16 Oddball (& Endlessly Entertaining) Ways to De-Stress Ahead of the Holidays

Reading this is the first step toward a much chiller you.

November 15, 2018
Photo by Alpha Smoot

When I was a child, I desperately wanted to be like everyone else. I couldn't understand why the cool girls in my reading class didn't find my Beetlejuice-striped leggings chic, or why, when solicitors called our house and I answered in my accidentally husky 6-year-old voice, they'd think they were speaking to Josh Quittner. Pretty much my favorite thing in the world was to sit on the floor of my closet for hours at a time—drawing or painting or writing a poem or taping together weird old ribbons I found around the house to make one, giant super-ribbon—and while I sensed that this was possibly not helping me get invited to more seventh birthday parties, I couldn't help myself.

It wasn't until I grew up and experienced more of the world that I realized: Weird is better. Like, way better. (And most birthday parties are overrated.) Oddball, quirky, strange, nuanced—all of these are basically just synonyms for not boring and super fun.

Which is why nowadays, I always go the oddball route, when I have a say in the matter. Why make plain old banana bread when I could throw cocoa powder, dark chocolate chunks, and tahini into the batter? Why wear a subtle, unobtrusive winter coat when I could wear a velvety leopard one?

When it comes to de-stressing tactics, same old: the wackier, the better. Breathing exercises are well and good, but why not have a little extra fun while you're at it? And during holiday season, I'm even more all about a daily bout of chill amidst the (albeit super fun) frenetic buzz. I've culled together the following techniques from my own personal cabal as well as from my equally oddball colleagues, all of whom confirmed they would've thought my Beetlejuice leggings were totally cool. Let's get weird:

1. Chat with your plant friends.

"I water (and even talk to and encourage) the many, many plants growing around my apartment. It's been shown to help them thrive, and also lets me focus on a task outside myself for several minutes," says Books & Special Projects Editor Brinda Ayer. "Plus, it makes me happy to see how they're doing!"

2. Pre-game Thanksgiving with Your Dog.

"I like to dress my dog up in her adorable pilgrim outfit, make my famous sheet-pan cornbread stuffing, eat the entire thing by myself in one sitting as 'practice,' take a long nap, then make another one for the real dinner," says Senior Editor Eric Kim. "That really relaxes me."

3. Pasta-cutting videos for the win.

"Believe it or not, I love to unwind watching food videos. I live for the joyful (and instructional!) moments in Pasta Grannies, and the expected format Great British Baking Show delivers." says Senior Lifestyle Editor Hana Asbrink.

4. Binge-read Murder Mysteries. It sounds wrong, but it's so right.

One of my absolute favorite ways to get out of my own head is to marathon-read murder mysteries. I'm pretty much never not in the middle of one, and I'll read it whenever I get a spare moment, e.g. on the subway, or when I'm "jogging" at the gym. (Right now, I'm in the middle of the new Tana French, The Witch Elm—no spoilers, please!)

5. Freestyle some soup.

"When I really need a minute (or two hours) for myself, I make chicken soup," says Assistant Editor of Partner Content Erin Alexander. "I never follow a recipe, but just sort of add ingredients—lemon, potato, quinoa, turmeric, or whatever's in my kitchen—that speak to me. It almost never turns out perfect, but it's always so comforting to make and eat."

6. Give those child actors an encore.

"I watch videos of my kids on my phone," says VP of People and Culture Sean Lee. "It always provides perspective on what is most important in my life and never fails to put a smile on my face."

7. Knead dough.

Me again. Another of my favorite ways to release stress is to knead dough—whether for a sourdough boule, a few sheets of focaccia, or pizza. As a bonus, your hands are covered in flour, so you can't look at your phone!

8. Take a minute, wherever you can.

"Honestly, I like to sit on the floor of my shower," says Director of Social Media Kaitlin Bray. "With the water on, to be clear!"

9. Mise, mise, mise.

"Chopping vegetables is therapeutic for me," says Sales Director Lizzie Greene. "If I'm really stressed, I usually make way too much food because I chopped all the veggies in my fridge."

10. Dance with your cat.

"I like to dance with my cat, Boudin," says Assistant Editor Katie Macdonald. "I just pick him up and bounce up and down with him, lately, to "Gloria" by Laura Branigan. He's not a fan, but it helps me feel a little less overwhelmed."

11. Shave your sweaters.

Did you think you'd heard the last from me? I have millions of these. Once every few weeks over the winter, I like to take one of these guys, make a pile of all of my sweaters, and methodically go through and remove the pills from each and every one.

12. Bake it 'til you make it.

"I bake," says Managing Editor Joanna Sciarrino. "Cookies, breads, giant cinnamon rolls. Basically, time spent in the kitchen is time I can't possibly be worrying about other things. And there's always a good reward for it."

13. Find your beach.

"I lay on the floor on my back with my legs up on the wall," says Food Stylist Anna Billingskog. "As someone who stands all day, even for lunchtime most days, it gives my feet a rest and a reason for me to stop moving, which is a hard challenge."

14. Make your desk a mini spa.

"I de-stress by rubbing Texas cedarwood oil on my wrists mid-day," says Trevor Baca Adams, merchandising coordinator. "It's like a ritual of sorts that level-sets me when I get super frazzled. It also smells great."

15. Get foaming (& sipping).

"I love to make myself a matcha latte," says Digital Designer Megan Guntas. "The systematic process of whisking the matcha powder vigorously in hot water to create the foam always gives me joy, and I also find that the taste of a matcha latte so calming."

16. All Your Apartment's A Stage...

"I also like to put on cinematic or classical music in the background," says Guntas. "I get goosebumps every time I listen to this, it's so beautiful."

What are your favorite "oddball" ways to de-stress? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Frederique M. December 7, 2018
Knitting. Bonus, I get to gift the result for christmas! Or i watch a xmas classic and bawl all the stress away at the emotion the xmas magic stirrs in me! Such as goof! :)
tia November 16, 2018
I read. This is the time of year that I blow through novels like other people do movies. One of my favorites is The Dark is Rising (it's set around Christmas! It counts!), a kid's book that I've loved for years. I also window-shop online. Presents for family are the perfect excuse for something I find relaxing already!
BerryBaby November 15, 2018
I vacuum. Making patterns on the carpet as I back out of the room.
Very relaxing.
Pellibaby November 15, 2018
I would have picked you as a friend!
Ella Q. November 15, 2018
Aw, thanks!
Eric K. November 15, 2018
Oh my goodness, Katie, your cat!