an area with no service and literally can’t see them or because I can’t check my phone without tripping over a log or rock).
Ironically, my other method for ignoring the internet is very high-tech – it involves strapping a VR headset to my face and playing Beat Saber. While I think that my Quest 2 can technically access websites, they’re easy to ignore when the alternative is getting to do a little dance while swinging laser swords. — Mitchell Clark, news writer
I’m out of the habit right now, but I’ve used Headspace in the past for meditation and found it very approachable and adaptable. I’m way too anxious for the “sit and count breaths” style of meditation so I love that Headspace has guided meditations you can do while you’re walking, riding public transit, or even cleaning. You can choose the time length for your session, so it’s easy to fit in on a busy day. And naturally, you get the gamified excitement of extending your streak every day you meditate. It’s definitely the app to try if you feel like a meditation failure like I did. — Allison Johnson, reviewer
While my colleagues have already touched on exercising, I still feel compelled to share just how much it also helps me with stress (when I don’t let laziness and inertia get the better of me). In particular, I’ve recently found just how much doing consistent stretches every day helps me. I found some stretching techniques and poses from @movementbydavid on Instagram, and it’s been helping me build a new mini-routine for working on some of my personal trouble spots. When I’m at my best, I build off these daily stretches with running and / or at-home strength training. My routines are fairly simple, but they’re more than enough to get my muscles firing, and I always feel so much better afterward. The post-workout euphoric state is real, and it helps me feel focused and in better spirits. It’s a great feeling to make improvements over time, and it’s especially awesome to get that good muscle feeling nearly every day — as opposed to only feeling your muscles when there’s pain or stiffness.
I tell myself that consistency is better than intensity, and when I put in a good week of workouts, my stress levels are better kept in check. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto, writer, commerce
Just say no
Repeat after me: “I quit.”
Another one: “No.”
Look, a lot of us want to make other people happy, and we overburden ourselves and then stress about it. One easy way to stop stressing so much is to quit doing things that stress you out. Arguably that’s what happened recently! I think we called it The Great Resignation? Anyway, as Today in Tabs writer Rusty Foster likes to say, “You can always quit.”
Plus also, you don’t have to say yes to things. You can say no tactfully, if you so choose, but “no” often works just fine on its own.
So you need stress relief? Okay. What do you really need to do? What can you say no to? Leave the meditation and the relaxation drinks to the people who want to stay in the rat race. Give yourself more free time to daydream.
Oh, sure, you can be virtuous and resentful if you so choose. But you know who’s actually happy? Lollygaggers and refuseniks. — Elizabeth Lopatto, senior reporter