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How the Nerdist Staff Unwinds During Stressful Times

All of us deal with stress—many of us on a daily basis. And especially right now, during a national emergency, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to focus on the little things that bring us reprieve and peace. Anything that helps us focus on something other than the news or state of the universe and focus on the micro.

To inspire that feeling of calm, the Nerdist staff compiled this list of habits that we adhere to during moments of stress. From podcasts to audiobooks to ASMR and more, here are the ways we personally cope.

Harry Potter cast in the Great HallWarner Bros. Pictures

Meaghan Kirby: By most accounts, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a pretty bleak book. Voldemort is actively building an army. Hogwarts—and its students—are attacked by Death Eaters. Dumbledore dies. But whenever I’m feeling especially anxious or stressed, it’s one of my favorite books to turn to. For all its darkness, the book is full of bright moments (and Ginny gets some of her best material). When I’m in need of relief, I turn to the middle of the book, beginning at Chapter 13. In the midst of a lot of chaos—wedged between Katie Bell’s cursing and Ron Weasley’s poisoning, and honestly, a bit beyond—Harry and co., acutely aware of the danger looming above, are just trying to live their best lives. They don’t downplay the danger around them, but they’re still teenagers aiming for a semblance of normalcy.

It’s a section of the novel I revisit whenever I need to slow down or am looking for an escape, either pulling out my old hard cover or seeking out the soothing voices of Jim Dale or Stephen Fry—depending on the audiobook version available.

Dan Casey: Instead of frantically refreshing Twitter or staring at the never-ending doom tidings scroll across the bottom of the screen on CNN while you slowly dissociate and your skeleton tries to leap out of your body leaving behind naught but a loose pile of skin, take some time—and maybe an edible or two, if that’s your thing—and watch Slow TV. This is exactly what it sounds like: a genre of videos that are slow, methodical, mesmerizing in their simplicity. Whether you want to lose yourself in a train chug-chug-chugging along the tracks in Norway’s Arctic Circle, sailing across the open water, or taking a walk through the streets of Tokyo, Slow TV lets you kick back, relax, and experience life at a more relaxing pace all without leaving the comforts of your home.

Andrea Towers: Unsurprisingly for anyone who knows me or my profession, my method of dealing with anxiety and stress is to watch my favorite television shows and movies or read my favorite comics, even if it’s something I’ve seen or read for the 100th time. I find nothing more calming than sitting on my couch with Lord of the Rings in the background (the extended editions, obviously) and hearing familiar music from something that contributed to a formative part of my life.

Cosplay has also become a hugely important way for me to calm my mind—either working on putting together an outfit I have planned (figuring out how to build something, scouring and bookmarking sites online to buy clothing or wigs) or simply putting on a costume for the hell of it and taking some cute selfies in my apartment. Nothing like getting out of your skin and into another to make you feel like you’re escaping the world.

Eric Diaz: This is maybe not the healthiest way of dealing with stress, but one thing I can do when I’m too freaked out to venture outside is online shopping. Hunting for hard-to-find Funko Pops on eBay is a welcome distraction for me when things have gone insane.

Tai Gooden: My main stress and anxiety reducing activities are coloring with my kids, meditating with grounding stones or love stones like selenite and rose quartz, snuggling my rabbit Kobe, and working in my small flower garden. I also journal or brain dump… just get all the feelings and stuff out and onto a page. They don’t have to make sense or flow, and it helps to clear out my mind.

Han Solo is surrounded in the forest of Endor in a scene from Star Wars Battlefront II.Lucasfilm/EA Games

Kelly Knox: There’s something soothing about blasting stormtroopers… and rebels. Star Wars Battlefront II is where I go when I want to disconnect from the real world and just focus on the single task of keeping the galaxy safe. (It’s no wonder that I have literally hundreds of hours logged into the game!) If multiplayer isn’t your thing, even just playing Story Mode or Arcade in offline mode can be a huge stress relief. Focusing on bad guys you can actually defeat is a simple comfort that can take your mind off your current troubles for just a little while.

Kyle Anderson: Comedy podcasts have always been a great source of respite for me. For my money, the undisputed king of the podcast is Paul F. Tompkins. His general vibe, his comedic sensibility, and honestly his voice is perfect for the medium. In this age of uncertainty, I’ve gone back to a monthly podcast he and accompanist Eban Schletter did between 2010 and 2012, The Pod F. Tompkast. Each episode is like a calming comedy comforter. While Mr. Schletter tickles the piano forte, Mr. Tompkins riffs about whatever stream of consciousness ideas pop into his brain in between pre-taped segments.

What segments? Well. “The Great Undiscovered Project” details a strange fictional collaboration between several real-life celebrities (all played by Tompkins); various live sketches from his former Largo variety show, The Paul F. Tompkins Show; and a conversation between Tompkins and one of his silly celebrity friends, though it’s almost always the hilarious Jen Kirkman. It makes for an hour or two of fun to take your mind off of stress and literally everything else happening in the whole wide world.

Amy Ratcliffe: I recommend meditation for stress, and if you don’t know where to start, I recommend the Calm app. They have 10-15 minute daily guided meditations you can easily fit into your day. Plus, they offer a library of relaxing nature sounds and also sleep stories read by celebrities. Try the free version for some guided meditations, some nature scenes, and a breathing guide. You can upgrade to an annual subscription for more resources.

For free guided meditations, I use UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center recordings.