Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Therapy

There are days when I feel like I won’t make it to the end without yelling at someone. Between working with the general public, being the mother of a now-toddler, driving on the highway on a daily basis and reading about stupid people doing stupid things, these days come often. If I had to describe myself in one word, that word would not be “patient”.

I’m writing this at 1:30 am because I’m sitting up crocheting (and because I’ll be at work when my AI is supposed to go up). Crocheting is how I relax these days. I’m on my 4th project since the beginning of November, and don’t see it taking much longer than a few days to complete (time permitting). Then I’ll start another. I don’t do it for money. Yarn isn’t expensive and it costs me nothing to sit and make something. Sure, my hand and wrist ache after a long evening of hooking (ha) but it’s entirely worth it for the calmness it instills in my mind.

My plan this evening, as every evening, is to crochet until the baby wakes to eat. Then I’ll lay in bed with her and go to sleep. And I’ll happily do it again tomorrow night.

Do you have a winding-down routine? What’s your go-to activity when you feel overwhelmed and like you just need something familiar and calming?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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  1. Ah, my glorious history of self-medicating. A few favorites:

    1) Food. Usually bad for me food at a late hour. I enjoy sitting in a diner, eating greaseball food, listening to my music, and reading. It’s especially nice if the waitress is pretty, and I’m a good tipper if you keep my drink full… at one IHOP, I had to explain to the manager what someone did to get only 20% out of me, instead of my usual flat $5 (on a $10-12 bill).

    2) Music. I’ll sit down with headphones in and cycle through music until I find something that matches my current mood… then see where shuffle takes me. I don’t make apologies for skipping something as being wrong for the moment, but some songs will consistently help my mood… Mark Seibert’s “The Magic Meadow” from Quest for Glory I, and Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita”, which I refer to as “my three minute vacation”… just sit there and listen to the guitar. Other times, what I need is to scream along with the Geto Boyz “Die Motherfucker!”

    3) Just getting out. Again, usually combined with music, the simple “get out of the house and head west on 290” plan works pretty well. Around the driving, the music, and the relatively bland scenery as suburbia fades to subruria, I get distracted from whatever I’m pissed about.

    4) Gaming. Sometimes, this is going into a video game and just beating the crap out of things (The “I fast-travel to Vault 3” prescription). Other times, it’s taking down RPG books and flipping through them, looking at mechanics and playing around with ideas.

  2. I have two main things: reading science fiction, and playing really cheesy mindless video games, like Doom 3.

  3. I’ve got a number of things too, but the biggest ones I can think of are:

    1) Tea. I’m very ritualistic about tea – not any culture’s established ritual, but just my own methodical preparations. Then I sit on the couch under a blanket with my cat on my lap and I just… zone out.

    2) Wandering. I like to go someplace far away from where I spend most of my time, usually to a bar (either an old favorite or a new exploration), and sip a beer. Alone, most often, not because I don’t like company but because I have more fun in bars when I can just people-watch and crack jokes with the bartender.

    3) Cook. This is the big one. The more stressed out I am, the more elaborate the meal. Particularly bad days have resulted in handmade eggplant ravioli with white wine-tomato sauce and mini lemon-almond souffles for dessert.

  4. I’m a worry-eater, but that’s not an unwinding mechanism, so… let’s see:

    1) Music. Headphones on, start wandering around my *mumble mumble* gigabytes’ worth of rock, J-pop, soundtracks and whatnot. It’s not about the style or artist, it’s all about the “feel.” If I need to unwind, it’s probably “music for action-movie set-pieces.” (I’m not a hipster, but you still probably haven’t heard of most of what I like best.)

    2) Games. I might hop into City of Heroes and issue some beat-downs upon well-deserving thugs and miscreants, or I might jump into Unreal Tournament and explode things. It depends on what kind of carnage I need at the time.

    3) Walking. Sometimes getting out and away is the best relaxant. I enjoy wandering around, it’s decent exercise, and I think far more clearly when in motion.

  5. Sure, my hand and wrist ache after a long evening of hooking

    You’re doing it wrong. /enter rim shot here

    Seriously, I do ambigrams. Most people know what those are by now (if not, google pics) but I was doing them before they were cool. (and before Dan Brown sullied their name)
    There is nothing quite like the feeling of creating one that is easy to read and stylistic consistant. I try to match the style to the particular word (I do lots of names) to keep from getting too predictable.

  6. Knitting is my regular therapy. I give away the vast majority of what I knit. Unfortunately I have expensive tastes in yarns…

    And, spinning. OMFSM, spinning. I got my spinning wheel out Sunday and spun some gorgeous baby alpaca fiber. It’s a less-portable hobby/therapy than knitting, but it’s glorious. I have knitting projects in several rooms of the house, plus at work, because it’s easy to pick up and put down. Spinning is more of a time commitment.

    And, at the end of those really bad days, Strongbow is my preferred therapy. This semester I seem to have gone through more Strongbow than previous semesters. *sigh*

  7. I like making food. Chopping sweet potatoes or carrots can really let out stress, and I love the creativity of coming up with new recipes. It’s also fun if I can have a few friends over to try out whatever weird thing I came up with (or even better, help me prepare it in the first place).

    My friends and I have also had a lot of fun winding down by making up stupid drinking games. Our latest one was a Big Bang Theory drinking game–SO much fun!

  8. Well, until a few weeks ago it was nursing. There’s nothing like curling up all cozy with a tiny person to force me into stillness. Now it’s:

    1. Biking, hiking, or skiing (even late at night). Something outside breathing in the scent of pine trees.

    2. Making (and eating) good food.

  9. 1. Reading serial science fiction- I often do this when I’m waiting for columns to drip in lab or I’m running a machine that has regular breaks (5 minutes or so) while samples run. I also do this late at night when I can’t sleep. I made my way through the “Sword of Truth” series recently, and now I’m on the second book of “Wheel of Time.” I never read these sorts of books when I was younger, but my geeky MIT friends have made me interested in them…

    2. Watching TV on netflix. My current series in “Bones.” I usually do this while knitting and/or cat petting.

    3. Exercise- running, walking, indoor rock climbing. Recently, I’ve been doing workout tapes at home. The exercise does a great amount to relieve stress and helps keep me in shape for geology fieldwork. I try to exercise 3-4 times a week… otherwise I start to go crazy.

    4. Blogging… on Georneys, mostly. This has been a big source of stress relief for me recently.

    5. Browsing Looking at pictures of celebrities is mindless, somehow relaxing entertainment. I usually do this in 2-3 minute breaks from something (a plot, model, etc.) that I need to think about really, really hard. I also look at facebook and skepchick… speaking of which, I need to get back to that difficult plot now…

  10. Some after work golf, weather permitting, solves many problems. Some good TV or a movie, except comedies which if not funny leave me feeling irritated and cheated out of the time I spent watching them. Project cooking like the three large pans of lasagna I made this past Sunday; one for dinner, one for the freezer and one for friends who just had a baby. Booze; and for after work stress relief I prefer an large G&T or a gin martini, but for some reason I tend to drink scotch when I’m already feeling content. Reading scifi, which has always been a stress and boredom buster. So in the summer I’d get a G&T and sit outside in a deck chair under the Asian pear tree to drink and read some good scifi, or now that the weather is crap a martini in front of the fireplace in the living room.

  11. Gardening. I like to work in my yard, tend to the veggies, trim back the ornamentals, weed, whatever…as long as I can get outside, alone, with no noise beyond what the birds are making and the wind in the leaves, then I can relax very quickly. If there’s nothing to be done (HAH!) then I just sit on the patio and watch nature. Birds, butterflies, squirrels, etc. running around the yard. We’ve built a very peaceful mini-meadow in our yard and so it’s ideal for relaxing.

    When I lived out east, I’d engage in what a friend called “roadster therapy”. There were some great twisty back roads between work and home so I’d put the top down on the car, crank up some music and take the long way home. That always helped. Now that I live in the midwest, the drives are all much more boring. Still, a top-down day blasting out into the country and back can be a great stress-reliever.

  12. @CatFurniture: Yes, Strongbow cures lots of ills.

    I don’t really have much stress, but I get angry. And when I get angry rather than throw things and scream at people (my old method) I play Farmville, or Frontierville, or bubble shooter games.

    When that stops working I take myself on a road trip.

  13. My job is saving the world… which, surprisingly, is one of those things that only takes a lot of time during a crisis.

    I fill the rest of the time by taking care of a special needs 3-year-old, a teething 6-month old, blogging, podcasting, helping on a documentary, running a non-profit from my living room (with the 3yo and 6mo sharing that same living room), 5K training (soon to switch to 10K training), doing laundry, and begging for adult interaction on Twitter. Some days I shower. Most nights I make myself a drink at 9pm and take a look at all the projects I’m 6+ months behind on… then make to-do lists to tack onto those projects.


    Maybe if I had a paying job I wouldn’t be so bored.

  14. Question: Is anyone else an anxiety puker? Disgusting, yes, and it isn’t part of my usual nightly routine, but if I’m worked up over my grad school class, vomiting usually helps. It doesn’t do anything for me by itself, but if I’m not fighting my body, I can concentrate better on my homework, which is what really calms me down.

    Music works most of the time, any time of day. Listening, unfortunately, not playing :( My nephew and I both live with my parents, and the toddler needs his sleep. Plus, my iPod is more portable than my saxophone or my slightly busted guitar, so I can carry it on the bus or listen to it at work if no one else minds. (And I’m out of practice re: playing anyway. :( )

    I have Asperger Syndrome, so if I have autism-related stress, sometimes listening to old Skeptics’ Guides with news items re: autism or Google Scholar-ing for a “No, you’re not crazy. 600% more people are not being born with autism. It’s all to do with the changing diagnostic criteria” article helps.

    Other things that work: my day job; reading “fluff” books, usually sci-fi or trashy romance; knitting swatches or simple scarves (though not most other projects); taking a longer shower than is good for the environment; if I have time, taking a long bus ride with my earbuds in and the volume set at “I can’t hear you unless it’s an emergency”; tea. Also, looking at silly pictures on Facebook or Tumblr.

  15. Gardening. I listen to podcasts or audiobooks as I do my weed-therapy or prune-therapy. It looks like this week will be rake-therapy.

    And like Elyse, I read blogs, do some blogging and lots of laundry. Also around 9pm I’ll grab a glass of wine and watch TV… though I may post on blogs.

    Be skeptical of anything posted by me after 9pm Pacific Time (or midnight on the East Coast).

  16. Lately, I really like loading up all kinds of music on my mp3 player and going for walks. Sometimes it’s to the store to get something, sometimes it’s just a walk.

  17. Hah… I have drunk wine and am on a blog. Beware!

    Okay, time to turn off the laptop. Good night all.

  18. Kntting lace. It’s like a mantra, repeating the same set of stitches over and over. You have to concentrate or you go wrong, but it’s not something you need to think hard about.

    Is anyone else here on Ravelry, I’m SallyH there.

  19. Everyone needs something to help them unwind. In my single days it was easy to find time to unwind. But now that I am married and have two young children such time is hard to come by. But when I do find that time there are a few things I like to do to unwind: read, exercise, brew beer, drink my beer, stair at the night sky, smoke a cigar. About once a week, after the kids are asleep, I’ll sit on my porch and partake of a couple homebrews and smoke a cigar while looking at the stars. That respite does wonders.

  20. Read either s/f or non-fiction.

    Play, groom or pet the Barks Brothers. Shelties are natural mood elevators. Undeserved, unlimited love is good for relaxation.


    Listen to music (Thank FSM for Sirius/XM and its virtually unlimited selection of genres!)

  21. Wrenching on the car in the garage is great for me, but finding the time for it is tough. When I am out there, though, it’s very Zen. It’s usually late at night while the rest of the house is asleep, so it’s very quiet but for the clicking of the ratchet handle and clang of a wrench on the floor now and then.

    Sometimes, when so much around you feels broken, it’s nice to be able to fix something. The problem solving and trouble-shooting part of it is a nice mental distraction too, forcing me to concentrate on what’s at hand and ignore the rest for a while. Steel does what it’s told. Machines behave predictably, and when they are broken, they will tell you what’s wrong once you learn their language.

    Also, my car has been around since 1950, about a quarter century longer than I have been, so I get distracted thinking about what it may have been through and seen in its life time. How many late night dashes to the emergency room has it done, how many first dates, how many last dates? How many kids learned to drive behind its wheel?

    I know it’s not very rational of me to anthropomorphize machines this much, but I can’t help it; I’m a car guy. The only part in “Titanic” that made me cry was when the ship died.

  22. I have a few different coping mechanisms. The first, if I can manage it, is a trip to DisneyWorld. We only live 90 minutes away and nothing takes the stress off like riding Haunted Mansion. At the end of the day there’s beer. Just one. But since that’s a CNS depressant, it does a good job of taking the edge off. If I have a meeting or interview and have to have my wits about me, I’ll curl up in bed for 30 minutes with my Kindle and read some fiction. If none of those options are available I go off by myself and either scream or have a good cry.

  23. Sometimes I geek out (or is that nerding-out?) and spend an hour or two researching some topic so I can post a 2 or 3-paragraph reply to something on a blog. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, at least until someone else points out all the bits I’ve gotten wrong. Oh, well…

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