No one needs me to state that the world is looking a bit odd at the moment. Every day brings news the likes of which I would have thought unimaginable only a few weeks ago. I work in healthcare, so the virus is currently my job, but it also dominates my private life. Normally I like to switch off after work with a visit to the cinema, an exercise class, maybe some drinks with friends. One by one, activities I always took for granted are no longer possible. And that’s just an inconvenience for me, a healthy adult with little to fear. It’s the state of the world at large, and the fate of the many vulnerable people it’s home to, that’s keeping me awake at night.
But panic has never helped any situation get any better, and I do believe it’s important to switch off from the news every now and then, if only to stop yourself from going mad with fear. So I’m sharing some things and activities that help me cope. None of them can change anything whatsoever about the state the world is in. But they make me feel better, if only temporarily, and therefore more able to help others. Some of them are pretty, others keep you fit, some are very silly. All of them are useful to me. Maybe they’re useful to others too.
An online(legal!) compendium of free open access culture, from documentaries and music to online courses. Browse art and ebooks from around the world to your heart’s content, pick something you like the looks of and be prepared to be surprised.
If, like me, exercise is one of the few things that calms your agitated mind, Fitness Blender’s got you covered. From quick beginner videos to advanced strength training, there’s something to suit everyone. Many videos don’t require equipment or are low impact, so you won’t ever annoy your neighbours if you live in a flat.
With the word as divided as it is, now’s the time to learn a new language to help you communicate with others. The Duolingo app is playful, easy to use, and helps you to learn through colourful games. It’s incredibly addictive, especially if you find yourself heading the weekly leader board, and you can invite your friends to play along.
With travel restrictions in place, many of us may see our holiday plans disrupted. And while nothing beats the real thing, Atlas Obscura is a lovely website to explore the more obscure corners of our planet. Keep an eye out for Gastro Obscura, its sister website, which focuses on weird and wonderful food and drink enjoyed by people across the globe.
Yoga with Adriene
I hate people who recommend yoga as a cure for everything, but I have to admit that Adriene’s easygoing teaching style never fails to cheer me up. And I keep coming back for Benji, her dog, who steals the show in many of her videos. Oh, and there are some lovely breathing exercises and meditation videos to try as well. Give it a go, even if you’re sceptical, like I was at first.
Red Cross App
Not a replacement for the emergency services, obviously, but this app teaches you what to do when someone chokes, loses consciousness, or has a cardiac arrest, and needs urgent help. Take quizzes to help you learn and consider downloading the sister app for babies and children too. You’ll never know when you’ll need it.
This is a weird corner of Youtube I really got into last year, when I was going through a rough patch and couldn’t focus on any of the things I’d normally do to cheer myself up. Walking videos are exactly what it says on the tin: videos made by people who are walking, sometimes for hours on end. They’re weirdly soothing to watch when you’re anxious, overwhelmed, and just need something to stare at.
This is a profoundly silly little website, but I feel we could all use a laugh at this point. Have you noticed those cheesy quotes some people litter their Instagram with? Here’s a bot that’ll generate them for you, complete with sugary background image. The results are often funny, sometimes downright weird, and occasionally oddly appropriate in crazy times.
Khan Academy App
An online learning app that teaches you anything from astronomy to music. From beginner to advanced, it’s all free, and you’ll pass hours learning in a way that couldn’t feel less like school.
100 Day Writing Challenge
Norwich-based writer Tim Clare doesn’t only write great books (try The Ice House), he also runs a wonderful podcast about writing. One particularly amazing project is his 100 Day Writing Challenge: 100 podcast episodes with tips and tricks, writing exercises, and motivation for amateurs and professionals alike. Ever if you’ve never written a poem or a story, give it a try: if Tim’s no-nonsense approach doesn’t stimulate your creativity, nothing will.
Image my own: Cromer Beach in brighter times