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The Unwind: How we're finding calm, from gardening to 'joyful jigsaw puzzles'

Erin Donnelly
·4 min read
Yahoo staffers share their tips for switching off and prioritizing self-care. (Photo: Quinn Lemmers)
Yahoo staffers share their tips for switching off and prioritizing self-care. (Photo: Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to The Unwind, a 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 pandemic. The days may feel uncertain, but beauty and bright spots abound.

For more, check out past editions of The Unwind.

Dana Oliver is indulging her green thumb thanks to inspiration from #BlackGirlsWhoGarden. (Photo: Dana Oliver)
Dana Oliver is indulging her green thumb thanks to inspiration from #BlackGirlsWhoGarden. (Photo: Dana Oliver)


During the first six months of quarantine, I was overwhelmed with work and feeling trapped at home with a busy toddler. So I started searching for ways to bring a bit of the outdoors inside. It wasn’t long before I stumbled across the #BlackGirlsWhoGarden hashtag on Instagram and discovered accounts like @BlackGirlsGardening and @BlackMenWithGardens which showcased homes filled with lush plant life. Tapping into this online community of Black women and men who garden helped me to find calm in the midst of chaos. These experts also provided me with much-needed knowledge on taking care of my fiddle-leaf fig, Monstera, ivy and struggling peace lily. Shoutout to @BlkGirlGrnThumb who convinced me to rap to my plants — I’ve got an audience of greenery that listens to my bars without judgment. — Dana Oliver, beauty director and managing editor of branded content

Outdoor workouts

While working out from home has been a great mental and physical release for me throughout the pandemic and months of strict quarantine, outdoor activities have also been a go-to while the colder months have yet to kick in. Most recently in New York, outdoor workout studios, like Barry’s on the rooftop of the Moxy Hotel in the East Village, have been introduced to provide people with a safe and effective group workout. Whether doing the group fitness class — which provides clean equipment, motivating instructors and professional programming — or just going for a run outside, it feels great to get away from the indoor space where I’m spending most of my time and to be among others doing the same. — Kerry Justich, Yahoo Life writer

Lemonade Pursuits puzzles pledge to help users "enter a more mindful state." (Photo: Courtesy of Lemonade Pursuits)
Lemonade Pursuits puzzles pledge to help users "enter a more mindful state." (Photo: Courtesy of Lemonade Pursuits)

“Joyful jigsaw puzzles”

Puzzles have had a bit of a moment thanks to lockdown life, but do they actually have a mental health benefit? According to Lemonade Pursuits, its jigsaw puzzles help users “achieve inner clarity and unlock your creativity,” as “each design is meant to foster relaxation and inner peace.” And so I put it to the ultimate test, cracking open my 500-piece “Dream Garden” box during the first, completely off-the-rails presidential debate. Sorting my edge pieces and colors did indeed prove to be a pleasant distraction, and the next few evenings would find me hunched over the dining room table, savoring each satisfying snap as two pieces locked together. Upon finally finishing the botanical design — illustrated by Saara Soderlund, one of the women artists Lemonade Pursuits supports — I felt not only a huge sense of accomplishment but also peace. Puzzles may not be everyone’s idea of entertainment, but for a detail-oriented person like myself, examining various green splotches and losing myself to patterns and shapes worked wonders at tuning out <gestures at 2020>. — Erin Donnelly, Yahoo Life news writer and editor

Morning walks

Pre-COVID weekday mornings used to be so stressful — getting two kids to two different schools before driving across the city to get to work, all on my own. I’ve taken advantage of this new slower pace by getting outside for a stroll with the kids after breakfast and before I need to “log on” to work. We walk a few blocks to the park, where there are few people — just birds, ducks and squirrels. It sets a nice tone for the day and the kids get some energy out before work and school begins. — Ariella Quatra, Verizon Media producer

A succulents subscription

I have only owned one plant, one that I’m proud to say I’ve kept alive since August 2018. But staring at my jade plant for months on end made me want to add more greenery to my apartment. Still, I worried whether I’d be an attentive plant mom to more than one thriving shrub. I needed something low-maintenance but mood-boosting. Enter Succulents Box, with its apt tagline, “the plant subscription box you didn’t know you needed.” Thanks to a co-worker, four small succulents arrived at my door. While the packaging wasn’t perfect (my echeveria chroma crumbled upon arrival), I have three thriving plants that came in small pots and soil that now sit on my kitchen windowsill, soaking up light. One month in, they seem to have adjusted well to my home and have made my days just a little brighter. — Alexis Shaw, Yahoo Life and Entertainment news editor

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