Things We Turn to When We Need to Relax

Our old standbys for winding down.

mug of tea
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

At Wirecutter, we want to help our readers by figuring out the right stuff to get to lead balanced lives. But the pet obsessions that drive our work can be hard to turn off when we’re off the clock. From favorite foods to easy cocktailspuzzles, and plants, these are the things we rely on to help us relax when we’re not knee deep in research and testing.

A front-row seat to sunsets

woman on a weekender seat
Photo: Rob Kaiser-Schatzlein

ALPSMountaineering Weekender Seat ($20 at the time of publication)

When I’m feeling wound-up, or a bit stir-crazy after a day hunched over the laptop, my go-to relaxation method is to just sit outside. (I live in a small Brooklyn apartment without a yard, but luckily am just a 10-minute walk from the park.) I like to feel grounded, with my butt on the earth and my bare feet in the grass, but I also like having back support, which is why these packable chairs are perfect. They’re more compact than full-on camp chairs, making them easy to grab for an impromptu post-work picnic, and they’re less expensive, too. Plus, the design allows you to rock a bit, which I find soothing. I like to throw a book and a snack in the mesh pocket. But half the time I just end up people- and dog-watching, anyway, or leaning back and taking in the dusky sky. For the three summers we’ve had these chairs my boyfriend and I have used them multiple times a week; they’ve held up beautifully for more than 100 sunsets and counting.


—Marguerite Preston, lead editor

BUY: ALPSMountaineering Weekender Seat
$20, Amazon

Yesterday’s ads, today’s treasure

Photo: Sarah Kobos

EuroGraphics Fruits Seed Catalogue 1,000 Piece Puzzle ($20 at the time of publication)

Puzzles force me to slow down. I like the ones that feature vintage labels for fruit or seed packets from the past, such as this one about seed catalogs: I get to appreciate a style of design that’s been lost to time, and contemplate deep things like how the people making these may have just thought of them as advertisements, but they’re actually sort of timeless art.


—Erik Erickson, director of data analytics

BUY: EuroGraphics Fruits Seed Catalogue 1,000 Piece Puzzle
$18, Amazon

More convenient than a pro massage

Thera Cane Massager
Photo: Alex Arpaia

Thera Cane Massager ($30 at the time of publication)

Applying pressure with the lightweight Thera Cane is a great way to relieve back or neck tension, whether it’s from stress, a tough workout, or just a long day of sitting at a desk. And using it is far less time-consuming and expensive than getting a professional massage. The knobs in various places along the cane make it easy to get at all the nooks and crannies of your back where knots may be hiding.

—Alex Arpaia, staff writer

BUY: Thera Cane Massager
$30, Amazon

Nature in your home

Photo: Signe Brewster


Once a day or so, I walk around my apartment and look at each of my plants. Is this succulent a bit plumper today? How much has the fiddle leaf fig grown? It slows me to the pace of a plant and fills me with some peace—and pride in my plant babies. I work from home, so I can sneak in a plant tour between meetings or when I just need a moment to breathe. People who work in an office can check in on their plants at the end of the day, or even take a low-maintenance air plant to work to keep at a desk.


—Signe Brewster, staff writer

Alone but not lonely

body pillow
Photo: Rozette Rago

Coop Home Goods Total Body Pillow ($70 at the time of publication)

I don’t have a cat because my roommates are allergic. I don’t have a dog because I can’t commit enough time. And I just broke up with my long-term partner (many 20-somethings I know are going through this major life change). Though it’s not a person or a pet, a body pillow feels nice and safe to hold onto while I watch terrible reality TV and remind myself that at least I have friends, family, and a fish that I love. I recommend the Coop Home Goods Total Body Pillow (from our guide) because it’s denser and heavier than most, so hugging it feels more like holding a person than a pillow.


—Sabrina Imbler, staff writer

BUY: Coop Home Goods Total Body Pillow
$70, Amazon

A soothing atmosphere

Levoit Himalayan Large Salt Lamp
Photo: Korrena Bailie

Levoit Himalayan Large Salt Lamp ($20 at the time of publication)

I’m a big believer in ambiance to help me get in the right mindset to relax. I spend most of my evenings horizontal in my living room with my very snuggly cats, and this salt lamp occupies a cozy corner next to my sofa, giving off a gorgeous, dusky pink glow. It tells me “Ahhhh, the day is over, you can stop thinking about stuff now.” I’m skeptical about all of the other benefits it purports to bestow, such as air purification and helping you sleep, but the lamp’s beautiful light and pleasingly irregular shape are more than enough for me.


—Korrena Bailie, senior editor

BUY: Levoit Himalayan Large Salt Lamp
$22, Amazon

A coloring book with attitude

The Swear Word Coloring Book
Photo: Sarah Witman

The Swear Word Coloring Book ($12 at the time of publication)

My all-time favorite way to relax is to watch TV (preferably a rerun of The Office) and color in a coloring book. A lot of coloring books for adults have “inspirational” quotes, but I much prefer the phrases in these books. I fill the pictures in with a set of Sakura Pigma Micron pens.

—Sarah Witman, junior staff writer

BUY: The Swear Word Coloring Book
$11, Amazon

Tea to wind down with

cup of tea
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Traditional Medicinals Organic Chamomile With Lavender ($6 for 16 bags at the time of publication)

I love to drink tea, and on cold days I’ll drink cup after cup. Caffeinated teas keep me up at night and tend to make me feel more anxious, but this tea is decaf and soothing. A lot of other herbal teas I’ve tried (or, more commonly, been offered by non-tea-drinkers) are a blend of more pungent ingredients, like nettle and licorice root. I much prefer this one’s light, floral taste and aroma.


BUY: Traditional Medicinals Organic Chamomile With Lavender
$5, The Vitaman Shoppe

Rosewater on the go

rosewater face mist
Photo: Alex Arpaia

Heritage Store Rosewater ($11 for 8 ounces at the time of publication)

I bring this rosewater face mist everywhere, and use it daily as a toner. It’s especially great when I’m going on a trip that I know will be long, arduous, and dry (such as plane trips, for which I transfer some of the tonic to a smaller spritz bottle). I use the mist like a pick-me-up, a way to feel pampered and relaxed. This spray is lightly rose-scented, but the smell isn’t overpowering and doesn’t linger.


BUY: Heritage Store Rosewater
$10, Amazon

A reprieve with cheese

Fromager D’Affinois Excellence
Photo: Jackie Reeve

Fromager D’Affinois Excellence ($20 per pound at the time of publication)

Sometimes when I’m stressed I stand at my kitchen counter eating good cheese and watching Bravo shows. The shows remind me my life is pretty low-drama, and cheese is just good for the soul. Any cheese from the supermarket will do in a pinch, but a higher-quality cheese is a nice little luxury. A staffer at my local cheese shop turned me on to the terrifically creamy D’Affinois a few Christmases ago, and I keep coming back to it year-round when I need a treat. I spread it on 34 Degrees crackers (the cracked pepper and the rosemary varieties are my favorite).

—Jackie Reeve, staff writer


BUY: Fromager D’Affinois Excellence
$20/lb., Amazon

Live a dream life

The Sims 4

The Sims 4 (for PC/Mac, Windows PC, Sony PS4, and Xbox One; $30 to $35 at the time of publication)

To play The Sims is to transcend the limits of your actual life. Your avatars can make tech salaries and have an extremely fit bods. They can set things on fire when they’re angry or pee on the floor when they’re stressed—things that would get me fired and ostracized if I did them in real life. Avatars can become vampires or astronauts or renaissance painters or get abducted by aliens or be Sim-clones of Elio and Oliver from Call Me by Your Name, and get the happy ending they deserved.


BUY: The Sims 4
$202, Amazon

Uncomplicated cocktails

The One-Bottle Cocktail book
Photo: Tim Barribeau

The One-Bottle Cocktail: More Than 80 Recipes With Fresh Ingredients and a Single Spirit ($15 at the time of publication)

Cooking and baking give me finite projects that end with something I can enjoy, take pride in, and share with others, so I often use these activities to de-stress. Making cocktails is a quick way to whip up something homemade—and often elegant—that doesn’t require the rigamarole of preparing a full meal or baking an entire cake. This cocktail recipe book is particularly simple: each drink has only one alcohol, and the rest of the ingredients you pull together from your fridge and cupboard. It combines two of my favorite things: playing around in the kitchen and enjoying a nice, stiff drink.

—Tim Barribeau, lead editor

BUY: The One-Bottle Cocktail: More Than 80 Recipes With Fresh Ingredients and a Single Spirit
$17, Amazon

Read the original article on Things That Help Us Relax.