How to keep calm in a crisis, according to experts

Tanya Edwards, CNN Underscored
Wed March 18, 2020

It's only March, and 2020 is already quite the wild ride. With coronavirus forcing many of us to stay home and socially distant, it's no surprise people may be feeling anxious and distressed. Outside of washing your hands and anxiety baking, it's easy to focus on the bad news and not take care of yourself.

How does that impact you? Probably pretty negatively, but there are ways to turn your mood around. In an effort to help, we spoke to mental health professionals about ways to create a calming atmosphere and turn the tension down in your home.

"Limiting your exposure to news and information can give you a break from thinking about topics that are likely contributing to your stress," explains Alice Connors-Kellgren, clinical psychologist at Tufts Medical Center. "This allows your brain and body to have a break from the sympathetic nervous system response that tends to wear us down."

Center yourself

"Research shows that physical activity including gentle exercise such as stretching, yoga and walking are a critical part of our arsenal against stress and important to our overall health," explains Susan Meagher, another psychologist at Tufts Medical Center. "I like to call them stress busters and mood boosters."

Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga and Exercise Mat ($16.98;

Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga and Exercise Mat

Start your practice with this high-rated, low-priced mat with an easy to use carrying strap. This mat is extra thick, which is great for beginners.


Sumi Eco Friendly The Perfect Yoga Towel Mat ($14.90;

Sumi Eco Friendly The Perfect Yoga Mat

This washable, foldable nonskid yoga towel mat is a great multitasker, as it works for yoga, hot yoga, stretching and mat Pilates. It's also easy to throw in a bag if you're heading out to the country for your social distancing, and it comes in an array of colors.


'Yoga For Beginners: Poses for Strength, Flexibility and Relaxation' ($1.99; streaming on

'Yoga For Beginners: Poses for Strength, Flexibility and Relaxation'

Start a gentle practice with this highly rated beginner yoga program streaming on Amazon Prime.

Make time for self-care

"Self-care is both very important and by definition very personal," says Meagher — and that includes beauty products. "If a face mask helps you to relax and reconnect with yourself, go for it."

Bliss Makeup Melt Jelly Cleanser ($10.99, originally $12;

Bliss Makeup Melt Jelly Cleanser

First, remove makeup and dirt from your skin with a mild cleanser, then try a relaxing mask that works for your skin type. The key here is mild. You're already stressed out, so don't aggravate your skin.


Fresh Rose Face Mask ($25;

Fresh Rose Face Mask

This best-selling mask is a fit for all skin types, smells great and is packed with cucumber and aloe to help soothe skin and have a calming effect.


Clean & Clear Night Relaxing Detox Clay Mask ($12.79;

Clean & Clear Night Relaxing Detox Clay Mask

This purifying face mask uses the power of bentonite and kaolin clay along with a calming fragrance for a feeling of deep cleansing.


Doctor Babor Hydro RX 3D Hydro Gel Face Mask ($40;

Doctor Babor Hydro RX 3D Hydro Gel Face Mask

This cooling mask is packed with hyaluronic acid to give your face a refreshed and hydrated appearance, and what's not relaxing about that?

Find your chill with meditation

"The full benefits of meditation are experienced over time and require regular practice, even if just a few minutes a day," says Elise Hall, a clinical social worker. "However, there is a large body of research that supports the long-term benefits of meditation on the central nervous system and overall health."

One easy way to do get into meditation is through apps, like Headspace (Free; Apple, Google Play) and InsightTimer (Free; "I have had several patients who have had positive experiences with Headspace," says Connors-Kellgren. "In general, meditation apps provide guided meditation and relaxation exercises, which can be helpful in reducing some of the cognitive and physiological manifestations of stress and anxiety."

Florensi Meditation Cushion ($39.99;

Florensi Meditation Cushion

This portable cushion may make a meditation practice more comfortable, as it allows your spine to settle into a restful position for sitting.

Create a calming atmosphere

And if you're looking to prioritize things like self-care and meditation, making sure your living space is as calming as possible wouldn't hurt, either. Thankfully there are lots of products that can help promote a more positive and calming energy.

Levoit Kyra Himalayan Salt Lamp ($17.81, originally $19.79;

Levoit Kyra Himalayan Salt Lamp

Himalayan salt lamps are promoted as helping to get rid of dust particles in the air and decreasing depression. There's no serious science supporting those claims, but regardless of any suggested health benefits, they do emit a lovely, calming pink light that can make you feel at ease.


YnM Weighted Blanket, 15 pounds ($59.41, originally $69.90;

YnM Weighted Blanket, 15 pounds

Known to help restless and anxious sleepers, weighted blankets are available at a variety of price points. This one on Amazon is not only reasonably priced, but beloved, with more than 11,000 reviews and a 4.6-star rating.


Urpower 2nd Version Essential Oil Diffuser ($19.99;

Urpower 2nd Version Essential Oil Diffuser

If you'd like to instantly transform your space into a spa-like oasis, look no further than this diffuser, which can emit aromas like lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus. It's also among the most popular products on Amazon, with more than 42,000 reviews.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.