Emphatic Hands #8: Less Stressed

I’m gonna start cross-posting my TinyLetters because, hey, why not? Here’s the latest edition, sent out today.  You can subscribe here!

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start regularly sending out this newsletter again. And a month into the new year, here I am, writing the first edition of Emphatic Hands in 2017. Seems about right.

I’m sure many of you have forgotten what this newsletter is about. (I think I did too.) So, here’s a refresher! In each edition, I recommend five things. Sometimes those things are related and sometimes they’re not. That’s it! Basically, this is just a space for me to share what I love with people who want to hear about that kind of thing.

This week, I’d like to share a few things that have been making me feel less stressed. I would write a whole “in these times” thing here, but we all know why everyone could feel less stressed now. So let’s just get straight to my recs!

What’s been making me feel less stressed?

Listening to A World On Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman on audiobook.

I just finished listening to this 33-hour (it’s about 1,000 pages IRL which I know because I own a physical copy) performance of Amanda Foreman’s much-lauded history of the Civil War. Was it the most exciting book I’ve read/listened to? Certainly not. But there are so many good nuggets in it that I knew every time I put it on, even if I zoned out for a little bit, something delightful – or, in some cases, horrifying, because this was about the Civil War – would pull me back in. I recommend this audiobook particularly for commutes and listening to before bedtime.

Playing a kind of massive Brian Eno playlist on repeat.

Of all of the music I’ve gotten into as an adult (like as an actual adult in my late twenties), I’ve been most consistently rewarded by listening to and interacting with the work of Brian Eno. There’s just…so much. And it’s all…so good. I could write a lot about the many things I love about Eno or my favorite albums and songs, but I’ll save that for another time or venue. Today, I want to recommend listening to Eno as a tool for combatting bad feelings. As the father of ambient music, he has made an actual fuckload of music to chill out to. (As well as some great rock music that is just as good to chill to.) Which is why I recommend Spotify’s “This Is: Brian Eno” playlist, particularly for listening to on big headphones when you’re just trying to get your g.d. work done and people won’t leave you alone or for when you want to go on a nice walk to clear your mind.

Watching Top Chef: Charleston.

The thing about Top Chef is, now that it’s in its fourteenth season, there aren’t really too many surprises. Those of us who have watched every season pretty much know what to expect. (Padma likes spicy food! Tom hates okra! Richard Blais still shows up occasionally! Restaurant Wars! Etc.) And this is why it’s a comfort to me. There are still some surprises, like cheftestants from past seasons coming back, people behaving badly or worse than you would expect, or favored chefs stumbling on challenges you assumed they would nail. But I know that I’m going to be surprised occasionally. A that’s what I love about this show. You can expect the unexpected (but definitely also a lot of the expected). I recommend watching Top Chef: Charleston after a long day, while eating very silly food like microwaveable macaroni and cheese, or on a Saturday morning while you’re wrapped up in a blanket and drinking your coffee.

Consuming just enough news.

I can’t remember a time when there’s been this much news like, everywhere, all the time. My Facebook feed is mostly news, the New York Times sends me like 15-20 breaking news alerts every day, and even my gym, which has never before played any news channel on the TVs mounted above the treadmills, is all CNN all the time. Based on how much people have been telling me that they feel like the end of the world is nigh and that they’re constantly stressed and sick, I would like to recommend consuming just enough news to satisfy your desire to feel informed, but not so much that it’s literally making you ill. I know that everyone has a different threshold, so I’m not saying you should limit yourself to these two things only, but I have been finding that simply reading The New York Times’ “Morning Briefing” while I’m eating my breakfast and watching VICE News provides me with a decent enough overview of what’s going on in the world. And from there, I choose what other news I’d like to explore for myself instead of clicking on every link that gets thrown at me on the internet all day. (Also, I recommend just…staying away from Twitter.)

Sleeping with flannel sheets.

A lot of people don’t like flannel sheets. (Or at least it seems that way to me?) I would like to tell those people, as well as the people who simply don’t have flannel sheets, that they are missing out. If it were up to me, I would have flannel sheets on my bed all year long. In fact, I did have flannel sheets on my bed (almost) all year long from childhood until I moved into a dorm room that was not air conditioned. Anyway, my point is, flannel sheets are so cozy and waking up in flannel sheets always makes me feel happy, which makes the start to my day better, which makes me less likely to feel stressed. And thus, I recommend that everyone go out and buy a set of flannel sheets.