As we’ve adjusted to life under lockdown, a common message is one that encourages people to pursue new hobbies and try new things with all their sudden downtime at home. That might work for some people, but for others can cause unnecessary stress. The Earth itself is showing the effects of this slowdown, as we’ve all heard the silver lining stats about a decrease in air and water pollution. That takes away none of the stressful reality, but it does point toward steps we can take to improve our relationship with the planet that sustains our lives. 

With that in mind, we’re encouraging the slowdown. Of course we support trying new things and looking for new creative outlets during this time, as well as binging our favorite shows and keeping up with everyone through video chats. But we also support doing nothing. Letting ourselves relax. Tuning the news out. Spending too long in the tub with an extra glass of wine. It also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month, and taking care of our mental health has maybe never been more important than now, so here are some ways to stay sane amidst the expectations.

Let go of them.

You’ve probably seen a meme that says something about how if you haven’t learned a new skill by the end of the quarantine, you’re doing something wrong. We disagree. That completely ignores the potential stress in forcing productivity at a time when the world is in such flux. If you’re feeling confident and excited about trying something new, by all means, go for it. But don’t let yourself be guilted into it. It’s perfectly normal and acceptable to just chill out right now. Focus on getting through each day – no guilt, no pressure. Tackling your dream project can wait another day.

Turn off the news. 

The news has become more top-on-mind than ever and the numbers are overwhelming: death tolls, peak predictions, endless speculation about the future. While many are finding comfort in staying informed, just as many are finding that regular news consumption is greatly increasing anxiety. Of course there is power in knowledge, but a neverending stream of updates is just as likely to stress you out as calm you down. Our advice? Give yourself a 10-15 minute window to spend on the news, then turn it off. Focus on what you can control, like helping to stop the spread by staying indoors as much as possible, finding comfort in that instead of concentrating on news that is constantly changing and beyond our control.

Listen to calming music. 

Your environment at home is another thing in your control. Listening to music is an activity with so much mood-altering potential. It can soothe you, distract you, comfort you… the list goes on. We’re loving the six calming Spotify playlists compiled by Allure, which are separated into categories based on mood, from the aforementioned playlist to help you calm down, as well as one to help you sleep, another for chill vibes, and more.

Indulge your most laid-back side.

Whether it’s taking a leisurely walk through the park or spending an entire Saturday binging your favorite guilty pleasure show, everyone has their ultimate chill-out activity. Think of it as a mental health day, except you’re taking a break from the whole world instead of your job. Not everything we do in life needs to have a measurable outcome or consequence. Sometimes, you just need to sit back, think about nothing, and watch people try to “blindly” fall in love.

Try niksen, the Danish concept of “nothing-ing.”

In the spirit of letting it be, we’re intrigued by the Danish concept known as niksen, which can be translated as “nothing-ing.” In many ways, niksen is a lot like mediation and mindfulness. In those practices, you’re encouraged to block out your thoughts, not to think at all. Niksen, on the other hand, is about embracing your thoughts, while doing nothing. It’s the difference between thinking about dinner plans while washing the dishes from lunch as opposed to thinking about dinner plans while gazing out at the red maples that line your street. 

Our wandering thoughts are usually accidental rather than intentional. When you practice niksen, it’s a choice to let your mind wander. Katie Krimer, a licensed social worker in New York City, puts it best when she says, “Niksen emphasizes that we’re human beings, not human doings.” Look out the window and let your mind roam. Experience the moment for what it is, not for what it was or could be. 

Sometimes, the best self-care is in the act of doing nothing at all. The world is changing beneath our feet and the collective stress of dealing with those changes is overwhelming on its own, let alone when paired with the pressure to be productive. Give yourself a pass and know that you are not alone. Together we’ll all be able to get through this.