The Things That Comfort Us In Times Of Extreme Stress

Between Hurricane Sandy and the election, I would classify the last two weeks as a time of extreme stress. Nothing I won’t be able to bounce back from, but I’ve had a few sleepless nights and a perma-knot in my stomach. Some of you have voiced your opinions in the comments, wondering how TheFrisky can write about Channing Tatum being the sexiest man alive or whatever, when there are things with so much more gravitas to going on.

I really thought about the answer to that question and I would like to respond. As a blogger here at The Frisky, and in my personal life, my goal every day is to carve out as many little pockets of meaning as I can. That may include tackling the existential crisis that arose when I was trapped in my apartment for days, or more WTF stuff, like that toddler who sucked a used condom on a playground, or the silly stuff, like the things on the Food Network that Winona and I find arousing. Ganache!

Whatever it may be, I think it’s important at challenging moments in life, and we all experience them, to turn to things that feel comforting to us. I understand that is different for every person and sometimes there’s no way to predict what the comforting things will be. I try not to question what soothes me, I just follow my nose and indulge. As a person who has struggled with depression in the past and someone who considers herself an extra-sensitive human being, this is really the thing that keeps me sane. It is a life philosophy that I stand by wholeheartedly.

Below, a few of the things that I’ve found soothing in this during time. I’m leaving wine, chocolate, friends and family off the list because, duh. Please share your comforts in the comments.

Judy Garland Live At Carnegie Hall. Whenever I am wading around in the depths of life, this album snaps me right back. I have been a Judy Garland fan since I was eight years old and in my first production of “Wizard of Oz.” What I find most interesting about her is that her personal life was an absolute mess, but she almost primarily sang show tunes and standards that were full to the brim with optimism. I feel the pinnacle of her optimism when I listen to her live performance at Carnegie Hall. My grandmother, who I never really knew, was a concert pianist. Her dream was to perform at Carnegie Hall. Because of her own difficult life circumstances (she spent most of her life institutionalized due to mental illness), she was never able to achieve that dream. When Judy sings, live at Carnegie Hall, I think of my grandmother. I think of the battle between despair and optimism and what kind of grit it takes for optimism to win. And how being optimistic is a discipline and a practice. This makes me feel uplifted. It gives me hope that one can choose optimism.

Documentaries about people with unusual life circumstances. The one I watched this week was called “Last Days Here.” I don’t really want to give too much away because YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT, but it was devastating, riveting, hopeful and unexpected all at the same time. It forced me out of the bubble of myself and I was able to fully immerse myself and empathize with another human being for two hours.

Cappuccinos with fancy foam. Yesterday, I got a cappuccino at the fancy coffee shop around the corner. It is the kind of place that makes little shapes with the espresso and charges way too much. I usually make my own coffee at home to save money, but I needed a pick-me-up, both emotionally and physically, so I ordered a cappuccino. It was delivered to me with a smile and an espresso heart. Ostensibly it didn’t taste any different than if I had gone to Starbucks, but there was something more personal about it that made it worth the extra dollar.

Chicken Festival. There’s this hole-in-the-wall rotisserie chicken place in my neighborhood called Chicken Festival. It’s tiny. You can barely fit in there and most of their space is taken up by a specially constructed rotisserie contraption. A man with a rubber glove injects the chicken with some magical flavor potion and keeps moving the chickens around the spit. They play only mariachi music while you wait. It’s like going to a tiny little chicken party. I am convinced that it’s the best tasting chicken in the whole world. And they serve it with a special home-made hot sauce, which is like, the only thing that could make me like it more.

“No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige. This is my go-to song for whenever I need it. I know that when I’m done listening to this song, I will feel different than when I started. I believe Mary J. Blige has said that this was the song she wrote when she got fed up with her life the way it was and decided to make a change. That’s really powerful stuff.

This clip from “Strangers With Candy.” Amy Sedaris is my favorite comedienne. So, obviously, “Strangers With Candy” was one of my favorite shows of all time. There’s this episode where she decides to reclaim her virginity (even though her character is an ex-prostitute going back to high school in her 40’s). She goes out on a date with a jock and he wants  to have sex and she wants to have pizza. She gets into his car and starts chanting, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” Funniest five seconds of television ever.

What comforts do you turn to during times of stress or sadness? Share share share!