Back when things were normal (remember those days?) if you were feeling particularly stressed, you might grab cocktails with a friend, or dine solo at your favorite restaurant bar, or go see a movie at your neighborhood theater, or head to an extra-sweaty spin class. But since you can’t do any of those things right now, we decided to find you found you some at-home alternatives. We combed through the Strategist archives for the most zen-leaning items and asked professional destressers (including a yoga teacher, cannabis entrepreneur, and natural healer) for what they suggest for instant relief in these trying times.
While we’re talking anxiety-medication dupes, how about a lavender stick that Strategist contributor (and formerly sleep-deprived new mom) Sara Gaynes Levy dubbed “Ambien without the side effects”? You don’t even have to check with your doctor before combining the two.
If you need something stronger, Kirsty Godso, a Nike Master Trainer, applies Mineral Health Maison Recovery Salve every single night, “and wow does it work,” she says. “I do A LOT to my body during the day and this balm is a life saver. It focuses on reducing inflammation and repairing the skin.” She likes the combination of CBD and CBG (cannabigerol) in this formula. (If sweat is still your go-to stress reliever, Godso is currently offering yoga and fitness instruction on her Instagram. Nike also announced that its premium fitness content is now free for anyone who downloads the app.)
If you’re CBD-curious but don’t want to spend so much cash, Verena Von Pfetten, co-founder of cannabis magazine Gossamer, swears by Ananda Hemp’s Spectrum Salve for her “morning dose of mobility.” “I’ve been waking up every morning with the distinct and painful inability to move my neck or shoulders,” she says. “A small scoop goes a long way.” (Ananda Hemp is also where Von Pfetten’s company sources cannabinoids for their sleep tincture Dusk.)
An acupressure mat is no substitute for the real thing, but if you can’t visit your acupuncturist for the foreseeable future, it will help bridge the gap. This mat can provide a sense of calm and relaxation after a long day spent working from your couch, and writer Lori Keong also found it to be effective for her more intense back and neck aches, should you find yourself dealing with stress knots.
According to Yana Shept, one of the most popular photos she’s ever posted on @gelcream, her Instagram account dedicated to non-sponsored beauty reviews, “is a picture of my hand with coiled metal rings on three of my fingers.” Beyond being photogenic, though, these acupressure rings really work. Shept says they’ve helped her through some health and mental problems, and she turns “to the rings whenever I’m feeling blah or just want a little me-time moment on the go.”
Magnetic stress balls
If that doesn’t take care of your fidgety extremities, try these mashable magnets. They come recommended by Strategist editor Katy Schneider, who describes her fingers as “tiny, incorrigible beasts that cause actual, real-life damage: pick[ing] scabs until they bleed, unravel[ing] the sleeves of expensive sweaters.” She likes them because they’re “satisfyingly moldable” and “they’re not particularly noticeable, the way a fidget spinner is — you can hide them in your palm easily while using them.” She played with them through a dinner party undetected, but we think they’d be ideal for Zoom calls and FaceTime chats, too.
Natalie Toren bought this massage pillow at designer Leslie Aitken’s L.A. studio after hearing that Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon and actress Dree Hemingway were fans. She wrote that it feels “as if real human fists were kneading me,” and likens the massage nodes to “hot stones a masseuse might use for an actual spa treatment.” Since it will likely be a bit until you can have an actual spa treatment, this is the next best thing.
Editor’s note: Toren’s Etekcity model is sold out, but this well-reviewed shiatsu massager is nearly identical.
Last year, Strategist writer Karen Iorio Adelson tested weighted blankets, which are said to relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality — something we could all use right about now. After Adelson concluded that “Baloo’s thoughtful design makes it the most comfortable and aesthetically pleasing one of the bunch,” the blanket quickly became a bestseller among Strat readers.
During stressful times, “you want to be cozy and rooted and surrounded by things that make you feel good,” says Kate Posch, a teacher at Sky Ting Yoga. That means wearing things that make you feel good, too. “I love my Parachute bathrobe,” says Posch, adding that she’s especially impressed by its supersoft Turkish cotton. (It’s also Oeko-Tex certified, meaning it’s free of harmful bleach or dye.) But don’t just take her word for it: Parachute’s robe once had a waiting list that was 1,900 people long. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. You can buy it now, no queue necessary.
Luxe bath products
“I use Aesop Geranium — cleanser, lotions, oils — both at the start and end of the day,” says Posch. “Lately I’ve been bookending my days with a hot shower. I need that time to just be, to breathe, to have a cleansing practice.” She notes that she’s been showering twice a day not only to rid her body of germs, but also to “wash the shit that’s no longer serving a purpose in my brain.”
Godso says that “having a scent signal to you that it is time to wind down and relax is incredibly important.” She buys Maison Louis Marie candles, but notes that it’s less about a particular scent, and more about the ritual of lighting a candle. “As much as morning routine is important, so is evening routine. Appealing to the different senses is a good way to calm the system down and prepare for a good night’s sleep.”
This cannabis-odor-eliminating room spray doesn’t help with stress, per se —but it helps with something that may. “I’m not saying everyone’s smoking more weed — and we should probably talk about curbing our communal smoke intake for the foreseeable future — but if you are, and you don’t want your home to smell like a college dorm room, Veil’s the way to go,” says Von Pfetten, adding that it also “looks very nice on a shelf-scape next to an overpriced candle and a horizontal stack of books.”
Deborah Bagg, founder of Juniper Yoga in Brooklyn, has been using Rescue Remedy for 25 years. “It’s an incredible combination of flower essences that works with fear, impatience, and focus,” she says. She puts ten drops in a glass of water, and says it tastes a little bit like a cocktail. “I’m so tuned into it at this point that, for me, it’s immediately comforting.”
“I burn incense, especially sage,” says Bagg, “because the smell is so grounding and purifying and clearing. I’ve been using it since I was 16. Now I’m 40.” She adds that since we’re spending so much time in our homes — and using so many harsh chemicals to keep our spaces clean — “we have to clear energy constantly, now more than ever.”
Lisa Levine, founder of Maha Rose, a healing studio in Brooklyn, says that when we’re in the midst of anxiety — like now — “the brain contracts, so we’re not able to see beyond the stress.” Tarot cards, she explains, can help you think beyond your current circumstances. “Even pulling one card might show us an aspect of the situation that we’re not able to access ourselves because we’re just too stressed.” (n.b. Levin’s studio currently offers tarot classes online.)
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