Staying at home is a small sacrifice during the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not without its challenges. How does one ward off loneliness in the absence of community? What can we do to keep anxiety at bay during such an emotionally fraught time? How do we fill the hours stretching out before us, and use this time to make connections, pursue long-neglected hobbies and discover new ones, and inject a little positivity and calm into our everyday lives?

Introducing The Unwind, a new, recurring feature in which Yahoo staffers share the ways we’re finding moments of peace, levity and inspiration during these trying times. From adopting soothing strategies that boost our mental health, to losing ourselves in virtual social calls, newfound passions and other joyous diversions, these are the things getting us through the quarantine. The days may feel uncertain, but beauty and bright spots abound.

As we reach back-to-school season and parents grapple with the prospect of returning their kids to the classroom, mothers, in particular, are facing intense pressure. On top of anxiety over COVID-19 and keeping their families safe, not to mention the usual strains and stress associated with parenthood, moms are carrying the burden of balancing full-time childcare during a pandemic with work and other responsibilities. With many women’s careers falling by the wayside and glaring gender disparities being exposed during these trying times, this edition of The Unwind is exploring the practical ways in which moms are coping. From family hobbies to that ever-elusive self-care, here’s how moms on our team are making their own well-being a priority.

For more, check out past editions of The Unwind.

Ariella Quatra swears by quiet, meditative walks in the woods. (Photo: Getty Creative stock photo)
Ariella Quatra swears by quiet, meditative walks in the woods. (Photo: Getty Creative stock photo)

Forest bathing

Forest bathing is for real! I’m fortunate to be near the redwoods and I’ve found that just a 30-minute walk is so restorative. Some days I listen to uplifting podcasts about spirituality, health or wellness from Oprah, Brené Brown or Danielle LaPorte; other days, a nostalgic Spotify playlist. But I find that walking without any technology or distractions provides a deep grounding meditation. For someone who finds sitting meditation challenging, walking alone in the woods with nothing but the sound of your breath reaps the same benefits. As a city dweller, I’ve even worn noise-canceling headphones with no audio, just to focus on the breath. Ariella Quatra, producer, Verizon Media

“Reset” days

No thanks to the pandemic, my plans to take a “real” summer vacation were upended. However, I have managed to take some “reset” days so that I can fully unplug from work during the week. Not having to rush to my laptop first thing in the morning or catch up on my to-do list in the evening has been refreshing. I’m also able to carefully plan mini-trips with my son to the fresh produce and flower market or Target during the least crowded times. Watching his face light up from excitement because he gets one-on-one time with mommy is an instant joy trigger. — Dana Oliver, Yahoo Life beauty director and managing editor of branded content

Mama app

My Google history over the past few months has been countless iterations of “mindful parenting” and “mental health apps for moms.” I’ve struggled to find the right resource for my lifestyle — some apps and newsletters felt too generic, or like another chore to add to my to-do list, and others seemed better-suited to a younger version of myself. (I don’t have boyfriend troubles — I’ve got baby troubles!) After downloading and deleting everything under the sun, I finally landed on Mama, an app created by Maven Mamas. Aesthetically pleasing and aimed at busy moms like myself, the app offers short meditation exercises, simple pick-me-up mantras for a quick mind reset, and articles that tackle the reality of seeking self-care amid the messiness of motherhood and <gestures at the general state of the world>. It feels inclusive, and strikes a nice balance between “aspirational” and “hey, maybe I can really do this for myself.” — Erin Donnelly, Yahoo Life news writer and editor

Quick pampering

Self-care has really taken a backseat the past few months due to a lack of routine and a full-time work-from-home situation with two kiddos under 4. What’s worked for me is small things and moments that don’t take a lot of time or effort. I fell in love with a botanical spray and roll-on oil from Mount Rose Alchemy, which was originally gifted to me for my birthday (bonus, 20 percent of proceeds from their “home as sanctuary kit” go to organizations grounded in mutual aid and health equity addressing COVID-19). I spray it on the bed in the evening and roll on my wrists, and it feels like a mini spa moment before slumber! If I can find an extra 15 minutes, I also enjoy the purifying charcoal mask from Beauty Counter. — Meghan Muniz, Verizon Media program manager, Diversity & Inclusion

Cindy Joung's family created this Batman-inspired craft. (Photo: Cindy Joung)
Cindy Joung’s family created this Batman-inspired craft. (Photo: Cindy Joung)

Family arts and crafts

Within the last year, we’ve seen our 4-year-old daughter’s artistic skills really develop, so I’ve been encouraging family art time as a way to unwind. One particular project we loved was a collaborative colored pencil piece, inspired by Chuck Close, the painter and photographer known for his portrait work. I studied art from a young age and all through college and have done similar projects many times in various art classes. I started by finding a simple image of a portrait on the internet — not telling my husband nor daughter who it was — and cut it up into squares, which I distributed at random to each member of the family. We colored in a pattern of our choosing on each square and when all the squares were completed, I put the individual pieces back together to reveal the subject of our portrait. Both my husband and daughter are fans of Marvel and DC superheroes so they were excited to see the final Batman reveal, and now we have a pretty cool piece of artwork to remember these unprecedented times. — Cindy Joung, Yahoo Life, Entertainment & News senior product manager

Online therapy

Like Michelle Obama, I, too, suspect I have low-grade depression amid the pandemic and uncertainty about schools opening up next month. (My young children will be doing “hybrid learning,” which experts recently called a “grand experiment.”) To talk it through and help me cope, I see a therapist every other week virtually. I found her on BetterHelp, an app I was drawn to because it has a flat monthly fee and automatically matches you with somebody after completing a questionnaire. That felt a lot easier than asking around for a good therapist, wading through my insurance benefits, inquiring about all their different rates and coordinating virtual visits. Who has the energy? My therapist has since gone into her own private practice but continues to see me virtually twice a month and answer emails in between if I need to work through a problem on the fly. I’ve also been spending less time on social media apps, and I put away my Kindle. I’m so easily distracted right now that hard-copy books are the only way I can stay focused for more than five pages and actually unwind at night. So I’ve bought a ton of actual, physical books — also a great way to support struggling neighborhood bookstores. — Lindsay Powers, Yahoo consultant and author, You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids

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