Stress is pervasive in today’s busy world. The advanced technology that is supposed to make life easier sometimes makes life a lot more complicated and stressful. The tossing and turning all night, the gnawing sensation in the gut, the dread of checking morning emails – these are the awful feelings that so many of us experience when the stress monster grabs hold of us.
Fortunately, the Internet has plenty of resources for coping and managing stress, such as meditation, hypnotherapy, yoga, and ambient music. You only need to look to YouTube to see the popularity of guided meditations that urge us to calm down and live in the present.
But what if you don’t have time to do a 20-minute meditation? What if ocean sounds just make you feel seasick? The sites below offer some unconventional ways to hit the mental “reset” button. Fly through a cat planet, click on chocolate chip cookies or rake a zen garden – if these sites don’t lower your blood pressure, they may at least make you smile.
1. Cat Planet – It’s barely a sketch compared to super slick games like Diablo, but there’s something charming about this whimsical adventure. Flap your wings and bop the tops of cats’ heads to win points. Travel through sparsely drawn “cat homes.” For people who came up in the age of Atari, it’s a charming throwback.
2. The Thoughts Room – If you’ve ever read the comments section of a blog, it’s clear that people have plenty of thoughts they need to express, however, pleasant or unpleasant they may be. Here’s an opportunity to spare the world your frustrations but be heard, nonetheless. The Thoughts Room is a place to let loose a long, bellowing primal scream in cyberspace. Anonymous, harmless, and deeply gratifying, type your thoughts in the box and send them into the void forever. It’s available in various languages, too!
3. Cookie Clicker – A glowing chocolate chip cookie. You click on it. Little cookies pop out, and phrases appear like this one: “Your first batch goes to the trash. The neighborhood raccoon barely touches it.” It’s not a game because you can’t win or lose. It has no rules, so it may not be a game at all. But what’s better than creating cookies with one simple click. All things should be this easy.
4. Zen Garden – Parked at the wonderfully titled “i-am-bored.com,” this tiny virtual garden is stocked with sand, stones, and garden rake. Click and drag the mouse to create lovely patterns over the sand. After you’re done, a squeegee smooths out the sand, and you can start all over again. It’s super lo-fi, (the rake moves over the stones), but once you get into the swing of it, creating tiny patterns is well, kinda Zen.
5. Poppit! – The web equivalent of popping bubble plastic, this game allows you to pop balloons of matching colors. A “super pop” causes bug-eyed creatures to tumble out of the balloons and give you extra points. The game levels are appropriately categorized as “frazzled” and “chillin”. This whole experience is hosted by a hyperactive, profusely sweating cactus in a suit, who cheers you on as you pop more balloons. Kudos to the sound designer on this game – it really does sound like balloons popping!
6. Calming Manatee – Manatees are cute. Pictures of manatees gently floating in the water are cute. But manatees who answer emails from distraught, anxiety ridden humans? Now that’s the best thing ever. A Tumblr site with the introduction, “I am a manatee, and I love you,” flawed humans can write in about their troubles and receive loving, positive messages in return. Messages are often accompanied by thoughtful memes from the manatee respondent. Think about it – when was the last time that high priced life coach really helped you? Perhaps it’s time to consult the manatees.
7. Blah Therapy – With all the modes of communication we have in today’s society, the less we seem to communicate. In fact, communication is breaking down to a series of brief messages and symbols. Blah Therapy is a great remedy for this. A place where you can go to vent, talk to a stranger, or pay a monthly fee for online therapy. This site is a great resource if you need basic human interaction. Vent about your day, and you may end up talking to someone who knows exactly what you mean.
8. Weave Silk – A high-tech version of Zen Garden, this beautiful site allows you to weave eerie, sinewy patterns in various colors. Think of it as a 21st century Etch A Sketch, but you don’t have to be artistically inclined to create majestic creations. This has an iPhone app as well, so you can weave away when you are out and about.
9. The Nicest Place on the Internet – It’s a sad commentary on the Internet that a site where people are nice to each other makes the news. This is a great site to visit for smiling faces, waves, hugs, positive notes, hearts, unicorn masks, well – the list goes on and on. It also provides a much-needed thumbs up for humanity. Anne Frank once said, “I still believe that people are really good at heart.” If Anne Frank could be this hopeful, then so can we.
10. Sounddrown – When all else fails, you can just tune everything out with the help of this ambient tool. Customize sounds like “night” or “playground” and zone out for a while. Or, if you’re feeling isolated, try the “coffee shop” option, which really makes you feel like you’re surrounded by java-swilling patrons chatting on a couch nearby.