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The world is stressful. These 25 items can make it less so.

For inner peace, outer peace, and all your other pieces.

The world can be a stressful place.

We're all trying to have it all and do it all — usually at the same time. And this endless pursuit of work-life-family-health-finance-love-spiritual enlightenment-Netflix balance can feel extremely hard to manage.

Clearly, there's a lot on our collective minds, and it's stressing us out.


Stress is insidious; it makes our body fight against itself. Stress releases hormones in our body that make us tense and edgy. We're restless and irritable, we can't sleep, we eat too much — or not at all. It's no secret that people who are better at managing stress lead happier lives. While not all of us can live our best lives 100% of the time, there are tools we can use to help ourselves get to healthier and calmer emotional places when life gets hard.

Here are a few tools and products to help you stay calm when things feel bananas:

1. Take a five-minute break with a meditation app.

Image via Heather Libby (screenshot).

Pause is a mobile app designed to make you, well, pause. Put your finger on the glowing orb of your mobile screen, focus on your breathing for up to 5 minutes and feel your stresses slip away. There are several apps like it out there; try any of them.

2. Collect data on your stress with wearable tech.

Image via Fitbit.com.

The newest wearable tech is so much more than a pedometer. The latest ones from Fitbit, Jawbone, and Apple (among others) also track your heart rate and sleep cycles so you can get intel on what kinds of situations stress you out. Then you can make a plan for how you'll handle them when they happen again.

3. Wake up gently to soft daylight, a cup of fresh-brewed coffee, or the scent of delicious crispy bacon.

Image via Phillips.ca.

Your morning alarm doesn't have to sound like a high school buzzer. Companies and designers are making alarms that rouse you gently from your sleep with calming light or comforting smells like coffee and bacon. Wouldn't you rather start your day with joy instead of mad panic?

4. Little things driving you crazy? Take out your frustrations on a stress ball.

Image via Amy McTigue/Flickr.

Some are squishy, others are hard and knobbly, but they all help you to release tension and stretch out tense muscles in your hands and wrists.

5. Be the most zen version of yourself with a mindfulness app.

Image via Headspace.com.

Headspace is one app for your smartphone that helps you learn the basics of meditation and mindfulness — no fancy guru necessary, and it's free. App stores have plenty of other offerings like this one for guiding you into the next realm of consciousness.

6. If you have fidgety fingers, kinetic sand may be the perfect desk toy for you.

Image via Thomas Duff/Flickr.

I like to fiddle with things when I'm thinking — it keeps my hands busy so my mind can work. For that, kinetic sand is a lifesaver. This "magic sand" is fun to play with and build into shapes, then to squish and start all over again. You're the supreme overlord in a circle of your own creation!

7. If you've got a cat, Feliway can calm your savage, couch-scratching beast and give you peace of mind.

My cat Fezzik, pre-Feliway. A bundle of pure spaz, covered in fur. Image via Heather Libby/Upworthy.

To anyone who’s ever looked down at the shredded remains of something they owned and then over to the unrepentant face of a cat they are reconsidering whether they love, these words will ring true: pet anxiety = human anxiety. And in 18 years of cat ownership, Feliway is the only product I’ve ever found that helped limit it. Feliway is a sprayable calming synthetic cat pheromone that mimics the natural one happy cats use to mark their territory as safe and familiar. It's available in a spray and a diffuser.

8. Tune out the crowd with noise-cancelling headphones and relaxing playlists.

Image via Philippe Put/Flickr.

If you work in a shared office space, you know how loud things can get — especially when all you need is quiet. A good set of noise-cancelling headphones and a playlist designed to help you concentrate will help you find your focus and get things done. Spotify has a great selection of instrumental playlists, or you can check out Focus @ Will, which promises "music scientifically optimized to boost concentration and focus."

9. Make your head tingle in a good way — hopefully — with a scalp massager.

Image via Yogesh Mhatre/Flickr.

Some people swear by these for stimulating tiny muscles on the scalp and around the face. Others say it feels like crawling spider feet on their head. Your personal mileage may vary.

10. Walk on sunshine in a pair of acupressure slippers.

Image via HealthandYoga.com.

Walking in these slippers stimulates pressure points on your feet, giving some of the relaxing benefits of a full-body massage.

11. Make anywhere smell like heaven with an aromatherapy diffuser.

Image via Takashi Hososhima/Flickr.

Aromatherapy diffusers use concentrated essential oils to gently fill your home or workspace with smells that soothe you, like lavender or vanilla. Breathe deeply.

12. Give your stiff shoulders a break with the Real-EaSE Neck Support.

Image via RelaxtheBack.com.

If your posture is less than perfect and you sit at a desk for long periods of time, you might be ending the day with a pretty stiff neck. Lying on the floor for 20 minutes with your head in the cradle of the Real-EaSE will help your muscles relax and your spine realign.

13. Get a quick fix from stressful surprises with Rescue Remedy.

Image via Joyce/Flickr.

Rescue Remedy is a little bottle packed full of flower botanicals known for their soothing qualities, like rock rose, cherry plum, and clematis. Keep it in your pocket or your purse for relief on the go.

14. Sing along as you soak with a waterproof bluetooth speaker.

Image via Achim Hepp/Flickr.

Anyone can feel like royalty in the right bath. Make yours extra-luxe with a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, battery-operated candles, extra-large extra fluffy towels, and a memory foam bathmat.

15. Channel your inner kid with a grown-up coloring book.

Image via Ambography/Flickr.

It's wonderful to see coloring for grown-ups becoming a big thing. Take a few minutes with paints, markers, or pencil crayons to color inside — or outside — the lines, and rediscover how good it felt to as a kid to make art.

16. Train your brain with a brainwave sensing headband.

Image via Gaiam.com.

The Muse headband detects changes in your brainwaves to determine when you're experiencing stress. Together with a mobile app, it will help you train your brain to manage anxiety and find your calm.

17. Rest up in a $25,000 napping pod.

Image via Hammacher Schlemmer/Hammacher.com.

Enjoy a relaxing nap in this ergonomic napping pod, complete with memory foam mattress. Just don't think about the fact that it costs $25,000 yet, inexplicably, doesn't include a blanket or a pillow. Or how long the purchase of it will be accruing interest on your credit card as you slowly pay it off. Shhhh. Sleep. Sleeeeep.

GIF from "The Princess and the Frog."

If you'd rather de-stress in a way that doesn't involve buying things, there are many no-cost options, too:

18. Cut your browser clutter and open-tab stress with OneTab.

The OneTab icon in my browser window. Also recommended: the Momentum landing page plugin. Image via Heather Libby/Upworthy.

Take a quick look: How many tabs do you have open in your browser right now? How many of them actually need to be open? The OneTab browser extension for Chrome and Firefox helps you clear browser clutter (and free up extra memory) by collecting all your open tabs into a list that you can go back to later.

19. Do absolutely nothing for two minutes.

Image via Heather Libby/Upworthy.

One of the key elements of meditation is stillness and a clear, empty mind. The best way to get there? Click over to this website by Calm and do nothing, absolutely nothing for two whole minutes. Can you do it? Give it a try. We'll wait here.

20. Snack on stress-busting foods like blueberries, almonds, and dark chocolate.

Image via Sandra/Flickr.

Adding foods with calming effects like turkey breast, oatmeal, and avocado to your meals and snacks can help you feel better as you eat well.

21. Make your bed great again with new (or just freshly-cleaned) sheets.

Image via Alex Saunders/Flickr.

We spend a full one-third of our lives in bed, so it's important our sheets and coverlets are up to the task. Find a style of sheet you like — maybe that's unbleached organic or ultra-smooth 800-thread-count Egyptian cotton or fuzzy soft flannel or cooling silk. There's a perfect sheet for every sleep style — find yours and enjoy better ZZZZs, guaranteed.

22. Browse through comedy videos and find your next laugh.

Image via Francois Reiniche/Flickr.

There's a reason people say "laughter is the best medicine" — it's really true. If you're tensed up at your desk or on the go and need a chuckle, there are streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, and others, or you can find plenty of laugh-out-loud videos on YouTube. And if all else fails, there are always aww-worthy GIFs online to brighten up a dark day.

23. Snuggle up in the fuzziest fuzzy blanket in the history of fuzziness.

Image via Steve Voght/Flickr.

Only you can decide which fuzzy blanket has the right level of fuzziness for your taste. Once you find it, you'll never want to crawl out from under it. It's a great investment and the perfect way to de-stress after a long day.

24. Adopt a rescue pet and soothe your soul.

Sierra Nelson Hay is a very good rescue dog; yes, she is. Image via Heather Libby/Upworthy.

A number of studies suggest that getting a rescue pet can reduce your stress and help you live longer. Plus, you're giving another little being a second chance on life! Be sure to get in lots of daily cuddle sessions; just a few minutes of time spent snuggling a pet can cause your body to release the feel-good hormone oxytocin and lower your blood pressure.

25. Lounge in a hammock rocking gently on a white sand beach.

Image via Micky**/Flickr.

OK, so chances are you don't have this in or near your home right now — and if you do, I'd really love to find out why you're reading an article about stress instead of one about "having an awesome life." But hammocks are excellent places for naps, reading, or just relaxing in bliss, especially on a warm, sunny, beachy day.

See? Pure bliss.

A quick disclaimer: I’m not suggesting any of these products are the key to unlocking a stress-free you, and none of the products in this list have paid for their inclusion or received any special consideration to end up here. Anyone who promises miracle cures that work without effort would be misleading people. These products may help, but it’s the enthusiasm and commitment you put into them that will make all the difference. Good luck! Serenity now!

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

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James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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